The DVD has the following chapters:



I love the review of Qigong theory which is presented at the beginning of each of the Understanding Qigong series DVDs.   No argument that some of the material is covered repeatedly in each of the DVDs.    This approach in the presentation of the series is very convenient.   I would hate to have to keep pulling out earlier DVDs in the series just to refresh my memory about the theories, principles and practices of Qigong.   It is very reinforcing to have the material reviewed again.

Along with more familiar material is the inclusion of new material that relates to the chapter/subject at hand.  This adds to the body of knowledge about Qigong that Master Yang so ably passes on to his viewers and students.    Remember though, these DVDs are one of many parts of a student's bag of tricks.  

The serious student should:

A student must be selective, in choice of a teacher, which books to read, DVDs to watch and students to teach.    Time is finite in this existence, one must choose the way to spend one's time wisely.   How many times have I heard from students that their life is so busy, they have no time to practice their Taijiquan, Qigong or whatever style they are studying.   Even ten minutes a day seems to many people to be impossible, a waste of time, or just not doable for some reason that they can't seem to explain convincingly.  The material presented in this series is worth taking the time each day to practice, analyze and absorb.


The seven types of martial arts breathing exercises are presented in a logical order, that being the progression from easiest to most complex martial arts breathing techniques.  They should be studied and learned in the order presented.  Students might notice the updated information on the location of the "real" Dan Tian.   In the past many Qigong practitioners believed that the lower Dan Tian was located near the front of the body below the belly button.   Master Yang explains the difference between the fake Dan Tian and real Dan Tian and the benefits and usage of each during Qigong practice.   Master Yang's understanding over the years has obviously become greater, demonstrated by his corrections to newly published material.

Yongquan is located near the center of the bottom of the foot.   Laogong is located near the center of the palm.   Being aware of these points and learning to send Qi to them is an essential component of martial arts breathing.    Besides the martial benefit of being able to project Qi through these points, one can also gain escape from the cold by warming one's hands and feet through these types of breathing practices.  Many times while practicing the forms I will use these breathing practices to warm my extremities.  

During one of the first postures of the Yang Style long form, my teacher  suggested raising your two arms until the hands are shoulder height in front, similar to hugging a tree, with the arms slightly less bowed.    Your palms can be towards each other or towards the ground, or any angle in between.  There are numerous versions of this opening movement.   At this point, you work off your feet, kind of like starting a vibration or wiggle movement that starts from the Yongquan points on your feet, letting this wiggling motion move up your body and end at the Laogong points on your palms.   When done properly, the Yongquan and Laogong points warm up, feel tingly and slightly electric.   This reminds the body/mind at the very beginning of the form to realize this connection to the Dan Tian.   It also facilitates sending the Qi through the various gates as one practices the form.   

However, I believe that one should first perform the breathing practices on their own.    Once proficient, then add these same practices to your form.   Where to use them in the form will be easier to understand if you have a solid foundation of practicing the breathing practices on their own prior to adding them to the form.


I really enjoyed the candle training that is taught at the end of the DVD.    This is a wonderful exercise.   Many people might say, "Hey, what's the big deal.   I could look at a candle for thirty minutes no problem, and be focused the whole time."  

Reminds me of when I used to teach Drivers Ed to High School kids back in the late 70's.    During particularly long Drivers Ed movies, I would challenge the students to stand with me in the Qigong posture that is sometimes referred to as the "hugging a tree" posture.     The challenge would be to stand for at least thirty minutes and hopefully an hour.  One student said that he was a water polo player and had to swim back and forth in the pool while holding a lawn chair over his head.  

He claimed that due to this intensive training thirty minutes would be no problem, while I predicted that he wouldn't last eight.   Well, at seven minutes he was yelling that he couldn't take it any more and put down his arms. (too much muscle use, too little relaxation)  Similarly, the majority of persons who try the candle training will probably not last as long as they think they could.  However, that's not the essential point.   What is the point is that the effects of this training can provide a person with excellent focus and the ability to carry through on tasks while going about their daily lives.

As Master Yang explains, he most likely could never have published so many books, tapes, DVDs etcetera in such a short time if he had not developed a sense of focus such as that obtained from candle training.   Try the training every night.  Start with a minute, then two the next night, then three, etc.....    What I have noticed is that the exercises that appear to be the simplest, like this one, sometimes offer the greatest lessons and benefits.    Explanations are then given for looking at a candle that is moving and maintaining the focus and attention.   Once proficient, the student is advised to begin moving around a candle that is also moving, while maintaining focus and attention.  

Strikes are then suggested.    Starting with strikes that end 5" from the candle, a student would practice until able to put out the candle four out of five times.     Then move a few inches away, and on and on.      Qi projection through a non-moving arm while maintaining a specific hand position is then explained.   The goal being to cause the candle flame to flutter by projecting Qi through your hand.    The position in which the hand is held is similar to the free hand posture of Taijiquan Sword practitioners.


My only criticism is that there should be more usage of animations to demonstrate the various techniques.   In the past some of the DVDs published by YMAA have used animation to explain a point, which I found to be very effective in getting the message and lesson to the student.    At times Master Yang will say give instructions in how to coordinate body movement and breathing.   Unfortunately, without a corresponding animation it is sometimes not clear what he is trying to demonstrate.

However, that criticism aside, if you are serious about learning Qigong, watching this series is one excellent choice for anyone wanting to make efficient use of their time in the study and practice of Qigong.   You will save yourself many hours of practicing Qigong in an inefficient or harmful manner by studying the sequence of lessons found in this series.  



Patrick H. Dickson





Copyright 2007 Patrick H. Dickson • All Rights Reserved