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One of the lines the Tai Chi Classics reads:

Qi is as (a) Drum Resonating, Shen is as collected internally

What is Drum Resonating (Gu Dang) ? Wu Kung Cho (*), in the Wu style seminal manual, the “Gold Book” (http://wustyle.com), as translated by Doug Woolidge says:

Drum Resonating refers to the integrating of Jin energy that occurs whether moving, still, emptying, filling, opening, closing, hardening or softening. When drum resonating Jin energy occurs, mind moves intention, intention sends Qi and Qi sends the body. Because the mind and Qi are so directly interconnected, Yin and Yang can mutually transform instantly, like raging wind and pelting rain accompanying frighteningly huge waves.

and Chen Wei Ming (**), as translated by Barbara Davis says:

The highest gongfu of taiji push hands is lancai. This is done entirely by means of jin of gudang (drum resonating). You gudang your opponent, and cause him to be like a boat meeting the wind going in and out of the billows. He is dizzy and has no control. He lists and joggles about, losing control, and is not even able to fathom his own center of gravity. This is the application of gudang.

Both sound pretty good, but really doesn’t say much that a practitioner can use. The image of a drum resonating seems to be insufficiently used in the above.

Finally, another clue! In a rare book by Shi Diao Mei 施調梅 (***), it reads (translation mine):

The two phrases “Qi is as (a) Drum Resonating, Shen is as collected internally” is one of the first steps into the internal martial arts… if you breath deeply using reverse breathing { EDIT: Louis Swaim correctly points out that the Chinese phrase only says “Abdominal Breathing,” and not necessarily reverse breathing. In this manner, the text is unclear whether “natural” or reverse breathing is meant. END EDIT}, and coordinating with the opening and closing of the movements, the diaphragm is pressurized. Thus when you inhale and exhale while moving, due to the pressure from the abdominal diaphragm, the internal organs are moved and exercised. This is called Drum Resonating…

There are much more. And people say the Classics do not contain explicit descriptions.

Before I close this entry: reverse breathing is one of those old secrets. It should be done with care and it is best if you get qualified instructions, otherwise, bad side effects such as increasing blood pressure, headache, hemorrhoids etc. may result. You have been warned.

Finally, a plug to one of my favorite bookstores: http://www.plumpub.com They carry a lot of books, both in Chinese and English, and VCDs, DVDs. Nice folks, great selection, prompt shipping. What more can one ask for (except for the Wei Shu Ren’s book, hint hint, Debbie 🙂 )

(*) Wu style founder Wu Jian Quan’s second son

(**) One of Yang Cheng Fu’s students

(***) He was a student of Tian Zhao Lin, a student of Yang Shao Hou and Yang Jian Hou (third son of the great Yang Lu Chan and father of Saho Hou). Shi Diao Mei is the teacher of Tchoung Ta Tchen

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