Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Swallow and Spit" and "Neigongs"

I saw a comment on one blog in which someone (a teacher) didn't understand that what I'd written about Open and Close using the muscle-tendon channels, dantien, jin, suit/qi, etc., had anything to do with what Sam Chin of I Liq Chuan teaches about "absorb and project".  That's seems a bit odd to me since "absorb and project" is commonly discussed in a variety of martial-arts, but particularly in those martial-arts that are heavily influenced by southern Shaolin and Yiquan.

I started thinking about it and trying to remember the first instance I could call to mind of the common "absorb and project" topic (it's all over Chinese martial-arts) being in western literature.  The first time I can think of it being published was in 1980 in Robert W. Smith's book, "Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods".  On page 93 in an interview with Lin Kuo-Chung (Lin Guozhung), Lin says that there are four kinds of qi used by him:

The ch'i of inhalation ("swallow")
The ch'i of exhalation ("spit")
Holding ch'i up ("to float")
Holding ch'i down ("to sink")

In another comment on the same page: "Lin held that the ch'i is not stored in the navel but comes from the sole of the foot through the navel to the head, where it is used as the occasion demands". 

That last would make a good discussion sometime.

But anyway, my point was that Sam Chin's comments about "absorb and project" are simply very common remarks having to do with "Heng" and "Ha", "Un and A", Close-Open, Yang-Yin, and so on.  By constantly pointing towards the commonalities, perhaps we can get away from the fruitless discussions about "we do it different at our school".

Another point worth mentioning has to do with "neigongs" or, literally, "internal exercises".  All the styles, internal and external, have neigongs as part of their practice.  Neigongs are essentially conditioning exercises.  You'll see a lot of Shaolin conditioning-neigongs inserted in supposedly "internal-style" (neijia) arts in a lot of the southern areas like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Fujien Province, Shanghai, etc.   There are a number of people who rely heavily on neigongs to prove, for some odd reason, that they are "internal arts".  Different meaning.

It's commonly stated that when Yang Chengfu, the Wu family, and others went to southern China, they did so because that's where the money is.  They taught a lot of people, but of course they didn't teach a lot of the in-house training methodologies, so many of the gaps wound up being filled by southern Shaolin practices.  Not always, of course, but enough so that people need to be aware that it's a possibility in a lot of the neijia/internal arts that derive from the southern areas.  It's fairly common knowledge among many Chinese.


Mike Sigman

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