Core Learning Principle: First Separate and Then Combine
The principle of breaking movements into micro-components follows an ancient Taoist principle
of learning called “first separate and then combine.” First you learn to become comfortable
with a specific micro-component. Next you learn and practice a second one. Then you
combine both components and practice them simultaneously until they feel as though they
are one movement. After this you will practice a new component by itself until it becomes
comfortable. Then you will combine and integrate it with others until these three components
feel like one. In this way you will build your skill in a relaxed manner and avoid feeling
overwhelmed or leaving valuable parts out.
At the end of many micro-components in this manual, you will be asked to “Take a Break”
to encourage you to stop and let your nervous system assimilate what you have studied before
going back to practicing that component again or moving on. It is especially important to
assimilate the material in each component before attempting to learn the next one.
The breaks between might include:
• Taking 20 minutes off before practicing a micro-component again
• Using a few days to a week or more to practice and assimilate one micro-component
• Taking a few days to a week or more before going to a new complete movement,
such as between Movements 2 and 3 or Movements 6 and 7.
What is important is to be patient and not be in a rush. If you give yourself the gift of
time to take breaks, your learning will be smoother and less frustrating. Even the most
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talented and well-coordinated athletes have had challenges to overcome when learning
These breaks are those which I have seen to be the most effective for learning, both in
China, and in teaching this material for nearly thirty years in the West. The goal is to build
the necessary foundation that will make learning enjoyable and beneficial.
The 70 Percent Rule: Do Neither Too Much
Nor Too Little
The principle of moderation is the heart of all Taoist energy practices and is embodied as
the “70 percent rule.”
The rule states that you should only do a movement, or any chi technique, to 70 percent
of your capacity. Striving for 100 percent produces excess tension and stress. As soon as
you strain or go beyond your capacity, your body has a natural tendency to tense up or
shut down, without you necessarily being consciously aware that this is happening.
Over time, staying within 70 percent of your capacities will help you attain optimum
physical accomplishment in the shortest amount of time and simultaneously reduce stress.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, the more you relax, the more energy, stamina and
strength you will gain and the greater your range of motion will become.
In this modern era people are led to believe that by straining, they will progress faster
and further. However, if you always push your energy to 100 percent, you will never allow
your nerves and muscles to relax so that you can progress efficiently and with a minimum of
unnecessary stress or needless physical injuries.
By staying within your comfort zone, your physical tension and subliminal psychological
stress will gradually decrease and in time disappear. You will move forward faster than you
would if you were to strain. Avoiding straining or stressing your body helps you to relax.
And remember: no one goes to the hospital for a relaxation attack.
Following this rule will also help you to uncover and actualize your highest potential.
Whether you are a novice or an experienced practitioner, this method will help you to move
through the levels of accomplishment faster.
Incorporating the 70 percent rule into your practice may include—
• How far down you bend your legs
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• How much you turn your waist
• How much you straighten your elbows and knees
• How deep a breath you take
• How much time you practice
• How much mental energy you expend.
Expect Chi Reactions
Dragon and Tiger is a powerful tool for awakening your body on physical, energetic,
emotional, mental and spiritual levels. As you practice these movements and begin to
move your body in ways that may be different for you, energy and fluids in your body are
stirred up and begin to move more vigorously. At some point you may experience reactions,
which may seem either positive or negative to you. These are called chi reactions: the
body’s response to the effects of energy beginning to flow more freely through previously
These reactions may show up immediately, hours, or even a day or two after practicing.
Although many people will not begin to feel either negative or positive reactions without
practicing a lot, others, particularly if they have done other forms of personal development
work, may notice reactions almost immediately.
Positive Chi Reactions
The positive reactions can range from less pain and more energy to being more centered,
relaxed and comfortable with your body. Some people report that they sleep much better;
others report greater flexibility and balance. You may also notice that you are calmer and
have fewer mood swings. You may experience an overall reduction in stress and tension.
A transformative effect, which most people consider positive, is an increase in and
awareness of your sexual energy. This is entirely normal as it is the most fundamental energy
in your body, and practice of Dragon and Tiger will increase sexual energy.
Finally, a transformative effect, which confuses many people, is what we call “good
pain.” Dragon and Tiger is designed to gradually work more and more deeply into your
body, to release muscles and other tissues and joints that have been restricted or blocked.
When an area of your body that has been frozen begins to loosen and realign, more energy
moves through that area than you are used to. But if the energy cannot flow freely or
fully, you may experience temporary pain in the area.
The Chinese medical theory of the body holds that pain in an area is a sign that the
energy there is not flowing freely. You feel “bad” pain when an area is newly injured or
hurt. In general, “good” pains tend to be temporary (lasting from a minute to at most a couple
of days) and are usually dull, rather than sharp. As you practice you will learn to recognize
such pains as signs of progress. Treat them with great care and keep within the 40 to 50
percent rule when you have pain, illness or injury (see p. 6). Back off practicing and be sure
to consult your healthcare provider if you begin experiencing either significant pain or pain
that does not go away quickly.
Negative Chi Reactions
As your body wakes up on various levels, it may do so the same way as when aroused from
a deep slumber—cranky, sore and confused. You may experience some negative chi reactions.
These can range from relatively mild but confusing aches, nausea, light-headedness, tingles,
fatigue, unsteadiness, body temperature shifts or mood shifts to strong emotional releases
and mood swings to unusual dreams or shifts in perception. You may also experience physical
discharges, such as stronger body odors or more frequent bowel movements.
As blocked and stagnant energy moves or leaves the body, energetic memories, which
are associated with the problem stored in either your energy channels or physical tissue can
awaken and cause you to relive the underlying and often repressed causes of the problem—
especially if you have a severe condition.
You might experience what doctors refer to as a “healing crisis.” The term refers to that time
during healing when a patient’s body temporarily feels worse before it feels better. For
example, when the body burns out infections, the patient often has a high fever. When the
fever breaks, the symptoms of the disease pass. The fever may cause the patient to feel terrible,
until the stored toxins or blocked energy are released. Afterwards the individual feels better
as the illness passes.
All these reactions are common to many natural forms of healing and are often a sign
that your body is cleansing itself. Many people have a healing crisis when they fast or switch
to a cleansing or vegetarian diet. The practice of Dragon and Tiger may often trigger such
effects; they are fairly normal reactions. What is important to remember is that these reactions
are temporary and usually pass when your body begins to rebalance itself.
If you begin to experience strong or uncomfortable sensations, immediately sit down, put
your hands on your belly and gently breathe with your belly to ground and center yourself.
Such sensations will usually pass within minutes. Then suspend or reduce your practice for a while. Start again by following the 20 percent or 40 percent rule and very gently explore
your body’s reactions to these practices. Remember that you are not alone in such experiences;
almost everyone that practices will experience some of these reactions at some time.
If the symptoms are intense, pull back your practice to 30 percent or 40 percent of what
you normally consider your normal practice and consult with your teacher.
Remember to drink plenty of water. Water helps accelerate the release of toxins. Taking
some Vitamin C also helps that process.
Make sure you rest after practicing.
Be sure to consult a healthcare professional immediately if you have any symptoms that
might be a sign of a medical or psychological problem.