Written by: Fireblade
Qing Gong, (Chinese for “light body skill”), is often considered to be a fabled skill seen only in legends, films, and stories. When heroes are depicted as jumping on water or gliding through the air, Qing Gong is the skill they are supposedly using. Despite Qing Gong being real, the way it is represented in popular culture would certainly discredit whatever claim this skill possesses in reality. With the exception of a handful of books, this skill is only rarely mentioned in Western martial arts literature. In the hope of shedding some light on this topic I will attempt to present some of the philosophy and techniques in an easily understandable manner.
I have been practicing various martial arts for approximately ten years. These arts include generic Karate, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Bagua Zhang, Tai Chi Chen/Yang, Chi Kung, Guandong Gung Fu and several weapons-oriented arts. For the past three years I have been a Tai Chi instructor, and I began learning Qing Gong about two years ago under the supervision of a martial arts master in China. However, I must make it a point that I have neither mastered this skill nor have I learned everything there is to know about it. Therefore I will only give the instructions of the things I have learned and performed myself.
Qing Gong can be roughly divided into two aspects: The ability to jump high vertically and the ability to move quickly forward. When these abilities are combined, a person will be able to jump higher and cross a larger distance. (Some traditions also include the ability to climb rapidly).
What are the mechanics of Qing Gong? The traditional explanation is that through the strengthening of the body, inner energy, and mastery of techniques, the martial artist is able to direct his energy in such a manner that he body becomes nearly weightless, allowing him or him to seemingly “glide through the air.” However, I feel that a more accurate, modern, and relatively easier way of explaining Qing Gong exists. A martial artist would use techniques and body strength to generate a near constant forward momentum that would maximize the person’s possible speed. This would not cause as much impact stress on joints as normal running or jumping would.
The training of Qing Gong can be divided into three separate and equally essential parts. Without all of the pieces, mastery cannot be accomplished. The three aspects are…
1. The physical training (strength, fitness, flexibility, balance)
2. The mental training (meditation, endurance)
3.The technique training (technique, balance)
All three parts of Qing Gong must be honed before they can complement each other. No aspect is more important than the next. In depth, the first portion of Qing Gong to be described in detail will be physical training. (I am not responsible for any injury sustained by use of this article.)1. Physical training
The most important muscles to train to excel in Qing Gong are the leg, back and abdominal muscles. Stretching and flexibility is required to avoid injuries and difficulty in performing Qing Gong. Below are listed some traditional exercises for improving strength, jump height, and balance. After the basic move is perfected it is recommended to add weights. Please be careful with these and especially pay attention to your knees.
1.1. Ankle jump.
An ankle jump is performed only with the ankles instead of with the whole body. Simply kick down with your toes so hard that you jump into the air.
The number of sets and repetitions you'll have to decide for yourself. As for when I started this training, we had to do 100reps for 1-3 sets and when we started to manage that quite nicely....bodyweights were added to make it hard again.
This is also a good jump to practice up and down small hills, stairs, or ledges.
1.2. High jump.
This time you are supposed to jump with the entire body. Put your feet together, stand on your feet and sit down until your knees reach your chest. Then put your hands on the ground a bit apart from your legs. When you jump, you push with the hands, kick with the legs and stretch as far upwards as you can. 3 x 20 is a good start.
1.3. Continuous jump
Keep your feet together and jump with the whole body without crouching down. You are to jump as high as possible. Once airborne, crouch yourself together as small as possible then stretch out and land. This exercise is not done standing on one spot like the others are, in this exercise you are to continue jumping from a high spot to a low spot and back up again, without any pause or halt between. Traditionally this exercise is trained by digging a hole and jumping into it and up again. Every day/second day/week that goes by you are to dig it a little bit deeper to continue to improve.
1.4. Circle walking
-1.4.1. Put a number of small bricks (or similar) in a circle and walk the circle while focusing on the center and balancing on the bricks. When you can do this without much problem, you may put the brick on its end. Continuing you can use smaller stones that aren't completely stable on the ground and you can elevate the stones/bricks. Once you have done all this and attained good balance, you can start over with bodyweights.
-1.4.2. Get a large container of some sort that can support your entire bodyweight without breaking, but it should be a little unstable or shifting as you shift you weight on it. It must be large enough for you to be able to walk on its edge in circles. Once you have such a container you are to fill it with heavy stones or sand so that it doesn't move when you stand on it. Now you can begin training by doing the circle walk on this container, every day/second day/week of training you are to remove a rock or some sand from the container, making it more unstable when you walk on it. Once the container is empty and you can balance on it without falling of or tipping it over, fill it up again, add some bodyweights and repeat.2. Mental Training
Usually a form of zhan zhuang (standing like a tree) meditation is used. The purpose is to strengthen the legs and posture through static training, increasing the inner strength as well as deepen stages of meditation which may aid both the development of your art as well as your personality.
2.2 Standing Tree Meditation
Stand with your feet parallel a little wider than your shoulders, sink your weight down and hold your hands and arms in a circle in front of you in chest height with the palms tuned inward. Your spine is to be as straight as it is in any sitting mediation asanas. Relax your shoulders and elbows while your hands hang in front of your chest. In the beginning this exercise will be felt the worst in the legs. If you just started training and you can stand more than 5 min without any pain in your thighs, you are doing it wrong. In the beginning it is best to set a certain amount of time to practice and to increase it steadily.
This is a terrible bastardized explanation of zhan zhuang so please study some other sources before you start doing this.3. Technique Training
This technique can basically be described as a "low long distance sprint." As all Qing Gong it is supposed to be able to maintain a high speed both over short and long distances. It is "low" because that is the core of this technique (low stance). By keeping your spine straight at all times you lower your center/dan tien/gravity point while constantly moving forward. (i.e. With the upper body relatively straight, you crouch with your legs until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground.) At this stage you should keep your arms close to the body and then run. At this point you'll start to figure out the mechanics of basic Qing Gong by yourself.
There are but a few things I will ask you to keep in mind while practicing. When you try to run low in the beginning, it isn't low enough, if it is, then you aren't running fast enough. I don't mean to push your hopes down, but it is at this stage you'll learn exactly why basic strength is such a requirement to grow in this skill. KEEP YOUR SPINE STRAIGHT. Balance is important when running at high speeds. Balance your upper body upon your lower body. Your center of balance is hardly supposed to move at all vertically. You shouldn't go up and down each time you take a step and your body should remain at a level height. The movement will come from the hip and your center which rotates. The power comes from your legs and the will to endure the pain and push yourself further comes from the mind.
To better help you understand some of the basic exercises I am including a Youtube video of an ankle jump and circle walk. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Pkpde4vSuwc
This article describes only the most basic of basics in Qing Gong. There are several other techniques, exercises, meditations and breathing techniques. Any questions or comments both on what has been explained here and other things related this skill are welcomed.
I hope this article has given you a bit more understanding on Qing Gong. Just remember, take what you need and discard what you do not. Do not believe my words blindly, but put them to the test and see for yourselves.