If ( a big if) the best ima folks of old achieved this kind of “autopilot” qigong mastery at the same time they achieved perfect biomechanics, techniques and “no mind” flow, no wonder people thought they were so powerful. It’s hard for me to believe one could achieve that without at least some theoretical knowledge of the meridians and these concepts but it’s hard to know what would have been common knowledge. Regular people today don’t understand medical theory, either, but have some concepts floating around in common parlance like “cold virus”, “bacterial infection”, “immune system”, “cardiovascular system”, “heart rate”, “blood pressure”, “cholesterol”, etc. The Taoist based arts’ students must have at least had some basic conception of the larger body of knowledge in qigong and TCM. Words like “meridian”, “qi flow”, “dantian” probably were somewhat analogous to those modern terms today. No one really has a deep understanding of them but can throw the terms around to the point that everyone thinks they actually do have an understanding of them. I think neijia that attempts to integrate what is practical from TCM with MA is mostly lost or getting more lost now because
1) a newer, different worldview is assumed to be totally incompatible (instead of alternatives that can be “mixed” sort of like mma)
2) no one will put in the work (possibly related to #1 and more probably because each discipline is so hard in and of itself and no one really needs to do so any more as a practical matter),
3) some of the best methods that still exist, e.g., yiquan’s standing, threw out the traditional vocabulary and concepts, erasing an important link that could reconcile the problem of point #1 above,
4) beginners aren’t interested in building a foundation based on something deceptively simple like standing. they want to work on hand waving choreography or something useless. Teachers who need to make a living have to cater to that demand.
5) getting into “qi hugging” seems to motivate one for health and healing and demotivate one for danger and destruction, at least in the atomic age, and
6) probably much more.
On the flip side, if the popular culture starts talking about terms like “meridians”, that makes it more likely for a niche group to pick up on that… my next post will look at marketing qigong to certain segments of the market.