Iron Arhat Part II-A Shaolin Monk Reveals the
Heart under the Iron Shirt
By Venerable Shi Guolin (translation by Gigi Oh and Gene Ching)
As featured in Kungfu Qi Gong Magazine May / June 2003 issue
Translator’s Introduction: Venerable Shi Guolin is renowned amongst the Shaolin order for his Iron Body skills. That’s an extraordinary achievement when you think about it. It’s one thing to be honored among your peers. It’s another thing when your peers are the Shaolin monks. We asked Shi Guolin to contribute something to our last issue which focused on martial (or hard) qigong, the "iron" skills like iron body, iron fist, even iron crotch. He had so much to give that his contribution spilled over into this issue. In part I, Shi Guolin discussed several general concepts within the internal skills, its theory and wisdom, as well as his personal journey into Iron Body. He also revealed some exercises extrapolated from Xi Sui Jing (Tendon Transformation and Marrow Purification,) a method attributed to the founder of Chan Buddhism (Zen) and Kungfu, Bodhidharma. In this article, Shi Guolin defines the basic concepts of Dantien, Qi, and Qigong for Iron Body and gives some more exercises extrapolated from Yi Jin Jing (Muscle Tendon Change,) the other method attributed to Bodhidharma. According to popular belief, these two qigong methods are the symbolic foundation of all Kungfu.
The Venerable Shi Guolin on Alchemy:
Dantien, the field of alchemy:
The dantien is in between the chongmai (vital channel) and daimai (belt channel.) The chongmai begins at the baihui point (on the perineum) and ends at the weiyin point (under the nose.) The daimai forms a circle around your waist. It’s behind your navel. The ancients believed that this was the origin of reproduction, the source of male sperm and the womb of the female. In the middle of the abdomen is the qihai (sea of qi) also known as the xia dantian (lower dantien.) In between your nipples is the tanzhong point in a region known as the zhong dantien (center dantien.) In the middle of your forehead is the tianxin point (heaven heart) and that region is known as the shang dantien (upper dantien.) If you have a lot of qi in your upper dantien, your eyes will shine brightly. The center and lower dantien is where you adjust your breathing and exercise your qi to develop stronger energy.
Qi, the basic element of creation:
Qi is the smallest atomic particle, the basic element of creation. In ancient days, people believed that the universe was created by the constant changing of qi. This phenomenon was understood within traditional Chinese medicine, philosophy and religion. It’s part of the way of longevity, and the martial arts as well. All these fields share this same basic underlying concepts. The constant changing of qi creates human life and energy. The qi of the human body has different forms. The most basic are yuan qi (original) and zhen qi (real.) Yuan qi originates from prenatal qi, the essential qi that you inherit from your parents. Everyone is born with qi. But after you are born, you must cultivate and nourish your qi. It originates from your kidneys and is sent from there to every part of your body. Though qi is very fine, it is all-encompassing and powerful. Its movement is called qiji in traditional Chinese medicine. It is usually demonstrated along four different paths, ascending and descending, exiting and entering. Your yuan qi travels throughout all of your organs and meridians as its field of movement. So we can say that human life is the equivalent of the movement of yuan qi. If your yuan qi stops moving, you die.
Qigong, the method of practice:
The ancient Chinese developed qigong after a long period of fighting with nature, animals and the elements to survive. It evolved into exercise practice methods to prevent or kill disease, prolong life and strengthen your body. These methods were called by several different names: tuna, daoyin, xingqi, lianqi and neigong. In the old days before the emergence of the scientific method, people used the natural positive methods to protect themselves and survive. They also had to rely on the human body to overcome nature’s tests. People realized how important it was to seal the body from disease and make oneself stronger. They tried to increase their immunities and their strength by understanding their experiences and absorbing natural abilities.
For instance, when you are tired, you will stretch naturally. It is an unconscious action that will make you feel better. Likewise when you are in a bad mood or feel your temper about to burst, you will breathe faster. You may automatically do some deep breathing to calm yourself down. When you move something heavy, if you tighten your belt around your waist, you will feel like you have more energy there. When you do some heavy labor, shouts like "hey" come from your mouth naturally to help move your energy. So people started to realize that these habits are helpful. Gradually they were combined until the ancients arrived at methods like tuna and daoyin. Eventually these split into the different systems of qigong. Qigong can be separated into its five biggest systems: yi (medical,) ru (scholar,) shi (Buddhist,) dao (Taoist) and wu (martial.) From these five, there are many smaller branches. Among them, medical qigong has the longest history. It is mainly for preventing and curing disease and strengthening your body. Scholar qigong cultivates your body and spirit. Buddhist qigong nurtures your heart and transmits how to understand your mind. Taoist qigong develops mental and physical longevity, and also includes sexual practices. Martial qigong increases your energy, conditions your body and hones your combat skill. No matter if the purpose and practice are different, they are all based upon controlling your breathing.
Martial Qigong, the Way of Iron Hardness:
Martial Qigong has two types, donggong (moving) and jinggong (still.) Jinggong can be sitting or standing. While your outside remains still, you practice your internal qi. Donggong uses visualization, body movements and breathing combined into a form, while still training your internal qi. No matter which form you chose, you must control your breathing. Once you control your breathing, your internal qi will be even. When you are even, you will not have any blockages. If you don’t have any blockages then you have a lot of internal jing energy. In martial qigong, there is another method to control your breathing. Here is the Shaolin qigong breathing method. First you must understand the moving and still breathing methods. Stillness and motion are controlled by your mind. When your mind is still, your qi is calm. When your mind moves, your qi will reach your shaojie (tip section, mainly the hand.) Your mind is the general. When your mind gives the order, your qi moves. When you are still, you have to concentrate. When your mind moves, you must have a lot of power. When you breathe, don’t let people hear it. Your energy comes out loose first, and then tightens. Practice patiently and you’ll get it in the end.
You should practice deep breathing first. This is the starting point for internal practice. Gradually from this exercise you will be able to control your internal energy, to be tight and loose, with ease. Here are a few examples of the importance of deep breathing. When we do vigorous exercise, if our movement and breathing are not balanced, our breathing will be short and rapid. If you use deep breathing to adjust your breathing, you can decrease your shortness of breath. When your internal qi moves up and down quickly, it is hard to breathe. So the ancient ancestors said to place your qi into your dantien and it will balance your heart. And if you maintain that status then your dantien can assist your heart. So no matter how vigorously you exercise, your heart beat will be calm. Deep breathing regulates your heart beat. In martial arts exercises, we use breathing combined with your ascending and descending qi practice. When you inhale, you have to combine this with the ascending of your qi. Inhale your qi from your dantien and pull it up to your chest. By doing this, when you exhale you can also get rid or your tightness, nervousness and blockage. When you exhale, you combine this with descending your qi. Pull your qi from your chest down to your dantien again. At this moment, you have already rid yourself of your blockages, so when you descend your qi, you can send the energy out very smoothly to your body’s shaojie. No matter whether you are doing a punch or a kick, you can generate the most power in between your breathing. Before you move, you inhale first and stay loose. Then follow with your exhalation so your energy will reach your fist. When you practice qigong, inhaling and exhaling have their places. You cannot mix them up. In the exercise, your body is loose or tight. Your footwork is forward or backward. Your punch is in or out. They all have to follow your breathing technique. Remember lian qi gui hu huan ji, yong qi gui hu ji (When you practice your qi, go very slow; when you use your qi, go very fast.)