History of Qigong part 4
Qigong and Martial Arts
During the Liang Dynasty, circa 502 – 557 AD, Bodhidharma (Da Mo) created a system of Qigong to strengthen the constitution of Shaolin monks. The treatises he wrote for this martial form of chi kung are known as the Muscle and Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Classics. These were internal forms of qigong practiced for health, strength, and to increase immunity. His theory was that the physical body must be healthy and strong in order to attain enlightenment. Around this time the Shaolin priests also developed the Five Animal Styles of Kung Fu (gongfu): Tiger, Leopard, Dragon, Snake, and Crane.
Chang San Feng (Zhang Sanfeng)
The legendary Chinese hero, Chang San Feng, was thought to be the originator of the soft martial art and moving Qigong meditation known as T’ai Chi Ch’uan, a combination of Shaolin martial arts and Tao Yin qigong. His exact date of birth, even his actual existence, is in some doubt, but was said to be around 1247 AD. Chang was not interested in fame, power, or wealth, and traveled China living the life of an ascetic monk, finally coming to reside at Wu Tang Mountain.
Legend has it that Chang San Feng once saw a crane attacking a snake on Wu Tang Mountain and was inspired by the snake’s ability to remain calm and attentive as the bird attacked. At the correct time, the snake counterattacked and bit the bird. The patient demeanor, tactics, and correct timing of the snake resulted in an epiphany for Chang, and from this he was inspired to create the first T’ai Chi Chuan form delineated in Chang San Feng’s “Treatise on Tai Chi”. Other animal archetypes found in the T’ai Chi Chuan form include crane, tiger, monkey, cock, and horse; as well as inanimate natural forms such as clouds, needles, shuttles (weaving loom) and associated movements. T’ai Chi uses internal life force (Chi, Qi) rather than external muscular force, and this soft, meditative, internal style was considered revolutionary at the time.
Though remembered as a hero, many scholars feel that Chang San Feng was probably an myth or an amalgam of several persons. It may be more accurate that the martial form of T’ai Chi devolved from the Sifu and General Chen Wangting of the Chen family in the 17th century. Today T’ai Chi is practiced by many millions of people over the world for health and meditation.
Around the same approximate time, Marshall Yeuh Fei (Yue Fei), a general commanding the Chinese army, created a set of internal Qigong exercises which became known as Ba Duann Gin (Ba Duan Jin, Baduanjin, Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements, the Eight Treasures, Eight Twists of Silk) Legend states that he taught the Eight Treasures Qigong exercises to his troops to help keep their bodies healthy, strong, and prepared for battle. Yueh Fei is also regarded as the creator or disseminator of Eagle Claw Kung Fu, known for take downs, pressure point attacks, gripping technique, and a system of joint locks. Yue taught both of these styles to his men, whereupon they became very successful in the war against the occupying armies of the Jin Empire.
The Eight Treasures is usually taught for health and wellness, but is also quite popular among martial artists today. Indeed, my teacher, Yung-ko Chou, insisted that his students perform the Eight Treasures style qigong before learning T’ai Chi Chuan.
During this period Taoists continued to discover new ways to improve Qigong exercises for health and spiritual or religious purposes. Traditional Chinese Medicine made advances in acupuncture and moxibustion, while improving the theories of Chi circulation.
Qigong during this era:
- Became associated with martial training
- continued to be a major source of spiritual advancement
- was generally not well known by the public at large
- became more efficient as Chi circulation was better understood. (c) 2011 Keith E. Hall. All rights reserved.