Although Hsing-i and I Chuan are known solely as martial art forms, they are in fact some of the most powerful health practices on the planet.
Here’s the basic rule: You go through two stages with any chi practice.
- The first stage makes you healthy without this you can go no further.
- The second stage takes you to a dramatically higher level so you can start gathering power for internal martial arts.
For health, you only need to open and close to get the chi to circulate throughout your body. For martial power, you need to condense the openings and closings until your body becomes like spring steel being moved in various directions.
As a youth, my constitution was weak, I was often sick, and could not endure physical labor. Some people enjoined me to use hsing-i (xingyi) boxing–which has the main aim of nurturing qi–as a restorative method, for if the qi (chi) is sufficient, the body is healthy and sickness will depart…If practiced daily according to the proper theories, it will quickly cause tight sinews to stretch, the slack to draw in, the separated to unite, and the soft to become firm, and it will enliven the blood and vessels and strengthen the spirit.
—Jin Yunting, Forward to The Xingyi Boxing Manual [year 1923]
Storing Chi in the Lower Tantien
As you practice Hsing-i, your body will start to open and the chi will be able to move through your body. The next step is to allow your chi to sink to your lower tantien.
The lower tantien is the only place in your body where all energy channels related to physical energy connect. When your chi smoothly and cleanly arrives at the lower tantien, you can feel it and you know it.
To stabilize your chi, visualize the energy that’s floating around your body as drops of water.
Its main aim is to nurture qi and develop the body, and is unconnected with fighting . . . I was formerly of weak constitution and always taking medicine, but after engaging in this practice for only a year, it was as if my sickness had disappeared. I now benefit from continued good health and deeply believe that the ancient worthies do not deceive us.
—Lu Zibin, Forward to The Xingyi Boxing Manual, [Year 1923]
As the chi circulates around your body, each time it makes a rotation, make sure at least some little bit of it stores in your lower tantien. Every time you practice you are building reserves of chi in your body.
Health and Strength in Your 80’s
My main teacher, Taoist Lineage Master Liu Hung Chieh, ALWAYS did the five elements of Hsing-I before doing Tai Chi or Bagua, and he was a master of all three.
Why did he do this?
He did it to start-up his internal system. It is like starting up the hard-drive of your computer. He did it to make the openings and closings in his system become very powerful so his chi power, his internal power from martial arts, would become very strong.
He practiced the Hsing-I five elements and he would hold Santi for some period of time FIRST. He would make sure they were integrated into his movement and only then would he move onto other forms. Hsing-i build and nurtured the chi in his system so he remained both healthy and strong.