Sinew Metamorphosis

Sinew Metamorphosis


Will learning Yijinjing be dangerous without an instructor?

— Sam, USA


Yes. Any high level chi kung can be dangerous without a competent teacher.

In our school we translate Yi Jin Jing as “Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis”, which is a literal translation from the Chinese. Some schools call it “Muscle Changing”. Both the terms “Sinew Metamorphosis” and “Muscle Changing” may mislead many people to believe that the art is meant for building big muscles, which is not true. Indeed many people erroneously practice Sinew Metamorphosis as a physical exercise to build big muscles.

Some knowledge of Chinese language and philosophy may be needed to understand the deeper meaning of Yi Jin Jing or “Sinew Metamorphosis”. Word by word, “yi” means “change”, “jin” means “sinews” or “muscles”, and “jing” means “classic” or established teaching. So literally “Yi Jin Jing” means the established teaching of how to change muscles.

Chinese is a figurative language, and its meaning is often more than literal. Here, “jin” is a shortened term for “jin gu”, which literally means “muscles-bones”. But in “Yi Jin Jing” it does not merely mean muscles and bones. The term refers to a whole system of concepts related to muscles and bones in classical Chinese medical philosophy.

The muscle-system in Chinese medical philosophy is related to the gall-bladder. When the gall-bladder is strong, the person becomes courageous. Indeed, to say that a person is brave in Chinese, we say he has “da tan”, which means “big (i.e. strong) gall-bladder”,

When a person's bones are strong, he becomes upright not just physically but also morally. In Chinese, when you refer to a person as having “gu qi”, which literally means “bone-energy”, you mean that he is righteous.

In kungfu terms, the training of “gu” or bones, like in the training of the Tiger characteristics in Shaolin Kungfu, does not mean you make your bones strong; it means you train internal force. A lot of internal force is need in spiritual cultivation to break through mental and spiritual blockage to set the spirit free.

The essence of “gu” (”bones”) is “sui”, which is literally translated as “bone marrow”. But in Chinese medical wisdom, “sui” is not just bone-marrow. It refers to what in the West would call the nervous system.

In chi kung jargon, energy training may be divided into five levels, which are in ascending order the skin, the flesh, the meridians, the internal organs and the bone-marrow. Hence, Yi Jin Jing which trains the bone-marrow, constitutes the highest form of chi kung training.

With this philosophical background, we can have a better understand that Yi Jin Jing is not just a set of exercises to change tendons or muscles. If it were, learning it wrongly, while harmful, is not so dangerous as it were only physical. As it is, Yi Jin Jing is a very powerful chi kung exercise of the highest level that trains energy and mind, cleansing his nervous systems, making him courageous and righteous, and providing him with a lot of internal force to attain the highest spiritual achievement. Wrong learning or practice, naturally, will have far-reaching and dangerous side-effects.

The above is taken from Question 7 of May 2009 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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