Silk Reeling Gong - the Key to
Improving Your Tai Chi Form
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
Gong Fa is the foundation of the Hun Yuan Tai Chi system.
It involves nurturing and cultivating qi (energy). If one merely
practises movements without developing this internal aspect, one misses
the essence of Tai Chi. Hun Yuan Qigong, Fa Soong Gong, Quiet Standing,
Tai Chi Ruler, Chan
Si Gong (Silk Reeling Exercises)
and Tai Chi Bang (Stick)
parts of this Gong Fa foundation training. Each of the above components
has been designed to help students experience different aspects of the
internal training, so that they can ultimately be combined in the Tai
Chi form. Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang, founder of the Hun Yuan system,
always says, “Use mind or intention instead of hard force to move the
body. This is the way to develop internal power.” When one has gong,
one will experience how the qi moves the body in the Tai Chi form and
realise the profoundness of those words.
Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang (1928- ), founder of the Hun
Yuan Tai Chi system, states that Tai Chi is chan si (silk reeling).
This statement highlights the importance of this aspect of the
training. The Tai Chi classics speak of performing Tai Chi movements
like reeling silk from a cocoon. The analogy warns us that if the silk
is reeled too fast, the thread will break. If it is reeled too slowly,
the thread will tangle. The silk reeling exercises teach you to use an
adequate amount of force to generate movements efficiently. If you are
too forceful, you will lock your joints and will fail to achieve freedom
of movement. If you are too limp or empty in Tai Chi terms, you will
also fail to circle the joints completely, thus losing the full range of
The Chan Si Gong is an important training method for
developing body awareness and coordination. It is a link between
building and expressing qi and jin (force). These silk reeling
movements work on different joints of the body: neck, shoulders, elbows,
wrists, chest, abdomen, waist, hips, kuas (inguinal crease), knees and
ankles. Grandmaster Feng describes the Chan Si Gong as training the
body’s 18 balls. If it is practised well, the body moves like a well
oiled instrument, each part moving on a series of ball bearings.
The Chan Si Gong gradually builds up power through
coordination, linking all the body’s joints like a string of pearls. It
teaches you the Tai Chi principle of moving the body as one unit. The
Tai Chi classics state that jin starts in the feet and is controlled by
the waist and expressed by the hands. This explains the way that Tai
Chi generates and releases power. It sounds simple. However, in order
to achieve this, each joint has to be strong yet flexible, and be able
to listen and work with all other parts of the body. If one joint is
weak or tense, the force will be neutralised and the ground force will
not be released. What is released will only be a fraction of that
A good practitioner’s Tai Chi form will give the
impression of moving like water – a domino wave like effect. This is
due to the chan si jin being expressed through each and every joint.
The benefits of Tai Chi become clear when you feel these gentle,
circular, silk reeling movements work on your body. As you practise
more, you will also feel how these spiralling exercises help to develop
your internal energy. Once qi is strong in the Dan Tian, you will feel
qi enveloping the body. This makes the practice of chan si gong even
The components of the Hun Yuan Tai Chi system are all
interconnected. The two aspects of qi development – cultivation and
circulation – are emphasised from the very beginning of one’s training.
Learning the Hun Yuan system is like building a house. First you
establish a good foundation and then you start building the structure.
Miss out on one step and that weakness will always be there to hinder
your progress. Many students fail to see the importance of the silk
reeling exercises. Refer to the Flexibility DVD regularly and see how
the joints articulate each movement. If every day, one practises two
silk reeling exercises mindfully, one’s form will naturally improve.
Try it daily for a month and see what a difference it makes to your
body, to your energy level and to your Tai Chi form!