Workshop with Feng in 2001
Transcript of 2001 Workshop with Grand Master Feng
Segments from Feng Zhiqiang Workshop 2001, 7/10-14, near San Francisco.
Running translation by Brian Guan, taped by Cheryl Yonker, transcribed by Kenneth Haugan.
Note: During the workshop, the translation referred to Feng and Zhang in third-person's voice. For the purpose of publishing this transcript, the translated speech is modified to refer to them in first person.
[Feng] Qi can leak out from the perineum, there’s no way you could know, there’s no external sensation... This qi is different from the "exhaust", those coming out from the anus... You should relax the anus and let whatever leaks out leak out. So when you have very low stance, qi leaks out from the perineum. There’s no way you would know. When qi leaks out from the perineum you can never sense it. When you have very low stance the angle at the knee is too sharp. Qi doesn’t flow down very easily. We must differentiate between what is good for us and what is bad for us, and what is damaging our body and what is nurturing our body.
... Gentle practice is more effective than forceful practice. Lengthening is better than contracting. It’s not just a simple matter of health, it’s also a very good stretching exercise.
[Zhang] Some of us may have noticed Grandmaster Feng has much longer arms than the rest of us. That’s a result of practicing lengthening. Thirty years ago when we took a picture together, I noticed in the photograph that Master Feng’s arm is about one finger longer than mine.
[Feng] Chen style Taiji didn’t form magically by birth. It is formed by absorbing many schools of martial arts. "Extending is better than contracting."
[Feng] Gentle is better than forceful. Slow is better than fast. Higher stance is better than lower. That point about practicing with higher and lower stance: When you are practicing with lower stance, yes, your martial ability may increase faster, but you’re doing more damage to your own body, and you’ll never realize that you’re leaking qi. Weight on one side is better than double weighted. Even when you are standing upright, your weight should only be on one leg. When you’re standing you should be relaxed and have your weight shifting from one leg to the other, never stationary and fifty-fifty. But not too obvious, that looks too funny. Don’t let it be visible to an observer, but you should shift your weight from one leg to the other. Same thing with the foot. When you are standing you should never tighten your foot, and you should also flex it gently. Never stay in one position. Practicing in a relaxed manner is better than tensing up. [Demonstration] This is a relaxed walk. This is a tense walk. Bagua practictioners spend lots of time practicing that walk. The technical name for that walking is mud-waddling step. You can only do that stepping if you are relaxed.
Curved line is better than straight line. Even when your limbs are lengthened, they should also be curved. The body is the same. It should never be too straight. There should always be a curve somewhere. The Taiji body has five bows [Verbal clarification from translator: as in "bow" and arrow]. One arm, the other arm — two bows. One leg, the other leg, and your spine - your body. So, five bows. There is a Taiji saying that "once the body has cultivated five bows, (and can express the spring-like power) there is no equal opponent under Heaven." [Demonstration] This is one bow as well. Curving the chest is also a bow. Only by practicing in a slow and lengthening manner, you can then cultivate the spring-like energy. Something with springiness is very strong. If you drop it, it will never break. But if you have something that is hard and brittle, when you drop it it will shatter. That’s what the old martial arts masters would say. If your body has five bows and you have this spring-like power, you will have no equal opponent under Heaven. Practicing martial art, you should know the theory. Only by knowing the theory can you grasp the martial aspect of Taiji.
Again, Taiji is a long form of martial art, as in lengthening. Xingyi, on contrary, is a shorter form. Even though Xingyi is a short form of martial art, they use their body to complement the strength. They use the springy, jumpy power to complement the lack of reach. Taiji is a long form of martial art. It’s like the body of a dragon. Tongbei, another Chinese martial art, is another long form of martial art, because you are always extending your arms. Taiji absorbs the strength of all these different martial arts and forms its own unique style. This movement in our form [demonstrates], it’s from Xingyi. This [demonstrates] is from Tongbei. This is from Shaolin. This is from Preying Mantis. This is also from Preying Mantis. The elbow strikes in Taiji come from Baji. Taiji is a compound of eighteen other martial art styles. Using the theory of Taoism, I-Ching, and Chinese Traditional Medicine to form its theoretical foundation, especially yin-yang theory and the meridians in traditional medicine.
Taiji started in the Ming Dynasty, about four or five hundred years ago. There’s no guarantee if your surname is Chen that you will master this art. The five main styles of Taiji — Chen/, Yang/, Wu/, Sun-, Wu~ —all use Chen style Taiji as the main foundation. Why don’t the other styles have all these power-issuing, forceful movements? The other styles have learned the essence of Taiji, and they don’t have all the forceful movements. Some practitioners of Chen Taiji are getting more and more forceful in their movements. They have not learned the wisdom of the past masters. Yang Taiji [demonstrates] is very gentle, very big. Why don’t they do all that? Wu style Taiji [demonstrates], same thing. Very gentle, very slow. Sun style Taiji: [demonstrates] Slow and gentle too. Why do the founding masters of these other styles of Taiji encourage others to practice slow and gentle? This is evidence to support that Taiji shouldn’t be fast, shouldn’t be forceful. We must understand the basic theory of this art.
Another fact for all of us: There shouldn’t be a classification of old frame versus new frame. There is a classification system of big frame and small frame, but not new frame and old frame. Taiji from Chen Village should be classified as big frame. There is a village nearby to Chen Village called Zhaobao. Their style should be considered small frame. Both styles have their strengths and weaknesses. They all have their uniqueness. If you want to call something old frame, there is in fact such a thing as old frame, but it was before the present Taiji was formed, several hundred years ago. That is when the old masters were still experimenting with the form. [Master Feng’s] teacher told him that he is the 17th generation lineage holder of Chen Taiji, and he told him, “I’m from Chen Village, and I’m considered a grandfather generation from the Chen Village, how come people call my style new frame, and their style old frame? I don’t understand.” According to Chen Fake, there is only a differentiation of big frame and small frame, not new frame and old frame.
Our style of Taiji is called Chen style Hun Yuan Taiji. It belongs in the big frame family. Why is it called Hun Yuan? Hun Yuan symbolizes the orbital path of the sun, the moon, the constellations, the earth; when everything is moving together, it is Hun Yuan. For example, bicycles, it spins; automobiles, the wheels spin; ships, steamboats, airplanes, rockets; it’s just that they have different directions of spin. Airplanes with rotary propellers, they spin like this. Bullets from guns they also spin. When everything is spinning, it’s Hun Yuan. In our own body there is circulation of qi and blood, and they follow particular meridians. For example, up the inner leg and down the outer side. Same thing with the arms, and also around the belt meridian. When everything is circulating and spinning together, this is Hun Yuan. Nothing can leave this basic foundation. Even when we’re walking, there are also curved lines involved. Curved lines are better. Everything moves in the orbit of curved lines.
Let’s stop now. We should rest our bodies, but we should exercise our minds still.
[Feng] There’s definitely no problem, we can finish this form by the end of the workshop. And the fact that we can do it with such quality is a great improvement from what I'm used to.
[Cheryl] Thanks to Master Zhang!
[Feng] However, we should never be too proud of ourselves. Even though our external movement seems to be ok, this form is very deep. Practice diligently and hopefully one day we can do the form in such a way that whatever shape we express on the outside, the internal will follow. Only when the external and internal are synchronized can we say our form is good. And even then, if we can synchronize our internal and external, there are levels beyond that. For example, we can reach the level where we are one with Hun Yuan, as in you are moving with the universe. When you can reach the level where you are one with Hun Yuan and the universe, it’s moving and you are part of it, so even though you are not actually practicing the form you are part of the movement. What is this thing, so-called Hun Yuan Qi ball? It could be as small as a pill or as big as your body. It could move just in your dan tien or it could move all around your body as one big ball. If you can cultivate such a Taiji ball, then you can say you have succeeded. However there are still levels beyond that. Some students asked me once, "have you reached the level where you can get this one little ball of Hun Yuan qi?" I am not there yet, that’s why I am still working very hard at it. I am at the level where internal and external are synchronized. The level beyond the one concentrated ball of energy is when your three senses combine into one — the three senses are your sense of sight, sense of hearing, and sense of thought — when all three senses combine into one, you reach a spiritual level. I am not saying this to discourage you, but the level we just talked about when the three senses are mixed into one and reaching spiritual level, we may not be able to reach that in one lifetime. Only by working hard nonstop and by making progress all the time will we be able to reach there one day.
Some student asked, "what do you mean, three senses combine into one, and what sort of sensations would one experience?" The three senses are the sense of sight, hearing, and the sense of thought. If you have truly reach the level where the three senses are combined into one and become spiritual, (even though you may not get there in one lifetime), if you eventually get there, you reach such a high level that whatever you think about will appear in your sight, or whatever you want to hear you can hear it. It could be thousands of miles away, you could see whatever your heart wants to see, or you can hear whatever your heart wants to hear. This is not superstition. This is achieveable if you work at it. Work at it nonstop and one step at a time and eventually you will get there. This is not superstition, it is my belief that this is scientific. We are all human beings and the fact that we are human beings in this life proves that in our previous lives we have already been working very hard. That’s why we are human beings and not animals in this lifetime. If you stop working hard maybe you will descend down to the level of animals, but if you keep working hard maybe eventually you will get to that level. It’s not something you can buy with money.
Early on there was a student, I think it was Dennis, who was asking for some stories about Hu Yaozhen, [Editor's note: who was one of Grandmaster Feng’s significant teachers] so I'm going to tell you a little bit about Hu Yaozhen. Hu Yaozhen and Chen Fa Ke were both my teachers. Both of them reached a very, very high level in martial arts. Their personalities, their way of thinking and action, were very high and virtuous. Chen Fa Ke was from Chen Village in Hunan Province, but his level of achievment, there’s no other person from Chen Village that he has met that reached even a fraction of Chen Fa Ke’s level.
[Zhang] Master Feng is very humble, but he has inherited everything that Master Chen Fa Ke taught him — his wisdom, martial arts, and his way of life.
[Feng] Ever since I started learning from both of those masters, I have never heard them say anything negative about anybody else, and they never talked highly about themselves either. Master Chen actually had two nicknames. One of them was Chen So-so, and the other was Chen Useless. Because every time somebody praised him he would say, “I’m useless, I’m so-so.” He said it so often that people actually called him by his nicknames Chen Useless and Chen So-so. However, in martial arts publications in Japan they called Grandmaster Chen Fa Ke “the Saint of Fist”. [Translator's clarification: The Saint of Martial Arts]
Master Hu, similarly, never expressed his opinion about other people. He always said, “you’re good, he's good." He always praised everybody else. When somebody’s martial art or life style had some problems, he never said anything about it, he would just say “I don’t know.” When he saw something strong in somebody's martial art or something good in somebody's personality he would always praise them. Master Hu was a master of five arts. He was a master of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese Medicine as well as martial arts. When he meditates, I have seen him levitate for about a foot off the ground. One time he was meditating in the house and I went to visit him with some fellow students. We knew he was meditating, so we stayed outside the house, we didn’t want to go in and disturb him. However, master Hu could somehow sense that we were there, and asked us all to come in. He asked us all to come in, and said, “I’ve been meditating too long, my legs are numb, it’s all crooked, so can you all come and lift me up?” So all five of us said, oh that’s pretty easy, because all five of us were strong young men in our prime, so we said, “no problem, we can lift him up.” We tried, but couldn’t move him. After he saw us struggle, he said “Never mind, I’ll do it myself, I’m no longer numb.” He just walked down from the bed himself. While we were trying, five of us each took a limb and the other took the body, but none of us could move him. Only when he said “I’m moving myself” then he’s coming off the bed. When we were pulling him, it felt to us as if he was almost moving. We felt as if he’s giving, he’s giving, but he’s never quite coming off the bed, and when we’re out of strength he somehow moved back. It’s almost like he’s elastic. We were very puzzled why the teacher was doing this to us. The teacher said, “May be you guys are thinking too highly of yourselves. Are you very proud of yourselves, are you very proud of your strength and your achievements? But look at you, you can’t even move an old man like me, so you must go back and do some thinking. What have you done wrong?” But none of us could find our own fault at first. “I’m ok, I’m very humble, I don’t think very highly of myself.” So we tried to help each other and say, “oh, you are arrogant in this way and arrogant in that way" and we found our problems eventually. My problem was… [demonstrates] When I was young I liked to walk like that (scrowling at everybody else). Another fellow student… [demonstrates] ... full of himself. Another one… [demonstrates] He’s never sincere, he’s always too smiley-faced on the outside. That’s how the teacher taught us to be humble. The lesson was to teach us that “you haven’t learned a lot yet and you’re already so proud of yourself, you already have developed so many problems, how can you move beyond your present level?”
In my memory, both masters have never hurt anybody. Whenever they took on challengers, they always defeat them without hurting them. Other martial arts schools in Beijing gave Master Chen a signboard that said he is Taiji 1, as in Taiji first person, meaning there’s nobody else higher than him in Taiji. Everybody thought he would be happy with such praises. However, Master Chen wasn’t happy at all, he was very upset. He took that signboard and hid it under his bed. People asked him, "You should hang it up. Why do you hide it under your bed?" He said, "I’m not the only one doing Taiji, lots of people are doing Taiji, I’m not the “only one” in Taiji" (a possible literal translation of the words on the signboard). All these stories are quite well-known, widely spread, even in Japan. That’s why they call him the Saint of Martial Arts.
Grandmaster Hu, on the other hand was called “the God of Fist” [Translator's clarification: The God of Martial Arts] His level of achievement was also very well known, not only in martial arts, but also in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Traditional Medicine. There was an aura... he gave out a visible aura when he meditates. His scholarship in Confucianism was very well known, his definition of Kindness, Righteousness, Way/Truth, Virtue was considered to be the best in the field. His knowledged of medicine is also very, very deep. I have seen two or three patients who came to visit him, and they were so ill they couldn’t walk any more, they basically came in a cart. Master Hu just poked two needles into them and they all walked home by themselves. Those patients called him the God-doctor. He wasn't just using needles when giving acupuncture, he used his qi, and he drove it all the way into the patient. Sometimes he could foretell things before they happened. There are certain things I probably should not tell you today, but I would say one thing: Master Hu is not a normal person. For example, I was introduced to Master Chen Fa Ke by Master Hu. I told Master Hu, “I don’t like Taiji.” But Master Hu said, “His Taiji is good.” So I asked Master Hu, “How come you know his Taiji is good?” Master Hu said, “Well I don’t know him yet.” At that time they didn’t know each other. Then I asked, “In that case how do you know his Taiji is good?” Master Hu said, “I’ve seen him at night,” without saying anything further. My theory is that he was able to do some sort of out-of-body visit when he was meditating. Master Hu basically persuaded me to go and see Master Chen. “You just go and have a look-see. If you like it, I’ll write a letter of recommendation for you.” So I went to visit Master Chen, and I was very, very impressed. So that’s how I meet Master Chen and joined his school. So it was through Master Hu's introduction that I get to know Master Chen Fa Ke. Before Master Chen, the type of Taiji I have seen were what I saw in parks done by old people, which was very soft and not very good. It was only through Master Hu’s introduction to Master Chen that I started doing Chen Taiji.
Questions and Answers session on the last day of the workshop
[Brian] We have a question on standing meditation. Basically, how should we stand? Any tips on standing? Some students have experienced interesting phenomena like uncontrollable shaking, whether that's good or bad, and whether we should do anything about it
[Feng] Everyone, greetings. This is a good question. Standing posture is Wuji, [Translator note: as in "ultimate nothing"]. Standing posture is posture of Wuji. Wuji is the state before Heaven and Earth was formed, when everything was in the primordial soup, when yin and yang were not differentiated. Wuji is silence, not moving, is quiet, whereas Taiji, the name of our practice, is opposite. Even though it looks as if standing posture/standing meditation there's no movement, however inside, just like in the primordial soup, there's always something, there's always something moving. When the internal subtle movement suddenly reaches critical level, then there's a Big Bang. That's when the light stuff floats up and the heavy stuff sinks down. And those that floats up form the heaven, and things that condenses become the Earth. The Big Bang essentially causes Taiji to happen. Taiji is yin and yang, the interplay between yin and yang. Between the interplay of yin and yang, everything else in this world is born. Without Taiji there's nothing, there's not even us. Everything, all life forms. Plants, animals. Human being are at the top of the animal kingdom, we are spiritual beings. The relationship between Heaven, Human, and Earth is the three pillars of the universe. Basically, from Wuji, even though there's no apparent movement, there's always something happening internally. When the time is right, the universe is formed, and Taiji is born. Same thing when we're doing standing meditation. There's no apparent movement, but there's always a little subtle shift. And after you've been doing it for a while you could generate so much energy in your body that you'd just have to move, that's the time for you to start doing your form. Within Wuji, even though the external is without motion, inside there is the beating of the heart, the circulation of blood, the flowing of chi. So within the motionless external something is contained inside that is moving.
From Wuji, (Ultimate Nothingness) the one, Taiji, (Ultimate Everythingness) is born. When Taiji is born, it separates into LiangYi (Two Forms): Yin and Yang. When Yin and Yang is seperated, then we have SanCai (Three Grouping): Heaven, Earth, and spiritual beings like Human. Then, we have SiXiang (Four Signs). Then WuXing (five elements): metal, earth, fire, water, wood. Five Elements can be used as a broad classification of many things, including our internal organs like liver (wood), heart (fire), kidney (water), spleen (earth), lung (metal). In our form the five elements can be interpreted as forward, backward, left, right, and center. The four signs are North, South, East, West. Within our body, the four signs can also signify the limbs, two arms, two legs. After five elements, comes the six harmonies, or the six couplings. The six couplings are: North and South couples; East and West couples; top and bottom couples. That is the generic six couplings. Within our form, the six couplings are: shoulder and kua; elbow and knee; wrist and ankle. There are a lot more numbers with significance beyond six. We probably won't go over all of them, but we can talk a little bit about QiXing (seven stars). Heaven has a significant constellation called seven stars, the Big Dipper, which is used to defined direction of Heaven, but in our form the seven stars can be seven points of contact in the technique Step Up Seven Stars, i.e. the 2 elbows, 2 fists, knee, feet, and your head. After seven stars we can talk about the BaGua (eight trigrams). The eight trigrams is on our logo, each trigram has three horizontal lines. They mark the eight directions. After the four "proper" directions are defined, the four diagonals are therefore differentiated. After we talk about the eight trigrams, we can also talk about JiuGong (Nine Palaces). The nine palaces are the eight trigrams, plus you in the middle as the ninth palace. So on and so forth. From nine becomes ten, and ten is the turning point. It's when the circle goes back to zero, as in, WuJi.
Let's go back to the standing meditation and involuntary movement. Not everyone will experience it. Some people will experience different feelings, different sensations, when your qigong practice is up to a certain level. Movement is one of them. It's normal to move. However, do not seek movement for its own sake. The movement is a side effect. What we want to do is keep our attention, our intention, within our DanTien, and let the movement be. If the movement continues without bothering you, that's fine. But if it gets bigger and bigger, then you should use your will power, your mind, to tell it "look, just stop it; don't move." Usually that will take away or control the movement. However if the movement is so big that it's beyond your control, then it's time to stop. You should do the DanTien turning exercise, gathering all the Qi that is wandering about back into your DanTien, and stop doing QiGong. Some movements are actually good phenomena. However we should not seek the phenomena. We should just focus on practicing QiGong. So some of the good phenomena are: If you are doing qigong and breathing, it is as if your whole body is expanding and contracting, as if you are breathing with your whole body. That kind of movement, regular movement, is good for your. Another type of good movement is, when you are breathing in, you are feeling as if your stomach is going in so flat it is almost touching your back, and when you are breathing out, your stomach is going forward. And again, this controllable, regular movement is good for you. Those are good movements. Another good feeling is, when you are breathing in, you feel as if all the blood and all the energy in your body get concentrated into you dan tien, and when you're breathing out all the energy goes all the way out to the tip of your limbs. That's also a type of movement sensation that is good. Other types of feelings are sensations, as if you can see, even with your eyes closed, as if the sun is in front of you, or a bright light. Or in your stomach, a bright ball. Or if you feel as if your whole stomach is transparent. Those are good feelings, well-known good phenomena. Whether it's Wuji-standing causing that kind of feeling or doing Taiji and getting that kind of feeling, it's all caused by the inner light, and is also a direct result of your practice. It's good.
[Brian] The next question is about breathing. How should we breathe, when standing, when doing the form, when doing qigong?
[Feng] Breathing when doing standing meditation: What we should pay attention to is not the actual action of breathing. You shouldn't be trying to breath, like draw in lots of air and breathe out lots of air. That's not the main thing. What you should be doing is thinking about breathing. So you use your mind and intention to focus on breathing, and not the physical action of breathing. When we are doing qigong we should be breathing in when we are opening, and breathing out when we are closing. It should be gentle with very, very light breathing as if you are breathing in a thread of air. You are breathing in through the nose, and when you are breathing in the tongue should be touching the upper palate. When you are breathing out, the tongue shoud come down and touch the lower palate, and again, breathe out through the mouth as if you are breathing out a thread of air. However in some movements in qigong the the opening and closing is not that obvious, or one side is opening and the other is closing, so it's not that obvious what to do with breathing. In those movements you shouldn't be focusing on the breathing. You should think about the movement itself. [demonstrates] That was an example of one of the movements in qigong that has no obvious breathing implication. So what should your mind be thinking? Your mind should be thinking of the action, as well as visualizing that you are gathering energy from your surroundings and depositing it into your dan tien.
[Brian] Next question: If we've learned Taiji for awhile, we cover lots of material. And we being normal people, we have a life, so we never have enough time to practice it all. So can Master Feng suggest some sort of timetable, schedule, or exercises for various lengths of time, like if you only have five minutes a day what do you do? If you have ten minutes a day, thirty minutes, one hour, what do you do? And related to that, classic textbooks tell us that the old Chen masters did their forms thirty times a day. Is that possible? How did they do it?
[Feng] Good question. Yes we are all normal people, we never have enough time. However, we are more than normal people, even though we are normal people. Even though we are normal people, we are practicing Taiji, which is part of DaDao (the Grand Way) of Heaven and Earth, of Yin and Yang. Therefore we are more than normal. No matter what exercise we do, within all those things we've learned, what we're doing is cultivating and nurturing our body and our mind.
If we have limited time, what should we do on a daily basis? You should at least cover two things: One is qigong, as many movements as you can do, and then the 24-form. However if you don't even have time to cover those two things, what you can do is, put the 24 aside and concentrate on a subset of qigong exercises. And those examples he was showing us, "Heaven open, Earth close," or "Earth open, Heaven close," that's one. Or "double hand open-close," that's another one. So if you do those, that's ok. But you need to do more than nine repetitions if you just want to do one thing. And he's suggesting a few hundred repetitions. At least a hundred times or two hundred times. He's saying that because qigong is the foundation, is the core of our practice, if you don't have time for anything else, then do the core. However, it's best that you try to put aside at least an hour a day to do qigong as well as the 24.
An example of somebody who benefited from qigong is a forty-something year-old rich businessman in ShanDong province. He had liver cancer, and modern medicine couldn't help him. He went and visited lots of sacred places - Shaolin Temple, Wudang Mountain - seeking out priests and wise men all over the place, and it wasn't helping. However, he met me and started practicing Hun Yuan Qigong, and he did it very diligently, more than an hour a day - he practiced qigong and form everyday, and within a year he got rid of his liver cancer, and his doctor was amazed and shocked. He told the doctor that he didn't do it with medicine, and the doctor didn't want to believe him. Anyway, we visited him, Chen Xiang and I visited him only recently. Next time if you ever get to Shantung Province, I think we can all visit him. He has a factory. In his factory he has about two thousand workers. He's telling all his workers to practice qigong at the beginning of the day every day. If they don't do it he doesn't allow them to get to work. I said to him, "You shouldn't have to force people, it should be on a voluntary basis," but the guy said "No, no way, I'm going to force all of them to do it. Because by doing that, I'm saving on medical benefit bills by several tens of thousands of dollars every year!"
[Brian] Next question is about women and Taiji. This question is for Grandmaster Feng, as well as Master Siu Fang. How should women practice Taiji, and what is the difference between women's and men's practice, and whether Master Siu Fang has any words of wisdom or perspective about women doing Taiji.
[Siu Fang] In principle there's not any big difference. So if body permitting, you should practice more, as much as men. But if you're not feeling well, you can reduce the amount of practice.
[Feng] Men are yang and women are yin, and we are different in that way. The left side of our body is yang, and the right side of our body is yin. And men, being yang, we have much more yang than yin in general, and women the opposite. What we are doing, we want to balance our yin and yang within our body, and that's the purpose of our exercise. So for example, when we are doing the turning to gather and collect chi back to dan tien, men want to draw from our side with excess, and use it, guide it to supplement the deficient side, which is the yin side, the feminine side. Women are spinning the other way for the same reason. Your yin is stronger than your yang, therefore you want to draw from your yin side to supplement your yang side.
The location of dan tien for women is slightly different than men. For men, the upper dan tien is in our skull, right behind this point in our forehead. The name-there are several names- ZuQiao could be translated as ancestors' cavity. And if you draw a vertical line from BaiHui, which is the top of your head, and where they meet, inside of your skull, is the location of your upper dan tien. This point is also called, in Buddhism, the "eye of wisdom", and that's why some Buddha's have three eyes, and some people giving initiation ceremonies want to draw a dot on that point.
Yesterday we talked about the three senses becoming one, when your Taiji or your practice is at a very advanced level. The three senses are the sense of hearing, the sense of sight, and the sense of thinking. When these three senses are combined into one and reached a spiritual state, then your third eye, or your eye of wisdom, will be opened. You can basically see whatever your heart wishes to see, or whatever your heart wishes will happen. At our level we shouldn't spend too much time training and cultivating the upper dan tien. If your foundation is no good and you try to do a lot of head dan tien, upper dan tien work, it's very easy to cause damage, and the types of damage you can cause basically affects your mind, or you can simply just have a big headache. At our level, the Upper DanTien is still useful to us, when we're doing qigong we use it as a gateway. For certain exercises we use it as a gateway to collect qi and use it only in that manner, because after passing through that gateway we want to store the collected qi in your dan tien, your middle dan tien. And you should never, at our level, use it as an energy storage area. That's why every time, at the end of certain sets of movement or the end of the form, we do this a lot. [Demonstration] We want to make sure no wandering qi lingers in the upper dan tien, and we want to guide it down where it should be, which is the middle dan tien, the reservoir of energy. The upper dan tien should be the house of your spirit. It shouldn't be the reservoir of your qi at our level.
The middle dan tien, however, could be worked on as often as you can. You can use it to store qi, you can use it to nurture your qi, basically you can use it to collect qi. And when you have good collection of qi, like big amount of energy in your dan tien, it will naturally become a big source of spirit that you can use. That is why we talked a lot about the three dan tiens, the upper dan tien being the dan tien for spirit, the middle dan tien being the dan tien for qi energy, and the lower dan tien being the dan tien or reservoir for essence, as in bodily fluids i.e. semen. That is why the ancients say, if your lower dan tien is full, as in you have good collection of essence, then your energy will naturally be full, and if your energy is full, then your spirit is full. It's a natural progression, so the old Taoists would train or practice or meditate to make sure that their essence could be abstracted into qi and qi abstracted into energy.
For men, the location of our middle dan tien is right behind our navel. It's about an inch and a half. The location of lower dan tien is at the perineum, it's between your genitals and your anus. And from that soft spot go up about about one and a half inches. That's the location of your lower dan tien. Those two locations are for men only. The location for upper dan tien is the same for both gender. For women the location of your middle dan tien is not behind your navel. Rather, it's in the middle, in the center between your breasts. Your lower dan tien is in your womb. However, for women, you don't want to store qi, and collect qi directly to your middle dan tien. It is safer to collect qi behind your navel still, and when you have good collection, when the qi is full, it will naturally rise up to the location of your middle dan tien. If you start by building up the female middle dan tien, it will affect you negatively, you will have some sort of pressing sensation on your chest. In Taoism, men are considered yang creatures and women are considered yin creatures. However, the finer point is that men are yang on the outside but yin on the inside, and women are yin on the outside and yang on the inside. So in theory, in terms of speed of progression in QiGong, women should be faster than men. So under the same conditions and circumstances, women in general will progress much faster than men, and usually will live longer life than men. Women have yang on the inside, that's where the draw their power from, so if they really train as hard as the men, they'll get there faster than us.
[Brian] This next question. At first I tried to censor it. I thought well, some guy was just asking, you know, a stupid question. However, I got the same question more than a few times. So I said, well, enough people are interested in this topic, we should then ask it. It's about sex and Taiji. Should you do it? Is there a need for moderation? Is there a difference between men and women?
[Feng] If you are a young man and you don't practice qigong, well you do it once every two or three days, that's fine. However if you start practicing qigong and you are serious about your qigong, then at most you do it once every ten days, and in theory you should stop three days before it and five days after. So basically you shouldn't do any serious qigong practice for three days before it, as in you have to plan for it, and then five days after you don't do it. For women it doesn't matter as much. But they should avoid doing QiGong three days before and five days after their menstrual period.
[Brian] How about if you retain your semen?
[Feng] If you can do that, then yes, you don't have that restriction… If you are able to retain your semen, if you have that ability, what you should do after sex is to massage your lower abdomen and rub it or wash it with warm water to calm down the buildup. Otherwise there will be some sort of blockage.
[Brian] Ok, now the last question, and I think after the last question we should call it a day, because there are too many questions. The last question or request is, we want Master Feng to recount when he first met Master Zhang.
[Feng] Whatever Zhang told us, it's the same thing. [laughter]
[Feng] When I first met Master Zhang, I heard that he's from Shantung Province. My impression of ShanDong people is, ShanDong is a province full of warriors, because Shantung people are always very martial. ShanDong men are usually straight shooters. Their mouth will say exactly what their heart thinks, and it's very fast. Whatever their heart thinks, they will say it immediately. And usually, they are good people, too. I met Zhang through Zhang's old teacher's recommendation, Chen Zhaokui, and another teacher Li Rui Yen. LRY is the god-daughter of Chen Fa Ke. When we first met, we bonded very well. We like to go to little street-side stalls and eat spicy tripes, spicy pork stomachs, and drink some. My impression of Zhang was very good. We use to hang out together and practice together. However, afterwards he came to America, then we have less contact. However, I like what he has achieved here - you are the result of his work - I'm very happy to see the result of his work. I hope you can all stay united and advance the teaching of Taiji, and contribute to the well being of man kind.
[Feng] This workshop is almost like for family. You are very close. You tried very hard to do cost containment. When I visited Japan and Europe the workshops had several hundred people, sometimes even thousands, so there's not much time for such intimate talk and practice.
[Zhang] This workshop is essentially for my students only. And a lot of material we cover and a lot of opinions we express, is only for us only. Usually Master Feng doesn't want to talk about such things in normal, open workshops. When he gave lectures in Hong Kong and Japan, it's for thousands of people, and the organizers sell tickets to such events. When he was giving lectures in China, sometimes even in universities, well-known universities like Beijing University, QinHua University… These are top universities in China, and he was invited there as a guest speaker, and he just went there without a prepared speech written up, and he just stood up there and talked for two hours nonstop. So he shocked all the university lecturers, they were frantically taking notes. I wasn't there, but Feng's third daughter told me, "my father was incredible, he just stood up there and talked to university lecturers for two hours nonstop."
This workshop is very unique, very special. We've been hoping for Master Feng's visit for more than four years, and planning for it, and there were lots of reasons it didn't happen before in the previous years. We don't want to talk about those reasons. Now that he's here, we are all very happy. However, Grandmaster Feng is a very busy person. He has many titles and many responsibilities back in China. For instance, he is Vice President of the Chinese Institute of Martial Arts. And they have lots of events to attend like meetings, and meetings, and meetings. I understand the situation, and that's why every time we have students who want to go to China and ask to visit Master Feng, I always told them not to. Basically, Grandmaster Feng is so busy, I don't want any of my own students to go and disturb him. Sometimes we have students who go and visit Master Feng somehow, and basically just sit there and overstay their welcome sometimes, and disturb his rest, I don't want that to happen. That's why this workshop has been planned in such a way that we have lots of material to cover, but we have ample rest in between. We want to preserve not just the living treasure of China, but the living treasure of humanity.
[Feng] All things in the universe conform to the theory of Hun Yuan. It's circulation, it's everything.. That cannot escape the principle. Our form of Taiji reflects that. And also, our form of Taiji is trying to show the original face, the root of Taiji.
[Zhang] I want to add to the last question that you've asked. I know Master Feng for about forty years, and over the past forty years we have been great friends, and the relationship has always been good. Even after I left China to come to the U.S., my heart is still in Beijing, and I always thought about going back to China. However, my work here is not done. Master Feng cares a lot about his students. Every time I visit him in China, he always sends his greetings to us.
Basically that's it, that's the end of the workshop, however, I want to add that I am very happy that you've learned a lot, and you've shown great improvement over the last few days. However, I feel that my burden is heavy, because you've learned all these materials, and you need to "keep and remember" them. And when Master Feng's left America and gone back to China, it will be my work to basically help you out.
The reason why we want to form the American chapter of the Feng Zhiqiang Taijiquan Academy is that when Master Feng is not in the U.S., we as an organization, can continue to work on studying this body of knowledge, and we should all help each other in our studies.
Well, that's it for the workshop, and I wish everybody good health and happiness!