QIGONG AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU
Qigong is one of those things you may or may not have heard of. However Qi or Chi is something many people have heard of. It's been featured in countless movies and tv shows. It was even spoken about in the movie Kung Fu Panda! So what is Qi and what is Qigong? Qi is your life energy or life essence as some people like to call it and Qigong is the method which cultivates it. However unlike how it's portrayed in movies or by scammers, it is NOT some type of magical power or energy you have in your body. Jedi Knights may be cool to watch in Star Wars, but practicing Qigong will not give you the power to levitate or to do other similarly ridiculous things!
So now that we know what it is not, what is it? Put simply, it's a way to coordinate proper breathing with proper body movements. This takes a long time to develop of course and there are many layers to it, but in a nutshell that's what it is. Actually in the Chinese language, Qi roughly translates to "Rice plus Air" which sounds really weird. However here's another translation for it which might make more sense. "Glucose plus Oxygen". And if you know your basic chemistry you know that this produces Carbon Dioxide CO2 which is the basic metabolic process. Of course in ancient times, they didn't understand modern chemistry so they referred to it in non-scientific terms. When you move and breathe properly (without tension), you are creating the perfect conditions for exercise and to get the benefit from it. Stress management and a relaxed mind are other benefits, but as you can see it's actually a rather simple concept.
So what are the elements needed for proper Qigong. Sometimes when I teach students, I explain to them RRBC. So the 2 Rs are for ROOTING and RELAXING, the B is for BREATHING, and the C is for CONNECTING. Root the body to the ground as if you were a tree. All the action and movements are initiated in the legs. This doesn't mean however that you are immobile. Although it may sound like opposites, you need to be rooted like a tree, yet able to move quickly and easily. This is because we use the ground for energy. We are rooting into the ground, but at the same time that gives us something to push off of to initiate movement. Another thing is the concept of Qigong and of Chinese medicine. There is Heaven, Man, and Earth. We (man) exist between Heaven and Earth. Our bodies are rooted to the Earth yet our mind and spirit goes towards Heaven. Therefore having correct posture is important. There is a natural relaxed C shape which is maintained in your spine. It can be thought of as controlled slouching.
Relaxation is the second R. Tension for many people is just a way of life. It can be extremely difficult to get the proper relaxed energy especially for men! However the longer you practice Qigong, the more relaxed you will become and the more it will become your default. Probably the biggest key to relaxation is to keep the "action" in the legs. When you do this, your energy naturally goes to the ground and it helps you root. If you keep your energy in your shoulders and arms, tension inevitably follows. Bunched up shoulders, stiff necks, tight upper backs are the result. This is the equivalent of having a blocked chimney in your house and energy can't flow properly.
Next comes B for Breathing. An easy trick to remember for proper breathing is to remind yourself that you don't shove food up your nose to eat. Therefore you don't inhale with your mouth! Your mouth is for food and your nose is for oxygen. Touching the tongue gently to the roof of your mouth will help with this since it facilitates deep stomach breathing. Again, the action is happening at the lower levels of your body. Always remember that Qigong has a sinking or dropping energy. Even if you're striking upward for example, you are always rooted. Even if you're kicking you're still rooted. As far as exhaling goes, it can also be done with the nose or through the mouth. However doing all deep breathing through the nose is preferred. This will help with the relaxation of the body. All the elements of the RRBC are connected.
Lastly we have C for Connecting. This means that the entire body must move as one unit. Never just one limb by itself. If you're throwing a strike or arm sweeping movement, everything is involved from the foot up to the legs, hips, back, shoulders, arm, wrist, and finally your hand. When this is done properly, it will assist the relaxation and rooting. Proper rooting and relaxation will help with movement, and breathing helps hold it all together. See how it all connects?
In addition to being an excellent exercise and meditative practice, Qigong is something inherent in all martial arts when done properly. Many people may not see it, but a trained eye will. As a practitioner of Boxing (Peekaboo style), shadowboxing is an important part of our practice. This is where we put it all together. Footwork, defense, and punches all flow. But in order to flow properly, we MUST be relaxed. Every Boxing coach knows the importance of relaxation and not being too tense. When we move in Boxing our entire body is involved. Look at a Slip, a Weave, or a punch. Everything is involved. In the martial art of Ving Tsun relaxation is again extremely important. We practice the Chi Sao exercise quite a bit and again every Sifu knows that if you're not relaxed, you won't be able to feel and listen. Actually the first form of the system called Sil Lim Tao is a form of Qigon even though most Sifus don't explain it as such. But that is exactly what's happening.
One of the easiest and simplest ways to practice Qigong is actually by walking. Practice proper breathing and be mindful of your movements. Each step is propelled by pushing off with the other foot and the pumping action of the arms are done in a deliberate manner. You can eventually reach a point where just about everything you do can become a form of Qigong. I hope you've found this information helpful and I hope you can see how Qigong has benefit not only for martial arts practitioners, but for everyone.
For more information about Qigong, fitness, or martial arts click here