Neigong (2)
Internal work/whole body strength

classes     taijiquan     self defence     qigong     tai chi for health     about us     reviews     a-z

Store & release of power

The Long Yang form is intended to train your body to open and close as you move. By twisting the torso and opening & closing the joints - energy is generated.
Your body must act like a spring that operates in four main directions:

  1. Forwards/away from the body

  2. Backwards/towards the body

  3. Up

  4. Down

The waist produces energy horizontally and this results in forwards & backwards motion. Your spine provides up & down power, in addition to forwards & backwards.
The combination of waist and spine is very potent.


'Bowing' refers to the elasticity present in the joints when you lengthen the limbs without locking the joints or contracting the muscles.
Any form of muscular tension is counter productive: how can you generate forward momentum when your contraction is drawing the muscles back towards your centre?


'Spiralling' refers to the gentle twisting of your entire musculature as you perform each taijiquan movement. It is important not to twist the joints or vertebrae.
Your coccyx and base of the skull must be aligned, and the knees must point towards the second toe.

Taijiquan's neigong is like a spring; the hard in the soft, the needle in the cotton.
It is relaxed and not a matter
of muscular effort.
Nor is preparation needed.
When you want it, it is there.
This comes only after hard and diligent training

(Cheng Man Ching)


Every single movement must involve the entire body. This necessitates a very relaxed (not floppy) framework.
The joints must be free to rotate naturally, to open and close, and the vertebra must be flexible. Muscular tension and habitual patterns of 'holding' will create blockages within your body.
Extreme/low stances and over-stretching will also limit your ability to move freely and easily. When you can perform this type of movement it looks like a wave undulating through your body.

Conserve energy

The internal martial arts use the body in a manner that conserves energy. This is accomplished in a number of ways:

  1. No excess muscle tension is used

  2. The larger muscles of the torso and legs do most of the work

  3. The movements are functional and economical

  4. Good postural muscles support the weight of the skeleton

  5. Whole-body movement is employed rather than local limb strength

Students are encouraged to use less and less muscular strength; reducing tension further. This also calms the mind and relieves stress.

Increasing your strength

internal martial arts gain additional strength through circles and spirals, twisting and turning. A practitioner discovers how to move their muscles in a way that is akin to a snake or a caterpillar.
We call this 'reeling silk'. By moving in this way, the student can store and release kinetic (movement) energy. The end product (fa jing) enables the student to produce a very powerful strike.


In order to cultivate neigong the student must think of their body in terms of elasticity. Imagine a rubber band...

If taut, the rubber band is akin to a yoga stretch (over-extended) or a person with muscle tension (over-contracted). This is brittle and no good for taijiquan.
If loose, it is floppy and flexible yet cannot do anything requiring power. This is what a beginner must cultivate in order to relax and change bad habits.
We need the rubber band to be stretched just enough to have mobility, stability and relaxation. This is called 'bow tension' and is the goal for the experienced student.

These neigong practices can transform the ordinarily tense human nervous system into a very fluid one in which there is virtually no time lag between conscious will and the body moving swiftly or delivering power.

Ultimately, a great deal of the fighting prowess of internal martial arts derives from the absence of central nervous system lag time. With reaction time virtually nonexistent, the internal martial artist is able to change fighting techniques faster than an opponent can, and is able also to combine the normally separated areas of the body into one integrated, unified and powerful whole.

(Bruce Frantzis)

Natural power

When applying taijiquan, there must be no effort or force involved. Consider how a predator moves... It does not struggle and fight with its prey. The predator sees a meal and the muscles propel it forward.

Page created 3 March 1994
Last updated 29 April 2021