Dantian - Mental Construct
Dantian is bigger than the body.
Dantian can be anywhere in the body.
Dantian is a construct of the mind, the power of the mind gives Dantian its power.
Physically there is no sphere within the abdomen for us to find containing energy. The location of the Dantian at the beginning of training is taught to us, described as a physical place, perhaps as a feeling by someone we trust and look up to, our teachers/masters. This allows us to construct an image of the body we can use to change how we move or use to focus the mind upon. This place and the sensations we may experience when doing exercises focusing on it become very real to us whether they be observed experiences resulting from the training we are doing or experiences we imagine having, they become a part of our training experience. Those experiences lay the foundation for more advanced methods taught to us over time which we stand upon mentally to boost our self confidence in what we are doing.
However, Dantian is a starting place for training in martial arts and qigong not the absolute end goal. Cultivating Dantian requires many different steps and methods first to acquaint ourselves with the abdomen and its workings and to strengthen and activate the muscle groups within the abdomen itself. The first step to ‘activating’ or ‘discovering’ Dantian is to physically recognize that Dantian has six sides- front, back, left, right, top, and bottom. These six directions all correspond to muscle groups within the abdomen that must work together to allow their engagement to originate movement in the body. Silk Reeling style exercises and most internal martial arts styles will effectively build strength in the front, left and right sides and sometimes top of Dantian. The breathing methods known as Buddhist & Taoist or reverse breathing when done properly build strength in the back and bottom of Dantian respectively. Most practitioners tend to not train enough diverse methods to adequately cultivate strength in all six sides, each internal style tending to have methods of movement that focus on specific directions. Perhaps these exercises are considered secret in some lineages that cultivate strength in the remaining sides from a particular art? Speculation only on my part.
Once Dantian has been trained or cultivated through movement and breath to become the six-sided sphere, it can be used as the origin point for both martial and qigong training. The intimate connection that is created from the mind deep into the tissue through Dantian cultivation training allows for the mind and body to integrate more powerfully than occurs in untrained people. This is the source of martial ‘internal’ power as well as the powerful focus of the practitioner’s mind and ability to move further into more esoteric qigong practices.
Physically the first stages of movement in martial arts becoming internal are:
0- 100% External movement, No Dantian
1- Body moves first 70% external movement / 30% internal movement
2- 50/50 body and internal move at the same time. 50% internal power, 50% external power
3- Internal moves first 70% internal movement / 30% external movement
4- 100% internal movement
At the point where movement becomes less and less stiff, wooden, and brittle and the mind activates the muscularity of the torso to generate a wave of movement from the centre of the body Dantian can be said to be activated. The physical movement and engagement within the body is a direct result of the focusing of the mind over long periods of practice on specific muscles/feelings/sensations. That focus at this point has allowed the mind to integrate powerfully into the flesh, a mind this focused and trained can then begin training more advanced stages of ‘Dantian’.
To recap, movement in all directions beginning in Dantian, training the muscularity of breathing through expansion and contraction in Buddhist and Taoist breathing techniques, and a clear focused mind are all requirements to achieve ‘connection’ to Dantian in a meaningful way. It is this that shows us that a balanced approach to training is needed to acquire the skills we are looking for. Correct body mechanics trained through movements can be found in any of the internal arts. Breathing methods can be found within many different lineages of qigong. Meditation is not only necessary to train the mind but is most often an overlooked aspect of internal training. Finding a simple meditation method that helps to clear and focus the mind and creating a daily practice is absolutely a necessity to cultivate in this way. The mind is the commander and the soldiers will remain scattered and disorganized without strong, clear leadership.
A short simple meditation method passed from my own Master Luong Phor Viriyang Phra Tep Jetiyajarn, the Abbot of the Wat Dhammamongkol Buddhist Monastery can be found here:
I hope this helps anyone who is on the internal path and is perhaps like I was, confused by all the different lineages, teachers, and claims. Integrate the mind and body through practice. Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Find practices that make sense to you and keep them as balanced as you can in your life. Results come from patience and practice.
(I am always happy to help when and if I can, feel free to email me if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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