HEALTH QIGONG BY DAN DOCHERTY

The TCUGB was Nigel Sutton’s idea in 1990 just before we took ‘the Bash Street Kids’ to Taiwan for an international tuishou competition. He had the immediate support of Gary Wragg, Linda Broda, Ian Cameron, Paul Crompton, Ray Wilkie, John Hine, Trevor Barrie and me.

I guess we all practiced and / or taught some form of Qigong, but no-one really talked about it that much back then.

Times are changing. we teachers must change too.

Tai Chi is now mainstream, but the man on the Clapham omnibus has never heard of Qigong.

My teacher's uncle, Cheng Wing-kwong, was open-minded and liked to learn new things, including Qigong. One of the Qigong / Breathing Exercise systems he practiced was 'Xian Jia Yang Sheng Baduanjin'.

'Xian Jia' means Immortal Family' i.e. the Taoists.  The Chinese character for Xian / Immortal is a combination of the characters for person and mountain. Taoists live on mountains as the air is more pure and they are nearer to the gods.

'Yang Sheng' is literally 'Nourish Life' and here means 'Health'.

'Baduanjin' is 8 Pieces of Brocade'. It is also a pun. There are 3 other characters with the same pronunciaton to which 'Baduanjin may refer to; these 3 can be translated as 'Repairing Broken Sinews.' He learned this from yet another anonymous, itinerant Taoist, who claimed the exercises had been handed down by Tai Chi founder, Zhang Sanfeng.

Cheng Tin-hung learned the exercises from his uncle who listed and described them in his Tai Chi book. Cheng Tin-hung was sexually very conservative and wasn't comfortable with the exercises. He only taught them to 3 people of whom i was one.

In both the Wu Jianquan Tai Chi lineage and Cheng Tin-hung's lineage, there is a 24 exercise Tai Chi Nei Kung set which is multi-faceted. The exercises have martial, meditative, internal alchemy and health aspects. Prior to being taught the exercises, students must undergo a formal 'Bai Shi' ceremony before a portrait of Zhang Sanfeng. During the ceremony the student agrees to accept the rules of the school.

For the Immortal Family exercises there is no such requirement; they are simple but highly effective for health as well as for internal alchemy for both men and women. Some would consider my approach to be heterodox, even signifying a cult / cults. It seems after the Qigong wars in China that the official Qigong bodies would be likely to regard them as such. 

In 1992 Li Hongzhi, a police forestry band trumpeter started teaching classes in what he called Falun gong, a combination of simple health exercise and Buddhistic moral precepts such as truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Li initially charged for classes, but when his books became hugely popular, he decreed that classes should be free of charge and Falungong was officially recognised by the Chinese government and there were many Communist cadres amongst its practitioners.

The China Qigong Scientific Research Society was established in 1985. The Falungong organisation became a member.

Some say that in the mid-Nineties there were more than 70 million Falungong practitioners in China.

 By this time, however, Falungong became estranged from the state-run qigong associations. Communist Party authorities in the Spring of 1999 launched a campaign of propaganda, large-scale extrajudicial imprisonment, torture and coercive re-education.

There is no doubt that Falungong had all the makings of a cult.  There is also no doubt that it was a force for good, both in its moral philosophy and the provision of free health giving exercises for the general public. A replacement was needed; the Chinese set up a committee of experts.

In 2004 an officially sanctioned set of exercises was given the moniker ‘Health Qigong’. There is no doubt that these exercises are good for health and that those teaching them, are benefiting society. 

As far as China is concerned, my own Qigong / Nei Kung practice is not officially recognised. Though both sets of exercises merit the generic term 'Health Qigong' they would not be officially approved of. [some of the Immortal Famiy exercises are for the bed chamber and require 'adjustment ' before being taught to a class.].

In the current climate in China, Qigong has been transmogrified into Chinese calisthenics. The soul has been lost. 

The Taiiji rulers. the twee uniforms and the little balls just don't cut it. I always admired Cheng Tin-hung's smart but casual approach.

Not everyone has the physicality for Nei Gong, but PTCCI instructors have helped a great many folks with both sets of exercises. For one of our senior lady instructors got out of her wheelchair after learning our Qigong and has taught the set to many of her students.

Oops nearly time for practice, where's that vermilion shirt with the button down collar?