Nei Jin, which literally means internal power, is the culmination and unification of refined Chi and cosmic Chi in the body that one strives to accomplish in the Internal Practice. The Chinese character of Jin, sometimes pronounced Jing, is different to the Jing that refers to the sperm / ovary energy, or vital essence, that everyone has in their physical body ( often called Pre-birth Chi because it was given to us from our parents ). Nei Jin is a precious and supreme power that produces not only excellent wellbeing but also superior Tai Chi performance. Nei Jin transcends the limits of both a physical body's power and the body's Chi power. [ It is the highest attainment using the full capacity of the human body's physical, mental and spiritual energies. ] Most Tai Chi practitioners throughout the world have never heard of Nei Jin in Tai Chi and very few practitioners have only a vague understanding of Nei Jin even though they may have practised Tai Chi for decades. This author hopes to explain the intricate subject of Nei Jin in such a way that everyone can comprehend and absorb. This article goes into remarkable depth, whereas until now there has been almost nothing written about Nei Jin in either Chinese or English. It is also extremely unlikely that any book or article that does go into detail shows a true grasp of the subject; the author must achieve great Nei Jin before being able to explain the wisdom, knowledge and experience of the subject in vivid language.
Amongst other great benefits Nei Jin allows one's Tai Chi to reach to truly the highest level. Other than achieving advanced Nei Jin, there is no technique, method and training, etc. that can accomplish the absolute highest level of Tai Chi. Only very few people have achieved Nei Jin. When Nei Jin is present in Tai Chi that means one has progressed to a high level of Tai Chi. At a low to medium level of Tai Chi one has Tai Chi Jin / soft Jin, which is Tai Chi power using predominantly Chi rather than muscle power. The low level of Tai Chi ( which most mistakenly think is advanced Tai Chi ) is little more than a dance, it being empty and the health benefits similar to that of just taking a walk. This is very common. Nei Jin makes the whole body tremendously sprightly. There can be the degrees of Nei Jin in terms of its power. When strong Nei Jin is achieved it renders a powerful feeling inside the body; this feeling is dissimilar to the feeling of muscular strength - of being "pumped up" - that is obtained from Western / External Exercise. When Nei Jin is present during Tai Chi practice, it vibrates in the body. Historically, supremacy of Nei Jin has been extremely rare even amongst the Tai Chi grand masters because it requires the deepest knowledge, thoroughly profound skill and practices that are extremely difficult to achieve.
Nei Jin can be attained only from comprehensive Internal Work ( Internal Exercise ): the enhancement of the inner being through meditation, Qigong meditation, and also practising Tai Chi or other internal art forms CORRECTLY. Note, though, that certain internal martial arts can not cultivate Nei Jin. Most Tai Chi practitioners who have heard of Nei Jin mistakenly think that by practising Tai Chi and exercises complementary to Tai Chi - such as pushing hands, standing meditation Qigong, etc. - they will eventually accomplish Nei Jin. But alone these exercises are incomplete: they must be accompanied by inner being practice. The inner being practice is the most important of all the internal practices in achieving Nei Jin. The inner being encompasses all aspects of the consciousness that includes the subconscious mind, outer self, and all the other "unconscious" parts of the mind. The inner being is also the soul and is the complete consciousness. However, most of the Internal Work aspects of Tai Chi that help produce Nei Jin are commonly overlooked in most Tai Chi schools because most teachers have no or very little knowledge of the subject, and of the remaining few most have only a low level of Nei Jin. [ Note that certain practices commonly incorporated in Tai Chi make achieving Tai Chi Nei Jin impossible. Also, how one practises exercises complementary to Tai Chi - such as meditation Qigong, pushing hands, etc, - is a determining factor to one's level of Nei Jin in Tai Chi. There are other aspects, such as certain emotional energies, that prevents the progress beyond a low level of Nei Jin. Therefore, to one who has a high level of Nei Jin it is clear when another practitioner has not achieved Nei Jin or has achieved only a low level. ] Unfortunately the remaining few in the Tai Chi community today consider Nei Jin to be a secret that should be passed on only to worthy and trusted students. Most systems of Tai Chi therefore teach no more than movement and principles such as relaxation, softness and body alignment.
Tai Chi Jin involves connecting the mind, Chi ( life energy ) and every part of the physical body into one unified energy. This accumulated Chi transmutes into Tai Chi Jin, the characteristic manifestation of which is soft, elastic, relaxed and flexible. It is the opposite of the external power of Western / External Exercise which is brittle strength, inflexible and usually just localised rather than connected with the whole body. External power or physical strength is muscle power that can be developed in a relatively short time by doing External Work ( External Exercise ) such as lifting weights or doing special exercises that come only from the muscles expanding and contracting.
Even though External Work training stimulates and coordinates the activities of the heart and lungs, strengthens the large muscles of the body, improves flexibility and relieves stress by raising the level of endorphins (natural sedatives) and catecholamines (mood elevators), the muscular contraction prevents the free flow of Chi. Complete Internal Work and Tai Chi training also accomplishes all of this, but it does so without preventing the free flow of Chi. Internal Work causes muscle tissues to elongate, thus filling the tissues with energy, so that they stabilise at a given degree of stretch. With most forms of External Exercise the stretched body soon shrinks back to its original state, however with Internal Work, the muscles eventually attain a state similar to that of a springy rubber band. Looseness, total relaxation and slowness are the characteristics of Internal Work that allows the energy and oxygen to flow more deeply into the physical body than it can in Western / External exercise. Note that most forms of martial arts such as Karate, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Wing Chun, Shaolin, Praying Mantis and other styles of Kung Fu, etc. are rather external in nature, although a few of these martial arts become much less external in nature in their most advanced form, using roughly thirty to fifty percent Chi, the rest being muscle power.
Internal Work training is done primarily through Tai Chi forms and through meditation Qigong, eventually opening the door into the realm of the inner world. With internal practice, movement begins from deep inside the body and works outward. One can perceive how each part of the body moves and corresponds with each other, and how the whole can be improved or corrected. In Internal Work, Tai Chi practice does not require a deliberate inhaling and exhaling of the breath with the movements, as is commonly thought, but rather just natural breathing. Thereby one works directly with the Chi, and over time becomes sensitive to how the Chi is not only penetrating the physical body, but also the more subtle energies such as the mental, emotional and psychic. Further Internal Work training lays the foundation for attaining Tai Chi Nei Jin. It is this training that cultivates the mind and nervous systems thoroughly, and also the muscles groups, tendons and ligaments that are not usually under conscious control. It allows one to feel and to comprehend the deep physical and energetic states inside the body, giving insight into how they work and react in conjuction with the bodily movements, and how they affect them. People who have not been trained can feel only their hearts beating, their large muscles moving, the sensation of pain, and not much else. At deeper levels, the training works with the most subtle and powerful forces of all aspects of the inner being, and one's greater conscious awareness of the inner faculties enables one to change and improve their states. Each component is harmonised as a result of higher Internal Work training; a greater awareness arises of how the internal aspects affect all levels of one's being.
When all of the body parts and systems, the movements, energies, mind and Chi are coordinated the central nervous system and the internal organs are strengthened as well as the muscles, thus increasing and maintaining a strong flow of Chi, generating maximum power, and promoting Nei Jin. Also essential is the application of the correct Tai Chi posture and the correct internal principles of Tai Chi ( see previous articles ). Without proficiency of these, no matter how long the Internal Work has been practised Tai Chi Nei Jin will not be accomplished. All components must be learned and assimilated.
Nei Jin makes the body totally alive in a way that continues into old age. However, Nei Jin endures only if the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are continuously nourished. It takes years to acquire, and only days to greatly diminish due to an unhealthy life style such as consumption of alcohol ( which even in moderation is bad for the Chi ), poor diet, mental, emotional or spiritual disturbances, or excessive sex especially in men. Jin dissipates rapidly after sexual intercourse, so when for example a boxer has sex the night before the big fight, defeat is almost certain. The loss of semen means the loss of Jing, and it is the Jing which makes the physical body energised and strong. Nei Jin needs Jing and abundant Chi. When Jing is plentiful, Chi is abundant. Thus, Nei Jin is like building wealth - it can take decades, even generations, to become very rich but only days to lose it all at a gambling table.
Nei Jin can be used in martial arts by channeling these forces to enhance the striking power; it can devastate the opponent's internal body and can result in death. A strike does not depend solely on power but also on the body mechanics to deliver the power, it coming from the feet, travelling through the legs, directed by the waist and manifesting in the hand. People who have mastered this technique do not necessarily have Nei Jin. Without Nei Jin the strike can still cause serious injury and even death, but with Nei Jin the effect is amplified tremendously; it is much more powerful because it penetrates all hardness. Rather than using muscle power, the Nei Jin strike uses the elasticity and resilience in the tendons (the connective tissue between the muscles and bones) which are supported by the ends of the muscles connected to the tendons to create the power and transmit it along the nerves to the target. It is a fluid, fast, relaxed and intense power.
Ignorance about Nei Jin and Chi fuels claims made the world over that by possessing a huge Chi or Nei Jin one can throw ( the so called throw is actually just a push ) a person several metres away from oneself, or one can lift a person off the ground through discharging one's immense Chi or Nei Jin. These exercises are purely body mechanics. Almost anyone can learn them in a fairly short time, so long as they are fit enough and the techniques are properly explained. 'Throwing' an opponent away from oneself involves correct timing and body mechanics, and the power comes from discharging one's body weight into the opponent. Lifting a person off the ground uses body alignment, the power coming from the legs and lower back muscles. All these are merely kinetic power - it is the laws of physics. Tai Chi students in particular are often exposed to demonstrations of this kind by their teachers, with the help of cooperative students. The teachers aim to attract adherents by claiming to possess powerful Nei Jin or excellent Chi. However, Nei Jin and Chi cannot push or lift an object because that would involve muscle tension, which would inhibit the flow of Chi. There is a saying, "when you are weak you pretend to be very strong; when you are very strong you appear to be weak".
If one has been practising Tai Chi for years or decades, and one can perform the movements smoothly, beautifully and with great Chi and Tai Chi Jin, but without Nei Jin, then one is not practising a very high level of Tai Chi. Therefore one should examine the Tai Chi and other practices, and perhaps if necessary relearn everything from the beginning to bring about a condition that will attain Tai Chi Nei Jin. A tiny error in the method is enough to prevent Tai Chi Nei Jin from being achieved. It is not enough to just relax the whole body, sink the Chi into the energy centre ( Tan Tien ), maintain proper rooting and use the body alignments. Tai Chi must be practised in a specific way otherwise it is impossible for Nei Jin in Tai Chi to be achieved.
When one has accomplished Nei Jin at its highest level there can be some unusual phenomena. Nei Jin reveals itself spontaneously by, for example, tremendously vibrating the fingers while the rest of the body is still. One could be sitting still in a chair doing nothing ( not in meditation ), and all of a sudden see one's fingers moving, as has happened to this author. It is beyond comprehension; the author names it Nei Jin's move because it happens without input from the mind. It is as though the Nei Jin talks to you; it occurs only when a very high Nei Jin has been achieved. Witnesses have expressed amazement because the movement of the fingers looks very different to movement directed by the mind. This phenomenon is unheard of the world over. Note that Chi is often expressed through the fingers, as seen in masterpieces of calligraphy, automatic writing, and other arts. While strong Chi in some Tai Chi practitioners can make the fingers move spontaneously, it is only while doing Tai Chi and it is only a shiver, whereas with Nei Jin the fingers move considerably even when the rest of the body is still. Most importantly Nei Jin can be used for healing oneself or others, often with excellent results. The higher the Nei Jin one possesses the more potent the healing power one possesses. When one's life has Nei Jin one never likes to live a life without it. Also, Nei Jin enhances psychic powers.
Static Qigong meditation that involves either standing or sitting in a chair promotes the circulation of Chi, relaxing the body, deepening the breath, straightening the posture, developing self-awareness and concentration, and helping remove mental, emotional, spiritual and physical tension. Any type of tension impedes the flow of Chi, creating clumsy movements, discouraging self-awareness, inhibiting concentration and the senses, and significantly reducing the amount of Chi. When all tension is removed the Chi will manifest as needed, and wherever it is needed, helping rapid healing. Qigong meditation also produces a calm mind - one of the most important foundations for Internal Work practice. Nei Jin will never be accomplished with a ruffled mind: a tranquil mind creates the strong flow of Chi required to attain Nei Jin. It also improves the circulation of fluids and energy in the body, bringing heightened self-awareness and harmony with the Chi. A tranquil mind is also very beneficial for everyday life; the most able problem solvers are those who can maintain a quiet mind, as are the most successful negotiators and the best communicators. It is rare, perhaps impossible, to find soneone who has a tranquil mind but who has never done any sort of meditation. Meditation is a part of Internal Work.
Complement : Qigong Meditation
Static standing Qigong meditation can be done with the feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, with the body weight more on the heels than the toes, the hands in front at shoulder-height as if hugging a large tree, the back straight and the chin slightly pulled in with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Be totally relaxed. Beginners should hold the posture for ten minutes, while the infirm should do it for two minutes, both gradually prolonging it each week as strength permits. This posture activates the Chi in the Lower Tan Tien ( life energy centre ) - located about two inches below and one and a half inches behind the navel - and releases it into the body so that it reaches the ends of the fingers and toes and the top of the head. Over time the Chi can be felt flowing through the meridians, a warm glow felt throughout the body. Within a short period of time beginners often feel a tingling in the fingertips and a fullness in the palms, and perhaps other parts of the body at an advanced level. This basic Qigong helps to cultivate Chi, but by itself it is far from sufficient in bringing about Nei Jin.
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