This post is the second part Jiao Guo Rui’s 15 Points on Nei Gong and Five Animal Play of excerpted from the book, Les Jeu Des Cinq Animaux (Five Animal Play) by Jiao Guo Rui, De Ye Tao and Hu Yao Zhen, translated by Grégory Mardaga. The book presents three different versions of the Five Animal Play exercises.
Jiao Guo Rui was a student of Hu Yao Zhen. The text below forms Jiao Guo Rui’s introduction to the Five Animal Play. However, it is essentially a discussion of important points relating to Nei Gong in general. Although some of these points are mentioned in Jiao’s book Qi Gong Essentials for Health Promotion, the discussion is more detailed in Les Jeu Des Cinq Animaux.
Translation from the French by Tom Bisio
Five Animal Play By Jiao Guo Rui
- Circularity and Liveliness of Movement
The many movements of Five Animal Play take the form of an arcs, a spiral, a wave, or are like rolling silk. This is referred to as circular. Round movements are complete and consistent. Even if the exterior aspect of certain postures doesn’t seem circular, Intention and Qi always follow a circular trajectory. That is why it is said that, “the force stops, but the Intention does not stop.” The ideogram (Huo) refers to lively movement (活Huo: vivid, lively, moving, alive). Although each movement has specific requirements, you must not train in a stereotypical manner. You must be filled with vitality.
- Hidden Slowness and Stability
The movements must be slow and stable. This attitude will help the breathing to be naturally flexible, relaxed, long and regular. Bu in applying force, try to conceal it. To “hide” means to not manifest the force externally. The force is hidden.
- Order of the Exercises
As a general principle one practices a single animal each time or one or two postures of the Animal Play. In the beginning, when you are learning the Five Animal Play, you should learn them in the following order: bear, crane, deer, tiger and monkey. The movements of the bear stable and slow and their amplitude is not large. The Qi is directed downward and the Intention is on the navel. This maintains balance in the channels and prevent Qi from rising. These movements therefore aim at curing disease and protecting health. Bear Play is therefore considered the foundation of Five Animal Play.
In Crane Play one gently turns and deploys the wings. The amplitude of the movements is not large. They harmonize the pathways of Qi. This why it is the second of the Five Animals.
In the deer, tiger and monkey play, the movements are not bigger, but the level of difficulty is greater. You must have a already acquired proficiency and foundation in Nei Gong. This is why they come after the bear and crane.
After you have studied the play of each animal, and have practiced them continually, you can follow the following order: bear, deer, tiger, monkey and crane.
By beginning practice with the Bear Play, the pathways of Qi become more balanced, the amplitude of the movements that follow gradually increase and the level of difficulty also increases little by little. Finish with the Crane Play to soften the movements and unblock the channels and collaterals. In this way, you will gather and store internal Qi. In fact, one should practice each animal with this spirit, as the success of each movement is dependent on the principle of gradual progression.
The primary action of Five Animal Play is to work internally to calm the Spirit in order to cultivate True Qi and regulate the blood vessels, and externally to exercise the body and limbs in order to strengthen the bones and muscles and increase physical strength. Because the characteristics of each of the animal plays are different are different, there are also differences in their application. If you are using the Five Animal Play to cure an illness or to maintain good health, you should mainly practice the foundational forms of the Bear (The Bear Step, Bear Shaking/Rocking and Bear Pressing), the Crane (Crane Step and Crane Displaying Wings), and the Tiger (Tiger Step). The other forms can, in accordance with the one’s state of health and the intensity of training, be used to stretch the muscles and the bones, relax and open the joints and make the body strong and vigorous.
- Coordination Between Movement and Respiration
Breathing should be natural. The ideal is to arrive at a state where one forgets about breathing. If you forget about it, breathing will be natural. Therefore beginners should not seek to coordinate the movements and the breath. Wait until the movements become skilled and the breath is relaxed and slow. The posture, the breath and the intention will then naturally become unified.
- Frequency and Speed of Movement
When the movements are combined with the breath, their speed will conform to the speed and rhythm of the respiration. If a movement is slow and stable, then it requires a relaxed and slow breath. The movements and the breath cannot be coordinated at the beginning of learning exercises, so you should try and take about eight seconds to perform each movement. In terms of frequency or repetitions, if you are practicing the play of more than one animal, you can practice the five movement of each animal three to five times each. If you are only training the play of a single animal you can train in accordance with the state of your health. In general, the appropriate amount of time for training ia between ten and thirty minutes.
- Achieve the “Three Stabilities” (San Wen 三稳) During Practice.
Stability at the beginning of the exercise, during the exercise, and stability in closing the exercise. The Three Stabilities can be compared to the driver of a car: One must begin by smoothly starting the engine. When driving the speed must be even and when stopping one must first slow down and then smoothly stop. So not only will the driver be at ease and will not feel any vibration, but also the components of the car will not be damaged. Suring the exercises, one should exercise this kind of control over the movements of the body and the internal Qi (external movement and internal movement).
- Do not train when fasting, after having eaten too much, when fatigued or when the mind is over-excited, if one is nto serene and if the emotions are unstable.
Before practicing, you must attend to your needs. When practicing, the collar, the clothes and one’s belt must not be too tight. Choose a well-ventilated area to practice in. Don’t train too much and exhaust yourself. Manage your energy and strength and do not sweat too much.
- Training must be conscientious; One cannot exercise the body when the mind is confused.
We know that the exercises stimulate, regulate and repair the body. However, if you do not concentrate your attention during practice, it will be difficult to find stillness in movement and to unify Qi and Intention. This will affect the results of your practice
Five Animal Play is a dynamic Qi Gong exercise. It has beneficial effects in prevting and treating disease as well as on health. However, these effects do not manifest until one has practiced for some time. One must be confiden, patient, and persevering. You must advance in stages and not be in a hurry to suceed. Be patient, a ceratin amount of training is necessary. Don’t practice in a state of hurry and confusion. It is better to introduce practice to into your daily routine. The best time of day to practice is each morning and each evening, or doing your free time.
 Wen: Stable ,steady, reliable, sure, certain. As in Ping Wen (平稳): smooth, steady, even, level, calm.