work in progress. to be continued: last edit 12-29-2014
Extraordinary meridians are NOT the 12 regular organ meridians in acupuncture, they are deeper channels and help assist the 12 regular organ meridians. However in martial arts they are talked about and imported into training by various masters. You will see in the images the locations have discrepancies between popular Tai chi and Qigong books and what is taught at TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) collages. In TCM the view is different and locations are different. I will discuss some of this briefly. It should be noted that western medicine has not accurately located these special channels nor regular 12 meridians, and even “Qi” for that matter. In TCM the points of the channels have landmarks on the body and with western anatomy, vasculature and innervation locations can be identified. example Daimai point GB 26 is a Belt meridian point. Vascualture is the 11th coastal artery and vein are there, and the innervation is the 11th intercoastal nerve. How acupuncture works: TCM Demystified by Chris Kresser.
Some of these discrepancies are:
1. Various locations and flow direction on the Du and Ren meridians. Some qigongists’ discuss Microcosmic Orbit in a more metaphysical way. In TCM both channels go up. In qigong they do the microcosmic orbit by connecting a circuit at lower body junction Hui yin (Ren 1) and Du 1 and Du 28 and Ren 24 in the mouth via the tongue. The qi is visualized moving up the spine and down the front Ren channel and sometimes reversed direction.
2. Some Qigongist have 1 arm extraordinary channel that circulates down reverse of Shaoyang hand (san jiao meridian) the middle of the outside of the arm and up the middle of the inside of arm touching laogong point in the hand up (shao yin foot- pericardium meridian) to the nipple and meets with the belt channel. In TCM they do not have this extraordinary meridian. However they do have Pericardium channel that goes the reverse direction from the nipple, down center of arm to the laogong point in the hand and the Triple Warmer aka san Jiao channel that goes from hand up the middle outside of arm to the head. It should be noted that triple warmer and pericardium are “minister fire” related channels.
3. Some Qigongist have 1 extraordinary channel that goes down the leg to the Yongquan point (Kidney 1) and up the leg back to Hui Yin point. Depending on the school some have it down the outside of leg and up the inside of leg, or reverse, down the inside of leg and up the outside of leg. Most likely qigongist are referring to Bladder meridian (Foot Tai Yang bladder meridian), down back of leg to yongquan area, and kidney meridian (foot shao yin) which yongquan is its well point, from there running up the inside of leg. TCM does not have this as extraordinary channel at all, but part of the 12 regular meridians. TCM does however has 4 extraordinary channels of the leg: Yin and Yang Qiao and Yin and Yang wei channels (4) and the Kidney (foot shao yin) and Bladder (Foot Tai Yang bladder meridian) meridians I just mentioned.
4. Belt meridian (Dai Mai) in the qigongist system is from Mingmen (Du 4) to navel (Ren 8) and to Qihai (Ren 6) and using the ‘Tan tien” area between. The TCM belt channel does not match that description. It focus on the Gall bladder points 27,28,and 29 in front of the hip around inguinal groove. TCM does acknowledge the tan tien area however in men and women and is part of the ‘minister fire’ element.
5. Chong mei- qigongist think of this as a axis through the body between the points of Bai hui (Du 20) at apex of skull and Hui yin (Ren 1) and base or root of body. It is seen as a “central channel” sometimes Kundalini in nature, a point of balance and/or equilibrium, and a chance to obtain higher spiritual cultivation and realization with complex meditations. In TCM the Chong mai is a series of points that shares some points with the kidney meridian and also some stomach and Ren points and is the sea of the 12 regular meridians and blood in women.
I can see how the simple qigongist view is useful for practice of nei dan structure and mechanics however.
Brief notes from martial arts when first learned about them some 20 years ago:
Functions of Extraordinary meridians in Tai chi and Qigong: These are not normally discussed in the Traditional Lineages like Yang Family, Chen family, nor early Tai Chi classical literature, etc. It later became an adjunct from several scholarly Tai chi teachers later.
1. Du channel starts up the spine at tip of coccyx (Du 1), with major “locks or gates” the qi must pass at Mingmen (lower back L1 spinal region between kidneys), Du 14 (C7 spinal region, between shoulder), Du 16 (C1, C2 spinal region axis/atlas), Baihui (an apex at Du 20) pass through ‘upper tan tien’ between the brow (Yintang), down to Du 26 (Renzhong) and to the roof of the mouth.
2. Ren channel starts from tip of tongue down front middle of throat, one swallows to guide it down the front of chest through the ‘middle tan tien’ and diaphragm down back to the ‘lower tan tien’ below the umbilicus region, eventually back to to the Huiyin point CV1 (Perineum), where is meets with Du channel when the practitioner engages in with a slight tuck of the hips, squeezes/locks (bandha in hindu sanskrit) “contraction then releasing” motion with urogenital muscles and sphincter muscles to stimulate the Huiyin point, which relates to Prostate and testes in men and uterus/ovaries in women. The Du, Ren, and Chong Mai channels.This completes the first circuit of the “microcosmic orbit”, the Taoist Neigong/qigong classic.
3. Thrusting channel (Chong Mai)– starts from Huiyin and rises up the center of body in a straight vertical axis through our center of gravity ascending to the Baihui point at apex of head (Du20). It is an axis which our body rotates and turns, finds equilibrium, groundedness, centeredness, and balance between yin and yang in front, back, and sides of body. Front there ‘Heaven Qi’ washes down the outside of body from Baihui.
4. Dai Mai- Belt channel- like a girdle with the diaphragm circling the waist, as you breathe from lower tan tien, this channel from mingmen (Ren 4), to navel (Ren 8, umbilicus) and from Navel to Ren 6 (Qi Hai). Within that region is the “tan tien area” and is slightly in front of body, but like a sphere that expands and contacts in all directions in concentrated breathing. Lower belly expands and contracts stimulating the tan tien.
5. Arm channel- from Du 14 (at C7 spinal region) a channel runs down the outside of the arm to the back of Laogong, circles around middle finger, up the Laogong in center of palm, up the inside middle of wrist, forearm and middle arm, from armpit, to the nipple. From the nipple it descend to the belt channel in front at navel level.
6. Leg Channel- from Huiyin (CV1) it runs down the back middle of leg where is meets at sole of foot (K1- Yongquan point) where it runs up the inside middle of leg back to Huiyin point.
The arm and Leg circuits complete the microcosmic orbit “Grand circulation”.
What are the TCM 8 Extraordinary Qi Channels?
TCM notes: 8 extra meridians- control, store, and regulate qi and blood.
Du mai- sea of yang meridians.
Ren mai- sea of yin meridians
Chong mai- sea of 12 meridians, also sea of blood (female).
Dai mai- belt meridian.
Yang qiao- outer heel and lower legs.
Yin qiao- inner heel and lower legs.
Yang wei- outer leg channel, connects yang network.
Yin wei- inner leg channel connects yin network.
-Serve as reservoirs of Qi while the 12 organ meridians are like Rivers.
-Serve as Qi reservoirs to the 12 organs meridians along with blood, Ying Qi, Wei qi, Jing Qi, and blood.- Guard against ‘Evil Qi’ or pathogens: cold, damp, wind, dryness, heat.
-Regulate changes in life style.
-Redirect and Circulate Jing Qi (Essence or Reproductive energy- men: sperm, Women: ovaries) inwards to entire body, organs, skin and hair.
-Assist the Ancestral organs of- brain, spine, bone marrow, and blood.
Governor Vessel Du mai:
governs all yang channels.
governs the yang side of body.
provides heat (yang qi) to all organs and channels.
influences the brain, spinal cord and column, head, sense organs, mental/emotional and nervous system issues.
influences a strong constitution and immunity. the kidney yang and jing.
protects the back
guardian qi “zong qi” (from food and air)
nourishes Ancestral organs: Brain, spine, marrow, blood vessels.
Conception vessel Ren mai-
regulates all yin channels.
the yin part of body.
circulates yin qi: blood, essence and body fluids.
Yin Channels and Stomach
Connected to Thrusting and Yin channels
Brings Blood and Jing to head
good to increase qi and store 4 yin channels.
Thrusting channel chong mei-
reservoir for qi and blood.
sea of 5 zhang 6 fu organs, sea of blood, sea of 12 regular meridians.
supports conception channel
helps regulate Kidney Qi
Huiyin (Co-1) and Yin jiao (co-7)are yin and yang qi transfer points and where original qi and food and air qi mix.
Thrusting supports 11 Kidney meridian cavities combining Yuan Jing and Yuan Qi the essence and original Qi.
Nourished Spine and Brain
Supports the 3 paths for muscles and tendons, Kan and Li (fire and water elements), and bone marrow.
Belt channel- dai mai
Binds all the meridians
only horizontal channel
commands the 12 meridians by tightening or loosening of the belt.
regulates gall bladder.
develops waist strength
Yang heel Qiao mai-
regulates the lower limbs
bring yang to the eyes (help open when waking up).
influences the abs, genitals, and head.
supports Yang channels of urinary bladder, gall bladder, small intestines and large intestines.
Leg training and governor channel.
Yin Heel qiao mai:
regulates motion of the lower limbs with the Yang heel channel.
associated with the kidneys.
brings yin to the eyes (close to help sleep).
connected to 2 kidney point cavities I leg (K8 and K9).
sex organ in men and women- jing, Qi, and shen nourishment.
Yang Linking wei mai-
regulates the triple warmer and gall bladder.
connects all yang channels.
dominates the exterior of body.
regulates qi flow of yang meridians.
helps maintain coordination and equilibrium between yin and yang meridians.
sides of body and ears.
Qi in Yang- bladder, gall bladder, 3 warmer, small intestine, stomach and governor vessel 15 and 16.
Yin Linking wei mai-
connects the yin meridians esp. HT, LU, and CV.
controls heart and blood.
dominates over the interior.
flows of Qi in yin meridians.
helps maintain coordination and equilibrium between yin and yang meridians.
calming effect on mind
assists kidney ,spleen, and liver.
it reaches conception channel- 22 and 23.
image above: left to right: Yin heel and Yang heel channels, Yin and Yang linking extraordinary channels.
image above: left to right: conception branches, conception vessel (Ren mai), Governor vessel channel w/ 4 path ways.
Ren has 2 Pathways:
– starts below Ren 3, follow midline of anterior of trunk & passes thru abdomen, chest to throat where it meets Chong mai. Then goes further up to face, curves around lips (intersects Du 28), then up to below eye (St 1)
starts from uterus in ♀& deep in Ren 4 ♂ (same start as Du & Chong mai), goes up to perineum (Ren 1) and together w/Du mai goes thru coccyx & penetrates spine
Du has 4 Pathways:
First Branch: Originates in the lower abdomen, descends to the genitals and perineum, winds around the anus, ascends the interior of the spinal column, enters the kidneys.
Second Branch: Originates in the lower abdomen, winds around the external genitalia, ascends to the middle of the umbilicus, passes through the heart, ascends to the throat, winds around the mouth, ascends to below the middle of the eyes.
Third Branch: Emerges at BL1, follows the Bladder channel bilaterally along the forehead, the bilateral branches converge at the vertex, and enter the brain, the single channel emerges at GV16, then divides again, descending through BL12 along either side of the spine to the kidneys.
Luo Connecting Vessel: Arises at GV1 and ascends bilaterally along the sides of the spine to the nape of the neck and spreads over the occiput. At the scapular region it connects with the Bladder channel and threads through the spine.
image above: left to right: governor meridian points, Hua tou’s Jia Ji points, Bladder meridian points.
Qigong and Tai Chi chuan “martial arts” neigong channels.
image above: microcosmic orbit, back, front , and middle path channels.
image above: various microcosmic orbit channels.
In conclusion, with arts like Taijiquan, I do not think it is important to focus on any of these or other channels at all. In the arts of Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Yiquan, and others, the mind’s intention (Yi) is directed at using the martial arts techniques vs an opponent and thus qi and circulation happens naturally without trying to force or make it happen by un-natural means. By concentrating on the continual movement from posture to posture, the 12 regular meridians and the 8 extraordinary channels will benefit unconsciously if the practitioner trains hard enough and bring not only health to its practitioner, but with correct practice over time, reap the benefits of the hard work and obtain real gong fu.
to be continued: last edit 12-25-2014