Friday, May 11, 2012

Martial artists' macrocosmic circulation

Macro-cosmic circulation (大周天) is considered to be an advanced level of practice after micro-cosmic circulation (小周天).  Both concepts came from Taoist meditation (Neidan).  The concept of microcosmic circulation is the same in both martial art and Neidan, but the concept of macrocosmic circulation differs.  Tai-chi has the most Taoist influence, and its concept of macrocosmic circulation, as adapted from Neidan, is most interesting.  I shall explain it now. 

Before I go further, I have to stress that NOT all schools of tai-chi believe they have much resemblance with Neidan, partly because a small number of Neidan schools contain elements of sexual chi-kung, and partly because some martial artists do not think meditation has anything to do with their disciplines.  The most prominent and outspoken tai-chi school in confirming their practice's relationship with Neidan is a Chen style as popularized by Master Feng Zhi Qiang (冯志强) who passed away only recently. One of Feng's master was a prominent internal martial artist and lineage Dragon Gate Neidan holder (13th) Hu Yang Zhen (胡耀贞). Feng's lineage tai-chi master Chen Fa Ke (陈发科) was a good friend of Hu and adapted Hu's chi-stick practice (renamed as tai-chi stick 太极棒尺) as a key component of his teaching.  Famous Yang-style tai-chi master and prolific writer Yang Jwing-Ming has also written on the subject, though his treatment is rather superficial when compared with Feng's teaching.  Nevertheless, they work on similar principle which I shall explain below.

The objective of martial artists in doing macrocosmic circulation is to connect and nourish all 12 major medical meridians or channels.  A practitioner however does not work directly with the 12 meridians but rather work only with the 8 Special Meridians (奇经八脉), also called 8 psychic channels.  The special thing about these 8 meridians or channels is that in totality they can connect all 12 meridians which are quite independently located to serve different survival and nourishing functions of the body.  Therefore when a practitioner works with the 8 psychic channels, he can indirectly work with all 12 major medical meridians of his body.  This is one perspective.  From another perspective, doing the macro-cosmic circulation is to circulate chi up to the outer most parts of the body which essentially refer to one's finger tips and toe tips (it is interesting here to compare Tibetan Buddhist practice of mind-focusing on one's finger nails and toe nails).

In terms of technique, the traditional Taoist Neidan method is channel-meditation that drives one's chi along his 8 psychic channels in a defined route.  I shall discuss the HOW issue in some future posts, to close the subject matter here, interested readers can refer to the relevant chapter on the famous text Taoist Yoga (translated by Buddhist Charles Luk from the Chinese text written by Zhao Bi Chen 赵避尘), or some of Feng's lineage books or Yang's book on the subject. The concept of macrocosmic circulation for Neidan is still open, and I shall reserve some future posts for the subject.

Eight psychic channels

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