DaMo or Bodhidharma, an Indian holy man, came to China where he came upon the Shaolin Temple. While there he noticed the deplorable state of health the monks had. DaMo then went into seclusion into a natural rock cave for nine years. During that time he invented a form of ch’i-kung called Yijinjing (meaning “Muscle/Tendon Transformation”). And though DaMo certainly must have drawn upon his Indian yoga techniques in inventing Yijinjing, what he actually did was combine his own internal kung fu theory to the already existing Chinese theory of qigong, while taking the differences in Chinese physiology and physical environment into account. Chinese ch’i-kung was actually invented independently approximately 3,000 years ago, curiously enough also by a religious leader, Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism.
Yijinjing is a very important part of qigong, but that there are other forms of ch’i-kung in existence. Yijinjing is an internal exercise that makes the body almost indestructible, capable of withstanding tremendous physical force and even injury from knife stabbing.
In addition to Yijinjing, DaMo invented another type of ch’i-kung called Xi Shui Jin or “Essence of Bone Washing,” an internal exercise designed to cleanse the body. A later Shaolin Monk called Fu Yu Chan Shi invented two other forms of Shaolin ch’i-kung: Baduanjin, meaning “Eight Section Brocade,” an internal exercise practiced to make the body as soft and flexible as cotton to increase healthiness, rejuvenation, and longevity, and Shi Da Gong Fa, meaning “Ten Great Skills,” an internal exercise to make the body as hard as iron, and a very important skill in developing hard ch’i-kung breaking skills. What Yijinjing and the other forms of qigong have in common is ch’i.
Ch’i is usually translated as “breath,” “life principle” or “power,” and though all of these terms are partially correct, none alone conveys ch’i’s true essence. Ch’i-kung allows us to combine the external forces of life through physical movements, such as respiration and different bodily postures, with the internal force called ch’i, thus transforming the practitioner’s body and the mind to a higher plane of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.