Cultivate Senstivity with Tai Chi and Qigong

Tai chi cultivates sensitivity to subtle changes in your body and beyond. You may not be very sensitive at first, but with a little effort to pay attention, the moves themselves will offer up very satisfying results. Surprisingly pleasant results arise as our minds open up to new perceptions of what is achievable by practicing simple movements.

Qigong practice also offers sensitivity training benefits. I definitely agree with Masters George Xu and Susan Matthews, who say that Qigong basic movement is important to develop qi, or energy forces. It is very beneficial for developing the mind and physical body to be loose, open, empty free, light, everywhere moving, letting the “qi go through.” Train the mind to ‘look’ for any stuck place in yourself; look for too much yang or too much yin.

“You must develop this in yourself before you can see or create attackable tension in the opponent,” Master Xu says.

The important principle, no matter what style of martial arts you practice, is that qi must move for the physical to move. At the same time, the physical, continuously moving, creates the qi. As Master Xu explains in his new video, “something up/something down, something left/something right, down with up, in with out, forward with backward, sinking with floating, shrinking with expanding, yin with yang must be expressed in all qigong movements in order to create a field of force outside the body.”

You can practice the movements along with Master Xu in his video. He instructs to “practice feeling, not power,” and be continuously reminded of how to apply these principles more and more over time to become more high level.


Add a little yin-yang in your dantian and get more out of your tai chi practice

I’ve practiced Chinese Internal Martial Arts with Master George Xu Imagefor 16 years and I’ve learned things from him that I’m sure I would not have learned anywhere else. What has impressed me most over time is how his teaching evolves and how positively that has influenced my understanding. So much so that I have great success in articulating taiji secrets to learners who ask me.

Lately, I’ve been excited about how the Universal Principle of Yin Yang is of such key importance in taijiquan. I am growing my understanding of the nature of yin yang and incorporate it in practice more beneficially.

Grasping such key concepts is the ultimate goal of dedicated practitioners and the rewards show in health and longevity.

Master George Xu in San Francisco

Master Xu presents numerous concepts relating to the Yin-Yang Universal Law that, as he explains, applies to all forms of martial arts in China. I’ve written before that Master Xu explains yin-yang principles as they apply in dantian, qigong, spiral force, predator force, and earth power, as well as other areas.

The interplay between yin and yang applies to the physical and energy bodies, including Heavy/Light, Soft/Hard, Full/Empty, Inward/Outward, Left/Right, Up/Down, Front/Back, Feminine/Masculine, and so on. Plus, yin is contained within yang and yang within yin. It’s something to think about.

One of the more esoteric, yet fascinating, elucidations I’ve heard recently refers to a “fourth line of force” created (yang) in front of physical forearm, elbow, and body (yin). I think of this as a protective energy field that can move things.

It’s also important to understand how bodily chemical, hormonal, heart rate, muscle, structure changes (yin) create the energy force outside the body (yang). This is a topic that I need to hear Master Xu talk more about.

This may sound complex, and it is to a degree, but understanding it is built into us naturally and making a single connection can lead to vast understanding and ability.You just have keep it in mind as you practice.

Take Dantian for example. Dantian has 13 fundamental jings, or forces, Master Xu explains. The most important thing to remember and understand, however, is that the dantian becomes a center with long leverage out from the body that’s supported by a strong root (“counterweight”).

A rolling ball with this center can defend and attack at the same time.

Dantian is a storage for energy that can be located almost anywhere; the shoulder, for example, or even outside the body. Later, with practice and understanding, it is as though the dantian is enlarged to the space outside the body.

Master Xu is just getting started with the explanation of dantian. Qigong, Spiral Force, Earth Power, and Master Xu’s signature topic, Predator Force all have been explained by him intricately and in very useful ways of great value to the serious practitioner.

Yin-Yang Universal Principle, My Teacher’s View

In the latest tai chi video that Susan A. Matthews and I produced, my teacher Master George Xu talks about what he calls “universal yin yang,” the irreducible principle found everywhere. Wherever you examine how a thing works you will find yin-yang. This is a mystery for even those who accept the notion. You can’t really explain how it works, you can only accept that it does . . . . and that you can apply it in life; tai chi practice being an excellent way to do so.

Image of George Xu
Master Xu elucidates his view of the universal yin-yang principle.


I don’t talk about my videos much on this blog because I like talking about ideas, concepts and understandings. My teacher does, too. He talks in metaphors since he comes from Chinese traditions. It is useful to him, however, to rearticulate his knowledge in new metaphors for our benefit that reflect his understandings and our more contemporary minds. They present differently in English in contrast to Mandarin or Shanghaiese, as well.

The new video, entitled The Universal Principle of Yin-Yang in the Practice of Qigong, Baguazhang, and Xingyi Basics, is a 2-DVD set in three parts. Master Xu leads our group in many qigong sets, single drills, Bagua Dragon Palm (never before shared), and a comprehensive set of Xing-Yi single animal forms and variations. Even a beginner could get started by following along with the sets at home. You can use each as a standalone training video if you are a teacher, too.

Between practice sessions, Master Xu delineates practical applications of the yin-yang principle. Many concepts he had not publicized before and in several cases articulates them even more precisely than he had in past sessions. Master Xu explains yin-yang principles as they apply in dantian, qigong, spiral force, predator force, and earth power. The interplay between yin and yang applies to physical and energy, including Heavy/Light, Soft/Hard, Full/Empty, Inward/Outward, Left/Right, Up/Down, Front/Back, Feminine/Masculine, and so on. At the same time, yin is always infinitely contained within yang and yang within yin, and the resulting combined force that is created is superior power.

The yin-yang universal principle applies to all forms of martial arts in China, Master Xu explains. He says that of an estimated 300 styles of martial arts in China, all of their disciples are searching for the secrets. Many claim that theirs is the “best,” and Master Xu says that for him the taijiquan principle of yin-yang is the one concept that unites them all. The thread that weaves through all internal martial arts is that of yin-yang. If you understand this then you have the answer that many have sought for ages.

Tai chi and your comfort zone

I would say that many people who have never done tai chi feel uncomfortable giving it a try because they are not sure what it is all about. When you are in this frame of mind, I encourage you to suspend judgment and go to a class. You might be surprised.

Many of us are experts in one field or another and we are uncomfortable stepping out of that comfort zone. This holds us back from trying new things, like tai chi. Tai chi is all about releasing yourself from binding forces, essentially by learning to move differently.

My tai chi community is a welcoming one. Those in my particular community are open and generous. This is true much of the time wherever you go in the world. If you saw me practicing in the park with others and wanted to join in you would be welcome.

Some people think tai chi is a performance thing, where you get graded and might fail. This is far from the truth in my experience and approach. In China, my teachers love it when you try. They accept any effort at all. Whether you get it or not is only part of their concern. They might even think it’s their fault if you don’t.

What is important to know is that real tai chi is incredibly simple even while it is one of the most sophisticated forms of physical activity on the planet available to human beings. I encourage those who have thought about trying tai chi, or even have contacted a teacher, but never showed up for your first practice, not to let it be an issue of what you are comfortable with or not comfortable with.

Some people think tai chi is too hard, but I fear that is a reflection upon the person and not tai chi. Tai chi can be challenging if you seek deeper understanding of the principles, but the rewards for seeking are incalculable.

The trick to doing tai chi is…

There is a trick to doing taiji, a simple one really; yet most people apply it only after struggling to get it in the beginning. But it is crucial to master this trick in order to get the most benefit out of doing taiji. The trick is … to focus the mind on a single thing and hold your attention there for an extended period of time. That’s the first part. The second part is to then move from there. Initiate movement from that point and allow the energy (qi) to flow through the whole body, animating its parts: bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, organs and so on. Of course, the third part is to retain the memory of how you do this after you leave taiji class, then practice it in the quiet of your special place for meditation and movement practice.