The Three Approaches
of the German Tai Chi Forum
Article by Volker Jung 22.08.2004
Since I started teaching I have noticed various different areas of interest among our students.
These can be divided into the following three main areas:
2. The Martial Arts Approach
3. The Meditation Approach
In my opinion, arrived at after many years of experience, it is not actually possible to separate these three approaches. If the legendary Chi (Chinese for life force or energy) is used in a ‘professional’ way, then all 3 aspects will be covered, simultaneously and to the same degree.
Without Chi, no one would regain their health or stay healthy for long periods. Equally, without additional Chi, it wouldn’t be possible to fight efficiently for any length of time. What would there be to observe during meditation if there were no Chi to facilitate certain physical and other functions?
So you see that, in my view, all three aspects are necessary if you want to practise Tai Chi seriously – otherwise it can’t really be called internal Tai Chi. Full internal Tai Chi and Qi Gong make you healthy, strong, physically and mentally highly capable, contented and cheerful. This is something we have experienced time and again, both personally and with over 100 teachers and several thousand students over the past 20 years.
But the average student will not yet have the experience which I have had in over 20 years of teaching and 36 years of personal pratice, so he/she usually starts with one of the three approaches mentioned above. People are very different in their preferences and each has his/her own way of discovering things on a personal level. With this practical 3-part system we hope to give everyone the opportunity of approaching Chi in his/her own, personal way.
In my opinion, there is no one approach which is better, more important or worse than the others. They are all equally valuable and important. We would like to leave it up to each individual to choose.
I would now like to give a brief description of each approach, to make it easier for you to choose your personal way. In fact, I would prefer to call it your choice of introduction into the world of Chi, because anyone who seriously intends making a long-term study of the phenomenon we call ‘Tai Chi’ or who wishes to take an in-depth look at internal Chi, will notice after a while, that sooner or later he/she will have no choice but to tackle the two paths which were initially left untrodden. Sooner or later, everyone comes to realize the necessity of the other two areas and their individual contributions.
Most of those who begin Tai Chi or are interested in it for one reason or another, had or still have the idea of improving their health at the back of their mind when they attend their first Tai Chi class. These clients expect help with, improvement or even healing of their present problems, discomforts or illnesses. These can range from headaches, circulatory problems, high or low blood pressure, sleep disorders, back pain, digestive trouble to pain from unknown causes. In recent years there has also been a rapid increase in the number of people with gout, rheumatism, diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.
What are the characteristics of a healthy person? What is health? What is illness? If we follow the relatively easy-to-understand views of the Chinese (given here in slightly simplified form) on the subject of health and illness, we learn that:
A healthy person is someone whose Chi flows freely and unhindered, day in day out, through his meridians (energy channels), energy centres and cells. He always has an adequate supply of Chi stored in his energy centres, to help protect his organism from all kinds of unhealthy influences. His organism is always able to absorb enough Chi from the environment through respiration , food, drink and thought; this can flow freely and unhindered through the body and surplus Chi is stored in reservoirs within the body – the so-called energy centres or Dan Tiens. His body has neither too much nor too little Chi of a particular quality, so he is in a state of internal and external harmony.
The ill person, on the other hand, has either too little Chi, and thus feels drained, depressed or incapable of taking control of his life or improving it.
Alternatively, he could have too much Chi, which can build up in some of the body’s centres – mainly in the chest, upper body and head. This state of ‘overload’ can cause aggression, headaches and insomnia, and can make people irritable and discontented. Violent tendencies are often also a symptom of too much unchecked Chi within the body.
For these reasons, Tai Chi and other related systems such as Qi Gong and Taoist meditation, attempt an exact analysis of all aspects of the Chi phenomenon. They get to know its characteristics in order to define and classify them. Once you have learned a little about the nature of Chi, you begin to understand and utilize it. You learn how to absorb it, to direct it within the body and finally to store it in certain parts of the body. The aim is to become an expert in the handling and perception and awareness of Chi.
We can offer you vital support in this process, as we have concerned ourselves almost exclusively with this subject matter for the past 20 years of our professional lives.
In order to maintain your health, providing that you are willing to begin regular training before it’s too late, or in order to regain your health, there are a few rules which must be adhered to and a few techniques to be learned.
Chi can be moved, directed and its absorption increased and controlled in three basic ways:
1. Physical action (known as ‘external’ action)
2. Respiratory action (half external and half internal movement)
3. Mental action ( or ‘internal’ action)
We can offer a wealth of techniques to help you absorb more energy per time unit than is normally possible in everyday life – these are the so-called energy absorption techniques.
Then there are the breathing exercises which have been combined in several Qi Gong sets. These help us to train our respiration to a level which far outreaches ordinary, everyday breathing capacity. In time, our external and internal respiration improves, enabling us to absorb much higher levels of Chi from the surrounding air and to distribute it more effectively throughout or organism. After a while, circulation in both body and brain improves considerably.
Many Qi Gong exercises are concerned with opening the body for the internal flow of energy and preventing a build-up of energy which occurs mainly in the body’s larger and smaller joints. Here, the leading role is played by the 1000 Hands Buddha Qi Gong, the medical or Dragon Gate Qui Gong and we mustn’t forget our special Taoist floor exercises or the meridian-stretching and spine-strengthening floor exercises.
There are also exercises to stimulate the flow of energy and others to slow it down. It may be that your body has enough energy, but that the quality of this energy is not particularly well-balanced, causing you to become dissatisfied, edgy, stressed and in time, ill. In addition there are exercises to cleanse the energy channels and the aura, as well as the entire energy system of both mind and body. These include an exercise known as the energy shower. There are also exercises which use a physical and mental transformation process to turn negative energies and emotions into energies which will have a positive effect on the human organism. This is called the fusion of the 5 elements.
For each sub-item there is a wealth of exercises and sets in our Health Approach to satisfy almost every need. The only problem that you as clients and we as providers have is the constant lack of time and opportunity to learn or teach all these topics.
At present we can provide courses on over 200 different subjects, each with an entirely different content. How can we even begin to offer all of these? There are only 365 days and 52 weekends in a year - the weekends being our main teaching time at present. We are planning to run special seminars on weekdays, too, perhaps on Thursdays and Fridays as a kind of ‘early weekend’. We also want to place more emphasis on holiday courses and breaks at our new headquarters in the Middle Rhine Valley.
We have attempted to sort all our courses into a list, to give you a general overview of our whole repertoire. Please don’t be alarmed by the multitude of exercises and sets on this list. You don’t have to have tried out every one in order to become or remain happy and healthy! We have only added this list to our homepage for the sake of completeness. Everyone can choose the course which most appeals to him within his favoured field.
Please understand that we can only offer a certain selection in any one year. It has not been possible up to now, for us to offer all 200 courses in one year. We are obliged to choose those themes which satisfy a majority of our clients. It may be that certain topics will not be on the agenda for several years, unless enough people can be found with a common interest to justify our offering a course.
That is why we ask you to indicate your preferences as early as possible, so that our long-term planning can incorporate as many different topics on as many dates as possible.
With the help of polls and surveys which we carry out amongst or Forum membership at regular intervals, we try to ascertain current trends in order to offer the appropriate courses, which we hope will meet the needs of as many prospective students as possible.
If your course cannot be offered at an early date, we do give you the option of private tuition on a specific subject which perhaps only you are interested in.
List of all exercises from the German Tai Chi Forum’s Health Approach
I General health exercises and health Qi Gongs
1. 8 Brocades Eight remedial breathing exercises
2. Medical Qi Gong Set of 12 exercises for the absorption and release of
earth Yin or cosmic Yang energy
3. Reclining Qi Gong Set of all 6 Qi Gongs and a joint and spine opening
4. Walking Qi Gong All 6 Qi Gong positions with steps
5. 1000 Hands Buddha in 5 sets
6. Huen Yuen Qi Gong in 10 exercises
7. Incense Qi Gong after Master Huang, Wei Lun. Consists of one set
in standing and one in sitting position, which can be
practised separately or together
8. The 10 Taoist breaths Also from Master Huang, to be practised in standing
and reclining positions
9. The 8-fold Liu He A set of 8 consecutive exercises aimed at clarifying
Ba Fa Qi Gong the internal energies in all 8 centres and at
increasingly encouraging the essential Chi to sink
10. Simple internal 10 – 15 exercises which can provide easy access to the
breathing exercises high art of internal breathing
11. Internal Breath Qi Gong 240 breaths
12. Opposite Internal Breath 80 breaths
13. Bone Breathing after Master Chia
14. Bone Marrow Qi Gong after Master Chia
15. 8-fold health exercises after the Sha family
16. The Eight Palms of after the Sha family (health-giving circle walking /
Bagua with changes Taoist walking meditation with 8 different hand
II Taoist Meditation
1. The Inner Smile Basic mediation technique
2. The Small Celestial Circuit
3. The Great Celestial Circuit
4. The Fusion of the Clearing negative emotions
5 Elements – 1
5. The Fusion of the Creative cycle of positive emotions
5 Elements – 2
6. The Fusion of the The Yin-Yang-Bridge
5 Elements – 3
7. The Girdle Meridians
8. The 3 Ascending Channels
9. Organ Clock Breathing (the great cycle)
10. Buddha Hand
III Energy Massage Techniques from China and Japan
1. Inochi Japanese meridian massage and floor exercises
2. Chi Lei Jong Abdominal massage; Skin detoxification, organ
detoxification, emotional detoxification
IV Special Exercises for Health
1. Longevity Exercises about 100 exercises for the whole body. In the style
from the Wu family of Daoist self-massage. Practised according to
body zones and limbs. From your head and hair
right down to your little toes and the soles of your feet
2. Dan Tien Alive Multiple exercises for executing physical and mental
Training circles at different levels of the body. With developing
practice all three Dan Tien centres in the body are shown
3. 10 Step Rooting Training after the Wu family, learned from Grand Master Wang
Hao Da, who died recently
4. Floor Exercises after Master Huang (spinal stretches, joint opening
exercises, stretches and breathing exercises to stimulate
the flow of energy in the meridians, executed in seated
or reclining postures)
5. Bone Breathing after Master Chia
6. Bone Marrow Qi Gong after Master Chia
This selection will definitely be added to in the future, as we continue our studies with our long-time and well-trusted Masters.