Ba Duan Jin

Simplified Chinese: 八段锦气功

八 – ba, or “eight”
段 – duan, or “section”
锦 – jin, or “brocade”
气 – qi, or “air”
功 – gong, or “skill”

Literally: 8-section-brocade qi-work

This is a form of Chi Kung, or Qi Gong, however you want to spell it, that I have been practicing, on and off, for about 20 years now. I first learned about it from a book I picked up at Borders called “The Way of Harmony” by Howard Reid. A slightly later book, by Lam Kam Chuen, who was an adviser to “The Way of Harmony,” is called “The Way of Energy,” and describes pretty much the same variation of Ba Duan Jin (BDJ). It seems that there are as many variations of BDJ as there are people who do it. I have not been able to find a video that shows the movements exactly as I do them, but here is one that is pretty close:

As one advances in this practice, one can become more vigorous in their movements and stretches, focus on their breathing more, and even begin to visualize qi moving in their bodies. When the breath, the mind, the muscles, and the movements can all work together, then one is at a very advanced level, and words pretty much fail to describe what the practitioner is experiencing and learning. This can be a life-long progression of mastery.

There is a lot of writing and talk about Qi, and many people think it “does not exist.” Well, in order to claim that something does not exist, one must be able to define it. I have not studied the traditional Chinese theories on Qi, but I do believe there is something to it. I see many similarities between Chinese Qi theory and East Indian Yoga theory. The nadis of yogic energy seem to correlate with the qi channels from traditional Chinese medicine. Whether this is through a common heritage of thought from several millenia ago, or whether they independently discovered some basic facts about the human being, I don’t know. It would be nice to see a study of the synthesis of these ideas from India and China.

As a lifelong practitioner of Yoga as well, it all kind of blends into one after a while. As Bruce Lee has stated, “there is only one type of human body.” Yoga gave me a foundation in body awareness that translates well into martial arts or qi gong or any other athletic or physical endeavor.

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