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The Importance of Dragon & Tiger Chi Gung

Within the Energy Arts world, there is a lot going on with Dragon & Tiger Chi Gung these days. Three of the exercises from the system are featured in Bruce's new book, The Chi Revolution. Bruce's next book, Dragon & Tiger Medical Chi Gung instruction manual, is at the printer. And perhaps most importantly, in March Bruce will offer the first instructor training he has ever held in Europe and the subject will be Dragon & Tiger.

So when Heather asked me to write an article for this newsletter, I decided to write about the importance of Dragon & Tiger.


I first heard of Dragon & Tiger Chi Gung twenty years ago in a swimming pool in Cozumel, Mexico.

Bruce Frantzis had just done a demonstration at a tai chi competition in Houston. I met him there, and we came to Cozumel for a few days. Our goal was to spend a few days "away from it all" to discuss plans for his future writing and teaching.

Tired of sitting in his hotel room, we took to the pool to talk. As we discussed ideas, I asked him, "Isn't there some chi gung set that you know that is easier to learn than Opening the Energy Gates?"

Bruce said, "Well, there is a system called Dragon & Tiger that I'd be willing to teach. I know

a lot of even simpler sets, but I won't teach any of them. I'm only interested in teaching sets that are powerful enough to deeply benefit the people who learn them."

"Dragon & Tiger isn't as powerful as Energy Gates," Bruce said. "But it's an excellent system."

A few months later, I got my first taste of Dragon & Tiger at a weekend workshop that I

organized for Bruce in Boston. It was the first time Bruce taught Dragon & Tiger in the U.S.

or Europe.

There I first began to understand the importance of Dragon & Tiger Chi Gung within the Energy Arts system of practices. And for the next twenty years, as Bruce has fully integrated Dragon & Tiger into what is now his seven-part core chi gung program, my appreciation of that importance has been growing. It is important to me both as a practitioner of Bruce's Energy Arts and as an Energy Arts Instructor.


I like to think about the Energy Arts practices that Bruce teaches as tools that promote personal health and transformation.

When you work with hand or power tools, each tool has one or a few things that it does especially well, either for everyone or for you in particular.

The same is true for Bruce's Energy Arts. The Wu Style Tai Chi Short Form especially helps me relax my nerves. The Ba Gua Single Palm Change centers me and gives me more yang chi

to make me energetically stronger. Gods Playing in the Clouds Chi Gung never fails to help

calm and balance my system at all levels. I use all of the other arts in the system in particular ways for particular effects.

For me Dragon & Tiger is a particularly unique tool within Bruce's system. All of the other tools rely in large part for their success on how well you use your mind to feel and move the chi in your body. They all require that you be relatively present with what you are doing and apply that presence of mind quite subtly, both in the way that you move your physical body and the way you move your energy.

In contrast, Dragon & Tiger in large part relies on how well you move your hands in the energy field around your body across particular energy pathways on your body. What you do with your mind - including how present you are - doesn't make that much difference. If you move your hands consistently across the right pathways on your body, you'll get results.

If you are a beginner practitioner, this is very important. All of the other practices Bruce teaches require that you settle and apply your mind in very subtle ways. Dragon & Tiger doesn't. You can mentally space out and Dragon & Tiger will still work for you. Thus you can get tangible results more quickly and easily.

All you have to do is learn the physical aspects of the seven movements to get energetic benefits. Just do the physical movements and the movements will do the basic energy work for you. As you are able to become more present, you can then learn the more subtle energy work of the system.

This quality alone makes Dragon & Tiger a great place to start learning about chi. Please visit my for a list of other good reasons to study it.

If you are an experienced practitioner, Dragon & Tiger's reliance on the hands and not the mind to move chi can also become a great advantage. I learned this very quickly and forcefully during and just after that first workshop I took with Bruce. At that time I had been studying with Bruce and practicing fairly seriously for seven or eight years. During that time I had released a lot of places in my body where energy was blocked. But there were also a lot of blocked places in my body that I still wasn't able to feel with my mind.

When I learned the Dragon & Tiger tool my inability to feel didn't limit me. When I moved my hands through my energy field over my body, my hands swept energy through many of these long-held blocks. The results were quick and powerful. With each practice more and more energy began to move through my system, not only at the chi level, but also at the emotional level. I felt like I made more progress in a couple of weeks than I had in the previous year. In fact, the reactions were so strong, that I had to cut back all of my practices significantly for a while so that I could again find and stay within my 70 percent comfort zone.

You may not have the same experience as I did with Dragon & Tiger. But as a tool it can help you in a different way than Bruce's other arts. If you learn it, my guess is that you'll find particular and special uses for it within your own practice.

FOR INSTRUCTORS For thirteen years from 1992 to 2005 I directed and taught full-time at Brookline Tai Chi in the Boston area. During that time, the other instructors and I taught thousands of students

energy arts ranging from the Wu Style Tai Chi Short Form to Opening the Energy Gates to Ba Gua to Dragon & Tiger.

From this experience I concluded that if there is one of Bruce's energy arts that Energy Arts instructors can teach to millions of people and help offset the effects of the coming health crisis that Bruce has predicted for years, Dragon & Tiger will be the one.

The reason? While the other arts all are more powerful for promoting health once learned, for the average person they take too much time and dedication to learn to a high enough level that the benefits start to accumulate.

In contrast, an average person can learn all of the seven movements of Dragon & Tiger in just ten to fifteen hours of instruction. They may not learn it very well, but that brings up another great advantage of Dragon & Tiger. You don't have to do it well to benefit. In fact, my and other's experience is that you can do it poorly and still gain benefits.

In addition, the seven movements of Dragon & Tiger can be taught in many ways. You don't have to start with the first move and end with the last. Someone could learn a version the seventh move first and the first move last. This would not be ideal, but it is possible. Therefore you can adapt Dragon & Tiger to many teaching situations, whether weekend workshops or drop-in classes at a health club or seniors center.

Also, I believe that Dragon & Tiger delivers the most bang for the buck in terms of helping to improve people's health quickly. I've had students who've used Dragon & Tiger to gain relief from conditions as varied as cancer, repetitive stress injuries, insomnia, and arthritis. Read about some of my students' experiences.

This is not to say that Dragon & Tiger is really easy to get people to learn. In fact, these days tai chi is much easier to market to people in part because it has become well-known and is attractive to watch.

Dragon & Tiger doesn't have these advantages. Chi gung is not well-known, and many people think Dragon & Tiger's movements look funny. Yet chi gung is growing in popularity, and as people grow used to seeing similar movements, Dragon & Tiger will become more attractive.

Perhaps the most important advantage that will make Dragon & Tiger easier to market to many people is that you can encourage people to laugh and play while learning and practicing. One can't really laugh when you are doing tai chi or Energy Gates and stay within the practice as it is designed to be done. Dragon & Tiger will work even better for you if you do.

THE MOVING TIGER ENERGY EXERCISE METHOD I've become so convinced of the importance of Dragon & Tiger that I am currently dedicating all of my teaching time to promoting it. With Bruce's support, I am trying to develop a method for teaching Dragon & Tiger in one-day workshops. One of my goals is to find a way to teach consecutive workshops that will allow many people to advance systematically in a few years through Dragon & Tiger's levels of subtleties, from beginner to advanced.

A key reason that I am focusing on one-day workshops is that with such a format a single

instructor can travel to many different locations to teach, thereby reaching many communities.

If we are going to help a lot of people, instructors will need to reach out to many places.

I call my method for teaching Dragon & Tiger the Moving Tiger Energy Exercise Method.

We've recently begun to use what in marketing is called a tag line that goes: Authentic Chi

Gung, Contemporary TeachingTM. Please see for more information about Moving Tiger and about Dragon & Tiger.

Whether I'll be successful with this approach remains to be seen. There are many teaching and marketing hurdles in the way. But for a long, long time Bruce has talked about the role that tai chi and chi gung might play in helping to offset the effects of the coming health crisis. I see Dragon & Tiger as the vehicle Energy Arts Instructors are most likely to use to positive effect this way.

If you'd like to stay in touch with how Moving Tiger is going, please sign up to receive my e-

newsletter that I send out every couple of months.

I also send out via email free Tiger Tips. I offer two types, "Energy Awareness" and "Personal Practice." You can choose to receive one or both.

The Energy Awareness tips provide pointers on how you can better understand and manage your energy as you go about your everyday activities, from walking to sleeping to working to eating to watching TV.

The Personal Practice tips provide ideas on how you can use your personal exercise practice

to help you gain more life energy, whether you do the Moving Tiger Method, related energy

exercises such as tai chi or yoga, or exercises like walking, running, swimming, etc.

Learn more about these types of tips - or to read some samples.

I encourage you to learn Dragon & Tiger and begin teaching it to others as well.

I hope to see you at the Brighton Instructor Training or a Moving Tiger workshop.

By Bill Ryan Director of The Moving Tiger Energy Exercise Method and Energy Arts Senior Instructor

Center of the Circle

Revolving around a central point is at the core of Ba Gua Circle Walking. Revolution after revolution, we continue to circle around a central point in space that remains stable and unchanging. With each rotation we find ourselves traversing the same ground as before, yet every time it is a new experience. We trace the same steps over and over but each second greets us afresh.

In a sense, we are circling a point in time as well as space, for as much as things change, the moment we are in always remains the same. There is no past or future in Circle Walking, there is only the eternal present, the space where what is to come flows into what has gone.

In Taoist Circle Walking, the endless chatter of our mind begins to soften its grip on us. Again and again we return to the present, to the awareness of our breath, of our sensations and our energy, alive within our bodies. There is a flow of feeling as each inch of the foot contacts the ground, accepts the weight of our body ounce by ounce and then the spring as it releases and lifts to step again.

The feeling of being a living being in motion draws us back out of the fantasies and obsessions that our minds constantly create and destroy. Yet, inevitably we again drift off into the nether realms of our minds, the endless array of images that crowd our consciousness. Again and again we recognize each arising thought for what it is, and return to what is actually happening. For the experience of our actual aliveness is a reward far richer than the most opulent imaginings.

Again we step and turn around the middle point, the stillness at the core of all movement. The center of the circle as well as the central axis of our own body, around which our muscle, tissue, bone and chi continuously spirals. As we walk the circle, our bodies are continuously in motion, a never ending cycle of energy flowing in its natural pattern, balanced by the utter stability of its central core.

If we are able to calm our minds in the midst of this walk, on this path that is always changing yet ever present, we are able to recognize more and more of what is present in our minds and bodies. Who we are, what we are made of and what surrounds us.

Without the endless stream of images blocking our view, we can come to a much deeper awareness of life as it really is. At times like these we catch a glimpse of that still center, that unchanging axis around which everything is moving and manifesting. And in that still space there is a moment of deep satisfaction and openness, an appreciation of things as they are, and

a joyfulness that comes from simply being alive and unique in this time and place.

By Jess O'Brien and Isaac Kamins

The Art of Micro Practice

I began teaching in 1989 and still have many students who started with me back then. These

long-term students have not found any problem practicing on a regular basis and that's probably why they are long-term students. In more recent times many of the newer students have complained that they don't have time to practice or they are so busy and stressed out, it's difficult to keep up their practice of tai chi or chi gung.

I don't think it's true that these students have no time to practice. I feel that their practice is probably unrewarding and therefore, deep in their hearts they don't feel like doing it. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. There may be many reasons for this, but my intuition is that there is a sense of strain in their practice. When working with your own internal practice, the requirement to go inside, feel and concentrate can create a subtle sense of strain. This in itself will make the person not want to do it.

This reminds me of a time, way back when I was young. I wanted to learn to play blues guitar. Every day I practiced in a set session for about an hour. My progress was very slow and I didn't seem to be able to get into the feel of how to play blues guitar. I followed all the instructions to the letter, and even took private lessons. But still I couldn't seem to make it flow. I gave up my practice sessions and left the guitar in a little empty space between the lounge and kitchen and I began to find myself picking it up for a few moments and trying a chord or two. I did this a number of times a day since it seemed effortless just for a few minutes and I didn't really care how well I did. It was just for the enjoyment of it. After a few days the thing began to flow and I started to practice for longer periods of time gradually building up to long afternoons as my skill got better. Then progress became quite swift and for a while back in those days I could play a pretty mean blues guitar.

So what was wrong with my full practice? I think it was the strain of trying to get it right, of not being natural about it. The casual attempts at micro practice seemed to release me from strain and things began to move forward. So if you find your practice getting stuck in this way even if you don't obviously feel strain but just can't seem to get it to work, try the art of micro practice.

Example; When you're brewing your coffee first thing in the morning, standing in the kitchen, bring your awareness to your feet. Feel how your feet contact the floor. Begin to sit into your stance so that your weight sinks into your heels. Let your tailbone sit down into your heels. If you were standing in soft mud it would be your heels which would be sinking. And gradually without deliberately shifting your weight, direct your tailbone forward until you can feel the pressure going into the middle of the arch of the foot. Now lift all your toes from the floor, stretch them forward and gently lay all the pads of your toes back on to the floor. How does that feel? Do you feel now you're contacting the floor better? Do you have a sense of gripping the floor but without any sense of tension or strain? Now your coffee is brewed and you just completed your first session of micro practice.

People often report to me that standing is difficult for them. After some attempts, they say that standing, even for a few minutes becomes a frustrating experience. The desire to move about becomes so strong that they fidget and fidget and finally give up. So here is an example not so much of micro practice, but of casual practice.

If you can't stand to stand, go for a walk. Take a stroll in the woods and as you walk just casually begin to go inside. Feel how your head is held. Is there any tension or strain? Just casually let it go. How are your shoulders? Do the same thing, let them drop. How is your spine? Feel all the way down your spine; begin to let your pelvis hang as you walk. Gradually you will find that your whole body is beginning to relax and become more fluid. Keep going for as long as you feel comfortable with it and there is no strain. I'm willing to bet a least a fiver you'll feel much better at the end of your walk.

Waiting in a queue at the supermarket? So, instead of being in a hurry, standing on the balls of your feet, watching the person in front of you so slowly packing their bags, trying to remember their pin number as they pay, just sit back and relax into your stance. Let your shoulders drop, let your pelvis drop, let go of tension, and just have a moment of peace.

You can apply the same kind of softness to your regular practice also. Did you ever see a cat overstretch? Practice like a cat, feel your way through a stretch. Enjoy it. Let your body

hang, have fun, don't worry. When you don't feel like doing any more, go and do something

else. There will be plenty of opportunity throughout the rest of the day

for micro practice.

By Brian Cooper

Chi Gung University

Do you remember your favorite college professor? Was he a wizened bookworm who would quote endlessly from the classics? Was she a fiery idealist who pushed sleepy, complacent students to forge a moral identity? Was he a wacky physicist who could barely keep his shoes tied, but couldn't care less?

While the eccentricities of our faculty of Senior Instructors might also make for some interesting stories, they have between them the depth and wealth of knowledge of any top university when it comes to chi gung, tai chi, and ba gua.

Of course, the dean of this university, Bruce Frantzis, is actively engaged in passing along his Taoist lineage, and in my opinion, the Senior Instructors play an important role as a gateway to the lineage.

They all have at least a decade and a half of direct study with Bruce, most of them two decades, and a couple are pushing three decades of study with him. In academia this level of reflection and refinement puts them at the forefront of their fields. But you won't find this group hunched over a table, squinting at a manuscript. Instead, they've invested countless hours practicing arts that helps them and their students stay vibrant, springy and youthful.

The more I study with our SI's, the more I also appreciate something Bruce often says: "Chi gung is an art, not a science." While you have to be a bit of a mad scientist to endlessly experiment with what these practices feel like in your body, the polished result of years of cultivation takes on the unique character of the practitioner.

Two summers ago, at an Energy Gates training in California, we had a chance to see just how differently each one approached something as simple as basic leg alignments. Each SI was asked to tutor a new student on how to find alignments from the hips through the feet, on the spot and in front of all 80 of us. None of them flinched, and everybody came up with their own way to express the same thing.

Now, I don't know if they were trying to show off or compete with each other, but when they got up in front of the group they did two things: each one worked directly with the body in front of them and each expressed himself/herself in a language they had honed in their own bodies over the years. The teaching ran the gamut from jackhammer-style bounces through a well-aligned leg to more playful, light, do-what-I-do guided follow-along. At the end of the session though, each student "got it" and the rest of us saw how you can teach the "right thing" in your own way.

For Instructor trainings, as with Gods last summer, the SI's have assumed even more teaching responsibility. For many people traveling from all over the country and Europe, this is a rare opportunity to work closely with an experienced Instructor. In these trainings they not only have the job of making sure that every trainee understands what Bruce is teaching each day,

but they also play the role of filling in missing pieces for the students that have less experience. This latter role is something they are able to do at several levels, from beginners all the way on up to folks who dedicate hours a day to their practice and have been doing so for years.

I've seen them do this firsthand at Brookline Tai Chi as well. For a long time the school was anchored by its founder Bill Ryan with the support of Alan Dougall. While Alan can still be found marching students up and down through their Brush Knee paces, more recently Eric Peters and Craig Barnes have assumed regular roles as weekend workshop Instructors. Each time I study with these Senior Instructors, even if it's the same topic, I come away with fresh insight. It is like being allowed to overhear scholars debate an ancient text. Each one comes away with a different insight, and the tradition stays alive through this interchange.

In the spirit of this interchange, Brookline Tai Chi will be hosting Craig, Eric, and Alan teaching a collaborative tai chi immersion week in April. The training features opportunities to learn the Short Form, refine your Short Form, or refine your Long Form. They will also co- teach a weekend on tai chi standing postures. You can get more information about these events through the BTC webpage, but to me, here's what's so exciting about this event: the more the Senior Instructors start teaching together, the more their work as individual practitioners and individual teachers is transformed into something whole and more accessible for all the people that they teach. Shared insight and shared teaching will help prepare the most people for the Lineage's teachings that Bruce is working so hard to pass along.

By Dan Kleiman

Chi Gung Tui Na

The first course I took with Bruce Frantzis was a weekly class in Chi Gung Tui Na in San Francisco in 1989. I had a private practice in Palo Alto, California doing various kinds of Asian Bodywork Therapy at the time and I was studying Chi Gung in San Jose. I have been very curious about different healing modalities and energy development practices since I was teenager. I like to check out different healing modalities. In Bruce's classes I saw and experienced how quickly Chi Gung Tui Na can specifically target and release energy blockages throughout the body. I was impressed and immediately hooked. I went on to study the whole Chi Gung program and Tai Chi with Bruce. I have incorporated Chi Gung Tui Na into my hands-on energetic bodywork practice ever since.

In my experience, Chi Gung Tui Na works well for a broad variety of physical, structural, stress related and energetic imbalances. I have many case examples to illustrate.

Several years ago, I worked with a man who had fallen off an 80 foot scaffold and landed on concrete. He had pain throughout his body, despite completing a series of physical therapy sessions. I thought that Chi Gung Tui Na would be a good technique to use since it would help to reconnect the disturbed flow of energy at the core channel level that runs through the center of the joints and bones. In a series of six sessions, the pain in his body moved progressively out of his body, moving from the torso out the five extremities of the hands, feet and head. Achyness and pain was released from his organs out the extremities as well. He felt pain free after six sessions.

Once I worked with a man who limped into the office just minutes after breaking his leg. I started with above the body techniques based on Dragon and Tiger Chi Gung to balance out the flow of energy in the meridian lines. After about a minute, we heard a loud crack as his bone adjusted itself back into place. I then finished with pulsing the joints of the leg, first the ankle, knee and then hip to stabilize the core flow of energy in the leg. He walked out of the office with no limp and no pain.

Recently, I worked with a man who had badly broken his ankle 25 years earlier where the tendons had to be reattached. It was not much of a problem until recently. Doctors were suggesting ankle replacement surgery. He found that wearing shoes with cushioned soles helped a lot. I pulsed the ankle joint, clearing the stiffness in the affected quadrants of the joint. After one session of Chi Gung Tui Na, the mobility in the ankle joint tremendously increased to almost as much mobility as the other ankle. Before the session, the joint was very stiff and afterwards there was a lot of springiness in the ankle joint.

When I lived in Scottsdale, Arizona I developed and directed a two-year degree program in Asian Bodywork, as well as 500-hour and 200-hour Chi Gung Tui Na, Zen Shiatsu, and Jin

Shin Jyutsu acupressure diploma and certificate programs and a 100-hour Chi Gung program.

I taught Chi Gung Tui Na for over 10 years primarily to Asian bodywork therapists, Ortho-

Bionomyâ practitioners, massage therapists and lay people. Ortho-Bionomy is an osteopathic

based structural and energy balancing system developed by a British osteopath.

My Asian bodywork students found that Chi Gung Tui Na and Zen Shiatsu blended very well together. My students would often use Chi Gung Tui Na for integration at the end of a session because Chi Gung Tui Na opens all the energy layers including the superficially located meridian lines, deeper spiraling pathways, and core channels in the joints and bones, thus stabilizing the changes throughout the whole system. Pumping the limbs is a quick and easy technique to use for integration. Clients report deep relaxation during and after sessions because it relaxes the nervous system and opens the pathway for stress to release out the extremities.

My students and I have found that Chi Gung Tui Na complements the structural balancing techniques of Ortho-Bionomy really well. The unwinding techniques release the imbalances in the muscles, fascia, and connective tissues that pull the joints out of alignment. The pulsing techniques restore the spring, mobility, alignment and health of the joints, including the spine. Ortho-Bionomy or other bodywork techniques can be incorporated in a Chi Gung Tui Na session to clear tension from tight spots that would take longer to clear using the basic Chi Gung Tui Na techniques. Simple Chi Gung exercises are great to teach clients to assist structural integration after the sessions. I usually teach simple components of Energy Gates movements that we learn as preparatory exercises to the complete movements of Energy Gates, such as kwa squats, or twisting or pumping the arms with the arms parallel.

I have a good sense of how Chi Gung Tui Na compares with other healing modalities because

I have studied many different styles of bodywork and energywork and experienced many

more as a receiver. The Western bodywork systems I have seen focus on systems of the body separately, such as the myo-fascial system, cerebrospinal system, structural alignment and posture, acupuncture meridian system, nervous system, mobility of the joints, or internal organs. What I find unique about Chi Gung Tui Na is the way it clears patterns from the muscles, fascia, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, internal organs, meridian lines and core energetic levels all in one session with one integrated comprehensive system. I

often do some Chi Gung after a Western bodywork session to integrate the effects of work on that one system within the whole. As a result, I find that the results of the session last longer.

If you are interested in learning Chi Gung Tui Na I recommend also learning Chi Gung to develop your ability to feel energy more sensitively and to have a way of clearing yourself between clients. Dragon and Tiger Chi Gung is a good place to start. It is excellent for quickly improving your ability to feel energy deep inside the body and in the energy field. It is also a wonderful set to do between clients to keep your energy level higher than your clients and to clear out any unwanted energy you may have picked up. Dragon and Tiger is excellent for energy workers, acupuncturists, body workers, psychotherapists and physicians to prevent practitioner burnout.

I have found my Chi Gung Tui Na and Chi Gung practice complement each other well. Progress I make in my Chi Gung practice shows up in my Chi Gung Tui Na sessions as a greater ability to feel subtle imbalances and quicker results. The awareness of internal blockages and how various areas of the body interrelate has increased my internal awareness in my own Chi Gung practice. I also am better able to help my Chi Gung students with their specific issues.

By Susan Kansky Susan has 7,500 hours of training in Asian Bodywork, Energy Medicine, and Chinese health exercises. She has been teaching Chi Gung and Asian bodywork since 1986.

Qigong Basics for Everyone


As interest in the theory and practice of qigong continues to grow in the United States, and with so many varieties of qigong available for study, it becomes increasingly important to have a clear, basic understanding of exactly what it is. If you are going to invest your time and money into a daily practice, it's a good idea to know more about that practice, to make sure it meets your needs and expectations. This overview will provide a foundation to help the reader, whether a novice or someone with some qigong experience, gain a better understanding and make more informed decisions when beginning or furthering a qigong practice.

Most simply put, qigong is a diverse system for working with the energy of life, called qi. Some of its benefits include improving health, reducing stress, increasing energy, maintaining emotional calm, strengthening the immune system, and promoting longevity. Although the word "qigong" has only been in common usage since the 1950s, the practice originated in Asia between three and five thousand years ago (depending on which sources are quoted). It is a vital, living practice that continues to be researched, developed, and adapted for contemporary life. However, many of the most ancient methods still exist and are practiced today, relatively unchanged.


Let's take a look at the word qigong itself, since that will tell us a lot about the actual practice. Note that it is made up of two separate syllables, "qi" and "gong". In the Chinese language every syllable is a discrete word. Even when leaving aside tonal considerations, every word has many possible meanings and may be used in various contexts. Here, the syllables are combined to form the single word qigong, so that its meaning is at once more clear.

For our purposes, we'll consider the translation of qi to be "vital life energy" or "life force". That's the most direct and accurate interpretation when using the word "qi" in relation to qigong and Chinese medicine. For convenience, the word "energy" is commonly used alone. Sometimes it may be interpreted as "breath" or "breathing". Although that's another literal translation of the word qi, it's incomplete when discussing qigong.

Gong is most commonly translated as work, exercise, skill, or practice. When combined with the word "qi", the most often-seen translations are energy exercises, energy work, or breathing exercises. These are okay as far as they go, and even "breathing exercises" may be conditionally acceptable, since the regulation of the breath is one of the three main concerns of all qigongs as we'll see below. However, if we limit ourselves to these interpretations, we miss some important considerations and have at best a partial understanding, which can create erroneous expectations and diminish the results of our practice.

Implied within the word gong is the concept of time. More specifically, gong means effort put into something over a period of time in order to achieve a desired result. Historically, the word gong was applied to the work people did, the craft or profession a person pursued. As one became more accomplished in their work through practicing it over time, their gong provided them with an ever deepening understanding not just of their profession but of life, no matter if they were a farmer, an artisan, a merchant, a soldier, or a politician.

The simple word "practice", one of the common translations of gong, also includes the aspect of investing effort over a period of time, whether that means practicing the piano or establishing a medical practice. If we take that understanding into account, "practice" becomes a suitable translation for gong, and is a better choice than the word "exercise". An exercise is usually something you can learn how to do very quickly, and then little or no further thought is given to it, while its benefits are provided through rote repetition. In fact, the word "exercise" is sometimes used as a gentle admonition by a qigong master correcting a novice: "You're not doing qigong, you're just doing an exercise." While repetition is part of a every qigong practice, it is never done by rote. It is done with full attention, full awareness, and that awareness deepens as one advances in their practice.

Now we can see that the fuller meaning contained within the simple word qigong might be best expressed as "effort over a period of time put into the practice of working with the energy of life." Because all gong has a purpose or goal, we can amend that with, "for the purpose of being able to sense, acquire, store and mobilize qi at will, in order to promote health, vitality, and longevity." Even that isn't complete, since as one progresses farther in qigong, it is used to cultivate power, which may be applied secularly, martially, medically, as an entry point into deeper spiritual practices, or combinations of all of those.

Here, it might be helpful to state what qigong is not. Although it may be applied martially, it is not a martial art; it may be applied medically, but it is not medicine; it may be applied for

spiritual development, but it is not a religion. Accordingly, it may be practiced by anyone to improve their quality of life, health and longevity, regardless of how else they may one day choose to apply that practice.


There are five main philosophical bases that underlie any qigong. These include Daoist, Buddhist, Confucian, Medical, and Martial. Within each of those five constructs exists hundreds of form variations. The purpose of each variation is to help the practitioner achieve a particular goal or objective. For example, martial artists would more likely practice a martial style qigong, such as Iron Shirt Qigong, taiji, or other gongfu practices to further specific martial abilities, while healers would be more likely to practice a medical qigong, both to heal themselves and others, and to replenish themselves after treating numerous patients throughout the day.

In broad terms, Daoist qigongs are designed to help one align with the energy and rhythm of the natural world, focusing on health and longevity, and so are often also the basis for many medical qigongs. Buddhist qigongs help foster the values of compassion, social awareness and equality. Confucian qigongs are well suited for intellectual workers, and promote mental clarity and intellectual achievement. Of course these are not mutually exclusive rigid delineations. Any one type of qigong may include some elements of another style, and any individual may practice more than one style of qigong as suits their needs, interests, current level of ability and available time.


There are two other broad umbrella categories of qigong, and these are the Fire and Water methods. This is not to be confused with classical Five Element qigong practices, which would also include Wood, Metal, and Earth, and are a subset of daoist qigongs. Each of the five philosophical bases may include Fire or Water methods. The following descriptions are generalities only, and in various traditions each method may contain aspects of the other. Here are some hallmarks of each.

Fire methods involve an element of force, as in the tensing of muscles, holding of the breath, and visualization used at early stages of practice. Qi is often guided upwards, either purposely or due to the nature of the practice itself--fire rises! By contrast, Water methods are based on relaxation and release, a smooth continuous flow of the breath, and developing a felt sense of qi flow and internal structures and processes. The qi is guided downwards in these practices, as water sinks. In both systems, you eventually want to have a balanced upward and downward flow of qi, and the ability to move it in other planes as well.

Like fire itself, Fire methods tend to produce more dramatic results earlier on, while Water methods may take a little longer for the student to notice the changes that are occurring. At first glance, this may make it seem as though Fire methods are more desirable practices. However, the potential downside is that a quick and dramatic result may easily destabilize a novice student. Fire methods really require careful, ongoing guidance from a qualified teacher in order to insure that the teacher can observe and immediately correct any potential qi deviation. Historically, all qi practices were taught to students who were either living with or at least regularly visiting their teacher. Water methods are largely free from these problems,

having safeguards built in to their methodology. Once learned, both methods are equally powerful.


Regardless of the form or philosophical basis, all qigongs have this much in common. They all require that the practitioner learns to regulate their body, breath, and mind, commonly called the Three Regulations. The coordinated regulation of the body, breath, and mind helps to guide and regulate the qi, and is crucial to eventually learning to regulate the qi directly.

Regulating the body opens the muscle-tendon meridians, and deeper anatomical and energetic structures. Muscle-tendon meridians overlay the main acupuncture meridians, and opening them helps to release tension (and the consequent restriction or pain) from muscles and tendons, so that qi is able to circulate unimpeded at that level. Regulating the breath allows for more oxygen and qi to be acquired from the atmosphere, and through gentle internal pressurization, increases blood flow to and from the organs. This brings more nourishment to the organs, removes toxins more efficiently, and promotes better organ functioning. In earlier stages of practice, the regulation of the mind is used to regulate the body and the breath, and the focused attention of the mind to specific movements encourages qi flow along specific pathways.

The synchronized coordination of the Three Regulations is used to either just mobilize and guide qi within the body, which may be useful in cases of qi stagnation manifesting as stiffness and pain for example, or it may be used to move qi into and out of the body. This can be done simultaneously to rid the body of pathogenic or otherwise unusable qi, and to gather more healthy qi from the environment, to be stored at the end of the practice.

Additional components may be layered into a practice that work with specific body tissues,

organs, glands, nerves, and body cavities among other things, that can amplify qi flows, open

a body more completely, and awaken other inner senses. This is more correctly called

"neigong", or inner practice. Few US teachers make the distinction between calling a practice

a qigong or a neigong, mainly because even the word qigong is new to many westerners, and

adding another new word may only create confusion when they are essentially part of the same continuum.


Most complete qigong systems include a balance between moving and stationary practices. This is one way of creating a balance between Yin (quiet) and Yang (active) energies within a body.

The stationary practices may be done standing, sitting, or lying down. Many consider the lying down practices as the most advanced, and these are not usually taught to a beginning or intermediate student unless they are bedridden and have no other choice. Whether done standing or sitting, quiescent qigong practices remind people of meditation, and so are often referred to as meditation or as "standing meditation". While it may be tempting to use that familiar nomenclature, and it is true that both moving and stationary qigong practices may serve as a bridge to meditation, qigong is not meditation. Something different is going on here. Whether physically moving or still, the mind is both quiet and in active sensing mode, attending to the Three Regulations and working with the qi. This is also a deeper aspect of the

Regulation of the Mind, using the mind to regulate itself, which can present some unique challenges. This "qigong state of mind", as some masters call it, is necessary to progress farther in qigong cultivation.

Moving practices are extremely varied, depending on the type of qigong being practiced and the specific desired result. In most qigongs, the movements are flowing, graceful, and may seem exotic. Although these can be qualities that initially attract some people to the practice, most importantly the movements are designed to help guide the qi, and encourage it to flow in the ways necessary to achieve the intended results.


In moving qigongs there's usually a more even balance among the regulations of body, breath and mind, so it's somewhat easier to get a stronger circulation of qi throughout the body. In stationary practices, the mind may do more of the work, and because of that it‘s possible for some qi to get stuck in the head. Accordingly, it's especially important to attend to drawing qi out of the head after a stationary practice, and then sink it to penetrate the body. There are many possible ways to sink the qi. While it may be done by the mind alone, some teachers like to insure this happens by teaching their students to physically wipe their body down, from the top of their head to the lower dantian, at the end of their practice. In addition to clearing the head of qi that may get stuck there, this facilitates the movement of qi to the lower dantian.

The lower dantian is a main energy center in the body, located slightly below the navel and towards the spine. It's where qi is stored at the end of any practice session, whether moving, quiescent, or combined. Storing qi at the end of a qigong session is like putting money into your savings account. The more you put in, the more you will have to draw from when you need it. Without storing at the end of the session, much or all of the gathered qi will dissipate, negating most of the value of the practice.


In defining qigong above, the concept of applying "effort over time" was introduced. When practicing qigong, or in trying to accomplish anything in life for that matter, there should be a sense of "full effort without strain". Too often when we think of effort, there is a sense of working at or even beyond our full capacity. This type of effort is problematic if you are trying to become healthier and stronger. First, it creates more tension in your nervous system, leading to increased stress, the likelihood of burnout, and if maintained over time, all of the diseases associated with high levels of stress. Second, you leave yourself no margin of error, no safety zone, if you are working at your maximum. This sets you up for various types of strain and injury, most often occurring at whatever is your particular weakest link. Obviously, this is not a way to build health.

In some daoist traditions, working at full effort without strain is referred to as "The Golden Mean", or colloquially as "the 70% rule". This guideline states that after ascertaining your true 100% capacity, you proceed at 70% of that capacity. You can then put full effort into that 70%, without strain, maintaining a margin of safety, and as your 70% ability increases, your 100% capacity is also increased commensurately. You'll always have that extra 30% to draw on if you really need it.


As you can see, there are many different styles and variations to qigong, even more than are introduced here. Different teachers and authors may use different terminology to express similar concepts. Here, I've minimized the use of Chinese words to keep things in a more familiar context for US readers, especially those new to qigong, but the concepts should be familiar when encountered in other settings. Different teachers and authors will also have their favorite approaches based on their training and experience. The important thing to keep in mind in that regard is that while any one qigong may not intrinsically be better than any other, there are qigongs (or other related practices) that may be better for you, depending on where you are at this point in your life. Discuss any concerns you may have with a prospective teacher before beginning a practice, to make sure you'll be getting what you need. Doing any qigong will likely be better than doing none, but with a little research you may find just the right fit for you.

You really do have to put some effort into your practice, ideally making it a part or your daily life, but just 20 or 30 minutes of daily qigong will yield greater health with more energy, a peaceful heart, and a clear mind, which will positively impact every part of your life. Although you could take it well beyond that point if you choose, even if you "only" got that far, how wonderful would that be?

The qigongs that I personally practice and teach are primarily of the Daoist and Medical (Water) traditions. For more information on these classes, you may visit my website, You'll also find more detailed general information on qigong and taiji there.

I hope this has been helpful and informative, that it's answered some questions you may have about qigong, and raised a few more for you to consider. I wish you all the best on your


© 2007, Steven Cardoza (First published in the Spring 2008 issue of Qi Journal)

Biographical Information Steven Cardoza, M.Sc., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, bodyworker, medical qigong practitioner, and nutrition counselor with a private practice in the Boston area. He is certified to teach Wu taiji and qigong by Taoist lineage holder Master Bruce Frantzis.

Meditation Is Not What You Think

I honestly believe that "we are spiritual beings enjoying a physical respite, here."

believe that ultimately, life is a spiritual quest

reconnection to our ultimate source!

regarding Meditation and "Thinking on these things!" Why? Because I have proven them true in my own life! I find I resonate deeply with the poets like Blake and Rumi, Kabir etc; because they resonate with the Divine/ The Universal Consciousness, the Source of all. Again yesterday I was drawn into a substantive discussion about life. I was sharing, (after being asked) and I shared Prayer, Meditation and the Dissolving Practices of the Water School of Taoism as put forth by Lao Tse. Well, someone interrupted, and for the sole purpose of saying "I don't believe that". I said, “so what!” that doesn't change anything does

I also


wholeness, completeness and

I believe the words of Jesus and Buddha and Ghandi

it?" He paused a bit bewildered, nodded in agreement. Truth is truth, it's universal, and no religion or tradition has a corner on it!

I think we lived in a time of "Premature Evaluation", trying to name this and that, categorize

and type everything

become real in our lives. By perhaps naming it, people can fool themselves into thinking they

have 'dealt with it, or how do we say it


so that we would run out of time to 'allow it to be absorbed' and

"Put it to bed?"

My Wife Dawn studied Spanish for many years, and even was an Interpreter in South America. I asked Dawn once when she finally knew she 'knew Spanish' had gotten a 'hold' on it. She responded that it was when she started dreaming in Spanish. It became a part of her.

share that to share this

of the Mundane !" We have for the most part 'lost' a very essential part of ourselves. Many

people 'can no longer feel' ! BK Frantzis the Taoist master responded to the question

theory": as one is as good as another

Industrial societies are inclined to reduce human beings to unfeeling machines; perhaps it's

the "Electronic World" of image without substance

from human feeling; or it might be the current bent of "Virtual Reality" 'almost'), like those Reality TV programs.



live in very in substantive times! Most of our everydays consist


"pick a

a defense to avoid mental/emotional horror;


sights and sounds are disembodied

(virtual means

One of the first things I learned about Taoism and life-practice was to go deep ! My Teacher

was a wise woman, from China who was teaching around, and she shared

that leads to freedom

Meditation is a straightforward process- and very practical in everyday life. I have found that meditation helps with Stress, Befuddled thinking, affords balance and centeredness, and even

allows me to find perspective and to slow down.

"it is the Practice


practice of actually doing Chi Gung/Tai Chi and Meditation."

There are a myriad of additional benefits to meditation, and I urge you to engage and find

them out for your self. One my most precious realizations is “the softening of my mind and


or practice of meditation there are gifts or results to be enjoyed/realized

everyone, not just a chosen few. Yes, I know of traditions that say that the "gift of becoming

'connected' to Universal Consciousness can only be granted by "Gods Grace"; and it can

I also believe that those who receive it realize it from silence and hard work


"Grace" is a word and concept found in Taoism and Buddhism et al

not about religious beliefs, the supremacy of one religion over another, or about what a human

being should or should not do. Rather, it is a 'tool' (and not another religion)

you find within yourself that spiritual spark, the inner-truths of the Universe." It is the

"something more" do not yet realize it.

Meditation any more than one must be a Taoist in order to practice Tai chi chuan!


of the rigidity is gone"!

"Just come apart and rest a while". Within the realm

and they are for



"Meditation is

a tool to help


is what creates the environment for the 'gift of Grace' to occur. OH, and yes,



"more" that makes us human and divine at the same time, even if we

It is also true that one need not cease being a Christian to engage in

"You see, there is clearly something 'more' in people; more than simply the intellect. It is this 'something more' that we seek to know in Stillness and in Meditation. Meditation is a very important facet of life, here and now; else why would Jesus and the other great teachers of wisdom like Buddha, Muhammad, Ghandi, Lao Tse and Chuang Tse, Rumi and Kabir and countless others down through the years up to and including the Dali Lama, entreat us to


Name you name the UnNameable One, The Creative and Sustaining Power of the

On your way to Oneness with the Universal Consciousness/God or by Whatever


Just might like it ! Just remember, "Meditation is not what you think!"


discover wisdom and balance and peace-of-mind, and even rest.

Try It, You

I rather like what Kurt Vonnegut wrote about Thinking : "Thinking doesn't seem to help very

much. The human brain is too high-powered to have many practical uses in this particular Universe!" And let us not forget our friend born in Ulm who said : " The problems that exist

in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them "


more fruitful it is for you. You'll be able to relax more and often quicker and deeper; and the more you are open to and engage in Meditation, the closer you'll come to arriving at your own connection to the Universal Consciousness; whose intrinsic balance will naturally focus

through you the qualities of Love and Equanimity, Joy, Compassion, Generosity, Kindness

and Wisdom

- Albert

However, the more you engage in Meditation the more simple it becomes, and the


rest and peace !

I have not tried to defend or define meditation for you that is your personal discovery. I also

have not tried to tell you what life is or isn't, and yet, the Blackfoot Indians would say: "What

is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is

the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset

and more"

By EA Instructor Fred Gordon

About the Tai Chi and Qi Gong School Ulm/Neu-Ulm, Germany

We started learning Yang Style Tai Chi and Qi Gong under the auspices of the International Tai Chi and Chi Kung Association (ITCCA) in 1985-86 and obtained teaching certificates from that institution. In 1991 we opened our own school in Neu-Ulm. It took about 4 years until we were able to teach Tai Chi and Qi Gong full time as professionals.

Because both of us have always been interested in meditation, healing and martial arts, we frequently attended seminars on these subjects. For example in meditation we were taught by various masters of Tibetan Buddhism such as Tenga Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and in martial arts we gained experience with Ving Tsun, traditional Russian martial art (Systema), and Ba Gua Chang. Ralph had also trained earlier in Tae Kwon Do. In the healing arts, Elisabeth has certification for biodynamic body psychotherapy and a license as a healing practitioner. Ralph has training in NLP and experience in healing work.

We met Bruce for the first time in Darmstadt in 1993. It was a weekend seminar with the subject "Bend the Bow". Although at that time we had more than 8 years of experience of Qi Gong and Tai Chi training, it was very difficult for us to understand and work with the internal principles that he demonstrated because it was the first time that we had been introduced to them. We were simultaneously fascinated by the internal power and clarity that Bruce showed and frustrated on finding out how little we knew about internal work (Nei Gung) at that time. At this first weekend with Bruce we had the impression of learning more in a few hours than in the entire previous 5 years. Jamie Dibdin was very helpful to us at this time and later we met Paul Cavel, who was also an important help to us. He prepared us for the first instructor training in 1997 in Anvil Ranch, which we completed successfully in spite of the language barrier. With that, we were hooked on Bruce's work and have attended since

that time seminars in the US, Greece, England and Germany almost every year. Since 1999 we were able have Bruce visit our school each year to give seminars. A year later, we had a special gift from him: a consecration of our teaching area by a rare Taoist ceremony. Many students have told us since then that they find it particularly easy to learn internal principles in our school.

For us, it is especially important to help our students to achieve greater inner freedom and peace, which we also think is the most valuable thing that a teacher can impart. Therefore, we very often asked Bruce if he could give more instruction on this topic in our school. We are glad and very grateful that these seminars have been so successful in communicating this material since they began. A highlight this year was certainly the full moon meditation that Bruce conducted, this time with content that has probably been very rarely encountered elsewhere in the world. After this meditation, many participants talked about unusually positive experiences that they had received.

We pass on all that we learn from Bruce to our students. Our courses take place mainly in the evenings and in some cases in the mornings and at weekends. Our many years of experience and competent instruction have become well known, so that some students travel from other European countries to Neu-Ulm just for weekend courses. Others travel many miles for scheduled evening courses and private instruction. Our specially intensive and relaxing Qi Gong and Tai Chi Summer Week in August is also very popular.

We look forward to more opening of internal space and more teaching from Bruce on this subject, so that we can become more proficient ourselves and be better able to pass on this knowledge to as many students as possible. Many thanks for all we have learned up to now.

Best wishes Elisabeth and Ralph

Chuang Tse's Fish

Part I of III

Derived from Interviews with Bruce Frantzis

One of the most debated and well known quotes from Chuang Tse occurs at the end of Chapter 17 in the book Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy by Philip J. Ivanhoe:

Chuang Tse and Hui Tse are wandering across a bridge on the river Hao. Chuang Tse: The tiao fish come out roaming, free and at ease. This is the joy of fish. Hui Tse: You are not a fish, how you can know what fish like? Chuang Tse: You are not me, how you can you know what I know? Hui Tse: I am not you and I do not know what you think, but I know you are not a fish and therefore you cannot possibly know what fish think. Chuang Tse: Let's go back to the beginning. When you asked me what fish like, you had to know I knew it already to begin with. I know it by the river Hao, that's how.

The debate and intrigue surrounding this dialog goes beyond the clever rhetoric of a skeptic that Chuang Tse used to debate his logistician friend Hui Tse. Essentially the question of the passage is what Chuang Tse meant in his final line. What form of knowledge is he referring

to? Not surprisingly, it's quite a difficult concept to explain, and I have seen a variety of differing but very well thought out answers to address it. Out of those, the best one I have seen thus far is "Taoists believe in the flow of nature, and the fish are engaging in their natural habits, therefore the fish are happy."

The natural explanation is valid by the viewpoints of Taoism, but feels lacking in comparison to its context. If there is really a different form of knowing that exists, it feels like being cheated to be told to leave it simply at "do what is natural."

Fortunately, the topic doesn't end there. Bruce Frantzis, as a lineage holder in the Taoist tradition passed down from Lao Tse can move beyond this more obvious surface interpretation and present a different version of this passage:

Chuang Tse and Hui Tse are wandering across a bridge on the river Hao. Chuang Tse: I felt like using a Taoist technique, so I can tell that the fish enjoy what they are doing here. Hui Tse: You just gave me an opportunity to beat you through a logical argument and prove you wrong! Chuang Tse: We have different methods of understanding things. I can see this truth through the technique of emptiness. You do not have that ability. Hui Tse: I missed the hidden interpretation of your point, and thus believe I have cornered you in this argument, and hence I won. Chuang Tse: You've already distorted the truth through your mental framing of this. Let's try to go back to where it was clear. When you asked me what fish like, you made the assumption my form of knowing is equivalent to yours. It is not. My understanding comes from being able to see the emptiness inside the river and comprehend its essence.

This interpretation, however, opens up a much larger question. What is the meaning of emptiness? This is a concept that is difficult for scholarly academics to understand as it can only be known through direct experience

All the great Taoist sages practiced mysticism rather than merely being intelligent philosophers. Their writings tended to be in obscure metaphorical language, with many hidden double meanings. Some of mystical ideas which constitute the intended meaning are very foreign to Western forms of thought and language. Thus deciphering the intended meanings of Taoist literature is quite difficult.

The skills of Chuang Tse and Lao Tse were admirable. Weaving a few double meanings into a passage is difficult enough, but allowing radically differing interpretations to coexist within the same text is a feat in of itself. Giving some of the layers profound appeal to the general public allowed these texts to stay in the public domain long enough for those who were ready to learn the actual meditative practices to discover them from the deeper meanings in these texts. Thus the Taoist tradition has been able to survive for centuries.

Next issue we shall focus upon the relationship between the meanings encoded within these texts and actual Taoist meditative practices.

Part II

While many differing interpretations for the Taoist texts (ie. The Book of Chuang Tse and Lao Tse's Tao de Jing) exist, this article only concerns those that relate to Taoist meditation. Some concepts of Taoist meditation overlap with the Taoist view of how society should function (a core concept of the Tao de Jing), but this aspect will not be the primary focus. Instead, the aim is to explain the fish story, and prove it is not the only reference to Taoist meditation.

In each Taoist text, a few major meditative principles or techniques are focused on and restated, normally in continually differing ways. Generally the point is taught through analogy. A good example of this is Lao Tse's 70% rule in the Tao de Jing. Both Lao Tse and Chuang Tse belonged to the water tradition of Taoist meditation. One of this method's primary defining traits is to never push or force things to occur. This represents a radical divergence from most other meditative systems, which force pathways in the mind to open up and shape themselves according to the intention of the practitioner. The 70% rule itself is quite simple: Don't push anything beyond 70% in your body or mind. In the Tao de Jing, Lao Tse writes numerous passages to show the negative results of strain, in essence indirectly teaching the 70% rule. An example of this appears in Chapter 2:

Everyone in the world knows that when the beautiful strives to be beautiful, it is repulsive. Everyone knows that when the good strives to be good, it is no good.

In both cases strain produces a negative outcome, hence one should not strain. One can also note how this meditation concept also makes sense in daily life.

However, some of the other meditation concepts are much more abstract and difficult to prove. This is the category to which emptiness belongs. I believe that emptiness can be defined as the following:

All objects rather than being solid are mostly empty and this emptiness exists as a state of flux whose vibrations give rise to solid form. This idea exists in other mystical traditions as well, primarily Buddhism and Hinduism. The goal of Taoism is to understand the universe, the true essence of which is ingrained within their philosophy.

Initially my only real basis for understanding emptiness was to link this idea to quantum physics. All matter is composed of atoms which are mostly empty, and vibrating forms of energy which create the force which gives rise to physical matter. In addition, quantum physics accepts infinitely changing possibilities of the universe, and as such meshes with the flux idea. Nevertheless quantum physics is often used as proof for many metaphysical concepts and at times done so incorrectly, so a less cliché explanation is preferable.

Emptiness was an abstract concept like the one before to me until I had a few personal experiences to show it existed. The first involved a friend who had begun practicing something with me to open one of his doorways of perception. At some point he told me he felt his third eye start pulsing and he saw multiple afterimages behind each person in the room representing different possibilities they could manifest in the next moment. Before long he was able to use this to guide the conversation and see everything that would happen, which was a very interesting experience. Bruce told us that my friend had glimpsed one of the opening stages of emptiness.


few weeks later, I was tired, and some parts of my brain started going into spasm. I began


notice things having a rippling translucent layer on top of them, which gradually progressed


them appearing more and more hollow (and then abruptly cut off). Bruce once again said

this was a common initial experience of emptiness. These examples may seem outside the discourse of Chinese philosophy, but I believe that giving experiential examples to demonstrate this abstract concept will make it easier to comprehend.

Understanding the nature of emptiness was given such strong emphasis by Chuang Tse because it is an intermediate Taoist practice that eventually leads to seeing the Tao. Working with the notion of emptiness thus is a primary goal of Taoism. As a result both Chuang Tse and Lao Tse deemed this to be a very important teaching to impart, and mentioned it numerous times throughout their writings. Since debating Chuang Tse's work is my focus, only quotes from him will be mentioned. Here are two that I feel show the importance not just

of seeing the emptiness in objects (and in turn their fundamental essence), but of allowing that

state to arise within your own mind. In this state, the mind's artificially created forms melt away and bring one closer to the Tao.

Chapter 4:

May I ask about fasting of the mind? "Unify your zhi (will/plans), Do not listen with your ears but listen with your mind. Do not listen with your mind but listen with your chi. Listening stops with the ear. The mind stops with signs. Chi is empty and waits on external things. Only the Way gathers in emptiness. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.

Here Chuang Tse is making the point that different forms of thinking exist, which eventually arrive at the process of knowing he terms "emptiness," which in turn leads to the Tao.

Chapter 7:

Don't take responsibility or claim knowledge

don't consider it gain. Just be empty. Perfect people use their minds like mirrors, not welcoming things as they come or escorting them as they go.


everything you get from Heaven, but

Here Chuang Tse asserts that emptiness is the key to true knowledge. To reach it (and later arrive at the Tao), you must become completely unattached to your own thoughts and knowledge, and instead be open to the spontaneous flow of nature.

The modern focus is much more on the external world. Given how things seem to be connected, it's fair to assume Chuang Tse's writings about internal emptiness can be applied to external ones as well. Of course, the question is how.

See October ChiTalk for the conclusion of this three-part series!

Part III

A classic Taoist technique is to gaze at something, be it a river, stream, fire, or any of the

elements (or even watching a branch grow) and rather than just see the object, penetrate into it

and see the emptiness within. This technique is by no means exclusive to Taoism (for instance the Hindus refer to it as Samādhi). In this sense of emptiness, the name of the object drops away, as does its form, appearance, and even the meaning one attached to it. The core essence within the emptiness is something that is in a continual state of flux (and differing from one

split second to the next). This can be analogized to the quote that "one can never step in the same stream twice."

In the story as Chuang Tse walks above the bridge, it can be viewed as Chuang Tse choosing to apply the technique of emptiness to seeing that within the river. In this state of emptiness, the essence of everything attached to the river becomes clear, including the fish and all the potentialities of what everything could become. Thus, amongst other things, Chuang Tse is

able to understand "what fish like." Let's revisit the original version of the passage to read it in

a different light:

Chuang Tse and Hui Tse are wandering across a bridge on the river Hao. Chuang Tse: The tiao fish come out roaming, free and at ease. This is the joy of fish. Hui Tse: You are not a fish, how you can know what fish like? Chuang Tse: You are not me, how you can you know what I know? Hui Tse: I am not you and I do not know what you think, but I know you are a not fish and therefore you cannot possibly know what fish think. Chuang Tse: Let's go back to the beginning. When you asked me what fish like, you had to know I knew it already to begin with. I know it by the river Hao, that's how.

In his writings, Chuang Tse puts a strong emphasis on emptiness. Stanford University, for example, lists this as one of the prime aspects of his philosophy, Through seeing the flux within Hui Tse (his possible choices of speech), Chuang Tse was able to masterfully plan out an entire conversation which turned the logic Hui Tse prided himself upon against him. At the same time, a story is created which captivates the mind and can be read on many different levels.

On one hand, you could assume a fairly general statement such as "fish like that which is natural," is true and can be used to accept the entire reasoning process. Likewise, from

reading biblical stories of the Devil, one could just assume Lucifer cannot be trusted to make

a deal with, just because Lucifer is "evil." However, both these simple explanations don't get to the real substance or depth of the matter.

This interpretation assumes Chuang Tse was just messing with Hui Tse, and using a belief to justify his viewpoint (not unlike a Christian trying to criticize an activity, simply because it goes against the bible). Alternatively, a much more complete explanation of what Chuang Tse says can be found by applying the concept of emptiness to what he looked for in the fish. This reading makes more sense, and given the degree of meaning he incorporates into the rest of his work, I cannot fathom Chuang Tse choosing to write this passage if it's about nothing more than following what is natural. The mind state of emptiness is a profound concept, and Chuang Tse makes many attempts to demonstrate it rather than simply focusing on more mundane concepts.

However, with ideas that were so different from mainstream thought, if they were openly stated as a truth, I would expect them to be ignored, ridiculed, or at best not understood. By indirectly alluding to knowing through emptiness (in many ways the antithesis of most human knowledge), Chuang Tse avoids these pitfalls, and allows those who have the ability to perceive a different paradigm.

By EA Instructor Alex Frantzis

The Importance of Researching the Health Benefits of Tai Chi

Part I of II

Tai chi offers significant health benefits and new research is beginning to confirm some of the self-reported benefits that tai chi practitioners have talked about for years. Although research has already documented many of the significant health benefits of tai chi, far too few physicians regularly recommend it to their patients. This situation can change if the results of randomized clinical trials can be clearly presented to physicians showing the benefits of tai chi for specific conditions.

The importance of exercise for health is widely recognized in the medical community. The promotion of tai chi as an exceptionally safe, enjoyable and beneficial form of exercise can play an important role in helping the medical community utilize the powerful health benefits of exercise.

Exercise in general needs to be promoted to physicians – tai chi can help fill this need It is not the case that many physicians are just ignoring tai chi and recommending other exercise. Many physicians do not do enough to encourage their patients to do any form of exercise. Since tai chi is considered a moderate form of exercise it would be an appropriate form of exercise for physicians to recommend to patients in order to meet the Center for Disease Control's recommendation on exercise-that is to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity on most days of the week.

Since almost all physicians know that exercise is beneficial, why don't more talk about it or specifically prescribe it to their patients? There are probably a number of reasons. One is, many physicians, while knowing that counseling about physical activity is important, do not feel confident in that role. Tai chi teachers can offer local physicians an important resource by providing them with educational materials and offering classes that are appropriate for their patients. This will be just as valuable to physicians who already do actively encourage their patients to exercise as to those who do not.

Research is the link to the medical community Randomized clinical trials are the gold standard for medical research. Physicians are familiar with this type of research as it is what forms the scientific basis for much of their practice. Research into the benefits of tai chi based on well designed randomized clinical trials will have a much greater influence on physician's decisions to recommend tai chi to their patients.

If we want to ask a physician to recommend tai chi to their patients we need not only to be able to answer their questions and present a compelling and scientifically accurate reasons for them to do so, we must also give the physician enough information so that they can answer basic questions that a patient may have and persuade the patient that it is worth their effort. Getting the physician to recommend tai chi may be the easy part. In order to have an effective program the patient must actually show up for the classes.

Presenting physicians with the results of research will be far more effective than just saying that tai chi works. A healthy degree of skepticism on physicians' part can be viewed as much as an opportunity as an obstacle since we believe that tai chi really works. All sorts of claims are made about the health benefits of all sorts of health practices, and few have anywhere near

the benefits of tai chi. Randomized clinical trials are beginning to document the health benefits of tai chi and these results will help set tai chi apart from other forms of exercises. Without studies demonstrating that tai chi is an especially beneficial for one's health, it will be lost in the crowd.

How to promote tai chi to physicians and their patients The first step in getting physicians to recommend tai chi to their patients is to make sure that you have enough basic knowledge so that you can accurately educate them about tai chi and to have good leave-behind material both for the physician and for their patients.

In most cases, you cannot expect to get much time with physicians, so any materials you give them will need to be very clear and succinct. Having more detailed, back up material is needed, but there should be an expectation that many would only read the summary and spot check the rest. It is important for the material to be accurate since if they look a statement up and find it checks out they will feel more confident with the rest of the material. If not they will not consider it credible.

We hope that the research being compiled on the Energy Arts website will provide the foundation for such material. Eventually the intention is to provide Energy Arts Certified Instructors material to use. This material would include, summary information targeted to the specific type of physician and information about the instructor and their tai chi classes. One component would need to be flyers the physician could give to the patients themselves.

At some point in the future, Energy Arts will likely format the information in the research section of its website into a brochure that can be left behind for physicians and their patients.

Working with physicians on medical research In conjunction with promoting tai chi for health to physicians and their patients, it will be very helpful if at least some Energy Arts certified instructors become involved in research projects to investigate the benefits of their classes. This will help provide confidence that they can in fact help their students achieve measurable health benefits and will show that we are making a good faith effort to demonstrate that our classes really provide the value that we believe they do. As I have already organized and carried out a small study with a local neurologist on the benefits of tai chi for Parkinson's I know that this type of research really can be done. I plan on expanding on this work and hope to involve other Energy Arts certified instructors in other research projects.

Participating in medical research not only will provide the results that, in the long term, will demonstrate to what extent tai chi is beneficial, it also helps to start important relationships with physicians. For instance, South Coast Medical Center's movement disorders program continues to list my tai chi for Parkinson's disease class on their website and the neurologist I worked with on the study continues to recommend my tai chi class to many of his patients.

The economics of tai chi for health Tai chi offers the potential to save billions of dollars per year in health care savings. For instance by 2020 the medical costs due to falls among the 55 million US seniors age 65+ are expected to grow to over 54.9 billion, about $1,000 per person. In the studies done so far, tai chi reduced the risk of falls by about 50%. If this reduction can be maintained, then for a typical person age 65+, practicing tai chi would save $500 per person, just in savings from

falls. These savings would likely be even greater since practitioners of tai chi might be expected to have fewer injuries in the falls they do have.

Of course, there are many other well-documented health benefits of tai chi, which would likely result in significant direct and indirect health costs. In fact a strong argument can be made that for many groups of people, such as individuals age 65+, Medicare or the person's health care insurance, will save far more in health care costs than the tai chi classes will cost. This suggests the possibility that they might be interested in helping to promote tai chi. They could help in several ways ranging from subsidizing tai chi classes to providing free advertising for classes. Research into tai chi for health will help make such arguments all the more compelling.

Summary Scientific research into the health benefits of tai chi can lead to a much greater utilization of tai chi as a complementary health practice. We can help make this occur by helping to make more physicians and their patients aware of these findings. There is an excellent opportunity for tai chi instructors to expand their classes and help people improve their health by talking to physicians.

All Students: EA is working on opportunities to make the community aware of the benefits of tai chi/chi gung as David has described above. We especially need stories on arthritis, cancer, falling down, lung problems and diabetes. Submit a testimonial now.

The Importance of Researching the Health Benefits of Tai Chi Part II

How to Promote Tai Chi to Physicians and Their Patients

Last month, Chi Talk discussed the importance of clinical research in demonstrating the health benefits of tai chi. This article discusses how best to promote tai chi within the medical community.

The first step in getting physicians to recommend tai chi to their patients is to make sure that you have enough basic knowledge so that you can accurately educate them about tai chi and to have good leave-behind material both for the physician and for their patients.

In most cases, you cannot expect to get much time with physicians, so any materials you give them will need to be very clear and succinct. Having more detailed, back up material is needed, but there should be an expectation that many would only read the summary and spot check the rest. It is important for the material to be accurate since if they look up a statement and find it checks out they will feel more confident with the rest of the material. If not they will not consider it credible.

We hope that the research being compiled on the Energy Arts website will provide the foundation for such material. Eventually the intention is to provide Energy Arts Certified Instructors material to use. This material would include, summary information targeted to the specific type of physician and information about the instructor and their tai chi classes. One component would need to be flyers the physician could give to the patients themselves.

At some point in the future, Energy Arts will likely format the information in the research section of its website into a brochure that can be left behind for physicians and their patients.

Working with physicians on medical research

In conjunction with promoting tai chi for health to physicians and their patients, it will be very helpful if at least some Energy Arts certified instructors become involved in research projects to investigate the benefits of their classes. This will help provide confidence that they can in fact help their students achieve measurable health benefits and will show that we are making a good faith effort to demonstrate that our classes really provide the value that we believe they do. As I have already organized and carried out a small study with a local neurologist on the benefits of tai chi for Parkinson's I know that this type of research really can be done. I plan on expanding on this work and hope to involving other energy arts certified instructors in other research projects.

Participating in medical research not only will provide the results that, in the long term, will demonstrate to what extent tai chi is beneficial, it also helps to start important relationships with physicians. For instance, South Coast Medical Center's movement disorders program continues to list my tai chi for Parkinson's disease class on their website and the neurologist I worked with on the study continues to recommend my tai chi class to his many of his patients.

The economics of tai chi for health

Tai chi offers the potential to save billions of dollars per year in health care savings. For instance by 2020 the medical costs due to falls among the 55 million US seniors age 65+ are expected to grow to over 54.9 billion, about $1,000 per person. In the studies done so far, tai chi reduced the risk of falls by about 50%. If this reduction can be maintained, then for a typical person age 65+, practicing tai chi would save $500 per person, just in savings from falls. These savings would likely be even greater since practitioners of tai chi might be expected to have fewer injuries in the falls they do have.

Of course, there are many other well-documented health benefits of tai chi, which would likely result in significant direct and indirect health costs. In fact a strong argument can be made that for many groups of people, such as individuals age 65+, Medicare or the person's health care insurance, will save far more in health care costs than the tai chi classes will cost. This suggests the possibility that they might be interested in helping to promote tai chi. They could help in a several ways ranging from subsidizing tai chi classes to providing free advertising for classes. Research into tai chi for health will help make such arguments all the more compelling.


Scientific research into the health benefits of tai chi can lead to a much greater utilization of tai chi as a complementary health practice. We can help make this occur by helping to make more physicians and their patients aware of these findings. There is an excellent opportunity for tai chi instructors to expand their classes and help people improve their health by talking to physicians.

EA Instructor David Bendall teaches weekly classes in California and has studied with Bruce since 1987. Not surprisingly, David is especially interested in the health benefits of tai chi and chi gung. He worked on a study that observed the benefits of tai chi for people with Parkinson's disease in 2004 and looks forward to helping EA develop studies to help get the word out about chi practices.

The Art of Feeling Chi: Mind, Body, and Life Energy

Many people have trouble feeling their bodies.

Many people have trouble feeling their chi, or what I call "life energy."

Why? There can be many reasons. But one common reason is that many people don't slow their minds down when they try to feel.

Your physical body and your life energy are forms of energy. Modern physics has proven your physical body to be so. As physicists have delved deeper and deeper into the fundamental nature of physical matter, they have found not solid particles, but waves of energy.

As for your life energy - your chi, your prana, your ki, the energy which enables your body to perform its basic functions, the energy that is the prime focus of Chinese medicine - mainstream scientists have yet to accept its existence. But in everyday life its existence is not questioned. Who cannot answer accurately the question we ask ourselves everyday, how much energy do I have today?

Your mind also is a form of energy. In our everyday language we acknowledge this by describing our minds in energetic terms. For example, we say things like the following. Sue has a quick mind. Just focus your mind on the problem at hand. He directed his attention toward me. John is such a clear thinker.

To feel your body or life energy, you must use your mind. The part of your mind that you use is what we call your "feeling awareness."

The problem is that the energy of your mind moves very fast. You can move your mind across the room incredibly quickly. You can look at and think about one corner of the room and then in an instant jump your mind across the room and think about the other corner.

You can't move your physical body across the room so quickly. You can move your life energy more quickly than your body, but not nearly as fast as your mind.

So if you want to feel your body or life energy, you have to slow your mind down to the speed of your body or life energy. Think of your mind as vibrating at a very high frequency, and your life energy as vibrating at a much lower frequency. In turn, your physical body vibrates even more slowly. For your mind to feel or resonate with these lower frequencies, you have to slow it down and tune in.

For most of us, it's easier to feel our body or life energy if we are not moving, either physically, energetically, or mentally. The stiller our bodies are and our minds become, the more likely we'll be able to feel.

When we are moving, it's a little trickier, because it's so easy to move our minds ahead of our bodies. We often first think of where we want our bodies or parts of our bodies to be, and then hope that our bodies arrive. When they do, our minds often are still one step ahead, on to the next thing.

To better feel your body or your life energy when you move, instead of "getting ahead of yourself," as the phrase goes, try letting your body lead and your mind follow. Or try letting your mind "ride" on your body.

Try this simple exercise. Hold your palm in front of your face. Try to feel everything that you can in your palm and fingers, including any life energy you feel in them. Wiggle your fingers if that helps. Now turn your hand very slowly until that your palm faces away from you. Try not to think about where your hand is going; just feel. Let your mind move at the speed that your hand moves. Notice whether you are able to feel more than you usually would doing such a movement.

Try applying this approach to other ways that you move, whether it's when you walk, stand up, practice exercises, or whatever. Slow your mind down and "occupy" your body and your life energy.


Senior Instructor Bill Ryan © 2008 BILL RYAN DBA MOVING TIGER Upcoming seminar: The Art of Feeling Qi on December 8 & 9 in Reading, England

TAO Meditation Practice

Since the early 60's I've been exposed to many different types of meditation techniques. Many were of a superficial nature used for stress and health, while others had spiritual attributes. From that experience, my general sense has been that what has crossed over from the east has been lost in translation or watered down, primarily to make the practices more acceptable to the general public.

What makes a meditative mind so alien to our culture? One of the greatest difficulties for the human mind, whether from the east or west, is the inability to "stay present." We exist in and have manifested a world of distractions. For example computers, cell phones, and other technological creations used to serve us in daily life require an ever increasing need to engage our minds. While I'm appreciative of the ingenuity of these creations and their use, we haven't learned to use technology in a balanced way. This constant "being on" and "plugged in" leads to an abuse of the body's senses, fragmentation of the mind and damage to the fragile nervous system.

At times, it appears as if we are accelerating to an evolutionary edge. This sense of acceleration is challenging our most precious and long held beliefs about human relationships, spirituality and whatever we are attached to that keeps us sane. Can you live in the city and not have the city live in you? Can we distinguish between "what is," and how we want things to be? Living a life always in fragmentation separates us from a deeper communion within ourselves and the greater unity. In the center of this fragmentation is a profound sense of fear which keeps us from feeling secure, free, joyous and connected.

Living in south Florida we occasionally get hurricanes. It's a unique experience to have the eye of the storm pass over you. The pounding 100 mph winds suddenly stop as the calm

approaches and at the center is complete stillness. This metaphor can be applied to the meditative mind and in fact describes the essence of true meditation.

Meditation offers a way to transform consciousness through a natural fusion of body and mind. This transformation includes the process of letting go of all that does not allow the body, mind and spirit to naturally flow and complete itself. The Water method of Taoist meditation as taught by Bruce Frantzis can fill this need in our own personal evolution. It's time to dissolve the obstructions that prevent our true growth on a personal and global level. Bruce's knowledge surrounding meditation is not only unique, but profound in nature.

I hope you will join us for the TAO Meditation workshop in Florida and I encourage everyone to manifest a path towards true freedom thru Taoist meditation.

EA Instructor Frank Iborra ( ) EA Instructor Frank Iborra is a state licensed and nationally certified acupuncture physician and herbalist. Although he has studied the Asian arts for more than 38 years, he feels his studies with Bruce, which began in 2005, have greatly deepened his knowledge of the energy arts.

Study not Studying

Here are some reflections on how we learn.

Just as important as what we learn in the internal arts, which particular forms we study etc., is how we learn them. Though this is true of learning anything, the effects of the method of study are more apparent here than in many other disciplines. This is because internal practices affect every part of us, from the physical to the universal.

One way of looking at our practice is as a way of establishing and developing patterns of flow. Care must be taken both at the beginning, when establishing these patterns, and as we further develop them.

We say with computers, ‘rubbish in, rubbish out'. The same is true of any kind of information, using the word in its old sense of ‘that which forms and shapes from the inside', not in the sense of ‘information superhighway,' which is just about the movement of data. The quality of what we end up with is affected by how it enters the system. If we are learning something that patterns the nervous and energetic systems, which all nei gung does, then the way it goes in will be a part of what becomes established. If we are tense, agitated, straining, annoyed at ourselves for not learning faster or for not doing it perfectly, that tension, strain, agitation etc. will be patterned into our systems along with what we are learning.

Of course, it is possible to clear negative patterns out of the system, the internal arts do this very well. But it is much faster and more efficient not to pattern ourselves negatively in the first place, especially when doing a practice that is designed to do the opposite.

Being careful at the beginning is very rewarding later on.

When considering the development of pattern it is worth bearing in mind the Daoist saying, which is both an encouragement and a warning, that we become what we practise. If we

regularly strain physically, emotionally, mentally etc. while practising, that habit will be ever more deeply embedded in our systems.

Fundamental to the Water Method is the letting go of negative habits and blockages; losing all those things that are not natural to us:

In pursuing learning one accumulates daily. In practising Dao one loses daily. Lose and lose until (you arrive) at not-doing Not-doing, yet nothing is not done. (Laozi 48)

The word I translate as ‘lose' in this passage from Laozi is ‘sun', which means ‘loss' in the sense of diminishment, reduction, decrease.

It is derived from a word meaning ‘fall' or ‘drop'. The loss that we practise, then, is a letting drop away. This is the method of arriving at not-doing or not-acting (wu wei), one of the essential goals of Daoist practice. Straining, on the other hand, works against such losing and not-doing. It is what the Laozi refers to as acting and grasping:

He who acts destroys it. He who grasps fails to attain it. Thus the sage wu wei (does not act) and thus does not destroy, Does not grasp and thus does not fail to attain. People often destroy their work when it is almost completed. Proceed at the end as at the beginning and the work will not be destroyed

Thus the sage:

Desires no desires, Does not value goods difficult to obtain, Studies not studying, And returns to what others pass by. (Laozi 64)

Notice here the importance of ‘desiring no desires'. Desires are different forms of grasping things. Bruce often warns those who train with him to overcome their greed. The attempt to grasp more than their systems can comfortably accommodate leads to people failing to establish what they could have from the training, ‘he who grasps fails to attain it.'

Just as we must be careful at the beginning not to grasp at what we are learning, we must do the same as we develop our practice. This is the study of not studying.

Matthew Brewer has studied Tai Chi & related practices since 1994 and directly with Bruce since 1999. He is certified in five Energy Arts subjects and is a full time internal arts teacher. As well as regular open classes, he runs the Tai Chi for Chronic Pain service for the National Health Service throughout East Kent, England. He holds a PhD in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury where he has been teaching part-time on the M.A. in Mysticism and Religious Experience and more recently on the MA in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination on the subject of the I Ching and Chinese Philosophy. Daoist Internal Arts

Energy Therapies: A Taoist Perspective

The healing of others is one of the five basic applications of Chi Gung, the other four being one's own health and healing, martial arts, sexual practices, and practices to address the rigors of meditation. Tui Na is the general term for all the hands-on therapies developed by the Taoists, and in some form is a part of most acupuncture school curricula. Chi Gung Tui Na refers to the energetic therapy techniques, which are rarely taught or understood anywhere in the West. We are fortunate to have received some of these basic techniques through Bruce's

occasional offerings. In this article I hope to concisely describe several essential techniques in

a way that will enable the benefits of this Taoist art to reach our clients, friends, and family.

There are two basic skills in all therapy professions (indeed all repair professions): finding out exactly what is the problem and getting it fixed. In medical terms this is Diagnosis and Treatment. The questions are something like, "How do you know what the problems are, what to do, and how do you know if it's actually working?

I. Listening, Reading, Feeling, "Diagnosing"

You can think of this as an extension of palpation skills, reaching beyond gross physical contact. The simplest way to learn this is to sit quietly and lightly hold someone's hand and try to feel beneath the skin for constrictions, tension, temperature differences, strength, weakness, whatever doesn't feel right, etc. Allow your mind to travel up your partner's arm without repositioning your hand, feeling in 3 dimensions for whatever you can including basic anatomical features.

When you feel something unusual, ask for confirmation, or check it with physical contact. As

a variation you can move the body in subtle minute ways, changing angles and pressures, and see what else you find. I sometimes compare this to fishing with a pole and line-with experience you can feel exactly what's going on at the unseen end.

Listening really needs to be done continuously throughout the therapeutic process. Continuous refinement of your perception skills is perhaps your most important asset for determining when to play with what techniques and how to "tweak" them for better results. Generally we are looking for softening of the physical body which will permit the free flow of fluids and energy so that the whole system will find its natural balances.

II. Therapeutic Techniques, "Treatment"

Theoretically and practically, the effects of stress, strain, ageing, and injury (i.e. the secondary injury after the initial assault) are constriction, tension, hardening, and inflexibility, accompanied by a compromised flow of body fluids and energy itself. To restore the natural, balanced energy flow, the body needs to become soft, open, pliable, and relaxed. Conversely, balancing the energy flow will open the body. Good therapy calls for some combination of the physical and energetic.

It should be noted here that addressing initial injuries such as tears, lacerations, bruises, and inflammations, requires closures and constrictions, i.e. the opposite of opening. These methods are even less well known, and the reader is advised proceed with caution and/or stick

to the accepted Western methods of rest, ice, elevation, and maybe compression, rather than risk worsening a condition. (I speak from experience.)

These techniques can be divided into two broad categories: those that are purely energetic, and those that mix energy and physics.

A. Energetic Techniques, i.e. those involving little or no physical contact or manipulation.

1. Clearing by Dissolving

Dissolving is the heart of the Taoist Water methods, and is generally learned on oneself first using the mind alone. You can also use your hands to dissolve blockages in your own body and in someone else's.

Simply hold someone's hand, locate a constriction and try to clear it out by using your intention to dissolve, melt, dissipate, evaporate, soften, bring to neutrality, etc. Although the mind must be focused and strong, this is not a burning through, a Fire method, which carries its own risks. Water or Yin methods are almost risk free; in fact they are essentially your safety valves. Dissolving can and really should be incorporated into all techniques, in part because any tension or relaxation in your hands will be communicated to your client.

2. Clearing the Meridian lines from the Etheric Field

Anyone familiar with Dragon & Tiger (D&T) will understand this already. Hold your hand about 4 inches above the skin and trace any of the acupuncture lines their full length. This 4 inch distance is the approximate outer border of the Etheric Field or Chi Body which directly governs the physical body. If you can locate it by feel, so much the better: try placing your hand on the skin and slowly moving away until you notice a different quality. From here point your fingers at the line, creating some kind of connection with the skin, and move toward the end of the physical body (fingers, toes, or head) clearing out constrictions as you go. Continue beyond the body at least another 4 inches. 20 repetitions is standard.

3. Hand "Pump"

This technique is perhaps the easiest to learn and the most versatile. It is a form of Pulsing (described below.) The hand is a natural energy pump: As you close or cup the hand energy is drawn into it; as you open and straighten energy is projected out. The flow may come and go through the fingers or palm or both. Take care not to squeeze or straighten excessively since muscle tension inhibits the energy flow. Instead use your mind, focused and relaxed, to amplify the flow.

3.a. Pulling: This can be incorporated into the meridian line action. Keep the hand closing as you run the length of the line and once you pull to the end of the Chi body release or project out. Or, try placing your hand anywhere you would like to remove a constriction and pull until you feel like you have a handful, then move your hand away and release/project out away from the body. You can also release out the back of the hand, eliminating the need to move it off and on the body. This method can be used in conjunction with physical squeezing, e.g. while squeezing the back of your neck.

3.b. Projecting: Place your hands using say 2 fingers each at both ends of a line segment e.g. the top and bottom of the spine, and project back and forth to clear it out, much like clearing out a ditch with a stream of water.

Both Pulling and Projecting can be directed to various depths of the body including the organs and bone marrow. A standard solo practice method involves your two hands, projecting and pulling to and from the fingertips and palms.

4. Clearing the Auric fields

The various energy fields can have excesses and deficiencies, the same as the body. You can learn to detect and smooth out these imbalances, but the required skill level is much greater at these higher frequencies. The Emotional body generally exists between about 4 and 12 inches out, and the Mental body begins next. All these fields have the capacity to expand out into the cosmos, and they are duplicated inside the body as well. For those familiar with D&T, you may recall that the best distance of the hands from the skin is determined by how far out you can reach and still feel the most sensation, which may put you into one of these higher fields.

B. Energetic/Physical Techniques. Here the energy work is part and parcel of physical contact and manipulation.

1. Fascia Pull

The layer of fascia just beneath the skin is the inner border of the Chi Body. Place your hand anywhere on the skin, say on the trapezius, with pressure that will reach just below it. With a few ounces of pressure pull the fascia in 4 directions, up, down. forward, and back. Wherever it moves most readily is where you will choose to go, keeping your hands relaxed, the pressure light and constant, not slipping, until some release is felt or until any movement finishes. This normally takes a few minutes and is excellent for opening the first layer of the body for deeper manipulation. Often this release alone gives significant relief.

Worth mentioning here, while not energetic per se, are the techniques known to the West as Esalen, which are also superb for opening the initial layers because they calm and soothe the nerves. Brushing, tapping, fluttering, etc., with only the pressure comfortable on eyelids, can be done on any given area for up to 20 minutes, with 5 - 10 being about optimal. I generally give it 5 minutes to begin softening before deciding whether to continue or switch gears.

2. Twisting/Spiraling

In general, this is the turning of the soft tissues around the bone in order to unravel physical tension. There are as many as 20 ways to do it, but I will limit it to just 3, amenable to energetics.

First take hold of a shoulder or a thigh between your hands using light pressure, about fascia/skin deep. Using a few ounces of pressure turn the musculature in either direction until you reach a natural wall or endpoint and wait there or back off slightly until you feel a relaxation. This is the chi letting go. With a slight linear stretch, a twist becomes a spiral. This works quite well on the shoulder and the hip. Or, hold onto the forearm with one hand near the elbow and the other near the wrist and twist in opposite directions, and wait for the release. You can reach deeper layers by changing the pressure and/or your intention.

Second, you can take hold of and turn the tissues until they naturally reach a point of wanting to return, then reverse direction until you reach the other natural return point. Turn continuously and smoothly back and forth reversing direction every few seconds in sync with what the body wants to do. After a few minutes of light, easy, non-stop motion you will feel everything begin to let go and relax.

Third, the fascia pull (above) can be done in 3 D. Take hold of a shoulder, etc., between your two hands again pressing only as deep as the fascia layer. Test for ease of movement in each of the 4 directions, this time with the hands moving in opposing ways (one up, the other down, etc.). Also test for ease of rotation, i.e. one hand clockwise, the other counter clockwise. This will affect the fascia all the way through the limb (or even the torso.) Thus you can pull in 1, 2, or 3 ways at once: up/down, forward/back, clockwise/counter clockwise. Follow the easiest direction in each case. Once you are set, lightly hold the position as long as a few minutes, until a release occurs and finishes. Feel for when minor readjustments or redirections are called for.

3. Pulsing

Most readers here will be familiar with this basic practice of Chi Gung on a physical level. Lightly take hold of someone's wrist joint with one hand holding the hand and the other just above the wrist . Try tuning into the natural contraction and expansion that occurs in 5 - 10 second cycles. Then begin accentuating this pulsation with your hands using less than a few ounces of pressure. Look for differences in the in and out phases, and in the various areas of the joint itself. Try to bring them to a state of balance, fullness, and more fluidity. It is the synovial fluid that pulsates from the energy gate inside.

This becomes an energy technique when you begin to sense the energy gate in the center of the joint, which will directly connect to the center of the next joint and so on. Here you may scale back on the physical movement to the point of barely touching, permitting the energy to be in the forefront of your attention. Find some way to pulse the gates with your mind, e.g. pulse your tantien and extend the waves out to your hands and into your client.

After reaching the shoulder you could go many directions, including into the organs, each of which have their own rhythm. Note that the joint rhythms are independent of others, such as the cranio-sacral, individual organs, glands, etc., but you can synchronize with them and manipulate them from the joints. The body's energy system is analogous to the circulatory and nervous systems: There are main junctions and multiple branchings, forming an immense grid of thousands of lines including the main acupuncture meridians. You can target these pathways by minutely adjusting your physical movements and your intention. I sometimes compare this to an advanced game of "Pick Up Sticks": How do you manipulate one stick on one side of the pile to produce a specific change on the other side?

Theoretically all points can be reached from any point and in the interest of being thorough it is wise to check almost everywhere for imbalances and their interconnections. But practicality and time will limit the scope of your attention. e.g. you may determine that a wrist problem is connected to the upper spine and that there is a separate, more painful issue in the lower spine. If you had only 10 minutes you might choose to move your hands directly to the lower spine and pulse there.

III. Safety

When dealing with energy there is always the chance that you will pick up something you don't want, particularly if you are synchronizing your pulse with someone else's. Here you should keep a clear sense of what belongs to whom and somehow keep the two separate. After that your best course of action is to dissolve any "stuff" away from your body and/or down into the earth. You can also shake off energy physically much like a dog shakes off water. For the safety of others, if you dissolve what you can of your own stuff ahead of time you will lessen the chances of passing it on to the client. Still your chances of harming someone by energetic means are much smaller than they are by physical means.

When working with subtler energies there can be the tendency to get lost somewhere in the cosmos, particularly as you progress toward the higher frequencies. To prevent this, get grounded in the earth by literally sinking your awareness below your feet and into the stability of terra firma as you would in virtually any chi gung exercise.

IV. Practice Issues

These descriptions provide only a rough framework for the endless permutations and subtleties to be discovered. Even if you are lucky enough to have a natural talent there is no substitute for learning through many hours of practice. A partner can give you feedback and objectivity, and a third person can be doubly objective: can what you're doing be felt and confirmed in your partner by someone else? Also, any solo Chi Gung practices that involve dissolving, pulsing, spiraling, grounding, clearing meridians, etc., will improve your therapeutic abilities; in fact they are generally considered a prerequisite. Again, therapy is the application which grows out of the basic core practices.


Most of what I have described here I learned from Bruce Frantzis who has been persuaded to teach this material every other year or so, generally outside the USA. I have not heard of any one else who teaches it in the West and I welcome any leads from readers--click on my name link below to email me.

About the Author: Philip McKee began practicing Massage Therapy in 1986 after earning academic degrees in Psychology (BA) and Theology (MDiv). He began studying Chi Gung and Tai Chi in 1989, and teaching in 1996. He now practices and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Moving Into Space: Part I of II

Words from the Tao Te Ching speak of the space within the walls of a vessel as being useful. The human body is like a vessel and the space within our body is therefore useful.

Our practice of the Water method of Taoist internal arts centers on discovering within our bodies where space is clear, blocked, constricted, stressed, dead or non-existent. Using the methods of dissolving and letting go, we gradually come to a deeper experience of our "vessel" and the depths and usefulness of the space within us.

We also can observe in the external world that space exists all around us, and between us and the things around us. It is a simple observation that space is not empty because things and human bodies are moving within this space. Even the space between everything and everyone is not empty. Directly unseen, gravity, dark matter, and other affective disturbances exist. The usefulness of all this external space makes movement possible. Humans can travel from one destination to another. Earth loops around in our solar system that sails inside the Milky Way Galaxy that swirls across the space of the Local Group of galaxies that continue on and within ever expansive systems soaring, spinning and spiraling throughout space. The macrocosm of the universe's external space is useful for all things to exist and move in. What then exists and moves within the microcosm of space inside our vessel, our physical body? Besides the obvious existence of all the stuff within the physical body: bones, muscles, organs, tissue, fluids, molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles and such; these things exist in and are permeated by our vessel's space.

The Tao Te Ching also speaks to us of looking for things not seen. What then lies unseen in the internal space? Through the patient, persistent practice of learning to dynamically align with the movements of external space, and learning to relax, release, dissolve and let go of blockages in the internal space, we experience that space is not empty. It is filled with mind, energy (chi) and spirit.

One of the amazing direct experiential relationships of the "space" within us is that it is malleable. It can be shrunk, expanded and geometrically configured. Space is dynamic. Space is actively connected to the body. The more our practice connects us with space, the more the body can release its blockages. In turn, more space is revealed. A great result of this relationship/experience is that the practitioner is able let go at deeper levels and allow the body to be moved and manipulated by the spaces within it. Instead of focusing on moving the physical body, focus is on the movement of space. At this stage of practice fluid movement is attained and available for further refinement.

In addition to the practices of aligning and dissolving, the quieting of mental noise is necessary for the discovery of what lies unseen within the space. (Perfect quietness and perfect alignments are not required but an increasing degree of such is. It is on our journey that we make discovery, not by seeking to arrive somewhere. This is important in not creating tension, thereby cramping space. If space is constricted movement is made more difficult.) As we move into quietness and align, our awareness experiences that space is permeated by the mind and chi and that the mind permeates the chi. It is here the practitioner experiences that the mind directly affects the chi. A ripple in the mind ripples the chi. This is "seen" in the quiet, collected vastness of micro-spaces within the body. The mind morphs, the chi configures and the body moves. The dynamics of inner space is revealed. It is at this stage that fluidity begins to transition to invisibility, unseen movement.

Of all the practices of the internal art of movement, ba gua is considered celestial. What is outside is inside and what is inside is outside. There is no point at which external space ends and the body begins or the body ends and space begins. Space permeates all. The practice of ba gua is a study of what transpires within and throughout space. Its movements are both beautiful and mysterious and reveal the nature of interaction and change. It is a system of motion that embodies the essence of Tao and in practicing reveals the configurations and pathways of energy within the human body and the omnipotent connection to the stillness of our spirit.

Part II: Moving Through Space

Lee Burkins' study of the martial and healing and meditative aspects of internal arts began in 1962. At age 19 he entered the US Army, became a paratrooper then later earned a Green Beret where he was trained in weapons, demolitions, psychological operations and intelligence, communications, mountain climbing, knife/hand-to-hand fighting, Shotokan Karate and battlefield medicine. Lee trained and led Indo-Burmese tribal warriors in guerilla warfare in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Lee started studying with Taoist Master Bruce Frantzis in 1979 and began in-depth practices of nei gung, Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang and meditation. Lee's main studies include Ba Gua Zhang of the lineage of Liu Hung Chieh, Taoist Grandmaster of Bruce Frantzis for twenty years.


I have had the good fortune of practicing a discipline of martial art continuously since 1962 beginning with wrestling, then karate. In 1974 I began Kung Fu and "chi" (energy) practices and in 1977 I started the study of Tai Ji. Since then, I have with almost religious fever practiced and applied Yang and Chen fighting Tai Ji. I have toiled in several different systems and schools of Ba Gua since 1983 and later studied and practiced Hsing Yi like a "man on fire" during a very concentrated period of eighteen months.

Fortunately, throughout all of this intense training, the practice of Taoist Water methods have steadily calmed my heart, quieted my soul and moved me closer to the stillness of Spirit. What I am getting at here is the fact I have been "moving with intention" scores of different ways for a considerable time and this detail has raised a specific question asked of me by many people: Which of the arts is my favorite practice? My answer has always been: I like to move. But if I must sincerely answer, the art that stimulates, enthralls and discovers me most is the Ba Gua. I like to move

So what follows here is a simple exposition on the possibilities of a number of movements within the complex, mysterious beauty of the Ba Gua. First and foremost it must be understood that a person need not be a fighter to discover the depths of the Ba Gua within themselves. For the art of Ba Gua lies hidden within each and every human being waiting to be divined. Through proper instruction and dedicated practice we can move into the mystic. Let us move our vessel.

The most predominate vessel found in the universe is that of a sphere; spheres of gravity, spheres of fire, spheres of gases, spheres of water, spheres cold and solid, spheres of radiation and spheres of seemingly empty space. Think of a sphere as a contained volume of "something" where every part of its vessel is equally distant from a point within called its center. For the purpose of this explanation, visualize the vessel as an air filled, thin-walled, pliable rubber ball the size of your head. How many different ways, in space, from a beginning point (A) to an end point (B), can this transformable ball move?

Beginning with the simplest example is translational movement. The ball moves in a straight line, from point A to point B, at a constant speed while its surface remains stationary.

The second example is rotational movement. The ball moves in a straight line, while its surface rotates around its center. This is like the ball "rolling" along its equatorial line from point A to point B at a constant speed.

Continuing, we come to the example that begins to reveal an attribute of Ba Gua motion:

pulsation. Visualize our ball expanding and shrinking in size, while at the same time rotating steadily along its equatorial line as it moves at a constant speed from point A to point B.

Let's get a little fancier. Imagine this ball of ours creating a singular long wave reaching from the top (North Pole) to the bottom (South Pole). This wave flows in a constant motion around the ball's surface while the ball pulsates and rotates steadily along its equatorial line at a constant speed traveling from point A to point B.

And if this isn't enough to make a Buddha dizzy, this ball of ours with a single wave motion flowing around on its surface while it pulsates and rotates, let's give it some wobble and have its speed accelerate and decelerate while it travels from point A to point B. For more excitement, add multiple waves flowing around on its surface that change their speed and directions!

Now the essence of Ba Gua and the real fun begins: Spirals. To help us get a picture of this we'll stop all the movement and just concentrate on the pulsation of our ball (sphere) expanding and shrinking its uniform shape.

Think of this ball as having a north pole and South Pole and a center located on a straight line between them inside the ball. As the ball expands or shrinks, the North and South Poles move in a linear manner away from and towards the center of the ball. Now consider the North and South Pole points spiraling as they "fall in" towards the center of the ball. Next imagine the poles spiraling as they move outward and away from the center of the ball. Here I have to mention the fact that there are an infinite number of points on the surface of a sphere (our ball)! Every one of them has the potential to spiral in towards and away from the ball's center. At different times!

So our rotating, wave covered, speed changing, wobbling, pulsating ball, infused with a mosaic of expanding and shrinking spirals moves through a grid of moving space. Just like the observable universe around us. Welcome to circle walking! Sound complex? Yes it does but it's nothing more than a circle coming full circle.

Finally, ruminate on this: the energy gates are spherical in nature and connect to the channels. Point A and point B can be viewed as being inside your body. How can/does energy move from the foot to the hand? Or how can/does energy move from the center of your tan tien to a surface point on your skin?

If all this talk of motion makes you lightheaded have faith in the fact that at the center of all this movement lays our destination: Stillness! It's not the movement you do; it's how you do the movement. Walk the Circle. Be patient. Find the center to your Being and observe the mystery of Ba Gua gradually and naturally reveal itself.

Lee Burkins' study of the martial and healing and meditative aspects of internal arts began in 1962. At age 19 he entered the US Army, became a paratrooper then later earned a Green Beret where he was trained in weapons, demolitions, psychological operations and

intelligence, communications, mountain climbing, knife/hand-to-hand fighting, Shotokan Karate and battlefield medicine. Lee trained and led Indo-Burmese tribal warriors in guerilla warfare in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Lee started studying with Taoist Master Bruce Frantzis in 1979 and began in-depth practices of nei gung, Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang and meditation. Lee's main studies include Ba Gua Zhang of the lineage of Liu Hung Chieh, Taoist Grandmaster of Bruce Frantzis for twenty years.

Blood and Fluid Circulation in the Legs for Edema and Varicose Vein Sufferers

Some years ago I had a minor operation that was supposed to help me with a varicose vein problem in my left leg. The prospect of the operation was worrying because I had heard of various ways in which it had affected peoples' ability to practice afterwards. For me the lead up to having the op was horrific. In the end it was a one day ordeal and was over quicker than

I expected. The operation I had was not a whole-scale stripping of the affected vein, but a selective cutting away of the worst tissue.

I used Dragon and Tiger chi gung a lot before going into the clinic and indeed on the day,

both before and after the op. I was practicing the Chi Field exercises from that set and Heaven and Earth to aid my recovery. It worked well and I was back to regular work and practice within a week or so.

Later on I was to find out that while the operation helped and it was easy to recover, it did not have any effect on what was the bigger problem I was suffering from: edema or swelling mainly caused by a buildup of excess water. In fact, no one even mentioned edema before the operation. Only afterwards did I find out what it was and what it meant in practical terms. With edema fluids collect in the lower leg and, because of reduced venous return, cannot be easily ignored. Some of the pictures I was shown by my doctor convinced me that the compulsory wearing of a pressure stocking would be necessary and essential to stop this condition from becoming more problematic.

Using the exercises presented below I was able to avoid wearing a pressure stocking everyday. In fact, the only times I need to use one is for some long-haul flights or sometimes for the day after flying as there is a tendency for fluids to pool in the legs due to sitting for long periods and pressurization of the aircraft. Another factor that still requires me to wear one is temperature. If the temperature is too high it tends to pull the fluids down and cause excessive expansion of the tissues around the lower ankle/foot.

For example, at the 1999 Wu Short Form Instructor Training I became overly aware of this as the course took place in sunny California. Over subsequent years of attending these courses, I was able to see how effective the advice I got from Bruce has been in relieving my edema.

Below I have presented, chronologically, the exercises that have helped alleviate my edema. I recommend getting a Certified Instructor to show you them and how to practice them for best results. You will obviously need to put in some time in to get the full benefits, but the time investment is worth it. Sometimes you will only need a short time, 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer, maybe half an hour or so. Brian Cooper's "Art of Micro Practice" article will give you ideas about how to make time.


Dragon and Tiger's releasing of stagnant chi, both the basic flicks (Level 1) and the

etheric-boundary Releases (Level 2).

Both improve blood and other fluid flow, which first took away the heaviness I had in my legs. It is especially beneficial when the release is unimpeded-all the way to the edge of your etheric field. There's nothing better than getting that clear, continuous release to the end of your field and then pulling back clean energy.

2. Moving fluids directly with your mind.

Using your ability to feel the fluids in your legs, get them to pull inwards towards the bones and then pull them up. Sometimes it's more effective if you go up the yin sides, inside your leg and then push the fluids down again out to the yang surface outside of the leg. You can also return through the yin, but the push needs to finish in your toes for optimum results.

3. Toe kicks and heel kicks.

The action of extending the toes in toe kicks encourages blood to reach the extremity of the toe tips. Heel kicks, by affecting the blood vessel inside of the ankle, are key in getting blood and fluids to return up the body. You can also work on this in Ba Gua Circle Walking and tai chi, although I've found that Circle Walking is more effective in the long-term.

For example, each step in tai chi you place the ankle down, which assists venous return up the leg. The action of pulling the toes up and focusing on the yin surface of the body helps this to happen and can be further helped when loading the weight onto the foot. Venous return is then helped by the opening of the joints/kwa/stretching of the leg upwards and also focusing on the yin surface to assist in pulling blood and chi up the leg and back into the torso.

Similarly in Ba Gua Zhang stepping, the action of extending the toes in the forward step before the toes touch the floor or "brake" helps to get the downward flow of blood to happen. Then, when the heel touches the floor, this helps to both complete the downward flow and initiates an affect on the vein inside the ankle. This also opens the joints/kwa/stretching of the leg upwards while you're focusing on the yin surface to assist in pulling blood and chi up the leg and back into the torso.

Because this happens in every step in ba gua it makes the venous return happen more strongly than in tai chi, in my experience. Concretely, this means that a weekend course of tai chi only can result in a minor swelling of my left leg whereas a ba gua only weekend course does not show the same outcome.

If you do not do either of these arts don't panic! Just stand on one leg, using your hands on a chair for support, and practice toe/heel kicks maybe in sets of 10 or 20 to get the same result.

4. Field Pulsing

Using either energy ball practices from Dragon and Tiger or Marriage of Heaven and Earth, pulse from your hands to the central channel in your legs. Then pulse the chi very lightly (this needs a practical demonstration because it's important not to strain the walls of the veins). The pulsing develops first locally and later spreads to the whole leg and to both legs to be most effective. When I asked Bruce he said to get the best results it wasn't enough to focus on only the affected leg.

Senior Instructor Jamie Dibdin has studied with Bruce since 1987. He teaches a select group of students, preferring to develop practitioners who can use the health, fighting and meditative aspects of Wu Style Tai Chi. Instructor certifications: Longevity Breathing, L-2; Dragon & Tiger, L-3; Energy Gates, L-2; Heaven & Earth, L-2; Gods, L-2; Wu Style Tai Chi Short Form, L-2; Ba Gua, Provisional. 49.69.6199.4710

Ba Gua: Why Practice This Old and Obscure Art? Part 1 of 2

By Senior Instructor Paul Cavel

Ba gua is a pure Taoist energy art primarily practised by those interested in the I Ching or Taoism--having been derived as a physical manifestation to realize the teachings of the I Ching. That is, ba gua is an embodiment of the universal principles of change.

Ba gua serves as a rigorous and aerobic internal exercise that releases tension from the body, and develops your life-force energy. It is also a high-level martial art and, at its most advanced level, can become a vehicle for spiritual development. As such ba gua offers a wide range of developmental possibilities unlike single-application practices. So over time, as your goals and needs change, you can continue your basic practice and direct your intent towards that which you wish to accomplish. Because of this it's very economical since modern living is busy and time is of the essence.

The Minimalist's Paradise

The foundation for ba gua is Walking the Circle: For some Circle Walking alone offers enough depth and benefits to keep them engaged and interested for many years. Apart from being a martial art, all the practical benefits found in ba gua practice can be achieved through Circle Walking. Regular practice can serve as a no-nonsense, efficient method to open and heal the body, raise and develop your energy, create vibrant health and vitality and, if you choose to walk fast enough, a low-impact aerobic workout. Ba gua achieves this by incorporating all 16 Taoist nei gung components into the Circle Walking practice, initially creating a strong, flexible body and later developing the spirit or, through the palm changes, martial arts.

Ba gua could be called the minimalist's paradise since there are no long forms or complex sets of movements to learn "before" you get to the internal content. You go straight for the meat-- that which gives the possibility of profound and lasting health and vitality.

Circle Walking Is a Chi Generator

Initially, while Walking the Circle, movements can be clunky and broken. Over time your practice will become ever-more smooth and continuous. It's like starting up a turbine: At first it's sluggish and then, as it gets going, a self-perpetuating flow is maintained. Also, like the turbine, when your walking smoothens out, you start generating serious power or chi. What happens is that the base energy from the food you intake--jing (or fuel for the turbine)--is circulated through your system as you walk, upgrading and refining that energy into chi (or

thrust coming out of the turbine). Chi, in this model, is a higher vibration of energy than that which you get from food. This jump in energy is what makes your body stronger, healthier and more vibrant as well as making your mental faculties more aware, awake and alert. You are also developing your energy in preparation for advancement towards spirit and emptiness. All of this and you are only walking around in a circle! Not bad, eh?

As you Walk the Circle you continuously bring up, produce and refine energy through the application of the 16 nei gung incorporated in the practice. Depending upon how much nei gung is in your practice determines how far you can go. But here's the trick: To make the next progression you don't need to learn a new form, you simply add more components. In this sense it's like having a turbo charger fitted to your car; the car looks the same, but now you have a lot more power under the hood. So, as you upgrade, deepen and refine your practice you arrive at a point where you are able to generate an enormous amount of chi. At times you can get so caught up in the continuum that you literally have to stop yourself from practising as the space that opens up inside you is absolutely sublime. All nagging thoughts, worries and concerns disappear as your energies open up, flow freely though your system and grow.

Do Nothing Whilst Being Absolutely Content

Initially, through Circle Walking and ba gua practice, you put your body through its paces. You feel the tensions and restricted areas in your mind, body and spirit and focus on opening them up and bringing them alive. Taoists call this process making your body conscious. When your practice session finishes you simply relax and, with it, space opens up, a sense of physical emptiness. A willingness and acceptance of physical and mental stillness can accompany this emptiness.

Later, after some practice, experiences of emptiness and stillness can start to enter into your Circle Walking and ba gua practice and become quite profound--leaving you in a state of not needing anything and simply being. This state can be amplified and enhanced through sitting practices after a ba gua session. This is the extreme end of the minimalist camp: doing nothing and being absolutely content, at least for awhile!

Part 2 will appear in the June issue of ChiTalk.

Based in France, Paul Cavel teaches weekly classes, weekend seminars and retreats, and offers private instruction throughout Europe, including England, Germany, France and Greece. He aims to bring the real health benefits of the internal energy arts to people who want to change their present state of being whilst maintaining the vibrancy of their youth. See for more information and articles.

Ba Gua: Why Practice This Old and Obscure Art? Part 2 of 2

By Senior Instructor Paul Cavel

Single Palm Change and Beyond

Last month we left off discussing the minimalist's camp-doing nothing and being absolutely content-but how do you get there? Once you have an understanding of and become proficient in Circle Walking, you can then progress to the Single Palm Change.

This is a very short, five-step ba gua form-the foundation of, and which is contained within, all the other palm changes or forms within ba gua. The purpose of the Single Palm Change is to upgrade and amplify all the benefits of Circle Walking, bring the twisting and spiraling of the soft tissue deeper in the body, giving access to deeper layers of contraction, producing light energy within and adding the possibility of martial practice.

Once you have learnt the Single Palm Change, you can learn any of the eight Palms. Whether you learn all eight palms, or stick with only the Single palm, you can develop your body, mind and life-force energy to a very high degree. These palm changes are designed to go directly into your core: opening, healing, balancing and developing your system as you practise.

Efficient Practice for Refining Your Being

Since the palm changes (also called forms or palms) are very short and concise, they never take more than 20 to 30 seconds to perform at the slowest speeds. They can be completed in a matter of a few seconds at high speeds. The palms are practised equally on both sides of the body in a left-right-left continuum, creating and maintaining balance as you practise.

With a regular exercise regime and walking at a reasonably fast pace, it is possible to practise the same palms tens or hundreds of times in a single practice session. You refine and hone the effectiveness of your practice whilst following an old Taoist dictum: "Doing a little really well yields more than doing a lot poorly."

Circle Walking initially opens up the body, increases blood flow and gets your metaphorical chi generator engaged and running as we discussed last month. The Single and other palms delve deeper into your body, accessing deeper and deeper layers of stuck tissue and condensed energies. This is why ba gua reaches the parts that other movement practices do not reach.


When a particular palm change or technique starts to open up something inside you, you are free to practise that particular palm or technique again and again, working loose any bound chi. You are not restricted by a particular order of moves, or after a certain number of repetitions that you must then move on to another move as in tai chi or chi gung. You can go into the body using whatever is working for you and open up that energy and free that. This is one of many design features within ba gua that gives you the ability to quickly and efficiently bring up old traumas and/or conditioning, accept it for what it is, let go of it and move on.

For several days or weeks you may have the same practice model whilst learning and developing a new palm or aspect of nei gung, or opening up a specific place in your body. At some point everything gels or changes inside you and your practice changes with it.

Once that space is opened, or the particular aspect is integrated, it's time to move on to the next component. It could be that your practice changes on a daily basis for a while-some days slow walking, some fast or both. You may practise one palm after the other or totally randomly. As the thought of a palm comes into your head you are already in the middle of that palm as your body reacts to the intent of the mind. This part of the practice obliterates inertia. You find yourself moving without inertia or any sudden jerks and smoothly flowing through the well-oiled and practised palm. You move like a great river turning and twisting its way along its carved path through the earth. This kind of spontaneous practice of highly refined and developed techniques allows the practitioner to use, in the moment, whatever is available to him/her in order to achieve the desired results.

The more you practise the deeper you go clearing out the residue of all past illness, injury and trauma. Delving in, layer by layer, you loosen and release the root causes of pain and discomfort.

Traditionally the Inner Dissolving practices were brought into play, initially through sitting and later with Circle Walking practice. It is through Inner Dissolving that you can fully resolve past traumas and truly work on emotional maturity and spirituality. Again, not by changing the forms or learning a new set, but by adding a new component to your foundation practice.

All of these practices are only possible through actualising the basic rule of learning any high level practice-separate and combine.

Whatever aspects of the game for which you choose to engage ba gua offers the possibility of getting down to the real developmental work directly. It allows you the space to change and grow with your practice, spontaneously as your life unfolds.

Ba gua offers you a certain je ne sais quoi, an edge in bringing you back to your center. Balancing the competing demands of the modern world and your inner world, ba gua grounds you in your body.

Ancient Taoist practices are a gift from the gods, an answer to the question: "How can I maintain stability and balance in a world full of stress and madness?" Take the opportunity to start practising whilst the teachings are available-before life gets any crazier.

Based in France, Paul Cavel teaches weekly classes, weekend seminars and retreats, and offers private instruction throughout Europe, including England, Germany, France and Greece. He aims to bring the real health benefits of the internal energy arts to people who want to change their present state of being whilst maintaining the vibrancy of their youth. See for more information and articles.