The Muscle and Tendon Transformation Process
Level Six of the Soma Dao Qi Gong Teacher Training
The Shaolin Monastery is the birthplace of modern Gong Fu (Kung Fu) and Chinese Buddhism.
Before Buddhism came to China, the Shaolin tradition was one of Chan (Zen) meditation, higher university learning on many subjects, including Medicine, Qi Gong, and Martial Arts. Over time, and for many reasons, the Shaolin monks became some of the most effective warrior monks in the history of the world.
Today, Shaolin monks travel the world demonstrating incredible feats of human physical capacity and internal body control. I am not suggesting that you need to learn to fight or try and do backflips to become a Qi Gong teacher. I am aware, however, that healthy lean muscle mass is the number one indicator of health in your elder years, rate of aging later in life, as well as actual health-span and lifespan.
Shaolin Strength and Longevity Qi Gong is a very effective and enjoyable way to strengthen your muscles, nerves, fascia, and bones, as well as ensure you do not lose your muscle mass as you age.
Although most Qi Gong exercises look very relaxed and effortless, they can still improve your fitness because they activate, stretch, and tone almost every muscle and membrane in your body. If you think of your Qi and Meridians like electricity and the thickness of a wire, the more abundant your ‘wires’ are the stronger the Qi you can experience.
This is especially true if you are a Martial Artist or Healer. Your meridians are made of and do many things. The vaster amount of what your meridians physically become, and what limits their function, is your muscles, tendons, blood vessels, interstitial fibres and fluids, as well as your many layers of fascia. Lengthening and strengthening all of these tissues equally and simultaneously is one of the most efficient and effective forms of Qi Gong for the health of the structural aspects of all of your meridians.
Level Six Includes:
- The Muscle Tendon Change Theory and Principles (Yi Jin Jing)
- The Twelve Gestures of Wei Tuo (Yi Jin Jing Form)
- Shaolin Strength and Longevity Training
- Stone Lock (Shi Suo 石锁) Circuit Training
- Restore Your Core Qi Gong
- Daoist Heavy Hands Qi Gong
- Bone Marrow Washing Principles and Practices (Xi Sui Jing)
- Shaolin and Daoist Breathwork
- 49-Day Chan (Zen) Seated Practice.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the health of your organs, your ability to repair your body in every way, and your ability to make healthy babies, and build bigger muscles is determined by the health of your Jing – your Essence. The inner Mojo ‘stuff’ that makes you feel healthy, vigorous, and invincible.
The qualities and quantities of your Jing correspond to the biological functions of all of your reproductive hormones, stress hormones, growth and repair hormones, your neurotransmitters (substances of feeling, experience, and communication), and all of your enzymes – which are literally physical toolkits that make digestion, metabolism, and molecular transformation (Qi) possible.
As well, Jing is also understood to include your body’s collagen, interstitial fluids, and stem cells. Each of these is stimulated and invigorated with regular Qi Gong practice.
Rearranging and restoring the structure and function of all of your connective tissues and circulation, and all of your meridians is like building a city. From the ground up.
These practices are demanding, very high level, and are only taught when people are ready for this degree of Mind, Body, Meridian, Jing, Connective Tissue (Jin), and Breathwork transformation.
I recommend anyone recovering from a sedentary modern life focus on improving their overall strength, tone, and pliability once a year.
This is usually done in Spring, the time of your Liver, Tendons, and Assertiveness.
Traditionally, learning and attaining the complete Yi Jin Jing principles and process takes three years. You can learn all of the tools and principles in the first year. If you choose to complete the process, you will have the guidance to complete the final two years on your own, or with a group of like-minded practitioners.
In the system that I teach, the first year focuses on learning the system, which includes three traditional forms, optimal diet, self-massage, meridian patting, stretching and joint opening (Dao Yin), appropriate Breathwork skills, resistance training (Stone Locks), and other forms of Yang Sheng Fa (Methods for Nourishing Vitality).
The first form that is taught (in the modern approach) is called the Twelve Gestures of Wei Tuo. This form is often referred to as the Yi Jin Jing form. It is important to keep in mind that the Yi Jin Jing was initially taught as a series of principles and relationships that help a practitioner balance the strength, tone, and pliability of their connective tissue, or Jin (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia). This form is easy to learn and safe for most people to practice.
I teach this form as a container to ensure my students have embodied the essential aspects of this potent and somewhat demanding system of whole-body transformation. In modern science, the result of this process is called Fascial Tensegrity.
All of your body’s connective tissues are made of layers upon layers of fascia, connected by countless filaments of micro-fascia, surrounded by interstitial fluids and stem cells. Depending on your age, your posture, your embodiment of distress and trauma, and any previous injuries, your fascia may look more like crumpled tinfoil than smooth and resilient membranes.
The initial benefit of this practice is to balance any constraint or collapse while equalizing the tension everywhere in your body.
Tensegrity, or the balance of tension and structural integrity, is a lifelong journey and requires that you build some physical strength, while also improving the range of motion in every joint of your body.
The second form that I teach in this system is called Tan Fu’s External Vigor Routine. This practice involves a balance of Isotonic (static) and Isometric (small movement) muscle contractions, while dedicating a lot of awareness to structure, balance, and breath. This practice can be used to build larger, faster, and much more powerful muscles and membranes. It can also be used to tone the same tissues while correcting years of poor posture and embodied holding patterns. You do not need to build muscle mass if that is not your goal. Those modifications will be discussed at the appropriate time during the training.
As you learn and employ these changes to your strength and tone, you will also learn to restore your core. It is always important to remember that you are only as strong as your core is engaged and matches the strength of your limbs. There is no Tensegrity without your core!
Another way that the ancient Shaolin monks would ensure that they had a balance of strength and flexibility was by ‘juggling’ Stone Locks. Imagine a square-looking kettlebell. You will also learn a whole-body circuit training routine using kettlebells.
Depending on your circumstances and goals, you can choose minimal or moderate weight during this process.
After several months of improving, refining, and balancing the strength, tone and pliability of all of your connective tissues (Jin), as well as building your Jing (Essence), it will be time to go even deeper.
The next step is to learn a subtle process called Bone Marrow Washing. This aspect of the Yi Jin Jing practice is also a series of principles and interactions, most often practiced in the Winter.
The third form in this system is called Daoist Heavy Hands. This form is often used by martial artists to develop Iron Palm and Iron Body skills. This form can also be used, standing or seated, to cultivate your Bone Marrow Washing (Xi Sui Jing) skills.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, it is understood that you may lose your Body’s Jing over time. First, you tap into your sexual or reproductive Jing, then your Bone Marrow, and finally, your Brain. Your Brain and Marrow are often referred to as the Sea (resource) of Jing.
The Bone Marrow Washing practices are meant to gradually reverse (or slow) this process.
The entire Yi Jin Jing process is a form of physical Alchemy.
You begin by rearranging how Yang (physical effort) reconfigures the structure and function of your Jin (contractile connective tissue). This also refines and augments your Jing – which can lead to many long-term advantages in your life. Eventually, you must become a student of Yin, of receiving and storing the abundance of Jing that can now ‘seep’ back into your Marrow and Brain.
Bridges and Passes
In this approach to the Yi Jin Jing process, there are Eight Bridges. Think of each Bridge as the floors of a building. You have to go through each floor before you can go up the stairs to the next floor.
In many traditional Qi Gong lineages, each exercise, skill, or form is taught in Passes. This made learning consistent and sequential, which also helped new teachers share the tradition, while also keeping the traditional methods alive.
Throughout the history of Chinese martial arts, and even today, some lineages still hold to only teaching the general public the outer Passes. These people are considered to be ‘outside the door’ (not in the family). The inner Passes were, and often still are, only taught to those who are invited to become disciples and potentially carry the lineage forward into the next generations.
In this very in-depth course, there are many Passes to each form, each principle, and each skill. This will help you learn step-by-step, and continue your training with a very clear checklist of how to organize your practice.
If you are a teacher or learning to become one, teaching the old way has worked for a very long time.
I have come to believe that it is no longer necessary for there to be hidden knowledge.