Most of us have experienced some of the confirmatory signs of our Yang Qi, such as warmth in the Dan Tien or throughout the body, the feeling of warmth and/or fullness flooding our palms or feet during various Taiji movements. The feeling of rooted heaviness and unified solidity. The feelings of power or inner strength after a proper Fa Jin release. All these are aspects of what we can call ‘Yang (or active) Qi.’
And this is what most people are interested in, for martial power and the like. And this is natural because these are the things we first encounter as we follow through in our training, both with Zhan Zhuang and indeed in any of the internal arts.
But there is a whole other side to what we ordinarily call Qi. And that is the Yin aspect or ‘Yin Qi.’ Of course all this is based on Chinese Medicine theory and Taoist thought.
After one has developed ‘frame,’ which includes root and the ability to both absorb and issue power in what we might call a highly ‘visible’ manner, it then becomes possible to begin the exploration of the Yin or ‘mysterious’ Qi. Why mysterious? Because in order to properly cultivate and later utilize Yin Qi, it first becomes necessary to let go of a number of cherished martial arts beliefs. Basically this means that ordinarily we will equate speed and ‘strength’ with power. But in the world of Yin Qi we must give up this notion because with the Yin Qi, basically the opposite is true. This means that with Yin Qi, when we feel ‘strong,’ we are in fact weak, and when we feel ‘weak’ or perhaps a better word is effortless, that’s when we’re actually very strong.
So, what is the value of this Yin Qi? Well, besides the obvious health application, for martial arts it goes something like this. It is said Master Wang Xiang Zhai used Taijiquan Yin Qi aspects for neutralizing and diverting, Bagua for footwork and Xingyi generation methods to issue power. So the usefulness of Yin Qi in internal martial arts has to do with its ability to stick and adhere and lead into emptiness. A most useful skill in setting up for or simultaneously returning devastating Yang Qi power.
The big difference when cultivating Yang Qi versus cultivating Yin Qi is that with the Yin Qi we must let go of all the normal feelings of strength and power and instead go for a most profound form of relaxation and focus, such that we may even let go of the shape of our outer form or structure almost entirely, and rely solely on our ‘internal frame’ which we have cultivated over the years, to support our outer structure and later also to deal with incoming power.
The two photos included show both the Yang and Yin Qi Taiji Cultivation postures. Note that the Yang posture is forward-weighted (bow stance) while the Yin Posture is back-weighted, as with Lu, or Rollback. In the Yang posture, the folding of the Kua and the twisting of the torso around the centerline cultivate Taiji’s famous spiral energies. (For those wishing to cultivate very strong Yang Qi it is highly recommended to also train in the Santi posture. Extensive Santi practice cultivates one of the most ‘solid’ forms of Yang Qi. Most effective for devastating penetration power. I believe one famous Xingyi master put it this way, “Where I hit, he breaks.”)
Now with the back-weighted Yin Qi cultivation posture, our focus and intention becomes very different. With the Yin posture we want to cultivate what we might call, the ‘empty vessel’ – open to receive (and release) Heaven energy from above and Earth energy from below. After a time one will begin to feel a subtle but tangible flow of a ‘soft,’ almost ethereal ‘substance’, descending from above and entering through the back hand and fingers, circulating throughout the body and smoothly exiting through the front palm and fingers. Later we may also feel this energy entering through Baihui point at the crown of the head and descending through the Central Channel into the ground through the Earth Point and the bottoms of our feet…
Try these for yourself, 5-15 minutes per posture and then switch sides for a total of between 20-60 minutes. Be sure to start with the Yang posture on each side.