Spontaneous Qi as an origin of Qigong
In this next part, I explore and discuss the concept that qigong sets like the Five Animal Frolics and even the 8 pieces of brocade may possibly have evolved from spontaneous qigong movement.
What are the 5 Animal Frolics?
The 5 animal frolics’ are an ancient set of exercises sometimes attributed to the Chinese monk Hua Tao. These are a series of health exercises modelled on the movements of the Tiger, Dear, Bear, Monkey and Crane. These exercises work on specific Channels (Meridians) and enhance the flow of Qi in the body.
These exercises are covered in detail in the book – ‘The Complete System of Self-Healing Internal exercises‘ by Stephen T. Chang.
Here is a YouTube video of them:
Janne shared me his thoughts of these exercises:
Today there are really many styles and forms about the five animal play and almost every one of them is teaching the styles where you just imitate the movement’s of these five animals. Then it’s like an actor who plays a role, but who’s not the real thing.
In spontaneous five animal play, the animal moves comes from the energy of the meridian, and is unique for everyone although you can spot the certain animal moves when the energy moves one meridian to another.
My own theory is that the spontaneous form of qigong is the origin of many qigong styles.
My own thoughts on this and experience with the 5 Animal Frolics
This thought by Janne fits with my own belief about the origin of qigong, tai chi and especially the origin of the 5 animal exercises.
I wrote before in this article – Qigong and Encounters with Spontaneous Qi: Part One, about my first attempt at practiced the 5 animal exercises in my early 20s, whilst looking for a way to heal a digestive disease. This was years before I had any understanding of acupuncture or qigong or knowledge of energy work.
Basically, I didn’t have a clue how to do these exercises. Here is an extract
My first introduction to qigong came in my early twenties. My mother had bought a copy of a book which showed the ‘5 animal frolics’ – an ancient set of exercises sometimes attributed to the Chinese monk Hua Tao. This book contains a series of health exercises modelled on the movements of the Tiger, Dear, Bear, Monkey and Crane.
This was the pre-internet days. These days you only need to open YouTube, and you can get your own personal teacher. Back then, nada.
I can recall practicing the bear and a monkey exercise. And I took it literally. I thought the monkey exercise meant you had to pretend to be a monkey. So I did. I modelled myself on Clyde in the Clint Eastwood movie – ‘Any which way but lose’ with a little bit of Planet of the Apes thrown in for good measure. I made some impressive monkey noises and monkey movements.
I didn’t bother with the crane or deer. I just couldn’t get my motivation. I probably needed more acting lessons.
You Need a Teacher
This echos what Janne said about someone who watches and then imitates the moves is a kind of acting.
This taught me that you really need a good tai chi or qigong teacher when learning these exercises.
You can only get so far by yourself with a book. I came to the same conclusion when trying to learn the piano by myself with a book.
We need systemisation
It is important to mention that there is great value in systemised sets like the Five animal exercises and 8 pieces of brocade. And also in people learning and imitating the moves (without allowing the flow of spontaneous qi).
By having a systemised set, people can learn these moves and gain the benefits of enhancing their qi.
Also it is unrealistic for people to immediately enter spontaneous qi or even understand the flow of qi in their bodies when learning these exercises for the first time.
So basically, imitation is a necessary step to go through and to learn to carry out qigong exercises.
But if you want to take it further, my proposition is that spontaneous qigong is another level of qigong. Though it does seem to be an optional level.
Spontaneous Qi as the basis
The other thing I learned, which came years later after discovering spontaneous qigong, is that I believe these exercises evolved from spontaneous qigong practice.
This understanding came to me one time during a period when I was undergoing regular spontaneous qigong practice following an encounter of having spontaneous qigong actition through an acupuncture treatments with Miro (Miro Baricic – Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (7)).
During one of my own practice sessions, I found the spontaneous qigong movements led me into performing tai chi type movements. On another occasion, the spontaneous qigong movements led me into kung fu type movements with punches and accompanying yells.
Whilst in the past I have done some classes of tai chi and a handful of kung fu classes. I have not done either enough to develop any muscle memory. So, these two occasions were very unusual
It also led me to understand that these spontaneous exercises and sets were like gifts. Either a gift from our body. Or a higher force. A force that wants to teach us ways to improve our life and health. Also that these exercises can be shared with others to help improve their flow of qi energy.
I suspect that everyone has their own set of spontaneous qigong exercise which they will be led into performing when their SQ is activated. It may be an exercise that is particularly unique to them, like their fingerprints.
My theories about the Five Animal Frolics Qigong exercise
I had two thought about the origin of this specific exercise – the Five Animal Frolics:
- They were a systematization of an original spontaneous qigong exercise
Personally, I believe that the five animal frolics were a set of spontaneous qigong movements that the practitioner then attempted to categorise and process into a system of movements. Due to the Ancient Chinese and Taoist practice of observing nature, he likened these specific movements to that of animals.
2. Animal spirits
Or here is another possibility, with an echo of the traditional culture of some Native Indigenous cultures:
The practitioner who developed these exercises was imbibed with the spirits of these specific animals perhaps through a trance or deep qigong meditation practice and was led to carry out animalistic type movements based on their energy pattern.
These are just theories and not really provable. But if I had to choose one, I would say that it was likely the first choice. The five animal frolics were a systematisation of a series of exercises developed from spontaneous qigong practice.
Spontaneous Qi and Systemisation
The original teacher – (Hua Tao?), activated his spontaneous qigong. The qi led him into these spontaneous movements in a specific pattern.
Afterwards, the practitioner attempted to categorise and record these movements into specific sets based on these spontaneous movements. He then taught these movements to others and they were recorded on paper.
This is based on other observations about kung fu (especially kung fu movies), where specific styles and movements are based on animals or insect type movements. For example – the snake, dragon, the crane, praying mantis, etc.
So then this same principle was applied to these qigong sets, hence they became the 5 animal sets.
So basically, what I am saying is that spontaneous qigong is the basis of many qigong movements and probably some tai chi.
Also I’ll go further and hypothesise that spontaneous qigong is closely linked to shamanism and original healing. This is a trance that shamans enter causing them to perform dances. It is also similar to the whirling dance of the Mevlevis, which I wrote about here – Energy Moves in Spirals and Whirling: Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (5)
It has the potential to heal and connect to the universal spirit. Also, it may be able to remove blockages – energetic, physical, mental and emotional in our lives.
These are hypothesises, based on my limited experiences of qigong and energy work. I do believe that there is a deeper component to spontaneous qigong.
What is interesting is the accessibility of Spontaneous qigong to most people, which can be experienced after the person has practiced qigong for a few months. This suggests, it may be a part of a human inbuilt healing and cleansing software.
Other Videos and Articles
Here are some other video links, websites and information that Janne shared with me.
Video links to Shi Delon and Jason Dean’s videos
Website – Shaolin.org.uk
Link to article about spontaneous five animal play (wu qin xi):
YouTube Channel – Temple Tai Chi
Contains other videos on Spontaneous Qigong
There is a lot of information in these videos and links to explore for those interested in exploring spontaneous qigong and healing.
Many thanks to Janne from Finland for sharing this information with me, and in turn, helping me share it with you.
- 30 Day Trial of Spontaneous Qigong Practice
- Encounters with Spontaneous Qigong: Serialisation
- People who are able to set off Spontaneous Qigong Activation (Amended)
Image of Tai Chi figurine taken from http://www.123rf.com
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