Circle Walking for Qi Cultivation

Walking the circle with Qi cultivation as the main priority in practice will not differ greatly, in terms of mental focus, from the meditative circle walking practice discussed above. In the meditative practice the practitioner's goal is to maintain a calm mind and focused concentration while the Qi collects in the dan tian. In walking the circle for Qi cultivation, the mental focus and breathing pattern will remain the same, however, the walking step, body posturing, and direction change will become a bit more complex.

When walking as a meditative practice, the practitioner's step is smooth and natural. A natural heel-toe walking step executed in a smooth, fluid natural walking manner is well suited for meditative practice as it is the most natural and comfortable. This step is sometimes referred to as the "lion step" or the "tiger step" by Ba Gua Zhang practitioners. In walking with Qi cultivation as a priority, the practitioner may want to change the walking step to the "snake step" (also known as the "dragon step" or the "mud walking step") or the "crane step" as these stepping methods are designed to encourage a strong flow of Qi from head-to-toe.

In the "snake step" the heel is only brought up off the ground slightly when stepping, and as the foot is brought forward, the bottom of the foot remains parallel to the floor and hovers just slightly above the floor. When the foot has come forward and is ready to step down, it is placed on the ground such that the entire foot lands flatly on the ground at the same instant. There is no heel-toe rolling motion as in the "lion step." The "snake step" is a bit more difficult to perform than the natural heel-toe walk of the "lion step," however its advantage is that it helps bring Qi down to the legs and feet and thus it is a good method to employ in Qi Gong circle walking practice. The "crane step" is similar to the "snake step," in that the stepping foot slides out above the ground and is placed down flat, however, in the "crane step" when the back foot is picked up off of the ground it is brought up to the level of the knee of the other leg before it slides out to take the advancing step. Lifting the leg helps "pump" the Qi down to the stepping leg and also helps the practitioner develop balance and stability.

While the "snake step" or "crane step" footwork encourages a balanced flow of Qi to the legs while walking, the practitioner's static upper-body posture and focused intention will influence Qi movement in the upper body. Each school of Ba Gua Zhang will typically have eight different walking postures which the practitioner will transition through during the course of the Qi Gong circle walking practice. Each posture is designed to have a different influence on the body physiologically and energetically.

Typically the practitioner will walk in one direction holding a certain upper body posture for a desired length of time and then change directions and walk in the opposite direction holding the same posture. Upon the next change of direction the practitioner will then change to a different upper body posture and perform circle revolutions in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions holding that posture before changing to another posture.

By the end of the practice the practitioner has spent time walking in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions holding all eight of the static upper-body postures. Each posture is usually held for the same number of circle revolutions, however, since each posture influences the Qi circulation to the body's vital organs in a different manner, a student who is experiencing a particular health problem may be advised to hold one or two postures longer than the others in order to help his or her body seek a balance.

Holding a static upper-body position while walking the circle with focused intention and calm mind helps to balance the Qi in the body and gather Qi in specific areas as influenced by the unique posturing. The movement sequence executed while changing directions on the circle is designed to take the Qi that has been gathered and direct it to new locations. The movement of Qi will differ with each different changing maneuver. Some changes will promote a spiraling movement of the Qi, some changes will influence its movement upward or downward, while other changes will encourage the Qi to collect or disperse. Each change effects the movement of Qi in the body in a different way.

Through the process of continually gathering Qi during the static-posture walking phase of the practice and then moving it through the body during the various changing maneuvers executed when changing directions on the circle, the aware practitioner will gain valuable experiential knowledge concerning the ebb and flow of Qi in the body.

In his book, The Fundamentals of Pa Kua Chang,5 Park Bok Nam recommends that the student practicing the Qi Gong circle walking method walk in one static posture until a "Qi feeling" is developed throughout the body. After the practitioner has cultivated the "feeling," he or she should then execute the directional change in a smooth, fluid, and connected manner so that the Qi feeling remains constant during the change. The focus while walking in the static posture is to feel the body fill with the energy of that posture. When executing the change, the awareness is placed on maintaining the full body Qi feeling while the body's energy shifts and adjusts with the physical movement of the change.

Upon ending the circle walk practice, Park Bok Nam recommends that the practitioner remain standing in a comfortable posture with the hands resting down by the sides of the body for several minutes. Attention is focused on the palms and the Qi that has gathered there. The student allows the hands to hang loosely by the sides, relaxes all of the body's joints, and places the concentration on the "Qi feeling." Typically this "Qi feeling" will first manifest itself in the hands as fullness, heat, and/or tingling.

When the practitioner has obtained this Qi feeling during the execution of any exercise, he or she will want to relax for several minutes and concentrate on this feeling after the exercise has been completed. By concentrating on the feeling, a mind/body/nervous system connection associated with this feeling will develop. The more developed this connection becomes, the easier it will be for the practitioner to bring Qi to the palms or other parts of the body. With continued practice, the student will be able to produce this effect just by thinking about it. Later, increased amounts of Qi will flow to the palms naturally, when it is needed, without conscious thought.

One goal in practicing Ba Gua Zhang as a self-defense art is to be able to move Qi very rapidly to the palms (or any other part of the body) when striking. When the mind/body/nervous system connection has been fully developed, as soon as the body moves the Qi will be there and the movement of Qi to the palm will be rapid and spontaneous. Forging the mind/body/nervous system connection during and after the circle walk practice will help the practitioner reach this goal.

Heal Yourself With Qi Gong

Heal Yourself With Qi Gong

Qigong also spelled Ch'i Kung is a potent system of healing and energy medicine from China. It's the art and science of utilizing breathing methods, gentle movement, and meditation to clean, fortify, and circulate the life energy qi.

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