It’s impossible to trace the origin of many chi kung exercises. The Chinese people have a military history that dates back thousands of years, and the value of exercise and stretching were probably recognized very early as being beneficial for the success of battlefield troops.
The images at left – and below – were found in the tomb of King Ma, who lived before Christ, died in 103 BC and was buried with many documents, including military training manuals. The documents were discovered when his tomb was found in 1973. Some of the images are very similar to chi kung exercises, including movements from the Eight Pieces of Brocade.
I first learned the Brocade exercises as chi kung, but the more I practiced, the more I came to believe that these were also used as stretching and leg conditioning exercises for Chinese soldiers. It is possible that the chi kung interpretation was added many centuries later.
The Eight Pieces of Brocade is not a mystical or magical routine. Practicing the exercises will not give you special powers. You will gain benefits from the stretching and the leg strength that comes as a benefit from the horse stances, but the main purpose of these exercises is the purpose of all chi kung – calm the mind and body, ease stress, center yourself, and allow your body to become the healing machine that it truly is.
Your goal in all chi kung practice is to recapture the centered and calm feeling when you encounter moments of crisis or tension in “the real world.” I have used this for more than two decades in all types of tense moments, from work to home relationships and even in traffic on city streets and Interstate highways. It can help you ride the ups and downs of life without being capsized.
Inhale while you are in the first position, then exhale and push one hand up and the other hand down. Put "supporting" energy into the upward hand and "downward" energy in the lower hand.
Exhale as you return the hands to the original position and then reverse hands -- the other one goes upward and the other down. Exhale as you are doing this. Then inhale as your hands return to the original position.
The key is calming your mind and body. You want to be as relaxed as possible through the exercise, although you do want to use supporting and down energy in the hands.
The entire Eight Pieces of Brocade is part of 90 minutes of instruction on my Qigong DVD. The cost of the DVD is $19.99 with free shipping anywhere in the world. It also includes three 5-minute routines, two 10-minute routines, and 36 exercises of the Yi Jing Ching (the Fist Set, the Palm Set, and the Moving Set). All the exercises are described and shown in my Qigong Kindle ebook available on Amazon's Kindle Store worldwide. The ebook costs only $4.99.
Qigong will not make you immortal. After all, every qigong master of the past is dead. But it does help you balance the mind and body, and it can improve your health by managing stress. It is not difficult, but it takes time and practice. It is well worth the effort.