If we trace the lineage of most of the qi gong methods which are practiced today, we will probably find that they were initially practiced and taught in the monastic environment of the Buddhist and Daoist temples in China. In order to better understand the optimum conditions and methods for qi gong practice it would behoove us to look at how qi gong might have been practiced at its place of origin. We all know from watching movies and reading books about monastic life that the first lesson any young monk is taught is patience. Patience in practice is essential. Never be in too much of a hurry. High quality, long lasting results will not come overnight. If results are forced to occur before their time, before the body is ready, there will inevitably be problems.
We can imagine that the novice Buddhist or Daoist monk would be taught a very complete system of qi gong training in a well designed program which systematically developed the body, mind, and spirit of the individual and that the external environment was one which optimally facilitated this process. Qi gong practiced in the environment of a monastic lifestyle, combined with the proper diet, meditation, and herbal supplements, provided the individual with a complete and balanced development. Once the student had practiced simple methods which were aimed at developing mental and physical relaxation, a clear mind, and proper postural alignments, more advanced methods were taught. The more specific the qi gong practice became, the more carefully guarded the lifestyle, diet, herbal supplements, etc. The methods that were taught were prescribed individually. Each student had a mentor who groomed and handled that student's development according to that individual's particular needs. This is how solid, long lasting results are obtained.
It may seem a bit romantic, especially in our context of our focus on Ba Gua practice in the modern world, to wonder about the training of monks in temples in China since the only well known Ba Gua practitioner who probably spent time learning in a temple was Dong Hai Chuan. However, as we have seen through our examination of the biographies of the first few generations of Ba Gua instructors in previous issues of this Journal, most of them began their training of martial arts with one teacher in a small village in the countryside. Thus, while the environment was not as sterile as the temple's, it was certainly conducive to proper martial arts and qi gong training, and the systems were taught methodically and completely.
While the practice of qi gong and internal martial arts methods all day in a monastic environment or in a remote village somewhere in the countryside would be the ideal, it is not a practical option for most of us. However, the lessons we can learn from those who have preceded us in this practice are viable today: find a skilled teacher with a complete method who knows how to develop each student on an individual basis, maintain a lifestyle and environment conducive to internal training and development, and don't be in a great hurry to progress.
We will now take a look at the most important components of internal martial arts qi gong practice and how they might be trained in Ba Gua.
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