The following article was written for a book to be compiled by Qigong Master Sunny Lu.
Like it has in many other countries, Qigong has started to move in the right direction in New Zealand, so yes, we are in the world game of promoting the practicing of Qigong!
In October 1989 the New Zealand Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine Association (NZQ & TCMA) was established with the purpose of offering practitioners of different modalities of Chinese therapies and therapy exercises, a nationwide ground for sharing information.
Qigong was known firstly as part of the Chinese Martial Arts. This has been the same understanding in NZ with many Kung Fu, Taichi and Wushu clubs teaching Qigong as part of their training methods for decades. For the future of Qigong, however, it needs to be seen as an ancient practice for health, well-being and inner peace in its own right, as well as a practice to improve inner power.
In the 1980s the Chinese government opened its view regarding the practice and promotion of Qigong methods. This helped Qigong to openly develop into different areas including the research of the effectiveness of Qigong and its relationship to traditional Chinese medicine. From this time the number of practitioners increased from thousands to millions worldwide, and Qigong as a complementary therapy is now offered in hospitals. From the academic point of view, universities have set up degrees, masters and PhD courses both inside and outside of China.
For the Chinese government it was important to demystify this ancient practice of Qigong. By doing this, the followers of Qigong were divided into two main groups. The first group are more focused on the proven medical science and modern concepts, as well as the Traditional Chinese medicine theories. These people took Qigong as therapeutic exercises and methods of moving the Qi (life force) in the body, stressing the aspects of health and relaxation.
The second group are those who still see it as a spiritual practice and still believe in the interconnection of the human Qi with the celestial and terrestrial energies.
Regardless of health reasons or spiritual reasons, the practice of Qigong places great importance on the mind, which is to say the different methods of taking the mind to states of calmness and tranquility.
In modern science it is now well proven that the regular practice of Qigong stimulates the function of the nervous system, more specifically the autonomic nervous system, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal systems and even the digestive system. The other aspect both groups share clear views on is the importance of the cultivation of morals, ethics and virtues that really make sense to any human being regarding of ethnicity, religious believes etc.
In conclusion these aspects could perhaps be best summarised in these simple and clear sentences…
“Think well, breathe well, stretch well, eat well and sleep well, relate to others well”.
In our organisation NZQ & TCMA we have practitioners with regular and well established classes of Qigong, Qigong Clinic practices of diverse Qigong methods, such as Tian Quan Gong, Zhineng Qigong, Jiansheng Qigong, Daoyin Yang Sheng Gong, Tao Motion to mention just a few that we have represented in the association all working together for the benefit of all communities in the country.
As an organisation we are members of the Natural Health Practitioners NZ and representatives to the World Academic Society of Medical Qigong. We run events and activities such a free Qigong Open Day, there is a regular newsletter, and we have set up an accreditation process for both Medical Qigong Therapists, and Qigong Exercise Instructors. This will benefit the instructors and therapist to run their classes and practices.
With the increased awareness of complementary health therapies, social media and internet promotion, each year there are more and more people who are inquiring about Qigong classes, therapy, events and activities. We are living in a world these days where you don’t need to walk the hard yards because information is available at the click of a mouse.
In the next 5 years the plan is to have regular classes, events and Qigong clinics in all corners of the country. In order to achieve these we will set up a strategic plan of development that includes increased membership in general, as well as bringing in more instructors and therapists to work along with other Chinese Medicine organisations nationally and internationally.
At the time of my arrival in NZ 17 years ago, the number of Chinese people living in the country was not one quarter of what it is now. With the increase of the Chinese population the interest in the different aspects of Qigong from New Zealanders, has given Qigong a bright future here.
In December 1996 I arrived in NZ after 4 years postgraduate full time studies at the prestigious Beijing Sports University, where I took papers in Wushu, Taiji Quan as well as Qigong and TCM theory, Tuina (Therapeutic Massage) and a short course in acupuncture. I worked for the New Zealand Kung Fu Wushu Federation as national Wushu and Taiji Quan coach for 4 years.
I established my own organisation in the year 2000, looking for a new independent life running Wushu, Taiji Quan and Qigong classes and in 2008 I opened my Qigong Clinic private practice.
For more than 20 years I have been studying, practicing and researching different Qigong methods and schools of Qigong along with other body therapies. Based on my personal experience I always recommend the solo practice of Qigong as part of the therapy and health programme. I teach specific Qigong exercises to help prolong the benefits of the therapies.
The outcome when Qigong therapy is combined with the solo Qigong exercises is better, especially the satisfaction of patients who incorporate Qigong into their daily lives.
As a Qigong instructor I teach several Qigong methods to suits the needs and interest of my students.
I am currently practicing and studying Tian Quan Gong under the guidance of Master Sunny Lu. This is a method that has consolidated many of my theories about Qigong and I have been using this strong internal energy that I accumulate in my Qigong clinic with patients.
It has been interesting to hear the feedback from the patients about how they feel the difference since I started applying the medical Tian Quan Gong methods!
Qigong can be practiced at any stage of life, regardless of a person’s medical condition. Let’s work together for health, well-being and inner peace for all of us.
New Zealand Qigong & TCM Association, President
Wushu Culture Association & Qigong Clinic, Director
The World Wushu Championships. How exciting, and yet scary at the same time. I had been chosen as one of the athletes to represent New Zealand at this event in November of 1999. Finally, I would have the opportunity to put all the training and effort to the test.
We arrived in Hong Kong, tired after the 10 hour flight, to be greeted with wide smiles from members of the Hong Kong Wushu Union, (the organisation running the event). Not a lot feels better than arriving in a new and strange country, than being greeted by friendly people who are there to help you and take care of you. These same people proved to be invaluable in lending assistance to the team the whole time we were in their country.
We arrived in Hong Kong two days prior to the competition start but our coach, Mr Orlando Garcia, made sure we spent that time productively, by ensuring we did our training. Each morning at around 6 a.m., the team met in the foyer of the hotel, walked to Kowloon Park, (around two mins away), and spent about 1.5 hours training. As a beginner at Taiji, it provided me with the opportunity to witness the large numbers of Hong Kong residents who practise Taiji and Qi Gong in the mornings.
On the evening of the second day, there was a welcoming dinner for all the teams who had arrived. This was great, as the Hong Kong Wushu Union also provided us with some entertainment. This included a traditional Irish dancing demonstration by one of our team members, and the male members of the New Zealand team, doing a Haka. What an awesome sight! They topped off the evening.
The third day in Hong Kong, we were able to actually go to the competition venue (Hong Kong Colosseum), to train. Walking into the stadium was incredible. The seating just seemed to go higher and higher and made the place feels incredibly large. That was the first psychological hurdle to get over. The second, was when you saw the other teams training. All of a sudden all that training you did, didn’t quite feel enough. After getting over that initial shock, focus was on what we were there to do. Try out the mats, and get the feel of what it would be like to perform on them. The afternoon was spent back at the Colosseum, watching the other teams training. Watching the China team was absolutely incredible. It is great to watch those whose National sport it is, do it with such ease. It also shows that time spent training and practicing, and the psychological attention that these athletes give to their sports, really does make a huge difference. They provided me with the incentive and motivation to push myself further, and to really strive to achieve something near what they have.
The evening of the third day was the official opening ceremony. It started with all the teams marching in, the official speeches, and the raising of the flags. Then came the amazing part – a display by the Shanghai Wushu Team and Tao Monks from Mount Wu Dang. If ever there was something to dream about achieving, what we saw here, was it! The skills these people showed us left me for one, dumbstruck! Then Andy Lau, (famous Hong Kong film star), sang a song, while the Hong Kong Youth Wushu team, did a display. Again, an inspiration. The time that these children must have put into their training could teach us all a few things.
All days of the competition were spent at the Colosseum, supporting and cheering on our fellow team mates. When we didn’t have any members competing, most of us went to watch the other events and the other teams. You need to watch them, to get a feeling of what really is entailed in this sport, and what it means to the people who are involved in it.
There were several things that I gained from going to these championships. One of these was the realisation that no matter what country you come from, or what languages you speak, we all have the common language that is Wushu. That is how many of us communicated with each other. Other things that I gained included the reinforcement of the importance of both physical and mental training. These go hand in hand, especially when competing at an International level. But if nothing else, the competition left me with an appreciation of just what the human body can achieve.
As a final note, I would like to express my gratitude to our coach, Mr Orlando Garcia. Without his skills, or his time and effort, and the considerable patience that he has with his athletes, I would never have got to go to Hong Kong, to compete in these Championships.
Let’s start from the beginning:
The character Wu pronounced Bu in Japanese or Moo in Korean which we now translate as “martial” actually breaks down to two radicals meaning “don’t use the weapon” or “no violence”. This character is made up of two radicals. The character zhi which means “prohibited” or “not to” and the character ge a weapon for chariot fighting dating back over 3,000 years.
The character gong as in gongfu (also known as kung for kung-fu) is translated as “effort” or “special skill”. It breaks down into the two radicals of gong – work and li – strength. The character fu (the second part of gongfu) indicates a man, but the philosophical explanation shows a person of higher learning or one who transcends the heaven – they have learned to dominate the three levels of Earth, nature and heaven.
It breaks down into da – litirally translated as “big” – the king of nature is a person, tian – “heaven” and the person who transcends heaven is the fu. (This fu is used in the word for priest in Chinese but different from the fu in Shifu or sifu – a Chinese term for teachers.)
These words are related to the origin of martial arts according to the Chinese and the history and development of Chinese martial arts.
These concepts of no violence and effort developed alongside the ethics and morals of the people involved in self-cultivation – what martial arts is about to me.
Take the Samurais, Japanese warriors, the Warang dos, Korean warriors or the Shaolin Monks of China. All of them with something in common beyond high levels of martial arts skills. All of them had a profound code of ethics, morals and conduct – The Martial Virtues (Wude).
Wushu follows these ethics and morals in the same way that Japanese, Korean and other martial arts systems follow theirs. To take a page from a book written by Wu Bin:
Chinese wushu embodies a profound philosophy and a sense of human life and values. (Some people therefore call it philosophic boxing). It emphasises traditions, experience, rational knowledge and wisdom. All of which are clearly reflected in the martial ethics of wushu. That’s why it can display the oriental civilisation via combat skills and become an inexhaustable treasure of the human body culture.
As a form of social ideology, morality differs in different historical periods. It is the summation of the code of conduct of a given society for the adjustment of the relationships between man and man; and between man and the society.
Generally speaking, it evaluates man’s behavior and adjusts each other’s relations with such concepts as good and evil, justice and injustice, fairness and partiality, and honesty and dishonesty.
Wushu for instance is a system of skills and theories the Chinese people have developed through their struggle with nature and in the course of their social life, for combat (protection) and to promote health and improve one’s temperament.
Combat in the usual sense means violence, bloodshed and death. For this very reason, few of the various combative techniques and skills in the world are combined with morals.
On the contrary, Wushu has been influenced ever since its birth by moral principles and has developed a complete code of moral behavior.
Martial ethics WU DE, formed in such a Chinese cultural enviroment, has become a distinct feature of Wushu and is an essential part of the study and understanding of Chinese martial arts.
The main points of Martial Ethics in Wushu are:
- Respect for Human Life;
- Emphasis on Moral Principles;
- Emphasis on Moral Conduct and Manners;
- Respect for the Teacher and Care for Each Other;
- Modesty and Eagerness;
- Freedom form Personal Grudges;
- Persistance and Perseverance.
Chinese Wushu masters insist that a student should learn to know the etiquette before learning martial arts. There are various rules for manners and behaviors before or after the skills. They embody the modesty and manners of the performers, mark a good start of a practice routine to be executed, demostrate the aims of the different schools of boxing, and give an outline of its soul and spirit.
(China Wushu Series – Essentials of Chinese Wushu)
Control and Energy
One of the main ideas which runs through these ethics is control. Freedom from domination by emotion. A martial artist may train in techniques, but the founding principle is that they must be able to dominate their emotions or reactions when choosing how or when to use those techniques.
In addition, wushu is not only ethics and martial skills. It is also about the stimulation and cultivation of internal energy. It is about putting your body, mind and spirit in harmony with Heaven and Earth. For that reason, wushu movements cannot be only fighting techniques. They must also be energetically balanced to get the level of skill we have heard about in stories of past masters, a level that only very few people achieve.
To answer the question …
In the modern world, martial arts is often mis-identified as something solely for self-defence or fighting, and many people started it for that. But after years of practise, those same people will say that they do not continue it for that reason, but rather because of the way of life it shows. So, are all fighting systems martial arts? I think not.
The Chinese word wushu means “martial arts” and is used in China to talk about all of the Chinese martial arts schools, including Taiji Quan. In this article, I would like to explain how Chinese martial arts systems work in terms of content (elements within systems) and system (the different training methods used to practise and develop the skills).
When you start in a school of wushu, you should expect to encounter all these elements:
- Wude – Ethics, Etiquette, Protocols and Morals and specific rules and regulations according to the instructor, system;
- Nei Gong – Breathing and Internal Development Skills;
- Jiben Gong – Basic footwork, hand techniques, kicking, grappling and weapons techniques;
- Taolu – Empty hand and weapons set routines of varying difficulty and complexity of technique;
- Dui Lian - Two-person practice in empty hands and weapons or a combination of both;
- Yongfa - Application;
- Sanshou - Sparring.
The order in which the content is taught will depend on the individual instructor. Maybe they will teach a form then application and then two-person sparring before moving on to the next form, or they may keep the student learning many techniques through their forms and only later explain the application in detail.
Wude – A wushu school typically would start with an introduction to the basic protocols and etiquette, morals and behaviour before, during and after training. This may take the form of a teacher refusing to teach you if they consider your behaviour inappropriate, or waiting to see what kind of person you are before deciding to teach you directly. In a modern context, a teacher may well explain what they expect of you.
One of my teachers in the Temple of the Moon Park in Beijing didn’t teach me anything at all for the first two months. I was left to follow my classmates who I received instruction from. It was only later that I understood that this had been a probationary period in which my teacher was testing my intention and commitment to learning the system.
Equally, when you walk in to a school to be registered for your wushu training, one of the first thing they ask you is your name, contact details and what you do. This is a different way of getting a general idea of what kind of person you are and your intentions of learning. The teacher will then make a decision about whether they want to teach you or not.
Nei Gong – Wushu schools differ from other disciplines in that they develop their internal energy through the stimulation of the qi (vital energy). This is necessary to achieve “gong-fu” skills and inner harmony. Nei Gong skills vary depending on the wushu school and most of them are integrated with the basic techniques or stances. In Taiji Quanthe “standing like a tree” exercise would fall into this category, holding the horse-riding stance (mabu) in Hongjia, holding Santishi in Xingyi quan (Mind and Will boxing), or “walking the circle” practise of Bagua Zhang. Schools which demand extra agility or strength may have additional “light skills” Qing-gong or “iron shirt” Yin-gong skills.
Jiben gong – These are the elementary skills which move from stances, transition stances, stepping techniques, sweeping techniques, grabbing and holding with leg, stamping, grinding, tripping and locking techniques and all the different kicking techniques. These are accompanied by hand and arm skills – punching, thrusting, cutting, grabbing, locking, slapping, pushing, pulling, parrying, blocking, intercepting etc. Some schools will also demand other basics such as break-falling (Ditanquan) and jumping (Shaolinquan).
Taolu – These are the set routines or the combinations of the basic skills and techniques. They are oriented towards helping the students remember and practise the different skills in an efficient way. This also helps to develop the intention and mind training – visualising the opponent. All of the previous exercises are not enough unless you combine them with hard forms training.
Dui Lian – Two-person exercises are part of all the wushu schools in one way or another. The dui lian of the different wushu schools should not be confused with the dui lian for competition. The aim and the focus are different, hence so is the outcome. Dui Lian may be only one or two basic exercises practised in pairs to give the student a feel for application, a solid mass to focus on and an idea of contact, distance, timing and reaction. It is really important for the students to practise their dui lian with different people. This helps them get a feel for having an opponent of different size, shape, strength and technique. Dui lian, like taolu, have varying levels and complexity through which people can progress, also like taolu, there are dui lian exercises for weapons.
Yongfa – The applications of the techniques and skills in the forms and basics. Every technique has application, regardless of how artistic or impractical it appears. If the practitioner knows the system well, they should know the application and/or its meaning (some moves may be a greeting or for the stimulation of breathing). The straight application of the movements from the forms is not necessarily the same way of applying it in a real fight. The techniques in the forms are for the development of your own skills whereas the practise of the dui lian or sanshou is for the exchange of feeling or action and reaction between you and the opponent. It was as a result of research by China’s top martial artists of the day into the applications and techniques of the different schools of wushu that the rules for sanshou competition were developed.
Sanshou – Also known as Sanda or Duida. Traditionally, this only became a part of training in wushu once the student was considered to be highly competent in the other parts of training. Unlike other systems of martial arts, a wushu student was not put in to spar as part of their basic or even intermediate training. This methodology is largely retained in true wushu schools both in and outside China today.
Sanshou is true combat, but sometimes people refer to sanshou talking about sport or competition sanshou which is controlled by rules and regulations. There are records of sparring using protective armour and modified weapons going back to the Tang dynasty (600AD) however, the modern rules of sanshou were set up by wushu masters in China about 20 years ago. This was done in an effort to provide for competition without high levels of injury while remaining true to the application of wushu techniques.
Sanshou is wushu sparring and the application in combat of the different schools of wushu. Take-down, throwing and ground-fighting techniques are from shuaijiao (Chinese wrestling), and traditional schools like Bagua zhang also include a lot these techniques as well. Movements from Changquan or Taiji Quan as well as many other wushu school techniques are also an essential part of the sanshou arsenal.
Unfortunately, many of the fighters or promoters who have moved in to sanshou are not aware of this and that’s why they describe sanshou as a combination of wrestling and kickboxing (to mention one description I have read). But, in saying that, I also understand that sometimes it is the only way for people who do not know Chinese martial arts to get a rough idea of what sanshou is.
It is only when wushu instructors look at how their styles can use the sanshou rules to fight and win that we will see more of what sanshou should be – Wushu in Action.
Summarising the analysis of wushu it is important to mention that the people in China who specialise in sanshou are also required to practice taolu albeit with less frequency. Conversely, the people who specialise in taolu train all the basics of sanshou as a part of their general knowledge. Even in contemporary wushu, the traditional systems apply.
A better way to explain this is through an example of a wushu competition in Beijing I took part in 1993 and the type of competition I will like to see more. It was run by a traditional teacher of wushu following the traditional system of competition. The competitors were required to compete in six different categories:
- Empty hands forms;
- Weapons forms;
- Display of “gong-fu” (special skill such as breaking, bending a lance with the point at your neck etc);
- Overcoming obstacle and tumbling display;
- Dui Lian;
Wushu, then has complete systems for developing different skills, no matter what the school. If you are not covering all these elements, then this will help you to establish where to look for more knowledge in order to gain a complete understanding of your school of wushu.