Grandmaster Mantak Chia author of dozens of books teaches in all parts of the world and resides at the Tao Garden Retreat Centre in Northern Thailand. He was born in Thailand in 1944 was initiated into meditation practices by Buddhist monks at the age of 6. While studying in Hong Kong he learned Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido and Kundalini Yoga. His pursuit of Taoist teachings led him to meet the White Cloud Hermit, a Taoist Master, originally from Central China, living at that time in the mountains near Hong Kong. For over five years Master Yi Eng transmitted to Master Chia the most sacred and closely held Taoist practices, formulas and methods of internal alchemy.
This interview was by Ronnie Robinson, Editor or Tai Chi Chuan and Oriental Arts magazine.
Welcome to Glasgow, Grandmaster Chia. I’m sorry I couldn’t attend your seminar. Can we begin with you perhaps giving me a brief overview of the nature of your work and what you were talking about tonight?
One of our main areas of practice concerns sexual energy or Jing. All aspects of internal arts refer to this idea of Jing; be it Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I or Baguazhang. Many people don’t understand the concept of the Tao. They can practice Tai Chi but not have any awareness of this concept. In the practice of Tai Chi one should activate the Chi energy in the Tantien. This creates the fire in the Tantien by makes this area warm. At the beginning we regard the sexual energy to be like water. You need to make the water warm by concentrating on the fire. This turns the energy into steam or Chi, which then rises up. Therefore the work of the Tao is the work of inner alchemy practice. The entire Tao practices which include Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I, Baguazhang are exercises of internal work. To understand the whole concept of the Tao is to work with the inner alchemy.
Working with inner alchemy has a strong effect on our emotions. We start to change our anger into kindness; we start to change hate into love. Sexual energy stimulates the inner alchemy and sexual practice is a method of inner alchemy, which everyone can do. When people are sexually aroused they change inside and the egg or sperm changes into Jing Chi. So in the Tao practice we can transform the Jing into Chi but we have to make sure that the Jing Chi can become transformed upwards rather than being emitted from the body. In order to be able to do this you must create a place where the Chi can be stored and that place is in the Tantien. The route does not go directly from the sexual organs to the Tantien. It has to move up the spine to the brain and from the brain down to the Tantien. This, of course, requires special practice.
Often when people do only Tai Chi they don’t understand how to cultivate chi. That is why, when I was taught, my teacher spent a lot of time working on meditation before teaching forms. We focussed on the Jing Chi travelling from coccyx up to the spine, right up to the brain, from the brain go down from the tongue, down to the Tantien. This is the first thing I learned before I practised Tai Chi Chuan.
The whole practice of multi-orgasmic energy is that you learn how to feel and activate your energy, how to draw it upwards, move round the cycle and store it. Our sexual energy is stored in our lower centre, waiting to be either activated or lost. We also learn why we need to move the mind to the Tantien, to rest the upper brain. Consciousness starts in the heart and awareness starts from the Tantien. When the brain is over-used, with too much thinking and too much worrying the consciousness becomes suppressed.
In the practice of Tai Chi Chuan you have to connect the three Tantiens together with the mind. To do this you must use Yi or Mind Power. Yi will never happen unless you learn to rest your mind with the conscious mind and heart, and the conscious mind of awareness. When you connect the three Tantiens with your Yi you can then develop Chi. When your turn your awareness inwardly you, in turn, connect your awareness outwardly with the Cosmos. You can then feel your energy moving through your body. When your cerebral mind becomes over-activated we call this the Monkey Mind. When this is allowed to happen, then your awareness stops, and the flow of the chi energy will no longer be promoted through the pathways.
So you don’t apply the cerebral mind to this work?
It doesn’t mean you don’t use the cerebral mind, it just means that you must know when to rest it.
Do you teach these methods in Tai Chi Chuan?
Yes. At the first level we work with rooting. We work with a fast form and use the Dragon and the Tiger breath. This is the Inner Work that helps to develop the Internal Strength. We emphasis the importance of breathing and inner development in our teachings. The whole thing about working with the internal arts like Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I & Bagua is to have a strong healthy body. The first thing our instructors have to develop is their root, then nobody can move them. With this training they can stand relaxed and nobody can push them.
How do you teach these exercises?
Iron Shirt. Once you understand the structure your have. It is so quick. In Iron Shirt Chi Kung, we work intensively with three aspects of chi: the chi in the air we breathe, the prenatal chi that has been in our bodies since conception, and the chi in the organs. We also work with the skeletal structure, the tendons, the connective tissue that surrounds all the organs and muscles, and the bone marrow. We learn to adjust the skeletal alignments in such a way that if a great force is applied to our structure, we can redirect it to the ground so that it does not throw us off balance. By learning how to place the skeletal structure in total alignment with the force of gravity, we also facilitate the movement of vital energy in the body.
The intensive work done in Iron Shirt is relatively static; the different postures are all done standing rooted to one spot. But we are not like trees that never move! Putting the principles of Iron Shirt in motion, we arrive at the practice of tai Chi.
How long would the training take?
Some people can learn rooting in two or three weeks and others can take longer but everybody can learn rooting. You learn how to screw the leg, you learn how to push the spine, to push the neck and how to connect the structure.
So are you saying it’s a biomechanical thing?
Actually you start to understand the biomechanics and you have it inside your body. If you don’t understand it, it takes a long time.
In the body, and in the mind?
The mind rooting is very important.
You talked about the Dragon Breath and the Tiger Breath, what did you mean by this?
This is all involved with the Empty Force, the suction power. It comes from inside. You create suction from here (retracts stomach area) and feel it coming from the bones and the muscles (makes a noise akin to Linda Blair from the Exorcist). The Tiger’s Breath has one high pitched and one low pitched sound. In combines the force coming down from the heavens which activates with our own force. This creates a very strong force in the Tantien.
Using the exercises to cultivate Sexual Energy, are there any potential dangers?
Let me tell you something about sexual energy. We are stimulating it all the time. We are constantly stimulating our sexual energy through the images we see from advertising, from television, videos, films etc. So it is not like I am suddenly causing energy to be stimulated that hasn’t previously been activated. There are only two things you can do with sexual energy – either use it or lose it. With more than 30 years of teaching this material I have never seen any dangers. I have talked with some eminent Tai Chi Masters who say that if you do it wrong you will get into an evil path, you can get paralyised etc.” I have only one thing to say to that – “Bullshit.” They have these thoughts or reactions because they don’t understand. If you work according to the laws of nature, how can you come to harm? All they are doing is scaring people.
So what would you say was the ultimate purpose of this work?
Number One: Heal yourself. Number Two: Help to heal other people. Number Three: Live long and don’t get sick and the final goal is immortality. You are working for the elixir. All things are alchemy. Practising Tai Chi Chuan is alchemy. You are working to change your bone, change your marrow and to change your sexual energy.
Who were your original teachers?
The main teacher was called One Cloud Hermit. He came from Central China, high up in the mountains. During the Second World War the Japanese bombed the mountains and he had to leave. That’s when he moved to Hong Kong which was where I met him. He was quite discouraged about the possibility of passing on his knowledge as he felt that people who were not monks or hermits would not have the patience or commitment to learn what he had learned. However when I saw what he taught I really liked it and wanted to learn his skills. He only passed on to two people. Many people came and went but they didn’t have the patience to learn.
His teaching was good and his transmission was very good. He taught me a lot about the about the methods and formulas and I was very quick to pick up the information. There is a lot to learn. Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing, Bagua are all individual disciplines but they are still only aspects of the greater teachings of the Tao.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching in America, Europe and elsewhere for 23 years but I started teaching about 35 years ago.
And you have schools around the world?
In the UK I have instructors in Wales, England and Scotland and I have instructors throughout Europe in Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Spain. I also have instructors in many parts of America. We have about 700 instructors around the world. Britain has the least amount.
Is this because you are busy elsewhere?
I don’t know. It’s slow to catch on here. Germany has the quickest growth….
Do you think it’s because the British mindset is different?
Maybe they think they know too much (laughs).
You talked a little earlier about Healing, what sort of problems would to treat?
In the Healing Tao, with the Tao practice, the first thing you heal is yourself. Only once you have done that are you able to help other people. The upper brain which gets busy when you are angry, holding all your anger and frustration. If you learn how to sink your mind down and empty your mind down to the Tantien. When you can convert this energy it then helps your healing process. The first thing that happens is that your have energy to heal yourself. When you practice this system diligently in the correct way, sickness will disappear! If you don’t get rid of this busy mind it won’t happen. This is one reason why you do Tai Chi. You sink your mind down and the consciousness awakens and the awareness increases. You turn your consciousness in and your awareness turns out and you connect with the consciousness of the universe, you move and the chi moves. When you move up to the mind again it stops. When your consciousness stops your chi stops. You cease to connect with the force.
Do you practice Chi transmission for healing?
I have done. For me to heal this I can treat one person at a time only. Every time I do workshops I transmit energy to people. I give them a startup and everybody needs a startup. Four years ago I was given the award of Qigong Master of the Year. It was from the Chinese Qigong Association who came to the Congress in America. The award they gave me usually goes to doctors and acupuncturists but they gave it to me as I healed the most people. I don’t heal them directly but I give then the tools to heal themselves. When they go back to see the doctors and acupuncturists they can’t believe how their conditions have improved. It is because they are practising the Healing Tao work. I give you a match so that you can start your fire and this fire will make you warm all the time. So the whole principle about what I do is teaching you how to fish rather than giving you a fish. When you learn how to fish you can continue to do it for yourself. You can also teach many more people how to fish than you can feed fish to.
Can you talk a little about your training courses and what students are taught?
The first they learn is how to ‘Smile Down.’ Then you learn how to empty your mind and smile down into the Tantien. When you smile and empty the mind they upper brain stops. When the upper brain stops you can then feel the navel getting warm. This helps to increase your energy. Then you are taught how to activate the heart and mind. You connect the three Tantiens into one and bring down into the lower Tantien. This then leads to the ‘Inner Smile.’ With the Inner Smile you activate the Tantien and activate the Yi with the consciousness and awareness. Each organ has one sound, one colour and one emotion and you learn which sounds and colours to use for healing those organs. Then you will learn how to activate the Micro-Cosmic Orbit to channel the forces from the Universe. This is called the heavenly cycle. The more you move this the more energy you will create. This helps you to become healthy and strong.
The next thing we teach is the Healing Tao Sexual Energy and then the Iron Shirt Nei Gong and Rooting Techniques. You learn how to create the correct structure and root and learn how to move with it. With the correct rooting, when people push you, you feel the Chi going straight to the bone and the energy goes down to the ground. This comes from correct alignment. From then we go on to teach the Tiger and Dragon Breath. We teach correct structure of the body which, when applied means that you cannot be pushed over. We also teach the 37 and 108 Step Tai Chi Chuan forms.
The Wu Style also teaches Nei Gung?
Yes it is similar to our Iron Shirt but they don’t talk much about the internal work.
When you teach the energy systems do you talk about meridians and acupoints?
I know many Tai Chi practitioners from various styles who have no knowledge and no interest in learning meridians and specific points, do you feel it is important?
Oh yes! The points are all detailed in my book. From there you go into the Fusion of the Five Elements I and the Fusion of Five Elements II. In these practices you are promoting the flow of chi through the channels and stimulating the points. We teach students about the 12 Meridians so they can feel the chi moving through the meridians. When you practice the Kan and Li (the names of two of the trigrams from the bagua) – the Water and Fire. When you hold the Lung Point you are then stimulating the fire in the lung. You can feel the channel moving.
Tai Chi Chuan practitioners have to spend a lot of time studying the technical aspects. To learn the basics of form can take a year and another three years for correction. Not many people last for that four years. When I started with a Master all he taught me was eight moves. It took me half a year to perfect these eight moves. The eight movements that we worked with covered the four corners using the left hand and the right hand, moving in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. When you fight you have to be aware of the four corners and have strong awareness. This is hard to maintain through 108 movements. Studying these 8 movements means that you can maintain the intent and focus stronger. When I learned this form all other forms were simple. The structure and principles were the same. This is a Yang Family Form that they, themselves practice, but don’t teach. If you only teach 8 movements people can learn real quick but if you teach 108 movements you can make more money.
So do you feel that this form would be better for teaching self-defence applications?
Yes but I also thing Wu Chi is better. Also if you exercise the Internal Aspects you are already creating good self defence techniques.