Qigong (Chi Kung) Training & The Wing Chun Wooden Dummy

By Karl Godwin

In the modern pursuit of physical and mental well being, the art of Chi Gong (Qigong/Chi Kung) has emerged as a simple and effective method of attaining all around health popular with all age groups. As Chi gong styles are generally viewed as subsystems of a great variety of Chinese martial arts, the techniques performed can range from simple sitting exercises to extreme stretching postures considered more related to yoga. Chi gong always represents the relationship between the individual and the environment. Since the practitioner is in constant contact with the environment, sometimes tools can be used to direct and concentrate the energy of the chi for specific purposes. The Wing Chun Mook Yan Jong is such a tool to lead energy for self‐defense along a pathway to self‐development.

What is Chi (Qi)?
There is yet to be discovered a scientifically satisfactory, quantifiable definition of Chi (Qi). Common modern thought nebulously considers Chi to be a form of bioelectric energy. The problem is bioelectric energy can be measured while the causes of bioelectricity cannot be adequately defined.

In any material body, the state of its existence is determined by its temperature and the pressures placed upon it. The human body is no exception. Every system and mechanism of the body is considered healthy only if each system is operating within certain temperatures and pressures. Intracellular pressures, blood pressure, cerebrospinal fluid pressure and varying body temperatures in illness and health are all examples of varying temperature/pressure relationships. Chi leads the reactions of maintaining all of the temperature/pressure relationships in the body at their optimum measures.

This flow of energy rises from the ground through the legs and the body, through the arms, returning to the body and finally back down the legs to the ground. This cyclical flow has been determined to follow specific channels called “meridians”. Among complex structures, energy is transferred from one meridian system to another. The Earth is governed by pressure and temperature and therefore possesses meridians. Energy from earth is received by the human body and is released externally, either back to the ground, or into another system via the hands. When the cycle is impeded at some point in the transfer a physical or mental problem occurs. The purpose of Chi Gong exercises is to maintain and stabilize the flow while
all parts of the body are under correct pressures and temperatures.

The Martial Arts and Chi Gong
Chi Gong and Chi usage has always been associated with the martial arts, although the benefits for the health of the population should overshadow combat usage. The discovery and development of Chi from fighting is logical. Threats to general health can take many forms. Physical aggression is usually an overt conflict to be resolved. Injury and disease many times are covert conflicts against health. The movements of the martial arts are designed to protect the body against the harmful results of conflict. The subconscious recognizes this as beneficial to the individual’s overall well being, and internalizes the effect to counter the conflicts presented by disease and internal injury. Of course, as a fight is best resolved in it’s embryonic state, the internal effects of the movements counter disease best in it’s pre‐symptomatic phases. Patients, however, can use Chi Gong effectively at any stage of disease. The key to the internalization of combat movements to benefit internal health is the maintenance of “mindfulness” of each movement. The movements must be done slowly, with focus and slow breathing for the subconscious mind to translate the intent of the physical health promoting factors.

The Evolution of Human Chi
As humans stand upright, the connection (pressure) with the Earth is different from animals. Instead of grounding the body with four contacts, the human has two. This leaves the arms free to carry necessities. Early man’s survival depended upon two things:

  • His ability to carry as much food as possible within the span of his arms and
  • Maximizing his upright posture to see greater distances for perception of opportunity or danger.

For hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of years, the security of man depended upon these two factors. This action of rising upright and embracing materials to live, repeated for eons, is embedded in man as a survival mechanism. This posture has such an effect internally, it is used by most Chi Gong styles as the first exercise. By virtue of a type of postural‐emotional‐visceral reflex, it can enhance health. When assuming this posture, the mind senses the security of food, which triggers healthy internal functions along with an uplifted emotional state. This also creates a set of positive physiological changes to enhance overall health.

This standing posture is the initiation to all Chi Gong training, especially for martial art application. The Wing Chun style adopts this posture with a toe‐in bent knee stance to maximize the connection with the ground. Because of the angle of the legs, pinching exertion between the knees actually increases the root with the ground.

A second stance used for advancing, places nearly all of the weight on the rear leg. With the hips square, this posture provides the most single weighted connection with the ground. Although the weight is almost entirely on the rear leg, the front foot is pressed firmly against the ground with the knees pressing together. These two stances make up the physical foundation of Wing Chun as well as the support for Chi Gong development. From this established base, a productive chi posture can be built. This posture requires the spine to be stretched upward from the secure base as if a string were pulling the body up through the top of the head at the crown. This slightly stretches the upper curves of the spine. By tucking the sacrum under and bending the knees, the lumbar curve is stretched and reduced. Finally, the shoulders are relaxed and the elbows are dropped to their lowest position. This aids in lowering the body’s center of gravity. The resulting posture creates a unique condition of the Axial skeleton, that is, the spinal column, skull, pelvic girdle and shoulder girdle. The extreme tension of the proper horse stance commits most of the body’s muscular tension below the fifth lumbar vertebrae. The fifth lumbar vertebra is an important structure in Eastern wellness methods. Internally, the organs at this area and lower are organs of compression (the digestive organs). The organs above become more expansive, (the heart, the lungs, the brain broadcasting electrical energy.) Above this fifth lumbar vertebra, the upper body can maintain a relaxed yet flexible energy. Wing Chun instructors prefer to call, “rattan energy” like the bending and releasing of a rattan whip. In fast actions, the vibrational oscillations increase as it directed through the arms and finally through the fingers. Because the vibrations of the movement areimpossible to keep track of at this rate, in the practice of Chi Gong, the movements must be performed slowly, with speed reserved for the training of energy discharge, (chi application), not cultivation. These are the three keys for optimum chi development; an erect spine: a loose and flexible upper body and a solid, secure lower body foundation. Cheng Man Ching, a great Tai Chi practitioner of the Twentieth Century felt these principles contained everything for the development of chi.

Wing Chun Chi Gong
The Wing Chun style recognizes three aspects to complete Chi Gong training. The empty handed forms, Siu Nim Tao, Chum Kiu, and Biu Jee, cultivate and circulate the energy from the ground and within the body independently. This is chi gong development from the self to the self. The Mook Yan Jong form teaches how to release the energy from the self into another organic object. Chi Sao, the sticking hands exercise of the art allows the student to receive energy from another in a harmonic fashion and use the incoming energy in a beneficial way. The two weapons of Wing Chun, the long pole and the butterfly swords, are also used to develop energy. As well, they provide an advanced method of extending the energetic field, the weapons provide via an organic tool with the long pole and an inorganic extension through the steel of the knives.

As important as solo practice is, it represents a limited circuit in the flow of chi. Meridian theory tells us the movement of chi changes direction at the toes and at the fingers. This change of direction should imply a change in the entity of the energy itself. Energy from the ground rises through the body... correcting impaired functions and collecting along the way offending energetic units. This is continued through the arm and discharged from the hand to the environment. From the environment, energy is picked up by the hands and returned back through the body to be discharged through the soles of the feet. From here the process begins again. There are three discharge and three entry points on each hand and foot. Among the receptors of pressure are structures called “pacinian corpuscles” found in the palms and the soles of the feet. They hold special significance to the Chi Gong student because they receive the information of the body’s physical connection with the ground and the environment. The feet provide locomotion and stability by accommodating the Earth’s energy, which is considered inorganic. The hands use tools and bring food to the mouth, which until a few centuries ago, involved the interactions of organic energies. Children’s play involves running and climbing trees. Beyond entertainment, this is developmental Chi Gong and plays a great role in adult well‐being, both in internal health and injury prevention agility. Many students of the internal arts make use of trees for different aspects of their training; to strike, to climb, even to walk around. For adult practitioners however, the need for tactile contact with wood is essential for a completely rounded Chi Gong regimen. The Wing Chun wooden man is the perfect device for such training.

There are no reliable historical references pertaining to the development of the wooden dummy. At the simplest level, effort spent on the wooden dummy is an extension of woodworking; the difference being instead of creating an object from the wood, you are creating a better self by working with the wood. The wooden man is a refinement of the tree. The first training apparatus for combat was undoubtedly a tree. With a branch trimmed, an excellent arm was made. Eventually a simple post was used for striking and kicking. Different styles of combat developed the posts in different ways. The traditional Wing Chun wooden dummy happened to use an arm and leg configuration designed to cultivate fighting skill and chi simultaneously.

The Mook Yan Jong possesses two upper arms, a middle arm and a leg connected to a solid trunk of about eight to ten inches in diameter. This configuration in no way describes an anatomical representation of the human body but rather, the body as an energetic entity. The trunk is where energy exchange takes place. Chi cultivation is the result of hand contact with the trunk.

NOTE: This article was originally published in Wing Chun Magazine as Qigong and the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy. More information on Karl Godwin can be found at http://www.floridawingchun.com.

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