When it comes to training Qigong there are thousands of different forms and numerous methods of achieving the same goal of energy (life force) flowing freely.
However, not all roads will get you to Rome as quickly.
When my teacher starting learning Qigong and Kungfu, at the tender age of 6, he followed the, then, traditional method of teacher says, student does. For many years he diligently practiced picture perfect form, while remaining physically and mentally relaxed, an invaluable lesson he learnt from his master over a casual conversation.
Although my Sifu (teacher) knew the importance of training energy (chi), he had not yet crystalised the concept that it is energy flow that gives the wonderful benefits of Qigong.
At first, my teacher thought that performing Qigong exercise was practicing Qigong. It was later that he realised the essence was chi flow, and without chi flow it was only gentle physical exercise.
(Much later in his evolution, he taught Qigong as a mind, body, energy practice, the three pillars of Qigong, and students got quicker results).
Then, teaching in English, he developed more expedient methods for developing skills for cleansing, building and nourishing energy, such as generating an energy flow at will, as well as developing flowing and consolidating force. (Flowing and consolidating force are terms coined by Sifu Wong, not openly mentioned in the Qigong classics, but methods for developing skills, understood and passed to students of longstanding).
This led Sifu Wong to an important realisation and conclusion that the three essential requirements in Qigong or any internal art training were mind, energy and form in that order of importance, confirming another classical principle “internally, train mind, energy and essence: externally, train tendons, bones and muscles”, or “noi lean jin shen hei, ngoi lean kern quat pei”.
As a result of teaching a Western audience, he developed the use of frameworks for helping students achieve useful outcomes. An approach that successful businesses and individuals use to maximise efficiency and results.
Frameworks are a useful tool for training and application, they are not a rule that one must abide by. I mention this as some people get confused, thinking modern frameworks means throwing out well established training methods. I can confirm it does not mean that. A framework allows us to navigate the process and components of learning for efficient development of skills and results.
For instance, take my teacher’s first experience of learning Kung Fu and Qigong. He followed the instruction of the teacher to practice the form, repeatedly, while remaining relaxed, resulting, eventually, in a smoother flow and increased energy. However, this took many years. Nowadays, students can achieve this within a few months or less than a year.
Later he applied the method of intentionally allowing energy to flow, like a gentle breeze, swaying willow, following a qigong exercise/s. He then intentionally added the method of Entering a Qigong State of Mind proceeding the practice, resulting in developing the skill of conscious energy flow.
The benefit/outcome of the practice is that he achieved increased internal energy (force) and was happier and healthier than before, compared to when he was concentrating on the form only. Had he merely stuck to practicing form, it is unlikely he would have developed his current skill level, nor would he have formulated the methodology for faster progress, helping students achieve efficient results.
A Qigong Framework
The framework I use to describe the components and methodology is:
- Aim – Purpose
Your reason for practice, leading you to a purposeful outcome
- Forms – Patterns
The physical aspect of the training practiced singularly or collectively as a set
(Similar to Tai Chi)
- Method/s – Technique/s
This is the way that you practice. How you perform the Qigong
(This can have a profound influence on the outcome)
- Skill/s – Application
This is a practice with purpose and awareness. Your ability to apply what you practice, helping you achieve the aims, both at the time of practice and in everyday life. It is your ability to develop, use and manage energy consciously.
(It is the skill that separates a novice practitioner, an adept or master)
- Outcome – Result
This is where your consistency of practice pays off (well, that’s the aim). If you haven’t achieved your aim, review forms, methods, skill or application.
The idea is not to become fixed or obsessed by any one of these components or even the framework. Instead, we realise that practice is a process that can be made up of several factors, that once understood and applied, help speed up our progress, provide real-life benefits and allow us to achieve our aims.
Take a moment to consider the following:
“Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason. Without a purpose life is trivial, petty, and pointless.” Rick Warren
Of course, if you only have an aim, a reason to practice, but do not practice, then you will be no closer to achieving your aim.
It is useful to have a clear reason why you are training.
What is so important in your life that you want to change, that you are willing to train consistently?
Consistency in practice is essential to your success.
If you only practice the forms but have no idea why or how you are to practice, then you are unlikely to improve beyond having good form. (This is where many people get stuck). If you only practice at the level of form then Qigong is simply a physical exercise, like any other. Eventually, you may stumble into something deeper, but you are unlikely to know how you got there.
What makes Qigong stand out from physical exercise is that it integrates mind, energy and body in a single practice.
If you know the method, like how to breathe to influence the energy flow, or how to use conscious awareness and intention to develop energy flow, you can progress more quickly.
Speed of movement, dynamics and pauses used in practicing forms will also influence your energy flow and development.
If you use the method of physical, emotional and mental relaxation, (entering a Qigong state of mind) as opposed to being tense, worried and overthinking your practice, you will achieve the benefits Qigong is widely reported to provide.
Sounds obvious, I know, but you may be surprised how many people unnecessarily tense, worry and over-intellectualise.
If you know how to harmonise mind, energy and body you will be able to develop your skill more easily. Once you are skilful at something, it takes less effort, less energy and helps you achieve a greater outcome. A skill could be the ability to direct your energy where you want it, to be able to expand your consciousness into the Cosmos, or remain calm and present in stressful situations. There are many Qigong skills you can develop and apply to daily life.
If you have an idea of what you are aiming for, you are more likely to get there. A driver without a map may stumble upon their destination but is also likely to head down some cul-de-sacs along the way, delaying their arrival.
Has your practice yielded the results you aimed for? “Yes, very good, carry on” my teacher would say. No, review your practice, forms, method, intention or skill level. Is your aim realistic according to your practice, understanding and skill level?
Qigong is not magic, but it is profound
Qigong is not magic, but it is profound. It also includes a long history of positive results for millions of people around the world, when used skilfully as a mind, energy, body practice.
If you find this framework useful, please use it as a guide. Remember, don’t get stuck at the form level. Instead, try to find ways to develop your mind, energy and body for a holistic life.
One important piece of advice I remember from my teacher (and there where many nuggets) is that Qigong is not meant to enslave your life, it is meant to enhance it.
Another nugget was “Relax, Don’t Worry, Enjoy your Practice.”
If you can do that well, then you are already on your way to success.