Identifying authentic chi kung practices in modern times is an issue of great concern. These days, chi kung instructions are very precise, and students inevitably require an experienced teacher to teach them correctly. Otherwise, they will likely become lost and confused.
But chi kung practice was not always so elaborate. How could it be? Today, we have the benefit of centuries of experience, much of which has been recorded and incorporated into the chi kung forms themselves.
Today, after 2,000 years or so of continuous development, a great number of chi kung systems use a highly structured, even rigorous, training curriculum. Still, the basic ideas of the ancients remain at the heart of chi kung practice, though the curriculum now incorporates the discoveries of generations of practitioners.
This means that not only the original postures and applications but also their derivations and some that are entirely new must also be mastered. The only way to transmit this enormous collection of findings properly is through systematic training.
With each successive generation of students, variations in the exercises, known as forms, have been developed. Naturally, over the course of centuries, the original forms were obscured until very few, if any, can be said to be identical to the original, authentic chi kung exercises.
Claiming a Lineage
Fortunately, there are several ways to verify whether any particular practice is indeed genuinely related to the original instructions. All Asian teachings, whether they are religious, martial, or healing in nature, claim a lineage, or membership in a particular school.
Even today, lineage is a source of great pride for practitioners, and internecine rivalry is common. The importance of one's lineage is determined by the abilities and fame of its members, past and present.
To be able to claim a lineage is akin to holding a passport into exclusive societies, similar to the social advantages possessed by members of a privileged caste, that is totally inaccessible to average citizens. In fact, highly respected chi kung practitioners in Asia are often revered as gods with magical powers, and their names are prefixed with the title "Divinity."
Another way to verify an authentic chi kung practice is by its results. If the method is successful and if well-known practitioners verify that it can accomplish what it claims, such as better health, the development of unusual abilities, and so on, the practice will be accepted. If not, its chances for survival are greatly diminished.
A final way to verify authentic chi kung practice is to compare its central ideas with those of the formal doctrines. In Taoist thought, these texts include notable works from many disciplines such as the I Ching (philosophy), the Tao Te Ching (philosophy), The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (medicine), The Secret of the Golden Flower (mysticism), and the eight tai chi chuan classics themselves.
These texts and others like them contain the seminal ideas that are reflected in all authentic schools. While allowing for some departure and modification, the core principles taught by any particular instructor will generally adhere to the standards set in these texts.
After all, the classics have formed the basis for discussion and commentary throughout history. Because they have endured, they are the final standard by which all authentic chi kung practices are measured.
Learn about the importance of intention and a pure mind in chi kung exercises on the next page.