Thoughts on Qi

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:06 pm

It's not very hard to learn a soft art.

People do it all the time at judo, BJJ, etc.

It is difficult to learn internal martial art, though. And these arts might not be soft.

Mostly it seems like it's because people don't do internal or get lost in words that have no meaning or get lost in MA before they know anything.

So basically people are in their own way.

This is one reason why it seems more interesting to keep MA and qigong separate.

Just don't worry about the two as an integrated thing.

Back to the original topic,

It doesn't seem like we really sink or store or get full.

Yet that is what it certainly FEELS like.

If someone (hypothetical student) wants to know what to do, it doesn't seem hard to use these descriptions that others have used. Their value is not based in some double blind science experiment defining something measurable with instruments - it is ART. No one will be as good as Lennon and McCartney by doing some better analysis.

Why is that hard to understand?

It's probably because letting go of tension in the form of useless thoughts is what is most difficult for people.

Just listening to the body and finding a feeling that isn't commonly talked about outside the arts is difficult for people.
Last edited by everything on Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby LaoDan on Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:33 am

everything wrote:If someone (hypothetical student) wants to know what to do, it doesn't seem hard to use these descriptions that others have used. Their value is not based in some double blind science experiment defining something measurable with instruments - it is ART. No one will be as good as Lennon and McCartney by doing some better analysis.

Why is that hard to understand?

It's probably because letting go of tension in the form of useless thoughts is what is most difficult for people.

Just listening to the body and finding a feeling that isn't commonly talked about outside the arts is difficult for people.

An individual’s art is fine for that individual, but just like in any art, feelings are open to various interpretations (and misinterpretations). When trying to communicate with others, some things can benefit from clear explanations. Clarity can improve understanding and practice, and can often shorten the time required to learn the appropriate skills. Science can often help the clarity and understanding that can then be applied to many topics, including TJQ. It helps if one can clearly explain what is happening when they feel something, and to do so in a way that does not contradict reality (as evidenced by current knowledge, including scientific discoveries).

Granted, experiencing the feelings, especially by having a skilled teacher to feel, can lead to significant improvements, and experiencing something is frequently better than simply thinking that one understands something intellectually. I think that both intellectual knowledge and experience are helpful. In modern times we often do not have the ability to feel someone who is truly skilled in our art, but there are many opportunities for reading information (like this forum, where different perspectives can be exchanged in a purely intellectual and written manner). It is better if this intellectual information can be exchanged clearly since we often only have words to aid our understanding.

I personally would never say that only one or the other (experience and intellectual/scientific information) is what we want – I would say that both are beneficial. Unfortunately TJQ has been so poor at communicating clearly that even something that practitioners might think is of primary importance, like understanding the “thirteen postures” (or “double weighting”...) seem to currently be understood differently by different schools and practitioners.

If one wants to feel as if they are not using muscles, then that is fine, but then assuming that something separate from actual muscle usage is responsible for one’s movements can lead to myth building and superstitions rather than reality. IMO there is too much myth in the traditional approach to teaching this art. I would rather the art be explained based on reality as we currently understand it. I prefer understanding the art through reality rather than through myth. The creators did not have information that is currently available to modern practitioners, but tried to explain their experiences using the information that was available at that time. With more information, we should be able to come up with better/clearer (more informative) explanations than past practitioners were capable of (assuming modern practitioners have enough skill to be able to understand the art). Most arts advance with increased knowledge. I do not expect the art of TJQ to be different.

Even modern Chinese can have difficulty understanding traditional texts because the information used has changed. The imperial examination system lead to scholars all learning the same (primarily Confucian) source material, but the information used from those sources is no longer required in modern Chinese society. It is probably clearer today to use modern language rather than what was used in the past.

If we use art as an example, in the past one may have understood an ideal kiln temperature to be equivalent to a certain flame color. But interpreting a color can vary depending on the individual observer. An improvement is to learn from an experienced teacher who can direct the student’s attention to the color that the teacher interprets as being the ideal one. Today, modern science can indicate the proper temperature very precisely as measured with scientific instruments, and this information can be transmitted with words to people who have never met each other. Should one now use the precise temperature, or should one’s kiln temperature still be based only on the color of the flame? Tradition should not become dogma.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:02 pm

I think that's way too down the logic and intellectual route. I know what it feels like to play the trumpet or guitar (albeit really, really badly). Same with every other trumpet or guitar player. I'm a math/logic/STEM guy, but those things don't help me much with that kind of experience. We can always write more clearly about what it feels like, but it doesn't really matter if no one plays it. And the feeling isn't going to be so different from human to human. For me, the (translated) words like "sink qi to dantian" are helpful once you get it as it's like "ah right ok". It's like (if you happen to be a drummer, which I'm not) when Ringo explains he's a left handed drummer playing a right handed kit. Every drummer who was right handed trying to "get" Ringo probably was like "ah okay." You can't explain that with a ton of words or measurements.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Steve James on Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:30 pm

What I'm unclear about if whether the person who wrote "sink the qi"was talking about obtaining a feeling. It's useless to dispute anyone's feelings. But, it has to be true that the point of "sink the qi" is not merely to obtain a feeling. That feeling is a consequence, not a goal. So, let's say that having that feeling means that one is doing something correctly. I'd even suppose that it has some martial usage. Question: how many other cmas use "sink the qi" as a goal, method, etc? Does it appear in bagua or xingyi writings, especially earlier than the tcc "classics"?

I ask because obviously all cmas are aware of qi and its flow. Yet, the methods are not the same. There is even disagreement among tcc "practitioners." (Yes, I know that many will "agree" what a phrase means and what methods reflect that meaning. And they'll also agree that most don't understand the meaning or have the correct method. I gotcha.)
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:57 pm

Yes, for example in talking about how to do xingyiquan, Sun talks a lot about energy, elixir field (dantian), etc. as in https://brennantranslation.wordpress.co ... un-lutang/

Here he talks about internal power and says looking at the body's shape to get some idea is not it....

This is the idea. And so it is said that nothingness and oneness are the root of sky and ground, the ancestor of the passive and active, the progenitor of all things, the “golden elixir”. It is also the internal power within Xingyi Boxing.
Most people do not know what this internal power is and tend to look to the body’s shape or appearance to get some idea, or that it might be a case of an effort in the mind or a movement in the belly, and they go on like this in countless ways, but it is all just tossing out a brick in response to a call for a tile, confusing the false with what is true. Therefore one who practices the boxing is like a cow hair [very common] while one who has succeeded in the method is like a unicorn horn [extremely rare]. You must examine this deeply. Then when going through your practice, the myriad techniques all come out of the three-substance posture. This posture is the gateway to the method, the main tool in Xingyi Boxing.


Here Wang Xiangzhai on yiquan says not to treat this lightly.

First there are the paths of food and breath coming in and going out, then there is the course of kidney energy ascending. It is the art of using the acquired to assist the innate, of the revolving of energy through the energy circuit. In the beginning of training the energy circuit, draw in fresh air through your nose and send it directly to your “sea of energy”. From there it courses through to your tailbone, then curls toward your lower back, where your kidneys are positioned. This place is indeed the origin of the innate condition, the source for all the organs, and thereby the kidney water is sufficient. It then ascends along the Du meridian to the acupoints on the head, returning to the nose. The tongue attracts the kidney energy and from there it descends, filling the lower abdomen, gradually entering the elixir field. These are the essentials, the secret, of the energy circuit. Do not treat it lightly.


These don't pre-date the taiji "classics" but it seems, after a long, long time, clear that a lot of master "trumpet players" give some advice on how to learn the basics of the trumpet, and then most people who say they are interested in music for some reason choose to ignore the advice, and then further rationalize their ignoring behavior by making up various theories for it. ??? maybe trumpet is not as interesting as piano. who knows. [emphasis added by me]
Last edited by everything on Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Steve James on Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:30 pm

My question was about the specific phrase. It would have to go back further than SLT. Someone has already mentioned "The Secret of the Golden Flower" in this thread or the one on qigong.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby LaoDan on Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:33 am

everything wrote:I think that's way too down the logic and intellectual route. I know what it feels like to play the trumpet or guitar (albeit really, really badly). Same with every other trumpet or guitar player. I'm a math/logic/STEM guy, but those things don't help me much with that kind of experience. We can always write more clearly about what it feels like, but it doesn't really matter if no one plays it. And the feeling isn't going to be so different from human to human. For me, the (translated) words like "sink qi to dantian" are helpful once you get it as it's like "ah right ok". It's like (if you happen to be a drummer, which I'm not) when Ringo explains he's a left handed drummer playing a right handed kit. Every drummer who was right handed trying to "get" Ringo probably was like "ah okay." You can't explain that with a ton of words or measurements.

OK, let me use the music analogy to explain my viewpoint.

If TJQ = Blues music; and playing Blues by ear = practicing TJQ through feel; and musical notation = new nontraditional ways of learning to play blues music (or TJQ), then here is what I am saying:

Yes playing Blues by ear is fine, but musical notation can help many that are trying to learn to play Blues music. I would not tell someone that is trying to learn to play Blues music that they should not use musical notation because it was not used by the early players and developers of the Blues!
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Trick on Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:18 am

that WXZ qoute does help about zero unless you learned the proper practice methods, and those proper methods can not come around by reading quotes of WXZ , but for example instead go to beijing there are still teachers from whom one can learn the exercises. and when learned from any of them then one dont need the text anyway......This is most probably the truth too if learning in SLT linage...throw away the books , practice makes perfect 8-)
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:47 pm

if there were a paint by numbers blues book .... ok, there isn't one because all of us would have said it already, it would be on youtube, etc., etc. even if there were, you still have to get the feeling for YOURSELF. even if someone had all the notation for a classical work, he or she still has to get the feeling or else the performance isn't really going to be very good art. for blues or some kind of improv, i would go further and say "put all your classical notation away". "sink qi", "let energy flow to elixir field", etc., is already a very clear instruction. if there were some better kind of notation, that would be good, but remember what Sun said above: it's not about some more clear instruction on body shape or appearance. that alone should help 95% of people, but they won't listen. for one thing, mechanics etc. are just that interesting as well as extremely relevant in normal arts and sports so it is extremely difficult to listen to what he said there. people kind of "get" Zen intellectually and that is in itself contradictory.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Trick on Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:48 am

A honest question, because I don’t know.... But why did SLT become famous and highly revered ?
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Bao on Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:45 am

Trick wrote:A honest question, because I don’t know.... But why did SLT become famous and highly revered ?


I've heard that Sun Lutang was much of a politician, maybe in later life sometimes more politician than a martial artist, though he was very skilled and there were many stories about him. Already when he lived he was revered as a folk hero and become almost a semi-mythological person. But what he actually did amongst other things was that he had a bodyguard service where many of his students served. And he often lend his students to serve as security personnel on public markets in Beijing to protect the people from thieves, robbers and gangs. He had his school close to one of those markets, so they probably witnessed a lot of things going on. But he become a sort of protector of the people I guess.
Last edited by Bao on Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Trick on Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:25 am

Bao wrote:
Trick wrote:A honest question, because I don’t know.... But why did SLT become famous and highly revered ?


I've heard that Sun Lutang was much of a politician, maybe in later life sometimes more politician than a martial artist, though he was very skilled and there were many stories about him. Already when he lived he was revered as a folk hero and become almost a semi-mythological person. But what he actually did amongst other things was that he had a bodyguard service where many of his students served. And he often lend his students to serve as security personnel on public markets in Beijing to protect the people from thieves, robbers and gangs. He had his school close to one of those markets, so they probably witnessed a lot of things going on. But he become a sort of protector of the people I guess.

Thanks, that’s interesting information, I understand there had to be something more about him than the little I remember reading about him in Smith’s ‘masters and methods’, something as he was not very high level when it came to combat.


The quote from his writings a few posts up is good, but probably not easily understood.......Was SLT involved in any religious activities/group ?
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Bao on Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:56 am

Trick wrote:Was SLT involved in any religious activities/group ?


I don't think so. He is supposed to have had one or a few Taoist teachers earlier in life, but later he entered the army and served there, later also partly as an instructor. As I said, he was much of a politician, and with that kind of mind-set he didn't express any religious or politic ideas but acted very neutral. There was no religious intention behind what he did. As he served the government to popularise Tai Chi together with YCF and Wu Jianquan, he could not have any interference with religious groups or have any other political interest. Officially speaking, he expressed the thought that martial arts practice should benefit the people as health exercises. But remember that he also trained body guards and security personnel.
Last edited by Bao on Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:42 am

also, from one of the other threads on the Nationalist era tournaments, it seems that his xingyi students did well in those "mma" (mix of styles vs. styles) tournaments, so he seems to have had success imparting skill level to others.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby LaoDan on Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:10 am

everything wrote:if there were a paint by numbers blues book .... ok, there isn't one because all of us would have said it already, it would be on youtube, etc., etc. even if there were, you still have to get the feeling for YOURSELF. even if someone had all the notation for a classical work, he or she still has to get the feeling or else the performance isn't really going to be very good art. for blues or some kind of improv, i would go further and say "put all your classical notation away". "sink qi", "let energy flow to elixir field", etc., is already a very clear instruction. if there were some better kind of notation, that would be good, but remember what Sun said above: it's not about some more clear instruction on body shape or appearance. that alone should help 95% of people, but they won't listen. for one thing, mechanics etc. are just that interesting as well as extremely relevant in normal arts and sports so it is extremely difficult to listen to what he said there. people kind of "get" Zen intellectually and that is in itself contradictory.

Well, if someone is unable to understand that it is one’s technical understanding and physical abilities that allows one to express feelings in their Blues playing, then...

If one takes as dogma that “the Blues ain’t nothin’ but a feeling,” then they can go somewhere and cry with true feeling without any understanding or physical ability but, while that may be expressing nothing but feeling, it is not music to my ears!
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