Saturday, December 1, 2012

How to train up one's chi sensitivity

Over the years I have talked to many chi-kung teachers, and all concurred that Chinese are more chi sensitive.  Many believed that it was genetic.  I have different opinion or I don't have a particular inclination as far as a conclusive opinion is concerned.  The most chi-sensitive student that I encountered is an Australian.  He had recovered from cancer for some years when I gave him a lesson.  Perhaps that was the reason, perhaps not, I never know.  Anyway, the more practical question seems to be: how to train up one's chi sensitivity, and a prior question: why need to train it up?

A certain threshold of chi-sensitivity is essential for a sound and healthy practice.  You may ask why did you use the word healthy, is there anything unhealthy about a lack of chi-sensitivity in learning chi-kung or chi-related discipline?  Some chi-kung teacher when facing with students who are weak in chi-sensitivity, either to comfort them or to keep them as continuing students, will tell them "just imagine that you got the chi-feeling".  I think this approach is wrong.  Firstly, the student might actually have a chi-feeling but fail to conceptualize their feeling into chi-feeling (like can't distinguish the chi-feeling of heat from high-temperature feeling of heat).  The solution is to impress upon the student that he has to make such distinction.  An acceptance of the student's narrative that he didn't have chi-feeling might block his possible acknowledgement of such feeling in the future.  Secondly, the student might have a wrong concept that chi is just a psychic/imaginary phenomenon rather than a genuine and distinguishable body sensation, a psychological reality having a physical implication.

Back to the subject of training chi-sensitivity, the best everyday approach that I recommend is to take ready-made bitter herbal tea and/or  to take cold shower.  In Hong Kong, one can go to the many herbal tea shops to take a bowl of hot bitter herbal tea (廿四味涼茶 - 24 ingredient herbal tea) for a few HK dollars. It is one of the most common drink in Hong Kong, the Coke is for the kids and the bitter herbal tea is for the adults (nowadays more young ladies take herbal tea for a better complexion). If that is not available in your country, one can buy bottled one, sachet packs or the packaged ingredients for in-home preparation  from a shop that sell over-the-counter Chinese medicine for the most popular bitter herbal tea.  Should be quite inexpensive.  Use very hot water for the sachet powder and heat up the bottled one, so that you will be forced  to sip it bit by bit, and the bitter taste can register for a larger number of times.  When you swallow the bitter herbal tea, relax your body and allow the bitter effect to be like transmitting to the tip of your fingers.  And don't allow the bitter taste to make you shiver! Chi will follow this bitter effect and travel to the tip of your fingers. Needless to say, proficiency comes with practice.

Another way to train chi-sensitivity is my favorite cold-shower routine, that I discussed many times in this blog (so interested readers should find their own way to search, won't be difficult).  Beginners can start with not-so-cold water, and begin in hotter Summer months.  This method is more power and is reserved only for the more courageous.  These two are both legit classical ways to train one's chi-sensitivity, and I shall refrain from commenting more esoteric methods, because I am not an expert in that area.  My philosophy is if there is a good and legit method, why try to reinvent the wheel?  Your car might just break down with those more esoteric wheels....:)

PS: The concept of training up one's chi sensitivity is not the same as taking medicinal or heath preparations to boost up one's internal chi.  For the latter purpose, ginseng is one popular preparation, and it is not part of chi-kung practice.

A brand of packaged Chinese herbal tea (for the purpose of explanation only, not my recommended brand)



  1. I have been practicing chi cultivation for over a decade and I have to agree that it is sad when you have a teacher tell you to rub your hair and that the resulting tingling is chi. I have had a few friends in the internal martial arts, and the best way I know to develop sensitivity is continuous practice channeling the chi between the hands into a ball and feeling the heat and repulsion and at times an almost magnetic feeling. The more you do it the easier it is to activate that skill when you need to.

    Any idea how to get nonsensitives to experience it right away? While those interested in such things are open to feel it, I find that closed minded people have a harder time.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. In the context of zhan zhuang, I like the following way to let people experience chi, sometimes almost instantly. In Embracing the tree stance, the student maintains his hands stretched (mid-way between full open and full close), while keeping his eyes closed and mind stay focused on "listening to his fingers' sensation", I will calmly instruct him to slowly stretch open his hands (not to full open), then slowly stretch close (pass his initial state, but not to full close), and do this open close sequence a few times, and then I will instruct him to stop when he fingers "traveled" to their initial stretched position. I will then instruct him to keep this stretched position for a short while, most likely he can feel chi. If he still can't feel chi at his finger tips, I will instruct him to do it once more, following my instruction step by step. Almost all can feel chi this way.

  3. One of my teachers also instructed us to use pushing and pulling our palms from each other, like playing an accordion. Almost all the students could feel something like tingling or a light magnetic force. Problem was, we weren't taught to magnify this throughout the body or to move the chi around. So in the end, i felt the chi sensitivity was not emphasized. This was a yangsheng daoyin class i attended.

  4. Tingling or light magnetic force is a (good and commendable) stage OUTSIDE the door. To go inside, you must be able to manage your chi flow. Perhaps my suggestion to you in the Turtle post just now might help (since you like doing the turtle). There are of course many other ways to lead a practitioner to get INSIDE the door (and don't worry if one or more ways don't work for you, it is normal). I only do private one-to-one teaching, so I kind of familiar with giving individual advice. Having said that I can fully understand that in a group situation, it is very difficult to find an one-fit-all method. Keep up your study with your sifu!


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