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Feature Article

Be Strong and Yet Flexible like a Tree in the Wind
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland

All great masters of Chinese health and martial arts have spoken about the importance of training one’s internal energy (qi) as well as the external form.  One of the most proven methods employed for building internal energy is the standing meditation, Embracing the Tree.

The body needs to be correctly aligned so that all force sinks to the ground through the feet.  At first, many people will experience soreness and tightness in the shoulders, arms and neck.  Gradually, the muscles relax and the tendons and connective tissues become stronger.  Tension flows slowly down the torso, through the legs and into the ground.

It is very important to practise Embracing the Tree daily, even if only a few minutes.  Students who seek the greatest health and strengthening benefits should begin practising the Standing for 5 minutes and gradually build up to 20 minutes.  This could be achieved over a period of 3 to 12 months.  During this time, you will feel as if your feet have taken root into the ground - thus, the analogy of a tree.  The Standing Qigong exercise is very important in helping you to sink your qi to the Dan Tian (the body centre).   Many Tai Chi masters who practise the method of Embracing the Tree can withstand the push of three or more people.

Once you have a strong sensation of qi in the Standing Qigong, you will find it easier to experience the feeling of qi in the more dynamic Qigong, such as the Tai Chi form.  Through the movements, the practitioner learns to integrate mind, body and spirit.  When one’s Tai Chi has reached a certain level, one is considered “to have legs”.  Until that time, one is regarded more like a bean sprout or “no legs”.

The Hun Yuan system developed by Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang, 75 years old, is one of the easiest methods for circulating qi through the meridians.  In the Hun Yuan semi-dynamic Qigong form, Grandmaster Feng emphasises the use of intention and the “Three Xing Returning to One” method: be aware of, gaze at through the mind’s eye and listen to the Dan Tian.  This enables the practitioner to reach a deeper level of relaxation and lays the foundation for the Tai Chi form.

One of the main purposes of Qigong is to develop sensitivity both externally and internally.  The level of sensitivity reached by high level masters is truly amazing.  Yang Lu Chan, founder of the Yang Style, could prevent a bird from flying off his open palm.  Whenever the bird tried to fly, Yang could yield to the bird’s downward pressure, so that the bird was unable to lift off his palm.  If you are willing and if you practise daily, you will be able to reach a good level that will benefit you for life.  Tall trees grow from small seeds.