dwai

Balancing physical conditioning with internal cultivation

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Apologies for a long winded post. 

 

I waned to enquire whether any of you have thoughts on combining strength training with internal arts? 

 

Let me explain what I mean by that. The style of taijiquan I practice emphasizes letting go of muscular strength (li) and rather use jin - I know different people/schools have different ideas about what jin is. 

 

In our system it is considered to be the power generated by accelerating Qi into the bone marrow and the lower Dantien. 

 

So we store power by condensing Qi into the born marrow - my Sifu says it is like burning gas to generate horse power. Eventually it is generated by directing incoming force into the  LDT, which results in power/force rippling out like how a stone is dropped into a pool generates ripples. This ripple effect is capable of returning incoming force, and therefore ends up looking mysterious and woo woo.

 

My experience is, that it took me a long time to get it to a point where it works, to drop my tendency to use physical strength (almost 20 yrs of daily practice now). There is a sense of freedom and relaxation, along with the sense of unbroken sheath of cotton or silk/satin under the skin. I think many of you know what I’m referring to. 

 

Whenever I try to add physical conditioning to this, I feel suffocated; like the muscles develop in strength and begin to strangle the other type of ability generated in the body.  So I stopped physical training several years ago. I revisit from time to time but give up after a few weeks because of what I described.

 

As I’m growing older, I’m putting on more weight, as the metabolism is slowing down. I don’t think I can lose weight without adding some physical conditioning. What do the members on this group do? How do you balance your internal cultivation with physical conditioning?

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Posted (edited)

Good question - especially for us oldsters (50 here). You might want to consider kettlebells - lots of martial artists use them to supplement training and stone lock training has been a staple of CMA . You can over-do it though! I spent a couple of years doing loads of kettlebell work and got a lot stronger but also a lot tighter. I've recently committed to a new method of training and have basically been doing 30mins of jibengong every day and nothing else. I'm gaining strength & connection but not losing any flexibility. The tradition also uses kettlebells though and I'm going to a seminar in September to find out more about how this is done. Interestingly, the seminar teacher said that they work with KBs for a short period (a few days) then go back to normal training for the rest of the month. That way there are strength adaptations without any loss of flexibility.

Edited by RobB
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Posted (edited)

@dwai With our sedentary lifestyles we all do a lot of sitting (or standing if you have a standing workstation). We all know that's bad. I write software for a living and I know you do, too. Unfortunately, even if you were to work out one hour everyday that still isn't enough to make up for the other 23 of sitting still. But, we can't just give up and do nothing. So, my advice is to pick some form of vigorous exercise and do as much as you can. It doesn't have to be weight lifting.

 

Personally, I love weight lifting, it's part of my identity. I know a lot about it. I started when I was 12, I'm 49 now. I was a skinny red headed kid that got bullied a lot. After only one year of weight lifting that all changed. I'm not a martial artist so I don't know how it effects that. My grandfather was a martial artist. He always used to tell me that I was wasting my time lifting and that I should train with him. Then he would grab my neck and say, "what are you going to do if someone does this to you?" My response was that if someone intended to do that they would look at me and decide to wait to pick on someone smaller. My interest in the Daoist arts and meditation are for spiritual development. I'm never going to be a competition fighter and with the types of violence we see these days in public places I'm not sure if martial arts can be of much help for defense.

 

As I've aged my training methods have changed. The biggest change occurred 14 years ago when I severely injured my back doing kettlebell snatches. Everything was going good then all of a sudden it was like my lower body went one way and my upper body went another at the L4-L5. It took a lot of therapy, chiropractors, and several years before I could confidently lift anything without re-injuring my back. But, I've never given up on it. I love it.

 

Now my main methodology is sandbag training. I like the freedom of movement I get from throwing around an odd shape.

Edited by escott
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6 hours ago, RobB said:

Good question - especially for us oldsters (50 here). You might want to consider kettlebells - lots of martial artists use them to supplement training and stone lock training has been a staple of CMA . You can over-do it though! I spent a couple of years doing loads of kettlebell work and got a lot stronger but also a lot tighter. I've recently committed to a new method of training and have basically been doing 30mins of jibengong every day and nothing else. I'm gaining strength & connection but not losing any flexibility. The tradition also uses kettlebells though and I'm going to a seminar in September to find out more about how this is done. Interestingly, the seminar teacher said that they work with KBs for a short period (a few days) then go back to normal training for the rest of the month. That way there are strength adaptations without any loss of flexibility.

I trained with kettlebells and indian mace etc for full body workouts. Also a rowing machine. However, I find that as I gain muscular strength, it strangles the "openness" and integrated feeling of the body. Maybe I have to supplement with stretching to allow prevent the muscles from clamping down on me.

 

I walk a lot - 3-4 mi every day. Also restarted my yoga asana practice, so time will tell. 

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5 hours ago, escott said:

As I've aged my training methods have changed. The biggest change occurred 14 years ago when I severely injured my back doing kettlebell snatches. Everything was going good then all of a sudden it was like my lower body went one way and my upper body went another at the L4-L5. It took a lot of therapy, chiropractors, and several years before I could confidently lift anything without re-injuring my back. But, I've never given up on it. I love it.

 

I've had many injuries due to martial arts over the years. The one that I'm afflicted by still is a left shoulder issue that keeps flaring up from time to time (Mainly due to my forgetting its there and messing it up after a few days of reprieve as a result of taiji). 

 

I used to have a very strenuous workout when I was a young karate practitioner. Each session lasted 3+ hrs -- I only worked out 3 times a week

The set involved 

  • 15 min jog to warm up
  • 4 sets of 50 pushes (different types)
  • 4 sets of 50 crunches 
  • 4 sets of 50 side situps (not sure what they're called, we called them russian sit ups)
  • wheel barrow climb up and down a long flight of stairs
  • duck squat and walk back and forth a long corridor
  • Drilling kicks, punches, blocks
  • Kata
  • Sparring
  • cool down with gentle stretching etc

If I did even a quarter of that now, I'll likely get a brain aneurism or a heart attack...

:\

 

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I totally get your concerns. One should remember that there are two sides to the equation when it comes to weight loss: The amount of energy you burn and the amount of fuel you put into your body.

 

Building muscle is an effective way to lose weight. More muscle mass will increase your baseline metabolism and as long as you keep your food intake stable, you will eventually lose weight.

 

Since you do not wish to increase your muscle mass, you will need to reduce the amount of food you consume. This is actually a sound thing to do as one ages - one does not need as much energy as younglings. This is basically why you are gaining weight as you age - you are consuming more than your body really needs.

 

As a side note, there are studies on rats where scientists were able to prolong a rat's life by %20 - 30 simply by restricting the animal's daily calorie intake.

 

Hippocrates said that man's best medicine is walking. I believe he was right and your are doing the right thing with the long walks. He also said death begins in the gut - that's basically what I've been rambling about above :lol:

 

I would suggest doing push ups in addition to the walking, if your left shoulder allows for it. If done right, a push up is really a full body work out. You are not likely to gain a lot of muscle mass if you don't do too many reps. 

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Posted (edited)

Have you ever had any deep tissue massage on your shoulder? Many years ago I was playing volleyball and fell on my back on my right shoulder. After that for several years I would get a shooting pain down my front deltoid on the right arm when I would lift it in the front, for instance, reaching up to my car radio to change the station. Hmmm, how did falling on my back effect my front deltoid. Finally, one day I sought the help of a muscle therapist that worked in the chiropractor/natural doctor's office I was going to for NAET treatments. He was an older gentleman named Herman and only worked there part time. Being the way that I am I asked lots of questions. One day he said, "can I show you something?" He pushed on something then let go and my whole arm went numb. Then he pushed on it again and the feeling came back. I asked him what he called his methodology. He called it 'British Sports Therapy'. After only 3 sessions with Herman my pain was gone forever.

Edited by escott
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What makes your taiji effective is the engagement of your Jing Jin tissues. What you feel as silk sliding under your skin and between your muscles. It’s the tissue that ‘connects’ your body.

 

Taiji uses these tissues as it’s ‘engine’ to develop power - rather than using muscle to develop power.

 

If you focus on building the muscle ‘engine’, you will lose your internal Jing Jin engine. So it depends what’s more important to you. Even if you stretch after weight training, you will still lose your ‘internal’ engine. There is no way round it.

 

Regarding what you can do in terms of exercise that does not counteract your internal (Jing Jin) connectivity...

 

You can do bodyweight exercises. Preferably focusing on core strength (so all the different plank type exercises and variations). You can do push-ups (just not too many, and not weighted or one handed). You can do more complex bodyweight ‘flows’ - like the ‘animal walks’. It’s best to do all of these combined.

 

When doing them you’ll need to use Sung and Ting, so that even though it’s muscular force that you’re using, you’re still connecting through your whole body. Doing the animal walks this way feels great and is still very much internally connected.

 

You can build up to doing quite intense workouts - just not intense in a muscular, compressive way - but intense in a sweaty, out of breath sort of way :)

 

I’d also suggest something aerobic - like jogging, or jumping rope or even rebounding on a trampoline. 

 

One other thing I keep seeing in taiji practitioners that are great at sinking - they actually start to develop issues with their spleen, and as a result create lots issues around storing fat. Adding Neigong into your routine would help if this is a problem for you (it might not be).

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Posted (edited)
On 8/27/2019 at 3:14 PM, dwai said:

Apologies for a long winded post. 

 

I waned to enquire whether any of you have thoughts on combining strength training with internal arts? 

 

Let me explain what I mean by that. The style of taijiquan I practice emphasizes letting go of muscular strength (li) and rather use jin - I know different people/schools have different ideas about what jin is. 

 

In our system it is considered to be the power generated by accelerating Qi into the bone marrow and the lower Dantien. 

 

So we store power by condensing Qi into the born marrow - my Sifu says it is like burning gas to generate horse power. Eventually it is generated by directing incoming force into the  LDT, which results in power/force rippling out like how a stone is dropped into a pool generates ripples. This ripple effect is capable of returning incoming force, and therefore ends up looking mysterious and woo woo.

 

My experience is, that it took me a long time to get it to a point where it works, to drop my tendency to use physical strength (almost 20 yrs of daily practice now). There is a sense of freedom and relaxation, along with the sense of unbroken sheath of cotton or silk/satin under the skin. I think many of you know what I’m referring to. 

 

Whenever I try to add physical conditioning to this, I feel suffocated; like the muscles develop in strength and begin to strangle the other type of ability generated in the body.  So I stopped physical training several years ago. I revisit from time to time but give up after a few weeks because of what I described.

 

As I’m growing older, I’m putting on more weight, as the metabolism is slowing down. I don’t think I can lose weight without adding some physical conditioning. What do the members on this group do? How do you balance your internal cultivation with physical conditioning?

 

You should try some real nei kung, it combines all the unknown high power methods along with a super strength workout, and it all blends together super well.  It can be used all by itself to become a world class athlete, as well as glow in the dark, and it's all high power energy work at the same time.  The two facets, energy and physical, MUST be cultivated together or else it is wimpy chi kung.  Think of strenuous zhan zhuang, but add moving very slowly.

Edited by Starjumper
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I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers with this comment, but I think the belief that weight training is detrimental to martial arts is a myth. There are different kinds of weight training. The kind that is targeted toward general physical fitness (GPP) should in no way be detrimental. But, if you go trying to be the next Ronnie Coleman then there might be a conflict. There have been other sports that thought weight training would hurt their game then it was proved false. Look at what Tiger Woods did for golf. He took it to a whole different level, now every golfer that wants to be successful trains with weights.

 

But, there was something else that was mentioned in the OP that really hasn't been addressed yet concerning weight gain. For that, diet is a big factor. At the most basic level, I recommend cutting the carbs and intermittent fasting.

 

This is a good resource:

https://www.dietdoctor.com/

 

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1 hour ago, escott said:

I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers with this comment, but I think the belief that weight training is detrimental to martial arts is a myth. There are different kinds of weight training. The kind that is targeted toward general physical fitness (GPP) should in no way be detrimental.

 

You’re quite right in terms of martial arts in general. In fact any martial artist not doing weight training is clearly missing out.

 

But with internal martial arts it’s quite different. Baring in mind that 99.99% of martial artists aren’t ‘internal’ (even if they claim to be).

 

However - the ones that  really do have ‘internal’ skill - all, unequivocally, say that weight training will stop internal skill. As Dwai himself says - it’s quite obvious when you test it for yourself.

 

Again - nothing wrong with weight training. It’s beneficial for almost everyone. Just not people who want to build ‘internal power’. 

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43 minutes ago, freeform said:

However - the ones that  really do have ‘internal’ skill - all, unequivocally, say that weight training will stop internal skill.

 

So, what exactly is happening internally such that the two are in conflict?

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, escott said:

 

So, what exactly is happening internally such that the two are in conflict?

Internal skill is developing certain "mysterious" capabilities of the body. Primarily in the realm of Qi and Jin. For Qi and Jin to work, physical strength needs to be given up. It seems highly counter-intuitive to those who haven't experienced this - firstly as a recipient of such power, and then internally within their own body. 

 

There are two separate engines of power generation in the human body. One is the traditional muscle based on, the other is the internal way -- fascia (Jing Jin roughly), Qi, Jin. If we have to develop power in the internal way we have to give up the muscular way. The muscular way interferes with the development of the internal way. 

 

The primary qualities of internal way is by developing what is called "song" (relaxation) and peng (expansion), along with the ability to sense (ting). 

 

At more refined levels it goes beyond the fascia, into developing a fully integrated qi sphere which extends several feet/meters around the body. Then the power comes from the surface tension of this field.

 

Edited by dwai
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All I can say is that I lifted weights for 10 years along with external martial arts. Due to injury, I won't even do a push up these days and in the last 6 months, my qigong/taiji have vastly improved.

 

But now I have a big head and a skinny-fat body. Meh, can't have it all.

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10 hours ago, dwai said:

If we have to develop power in the internal way we have to give up the muscular way. The muscular way interferes with the development of the internal way.

 

Exactly.

 

It's actually a pretty big hurdle on the way to mastery of any internal art. With proper taiji training, you get weaker and weaker and weaker - until suddenly the internal engine starts to take over and a new form of power (based on release and relaxation) takes over and then slowly builds in power. While power created by muscle is limited, power created 'internally' is theoretically unlimited - it just takes decades to build. That's why you see old taiji masters barely able to walk but still able to generate force through their jin and bounce students around.

 

These 'engines' of power generation are a key concept to understand to develop genuine internal skill.

 

I'm not much of an internal martial artist at all. But even in qi gong and neigong, you can feel the difference as your body starts to connect inside and power surges through your soft tissues (fascia). I'm only at the beginning of the cross-over where internal power is just starting to show its face. It takes a long time. And it takes trust in the process and your teacher. When I feel my teacher's arms, the muscles are soft and wobbly, but beneath them is what feels like taught cables slipping and sliding near the bone. The (physical) force this teacher can generate is unbelievable.

 

One thing that isn't built in taiji (to the same extent as in neigong) is the dantien. When the dantien is built using genuine techniques it becomes physical. Just like the taught cables in the arms, but in this case, it's like an orange-sized sphere of tissue in the abdomen - that also slips, slides and moves around. This is a whole other 'engine' of internal power...

 

The niwan is another such 'engine' of power - different from the lower dantien - but now we're getting way off from the 'muscle engine' we're discussing :)

 

Regarding diet. I know a couple of advanced teachers that only eat once a day (although they eat well in that one meal). That could be another thing to try if you want to lose weight, dwai.

 

 

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45 minutes ago, Rara said:

But now I have a big head and a skinny-fat body. Meh, can't have it all.

 

Sadly the 'qi gong' body (or 'internal' body) is not the most flattering by any means!

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The Shaolin monk types look very muscular and they seem to do a lot of resistance training - on the videos at least. (Most noticably extreme forms of horse stance and ZZ).

 

Would that indicate that they do not build internal power? Just curious...

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3 hours ago, freeform said:

One thing that isn't built in taiji (to the same extent as in neigong) is the dantien. When the dantien is built using genuine techniques it becomes physical. Just like the taught cables in the arms, but in this case, it's like an orange-sized sphere of tissue in the abdomen - that also slips, slides and moves around. This is a whole other 'engine' of internal power...

Actually, taijiquan when done right primarily develops the dantien. And all three of them. 

3 hours ago, freeform said:

The niwan is another such 'engine' of power - different from the lower dantien - but now we're getting way off from the 'muscle engine' we're discussing :)

Yes. But the three dantiens are interrelated, and can direct energy in different ways. We cultivate this in the style of taijiquan I practice, with very elaborate methods and mediations. 

3 hours ago, freeform said:

Regarding diet. I know a couple of advanced teachers that only eat once a day (although they eat well in that one meal). That could be another thing to try if you want to lose weight, dwai.

 

 

I’m gravitating towards this myself. Will find out in a few more weeks if it works :) 

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On 8/28/2019 at 4:14 AM, dwai said:

Apologies for a long winded post. 

 

I waned to enquire whether any of you have thoughts on combining strength training with internal arts? 

 

Let me explain what I mean by that. The style of taijiquan I practice emphasizes letting go of muscular strength (li) and rather use jin - I know different people/schools have different ideas about what jin is. 

 

In our system it is considered to be the power generated by accelerating Qi into the bone marrow and the lower Dantien. 

 

So we store power by condensing Qi into the born marrow - my Sifu says it is like burning gas to generate horse power. Eventually it is generated by directing incoming force into the  LDT, which results in power/force rippling out like how a stone is dropped into a pool generates ripples. This ripple effect is capable of returning incoming force, and therefore ends up looking mysterious and woo woo.

 

My experience is, that it took me a long time to get it to a point where it works, to drop my tendency to use physical strength (almost 20 yrs of daily practice now). There is a sense of freedom and relaxation, along with the sense of unbroken sheath of cotton or silk/satin under the skin. I think many of you know what I’m referring to. 

 

Whenever I try to add physical conditioning to this, I feel suffocated; like the muscles develop in strength and begin to strangle the other type of ability generated in the body.  So I stopped physical training several years ago. I revisit from time to time but give up after a few weeks because of what I described.

 

As I’m growing older, I’m putting on more weight, as the metabolism is slowing down. I don’t think I can lose weight without adding some physical conditioning. What do the members on this group do? How do you balance your internal cultivation with physical conditioning?

 

I actually have a simple training program for both internal and strength training. Was going to post this week looking for anyone interested in checking out some of the strength training I do based off of old time circus strong men. It is comprised of stretching, Zhan Zhuang, Baduanjin, isometrics, calisthenics, muscle contraction and muscle control, and muscle compression from ZZ. The internal parts are a resting form of qigong, Zhan Zhuang as stated above with Baduanjin, and anything advanced is for students because the above was really designed for total beginners due to the fact a lot of people who want power focus too much on misinformation like reverse breathing or on neidan. Most people might actually find benefits from basic fitness already but the internal aspects help prepare them for bringing their base fitness higher. If the base is low, it won’t do much.

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3 hours ago, MuadDib said:

The Shaolin monk types look very muscular and they seem to do a lot of resistance training - on the videos at least. (Most noticably extreme forms of horse stance and ZZ).

 

Would that indicate that they do not build internal power? Just curious...

 

Glad someone else brought this up, because I was wondering the same thing.

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4 minutes ago, escott said:

 

Glad someone else brought this up, because I was wondering the same thing.

It’s a different kind of power. Imho, afaik, shaolin style develops what is called “hard qigong” power. It is not the same quality that the Daoist methods cultivate. 

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Those low stances are "big basin" training as our school calls it and the drawback is that they create more tension when Zhan Zhuang is usually meant to release tension and create relaxation. 

 

Weightlifting, I will add, is not bad, but can make doing ZZ harder, which is why the program I mentioned above is all body weight and using no equipment besides walls, towels, and chairs for calisthenics and isometrics. 

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7 hours ago, freeform said:

 

Sadly the 'qi gong' body (or 'internal' body) is not the most flattering by any means!

 

I like to think internal power will eventually have the ladies flocking to me.

 

I'm still waiting, but I'm a believer.

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