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Chi Kung
the art of breathing: the fundamental basis of tai chi


Chi Kung

Chi Kung can be divided into five historic branches; Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Martial Artist and Health - each of which then contain many variations.

Chi Kung is a term used to describe various forms of exercise where breathing is of central importance. However, the term is generally used to refer, not simply to any breathing exercise, but only to those which make use of the breath to either increase, balance, or control the chi (the essential life-force of all living things) . Chi means air. Chi Kung means to practice the process of breathing to increase chi pressure (life-force pressure). It is this awareness and concern of this chi that set Chi Kung apart from orthodox physical or mental exercises -which treat the mind and the body as two separate entities. Reference may be made to the study of Kinematics - the science of motion without reference to force: therefore considering the curing of illness through muscular movements.

Why do people perform Chi Kung as a keep-fit exercise? The "average" person who is not a professional athlete will find Chi Kung the ideal keep-fit exercise that comes closest to satisfying the needs of modern criteria of what constitutes a "good', exercise. The term "keep-fit" has now come to be understood as being "fit" to perform your normal day to day activities. "Fitness" is therefore a relative rather than an absolute term. Ultimately, the underlying aim of a good exercise is to prolong life and make life more enjoyable. On a physical plane, Chi Kung exercises the limbs and gently massages the internal organs which most orthodox exercises ignore. The relaxed and slow tempo of the exercise calms the mind while the full awareness of the mind, during the exercises, helps to promote growth and repair of nerve cells. Perhaps the greatest advantage of Chi Kung as an exercise is the total freedom it affords you in terms of conditions for training. It can be practised in sickness as well as in health; in old age and in youth; indoors or outside; alone or in the company of others; and does not require any expensive equipment or special premises. Hence, Chi Kung can be practised regularly for short periods every day. To perform Chi Kung in clement weather is great fun and allows you to draw chi from the environment. You would not need to warm-up at the beginning or to cool-down at the end. While you would feel refreshed and fully alert at the end of the exercise your heartbeat would not be racing away and you would not be puffing and panting. It becomes a habit. This is what exercise should be like - a little every day.

Chi Kung is grouped into two main divisions; stationary exercises and moving exercises. In both cases no fast or jerky movements are involved. Stationary exercises are practiced in a standing, sitting or lying position. The head and limbs of the body being maintained motionless during the exercise. Moving exercises involve the movement of the limbs and body, e.g. as in Tai Chi. Moving exercises are less monotonous than static exercises. The mind is more easily occupied through the movement of the limbs and body. However, stationary exercises, if practiced in the correct way, can normally produce much quicker results than the moving exercises. Chi Kung has long been used in many hospitals in China as a form of therapy. There were (and still are) specialist healers who employ Chi Kung to heal. As part of the cure, the practitioner would teach the patient a particular sequence or a general set of Chi Kung movements (exercises) that influence their particular illness. This would eventually clear up the diagnosed "blockages" and then continue to maintain an overall good health. The types of illnesses that are particularly suitable for Chi Kung therapy are generally those of a chronic nature and those due primarily to bodily malfunctions. Among the problems reported to respond are insomnia, diabetes, constipation, anaemia, hypertension (high blood pressure), some forms of rheumatism and arthritis, headaches which persistently recur and are seemingly without cause, gastric disturbances, unusually slow recovery from illness and bruises, hyperactivity, mental stress, impotency, etc. Is Chi Kung then a panacea? (a cure for all things). It will be noted that most of the maladies listed above are without cure, the orthodox treatment being either the use of drugs to suppress the pain and symptoms, or the introduction of chemicals and hormones from an external source into the body to try to make up deficiencies due to the body being somehow unable to produce them. It would not be true to say that Chi Kung can directly cure such ailments. The positions and techniques are designed to effect the movement of energy, and help it to circulate around your body and to nourish you internally and externally. Therefore with regular practice you will feel stronger and will notice an improvement in your energy level. What Chi Kung does is to get the body back along the right track, so that it can go about the business of curing itself and carrying out its natural functions. This holistic approach, in that the patient is part of the healing process, has met with world-wide acceptance.

Chi Kung is the most fundamental of the martial arts and is sometimes used by people with a quest for "supernatural" powers. But on balance, people who practice Chi Kung do appear to have certain abilities not enjoyed by others, or by themselves before they seriously took up Chi Kung. Most schools of martial arts employ Chi Kung to increase striking power of their fighting techniques. Some martial arts experts seem to enjoy giving demonstrations of their skill in inviting audiences to strike their unprotected body with heavy punches and kicks. Obviously there is no such thing as a really indestructible body, as these people will readily admit. But it cannot be denied that kicks, punches and strikes by blunt instruments dealt out by skilled hands seem to cause neither pain nor injury on these exponents of the art of Chi Kung. Masters can perform extraordinary feats of strength and endurance by developing the use of chi. In practising Chi Kung for such "powers", you are going far beyond the simple needs of good health. Serious study under close supervision is required. There are some systems of Chi Kung (Iron Shirt, Iron Palm, Dim-Mak) designed specifically for such goals, but potentially harmful if they are practiced incorrectly. These systems are quite different from the type of Chi Kung performed for health and meditation.


text from Ray Wood (possibly attributed to an an original unknown author)



On a physical plane, Chi Kung exercises the limbs and gently massages the internal organs which most orthodox exercises ignore. The relaxed and slow tempo of the exercise calms the mind while the full awareness of the mind, during the exercises, helps to promote growth and repair of nerve cells.

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