Internal Energy Training in Chinese Martial Arts - An Introduction to Wushu Qigong (Part 1 of 2)

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Wushu (martial arts) practitioners are one of the major contributors to the development ofqigong sinceancient China. Through their strive for excellence and greater skills for combat readiness, they have made many important discoveries for fighting, as well as, for health and healing. Over the long history of Wushu Qigong development, combined with the already available qigong knowledge, martial artist masters developed their own unique training methods and emphasis.

One of the training methods in Wushu is the striking of vial areas, by using focused qi, power, and speed,to subdue a stronger and more powerful opponent. These vital points, when struck with enough force, can reduce the enemy's fighting ability, cause serious injury, or death. Many of these vital points were discovered through generations of combat experiences by martial arts masters. Most of these vital points correspond with the acupuncture points on the qi meridians. The understanding of acupuncture points and meridians give a martial artist a better knowledge of themselves and their opponents.

Today, martial artists, utilize the already available references from acupuncture charts to enhances their martial arts training. They also utilize an understanding of qi flow and qi patterns in the body, as a reference for timing and striking of vital points for the most devastating effect on their opponent. On the other hand, high level martial arts qigong master have also contributed to medical qigong understanding. Their experience and ability in martial arts qigong and vital point training, gave important insights to the workings and healing of energetic traumas.

Chinese martial art training is very extensive and profound. Each division of marital arts has its stylisticqigong training methods. A Chinese proverb states, "Training the techniques without training internal energy, it is all in vain when one gets old." Martial arts with Gongfu (training that increases the internal energy accomplishment) is considered "showy boxing with no real strength." Martial arts without internal strength is sufficient as a sport and health exercise. To be effective as a practical fighting art with an energetic foundation, marital artists need to have Gongfu.

Gongfu is also romanized as Kung Fu, which is also a term used for Chinese martial arts. Kung Fu literally means time and energy, not martial arts. That is, any accomplishment that requires a lot of time and energy to become proficient is called Kung Fu. Therefore, the attainment that you gain through your martial arts training, especially in your qigong training, is the level of Kung Fu you have in Chinese martial arts. Because the dedication and discipline in perfecting the mental, physical, energetic, and spiritual requirements of being a true martial artist are very demanding, the term Kung Fu has become synonymous to Chinese martial arts.

Wushu is the proper term for Chinese martial arts. It is usually classified into two divisions, mainly the Internal Style division and the External Style division. Martial styles such as Shaolinquan, Chaquan, Bajiquan are considered to be External Styles; and Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, Liuhebafa are considered to be Internal Styles. Regardless of the classification, each style has qigong in their training.

Qigong training builds a lasting and solid foundation for the physical body. The conditioning ofthe physicalbodymanifests the internal energy attainment. Without the proper conditioning of the physical, it will be difficult for the internal achievement to be expressed as a martial art. Conversely, without the internal energy training, the physical body lacks the lasting foundation to back up the physical demands.

Traditional martial arts training has always included qigong as part of their internal energy training. It'snot just for fighting. It is also for strengthening the mind and body. A healthy mind and body are the foundation for a proficient martial artist. Their training philosophy can be summarized in one commonly used phrase: "Training the muscles/tendons, bones, and skin externally; training energy (qi) internally."

Even though Wushu Qigong is primarily for strengthening the body and for fighting. It hasa very importantaspect in common with medical qigong. They are both trying to understand the rhythm of human life and its many activities, understand the surrounding environment, use the application of herbs, and use the mind and movements, to lead energy flow.

In Wushu, one "Trains the physical to aid the shapeless; cultivates the shapeless to care for the physical." That is, Wushu Qigong is not just for martial arts applications, it is also an excellent way to strengthen the body. Therefore, Wushu Qigong is also beneficial for people that are not involved in martial arts training.