Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reverse engineering in chi kung and tai chi

Is reverse engineering in chi related disciplines possible?  Yang-style tai-chi grandmaster Yang LuChan (楊露禪) proved that it is possible, and demonstrated himself to be a genius in the art of reverse engineering  (see my previous post on Master Yang's story HERE).  Reverse engineering is usually not too difficult for a physical machine, that's why patents are needed to protect such intellectual property rights.  Reverse engineering in food-products however is not easy, that's why Coke feels comfortable by simply keeping its formula secret (one simply can't formulate a cola drink tasting like Coke without knowing the formula).  Internal practices like tai-chi is difficult to reverse engineer, Neidan (Taoist yoga or meditation) is almost impossible, for lack of significant movements.

By reverse engineering in chi related practices, I mean by careful observation of a practitioner during practice, the on-looker can, through simulate such movements (some may be very subtle), he can recreate what happened inside the body (and sometimes mind too) of the practitioner.  Proficiency in the art of any internal practices is a prerequisite for such skill, but the art of reverse engineering is separate skill.

The state-of-the-art of chi related discipline is that reverse engineering should be part of the fundamental skills of a proficient teacher and healer.  Today, we see more and more teachers disclosing their training methods to the public, and more and more teachers freely take techniques from other disciplines to enrich their own practices.  Reverse engineering is the now the rule rather than the exception, though there certainly are different levels of skill in the art of reverse engineering!

Having said that, nowadays there are still many practitioners (or masters) who feel insecure, and hold on to their "secrets", chances are that they don't know or aren't good at reverse engineering. Understandably it will be an unfair game for them if others can reverse engineer their practices but they can't do it the other way round!

The art of reverse engineering also has another important benefit, it can help a teacher give more valuable advice to his students. Master Wang XiangZhai (王薌齋) was said to an expert in this area: by doing minute adjustment in the postures of his students doing zhan zhuang, he could create major chi-change within this students' bodies.  He could make diagnosis simple from observing a student's outward appearance, to arrive at what was the state of chi-movement at the particular moment, to make minute changes to the outward appearance,  and to create major internal changes inside the body of his student.

Yet another benefit of reverse engineering is that it can serve as a tool to single out faulty or misguided chi-practices, these include those weak in chi-generation, those harmful ones, those seem to be strong-chi-generators but its chi thus generated can't be easily controlled (therefore easily susceptible to chi or kundalini syndromes) etc.

Quiz:  Can you reverse engineer the stance below?

Taming the Dragon

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