Chinese 內功
Literal meaning "internal skill"

Neigong, also spelled nei kung, neigung, or nae gong, refers to any of a set of Chinese breathing, meditation and spiritual practice disciplines associated with Daoism and especially the Chinese martial arts. Neigong practice is normally associated with the so called "soft style", "internal" or neijia 內家 Chinese martial arts, as opposed to the category known as waigong 外功 or "external skill" which is historically associated with shaolinquan or the so called "hard style", "external" or wàijiā 外家 Chinese martial arts. Both have many different schools, disciplines and practices and historically there has been mutual influence between the two and distinguishing precisely between them differs from school to school.

There is both martial and non-martial neigong. Well known examples of martial neigong are the various breathing and focus trainings taught in some traditional Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan schools. An example of non-martial neigong is the discipline known as Daoyin.


Neigong and the internal martial arts

The martial art school of neigong emphasises training the coordination of the individual's body with the breath, known as the harmonisation of the inner and outer energy(內外合一), creating a basis for a particular school's method of utilising power and technique.

Neigong exercises that are part of the neijia tradition involve cultivating physical stillness and or conscious (deliberate) movement, designed to produce relaxation or releasing of muscular tension combined with special breathing techniques such as the "tortoise" or "reverse" methods. The fundamental purpose of this process is to develop a high level of coordination, concentration and technical skill that is known in the martial arts world as neijin (內勁). The ultimate purpose of this practice is for the individual to become at one with heaven or the Dao (天人合一). As Zhuangzi stated, "Heaven, earth and I are born of one, and I am at one with all that exists (天地與我並生, 萬物與我唯一)".

Neigong and meditation

This type of practice is said to require concentration and internal reflection which results in a heightened self-awareness that increases over time with continued practice. Neigong practitioners report awareness of the mechanics of their blood circulation, peristalsis, muscular movement, skeletal alignment, balance, etc.

What is said to be occurring as the result of continual practice is a type of internal alchemy, that is a refinement and transmutation of the "Three Treasures" or San Bao (三寳), in Chinese. The Three Treasures are known as Jing (精), Qi (氣) and Shen (神) and can be loosely translated as Essence, Vitality and Spirit.

According to Daoist doctrine the Three Treasures can be described as three types of energy available to humans. The Dao De Jing purported to be written by Lao zi states in chapter 42 that "The Dao (道) gives birth to the One, the One gives birth to the Two (Taiji (太極) or Yin and Yang (陰陽)) and the Two gives birth to the Three (which some interpret to mean Jing 精, Qi 氣 and Shen 神, or sometimes Heaven Tian 天, Earth Di 地 and Man Ren 人) and lastly the Three gives birth to the 10,000 Things (Wanwu 萬物); which is all that exists in heaven and on earth.

See also


  • Blofeld, J. Taoism, The Quest for Immortality, Mandala-Unwin Paperbacks London, 1989. ISBN 0-04-299008-4
  • Cheng, Tinhung. Tai Chi Transcendent Art, The Hong Kong Tai Chi Association Press Hong Kong, 1976. (only available in Chinese)
  • Wile, Douglas Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the late Ch'ing Dynasty State University of New York Press, Albany, 1996. ISBN 0-7914-2653-X
  • Wu Gongzao. Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳), Hong Kong, 1980, Toronto 2006, ISBN 0-9780499-0-X
  • Keen, Thomas. Iron Vest Qigong. ISBN 978-1-6024-3000-6
  • Danaos, Kosta, Nei Kung, The Secret Teachings of the Warrior Sage, Inner traditions, 2002, ISBN 0-89281-907-3
  • Chen Kaiguo and Zheng Shunchao, Opening the Dragon Gate. The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard.. ISBN 0804831858

External links

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