The Tao Principle of Thirds is fundamental to all qi energy (nei gong) training and is by far the most allusive to target as it’s always moving, and absolutely requires a good relationship between your body and qi through your mind’s intent and awareness. However, the real value of the Principle of Thirds extends far beyond only boosting training results and can be applied to all aspects of life for more effective results on all levels.
Although many books on tai chi assign the eight internal energies of peng, ji, lu, an, lieh, tsai, kao and jou to the eight trigrams, they are not manifestations of the trigrams themselves, otherwise bagua—the art form of the I Ching—would employ that methodology. In bagua’s palm changes, all eight internal energies are used in each palm and yet each palm develops the energy of a single trigram.
Likewise, in tai chi, you stream through the eight internal energies as you practise your
form and yet your focus remains on developing the energy of a single trigram. When
practising a form or any section that is highly familiar to you, your focus is placed on the trigram of your choice, the energy behind the symbol. You then attempt to make the jump
and contact that particular primordial energy.
Although both tai chi and bagua develop softness and strength, each individual student is typically drawn to one side. Most people are either more yin or more yang in their personalities and approach to life. In the West, we naturally gravitate towards our strengths, which means we tend to develop that which is dominant in us and leave behind anything that is lacking or weak. This can create further imbalance—the opposite of what tai chi and bagua practice aims to achieve. Training tai chi helps you develop softness inside bagua, while training bagua helps create more flexibility in tai chi. In turn, greater flexibility from bagua further allows you to access a softer operation of tai chi, while a softer execution of tai chi allows you to generate more strength in bagua. This positive feedback loop continues on many levels throughout your practice over years and decades as you refine and hone your skills on ever-deeper layers.
My colleague Dan Kleiman recently launched a new podcast series, Qigong Radio, to cover a wide variety of qi gong and internal martial arts related topics.
Dan invited me to join him to discuss the fundamental levels of early qi energy (nei gong) training, and how it specifically provides the foundation for and links with long-term development in body and mind.
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