History of Chi Kung

CHI KUNG is a major component of the ancient Chinese culture. It is a practice which has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese people to improve and maintain their health, and also to develop greater power for martial arts.

CHI is the cosmic life energy circulating within the body. KUNG means to work, to develop. So, CHI KUNG means the development of the CHI energy and circulation. The Chinese medical tradition is based on CHI KUNG. People wanting to live better and longer, started to observe the CHI development in the body, as it correlated with aspects of daily life. They began to develop ways to improve the CHI's circulation. This was the beginning of CHI KUNG.

There have been four major divisions, or schools, of CHI KUNG practice and theory. These schools are the Confucians, the physicians, the Buddhists monks, and the Taoists.

The Confucians were primarily interested in the working of the human society, rather than in withdrawal and self perfection. The purpose was to make people more fit to fulfill their functions. Confucian views were often expressed in poetry.

The physicians were not specifically aligned with any philosophical group. Their work emphasized the CHI balance.

The Buddhist monks emphasized becoming free from suffering through awareness. Their primary method was still meditation with breathing directed forward, stilling the mind.

The Taoists are associated with withdrawal from society to perfect the self and achieve immorality through the use of CHI KUNG and alchemy, the two frequently discussed together.

Records about CHI begin with the beginning of Chinese medicine, in the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di (2690-2590 BC). The book is the theoretical foundation for Chinese medicine to the present day.

The I CHING (The Book of Changes), believed to date before 2400 BC, discusses the variations of nature in compact form. The concept of YIN-YANG, like the infinite variation of the bipolar components of the universe, is represented by eight trigrams, contained in 64 hexagrams.

In the sixth century BC, LAO TZU describes the first recorded use of breathing techniques to increase CHI circulation for the purpose of increasing the life span.

In the third century AD, during the GIN dynasty, the famous physician HUA TOR used acupuncture for anesthesia in surgery. He spread the Taoist JUAN GIN method (imitating the five animals - tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird) to generate local CHI circulation. From an extensive history, spread over a long time period, several common methods of moving CHI are described. The two main methods are as follows:

WAI DAN - The CHI is stimulated at a particular location in the body by continued muscular exertion, combined with mind concentration.

NEI DAN - The CHI is accumulated at the DAN THIEN, located an inch and a half below the navel. When the CHI is accumulated sufficiently, the practitioner uses his mind to guide the CHI to circulate in the two main vessels. This is called the “Small Circulation". After mastering this circulation, the student will learn the “Grand Circulation,” in which CHI flow is guided through all the twelve channels. This method has been practiced by Tai Chi Chuan devotees since the thirteenth century. Tai Chi Chuan is the highest method of CHI KUNG, when it is done with proper breathing (lower abdominal reverse breathing), full participation of the mind, concentration, and with the CHI energy circulation.

To achieve this very high way of enjoying life, the most important quality is PATIENCE. Students must go step by step, level by level, to learn to discover and to control the body and CHI. Without all these components, as is unfortunately the case in many classes which are motivated by commercial goals in the Western world, CHI KUNG and especially Tai Chi Chuan remain a kind of imitation, a form without essence or content. It would be better then, to do aerobics.

The term WAI DAN signifies the alchemical elixir of life. Most Chinese alchemical texts are Taoist. The Taoists were the main force in developing CHI KUNG.

There are two types of Wai Dan exercises, moving and still. In moving Wai Dan, a specific part of the body (muscle) is repeatedly tensed and relaxed. The tension should be as little as possible. The mind concentrates on the breath and at the same time guides the energy to the local area. In still Wai Dan, specific muscle groups are also stressed, although they are not tensed. Instead, CHI is accumulated in the specific areas by, for example, extending both arms level in front of the body and holding the posture.

The WAI DAN CHI KUNG was developed by DAMO, also known as Bodhidarma, a prince of a small tribe in south India. He went to a Shoalin Temple where he saw that the monks were in poor physical condition. He was so impressed by the situation that he retired to meditate for nine years. In this time he wrote two books. The one that survived is YI GIN CHING (Book of Muscle Development). He offers a set of exercises including a STILL WAI DAN, today known as DAMO, and a MOVING WAI DAN. The moving WAI DAN goes from simply stretching and bending with the concentration of the mind on the areas being exercised and on the breathing, to the group of exercises known as the Eight Pieces of Brocade (BA DUAN GIN or PA TUAN CHIN).