Sunday, August 7, 2011

Breathing Qigong and Tai Chi



The Tai Chi Classics say :  “If the ch’I is dispersed, then it is not stored and is easy to scatter.  Let the ch’I penetrate the spine and the inhalation and exhalation be smooth and unimpeded throughout the entire body”.

I tell all  students who  wish to attend classes to view my website.  I require that they learn “2 silk reeling exercises and basic walking” as it is outlined here on my website.    I should add that I ask all interested students to learn 2 silk reeling exercises and basic walking before being admitted to class.  I explain the reasoning  why students should  study rather than merely “viewing the videos".  I believe you can see the rationale and reasoning why we want serious students:


  • It is the entrance examination and a student must pass it for admission to class. 
  • It is useful for determining how serious a student is about study. 
  •  It is useful for the student to determine if they are capable of doing the study.
  •  It is useful for the student to see if they like it.
 It is useful because only a limited number of students can be taught due to a very small studio space. Now I have to change the subject, make a change of course, get back to the title of this blog and discuss the insertion of breathing qigong into the Tai Chi form:

  •  I do this because it is a perennial question. 
  • I do this because of student's  concern with breathing  in Tai Chi
  • I do this because there is a prevalent thesis that one must always breathe in and out in conjunction with each and every movement while doing Tai Chi .
  • I find that students reach  conclusions from viewing the videos that we were breathing incorrectly. 
  • I also list numerous book references below where there is a lot of emphasis on insinuating some form of breathing qigong into the learning of Tai Chi. 

In “A Last Interview with Fu Zhong Wen”, 1994 in Tai Chi Magazine, he said natural breathing is used during practice.  “When we talk about qi (ch’i) it is not the breath that we breathe, it is the internal qi that is being moved.  The breath is not concentrated on during the form,( he said) the breath is just natural. If you concentrate on the qi (as breath), you can’t concentrate on the movements.  You have to concentrate on your energy (internal) .”

  Fu Zhong Wen is  obvious on what his position on breathing is.  In light of these types of arguments and their prevalence, it is my feeling that the debate about breathing will rage on forever.  It will go on in both  a “my style vs. your style” format and in an "I'm right and you are wrong" format as well. We can begin the discussion in Uncovering the Treasure, Stephen Hwa, p. 98: “One should not try to incorporate breathing qigong into Tai Chi…after all Classical Tai Chi itself is a much better motion induced qigong than breathing qigong”.


  • Here is the  reasoning why breathing qigong is not a one size fits all discipline.  If you will please take a look at the Compact (Round Form) video above:  
  • You can readily see the complexity and various planes on which the motion occurs.
  • How one could view this and then develop a thesis about incorrect breathing is perplexing. 
  • I put it to the reader: Ask yourself at what point would one decide where they should breathe in or out?  
  • How would insinuating some form of breathing qigong not interrupt the internal energy?
  • There is also the concern that   all beginners should drop their previous learning (not an empty request). 
  • Why is this? 
  • Unless the study is going to be limited in its curriculum there is going to be a lot on their mind right from the very start. 
  • Why then would one want to add concern with how to breathe  to an already busy mind? 

In the Compact form above, Master Hwa is probably going at an “10 minute to do 108” pace which is somewhat rapid.  It is particularly rapid compared to practitioners who take say  “40 minutes to do 108” and also state that they insinuate various breathing qigongs into their form.  In order for me to insert the breathing that students suggest to me,  one would undoubtedly hyperventilate.  I speak of course of attempting to insert qigong breathing techniques into even the 10 minute round form that Master Hwa is doing.  One can only painfully visualize how one might blackout at that pace with those artificlal breathing standards.  One can only imagine what might happen at a 4 minute or 3 minute pace that the “tight” Compact Form calls for and using such breathing demands.

By the way what is the  point in trying to improve your breathing by forcibly taking a longer  inhale and exhale in Tai Chi as some teachers recommend?  If you want to breathe deeper, refrain from slouching and simply straighten the torso by allowing your head to stretch up at the neck…you will breathe deeper once you do that.  Besides, it is the classical way to learn Tai Chi, one stretches the head up as though it was suspended from above, chin tucked in as well. In forcibly trying to extend the breath or insinuating the breathing qigong into Tai Chi, the flow of internal energy will undoubtedly be disturbed.  Why would one want to do this when by breathing naturally in Tai Chi there is so much to enjoy with the flow of qi in an otherwise relaxed body?

References:
The Inner Structure of Tai Chi: Mastering the Classic Forms of Tai Chi Chi Kung By Mantak Chia,p. 199
Physical activity instruction of older adults By C. Jessie Jones, Debra J. Rose, p. 236
The complete book of Tai Chi Chuan:  ... By Wong Kiew Kit, p. 76
Stay Young With Tai Chi:  By Ellae Elinwood p. 61
Handbook of T'Ai Chi Ch'Uan Exercises By Fuxing Zhang, p. 17
T'ai Chi for Seniors, Sifu Philip Bonifonte, p. 51


1 comment:

Rick said...

I still don't get why someone would say they want to learn from you, then tell you that you don't know what you're doing; you're doing it wrong and then be let down when you decide not to teach them what they thought was wrong in the first place.

Who needs fiction?