These days, you hear a lot about cross-training in the fitness world. The premise is simple: By training simultaneously in more than one discipline you’ll get more benefit than if you trained in just one discipline. And this premise seems to hold true because athletes all over the world, from amateurs to Olympic gold-medalists, are reaping the amazing benefits of cross-training.
Does the same cross-training premise hold true with Qigong? I’m not just talking about incorporating Qigong into your Western training routine. That’s a no-brainer. Athletes who incorporate Qigong will see huge gains, even if they’re already using cutting-edge cross-training methods.
No, what I’m talking about is cross-training within Qigong.
In a previous article, I talked about the 5 Categories of Qigong. If you haven’t read that article, then you might want to go read it now. But if you don’t have time, I’ll sum it up. Basically, there are many different Qigong techniques, and they all fall into 5 categories:
- Medical Qigong
- Vitality Qigong
- Intellectual Qigong
- Warrior Qigong
- Spiritual Qigong
My premise here is similar to the premise used in Western fitness training: By training simultaneously in more than one category of Qigong, you’ll get more benefit than if you train in just one category. Based on my experience teaching thousands of students, this premise seems to be true.
Actually, it’s a conclusion, not a premise. I didn’t start with an idea, and then experiment to see if it was true. The other way around. I came to this conclusion about Qigong cross-training after years of experimenting and observing.
Let me be clear that this concept of cross-training in Qigong is a modern one. You won’t find this concept in the classics. As far as I know, I’m the only one using this terminology. But I find it useful, and maybe you will too.
THE LEGACY OF PAST MASTERS
Remember — past masters didn’t typically know all 5 categories of Qigong. I’m lucky in that regard because I learned them all. Historically speaking, this was rare.
Past masters also didn’t teach very many students. They taught a handful of disciples in their entire life. I, on the other hand, have taught thousands. This is significant because teaching has helped me to deepen my understand of Qigong in countless ways.
Let me be clear about something: I am not suggesting that I’m better than past masters. It’s true that, compared to some modern “masters,” I’m practically a superhero. But that’s not because I’m amazing; it’s because they are so unbelievably bad.
But compared to past masters, I’m just a little boy. All of the available evidence suggests that the past masters were incredibly powerful. They didn’t have access to as much information as I do, and they weren’t able to deepen their understanding through teaching as I have done, but they made up for those disadvantages with practice. Lots and lots of practice. And less Facebook.
Past masters were undoubtedly powerful, but were they efficient? This is where I think I may have an edge. Without meaning to sound cocky, I honestly think that I may be more efficient than past masters. And it’s not just me. You can be more efficient too.
The secret? Qigong cross-training.
A CLOSER LOOK AT QIGONG CROSS-TRAINING
Let’s take a closer look at how this works. Pretend that Suzie wants to heal herself from a serious digestive disorder. (Actually, this is based on a real case, but I changed her name and altered the details for the sake of explanation.) Suzie is a committed student, and she practices exercises like Lifting The Sky and Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow every day for 15 minutes. (Good for you, Suzie!)
These techniques fall into the category of Medical Qigong. In this hypothetical situation, Suzie will get good results. Based on her age, her health history, and the severity of her digestive disorder, I estimated that it would probably take Suzie about 2 years to get rid of it completely. This is pretty good considering it’s a so-called “incurable” disorder. Let’s not forget that Qigong works holistically, so she’ll also get all kinds of other health benefits along the way.
There’s no question that Medical Qigong is the best choice for her. If there’s pain anywhere, then you should be doing Medical Qigong. Period. For example, if you are in pain, but you only practice Warrior Qigong, then you may actually aggravate your pain. So if Suzie had to choose only one type of Qigong, then she chose right with Medical Qigong.
Luckily, Suzie has an excellent instructor who not only knows all 5 Levels of Qigong, but is also witty and handsome. So she doesn’t have to limit herself to one type of Qigong. She can cross-train.
Let’s say that, instead of just doing Medical Qigong for 2 years, Suzie adds some Warrior Qigong exercises to her routine. Will that aggravate her pain?
If she weren’t cross-training with Medical Qigong, then yes. But with cross-training, no, it won’t aggravate her pain. More importantly, she’ll heal much, much faster thanks to the synergistic combination of Warrior + Medical Qigong.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If I’m honest — and I’m always honest with my students — I have to admit that I don’t know exactly how it works. I have my theories. But they are just that — theories.
How it works is just a theory, but that it works is not. I’ve seen way too much evidence in myself and my students. It works. I know that much for sure.
Just for fun, let’s speculate about how it works. In Suzie’s case, Warrior Qigong probably injected more energy (Qi) into her system. Medical Qigong also injects energy, but not nearly as much.
Medical Qigong focuses on circulating the energy (rather than building it) because it follows the principles of Chinese Medicine. According to these principles, pain is caused by blockages in the energy system. If you inject too much energy too soon, then you actually put pressure on those blockages (just like adding pressure to clogged pipes). This is why Warrior Qigong, by itself, is a bad choice for healing pain — because the injection of energy can put pressure on existing blockages.
But when you combine the energy-injecting aspect of Warrior Qigong with the energy-circulating aspect of Medical Qigong, something magical happens (as if Qigong wasn’t already magical enough). There seems to be a synergy that is formed by the combination. The increased energy from Warrior Qigong is somehow able to clear the blockages rather than just press against them. And when the blockages clear, Suzie gets rid of her pain.
Are you ready for the really amazing part? By cross-training, Suzie will not only get rid of her disorder faster, but she’ll also develop Internal Power. (What is internal power? That’s a subject for a future article, but suffice it to say that it gives you speed, strength, stamina, and fortitude that can be used for martial arts, sports, or daily life.)
In other words, Suzie got double the results in half the time.
DOUBLE RESULTS, HALF THE TIME
Remember earlier when I said that I was more efficient than past masters? Hopefully, that statement is starting to make more sense. Can you see how Suzie became more efficient once she combined Medical Qigong with Warrior Qigong?
Let’s take a closer look. For the sake of analysis, let’s say that Suzie practices 500 times per year (i.e. once every day, and twice some days). If she had done only Medical Qigong, then it would have taken her about 2 years to fix her disorder. In other words, it would have take her 1000 sessions of Medical Qigong to heal her problem.
But instead of doing only Medical Qigong, Suzie practiced Warrior Qigong at the same time. Just for convenience, let’s say that she split her time equally between the two. So each year, she did 250 sessions of Medical Qigong, and 250 sessions of Warrior Qigong. So the total number or practice sessions was the same as the previous example.
In this 2nd scenario, she would heal her digestive disorder in 1 year rather than 2. So that’s twice as fast, which is already pretty amazing. But wait! There’s more!
After 2 years of this cross-training, she would also develop a lot of internal power. How much internal power? Are you ready to be wowed? Suzie would have roughly the same level of Internal Power as someone training only Warrior Qigong for 2 years.
Can you see the incredible efficiency here? Not only is Suzie healing faster, but she’s also developing internal power at the same time! So she’s getting better results in every way.
A DOUBLE MAJOR
How far can we go with this? Can we cross-train in all 5 types? We can, but I’m not yet sure where the sweet spot is. I think there’s a point of diminishing returns. Based on my experience, I would say that the best results will come from focusing on 2 categories at a time.
Think of it like having a double major in college. You can take courses in other subjects, but most of your courses will be connected to one of your majors. The same should apply with Qigong Cross-Training.
So if you have access to multiple categories of Qigong, then my advice is to choose 2 majors rather than just 1. Which two should you choose? Well, unless you are very advanced (and thus don’t really need my advice), I suggest that you always pick Medical Qigong as one of the Majors. For your 2nd Major, choose whatever excites you the most. If it excites you, if you enjoy it, then you’ll practice it more. That’s good enough reason in and of itself.
If, for example, you’re already doing Tai Chi from another teacher, then you should add Medical Qigong to your routine. Depending on how you practice it, Tai Chi is either in the Vitality or Warrior category. It’s definitely not Medical Qigong even though people practice it for health. If you add Medical Qigong, then you’ll see huge health benefits in a relatively short period of time.
But if you’ve already learned Medical Qigong from me (like Lifting The Sky and Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow), then you can choose one of the other 4 categories as your 2nd major. Does the idea of boosting creativity excite you? Then add Intellectual Qigong. Do you enjoy working on strength and flexibility? Then add Vitality Qigong? Are you a deeply spiritual person? Then add Spiritual Qigong.
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?
Do you have some experience with Qigong cross-training? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Remember, this is a community, not a one-way street. Posting a comment is easy! Don’t be shy.