Thursday, June 12, 2014

Use of imbalance to generate chi in tai chi and chi kung

Any physical activity can generate chi. Physical activities that use rotation in our hip joints can generate the greatest amount of chi. As such, the most simple exercise to generate a large amount of chi is jogging. And it is of the best exercise for young people. The problem is jogging demands an inordinate amount of physical exertion on our leg muscles (not to mention our knee joints). And for good and for bad it requires our body to burn a huge amount of energy. The slim and physically fit bodies of marathon runners is a clear demonstration of the huge benefit (including endurance training!) of jogging. And it will be quite prohibitive for people of lesser physical stamina which include the majority of middle-aged people, and all recovering patients.

Tai chi (and chi kung) goes another route. It employs methods to directly generate chi through activating our hip joints with minimal exertions on our leg muscles. There are many tricks (as mentioned from time to time in this blog). One interesting trick is the use of imbalance to achieve our chi generation objective.

Shaking our body to activate our hip joints to generate chi is the most common method. The possible negative side effects of shaking is that the chi thus generated is difficult to manage. In spiritual combat (神打), fictional legends (for example "possessed oneself with Monkey king") are used to control the random movements of a practitioner. And self-induced chi kung (自發功) needs the close supervision of a qualified master.  I have seen videos in Youtube of folks experimenting with self body shaking to generate chi for spiritual purposes seemingly without a clear understanding of possible negative side-effects. Readers interested to experiment with such practice are therefore cordially warned here.

The use of imbalance is a better option. It might not be as speedy as self shaking, but definitely safer, easier to practise and can be incorporated into most internal martial art, meditation, or chi kung systems (Sufi dance is a form of controlled use of imbalance for spiritual purpose).

In master Wang Xiangzai's I-chuen system, nano-movement using the imbalance state of a common combat stance is used. One simply consciously creates certain imbalance when doing combat stance. A dynamic process of balance-imbalance can generate the required chi to spread over our body. Our focused mind is to manage such chi for even distribution inside our body (hence an absent-minded state won't work).

In tai chi, it is more simple. It is achieved through the standard bow stance and seated stance. When activating chi through imbalance, a student does the stances as zhan zhuang, with one additional trick: stretched your toes outwards and upwards to create the sense of imbalance. With some good practice, this "imbalance training method" can be applied while doing the standard tai chi form.  This use of imbalance is particularly applicable for Wu-style, and other styles that use the "creek stance" (川字步) which is more imbalanced in the first place.


  1. Very interesting post as always. Stephen Hwa in his book also mentioned that it is at the junction of yin-yang that the most chi is generated. I think that ties in well with your observation of imbalance to create chi. Would you agree?

  2. Frankly speaking I don't know what exactly Hwa meant, since I have not read his book, and therefore I can't comment on it. Imbalance (with a meditative mind) creates a condition whereby our "inner self" (without our conscious intervention which incidentally is facilitated by our meditative mind) will generate chi (or internal energy) to "save us from danger" (because our conscious mind is more or less excluded and therefore can't negate that). This is the essence of activating our innate survival instinct for energy generation.

    PS: Well, we can philosophize THAT as "the junction of yin-yang" but for me such conceptualization doesn't add any extra meaning to understanding, nor to practice effectiveness. Too much indulgence on philosophizing might be counter-productive to practice.


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