In this edition of Ask Sifu Anthony, you’ll find questions about strength training, the importance of energy circulation, online learning, Scholar’s Qigong, the karate kiai, and more…
I believe that students should be able to get the answers that they need. That’s why I work so hard answering questions in our Facebook group, inside my online programs, in our webinars, and here on the blog.
Seeing other students asks questions that you might have asked yourself – and then reading the answers – helps too! This helps us all to feel connected to a global qigong community. It also helps those who are too introverted or too shy to ask a question.
Question 1: Julie
When pairing some strength training with Qigong, is it better end with Qigong, or start with it? My strength training consists of about 15-20m of core exercises daily: sit-ups, planks, pushups, lunges, light weight lifting for arm workout, and exercise ball for core. Do we want to get our energy flowing through Qigong first before strength, or do we want to finish with balancing our energy and flexibility for the rest of the day?
Hi Julie. It’s a good question! If you are only doing the 5-Phase Routine once per day, then I think it’s best to start with it. Here’s why.
Strength training revs up the nervous system. This is necessary when lifting weights, and also beneficial. Healthy stress like this is good for the body as long as it is not overdone.
If you do your qigong session immediately after a strength session, then the qigong will help to relax your nervous system. But the question is: how much? In my experience, because of the nature of strength training, you will probably only return your baseline.
In other words, qigong after strength training will just bring you back to where you were immediately before starting the strength training.
This isn’t a terrible thing, but if this is your only qigong session of the day, then you’ve missed your opportunity to relax PAST your baseline.
Let’s say you do your strength training in the morning. Your nervous system revs up, your heart rate goes up, cortisol is released, and you sweat a little. Good! Exercise like this is healthy!
At the end of the session, if you want to do the 2-Minute Drill to help settle down, great. That’s a nice way to close your strength session.
But now let’s say you do a qigong session later in the day. Your nervous system has already had time to return to its baseline. So when you begin your qigong session, that’s where you start. By the end of your 5-Phase session, you bring your nervous system BELOW your baseline. This is a good thing!
Just like we want to bring stress to our nervous system with things like strength training and cardio, we also want to de-stress our nervous system with things like qigong and meditation. Together, this creates a yin-yang balance.
Internal training is what’s often missing in the West. Everyone knows that they should exercise their body, but few know that they should exercise their mind and their energy too. Of course, this is gradually changing otherwise no one would be reading this blog, but we are still in the minority.
Since we do so little internal training in general, I think it’s important to get the most out of whatever we do. For many people, this means doing qigong first thing, before any strength training. If that’s not possible, then wait at least a few hours after doing strength training and give your nervous system time to settle down. Or practice more!
Question 2: Nancy
I want to begin to learn Qigong, after a period on inactivity. Can I begin by reading your book and trying to adapt or would you recommend taking classes?
Hi Nancy. I’m so glad that you’re ready to learn qigong. You’re in the right place for that, and you’re about to start an amazing journey!
Yes, my book is perfect for you. Not only will it teach you everything you need to know about qigong, it also comes with bonus videos that will teach you the fundamentals. You’ll even learn the 5-Phase Routine, which is the cornerstone of my healing method!
Taking a class is also good, but it’s not easy to find a good one. People all over the world take my online classes precisely because they couldn’t find a local teacher, or they felt something was missing from the local classes.
My book will solve the problem for you. It will save you time, energy, and money. By the time you finish my book, you will know exactly what matters when practicing qigong, and also what does not. With this knowledge, you will be better able to navigate the often confusing world of qigong.
Question 3: Subharaj
After practising Qigong for a few months I start to feel more thirsty, my heart rate stays elevated, I have difficulty sleeping although there are positive effects too like sensitivity in teeth gone much better immunity, more flexible body, reduced stress etc. Any reason why?
Hi Subharaj. From your submission, I know that you haven’t yet learned the 5-Phase Routine. I ask this question because not all styles of qigong are the same.
It sounds like you are getting some benefits from the style of qigong that you are practicing, but it also sounds like something is missing. This is very common. Many students feel that something is missing from their qigong or tai chi practice.
The solution is to learn and practice the 5-Phase Routine. If you read my Q&As, you’ll find that I recommend the same thing as the solution to many problems. That’s because it really IS the solution for most cases.
The 5-Phase Routine is the host holistic and powerful qigong routine I’ve ever encountered. It is intelligently designed and helps with an incredibly wide range of different issues. Interestingly, it’s also the fix for people who have deviated with other styles of qigong.
If I had to guess why you are feeling thirsty and having trouble sleeping, it’s because you are not circulating your energy sufficiently. Once you learn to circulate your qi, especially with a technique called Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow, you should start to feel better. You can learn this technique in my book.
Question 4: Henrik
Knowledge work is becoming more and more common in all occupational groups. It’s not just office workers who need to be able to make their own decisions, work in a focused way, creatively solve problems and constantly learn new things. Do you have any tips on how we can apply qigong to improve our productivity, creativity, learning and decision making? Thanks!
Hallo Henrik. I think this is an important question. In my book, I spoke briefly about Scholarly Qigong (aka Confucian Qigong). I think that this is a perfect example of the growing need for this kind of qigong.
Since you already practice Flowing Zen Qigong, the solution is simple. First of all, the 5-Phase Routine, practiced regularly, will improve your shen. Improving your shen will improve your concentration. Here’s a snippet from my book about shen:
Shen, the last of the 3 Treasures, is typically translated as “spirit”. This word has so many meanings that we need to dig deeper in order to make sense of it. In Chinese, the character can mean “demigod”, “deity”, or “spirit”. For our purposes, it’s best to think of the modern “mind, body, spirit” trope. In this comparison, shen is analogous to spirit.
- Do Phase 5 (the Closing Sequence) while sitting at your desk, or standing nearby.
- Then do Phase 4 (Consolidation) with your hands on dantian. Again, you can do this sitting or standing.
- Enjoy the stillness of Phase 4 for a few minutes.
- Then do Phase 5 again to close your session.
The whole thing can be done in 5 minutes. You can do it in your office or your cubicle or even in your car (while it’s parked!).
If you are already doing the 5-Phase Routine daily, then this will give a quick and palpable boost to your shen, your creativity, your focus, and your ability to make decisions. Even if you’re not doing the 5-Phase Routine, this will still help quite a bit!
Question 5: Spencer
Hi, what is your understanding of using the breath for attacking in martial arts (striking on opponents inhale etc and your own kiai)? Also any further info on drawing qi from the Hai Yin into lower dantien and transferred into qi for defence/attack? Thanks!
Hi Spencer. I’m known for my no-bullshit approach to qigong and you’re about to discover why.
I traveled the world to meet qigong masters, and I believe that found some of the best. In all my years and all my travels, I’ve never met someone who can use qi, breath, or a kiai for attack or defense. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s impossible, but I will say that most of the stuff you see on YouTube is fake.
A kiai is a Japanese word for a martial shout. I learned it in Goju-Ryu Karate to focus the power of my strike. A well-timed kiai can also “strike” momentary fear or surprise in your attacker, but this doesn’t do any actual damage. It’s just a loud, piercing shout that, if you’re lucky, will distract the attacker enough for you to land a kick, punch, or throw. Anyone can learn it within a few weeks.
In the Chinese kung fu, there are many different martial sounds. For example:
- hite! (similar to the kiai; rhymes with “fight”)
- yarrr (a Tiger sound/energy that vibrates in the lungs)
- shhht (Snake sound that sounds like an angry librarian)
In fact, you can find all three of these sounds in the qigong set known as One Finger Zen. The idea with these sounds is to focus your qi into a strike. Different sounds move the qi in different ways, just like different movements do. So by combining certain movements and sounds, it’s easier to move the qi in a particular way.
Why move the qi to and through a punch? Because it makes the punch more powerful, no magic required. The qi isn’t going to do any damage to your attacker, and neither is the sound. But your punch will and that’s because you will have mobilized your body’s fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments to deliver a shockwave of power.
It’s simple. If these fake masters tried their kiai on me, it would do nothing. But if they let me punch them in the gut, I promise that it would do something! There’s no arguing with a powerful punch.
Question 6: Cathy
If you had to choose, which 3 qigong exercises would you say are best to help the body heal itself, promote flow of qi, and maintain a good immune system?
Hi Cathy. If I could only choose 3 techniques, then it would be these:
- Entering Zen
- Lifting The Sky
- Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow
That was a trick answer. Do you see what I did there?
For those who are new here, Entering Zen is in Phase 1 of the 5-Phase Routine. Lifting The Sky is a famous and holistic dynamic qigong exercise. And Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow is a rare, formless qigong technique that circulates the qi freely through the meridians.
The reason my answer is tricky is because it’s probably not what you were expecting. I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times over the years. Students are usually expecting me to prescribe exercises that fit into Phase 2 of the 5-Phase Routine.
They want me to say:
- Do X exercise 36 times to clear your Liver Qi Stagnation,
- then do Y exercise 18 times to strengthen the Wei Qi,
- and then do Z exercise 72 times to cultivate Yuan Qi.
This XYZ approach just doesn’t work as well as my approach. And this should come as no surprise. If you only focus on 1 out of the 5 Phases, then you will only get 20% of the benefits! All 5 Phases matter!
You limited me to 3 techniques, so I chose one technique for each of the 3 most important Phases. But 5 would obviously be better. If you had given me 5 choices, then I would have answered like this:
- Entering Zen
- Lifting The Sky (or a favorite qigong exercise).
- Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow
- Flowing Stillness
- The Closing Sequence
My point is that the true answer to your question won’t be found in Phase 2 (i.e. the dynamic exercises) UNLESS you’re paying equal attention to the other 4 Phases.
Once you’ve taken care of the other 4 Phases, I recommend that you choose 1-6 favorites per session for Phase 2. Choose exercises that you love and that make you feel good. Do them in any order, but experiment to see what works best for you. This article will talk in depth about how to choose exercises.
Work those favorites into the 5-Phase Routine, and then practice at least once per day for 15-20 minutes. If you want to increase the healing power of the routine, then do it twice per day, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon or at night. Increasing the dosage like this will dramatically increase the healing power of qigong.
And don’t forget all the tips and tricks from Chapter 7 of my book: Getting Remarkable Results with Qigong. Tips like keeping a Qi Diary, using the 2-Minute Drill for willpower, following the 3 Golden Rules, and “Learning 100 Forgetting 75” can really make a difference with both the quality and consistency of your practice.
(If you don’t already have my book, then — wait, you don’t have my book? Why not!?!? People really like it! Go get it right now, silly!) From the heart, Sifu Anthony