Training-advice for Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong

Hi. Welcome. This text is written specifically to help you who were at Bruce Frantzis´ workshop in the medical qigong-set Dragon and Tiger in Malmoe in 2008, or who attended the instructor-training arranged by Brian Cooper in Brighton the two weeks before that. In this text we will explain how Bruce Frantzis teaches, and why you yourself need some extra information to be able to layer the training the most efficiently for yourself and your own health. After that, we´ll simply go through a short list of advice on how you layer the information you received, and how to best practice it. If you attend Living Stillness´ follow-up workshops we will cover that material, but in greater detail and depth, taking you step-by-step through each exercise and each of the layers in them, so that you understand how you yourself layer them in the long run to maximize the benefits of your training. You will also find two texts linked to Dragon and Tiger in the main section What is qigong: texts. Should you want to look at the set, video of parts of it are still available on this site, under Bruce Frantzis Sweden 2008, and on Youtube (remember that the video shows movement 1, 2 and 4, skipping movement 3, and not showing 5-7).

First some brief background-information about how Bruce Frantzis teaches. The classical version of learning within traditional qigong and Taoism is to teach slowly, step by step, in careful layers tailored to the individual student, over long periods of time. The view is that the student will practice the rest of his or her life anyway, so there´s really no rush. Very few teachers today are trained this way, but it has been used and tested over many millenia and remains the method that is most effective and safe. Frantzis used to teach this way when he was younger. Now, with age, he has changed his goals somewhat to reach as many people as possible with his unique material, which means that he often teaches huge amounts of information in a very short time. This latter approach puts more pressure and focus on you as a student to use your own intelligence and knowledge in how to layer and digest your training on your own. This means that you have two choices: to do fireworks-practice - practice the cool stuff you thought was fun at the workshop - or practice so that your training slowly grows and flowers and lasts the rest of your life. Nobody can make the choice for you; choose which intention you want to have. Keep in mind that only choice number two will give you the deepest, most effective and safe way to increase your health. Choice number one is "cool" for at most two-three years, and after that most people quit. Our system knows, without us being able to verbalize it, when it´s being tricket into eating only candy; our body and mind knows that this is not real food that truly will still your hunger.

We at Living Stillness only teach the second version, the old one, as we have seen what happens with the practitioners who don´t know it or don´t follow it in their training. The full, classical version takes very long time and is difficult to use in the West, but we follow it as closely as reasonably possible in our time: it is simply that which makes qigong- and meditation-practice work as effectively and safely as possible, and with the highest quality.

The list that we´re going to look at there obviously takes for granted that you have chosen to practice according to the old, more complete version. We will take a short, easy overview of what a beginner in Dragon and Tiger will get the most out of in the training, and then take a couple of those building-blocks and go through how you practice them at your own, in your everyday training. We hope you find it useful. Remember one thing: if your training is allowed to grow slowly, like a tree, it will also yield you the greatest crop of sweet fruits the rest of your life. No-one becomes well-fed on dandelions alone.

What is the most effective way to layer Dragon and Tiger?

Dragon and Tiger is a meridian-line qigong, what is somewhat mistakenly called "medical" qigong here in the West. This means that it works primarily with flows in your meridian-system, in this case mostly with the Eight Extraordinary Meridians(for more details, se the text on Dragon and Tiger under Courses and tailormade qigong, and then The different qigong-sets we teach). But. In the beginning you don´t need to focus on them in your training; there are many other things that need to fall into place before you get into moving energy in the different yin/yang-flows or through the Eight. Unless your body is reasonably soft, you will be trying to force energy like forcing water through a garden-hose with knots on. This holds true further down the line when you get deeply into working with your wei qi in Dragon and Tiger; unless the physical container is stable and at least reasonably relaxed, that whole training-level will also go wrong.

Step 1: only the movement

First step in learning any qigong is to just get comfortably relaxed and at home with how you do the movement itself. If you don´t allow this step to stabilize for a long time, you are stabbing your own qigong-training in the back. The easiest way of starting out with Dragon and Tiger is to focus most part of your training - maybe up to 80% - on only doing movement 1 in the beginning, and just digesting the different parts of it. You would practice the parts first, one by one, and then joining them together into one unit. During one training-session you might warm up with a couple of different versions of it, and then finish by integrating them all into the entire movement for maybe five-ten minutes, doing it only as good as it gets right now.

Step 2: let yourself soften while doing the movement

The next step is simply that once you are reasonably comfortable with a movement, you start focussing on getting that movement progressively softer and more relaxed. Both step 1 and step 2 will continue to go in cycles in your training for the rest of your life, just like all the other steps of the 16 Neigong-principles; over time they simply weave together at ever stronger and deeper levels of knowledge, softness, precision, and health-effect. Relaxation is a word that is almost impossible to use in the West, as it has acquired so many connotations that aren´t useful. Our intended meaning here is that you have learnt how to release uneccessary tension, and have an intention of becoming softer and more alive over time. At Living Stillness we usually teach from tense (turning up in class) to softer and softer, and then, through that softness, slowly letting your body open more and more over time. Teaching "tense-to-open" often builds in future problems here in the West.

Step 3: remember that if your qigong-training isn´t relaxed for your nervous-system, you might as well go and do aerobics

See if you slowly can become more aware of how you feel when you practice. This is the first of many steps in how you eventually learn to work directly with your nervous-system. But in the beginning all that matters is if you can start getting a little inkling of how you feel. If you feel tense or stressed, this might be because of two things: the first is that you are letting your daily stress-patterns take over your training. See if you can release this, and slowly change it, since it´s really not good for you. The other is that you are trying to do too much in your training, which will release the same stress-patterns you began training to get rid of, and which you probably don´t want to make stronger... If you notice that you are tensing up, do less. Do only the arm-movement, or only the foot-movement, or only one arm, until you feel that you are at a level where you can remain in your body and slowly get more soft.

Step 4: play a little with what you learnt in the workshop

To retain the information you got from Bruce Frantzis as effectively as possible, it is good for you to layer your training in the way we describe here - but also to play a little, to try some of the easier stuff you learnt there. You don´t want to do this too much, but you want to do it every now and then. This will let you retain that information better, and, sometime down the line, help you bring it out for when you are really ready to let it surface in your practice. In Dragon and Tiger you might, for example, play a little with moving energy, or with moving it in the lines in some of the movements you learned. Again, if you do only this, your training will stagnate and become much less useful to you in the long run. Remember to do your basic training. It is the foundation on which everything else rests.

Step 5: never mind the feet for a long time

The movements of Dragon and Tiger are advanced enough to do in the beginning. We would advise you to put the foot-work aside for a long time, until you really start to digest the arm- and hand-movements. Do practice the foot-work separately, that´s quite helpful, but try not to waste time doing the whole movement until you really feel that everything is reasonably in sync. This will, paradoxically, let your training proceed the fastest.

Step 6: never mind the breath-work for a long time

Breathing-practices are the most misunderstood training-techniques that exist in the West. In the old, more complete traditions of breath-work it is incredibly precise in how you build up the training, which layers you work with and in which stages, so as to make it work well and safely for your health. Most westerners really shouldn´t do breathing-practices until they are about five to ten years into the training; only after this are they usually relaxed enough to do it. Most people who teach breath-work and actually have training from a good chinese teacher tend to forget that chinese people have almost no physical tension in their upper bodies: we westerners have so much upper-body tension that our lungs and internal organs barely have any space to move at all. So, at the start of your training, never mind the breath. Just relax; the more you relax, the more your breath will relax, and it will be organic, natural, without force or mental strain. Avoid linking the movements to breath until you are quite good at both subjects individually. Just follow the steps we have outlined here. You will breathe until the day you die. There´s no rush.

There. Now we´re done for this time. There are volumes to write about Dragon and Tiger and how to layer qigong, but I think this might provide you with some help and a good start. You can also find a step-by-step go-through of Dragon and Tiger in Bruce Frantzis own book the Dragon and Tiger Instruction Manual. The advice in the list here above is something you can practice for years, and it will give you an incredibly good, vibrant effect for health. This is also the kind of slow, steady build-up of your qigong-training that will make traditional qigong really flower for you in the long run, and evolve and go deeper as effectively and safely as possible. We hope you have found this text useful...and wish you good luck with your training.