Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

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

Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Bao on Sat Mar 21, 2020 2:39 am

Yeah many systems dont pay much attention to dantian at all. I saw some teachers never mention it, which is a problem IMO. Breathing isn't just breathing, however, to many other systems.


My point, though I didn’t express myself very well, is that hardening the abdomen is not the same as learning to move from the center. I know about different iron body/golden bell cover methods etc, but I find this practice useless when it comes to power generation. Hard breathing exercises is yet something else but it doesn’t necessarily harden the abdominal area. And breathing with tension does not necessarily mean the same as hardening this area.

Training it leads to solid results since without breath, there is no movement and no power. The danitan is the literal center of the body so training it is the main emphasis of the body method. Without training, it won't be there any more naturally than what an un-trained person has.


To generate whole body power you need to learn to move the whole from the center, this is not done by practicing the dantian. But if you want to generate a lot of power, you also need to learn to stabilize the body. This can be taught be several different methods, barehanded single exercises or with tools as pole shaking. For strong power generation strong control over the abdominal area is very important, but important is also the lower back and kua. Power breathing can help you with building this control, hardening the abdominal area only won’t.


BTW, the bagua teachers above that i talked to want a soft dantian because they are emphasizing their version of large dantian rotations which in their opinion requires a super soft abdomen. The hard dantian rotations I was shown are shorter, sharper and can be trained to work with rapid punches. This avoids the windup seen in many versions of large-frame Chen style, for example.


I am not sure that dantian rotation is a good term to bring up when Bagua or southern styles, or any other style than Chen Taijiquan. Other styles have their own philosophy of similar practice, but dantian rotation is a very much Chen terminology which means a style specific practice. IMHO.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Peacedog on Sat Mar 21, 2020 7:49 am

FM, excellent post.

1. Reverse breathing in the up/out mode is often used to "drive energy to the hands" and when combined with a wave like motion generated by the spine pulsed through the hands, like a lot of xing yi systems use, is very potent stuff kinetically speaking. Tu na si ba from Li Gui Chang is one such system for training this spine wave ability. At a high level of training this I’ve seen practitioners be able to individually articulate all of the ribs on the back and chest.

And regarding the meditative process is a very common use that is often expanded into a breath hold having expelled all of the air from the lungs.

4. Absolutely true. The lack of proper jibengong training is where I call out most IMA teachers. If you aren't doing this, it simply doesn't work.

And most teachers don't teach it as it is hard to do and requires a certain level of fitness on their part, which, let's be honest, isn't going to happen with a 75 year old man. One of the reasons why I gave up on a lot of the empty hand stuff was the lack of this training. I've heard way too many stories go...I trained with Master X for ten years and then one day he took me aside and said, "now I will show you the jibengong for our system." To which the student replied, "so I've been wasting my time for the last ten years." Even most neigong is crap without this training.

Yogically speaking, the better schools spend a lot of time doing resistance and integration based body work. Or none of their stuff functions. It’s why I give all of the academically trained monks I meet the hand. They don’t have anything. Now the forest tradition in Theraveda, those guys have some stuff. But power walking is their main body technique and they do that for hours a day over several years.

And don't get me started on the weightlifting thing. All of these guys have iron ring, heavy weighted weapons, weighted vest, etc exercises as their "secret method" for maintaining an advantage over their students. I even know a couple of systems of neigong that uses resistance in the hundreds of kilo range to build power.

Also, I've never met an IMA practitioner go from soft to hard and be effective. They all started with Shaolin, shui chiao, etc.

5. +1 here. I’ve never seen anyone spell this out, but absolutely true. This is how I herniated myself. I was doing an explosive vocalization using breath retention. You see this in Tibetan and Sichuanese systems. And I got an umbilical hernia for my effort.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Sat Mar 21, 2020 6:15 pm

Bao wrote:My point, though I didn’t express myself very well, is that hardening the abdomen is not the same as learning to move from the center. I know about different iron body/golden bell cover methods etc, but I find this practice useless when it comes to power generation. Hard breathing exercises is yet something else but it doesn’t necessarily harden the abdominal area. And breathing with tension does not necessarily mean the same as hardening this area.

To generate whole body power you need to learn to move the whole from the center, this is not done by practicing the dantian. But if you want to generate a lot of power, you also need to learn to stabilize the body. This can be taught be several different methods, barehanded single exercises or with tools as pole shaking. For strong power generation strong control over the abdominal area is very important, but important is also the lower back and kua. Power breathing can help you with building this control, hardening the abdominal area only won’t.

I am not sure that dantian rotation is a good term to bring up when Bagua or southern styles, or any other style than Chen Taijiquan. Other styles have their own philosophy of similar practice, but dantian rotation is a very much Chen terminology which means a style specific practice. IMHO.


All of this is addressed by the training done in many of the southern systems. Again, since the danitan IS the literal center of the body, learningto move from the dantian is literally learning to move from the center. It's simply that for us, it's not an esoteric thing. To generate whole body power, your chain is only as strong as your weakest link and for most people that will be the core. The core obviously is more than the dantian but I totally agree with you that many guys that teach this stuff are totally ignoring the low back, especially guys that primarily practice standing up. It's usually the guys that do an iron shirt set of exercises that address the lower back andother issues but many southern systems only address it through sanzhan ("sanchin" kata) work and miss this part. BTW, pole shaking and other spinal wave practices won't address this adequately IME. It requires direct work with the dantian.

Dantian rotations are not just for Chen style, although since they talkabout it nonstop, most people associate it with them and the way they do it has leaked into everything else greatly confusing the situation. Bagua, xingyi, and especially the southern crane style of calling crane (minhequan) use them a lot. Here's a crane guy showing it:


Here's Adam Hsu showing it for xingyi. He's referring to it as dantian tu na, which can confuse people because he didn't use the word zhuan (as in丹田轉) , which means to turn, which is the most common word to use for this stuff. But actually, tu and na describes the action better IMO.

This one is subtitled so people can see and understandwhat he's talking about.

BTW, the only place in English I've seen these taught is in Dr. Yang Jwing-ming's Taichi Qigong DVDs. That DVD and book are worth getting if people weren't taught this and they are curious.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Sat Mar 21, 2020 6:50 pm

Peacedog wrote:1. Reverse breathing in the up/out mode is often used to "drive energy to the hands" and when combined with a wave like motion generated by the spine pulsed through the hands, like a lot of xing yi systems use, is very potent stuff kinetically speaking. Tu na si ba from Li Gui Chang is one such system for training this spine wave ability. At a high level of training this I’ve seen practitioners be able to individually articulate all of the ribs on the back and chest.

And regarding the meditative process is a very common use that is often expanded into a breath hold having expelled all of the air from the lungs.
...
Also, I've never met an IMA practitioner go from soft to hard and be effective. They all started with Shaolin, shui chiao, etc.

5. +1 here. I’ve never seen anyone spell this out, but absolutely true. This is how I herniated myself. I was doing an explosive vocalization using breath retention. You see this in Tibetan and Sichuanese systems. And I got an umbilical hernia for my effort.

Right. The reverse breathing practice you mention can be done that purpose but it confuses people. Using a breath that expands the torso like a ballon then pulls in/up on the exhale can make things clearer (like kalabharti breathing). It's not difficult to train yourself to pull up the perineum, etc. on the exhale using this method. It really clears a lot of things up. I see so much confusion on this, but again, when teachers are warning people off because they don't want them to get a hard dantian, then that doesn't help.

Regarding #5, here are a couple of clips of dantian rotations that show how this reliance on reverse breathing mixed with relaxation and pushing out/down can cause problems.

At the 1:00 mark he's showing how to use dantian rotation on the exhale by pushing forward/outward. He even tells people to "yongli," use force on the push out. (BTW, this is the basis of the heng/ha breathing Gary Clyman mentioned in one of his articles.) At the 2:00 mark he's teaching the lying practice designed to pull in. This strengthens the abdominal wall but as with most teachers, he doesn't mention how much this needs to be trained to counterbalance the push forward standing dantian rotation. And notice that the lying practice is static while the standing practice is dynamic. This is the kind of stuff that if overdone will possibly lead to an umbilical hernia, ESPECIALLY in people using relaxation because they are afraid to get a "hard dantian." That hard dantian would actually protect them during their push out rotation but that isn't the rhetoric. BTW, his lying practice is also taught in Dr. Yang's books as the basis of iron shirt and Dr.Yang suggests holding it for 6:00 as a basis for iron vest. I'm throwing these tips out to give interested people some places to get more info on this stuff.


This is the clearest presentation of the dantian rotations and I have to say, this teacher is quite attractive, which frankly never hurts. :D
Again you can actually see her attractive, well-maintained dantian moving in and out on the exhale. She even uses a forceful technique at 3:12 to show it but notice that she's pushing forward/out on the exhale just like the guy above. The side view is very clear. Now imagine guys with excess fat on the belly throwing it forward who don't adequately train the lower back by doing direct back work (can't be addressed in forms) and who are stressing relaxation out of a desire to not get a hard dantian. I think the potential for mishap is obvious.

I did this type of training above for years and I was confused.

The opposite type training of dantian rotation with pulling in has the advantages you mentioned with pushing the qi to the hands along with myriad health benefits. This is an attractive but more extreme yoga version for illustration to people reading that may not be familar with the practice.


Note that this is taught in the highly advanced shaolin qigong setthe 13 taibao.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby D_Glenn on Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:14 pm

I just breezed through this thread, I will read it tomorrow, but I just wanted to quickly mention that the Xingyiquan styles that practice Pan Gen do a Dantian self-conditioning that starts really gradual but after months or years (idk for sure), it progresses to hitting yourself with your own hammer fists but at the same time your dantian is expanding to hit your fists.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Trick on Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:11 am

tjq and xyq solo excersises have all the body conditioning(pe),dantian(centered body)developement, breath regulation(qigong), and combat(interactions)readiness all into one and same exercise(the tjq form, and for example the five elements). to tap into this "wholistic" method one are not to consiously focus on muscle tension and dantian,........remember this is the grand ultimate exercise, it contain all in one 8-)
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby I-mon on Sun Mar 22, 2020 5:07 pm

Ey, this is a great thread. Thanks fellas!
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby C.J.W. on Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:05 pm

Formosa Neijia wrote:I'll address some of your points.

1. reverse breathing is based on and uses abdominal breathing. In fact, it's a prgoression from abdominal breathing and I found that in my own development, getting stuck at the abdominal breathing level left clueless about a lot of pratices. For example, many of the higher qigongs and even higher levels of abdominal breathing itself are unattainable unless you learn to push the breath upward and inward. The health benefits are immediately apart IMO to anyone that does the training safely.

4. The problem is this idea of the so-called "IMA body." No one knows what that is and no one is adequately training anyone for it beyond vague "sink the qi to the dantian," whatever that means. Proper jibengong simply isn't being taught, especially in IMAs with the possible exception of some xingyi schools. If building this supposed IMA body comes first then it's nothing but a roadblock and ideas about weighttraining go no where. HOW to weight train is practically ruined by incorrect ideas about IMA that don't stress whole body power. I've dealt with so many martial art guys that "don't want to get big" from using a paltry 16kg kettlebell to do basic kettlebell swings that it almost drove me crazy. Instead i focused on non-martial arts people and specialized in getting small women to build whole body power by swinging up to 48kg. Apologies for tooting my own horn but here are three of my female students:

That's whole body power, not localized muscle force, they're producing and in a method that is able to be progressed. Please note that's nearly body weight for the middle woman. She could also do dragon flags and other iron shirt moves.
By using dynamic tension at the beginning of training, some southern systems don't fall into the trap that most of the northern IMA fall into. Bascially I see people in southern styles do the progression from hard to soft quite a bit bit I almost never see the IMAs do a progression from soft to hard. I guess both paths are viable but I see a ton of IMA people get stuck.

5.Hernias occur in southern training because there is a split in dantian usage: some are being taught to push down and out and some are being taught to pull up and in. Both release power. But down/out will lead to stressing any weakness in the abdominal wall while pulling up and in will actually fix the pre-conditions that lead to hernias, at least in absence of overdone or incorrectly taught breath packing practices. People who get hemorhoids or hernias are usually packing beyond what their abdominal wall can take while people using up/in don't have that problem because you don't "pack" the chest.

The "buddha belly" you mentioned can be at least partially produced by this down/out production of force and overdone abdominal breathing, especially in absence of any corresponding physical exercise for the core that pulls the danitan inward because they don't want the dantian to "get too hard." Add hours a day doing a training devoted to relaxation (thereby burning few calories), wonky ideas about weight training/fitness, and the lack of attention to diet and you have a perfect storm.




1. That is also correct. In the Taiji, Bagua, and Yiquan systems I've been exposed to, beginners are taught abdominal breathing and zhanzhuang to improve overall health and stamina first (or build up 'qi' and 'blood' in TCM/CIMA terms). After that, reverse breathing is introduced for the purpose of learning how to guide your qi through various meridians to develop and issue jin for martial purposes.

4. Kettlebells are very similar to stone locks used to TCMA, and they can both be excellent supplementary tools in IMA training for developing structure and whole-body power. I see no problem in introducing kettlebell training to beginners provided that the instructor is someone like you who is experienced in TCMA and knows what to train for.

The reason many CIMA teachers frown upon conventional Western style weight training (e.g., bench press, bicep curls, etc.) is that they tend to instill bad habits like relying on upper body strength and using isolated single-directional (double-heavy) movements. People who focus on this type of weight training usually have poor flexibility as well.

5. Excellent analysis. IMO, it's better to think of drawing up/in and pushing down/out as one continuous circular dantian movement to achieve balance and avoid unwanted side effects.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:00 pm

Glad to hear some are enjoying the thread. Feel free to add anything to the discussion.

i think I was a bit unclear regarding abdominal and reverse breathing. I don't talk to people much about this so it's clear in my head but I realized people are attaching specific actions to the words that I may not have expressed clearly. This is partially due to havingtalked about this mostly in Chinese where it isn't always made clear what's being discussed and wearing lose clothing makes it even harder to pick up.

I'm suggesting the following:
1. the forward dantian rotation (up and out) is being used a lot with reverse breathing but in absence of some serious ab/core work that pulls the dantian back in, there is a fairly high risk of injury. Making the dantian hard is one possible outcome of doing that ab/core work but I'm advocating it because being a hard man is awesome. :)
2. the reverse dantian rotation (pulling up and in on the exhale) is rarely talked about and I'm suggesting people try it out. This is a progression from the forward dantian rotation but as we have found out, most people aren't being taught dantian rotations at all so the progressions are being lost and confused
3. there are breathing patterns beyond simple abdominal breathing and reverse breathing. You find these if you study with different teachers. The one I'm advocating combines the advantages of both with none of the disadvantages. Basically,it's like the kalabharti breath in pranayama. You inhale behind a slightly braced ab/core/dantian then on the exhale you pull the dantian back and perhaps just slightly up. This forces the energy up the back and out to the hands. A contraction of the dantian/core makes that happen.

This is the best illustration I have of this even though i have never studied with the feeding crane people. As you can see, his dantian goes back on the exhale at the same time his power shoots out his hands. Again, there is basically a split in southern systems with some emphasizing forward dantian rotation, some emphasizing reverse as in this clip, and some doing both but I find that's a bit rare.

At :55 in this clip he's doing another movement where you can clearly see the back movement of the danitan as the power goes out. Having a different angle helps.

When I mainly did northern IMA styles, I thought this was spinal wave mechanics and I often had a sore back. After realizing it was aactually dantian driven, a lot of problems cleared up for me.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:14 pm

C.J.W. wrote:5. Excellent analysis. IMO, it's better to think of drawing up/in and pushing down/out as one continuous circular dantian movement to achieve balance and avoid unwanted side effects.


Thanks. I'm gonna slightly disagree with that last part because as one of my teachers stated, Chen style taichi is ruining a lot of things by leaking into other systems. He taught that the movement for the southern system he did should be forward/back, not in a circular motion. This was specifically trained in his iron palm. The idea is that the out/down/back/up cycles aren't useful for fighting since they simply take too long. He suggested those are fine for health qigong or perhaps mediation purposes. He specifically called out chen style for this because they tell people this is THE WAY to do dantian rotations but they aren't exactly known for punching skills and most southern systems are known for hand skills.

With the shorter sharper dantian movements (not really rotations, per se) the power generated from the lower body can be brought out into the hands through the dantian much quicker. I note than John Wang noticed the big,slow windup in most of Chen Xiao-wang's exhibitions, which is why I posted a clip of him in the early part of the thread. That's what I'm talking about.

Unfortuantely i don't really have a clip of using the reverse dantian rotations with the sharper breath for faster punches. The feeding crane clips above are still basic jin training so the force is big and slow but if they didn't show it that way, most people wouldnever get it. But the application of the force is much smaller.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Bao on Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:55 am

Formosa Neijia wrote: At :55 in this clip he's doing another movement where you can clearly see the back movement of the danitan as the power goes out. Having a different angle helps.

When I mainly did northern IMA styles, I thought this was spinal wave mechanics and I often had a sore back.


Formosa Neijia wrote: as one of my teachers stated, Chen style taichi is ruining a lot of things by leaking into other systems. He taught that the movement for the southern system he did should be forward/back, not in a circular motion. This was specifically trained in his iron palm. The idea is that the out/down/back/up cycles aren't useful for fighting since they simply take too long.


IMO, rotation should always be vertical as you describe it here. For practical use, the vertical movement of the dantian correspond with the idea of qi circulation starting from the dantian and up through the spine. Circulation or qi this way might sound abstract or philosophical, but is in CMA in fact a way to describe a most physical, coordinated movement.

The other circular idea might come from (mainly sitting) meditation. But in Chen style it's mainly a large frame thing and a way to practice, maybe not always equal to how it would look in real application.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby everything on Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:01 am

if you're saying there is some (visible, biomechanical, musculoskeletal) movement ON TOP OF / corresponding with the qigong (as in seated qigong) that doesn't require any movement, I finally start to follow some of your points ... Q: is there a simpler, more economical (on the outer shapes/moves) exercise (like Yang or Sun style cloud hands) you would prefer to do to work on this - without the over-emphasized-for-demo-purposes center movement? ...
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:40 pm

Bao wrote:IMO, rotation should always be vertical as you describe it here. For practical use, the vertical movement of the dantian correspond with the idea of qi circulation starting from the dantian and up through the spine. Circulation or qi this way might sound abstract or philosophical, but is in CMA in fact a way to describe a most physical, coordinated movement.

The other circular idea might come from (mainly sitting) meditation. But in Chen style it's mainly a large frame thing and a way to practice, maybe not always equal to how it would look in real application.


From what i can tell, pulling the dantian straight back produces the effect you're describing by itself.Granted some amount of angular "upness" is probably there. But for fighting purposes, trying to make the rotation ONLY vertical isn't practical IMO since it doesn't lead to more force forward and the muscles of the core support compression and perhaps expansion better than lifting stright up. But yes, the correltaion wtih qi flow is there.

Also, I'm against vertical lifts because they kick stomach acid up into the esophagus. Embarrassingly, the first time i learned the reverse dantian rotation,i threw up. When i was taught to do it mostly back and only a little up, i obviously found it very useful and no side effects. Other people's mileage may vary.

How Chen is applied depends but I see most people doing throwing and push hands-type apps. For those kinds of moves, the larger circular rotations may still be useful because the moves are much slower. The rapid-fire hand techniques southern styles are known for would require a different dantian use IMO.

everything wrote:if you're saying there is some (visible, biomechanical, musculoskeletal) movement ON TOP OF / corresponding with the qigong (as in seated qigong) that doesn't require any movement, I finally start to follow some of your points ... Q: is there a simpler, more economical (on the outer shapes/moves) exercise (like Yang or Sun style cloud hands) you would prefer to do to work on this - without the over-emphasized-for-demo-purposes center movement? ...

The dantian work IS ITSELF part of the qigong/neigong work at least in some systems, and a missing key at that. But it does require movement.

Working this stuff has to start with exaggerated movements or you won't get it IMO. It's not easy to do. It requires fairly complex abdominal movement that goes way beyond what the avreage person has been exposed to. What's shown in the dantian rotation and the feeding crane videos above IS the simplified movements already. Those are just the basics.

Once you get the movement down, it's likely this stuff can be incorporated into any style but for IMAs, I've found xingyiquan is easier to work it in due to the shorter sharper, movements, the forward orientation of the body, etc. The five elements and especially tiger can immediately benefit from adding this stuff.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Formosa Neijia on Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:49 pm

C.J.W. wrote: IMO, it's better to think of drawing up/in and pushing down/out as one continuous circular dantian movement to achieve balance and avoid unwanted side effects.


Just wanted to throw out one more comment about this: some southern styles like calling crane (minhequan), especially the versions we have here in Taiwan, do seem to do the full circular rotations as CJW is describing. After talking with a Russian guy on Facebook that has studied the Taiwan version and the mainland versions,i concluded that one of the reasons the mainland versions often look different (more like wuzuquan and karate) is due to the different dantian usage. The Taiwan minhquan is very complex for that reason and the mainland version is simpler in application.

But the point that CJW makes, that doing the full forward rotation may avoid some of the problems like possible herniation, is doable within certain styles of movement. Good point. For others like me that don't mind the hard dantian or that do the reverse rotation, those options will lead to other areas of development.

I think understanding this stuff can go a long way to helping people figure out the differences in what they are seeing.
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Re: Dantian -- north vs. south, hard vs soft

Postby Bao on Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:50 am

I have a bit hard to verbalise my thoughts, so instead I made some very fast and utterly crappy drawings to illustrate some ideas... O:)

Probably not much clearer this way. ;D

Image


Image

Image
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