Sorry it took me a few days to get back to this, I'm fighting off a cold, and spent some time digging up some references I had.
At this point I'd like to express how glad I am, and excited, to meet other Discordian who practice martial arts. I ran across a Discordian Aikido practitioner on the web a while back, but didn't get a good chance to discuss anything with her. It's great to meet all of you.
Moving on (warning: this is going to get _long_).
This is a great post and I just have some comments on several aspects of it:
1) I've heard of Pranayama before, have seen it used in yogic practices. To a large extent, it seems very much like the breathing practice you work with in Chi Gung. I don't know if thats because both these practices have come from the same root (homologous) or that they have arisen separately but similarly (analogous).
From my (limited) understanding of the history formalized martial arts, they all stem from various importations of the Yogic arts into Chinese culture at different points in time and from there to the other countries that developed their own specializations. I suppose that analogous evolution could have taken place, but all the basics come back to "that which works", and then the esoteric practices build off of that.
2) You seem to be already using the psychosomatic model for Chi (and the 8 circuit model), while I am going to remain agnostic on this.
I purposely remain a Model Agnostic and Zetetic (doubt, and then doubt the conclusions you came to from doubting, then look for more information, wash, rinse, repeat...see 'Skeptics' just stop thinking after the first round of Doubt).
I also tend to change my "working" models from time to time. For example, while swordfighting (we have a good, active group here in Portland that uses lacrosse gear and bamboo shinai) I tend to convince myself that Ki/Chi is a real, actual energy. This is mainly because if I allow myself to doubt, I destroy any benefit of using the model at that time. Afterward, I can examine and search for explanations of my experiences.
As to the 8 Cricuit Model, I'll mention a verbal epiphany I had while explaining the 8C model to a couple at the door of Esozone who were interested in Antero Alli's talk, but hadn't decided to buy a ticket yet.
The 8C Model isn't intended to explain how the mind or body physically functions or is structured. The 8C Model is used to group human experiences/states-of-consciousness into useful families so that we can see how experiences/habits/programs/etc in each family relate to each other, and to the functions in the other circuits.
3) In Chi Gung, the focus is on bringing the breath downward, out of the chest, strengthening the diaphragm, stretching the abdominal muscles, and using all areas of the torso to gather breath. I don't think many people realize they can gather breath in each distinct part of their torso, even in one side and not the other, that you can breathe from very specific areas, including the lower abdomen, upper, right and left, the kidneys (the area around them),the lower chest, the upper chest, the upper back, and the neck.
4) I love the use of visualizing a baseball bat flying at your face to quickly find areas of tension. That is something I have never heard before and may use in the future.
I'm guessing where you are going with this is to lower the breathing into the abdomen. I'm looking forward to seeing how you explain it.
This is the correct motorcycle. Lol.
The first breathing exercise I learned involved lying down in a relaxing environment (lying down elongates the spine and lets the back muscles relax), and following the breath using a counting technique (make sure not to do this, or most breathing exercises, on a full stomach). The basic form is to inhale through the nostrils, and exhale through the mouth. Count each breath at the end of the exhale, when you get to ten, start again at one. If you loose count, mentally recognize what distracted you then turn your attention back to the count.
Once you are comfortable with this, the next step is exactly to lower the breath down into the abdomen. You can visualize your abdomen (in Japanese, the Hara
or center of Gravity, just below the Navel) filling with air, Chi, sparkly fairydust, whatever works for you. The point with these visualizations is to turn the attention to that area of the abdomen, keep it there, and observe the effects. Combine this with the counting technique above.
Usually, you'll notice that the stomach bulges up and out on the inbreath and sinks below the level of the ribs on the outbreath (remember, we're doing this laying down). Breathe naturally, don't force yourself, and don't hold the breath (this can cause muscle strain in the diaphragm until it is strengthened).
While you don't hold your breath, there will be a moment of relaxation at the end of the inbreath, and similarly at the end of the outbreath before the other half of the cycle starts. Much like the moments of stillness at either extreme of a pendulum. Don't hold onto this moment, just recognize it and let it go.
(Kai, it seems you're already familiar with the "Cauldron" in the abdomen, so I'm mostly typing this out for others benefits, and so you can compare practices.)
Now, after practicing this lying down (I did it for a week or two) you can start practicing it while sitting. The sitting technique differs slightly, in that _after_ you channel you Chi down into the abdomen and fill it, you want to raise the chest and shoulders slightly, elongating the upper spine. This elongates the torso, and allows more volume of air to be held in the lungs at a slightly higher pressure. Remember your counting! It will allow you to return to awareness of the breath if anything distracts you. Again, breathe naturally, don't force yourself, and don't hold the breath.
Now, the effects of the sitting practice: By "pooling Chi" in your abdomen and allowing the stomach to bulge and the muscles of the stomach wall to relax, this allows the 'guts' to move out of the way of the expanding lungs. This also has an effect on blood circulation, as you are basically using the diaphragm as a secondary pumping mechanism to get the increased oxygen from the lungs into the rest of your system. On the exhale, the balance of pressure will naturally push the diaphragm upwards, and as you let your shoulders and upper frame relax and come downwards you are basically allowing gravity provide most of the force used to exhale. Thus, you're not burning as much oxygen to work muscles to provide that force.
Once giving this a good solid period of practice (another few weeks), you can introduce the 3rd aspect of the "Complete Breath". This is twofold: While filling the Hara, you allow your hips to rock slightly backwards, elongating your stomach. Then raise the chest/shoulders (this elongates the lower and then the upper spine, and again, increases the volume of the lungs... this is why practicing the earlier exercises are necessary, jumping to this point with a diaphragm that's not used to it can cause some serious problems). Lastly, you want to raise the elbows away from the torso, thus allowing the ribs at your sides to expand, further increasing the lung volume (I think you mentioned this Kai).
On the exhale; relax and let gravity pull your arms back to your sides, then allow gravity to pull your upper frame down, then rock your hips forward (shortening the stomach). This should happen in a smooth blended manner. Remember, breath naturally, don't force yourself, don't hold your breath.
At this point you've probably done lots and lots of counting to ten, so you can move to mantra (an internal "Om" during the exhale, or one I use from a Ninjutsu manual, resonating "So" on the inbreath, and "Han" on the outbreath). This ties into Zen, and sitting/walking meditation tho, and aids in clreaing random abstract thought from the mind.
There are advanced techniques that build off of this 'complete breath', such as lengthening the moments at each end of the pendulum, but I won't get into that now. Instead I'll share some of my research links.Pranayama - The Art of Breath by Philip H. FarberPranayama-Breathing Techniques Benefit's for Martial-Arts Artist’s Truth-Realization.
And because this thread is about Chi, per se, I'll share a couple of links regarding the symbolism that the Japanese and Chinese use when discussing the subject.5 ELEMENT CODES (PART 1) -Jeff M. Miller5 ELEMENT CODES (PART 2) -Jeff M. Miller