(In this blog I refer to martial systems in general terms with no specific reference to geographic origin.)
Perception is a wonderful thing. Qigong is perceived in a myriad of ways, for many in Chinese Martial Arts it was always seen as the ‘good stuff’, the secret that unlocked all the mystery of internal power. I like that idea and I love the fact that there is still a little bit magical remaining in the world. However, the secret is that the magic comes from informed diligent practise, with this in mind there is no denying Qigong can significantly develop your mind and body.
I believe Qigong reflects everything we do in life, the practice of Empowering Qigong exercises enables us to develop a greater understanding of our bodies and minds helping to develop our health and clarify our outlook. I also believe that it is important to put Qigong into a martial context for people to better understand where it fits into all traditional martial arts.
Waigong (external) Neigong (Internal) and Qigong are all part of the same whole, a complete martial arts system, mutually supportive and dependant for health and martial outlook.
Traditionally every young martial artist, regardless of their chosen system, created a solid foundation on which to build through the practise of Waigong. The simplicity of physical grounding enabled them to prepare the mind and body for more complex skills in Nei and Qigong, allowing the body to gain strength and understand the fundamentals of movement. For me my Waigong foundation was created through Kung Fu and Karate.
Traditional thinking highlighted that through Waigong we gain an insight into Neigong, through Neigong we gain insight into Qigong and completing the circle through Qigong we gained greater insight into Waigong. Without a grounding in each of these areas a practitioner will struggle to understand the other areas of their art.
In simple terms Waigong is the external element of martial arts training. Balance, agility, speed, strength, flexibility, stance and posture both static and moving come under this heading. The context for Waigong practise is development of the external fighting elements of the system.
Neigong practise aims to refine and develop the skills learnt during Waigong practise. With a view to creating natural and efficient movement, breathing and relaxation techniques are introduced. Giving the practitioner a greater understanding of the mind and body whilst working to develop parts of the body not previously developed. The mind body connection starts to shape intent, practice and the positive flow of Qi.
Qigong further develops the body and mind through breath, visualisation, meditation, movement and stillness through structured and spontaneous practise. Fundamentally Qigong developed the internal and external strength of the body whilst developing the focus and application of the mind. The strength of martial Qigong lies in its simplicity to tap into and build on a solid foundation created through diligent practise of Nei and Wai Gong. As stated before the incorporation of Qigong into the practise of any martial art will lead to a greater understanding of the art as a whole and is a fundamental part of any complete system.
We regularly meet good practitioners of specific arts who carry serious injuries as a result of their practice, or practitioners who are more academic in outlook. This is often an unfortunate reflection of over focus on a part of a system and not the whole.
I met one of the best advertorials for a full system in 2010 in the form of a 70 year old practitioner of Chinese Internal Arts of Bagua Zhang, Liu Jin Ru. A master of Xing Yi Chuan, Tai Chi Chuan, and Praying Mantis, he embodied a complete system, healthy, strong and happy with devastating explosive martial skill. He like all other experienced practitioners I have met was clear a martial artist must never overlook the bitter with a view to basking in the blossom.
All arts work towards generating physical and mental health, through conscious practice whether that be martial arts. The importance of the Dantian or Hara is as important to calligraphy, or the tea ceremony as it is to Karate or Tai Chi Chuan. To be able to act from a strong centre requires a full, balanced flow of Qi.
Practitioners find their way to Qigong for many reasons. The key to good practice and teaching is understanding what is relevant to personal development. If a complete system is truly successful the result should be a good person. The responsibility for this lies with us.