"Hang the Flesh off the Bones": Cultivating an "Ideal Body" in Taijiquan and Neigong

Author: Xiujie Ma1,2, George Jennings3
1 Chinese Guoshu Academy, Chengdu Sport University, Chengdu 610041, China.
2 School of Wushu, Chengdu Sport University, Chengdu 610041, China.
3 Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff CF23 6XD, Wales, UK.
Conference/Journal: Int J Environ Res Public Health
Date published: 2021 Apr 21
Other: Volume ID: 18 , Issue ID: 9 , Pages: 4417 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094417. , Word Count: 186

In a globalized, media-driven society, people are being exposed to different cultural and philosophical ideas. In Europe, the School of Internal Arts (pseudonym) follows key principles of the ancient Chinese text The Yijinjing (The Muscle-Tendon Change Classic) "Skeleton up, flesh down", in its online and offline pedagogy. This article draws on an ongoing ethnographic, netnographic and cross-cultural investigation of the transmission of knowledge in this atypical association that combines Taijiquan with a range of practices such as Qigong, body loosening exercises and meditation. Exploring the ideal body cultivated by the students, we describe and illustrate key (and often overlooked) body areas-namely the spine, scapula, Kua and feet, which are continually worked on in the School of Internal Arts' exercise-based pedagogy. We argue that Neigong and Taijiquan, rather than being forms of physical education, are vehicles for adult physical re-education. This re-education offers space in which mind-body tension built over the life course are systematically released through specific forms of attentive, meditative exercise to lay the foundations for a strong, powerful body for martial artistry and health.

Keywords: mind-body; pedagogy; physical education; practice; re-education.

PMID: 33919260 DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18094417