Hun Yuan Qigong Part 1
The twelve movements of the Hun Yuan Qigong are the foundation of the Hun Yuan tai ji system as taught by Master Ma Bao Guo during his five year stay in th UK. Students practice this qigong until a good level of competence is achieved before moving on to any of the Tai Ji forms.
History and Lineage
The Hun Yuan Qigong was developed by Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang. Grandmaster Feng, already an accomplished eternal gongfu fighter, studied Xinyiquan with Han Xiao Feng and Chen style Taijiquan with Chen fake. He went on to create his own style known as Chen style Xinyi Huan Yuan Taijiquan and is recognized today as one of the most skilful and innovative living masters in China. The Hun Yuan Qigong is an integral part of this system.
Master Mao Bao Guo Honorary President of the British Hun Yuan Tai Ji Association studied the Hun Yuan system with Feng Zhi Qiang,s disciple Master Wang Chaihai and has since developed the qigong set in a unique way incorporating his own insights. In particular Master Ma’s qigong has a strong flavour of Wudang and Emei styles in which he is also a lineage holder.
The Hun Yuan Qigong serves three functions:
1. To build up the student's health by improving the circulation of blood and qi, massaging the internal organs and loosening and opening the joints.
2. To train the student in the basic body alignments and structure of Hun Yuan Tai Ji. Without this foundation the more complex forms are no more than empty displays and true martial power is unattainable.
3. To provide advanced training in the various forces and fa jings, most particularly to comprehensively train silk reeling force, the whole body twisting and spiralling which in Master Ma's Tai Ji is developed to a very intense level.
The Hun Yuan Qigong is practiced at three levels. At the first level the movements are slow, large and relaxed moving in simple circles and lines. At the second level many variations are introduced with the movements increasingly emphasising whole body twisting and spiralling. At the third level the forms become less distinct. The practitioner freely explores change: from large to small, from fast to slow, form soft to explosive. At this level martial power generation is fully developed.
In addition to mastering the external physical movements which in the higher levels can be intricate and complex, there are specific breathing patterns which strongly open up different parts of the body. However theses patterns are usually only taught to indoor students and Master Ma’s advice to beginners is to simply breath naturally without strain or effort.
Each form within the Qigong activates specific qi pathways and centres. However Master Ma warns against trying to direct the flow of qi with the imagination. It is better simply to do the movements with calm relaxed awareness and let the movement direct the qi.
The Wu Ji Stance
The starting point as with most qigong sets is the Wu Ji stance.
The feet are comfortably shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and the weight focused on the Yongquan point, not the heels. The back is held straight with the head gentle lifted from the occiput. Shoulders relax out to the sides so the armpits open naturally. Arms hang loose with palms soft and slight rounded.
There are two distinctive features of Master Ma's interpretation of Wu Ji. One is that the tailbone hands down straight in a natural position rather than tucked under. Master Ma believes that many western students tuck their tailbones in an exaggerated way which causes instability. He often demonstrates this with a push!
Secondly the ribcage is naturally open and rounded. Master Ma believes that both in China and the west many teachers misunderstand the classical saying that the chest should be empty by an exaggerated dropping and depressing of the ribcage. The true meaning of the saying, according to Master Ma is that the qi should be allowed to descend by releasing any tension in the solar plexus and diaphragm.
Master Ma completes each movement of the Hun Yuan Qigong with a simple closing action intended to focus the practitioner's awareness in the lower dantien.
(These instructions follow the male sequence, women reverse all directions) The hands are held in front of the abdomen in a gesture similar to the zen/chan meditation mudra , left hand outside the right hand. The arms are circled three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise and then returned to Wu Ji.
First Movement - Sink the Qi and Cleanse the Organs
This movement encourages the pracitioer to relax and release tension downward through the body. This is viewed as a cleansing function in which sick qi is eliminated through the Yong Quan point.
The movements are a variation on a very common qigong movement with one important distinction : the use of opposite force - as the arms rise the body sinks and as the arms sink the body rises. Opposite force is the foundation of martial power in Master Ma's system and this simple exercise is the first step in its development.
From Wu Ji raise the arms up in an arc until the palms face down over the Baihui point. At the same time sink into the kua. Bring the arms down with the palms facing the body until the palms are pressing down towards the ground. The body rises out of the kua. Allow the intent to release tension right down to the feet. Breath in as the arms rise and out as they fall. Repeat 9 times as described and then a further three times bringing the intent and the arms no lower than the lower dantien. Finish with the closing movement as desribed earlier.
Second Movement - Gather Qi to the Three dantiens
This movement trains the practitioner to store and release force is the tendons and ligaments. It loosens the joints and powerfully stretches the fascia connecting the arms to the spine. It is an essential preliminary in the development of peng, liu, ji and an forces. The movements are guided by the image of gathering qi into each dantien in turn. With practice this gathering feeling can be experienced as a relaxed, expanded springiness throughout the body.
Part 1. The movements are the same as the !st movement except that the hands are brought not to the Bai Hui point, but round in an arc in front of the body level with the Yin Tang point. Repeat 9-12 times and perform the closing action.
Part 2. Repeat Part 1 but this time bring the hands round in an arc level with the middle dantien. In Master Ma's system this is accessed at the solar plexus rather than the centre of the sternum. Repeat 9-12 times and perform the closing action.
Part 3. Repeat as above but arcing round to the lower dantien between the navel and the pubic bone. Repeat 9-12 times and perform the closing action.
Third Movement - Open and Close and the Three Dantiens
This movement strengthens the arms, open the armpit and helps to expand the body laterally. Regular practice will lay the foundation for a strong and stable peng force. The movement is guided by the image of each dantien in turn expanding and contracting like a ball in coordination with the arm movements.
From Wu Ji bring the arms up the front of the body into an "embrace tree" position level with the upper dantien (yin tang point). As you breath in, expand the arms away from each other, as you breath out compress the arms towards each other. Keep a strong mental intent of connection between the hands. Repeat 9-12 times. Finish with the closing action.
Repeat with the arms at the middle and lower dantiens.
We hope to outline the rest of Master Ma's Hun Yuan Qigong in later articles. What is presented here is the bare bones of the first three movements. Even at this elementary level there are many subtleties and details, which have been omitted because they require transmission from a skilled instructor. The British Hun Yuan Tai Ji Association has instructors who are indoor students of Master Ma, mainly in the North East of England.