八要者何? – What are the Eight Essentials?
The Eight Essentials are the core of Xingyiquan’s Neigong, & an excellent Health Cultivation practice. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the specific content of each point.
一. 內心要提 – Internally the Center must rise:
The Qi first gathers at the perineum, then rises to connect with the Dantian. This is essential to progress, & an unmistakable experience. Connecting the two also serves to remove all doubt surrounding the Dantian. Many students doubt their progress before experiencing the Qi rise on its own toward the Dantian.
二. 三心要並 – The Three Centers must merge:
The center of the palms, the Lao Gong Cavity, the center of the soles, the Yong Quan Cavity, & the crown of the head, the Baihui Cavity, are the Three Centers. Merging the Three is the connection of these three places with the Dantian. At first, the Qi will be felt gathering at these points, as before, & should only be “observed.” The focus of merging the Three is on feeling the Qi & then synchronizing with the Dantian. Actively moving the Qi within the body using the Intention is the basic idea behind Xingyi’s Thread Breathing.
三. 三意要連 – The Three Intentions must link:
“Three Intentions” stands for the Three Internal Harmonies, a complex interaction of the Xin, Yi, Qi, & Li. When the Xin & Yi are harmonized or combined, conscious intentional action becomes more natural. The distinction between the two dissolves. Intentional action is refined from an exertion to a reflexive focusing. Additionally, the Qi is led by the Intent for the first time, increasing the strength of the flow to & from the Three Centers, eventually culminating in Thread Breathing. Lastly, by increasing the conscious Intentional control of the muscles, the efficiency of movement can be greatly improved. Training no longer merely builds muscle, it now refines that muscle simultaneously. The interactions of these four components strengthens & improves their individual quality while reducing the unconscious tendency toward separation & tension.
四. 五行要順 – The Five Phases must be smooth:
The Five Phases can be smooth only when the body’s Qi circulation flows without obstruction. Correct posture combined with deep relaxation & proper breathing creates a pumping action that ensures the natural circulation of the Qi will clear any blockages or stagnation present in the body. The alternation of stillness & motion also increases both the quantity & the quality of the Qi. Regular exercise increases the quantity of Qi, while circulation increases the quality of Qi.
五. 四梢要齊 – The Four Tips must be even:
When the Four Tips are full of Qi, the entire body will be permeated. The hair is the tip of the Blood, the teeth are the tips of the bones, the nails are the tips of the tendons, & the tongue is the tip of the muscle. In one sense, Four Tips Breathing is a combination of Skin Breathing & Bone Marrow Breathing, in that those two methods would be performed simultaneously. Filling the Four Tips with Qi is a more advanced level of leading the Qi compared to merging Three Centers. The Qi naturally flows quite strongly to the Three Centers, but the mind is required to lead it to the utmost extremities. Before the Qi can strongly circulate to these Four Tips, it will have permeated the rest of the body, & brought about a transformation of movement.
六. 心要暇 – The Xin must be relaxed:
Relaxation is the most difficult requirement of the Internal methodology, for both beginners & experienced martial artists. Furthermore, Mental Relaxation is a difficult concept to understand. Physical tension makes finding the Qi sensation difficult, but Mental tension will actively impede the flow of Qi. Tension burns up Qi, whatever form that tension takes. Practice with a calm, relaxed state of mind to cultivate a naturally relaxed state of mind.
七. 三尖要對 – The Three Points must match:
The head, hands, & feet are the Three Points. They are shorthand for the upper & lower limbs, & the torso. Matching these three is a vital structural requirement for both training & martial purposes. There are multiple ways of referencing this coordination, depending on the contextual emphasis. Matching the Three Points explores the basics of static structure using San Ti Shi as the example. Three Points on a Line explores the structural requirements for each major component of the body, emphasizing structures that make efficient, solid movements with minimal waste the default response. There is a close connection with the Three External Harmonies. The External Three Harmonies explores the mechanical action of movement driven by the waist, emphasizing the total coordination & harmonization of the entire body.
八. 眼要毒也 – The Eyes must be poisonous:
Poisonous Eyes result from full Qi & a concentrated Spirit permeated by the threatening intent required for fighting. Xingyiquan has many phrases to illustrate the aggressive nature of its fighting spirit. “The face is pleasant, the eyes are venomous,” “Smiling Face, Poisonous Mind,” & “The mouth is smiling, but the heart is wicked,” all emphasize the violent aspects of the strategy. An opponent should feel uncomfortable when facing a Xingyi Boxer, as if outnumbered & surrounded by monstrous enemies. In short, Xingyiquan desires to end conflict quickly & efficiently, relying on aggressively seizing the initiative & psychologically overwhelming the opponent. While the strikes are shocking in both the physical & psychological sense, the psychological shock is much greater due to the speed of movement & choice of target. This strength of Spirit is the true benefit of Xingyiquan’s methodology.