How to Get 'Qi' through the Tai Chi Practice?


Internal qi exists within the human body since birth, however until it is activated and put into use later on in life, it often remains an unexplored hidden potential power. This internal energy residing with us should not be neglected over long periods of time. Fortunately, tai chi practitioners are able to effectively stimulate this latent energy and properly master this martial art in a short period of time.

The second system of tai chi allows unlimited cultivation and strengthening of qi through regular practice. From ancient times until now, no person has found the limit or ultimate end of the second system, as its process is infinite and boundless. Former generations of grandmasters used the term “supernatural being” to describe one who reaches the final acquisition of this seemingly nonexistent limit. The practice of internal Tai Chi Ch’uan, especially through forms and pushing hands, requires one’s utilization of the spirit, mind, and qi in order to direct bodily movement.

To describe the practice of pushing hands, it is said that ‘”the hands can not perform alone; they are commanded by our mind and internal forces.” While pushing hands, the body absorbs the opponent force and upon contact is controlled by a supernatural power whose energy can be more than ten times the physical power, and even perhaps limitless. But how can we practice tai chi to acquire this internal energy? How can this energy be formed in our body? Traditional tai chi chuan practice puts much emphasis on waist training. It requires movement of the arms and must be guided by the waist. Even though the waist is separated into two parts, left and right, each part directs the movement of the respective left and right arm.

According to Tai Chi practice, the most fundamental exercise is to “turn the body into hands,” which means all energy sources in the body should be ultimately expressed through the hands. The training during this stage is extremely important and will lay a good foundation for more advanced tai chi study involving “turning body into qi and turning body into mind,” not unlike laying the foundation for a new house. It will take a year for one to train the waist and solidify the kidneys, which among the five main internal bodily organs (heart, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney) is considered most important and the source of the body’s essence. As the ancient Chinese saying goes: “sufficient qi in the kidney prolongs life, and insufficient qi results in rapid aging.” The primary stage of tai chi practice is to train the waist, by enhancing kidney function and warming the diaphragm. Once the arms are in deep relaxation and arm-waist coordination is strengthened through training these areas, the resulting powerful force called “lever force.” The lever arm extends from the hand and arm to your waist, thus altering the way of applying the lever force.

This “lever principal” explains the secret of Chinese martial arts. Although easier said than done, one must learn how to relax the body during waist training. When grandmasters compete, the one who is more relaxed is the winner. “Relaxation” does not mean being gentle or weak, rather it describes a special force generated my skillful mind control in the presence of vigorous and intense exertion of the body. After completing this first stage of practice, even a beginner may arrive at the gate of the “Tai Chi Mountain.” After this first year, another year is necessary to acquire internal qi. This second stage involves less concentration on the waist, although it is nevertheless important not to squander the skills acquired in the first stage. This process much likely depends on individual body feeling.

The mind commands qi, and qi gently directs the movements and relaxation of the body. The limbs then become soft and flexible as qi flows throughout. The intense sensation of each movement is indescribable, and it can only be experienced through correct practice and calmness, as incorrect practice or high levels of anxiety can impede a practitioner’s success. Only in this stage can one thoroughly understand that “when the mind guides the flow of qi, one must be total tranquility; when qi guides the body, one must be in total flexibility.” The third training stage focuses on the mind. It might take an entire lifetime to reach the “immortal” state.

As our tai chi predecessors decreed, “you will be given the key to the golden mountain in this stage, and once you arrive at the mountain top, you will receive what you desire.” This third stage of training is justified in the saying, “three years training for small success, five years for big success”—the waist training stage being comparable to the progression from walking to bike-riding, and then the second stage from bike-riding to riding a motorcycle with a powerful engine. In the third stage, the motor becomes a rocket, which represents an sharp increase in exercise. The old saying “true and complete tai chi practice takes at least ten years” was applicable and practical during the time before modern communication and information exchange. Modern advancements in communication technology and easier access to cultural arts has now contributed to the spread and increased instruction of tai chi masters. Today, the road to tai chi mastery is much shorter; an authentic tai chi master’s instruction and guidance guarantees a lifetime of benefits, and after only three to five years of training, beginners will be able to acquire the wisdom of Lao Tzu (the founder of Daoism).

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