Compiled from Various Sources
What follows are the words and thoughts about Qi from one of the leading taijiquan masters of the twentieth century, Cheng Man-ching, who is believed by many to be the major influence for the growth of taijiquan (t'ai chi) in the United States.
Training the Qi in Taijiquan - an Overview
"Relax completely. The aim is to throw every bone and muscle of the body wide open so that the qi may travel unobstructed. Once this is done, the chest must be further relaxed and the qi made to sink to the navel. After a time the qi will be felt accumulating for mass integration in the navel, from where it will begin to circulate throughout the body…. Later the student will be able to direct the qi instantaneously to any part of the his body by means of the mind….The movement deriving from this internal generation and circulation of qi we call 'propelled' movement [when the] limbs and other body components are moved…by the force of the qi. In the next, more advanced stage, the qi is absorbed by and stored in the marrow, causing the bones to become steel hard and essentially indestructible." T'ai-Chi, p. 5-6
On observing an opponent's Qi:
"If the face turns red, his qi rises. If turns white, his qi is chilled.
If the eye spirit is focused, his qi is settled. If the eyes are flickering, his qi is floating.
If the knees are straight, his qi is old. If qi is old, his body will not be agile.
If the body is rocking, his qi is disorder.
If the fingers are trembling, his qi is gone."
[Cheng Man-ching. The Dao of Taijiquan, p. 252].
Moving the Qi in the Body
This is a beginning of awareness of Qi in Taijiquan. Sink the Qi to the dantian and concentrate it there for softness. Second: The Qi reaches the yongquan, [the "bubbling well," at the center of the balls of the feet]. Here you can "tap into the earth's qi and provide you with rooting strength." Qi rises to the soft spot at the top of the head, the ni-wan (or "clay pill" ). Here you "can receive heaven's qi and thus stimulate your sensitive qi." Master Cheng's New Method of T'ai Chi Self-cultivation, p. 15.
Mobilizing the Qi - qi reaches the four limbs
"After the qi sinks to the dantian, the xin [heart-mind] acts to dispatch it.
Thus sending the qi to the leg, then the knee, then the heel. This is similar to the saying "the authentic person breathes with the heel." Doing the same, send qi to the shoulder, then the elbow, then the wrist. The joints and gates in the four limbs are all open. Thus, going down, the qi can reach the yongquan (bubbling well). Going up, the qi can reach the laogong (heart of the palm), and arrive at the tip of the middle finger. This is what the Boxing Manual describes as, 'With the xin [heart-mind] moving the qi; with the qi mobilizing the body.' In this way, the business gets done!" Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ching)/Lee Fife, Distinct Sequence of the Journey.
"Every aspect of Professor Cheng's Tai Chi Chuan is to develop the flow and accumulation of one's qi. Concentrating one's qi for the resilience of a small child is his definition of good health, the benefit from which all the benefits of T'ai Chi are gained." Gateway to the Miraculous, p. 124.
Holding your posture and head erect, "Swallow and sink heaven's qi to your dantian." "This energy has tremendous health benefits…. "The waist becomes lively which enriches our urogenital qi, which bestows longevity." Master Cheng's New Method of T'ai Chi Self-cultivation, p. 15
Explaining Qi – From the film The Professor:
Cheng Man-ching: "There is a lot of qi in the heaven and earth, but it's very hard to "borrow"—[editor's note: "to take advantage of," and/or "to make use of."]
Further explanations from Professor Cheng's senior students: "Qi is the energy that's around us, the living energy. The internal energy, the energy from the cosmos. The energy coming from the ground. Qi's all around us."
"It's so many things, it's like saying what is life? It is life."
"Everybody has qi; qi is the life force. It's our breath; it's the energy that runs through us. "
"Qi goes beyond anything at this point that science can explain. You can actually feel it."
"You feel improved circulation, a tingling that comes from the fingers.
When we are free of blockages, the clogs in our veins and nervous system, and our qi runs at a 100% then we heal, then we are healthy.
It feels like some energy that bellows up from you and propels you.
"So you say Qi is like electricity, okay. So you say Qi is like energy, fine, I'll accept that too. But is it that? I don't know. Could be, but why do you want to know? Does it help your t'ai chi?"
With the help of a knowledgeable teacher and fellow students the qi may be lead up from the sacrum to the top of the head. It is easier for the qi to flow down the Conception Vessel meridian in the front of the body. [Cheng Tzu's Thirteen Treatises… p. 78.] When this [energy cycling] is established, "Prolonging life and banishing disease is the result upon completion." [Distinct Sequence of the Journey.]
3rd level – Spiritual Psychological:
"Qi is transcendent energy, the life force. The qi that flows in our bodies is the same qi that moves the stars in the heavens. Qi relates to the circulation of the blood, but also to the energy of thought and spirit." There Are No Secrets, p. 20.
"Qi is like light to the darkness of our fear. All you have to do is turn on the light. The power to make miracles resides in understanding that the greatness of our qi, or lack of it, creates the universe." Gateway to the Miraculous, p. 58.
"At some point, you may want to explore meditation in movement. You cannot meditate while you are thinking of the moves or what you are going to do later. Simplify, think of a light bulb, your "Dantian," your spirit or preferably of nothing. If you can get through the form without knowing you are doing it, you are on the way to your goal." Tai Chi And The Five Integrities
No Qi—Do Not Use Qi?
One of the most perplexing statements in the classic writings of taijiquan, Insights into the Practice of the Thirteen Postures, by Wu Yuxiang, suggests that the mind should not be on the qi. If it is, then the qi will become stagnant. Also if one has qi there will be no li (external strength). Conversely, if there is no qi, there is pure steel-like hardness. [editor, qi-encyclopedia.com]
Cheng Man-ching writes that these words are "very strange but qi alone is not sufficiently important. In fact this is true." [Distinct Sequence of the Journey.] Translator Lee Fife adds, "I suspect these lines are intended to represent the steps a practitioner takes suggesting that we should develop our qi to get beyond force; at that point, the awareness and intention now needs to focus on the shen [spirit] not on the qi; as we are able to move beyond qi, our non–force becomes even stronger reaching pure hardness." Distinct Sequence of the Journey.
Cheng Man-ching further explains the paradox, "If your eyes focus on a place, the shen [spirit/consciousness] will reach that place, and the qi will also follow there. The qi can mobilize the body and you don't need to disturb the xin [mind]. Instead, the shen directs both the qi and the movement. This is shen-li [spirit power]. It's also called shen-su (Miraculous Speed). In Physics, with speed, you can multiply your force; and then its effectiveness is without limits. Thus shen-li also achieves shen-su." Distinct Sequence of the Journey.
At this stage of enlightenment the qi has reached the highest level and is now mental energy and is called spiritual power, or the power without physical force. qi can mobilize the body, but not by mentally willing the qi to move; but rather by the spirit of being consciously aware of carrying the qi with it. This is spiritual power and becomes "divine speed." Cheng Tzu's Thirteen Treatises, p. 80.
Elsewhere Professor Cheng continues his explanation saying, the qi of the blood is refined and transformed into essence-qi [jing-qi], which transmutes into spirit [shen] and that—"produces divine strength, pure energy incomparable to ordinary qi. This level exhibits a techniques that approaches the Tao. Never be satisfied with being merely an unbeatable hero." Master Cheng's New Method of T'ai Chi Self-cultivation, p. 22.
This is the Initial Step for Refining the Qi:
First Step: sink qi to dantian
This is the initial foundation for refining (lian) the qi
The dantian is located in the center of the belly,
Below the navel 1 cun and 3 fen [between 1 and 1.5 inches],
Closer to the navel than to the spine.
The main point is that the qi must be fine, long, quiet, and slow.
Slowly slowly inhale into the dantian,
Allow the xin (and qi) to mutually guard each other
And gently make them linger there [in the dantian].
Over a long time, this process allows the qi to gradually accumulate.
Over days and months, it accumulates; directly cultivating without harm.
You cannot measure it; skillfully undertake (the process) naturally (ziran).
You must not use even the slightest striving or force.
[from Distinct Sequence of the Journey; Lee Fife, translator.]
And elsewhere he takes a different approach by writing, "That which is used to provide the great power of a correct T'ai Chi push is not qi but jin, the inner energy…. We could say that jin is the way, the tao, of the qi….This is not to say that it is impossible to send forth one's qi. [In a lurid melodramatic kung fu movie a hero] "would stretch out his palm and a wave of laser-like, red energy would stream forth and blow apart a boulder. This image romanticizes a real, very high level [and yet actually even possible] development of qi." Gateway to the Miraculous, pp. 10-11.
Editor's Comments: The words given in quotation marks are taken directly from the source cited. Other paraphrased or abridged ideas of Professor Cheng are given with their sources, but without quotation marks. He and those who write about him most often used the older Wade-Giles spellings of ch'i, T'ai Chi Ch'uan and tan tien rather than qi, taijiquan and dantian as are used throughout this entry.
Cheng Man-ching's name is also spelled Cheng Man Ching, Cheng Man-ch'ing, and (in Pinyin) Zheng Manqing. In Traditional/Simplified Chinese script it is (鄭曼青/ 郑曼青). He was called "Professor Cheng" by his students.
One of Cheng Man-ching's translators, Lee Fife wrote "Qi 氣: [is the] "breath or internal energy, the energy that connects matter and awareness. Qi is present within ourselves and also permeates and supports the universe." [from] Distinct Sequence of the Journey: Treatise Eleven of Zhengzi's Thirteen Treatises on Taijiquan, by Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ching), translation by Lee Fife.
^ Dantian. "The Field of the Elixir," located in the lower abdomen where qi is gathered and cultivated.
^ Xin – (心 – sounds like "shin"). Heart, mind, intention; located at the center of the chest.
^ "Boxing Manual" refers to a Tai Chi Classic written by Wu Yuxian, Insights into the Practice of the Thirteen Postures. See Qi-Encyclopedia.com
^ Shen – (神). Literally "Spirit," and by extension, "Mental Energy Consciousness." But as in English this term is open-ended with various seemingly contradictory definitions. Others define shen as the source of instincts and behavior; spirit; soul, mind; god, deity; supernatural being." But in the vocabulary of taijiquan the best definition may be "spiritual energy."
^ Jin – (劲/勁). "Refined power." Romanized as "Jin," "Jing," or "Chin." It represents Qi combined with muscular strength.
Sources For This Entry:
"Cheng Man Ching discusses Chi." YouTube.com
Cheng Man-ch'ing. Master Cheng's New Method of Taichi Ch'uan Self-cultivation; translated by Mark Hennessy. Blue Snake/North Atlantic Books, 1999.
Cheng Man-ch’ing. Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan. North Atlantic Books, 2008.
Cheng Man-ch'ing & Robert W. Smith. T'ai-Chi: The "Supreme Ultimate" Exercise for Health, Sport, and Self-Defense. Charles E. Tuttle, 1992.
Michael P. Garofalo. Cheng Man-ch'ing (1902-1975). egreenway.com
Wolfe Lowenthal. Gateway to the Miraculous. Frog Ltd./North Atlantic Books, 1994.
Wolfe Lowenthal. There Are No Secrets. North Atlantic Books, 1991.
Kenneth van Sickle. Tai Chi And The Five Integrities. Chengman-ching.com
Barry Strugatz. The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West [film]. Tai-chifilm.com
Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ching). Distinct Sequence of the Journey: Treatise Eleven of Zhengzi's Thirteen Treatises on Taijiquan; translation by Lee Fife. Summer 2016. Static1.squarespace.com