Friday, July 8, 2011

Tai-chi Nei Gung

Tai-chi Nei Gung (太極内功) consists of stationary stances and moving forms. The objective is to build a strong body structure with good alignment, so that a practitioner will be fit enough for the vagaries of combat. For those who are not interested in combat, such practice will benefit one's physical and mental health.

Each style of Tai-chi has its own system of Nei Gung. Some put more emphasis on the stationary stance and some put more emphasis on the moving form.  The one system I like most is Wu-style's 24 styles. In the past, it was considered as a system only to be learned by disciples "who took the vow to keep the system in-house". Today, it is no longer a seller's market but a buyer's market. Everything is out: as least as far as the look of the forms is concerned.

Today, those who are interested in having an initial understanding of the 24-styles can simply buy a book: like one written by well known Wu-style master Wang DiXian (汪棣賢) titled "Tai-Chi Nei Gung" with the subtitle: the Yin and Yang 24-styles (太極内功:陰陽段24式). And Master Mantak Chia also includes some of the stances, in particular the Golden Turtle stance (金龜式), into his own system of Iron-Shirt Chi-kung.

Nowadays strengthening one's body ready for combat can be done in a gym with the help of a professional coach. And those are interested in combat would most likely choose mixed martial art instead of tai-chi!

Having said that for those who practice meditation, tai-chi or related discipline, it will be beneficial to know that there is a body building "combat-ready" system that fits in well with what they are practicing. All fall under the the generic category of chi-practice or chi-kung. Needless to say, "a body ready to learn combat" is not the same as "a body that can do combat".  Unfortunately, some tai-chi Nei-Gung teachers or practitioners fail to notice the difference (hopefully without some disastrous consequence).

I shall go into some details of some of the 24 styles Nei Gung in future posts.

Golden Turtle stance: 金龜式


  1. hi paul,
    good writing thanks. Do you know where i can get the wangdixian 24 exercises? and have you read the ones by thomas keen.

  2. Wangdixian's 24 styles can be found in his book:

    I just checked out Keen's published works at Amazon. His iron palm video featured the late prominent iron-palm master Gu RuZhang (顧汝章)'s famous picture of breaking a pile of bricks using his palm. One can Google this image easily. I have no idea whether or not Keen's stuff is related to Master Gu's practice.

  3. Master Keen was taught by Grand Master Gene Chicoine who trained in many styles. I have a video of him performing the whole 24 neikung as in keens ibook Iron Vest. I don't know who taught him the exercises but it is interesting to read he did spend time in Hong Kong so may have learnt them form Chen Tin-hung. Another instructor who teachers the 24 neikung exercises is Master Ahn in New York
    On the link is a page selling the Nai kung 24 VHS. He was student of Cheng Man Ching. The wandixian 24 exercises are online as a full video with subtitles which you can watch. I showed the video to my instructor who commented that Chen Tin-Hung was furious that wandixian had published the exercises. They are in the same order as the version Cheng-tin hung teaches and have the same names but several of the exercises are def deficient as they lack the squatting movements of the legs.
    It was rumoured that Chen Tin-Hung put together the exercises into the set of 24. However ,several other styles of Tai chi have them so I think they must predate this. It is a mystery where they originally came from and may have even been incorporated from an external kungfu style and modified.

    1. hi Peter
      Where did you get the video wth master Gene Chicoine?Is it one of de Dvd's sold by Green Dragon Studio?i'm trying to contact them without sucess.Can I get a copy from you?

  4. Peter, thanks for your very informative input. Wang learned his stuff from Cheng and Wu family, and according to his book, Wang said he decided to disclose after the death of his masters.

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  6. Hello Paul,
    Very interesting indeed, here is the list of postures in .jpg, by chance would you have it in typed traditional Characters ? JN Pfeiffer

  7. Thanks for the linkage JN. When tai chi nei gung has become more open to the public, as the master in the linkage wrote, many people got disappointed, not even after having been "revealed" some previously secrete lineage instructions, as in the linkage (which more often than not failed to be easily or readily comprehensible). I believe the best approach, for teachers and students alike, is to focus on step by step learning (and teaching), rather than trying to learn something quickly to become superman or superwoman, after being exposed to some secrete teachings. In the internal arts, there is a beginning, but no end. And students can become better than teachers one day. I hope I can contribute a bit in this area. Needless to say anything written here by me on 24 Styles tai chi nei gung is only my interpretation rather than definitive.

    This is a link to a video of the 24 Neikung taught by Wang Dixian. There are a few videos online of the 24. Most of the exercises are very similar but a few a significantly different although share some recognisable characteristics. Discussion with the lineage holders in the UK Ian Cameron and Dan Docherty both say the link above shows a dummed down version. Many of the exercises are the same but a few seem to have left out the squttingmovements. Ian said he has not changed the Neikung Since it was taught to him by Chen tin-hung. It is rumoured that Dan changed some of the exercises. Some students demonstrate very different techniques although being taught by the same instructors. There are several version out there even within the cheng tin hung lineage. I have researched the neikung through many Chinese video websites and found a few variations of the neikung. Again there are many similarities and the core exercises are the same. However there are some. ery unusual ineteroretation ps relative to the cheng-tin hung version. I would say Ian Is the best source of what cheng tin hung taught. He learnt before Do hefty and has not altered the set. His forms are also closer to what Cheng Tin Hung performs.

  9. Sorry for typos. In the above video the duck foot positioning of the students is really bad and not correct. The feet should be angled towards the front. This maintains the arch and bridge in the horse stance. It opens up the kidney one on the bottom of the feet. Head and tail bone alignment is as usual in tai chi and standing practices. A better example is in this video of the 1st four postures.
    This is what is taught in the Cheng Tin hung lineage.

    is very similar to Cheng Tin Hung lineage, indeed.

  11. Hi Paul what your view on the purpose of the end breathing exercise if the yang 24. We also do a mantra whilst holding lotus hands mudra


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