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Tai Chi New Zealand Robert Gemmell


By Robert Gemmell, a leading Internal Martial Arts Authority

This article will assist students to commence an inward journey to the source of the body’s energy Qi (Ch’i) supply. It is recommended that you consult your Doctor prior to engaging in any exercise programme. The article is an overview only designed to encourage further study.

When embarking on a path of Chi Gung practise, you need to understand the basic fundamentals of what Ch'i is and how it was perceived by the ancient teachers. No one person or organisation be they Chinese or Western have a complete knowledge of Chi Gung (meaning energy cultivation). One reason for this is that there are so many styles or methods of Chi Gung.Secondly translations have made it difficult for non Chinese to fully understand the art form The main divisions fall into two categories :

1/ Nei Gung

Nei Gung refers to Internal Chi Gung and because it is seldom practised in the “True” sense of the art, few people actually develop advanced Nei Gung skills.

Most people practise their chosen Martial Art form as a form of Chi Gung, be it Tai Chi Bagua H'Sing I or whatever. Separate to these Art forms exists a powerful healing art that is not connected to the Martial Arts

2/ Wei Gung

Wei Gung refers to external energy and muscle training. When one understands Chi Gung it would be easier to accept that many Martial Arts systems are in themselves, a form of Chi Gung or Wei Gung. Therefore most Martial Arts practitioners feel the energising effects as they train. Karate and Tae Kwon Do being more linear than circular probably use less "Internal" power than say Kempo Tai Chi or other forms of Gung Fu. (Kung Fu.)

For centuries Martial Arts Masters have had the desire to increase the striking power of their technique. Options were limited. Those interested only in fighting arts cared little as to the reasons why circular movements executed at the right speed along a carefully planned trajectory accumulated more power on impact. As time passed more Masters became knowledgeable about energy, and CHI, and its benefits, both for martial purpose and for health. Chi Gung became recognised within traditional Chinese medicines as an integral part of healing. Everybody knows the benefit of exercise. The difference between Chinese and Western style exercise lies with the energy circulation or the lack of circulation. Just as soft and hard affects the outcome of Martial Arts style, so does soft and hard affect the outcome of the way the body develops. (See Golden Pearl exercise).


Let's review the concept of Yin and Yang. Everyone knows what this symbol looks like, but few understand the enormous significance of it and how it relates to Internal Martial Arts. The way in which movement is performed largely decides the content of Ch'i. Yin and Yang refer to the type of Ch'i when related to Chi. Yin is soft, Yang hard, with either containing a small amount of the other. The Yin Yang symbol is used in Tai Chi to measure Ch'i content in any given move. An example is shown by measuring across the fish or baby's head segment of the Yin Yang diagram. (Shown further on). When we raise the hand in a given movement we extend and use Ch'i. (Qi). The force is at its greatest at the highest point of the movement. Another key factor is the position of the hand. Palm up releases energy, palm down accelerates Chi flow. Tai Chi movements amplify and accelerate Chi flow.

In our school we talk about Internal Martial Arts as being one family. For those having minimum knowledge of the family of internal arts it is better that they simply focus on the idea of Tai Chi when comparing the hard martial arts to the soft. Yin and Yang though opposites, exist all around us. In the body, energy flows through both Yin and Yang channels. The symbol of Yin/Yang apart from displaying how two opposites can exist in harmony despite being opposite, also shows how Ch'i can be measured in physical movement, as shown in the example above.


Every form of exercise produces Ch'i. Martial Artists when practising, constantly tense and relax the muscles. This not only stimulates Ch'i flow but it also controls it. The common misconception is that this is Nei Gung because we talk of Ch'i being developed and we automatically assume that this is Nei Gung. Strictly speaking the external exercise is Wei Gung, the result is Nei Gung at its lowest level.

Comparison of Martial Arts movement and style

Karate movements actually block Chi in an effort to accumulate energy (Ch'i) at one point, whereas Tai Chi on the other hand connects the Ch'i by the use of smooth flowing circular movements. (The rivers of Chi). This has an added advantage and benefit to health. Internal power is increased by the combination of the "rooting of Ch'i to the ground." "Mother Earth." An example of how this works is when we lower the body when lifting to gain more purchase power. Breathing is the main refuelling technique of Chi Gung. All Martial Artists know of and use the lower stance to gain power. The only exception might be TKD, an Art form that emphasises kicking. Not a criticism merely an observation.




Picking up the golden pearl chi gung exercise

This exercise incorporates a typical knee bend with the circling of Chi thoughout the entire body, thus converting the external knee bend to an internal Chi Gung movement.

Picking up the Golden Pearl, based on the “Wild Goose Chi Gung system” is a flowing set with a flowery name. Yet it is laced with an overwhelming feel of magnetic energy. A few repetitions will restore harmony and increase the whole body fitness. If we compare Chinese exercise to Western style exercise, you will find one main difference, that is the use of the whole body, not just the part being exercised.


Cultivation (Nei Gung) relies on a good knowledge of the Chi Gung moves that work in harmony with each other. We need also to build our knowledge and ability to open gates and strengthen pathways for Ch'i, the link to vital organs and understand the terminology of Chi Gung. Opening "the gates" is not simply a matter of practise. You need a competent teacher who can recognise where blockage exists. Tai Chi and the other two Internal Arts Bagua and H'Sing I create the relaxed body and waist capable of releasing Ch'i. (Energy. Breath control is the other key ingredient to successful Chi Gung practise.


Measurement of Chi Diagram
Yang organs in the body are:-
Large intestine
Small intestine
Urinary bladder
Triple burner
Gall bladder

Yin Organs:-


There are six Yin and six Yang meridians. These should be understood as channels, i.e. the pathways that Ch'i travels along. For more information, refer to Meridian Charts.

Yin and Yang are not terms used to refer to quality of Ch'i. Instead the reference to Yin and Yang Chi is used to indicate where the level of Ch'i is greater or less. In this sense we could understand Yin and Yang as a measurement of Ch'i. (This will be easier to understand as we learn more about what Ch'i itself is). Too much Yang Chi in the body can be dangerous. Yang Chi is generated by a number of sources including exercise, and for this reason the correct balance of the kind of exercise we do is important.


What Ch'i is actually requires some form of western terminology. So we could give it any of a number of names - some examples are; Breath, Energy, Power, the will, Electromagnetic Field, etc.

If we perceive Chi as electricity or an electro magnetic field we will better understand Chi. This is because of the flowing nature of electricity.
Westerners generally speaking prefer to use scientific terms to understand Chi. Simply calling it “Chi” may well be accepted by the Chinese but it will not suffice for Westerners without an indepth study of Chinese culture, the belief of how Ch’i works and the philosophy of Ch’i will be perceived differently.

Western scientists have established the existence of an electro magnetic field in the body. This is also referred to as “Bio Electric” energy. Everyone understands a little about electricity, the need to generate it and the way in which it works, i.e. a positive or negative path (wire). If we continue this orthodox comparison to the existence of “magnetic field” we can then appreciate how Chi Gung techniques might influence that field.

Meridian special vessels centre front and rear of body known as
Governing and Conception vessels. Also shown are three important gates.


Just as our veins or arteries carry and convey the vital blood supply to the body’s organs, our channels (meridians) carry and convey the vital Ch'i to the organs. Conductivity in the body can be measured. The channels could be likened to wire or rivers. Conduct could mean “to control the movement of,” and in this sense we mean Ch'i, therefore there must be parts of the body’s energy flow where higher or lower conductivity is possible.


In the Chi Gung theory we learn of the 8 Special Channels. It is believed that these act as “lakes” or “vessels” where Ch'i is accumulated until required, (not unlike a hydro dam). These lakes are like storage tanks, and one theory is that the conductivity is greater within the area of the Special Vessels. Just as copper wire is a greater storer or mover of electricity flow, the 8 Special or Extraordinary vessels also hold and convey greater amounts of Ch'i. In other words the “Potential” to flow energy is greater.

This article has been written for the purpose of understanding the outline of how Ch'i works as related to Chinese Martial Arts and Tai Chi. Robert Gemmell trains in China on a regular basis. (Most recent trip December 2004). He runs Advanced Courses on related Chi Gung, Fa Jing and Internal Martial Arts at the "Insights Centre" in Picton New Zealand.


Wild Goose Ch'i Gung


" the essence of Taiji Quan"

This is a question that will remain long after students take their first lesson. Integral to Tai Chi is the centre core of body movement.

Unlike the usual analysis of fitness which is often perceived to be something akin to a romp around the football field or a five mile run, Taiji (Tai Chi) is a more subtle way of shedding a few pounds, toning up the nervous system or shedding a few layers of stress, which may be far more beneficial than lining up at the local fitness gym. What actually makes Taiji work is that it triggers the inner response we come to know as harmony.

This may well be connected to a term known as “Chan Si Jing”. In Western terms we can appreciate this better if we use the analogy of Chinese women weaving silk. In fact Chan Si Jing is generally described as the production of “Silk Cocoon energy”. Just as the silk worm gently weaves each strand of silk within the walls of the cocoon so does the human body act as the factory of internal energy. Continually our mental and physical activity creates more and more electrical impulse or “energy output ”.

Letting go of this energy should be a natural process of the body. In a modern thinking world this does not occur. Locking in rather than releasing becomes the process. Opposing the natural release of built up energy we create a pressure cooker system. In plain terms we explode at intervals - regulated only by our personal levels of stress.

Overall Taiji (Tai Chi) brings some relief to our daily build up of anxiety. So what is the problem you may ask? Just do Taiji. Yes, that is the solution, but when you eventually front up at a class it becomes patently clear that this art form is not what you thought it was. The graceful movements are easier said than done.The realisation that the movements are both complex and difficult to master soon shake our initial confidence. Yet amidst the first disappointment this temporary stumbling block can be overcome by the regular practise of the Reeling Silk Energy exercise. Chan Si Jin is a specific exercise that assists the student to develop their Tai Chi. This gentle rolling action offers the student a way of repeating a key part of the form even if a beginner.


Taiji relies heavily on Chan Si Jing to train the body to “reel up” the Ch'i (Qi) circulate the body and release the surplus. Central to the fundamentals of Chan Si Jing is the connection of three main areas of the body.

These include:
1. The leverage point or the sinking of Chi - Ground and feet
2. Transfer and control point of spiralling energy - The waist
3. Great circulation point - The hand

Several Chan Si Jing exercises were designed to facilitate the close unison of these three parts of the body. The following sketches show the basic first exercise of Chen Taiji Quan Reeling Silk exercise. Each sketch shows the beginning


of the vital positions required to coordinate and harmonise key points of the body. Side stepping is used in this sequence. This is varied from stationary, horse, rear, bow and arrow, to forward stance, as students develop.



Avoid over use of this technique.


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