Cultivating qi

Wang Xiangzhai

From translator:


This is an excerpt from „The new chapter of fist science” - the teachings of yiquan founder Wang Xiangzhai recorded in 1939 by Qi Zhidu. The reader should not see these theories as a basis of modern yiquan, bus more as historical material, which can help to understand the process of the gradual development of yiquan.


People who practice martial arts talk a lot about cultivating qi. There are many opinions. Generally we should talk about the terms yi, qi and li together or use the term qi-li. But if the term qi and the principles of cultivating qi are stressed, there is not harm in this. The method is simple and natural. You are breathing through nose, very gently, silently. The key is being calm and natural. When we are talking about qi, you need to know, that it is about breathing. We also need to explain the principle of linking movement and breathig, cultivating qi through martial arts training, of adjusting breath in order to use the elastic power created by it, so you can achieve the greatest skill level in martial art. It is different from popular opinion that big belly is a sign of mastery of qi.


Qi full, force strong, this is the result of practicing martial art. This is related to strength of weakness, being brave or cowardly. Also the movement of limbs, bones nad tendons is based on this If there is lack of qi, there is nothing you could use. The source of qi in body is limitless. The strength is born from it. If you want to achieve great strength, you must start from cultivating qi. This doesn't need explanation.


Cultivating qi can be also called governing qi. Qi is related to breathing. We already explained that due to breathing qi can flow in abundance inside and outside. This improves the flow of blood in whole body. So we can notice the changes of qi inside and outside. There is almost no form, almost no sound, gathered from outside fills inside. When a master is performing martial art, his movements are agile and unpredectible, and when is not moving is solemn, and no one can move him. This all has source in qi. If you don't cultivate it, how could you achieve such a level? So cultivating qi should not be neglected.


There are many concepts of cultivating qi. Some are talking about working with their chest, so their lungs are pulsating. Other about qi sinking to lower abdomen, achieving fullness there. But qi stagnates then and is not permeating through whole body. This is the result of lack of understanding of cultivating qi. The principle of cultivating qi is natural breathing. You should not force the pulsating. You should not exert your mind, trying to much, being in a hurry. This all should progress slowly, naturally. So you will not be aware of breathing while breating. Then blood in whole body is pulsating, it becomes coordinated with breathing, you develop the real skill, achieving the states about which the ancients talked.


People often use the sitting practices of chan (zen in japanese). They think that they achieve the highest level this way. But in fact they only talk about natural, not realising that the posture which they use is unnatural. Even if it is not harmful, it is also not much profit from doing this. You can achieve empty mind and calm breath, but this is not the training of the whole. The key to cultivating qi is making qi permeating whole body, it cannot be made properly, when qi cannot flow freely through the joints. The breath makes blood pulsating and all cells of the body are pulsating together. This kind of movement related to breathing is the basis of martial art. The resulting movement is spontanous, free, and then qi is born ceaselessely and you recognize the true taste of what I'm talking about.


The pores of the skin are opening, whole body is breathing in harmony with the breathing through nose. Breathing through skin is a function of body, and is bigger then breathing through nose, but you are not aware of it. So when talking about cultivating qi, people usually talk about breathing through nose, not so often about breathing through skin. The key is gentleness. You should avoid forcing, haste, making breath short. The lungs work increases and is in harmony with breathing through skin. So it is said that breathing through nose is calm, breathing through skin is even. If you take care only about breathing through nose, not knowing about breathing through skin, it will be hard to achieve high skill of using qi and li, or to understand cultivating qi inside and outside.


Increasing the work of lungs is related to sinking shoulders and making chest empty. Forcing and tensing chest is a mistake. Try it and you will understand yourself. In martial art you should seek qi in empty. Qi is the solid which fills empty. While moving it moves outside. You should always have some spare energy. Hair on whole body is standing up, as sharp blades (when qi reaches the extreme points, it is said that qi is full), you don't see where the force is, but it is there, you are breathing without breathing countiously. This way you continue developing your skill.


We are using mind, not force, this way cultivating qi and regulating breathing, the flow is not ceasing, mind is in harmony with qi. This is how you achieve the true governing and mastery of its use. In cultivating qi you should not force using mind - yi. But when talking about using shen – spirit and yi – mind, stress is put on yi. There is no contradition in this. Not forcing mind means that you should not focus on moving qi, in order to avoid stagnation and losing the natural state. The proper use of mind is about checking if everything is going naturally. Although the expressions are similiar, the meaning is different. In one case it is too much involvement, disturbing qi, in the other there is nothing neglected, there is natural state, calm qi. You must know this.


Cultivating qi is focused on calm breath, not on seeking outside. This way qi doesn't need to be regulated, but is regulated. The method is following: eyes are as if looking at some distant object. Spirit, mind and eyesight are in harmony. When you move, the object is also moving. You can imagine it becomes bigger and smaller, and your eyes are following this. It is at some 10 zhang distance from you (1 zhang is 10 feet), at the level of your eyes. After you practice for some longer time, you can start working with idea of pulling it closer, or pushing it further away, lifting it up and moving down. When you practice this way, qi is trained without special training, is cultivated without special cultivating.


Nowadays martial arts practitioners often talk about qi penetrating dantian or sinking qi to dantian. You need to know that raising qi is a mistake, but sinking qi is also a mistake. If you aim at sinking qi, it becomes unnatural. It is better to follow natural, not focusing on sinking qi. So moving qi is not good method. The ancient philosophers used to say: „If not cultivating qi, how would it fill body?” It's different from present days martial arts practitioners talking only about qi. So if we are talking about the way of cultivating, when you achieve the state of natural, qi will fill and permeat whole body. Only in the lower abdomen there is difference between relaxed round and solid round, related to issuing power.


Relaxed round: when qi is calm, permeating whole body, everything is one unity, this is normal state.


Solid round: when qi starts moving, chest is broad, lower abdomen is solid. This happens at the moment of issuing power. Top of head is as if supporting something, feet pressing ground, palms stretching, waist as if sitting down, qi concentrates in lower abdomen, to support strength, this is changed state.


Translated from chinese by Andrzej Kalisz

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