Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Essentials...
Combining the External Strength with the Internal Strength: Qigong / Neigong
By Salvatore Canzonieri, New Jersey
What the heck is Qi (Chi)? Various answers are usually given,
such as breath, energy, and intent. Possibly, qi is all these
things and more. Mainly, qi is the result of opening blockages in
the body so that there is open unimpeded circulation of the
breath, electromagnetic energy, and the will's intent or
attitude (in other words, signals from the brain). This open circulation results in a synergy (more than
the sum of its parts) that heightens the health affirming aspects
of the body, increasing one's strength and vitality.
Basicly, Qi means the life force, the internal energy that is produced by your body. The idea is that energy permeates your every cell. Once you can move some of this energy around, you can harness/ use this energy by the will. Energy is moved around with sufficient power or speed, body mechanics, and intention (will) so that the energy increases, and when one strikes or heals, this energy is released with it, with a much greater impact than would be expected. How does one move the energy around? Well, every martial art system has its own exercises that brings you to the path. Some people say that Qi is the electrical energy that is in your cells (the blood cells), and when the proper body mechanics are done the blood moves faster and faster in the constricted muscles so that a large buildup of a electromagnetic type of energy builds up and can come shooting out with a properly aligned and executed strike or healing motion. There are a million theories of what Qi is and how it is used!
The cultivation of qi is considered to be part of the domain
of internal wushu kungfu (taijiquan, baqua, etc.). But, "external" wushu kungfu also has a tradition of qi cultivation,
even though it is lesser known. Ideally, when specific
methodologies are practiced for the purpose of opening energy
blockages while simultaneously practicing traditional martial
arts forms, one is contributing to one's health with every
physical maneuver executed. In this way, the fighting arts become
the healing arts.
There are various physiological bodily principles that the
cultivation of qi concerns itself with. One is that the
mechanisms of the human body operate hydraulically. Second is
that, through the lungs, oxygen enters the blood and the lymph and
circulates through the body to all the cells. Third, the
circulation of liquids in the body has to overcome weight and
friction obstacles. Fourth, as physical activity increases, the
flow of bodily fluids (blood, lymph, etc.) is also stimulated.
Two of the main essentials that martial arts concerns itself
with, the posture of the body and the way by which the
respiration is manipulated, overlap with the above mentioned
bodily functions. The circulation of the blood and lymph,
because of the obstacles by which weight opposes it (forces of
gravity), is effected by the manner in which the body is
maneuvered (stretched, twisted, raised, lowered, bent, etc.) so
as to make a physical change in the hydraulic mechanisms of the
Some positions must either impede or aid the circulation.
Thus, any blockages work as a dam, building up unbalanced
reservoirs of fluids behind it, ready to enter with force when
the obstacles are removed. It follows then that the correct
positioning if the body (such as wushu kungfu or Qi Gung postures) would
enable the removing of blockages and aid circulation.
Also, as the beatings of the heart, which works as a
hydraulic pump, fills up and empties itself with blood, the lungs
concurrently expand and contract themselves, filling and emptying
themselves of air. The heart beats slower or faster in response
to acceleration or retardation of the respiration, effecting the
total mass of blood and lymph and the exchange of gases in the
blood, which needs oxygen to feed the cells and brain. By
effecting the breathing, one ought to effect the beating of the
heart and thus the circulation of blood and oxygen.
The heart beats and the fluids circulate involuntarily.
But, the muscles move voluntarily. The muscles affect the rate
and power by which the involuntary actions of the body occur.
This is because the nervous system (the brain and all the nerves
of the body) houses the will and touches every part of the body
in one way or another. Thus, the will communicates its intent to
the whole body via the nerves and the result is movement f the muscles and other tissues. Since the muscles move
voluntarily, by the command of the brain, and the commands of the
brain are based on the intentions of one's will, then it follows
that intent can affect the circulation.
It becomes obvious how the execution of martial arts forms
can (by the proper positioning of the body, the continual
execution of specific movements, and the motivational intention
behind these movements), in accelerating or retarding the
respiration, accelerates or retards the circulation (of blood and
lymph). Thus, kung fu, by controlling one's attitude and thus
the body, facilitates one's healthier bodily functions.
The internal and external martial arts are basically one - it is
only intention that separates them. If the internal mechanisms
of the body are ignored and over emphasis is given to the
external physique, the resultant over exertion of the body can
deplete (through fatigue, stress, strain, pain, and contortions)
the delicate functions of the internal organs. Thus, external
movements that are specifically executed to promote the health of
the internal organs are necessary to correctly energize all the
bodily functions in a balanced manner.
Qigong, or Neigong, is the name for wushu's specific
energizing internal exercises. Every traditional Chinese martial
art system has its own set of qigong exercises that are meant to
support the health of one's body as one progresses on the martial
arts. Qigong is meant to prevent disease and increase one's
strength, internally in the organs and externally in the muscles
and the tendons of the joints, all the hydraulic parts of the
The three aspects of qi: breath, energy, and will combine to
form (like a type of human battery) a special synergy. The
synergy is based on:
1) the structures - cells, organs, bones,
muscles, skin, blood and blood vessels, nerves, etc.;
- intra and inter cellular liquids that help to generate the
electrical energy of the body;
3) the electrical charge - the
electromagnetic charge that is present and activates the body and
its structures, which gives the body the forces it operates with.
All these operate under directional force - electromagnetic
forces present within the atoms and molecules of the tissues.
When circulation is impeded, all sorts of problems occur:
wastes build up, and cells die due to lack of oxygen, blood, and
nutrients. The blood vessels and internal organs must be kept
free of blockages or else disease occurs, slowly or rapidly. The
main purpose of internal qigong exercises is to relax the entire
body so that an affected part can receive nourishment and heal
itself. For example, some qigongs train or direct the brain to
stimulate the vagus nerve (which originates in the brain) to
lower the heart rate and blood pressure when the body is too
stressed. Other qigongs work to regulate the flow of energy
(liquid nourishment) coming into the tissues and organs of the
body by fine tuning the excretions of the endocrine glands (and
thus the entire immune system). Together, these qigongs
revitalize the body by nourishing and detoxifying all its cells.
The body becomes stronger in many obviously important ways
because qigong exercises serve to recharge the glands with the
electromagnetic energy in the fluids. Also, the nervous system
(brain, spinal chord, nerves) can be invigorated and kept toxin
free, removing types of strain that weaken the nerves and cause
Qigong combines the internal and external exercises so that
one lives with the whole body, not a percentage of what's left
alive, strengthening the body and the mind as one. Their body
mechanics "recharge" by reordering groups of atoms and molecules
so that electromagnetic energy at the cellular level is
heightened. The nerves are exercised to soften and expand them
so that they can conduct impulses smoothly to all parts of the
body, especially between the brain and the organs, linking them
together so that they can communicate freely. Uniting the mind
and body brings about relaxation, because the attention is kept
undivided and focused on a united pursuit that both the mind and
the body are engaged in. Relaxation preserves the body and
prevents the nervous system (and the mind) from deteriorating,
slowing the aging process soon can live longer and preserve one's
When electromagnetic generative energy flows unimpeded, it
travels along vessels that have been found to line the body in
close proximity to the blood vessels and nerve endings. These vessels appear to follow the meridans used for Chinese Acupuncture. The meridians are lines or channels in the body that conduct energy and they run as a system in parallel with the blood, nerve, and lymph systems. When correct body mechanics are preformed for the various types of Qigong, the electromagenetic energy that flows through these unblocked channels is directed by the will to pass through and circulate throughout the body, which receives brain signals to relax and to repair any existing damage.
Qi is a RESULT then of physical processes being put into effect, it is not a "thing" that flows like water does. Chi is very similar to Gravity (which is the result of many physical processes that occur together in the universe) and electro magnetism, it is a weak
force that is produced by internal processes in the body that are initiated by the brain.
The brain is basically like a battery, you have positive and negative
charges in your body, the nerves carry electricity from the brain to
throughout the body and vice versa. Commands/ Thoughts/ Intention (the Will) from the brain cause muscles to contract,
blood vessels to contract, cells to rub against each other and, because their
atoms are electrically charged particles, they create or radiate this static
electricity/ magnetic weak force or energy that is discharged (like a more intense version of when
you get a shock when you touch something from your shoes rubbing
against carpet). In other words, you can make substances move by converting thought (intention) into energy through the physical processes involved in performing the body mechanics of Qigong. Thus, the mind leads this restorative energy flow.
Qi needs a conduit, a channel, a path in the body to travel through, for it to result. What starts out as thought (intention) is converted to energy and results in chi as it intensifies and eventually radiates the energy buildup.
But it is not like air or water that exists on its own regardless of the channel it passes through. Chi is weak energy, it can happen from the body's processes (thinking, moving, etc), but it can't be bottled like water.
It doesn't act like a fluid, which is how most people think of Chi. Energy is always the result of something doing something.
Well, about Gravity, think about it. Can you turn it on or off? No. If any of the processes in the universe stop, Gravity ceases to exist.
It's there because everything else is happening. The name itself Gravity has to do with being "grave", with having mass. You need moving objects with mass for gravity to result, plus these masses have magnetic properties (like the earth's core).
Physicists define gravity as (if you look it up): the force of attraction between all masses in the universe; especially the attraction of the earth's mass for bodies near its surface; "the more remote the body the less the gravity". AND: The weakest of the four fundamental forces at the level of elementary particles; gravitation is the observed EFFECT OF the force of attraction between objects that contain either mass or energy. AND: Gravity is the RESULTANT of two opposite forces: Gravitation and Centrifugal Force due to the rotation of the Earth. Like Gravity is the resultant of two opposite forces, Chi is the resultant of two opposite forces: electrical and magnetic. Gravity is attracting energy, Chi is repulsing energy (weak as it
is). As this electromagnetic energy circulates freely or radiates, it is effected by the structures, liquids, and electrical charges found in the body and intensifies, releasing a discharge of radiated energy. The result of all these various physicial and mental processes working together is called Qi.
* Salvatore Canzonieri is a freelance artist & writer for various publications (Wushu Kungfu, Han Wei's Wushu, Seconds, EXIT, and
others), with experience in Taiji, Southern Shaolin, Northern Shaolin, Qigong and various other Traditional Chinese
Kungfu styles. He is currently researching material for a future Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Kungfu History and Forms *