4 Pillars of Tai Chi Kung
Sifu Roosevelt Gainey’s Tai Chi Kung system of health, wellness, and martial excellence is unique in that it gives the student the ability to master all other combat sciences with true functional power. It has at its core: standing, circle walking, flexing, and joint manipulation as its 4 pillars or 4 foundational exercises. Also, each pillar has several levels of mastery for the student’s development until a certain degree of skill and power is achieved. These core exercises are of supreme importance in achieving whole body integration and harmonization. The 4 pillars are indispensible tools in achieving what we would call the Tao. A person must first balance and re-vitalize their internal energy centers, then, the student must unify their internal energy field (inner cosmos) with the energy field of the external world (outer cosmos) to make one unified field( The cosmos). When this is achieved, the individual has truly become one with the whole universe. An enlightened individual is one who knows and feels with every cell of their being that they are a center (one out of an infinite amount of centers!) of the universe; fully self- actualized. The person who intimately knows and feels the divine light, expanding from their center outwards to the further most edges of the universe, and the divine light, contracting inwards to the innermost reaches of the self, will be an unparalleled martial artist. More importantly, the person who has achieved this integration will have abundant health, vitality, and spirituality.
Standing exercise (Motion in stillness) is a simple but very profound exercise. In all truth, the merits and science of standing practice are far too numerous to explain in this brief introductory article. I can say with confidence that its simplicity is deceptively difficult to do correctly. First and foremost, it can only be understood by those who actually “do” the exercise. Sifu Gainey or “Teach”, as we lovingly refer to him, often says, “Those who do, know, and those who don’t do, don’t know jack” (“jack” is the nicer word!). It is the self-deluded individual who thinks that just by looking or thinking that they can figure out the teachings. People like this, have only contributed to their own self-delusion and ultimately to the degradation of the internal arts in general. In their objective observations they forget the importance of the subjective observations. When an exercise is performed a person can feel their internal landscape. This is a “feeling” art and it is only from “doing” that you get the “feeling” and from the “feeling” you get the true “knowing”.
Feeling is touch and touch is the ultimate form of communication, you can’t be in tune if you’re out of touch. Ultimately, every sense is a form of touch; “seeing” is when light touches your eyes; “hearing” is sound vibrations touching your inner ears: “smelling” happens when molecules escape from an object and touch the inside of your nose; “taste” , of course, happens when food touching your tongue; and “touch” is self explanatory. Standing exercise and any of our other exercises can only be understood by doing, feeling and witnessing with full conscious awareness of what we are doing. Each passing moment must be witnessed. During practice, awareness is in the body and in the “now”. We do not want to be contemplating the future or thinking of the past while doing our exercises. As Sifu Gainey says “wherever awareness goes energy goes”. When you keep your awareness on yourself, you feed the “self” energy. This is the magic key; in the conscious doing we find the road to self-actualization.
In Standing practice (with proper relaxation, breathing, alignment, and awareness) we discover that the chi flows inside our body, spiraling up and down, in and out towards the eight directions and back to us. This is why we say that in standing practice we manifest motion in stillness. By not moving, we can feel our insides move with our mind and become sensitive to the natural energy of the body. Sifu says, “In order to know the force you must first feel the force, then you can become one with the force, and eventually with enough work you can intend the force.” This is not possible without the stillness of being that we can get from just standing still. Stillness is the sum total of all energy. It is from the stillness that we originate and it is to the stillness we must eventually return. In standing we become like a living antenna that tunes into the heavenly energy above, the earth energy below, and all the energy in between.
Circle walking (Stillness in motion) can only be described as magical. It isn’t necessarily magic (or is it!) but, instead, science of the highest mystery. Everything in this universe spins. Super clusters, galaxies, stars, planets, atoms and sub-atomic particles, life cycle, water cycle, wind, energy, etc… manifest the spiraling energy of life. Our DNA is a spiraling double helix structure. Why? Spiral patterns can be found around the world from nature to human art and technology. We can find it from Paleolithic societies to Neolithic societies and even down to the usage of it by our present mystery school cultures. (Rosicrucian, Sufism, etc…) We can find spirals, circular designs, or the use of the toriadal (spiral; vortex) energy in the most ancient megalithic structures around the world. How did these so called “primitive” people know about something that, allegedly, has only been confirmed recently by current physics and mathematics? The answer is simple, they know because they experienced it directly. It was not left up to theoretical speculation or debate by the “seers” (first and true scientist), it was an absolute fact established by the Tao.
When we are walking the circle we are stirring currents of energy up from the earth, while simultaneously, pulling energy down from the atmosphere and through our body to meet and transform at our center. In circle walking, we do not leave out the laws and principals of standing. Circle walking is standing exercise put into rotation. We create vortices of energy inside and outside our bodies that will even continue to move after we have stopped moving. Sometimes, I would put a bottle of water around the center of one of the circles I am walking in order to electrically charge the water. (Talk about an energy drink!!) When we walk with proper alignment, relaxation, and breathing we are like spinning super electrical antennas; feeding everything around us while also being fed by everything around us. There is power in the turning. A planet that doesn’t spin on its own axis is an electrically dead planet. If you spin a magnet around metal wires you produce electrical current. Standing practice makes our electrical wiring become like superconductors and the rotation produced in circle walking infuses us with energy amplified to infinity. The better wiring you have then the more energy you can take in and transform into Shen. (Eternal body)
Flexing (Motion in Stillness) can easily be one of the most difficult (in terms of the physical / emotional demands that are required) exercises, and yet, one quickest ways to achieve full body power that we have in our system. Incidentally, each one of the 4 pillar exercises are total and complete in themselves; each one can be done without the other in order to achieve varying degrees of wellness and spiritual enlightenment. The benefit of doing all four of the exercises are that our energy becomes more rounded, smooth and complete (transforming the square!), so, the four pillars transforms into a circle or actually a sphere. (We want to be nice smooth evenly expanding spheres without dents and bumps!) If you could “see”, you would see that energetically, we are like stars with different colors and intensities. A great secret is that you can change the color, quality, and intensity of your light sphere!!
Flexing exercises goes far back into the pre-history of humanity and it was used in pre-shamanic and the later shamanic societies to develop un-imaginable amounts of power and energy for practical uses (hunting, fighting, monolithic building, etc...) and in sorcery. Flexing was used by warriors in order to develop the abilities necessary to fight hundreds, if not, thousands of fierce and ruthless opponents without fatigue. No Navy Seal or Special Forces soldier alive today could even compare to the ancient mystic warriors of the past. Ancient mystics would go into trances in order to enter other levels of reality. If they were touched (which is not advised to do!) they would often feel like stone because of the powerful flex that is manifested throughout their whole body. Why? Flexing can either be the inflation (inhale flex; wu gong) of the whole body or the condensing (exhale flex; nei gong) of the whole body or both the inflation and the condensation (combination wu gong/ nei gong flexes) of the whole body. Flexing makes the person feel heavy and solid like an immovable stone to the person touching the flexing individual and conversely light as a feather to the doing the flexing.
Standing and circle walking exercises open up and bring in energy into the body, as does flexing, but flexing also condenses and packs chi into bones and tissue like no other exercise. Not only does flexing push tremendous amounts of poisons out the body, it also brings in chi and packs it into the body’s space. This packing in of energy facilitates the transforming of the bone marrow, bones, blood, and organs. This is very important for Taoist internal alchemy. Internal Alchemy is the transforming of the Jing (sexual energy) with chi (pre/post breath) into shen (immortal body). Ironically, like Christianity, in order to achieve immortality we must become like a child (immortal embryo/golden fetus) and be born again while we are in our earthly bodies. We are born into the earth school and we must graduate before we leave or at the moment of transformation (death) in order to go to the heaven school and dwell with the primordial One. Whoever doesn’t complete this task will be recycled back into the Void continuously until they are perfected. Eventually all will be perfected and the destiny of this universe will be actualized; complete and whole.
Finally in this article, we shall discuss the last of the 4 pillar exercises known as joint manipulation (Stillness in Motion). Joint manipulation is an indispensible exercise that eventually develops into the mysterious dance of “function” (function: the science of proper body functional alignment and use) known as the “formless form”. Joint manipulation also leads to the ability known as “spontaneous gung fu”. Spontaneous gung fu is when your body responds to any threat accurately, powerfully, and instantaneously, without needing any thought or planning. In joint manipulation, each individual has their own unique movement, so, each individual will eventually develop their own style of gung fu. In Sifu Gainey’s Tai Chi Kung system we don’t adhere to any particular style or dogma of movement (only function!!) like you may find in many other martial systems. In learning Tai Chi Kung you can actually learn any other style or system with whole body power very quickly and effectively.
Joint manipulation (like any of the four pillar exercises) is multi- dimensional in its scope. It does several things at once for its practitioners. Joint manipulation leads energy throughout the body and breaks up stagnant chi. It detoxifies and strengthens the lymphatic, endocrine, respiratory, and circulatory system. This exercise is wonderful for removing toxins out of the body that accumulate due to improper diet, lifestyle, and eventual accumulation of environmental pollutants. Joint manipulation, especially when seated, can eliminate constipation by breaking up fecal matter congestion in the intestines and colon. As my Sifu would lovingly say, “People are full of excrement (“excrement’ being the nice word!!), that why they’re so damn miserable!” Personally, I have noticed that whenever I finish doing the joint manipulation exercises I have the sensation of my whole body vibrating or buzzing and an overall feeling of lightness and wellness. Sifu often explained that whenever someone was truly strong and healthy they would feel happy and their body would feel light and full. If a person was sick or weak they would often feet heavy, lethargic and depressed.
I, the student of the great Dao, ask that all students of life look into doing the 4 pillar exercises of Tai Chi Kung seriously with an open heart and mind. Remember, each of the 4 pillar exercises has several levels for the student to learn and explore that can be done for an entire lifetime. This life is a gift from the “All” and each one is allotted their own space and time to be used as one wishes. So, be careful what you wish for or intend into your life. Spend your time wisely and you’ll enter the heavenly realms. Be still and know that you “are” and you’ll find the source of all peace and power in the “now”. Hotep (Supreme Peace) to all.
Student of the Dao