A hypothesis forming in my mind about CMA and qigong is that most Chinese martial arts would typically have barely scratched the surface of what qigong can really offer. There are a few reasons I have this hypothesis:
1. a full understanding of qigong seems incredibly complex and difficult
2. someone who is busy as a bodyguard would have to be first and foremost, concerned with practical matters, such as techniques that keep him alive and his charges protected.
3. he wouldn’t have much time to devote to complex studies that might be useful
4. many of these professionals may have been illiterate, making study of things like meridians more difficult
5. a qigong master who’s a healer or a doctor or acupuncturist probably would have had to devote countless hours to that field, making it hard to do anything more than dabbling in martial arts, most of which would be “secret”
6. bringing two complex fields together in one person genius enough to embed a lot of qigong into martial arts that could be transmitted to others seems unlikely
7. the qigong of arts like taijiquan and yiquan (which doesn’t even use such terms) seems basic – consisting mostly of standing – or implicit – that the taijiquan forms themselves are qigong – but they still must be basic, compared to say, medical qigong that goes farther to explicitly say, for example, that movement x is good for this organ and so on.
If this hypothesis is remotely true or even if it isn’t, modern people may have a better chance of bringing more lessons from qigong to bear on these arts because:
1. more leisure time to study both
2. modern study tools such as the Internet, many more books
3. lack of secrecy needed for either qigong or martial arts
4. modern biofeedback technologies
5. easy travel to get in-person study from different masters
Because I also think full mastery of an art like taijiquan (“no movement”, “no muscle”) is based mainly on qigong mastery (albeit seemingly as a side effect of training rather than as a primary goal), I think this kind of path is actually more available to ordinary people than I thought before. Only, people have no idea what they’re trying to do, why they’re trying to do it, or what they should be doing. A simple prescription to just stand and relax is hard enough. Whole body movement is hard enough. Push hands is hard enough. Something like a throw or a punch is hard enough. But actually, those are all trees, not the forest, and by themselves, anybody can learn them. To learn something from my post about Jason Borne using FMA, anyone can probably learn to defend against basic angles of attacks with some of the few basic energies from taijiquan. It should be as easy as learning to catch a random ball that comes in with infinite combinations of trajectories, speed, acceleration, weight, etc. To oversimplify the whole thing, each piece of the puzzle is actually pretty simple and should probably be thought of as such. If the movements are pretty simple (just 8, really), it’s the “engine” that is difficult. What people tried to get to, not seeking it, but getting it as a side effect, seems like it can be trained directly and explicitly. Perhaps these are “secrets” that are not really known, weren’t revealed, aren’t in English, or just were in another body of knowledge that is a little too large to intersect with martial arts knowledge so easily in the past. Even if that is so, and it were totally known, why would people fail to get it?
1. they overcomplicate things and search for the wrong thing
2. they are hung up on some tiny externally visible thing rather than tuning into what is happening (or not happening) inside
3. they are misled because the teacher may only know how to help with those external things
Knowing all that, I think teachers have tried to make it clear with simple instructions:
1. mainly stand
2. do form
There is beauty in that simplicity but it’s hard to understand it. If the brain rejects it (most likely) and questions it (very likely from a rational point of view), it will go against what it should be doing (wuwei). That also seems to explain why a lot of modern masters seem to be those who had health issues and had no reason to question their master but every reason to “just do it”. They were also the ones not seeking martial mastery or anything like that but achieved their mastery almost as a side gig. Those seeking it cannot get it. Ah, Tao, you pesky annoying slippery thing, you.
Now, can just anyone who combines these two areas successfully actually be a better fighter than say, Fedor? Of course not. But becoming a “master” of the art does seem remotely possible.