By Richard M. Mooney
I have been studying Asian martial arts disciplines since 1970, and meditative disciplines since 1987. In the past twelve years of cultivating qi (internal energy, also often spelt as chi in Chinese, or ki in Japanese) I have been able to realize a certain amount of success and have made public my results. I have been greeted with scepticism by a great many people, and have since shown that my abilities are valid in the realms of healing and martial use of qi derived from the practice of qigong (the Chinese art of energy cultivation and utilization).
One of the most astonishing, and disturbing, things that I have come across is the lack of understanding that modern day martial arts practitioners have concerning what qi "is", and what can be done with it. To most of them, the word qi conjures up ancient legends and implausible feats, that while interesting to read, and titillating to the mind, are beyond reality. Beyond that, I have encountered martial artists who think that Qi is a concept that only embodies a specific type of mindset or structural alignment. These people are mistaking the package for the product inside.
It is the purpose of this and other articles to inform and enlighten the reader as to the valid reality of the use of qi for healing and for self-defence. It is sad that modern technology, while advanced, is not yet up to the task of being able to detect or measure Qi. It is hoped that one day such advanced technical know-how will exist, and verify that which has been known for millennia: qi exists.
When I see a person throw a punch, most often I see them throw just their arm, or part of their body into it. Some of the better ones have a great deal of structural alignment, and so their punches are much better. They invariably use a great deal of energy in the process. What is the "energy" that they are using? Is it just the result of muscles being tensed and released, of glucose being consumed during the act of physical activity, or is it something more?
It "IS" something more. The Chinese, in particular, have studied the internal qualifications and aspects of strength. In all "internal" martial arts, you will hear the admonishment to let "the qi flow". There are poems, papers and monographs all pointing to the importance of using Qi. If qi were just a concept, why would there be such a plethora of information regarding its importance and use?
There is only one way to build up qi, and that is through the practice of qigong or energy work. There are thousands of styles and methods for building qi. So much so that they are broken down into various schools. For the purpose of this paper, we will only focus on two of the schools: the Medical and the Martial. The Martial gave birth to the Medical, so they go hand in hand.
The Martial school of qigong is a type of training that one goes through to build energy for the purpose of fighting or for the purpose of self-protection. There are qigong methods for the protection of self, such as the related (but different) Iron Vest, and Golden Bell.
Iron Vest is the little brother to Golden Bell and only will serve the practitioner for a few hits before it breaks down. Golden Bell is a method that is harder to train in and takes longer to master, but can withstand a
lot more abuse. The practice of Iron Vest can also lead to premature death of the practitioner if it is shown off to excess. The energy used for protection in Iron Shirt is energy normally reserved the practitioner's later lifetime, and once exhausted leads to heart attack, stroke, and organ failure. The iron shirt is easier to train in, and hence many more people practice it. If not used to show off, it is a fine method for emergencies, like if you get into a car wreck or get sucker punched. Some Iron Shirt methods require that the practitioner prepares before getting struck, others do not.
Golden Bell is a far superior method. Whereas Iron Shirt mainly uses external means to acquire the skill, through beating various parts of the body with harder and harder objects to develop immunity from the pain and shock of being hit, Golden Bell uses a lot more internal meditation, herbs and less of being hit. More attention is focused towards "filling" the body much like one would fill a tire with air. A tire filled with air is quite strong and sturdy, and the ability of a competent Golden Bell practitioner is far superior to the skill of someone into Iron Shirt.
Those are just two examples of Martial qigong methods for protection. Then you have martial qigong methods for inflicting injury on an opponent without having to exert too much in the way of obvious physical strength. One example is Iron Palm. In this method, one seeks to make the hand like iron, but without any noticeable sign that it has been trained. The training requires the use of varying materials to strike, and usually, a period of three years is required. Training includes striking a bag filled with mung beans, then gravel, and then iron pellets in conjunction with the use of a liquid applied before and after training to protect the hand from the punishment. The liquid is called in Cantonese Dit Da Jow. There are hundreds of recipes that qualify as "Jow". Some jow have lethal herbs in them to boost the properties of it, including the use of aconite and strychnine among others.
The hands of a well trained Iron Palm practitioner will be as soft and as smooth as a baby's bottom. Compared to the hands of someone who has been striking a makiwara post for many years, the difference is quite noticeable.
The next type of Martial Qigong comes from the collective school of Zhan Zhuang or Standing-on-Stake methods. There are many types of standing meditation methods, such as Yiquan, Dachengquan, Lin Kong Jing and Shaolin Neijing Yizhi Chan. For this paper, we will focus on Lin Kong Jing.
Lin Kong Jing, or Powerful Empty Force, is a method derived from the Hsing-I style of internal Chinese martial arts. It has attained legendary status because of the difficulty of the practice and the rarity of proficient practitioners who are willing to go public. Lin Kong Jing allows one to affect another without physical contact, and at a later stage with touch. When used without contact the force is called "Empty", as it must travel through empty space to reach the target. When used with contact it is called "Shi Jing" or "Solid Force".
From a purely physical standpoint, the practice Zhan Zhuang will strengthen one's entire body. It will promote the development of muscle in the legs and back. Discipline, endurance and stamina are also increased as the practice sessions become longer and longer. Breathing becomes deeper, and the use of oxygen by the body decreases, while the stress load upon it increases. The body gains greater internal and external awareness.
Those are reasons enough to engage in the practice. But then the ability starts to manifest, and a new reason to practice emerges itself. One might consign the ability to affect someone else without contact to the misty realm of legends. But, when you yourself manifest this ability and watch it grow, you begin to wonder how far it can go, what are the limits of its expression and what are the heights of its application.
Going back to the puncher who only uses physical force, and confuses qi with simple focus or intent, if that same puncher had taken the time to train in standing meditation, he would have realized that physical strength has its limits. Once those limits are reached on a subjective basis, then one must rely upon the hidden abilities of the mind that lay dormant within each of us.
When the Lin Kong Jing energy is used in the context of "contact force" or Shi Jing, an innocuous-looking strike that appears almost lazy and unfocused contains a very powerful, penetrating and deadly striking capability. As we grow older and our muscle tone and power decline, we must seek other methods that will allow us to protect ourselves. In learning standing meditation, such as the Lin Kong Jing method, we are able to start saving up and building a large supply of qi for later in life.
The practice of Lin Kong Jing is used for defence against the attacking fists of another. It is also used as a defence against the encroachment of old age, illness, infirmity and death.
© Richard M. Mooney