Do You Know All 12 Skills of Qi Cultivation?

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Can you also direct the qi to your feet?” he asked.

Mark was a new student in my studio. He told me that he had read a few books on qigong and tai chi. But his first week in the studio was an eye-opener.

He was loving the experience.

“Yes,” I said.

Mark giggled with excitement.

“What about directing the energy outside of your body?” Mark asked. “I read that past masters could do that.”

Mark would often corner me after class and pepper me with questions.

“Sure, I can do that too,” I said. “It’s not as mysterious as it sounds. But we call that transmitting the qi, which is different than directing the qi.”

I walked him over to a chart on the back wall of my studio, which had the following list:

The 12 Dimensions of Qi Mastery

  1. Discovering the Qi
  2. Circulating the Qi
  3. Aligning the Qi
  4. Gathering the Qi
  5. Purifying the Qi
  6. Protecting the Qi
  7. Mobilizing the Qi
  8. Directing the Qi
  9. Consolidating the Qi
  10. Transforming the Qi
  11. Unifying the Qi
  12. Transmitting the Qi

“The class you just took was here,” I said, pointing to #2 on the chart. “Directing the qi to my feet would be #8, and transmitting the qi outside of my body would be #12.”

As Mark stared at the chart, he looked like a kid in a candy store. He was grinning ear to ear.

And that’s exactly how it should be when you are new to qigong and tai chi — you should be excited and awed and even a bit overwhelmed by the amazing new world of qi cultivation.

Ancient Skills, Modernized

lifting-costa-rica-temple-sillhouette-sue

A few years ago, I started to feel like there was something missing from my teaching.

I needed something to help my students understand the many different skills that past qigong masters had.

I dove into classical and modern texts on qigong. I experimented. I meditated on the subject. And I practiced diligently.

The result was something  that I called The 12 Phases of Qi Cultivation.

Some of you may remember my older article on the 12 Phases of Qi Mastery. If you haven’t read that article, you can skip it because this one is more up-to-date. (Or you can go read it if you’re a curious cat.)

That was the prototype of the 12 Dimensions of Qi Mastery.

From Phases to Dimensions

The 12 Phases, now called the 12 Dimensions, were originally meant as a simple teaching tool, but the concept has evolved into something much bigger.

Last year, during our annual retreat in Costa Rica, one of the participants suggested that we use the word “12 Dimensions” instead of “12 Phases”.

This person happens to be a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Florida.

He explained that in physics, dimensions are not linear. They coexist and overlap.

This was exactly the concept that I had been searching for.

The 12 skills overlap, and also coexist.

As we explore the 12 Dimensions together, you’ll see why I changed the terms, and why this whole thing is a journey, not a destination.

For example, there is overlap between the 2 skills of directing the qi to my hands and transmitting the qi to another person. If I use my hand to transmit, then both skills must also coexist at the same time. Right?

Seeking What They Sought

There’s a famous Zen quote that has inspired me through my 2 decades of exploring these arts:

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.” ― Zen Master Matsuo Bashō

In seeking what the past masters sought, I discovered the 12 Dimensions.

I stood on the shoulders of giants. In other words, I built on the knowledge of the past masters, combined with my modern understanding and experience of qigong (and physics!).

If you love qigong and tai chi, then my “discoveries” may help you, regardless of what style you practice.

Then and Now

As I mentioned, past qigong masters get all the credit for discovering and developing these 12 skills.

My work has been to organize, arrange, and teach these skills, not just to a few select disciples like in the past, but to thousands of students.

My goal is for students to experience all 12 skills.

In other words, I don’t want you to just read about these skills; I want you to feel them.

These skills are not mysterious. With proper training and proper practice, anyone can learn and enjoy all 12 Dimensions of Qi Mastery.

A Green Belt in Qi Mastery?

Karate Image

An old image of me competing as a green belt in karate, circa 1993.

Before switching to qigong and tai chi, I earned 2 black belts in karate.

The belt system is popular. And I know why.

It’s comforting to see an organized path of belts ahead of you. It helps you feel like there is an order to the chaos of learning a complex new skill.

I still remember the feeling of pride after earning my green belt.

Belts are also important for karate school owners. It’s hard to run a successful martial arts business without using belts to increase motivation and attendance.

After I left the karate world, I stopped using the belt system, and I haven’t looked back.

But now, it’s tempting for students to view the 12 Dimensions as levels, similar to belts.

“What level are you?”

“Dude, I just passed my Dimension 4 test!” 

Unfortunately, qi mastery doesn’t work that way.

Mastery in the art of qi cultivation isn’t linear. It’s circular. Or rather, spiral.

The Spiral of Qi and of Life

Our galaxy is a spiral. The “Golden Number” of mathematics maps out to a spiral. In many ways, life itself is a spiral.

The natural order is a spiral, not a line.

Qigong and tai chi are based on the philosophy of yin and yangIn other words, these arts follow the natural order of the cosmos.

Rather than thinking about the 12 Dimensions as a line, think of them as a spiral, like this:

12-dimensions-circles-spiraling

If you look at the spiral above, you can see that by the time you finish all 12 dimensions, you’re basically back where you started — just a bit deeper.

Also, notice the overlap between each skill. This is to remind you that the separating into skills is not black and white.

In fact, the deeper you go into this art of qi mastery, the more the 12 skills become unified.

The Many Levels of Mastery

I’ve been through all 12 Dimensions, and I can perform each skill.

Does that mean I’m done? Am I an Enlightened Mega Grandmaster?

Um, no.

People today are extremely confused about the concept of mastery.

In an article on the subject, What Everyone Ought to Know About Jedi Mastery, I likened myself to a 4th degree Black Belt in qigong and tai chi.

This is just an analogy to remind you that mastery has many levels. It’s a lesson that I never forgot from my karate days — that black belt is only the beginning. (There are 10 degrees of black belt.)

In fact, black belt was the beginning of a fantastic journey for me, a journey that now has me exploring and teaching the 12 Dimensions of Qi Mastery all over the world.

If we continue using the karate belt analogy, then you need to understand this: You’ll be mastering the 12 Dimensions not only from white belt to black belt, but also through all 10 ranks of black belt.

The Messiness of Mastery

I’ve been practicing the various skills from the 12 Dimensions for decades. And I plan to continue practicing them for many more years.

For example, I still practice Dimension #1, Discovering the Qi, every single day.

It’s not a beginner skill that I learned years ago and then left behind.

If anything, I am discovering the qi in new and beautiful ways. For example, I’m discovering not just the flow of qi in my own body, but how qi flows through a room (which is part of the art called feng shui).

I don’t go in order through the skills. One day, I might focus on gathering the qi. Another day, I might focus on consolidating.

Or I might spend a month deepening my skill of transforming.

This is what mastery really looks like. It’s messy.

I’ve arranged the 12 skills in a pretty, color-coded chart. But your journey won’t look like that. Mine certainly didn’t.

For example, many of you reading this have probably learned some of the 12 skills, but not all of them.

That’s okay. You’ve got the rest of your life to learn and develop the other skills.

Understanding Each Dimension

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably curious to learn more about each of the 12 Dimensions.

Good! I was hoping to pique your curiosity.

But first, I want to hear from you.

If you want me to write more about this, then let me know in the comments below.

I especially want to know which of the 12 Dimensions you are most curious about! 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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40 Responses to Do You Know All 12 Skills of Qi Cultivation?

  1. Derrick June 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    Great Blog Sifu! I like the way you express the overlap of dimensions. It helps to get a better idea of how we will progress through this journey. I am interested in learning about all the 12 Dimensions, but the Transmitting Dimension is probably at the top of my list. Protecting, Purifying, and Transforming would be next. I do have a few questions: How can you tell when someone is ready to move from one dimension to the other? What dimensions should be practiced longer than others? I have heard the phrase, “Learn to love the plateau.” I assume this phrase could be applied to some of the 12 Dimensions. Do you have any experiences hitting plateaus in qigong or tai chi, if so, did you love them?

    Best Regards!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 28, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

      Thanks, Derrick.

      Readiness is relative. Students can, and often do, skip around the 12 skills. But when someone has trouble with a certain skill, then you can bet that they need more time in the skills that come lower in the list.

      For example, if you have trouble directing the qi to your lungs, then you probably need to circulate, gather, and purify.

      Without a doubt, circulating and gathering are practiced more than any of the other dimensions. They are the twin pillars. You can’t go wrong practicing those two.

      Plateaus are common in all arts. I find the 12 Dimensions a great way to get off the plateau. I find that switching up the skills helps me to move forward.

      • Derrick June 28, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

        Thanks for the response Sifu! That clears some things up.

  2. Robin June 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    Neato:) hard to say which is most interesting because I am not sure what they all mean. I want to know! Right now I’d like to gather and circulate like the devil to help with my health fight.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

      I guess what I was asking is which one SOUNDS interested. 🙂

      Sorry to hear about the health fight. How’s your qigong dosage these days?

  3. Jordan June 29, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    I would definitely love to read more about this topic and each dimension in greater detail. I imagine breaking down the skills like this greatly improves intention setting during training sessions which I always find extremely important. Purifying qi sounds like a great technique I’d like to learn more about, though I would really love to pepper you with questions about all 12 haha!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 29, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      You’re right about the advantages of breaking down the skills, Jordan.

      One clarification: these are skills, not techniques. Certain techniques are better for a particular skill, but I can use one technique, like Pushing Mountains, for many of the skills.

      • Jordan June 29, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

        Ok thank you for the clarification. Techniques are tools used to enhance skills, not the other way around. That makes more sense.

  4. Lisé June 29, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    Sifu Anthony, a great post, a perfect depiction with the use of the term “dimension” and the graphic using the configuration of the spiral, thank you. Directing qi to help myself and transmitting qi to aid others are my first priority. Transforming and aligning qi also sound intriguing. Looking forward to reading more!

  5. spwheat June 29, 2016 at 7:16 am #

    I would like to read more on this subject. I have gotten 2 of the 12 going on, but I still have some blockages to deal with. Seems like the more I practice the more my blockages clear. This s subject could help me get a better understanding of how it all works.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 29, 2016 at 8:09 am #

      Thanks for the feedback, Shannon. What you may find is that some blockages clear using 2 of the skills, but others will linger. That’s when it’s definitely time to add a new dimension.

  6. rene June 29, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    Discoverin Qi or becoming aware of it and cultivating and…using it… I am learning to become aware of Qi. For instance when I feel excitement or chills, or tingling. I’m also learning how to recognize it from others or when I walk in a room so as not be overwhelmed by it or unwantingly (it’s a word now, it’s written 🙂 ) influenced. What is some advice for this?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 29, 2016 at 8:08 am #

      Rene, I find that the deeper I got in to these skills, the more easily I can sense the qi in situations like you describe.

      So the trick to getting better at discovering the qi in daily life is to go deeper into your qigong practice.

      • Rene June 29, 2016 at 9:07 am #

        Thank you Sifu

  7. Tom Judge June 29, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    You just congratulated me on my one year anniversary, this blog is the best present (or carrot) you could give me. At age 83 I am elated with the health progress. Am rotating through the 18 Louhans every 3 days and before closing routine (last 30 days) doing 10 to 20 minutes of warrior stances then closing. The path you lead me on is fantastic. Please continue to lead as you see fit.
    Tom J

  8. Mary June 29, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks for this blog. I found it very encouraging, especially in terms of explaining that one’s focus can shift within the span of dimensions without loss of integrity to the process. When one is undertaking a new discipline which is multifaceted it is good to have a measure by which to distinguish dynamism from simple scatter. Thank you.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 29, 2016 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks, Mary. I find that students do better having a focus. It’s similar to the Zen idea of “using one thought to dispel 1000 thoughts.” Focusing on gathering the qi dispels thoughts of circulating or directing (not to mention thoughts of checking email and feeding the dogs).

  9. Vera June 29, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    I remember reading about this kind of gradation when I was intensively practicing taichi, and being sad about not being able to circulate Qi. I guess I was at the level of discovery.
    Since then I developed a sense of intuition which tells me if I am ready for something. I follow this sense and instinctively feel I am at protecting and purifying stages. Recently one of the masters I work with tried to get me to do the transmission ( FaChi Si) and I felt a great resistance inside me as well got great pain in my back.. I managed to dissolve that by asking another master to clear it out and by breathing meditation ( or directing Qi ).
    I am happy where I am right now your teaching getting me stronger on all previous levels.
    I may have been on a plateau for a while before I started learning from you. I now feel a growth inside, a new expansion . Feels great! I am well on my journey.
    Many thanks!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am #

      I’m so glad that you’re feeling growth and expansion, Vera!

      Most tai chi practitioners I meet focus on gathering and aligning the qi, whether they know it or not. Many longtime tai chi practitioners have told me that the didn’t truly understand how to circulate the qi until they learned “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow” from me.

      For many tai chi practitioners, this technique is the master key that unlocks all of the the other dimensions.

  10. Mira Mishkin June 29, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Def interested in more on this! I have noticed so many things about the 12 Dimensions in my limited practice. This really got me excited to get back into regular practice!

  11. Cichon June 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    That’s a great article! I have been doing Qigong a little over a month so I have a LOT to learn. That’s okay because I’m up for the challenge, and I’m enjoying the journey. I would like to go more in depth on circulating the Qi, directing the Qi and transmitting the Qi. Here’s the thing: if I keep it real, the truth is I want to go more in depth on all 12 of the dimensions. In this short period I have become a Qigong fanatic. I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing, but I’m the type of person who wants it all!

  12. Dariusz June 29, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

    Yes. To be honest i would like to know more about every single one of them but , Circulating, directing and how to transmit are the ones that i would like to focus on while learning.

    It’s really good article, and i can’t wait to read more!

  13. David June 29, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    Great post and i like the intergration with theoretical physics as well as practical physics. Its this connection ive been studying since i was 20 and first discovered the energetic system humans can tap into. I started when a friend i knew showed me the first parts to the 8 pieces of silk his grand master taught him. And now i practice them almost every day that i can. I have been wanting to learn other forms of cultivation to see what different exercises can do for my training, the more i practice the more i can feel connections being made in my body that connects me to more energy which is bringing me closer to mastery over myself

  14. Chris McArdle June 29, 2016 at 8:37 pm #

    Thankyou, great article. I would love to hear more on this topic. At the moment I am most interested in aligning the qi, but am interested to hear more on everything.

  15. Lynn June 29, 2016 at 9:10 pm #

    This is inspiring. My practice thought is self healing injuries and balance issues that I might help others. Starting Qigong in the park as unable to find practicing teachers.learning mostly from various YouTube videos. Looking for guidance and loving Qigong.

  16. Julie June 30, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    I am also interested in learning more about all 12 dimensions, but Protecting, Purifying, Transforming, Unifying, and Transmitting stand out as sounding most interesting. I was also intrigued by your comment about how qi flows in a room (feng shui) — and would love to hear your thoughts on this as I often struggle with having too much clutter! Thanks, Sifu!

  17. Lemont June 30, 2016 at 10:43 pm #

    Hey Anthony
    Lemont I have not got started yet on it I have had my
    Experience with chi gong as well

  18. Cindy July 1, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    Yes, I would be interested in purifying qi and unifying qi. However, you should cover all 12 skills of chi cultivation. Everyone could benefit from this information.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    Cindy

  19. Catherine Rosario Perry Harris July 6, 2016 at 6:56 am #

    Thank you for your teaching. Yes, please write more on this topic!

  20. Sarah July 6, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Fascinating. Yes, I know that much is missing from my Qi Gong practice. I would definitely like to learn more. I’d say I’ve done Nos 1, 2 and 4 not sure about aligning or any of the rest. Can’t wait for more

  21. Sarah July 7, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    On re-reading, I’m wondering what are the differences between “circulating, mobilizing and directing Qi.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      I’ll need several blog posts to explain, but the short answer is: circulating is about getting the energy flowing smoothly through the channels, mobilizing is forcefully expressing the qi (especially for martial arts), and directing is using intent (or yi) to move the qi to a chosen area.

  22. Nonee October 23, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    do you have an online course to learn all 12 skills?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais October 23, 2016 at 8:20 am #

      Hi there. I’m excite about my new online program, which will be ready by the end of November.

      The program will guide you though the first 4 of the skills, which are the most important. Later, I may create online courses to over the other skills.

      Make sure that you are on my email list so that you can get first pick at the new online course!

  23. faceless December 14, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    hi Sifu! I had not read this article before! and yes I really really really really really want to keep mastering the Qi throughout my life! Transforming the Qi sounds extremely fascinating! Man I really wish I master the Qi! The great Bodhidharma helped monks to meditate and I want to use the Qi energy for intense meditations too. may this intense excitement spread like wild fire and bring more folks into the Qigong world, into what Bodhidharma really sought! into what the Zen masters really sought!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais December 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Suyog. Transforming the Qi is is more than fascinating. It’s fun. And so are the other dimensions of qi master.

      I love your enthusiasm!

  24. Laura March 8, 2017 at 12:55 am #

    Hi Sifu, I am so interested in learning more about mastery of these skills. It was a real treat to read this blog today because last night I did a meditation with breath in which I felt qi moving through my hands. It was as if healing qi was flushing through my body and concentrating where I experience the worst symptoms, extreme tremors. They did not go away, but I felt like it is within the realm of possibility that they can be healed. I don’t believe I directed the qi, but rather that being in the Zen state allowed the qi to move to the area where it is most needed.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais March 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

      That’s wonderful, Laura! And yes, it sounds like the qi went where it was needed, which is the essence of the 5-Phase Routine!

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