Exploring Taiji | Sinking the Qi and reverse breathing
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Sinking the Qi and reverse breathing

Recently I read a post on Facebook about sinking the Qi from one of my Sidai’s in the system of Master Sam Tam and Master Huang Xiangxian.


It started quite a debate and discussion involving a lot of the internet gongfu warriors and it somehow reminded me of the old Danish fairy tale written by H. C. Andersen called The Emperor’s New Clothes, in which two weavers promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.


When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”


I know some of the people personally who participated in the debate on Facebook, and I also know for a fact that they haven’t got a clue of what sinking the Qi really is -and of course even less how to develop it.


When I began learning directly from Master Sam Tam back in 2005 – 12 years ago – the first thing he said was when I asked him where his tremendously power came from: “Just sink the Qi”. And when I asked him how it was developed, he just replied: “You must do standing meditation to develop it”.


Time and time again I have asked him the same question during my years as his student – not because I didn’t hear him the first time – but simply because I didn’t understand it in depth, and also because I had the feeling that the answer would change during the years, in line with my personal development. It did by the way.


Just as it has been the case with the standing meditation itself where I during the first years had to stand for long, daily sessions even though he often said to me, “If you do it right one minute is better than if you do it wrong for one hour”.


Let me say it clear and simple so there can be no misunderstandings! To learn to sink the Qi efficiently you must have a teacher, who can demonstrate it – convincingly – and explain it, one who are willing to teach it and to let you touch his body. And definitely not a teacher that uses substitute methods and/or handforce which most people do.


Another very important ingredient to “get it”, is letting go of your own assumptions and ideas. It’s just ego blocking any chance of putting oneself in an ideal teacher/student situation. There is a time for learning and a time for teaching – don’t mix it up!


Another very important factor is – time. Did you notice the last word in Internal Martial ART? An art takes (normally) time to develop, otherwise we wouldn’t call it an art. Sam Tam has been practicing now for close to 70 years. On top of that, he have had exceptionally skillful martial artists in different lineages as his teachers, combined with his own obvious talent within this field.



Being ignorant and arrogant
Acceptance is one of the most important conditions to put ourselves in, if we really want to learn something new. Accept that we don’t understand it yet, instead of taking something we don’t understand and pull it down to our current level of understanding and mix it with what we already “know”. It’s the certain way not to learn anything new.


It reminds me of what Sam Tam one time said to me during one of our late night conversations. “One thing is being ignorant or even arrogant. There is still hope for either development or change. But being both ignorant and arrogant is another story. Not much hope here”.


Unfortunately it is not uncommon today to see a lot of people on the different social media platforms being both ignorant and arrogant. Talking about – and/or even giving advices on – things they themselves haven’t got a clue about how to develop.


“Either you teach or you don’t – there can be no in between”.
We must as students and in seek of learning and developing the arts put ourselves in an ideal position for our teacher(s) so that they can teach us. That’s our responsibility where¬†our teacher(s) responsibility is to teach from the heart. Or like Sam Tam once put it: “Either you teach or you don’t – there can be no in between”.


To often I have seen “teachers” who deliberately either hold back or don’t really teach. Or the farce where both the teacher and the students on a deep level know that the teacher are not capable of doing what he claims to be capable of, but the students jump like crazy when he touches them. The student maybe in need of a father figure, a guru or something else, and the teacher himself operating from ego and fear of being found out and therefore only touch hands with his own students. A sad but quite common situation these days.


Reverse breathing – the holy grail?
Another important ingredient in developing the ability to sink the Qi is reverse breathing, which in itself sometimes is looked at as the holy grail. Even though there are special exercises that address reverse breathing directly, in my opinion today, it is best developed during standing meditation.


It reminds me of one of Sam Tam’s quotes that I myself made use of for quite some years when I was teaching, and first realizing later on that I didn’t do it myself but in my own arrogance and ignorance had stated teaching before understanding the profound message of: “The standing is there to serve you – you are not there to serve the standing”.


Under the correct guidance from a skillful practitioner and teacher a lot of things will unfold by itself during your standing meditation. Be patient, let time pass by – remember to always have a student’s attitude when you are being taught, be humble and accepting – and of course make sure your teacher is competent.


Teachers open the door but you must enter by yourself

Torben Bremann