Secrets of Drunken Boxing 3: Internal Alchemy
Qigong Training Foundations
In order to train qigong thoroughly and well, gaining the results one is hoping and working for it is very important to have strong foundations. Many qigong books I have read over the years detail training of various intermediate to high level practices without any strong grounding in foundational concepts of what Qi is, the philosophy qigong is rooted in or explanations of esoteric concepts like Dantien and so on. Although this book started as an article on training methods it quickly grew into a document meant to help preserve qigongs I have been privileged enough to learn and train throughout the past thirty years. It is my hope that the foundations here will be explained well enough to avoid mistakes in training later down the road.
The Concept of Qi
Qi (sometimes romanized as Chi in the older Wade-Giles method) is the most hotly debated topic in not only qigong practices but internal martial arts and indeed martial arts in general. Without an understanding of how to approach the concept of qi it is very easy to try and simply guess what the sensations and methods are trying to accomplish. Many people go on and on about “Cultivating your qi” “Building qi” and “Refining the qi”. In some esoteric literature from qigong masters in the past we find flowery language trying to describe internal feelings and movements that involve complex body mechanics to arrive at seemingly mystical results. In fact even today we see many qigong and martial arts masters able to perform feats that seem super human and when asked how they simply respond “qi”.
This answer is not incorrect but it is of little use to the person who is trying to train and cultivate their own qi. This usually ends up being the repitition of a qigong taught to them by their master and repeated throughout their lives in the blind faith that something magical will happen and indeed in some cases the training does work and they become able to perform feats like their own teachers. Unfortunately the flaw in this method, in my opinion, is that it ends up with the same end. The teachers really cannot describe what he is doing (or her) and can only teach it in the same way he learned it. Without any understanding or thorough guidance.
If we look at the Chinese character for qi we can see three parts to it. A fire pictured under a pot and steam rising from that pot. This is where the translation of qi as “life energy” comes from. But although that is not an incorrect term to use it is still very obscure and when we are trying to retrain ourselves through these methods obscurity is not our friend. Why is it translated as “life energy”? Well if you were in China in ancient times and a pot was on to boil you were most likely making food, which meant life itself. Eating everyday was not a common luxury in China in the past and being able to eat meant you could continue to live. But the term qi is more than that, if you picture yourself as entering your home and seeing the pot on to boil and smell the delicious scent of, say Chicken Noodle Soup, you might be reminded of being cared for by your mother when you were young and home sick, or maybe a cold winters day when you sat by the fire and drank soup with loved ones. It is not just the sustenance implied by the word qi but the relationship you have with that pot of water. The smell, the memories, the memories of your mother, memories of warmth, of eating nourishing food, your relationships to the entire setting.
As my gongfu brother Professor Kevin Wallbridge says, qi is best defined by the English word ‘relationship’. This allows it to imply so much more than a single thing and allows us to look closely at what relationships a particular exercise is working on. So we can look now at common phrases used in the community such as cultivating qi as building and strengthening relationships, perhaps relationships between body and mind, different joints, different muscular chains or in the cases of some more alchemical (transformative) qigongs your relationship with reality.
Using the word relationship makes so much of the obscurity in qigong training disappear it is very worthwhile to really study any reference to qi with this is mind. Building powerful relationships in your body is the result of long term training and is the way Masters perform their seemingly magical feats. This allows students wanting to learn qigong to ask the right questions and not just repeat motions over and over and hoping for results. What relationship are you working ? In what way ?
The book will be released in 2017 by Shifu Neil Ripski and available along with his other books on lulu.com — http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/redjademartialarts.