Author: Massey, P., Thorner, E., Preston, M.D., Lee, J.S.
Conference/Journal: J Asian Martial Arts
Date published: 1993
Other: Volume ID: 2 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 70-7 , Word Count: 447
There are many reports of the healthful benefits of martial art training (Zhao, 1984; Maliszewski 1992).
Usually these reports consist of martial art experts, as well as students, attesting to the value of their
training programs. These benefits can include improved physical fitness, resolution of specific body
problems and a subjective feeling of mental improvement. However, objective evidence on the
effectiveness of martial art training for improving the health of the average student is lacking.
Martial art training involves the performance of specific movements over a period of time until a certain
proficiency is achieved. One important aspect of many advanced martial art training programs involves
the development of some form of breathing control. Specific breathing forms (qigong) have been alleged
to improve the circulation and strengthen both the immune system and the internal organs. Other qigong
breathing forms stretch the muscles, clear the mind and reduce stress (Eisenberg, 1985; Wilhelm, 1985).
Qigong means the practice of developing qi. Qi has been described as the energy of the body. It is
associated with breathing as well as muscle and mental activity. It is more of a life energy than a
measurable substance (Ming-Dao, 1990). Qigong breathing techniques are taught in the Chung Moo
style of martial art. Chung (mind) Moo (body) martial art (also known as Um Yang martial arts) has its
foundation in Chinese martial arts. It was first introduced into the United States twenty years ago.
Our own positive experiences practicing qigong breathing (a cumulative experience of twenty- nine
years in the Chung Moo style of martial art) led us to interview many other students who also practice
qigong breathing forms. They stated that they felt "energized" after practicing qigong breathing and they
were able to complete daily activities more easily. Many stated that they had fewer colds, more energy
and greater endurance. Some of these students originally had been severe, activity-restricted asthmatics.
After practicing qigong breathing, they became very active and also noticed a marked decrease in the use
of their asthma medications (Massey and Thorner, 1992). We wanted to determine if there was a
measurable, physiologic parameter that could justify the apparent feeling of improved health in those
practicing qigong breathing. Since the students were practicing a specific breathing form, the most
obvious parameter to measure was the amount of air each student could exhale with a single breath. We
postulated that, through qigong breathing techniques, there may be a significant increase in the lung
capacity. We compared the functional lung capacity in those students who practiced qigong breathing
with the lung capacities of an age- and height-matched control population (national average). Our data
confirmed that students who practiced qigong breathing had a marked increase in their lung capacity.