8 Pieces of Brocade for Health

Ba Dua Jin Exercise for Health and Healing

This is something you can’t eat, but have to do. The Eight Pieces of Brocade exercise has a long history and there are many many versions and interpretations of this exercise. I, of course, will give you the right one. All kidding aside, I did get some insight into the proper intent and result for each exercise. Over the years, I have also honed my own understanding and developed theories of my own regarding why this particular set of exercises are deemed effective and have managed to survive for hundreds of years.
One legend states that a wandering monk invented these exercises after witnessing the poor condition of fellow monks who spent their days sitting in meditation and not exercising. This set of exercises was meant to keep the physical body in good condition.
There isn’t alot recorded about these exercises. I was told there were some cave or tablet drawings with basic instructions or ‘songs’. These songs were devices to remember the main points. They are largely unhelpful if you haven’t been taught the exercises. Therein lies the problem with a lot of traditions, arts or practices that have been revived from ‘old manuscripts’. One simply can not learn effectively from old manuscripts.

These exercises are very old and steeped in traditional chinese medical theory. That means that each exercise focuses on the body from the traditional chinese medical view of the body. An exercise will focus on a meridian (energy channel) or organ or both. In chinese medicine organs are more than just body parts like we tend to understand from a Western viewpoint. In Chinese Medicine, organs are connected to each other ‘energetically’ and control other parts of the body and emotions. Some organs don’t really exist physically, like the Triple Burner. The triple burner is an organ that is the focus of the first exercise, Holding up the sky to regulate the triple burner.


Stand with feet together or no more than shoulder width apart, arms at sides. While you start to inhale, synchronize your breath and the raising of your arms until they reach above your head, palms facing the sky. Again, from their position at the sides of your body, bring them together in front of you, turn them palm up and raise them up the front of your body. As you pass your chin, start to rotate them over so they face away from you. At the end you should be looking up and stretching your hands above you as if you were trying to push up or “hold up” the sky. Keep pushing and stretching and inhaling for a few moments and then exhale, bringing your arms back to their starting position. Relax.

Important points

  • Keep Inhaling to create pressure in your lower abdomen. Don’t hold the breath at the end, but keep inhaling
  • make sure the sides of your torso feel a stretch. Look on an acupuncture map for the triple burner meridian and make sure you feel it stretch.

Holding up the sky Brocade Exercise
Holding up the sky Brocade Exercise


Anything else is purely academic. These exercises were meant to be SIMPLE!! Don’t fall for complications or other “secrets”. These are not rocket science.
These were meant to be basic training exercises. I know a lot of people want to complicate these exercises with a lot of additional theories and points. Some of these additional points are very good, don’t get me wrong. However, they are probably additional points added from understanding and practices of deeper, more sophisticated internal arts or practices.
Keep this one simple.  Remember the main points and that’s it.

Nitric Oxide – The Great Unifier

I consider Nitric Oxide the great unifier. If you do research on just about any tonic or elixir, I bet you will find a nitric oxide connection. Korean Ginseng? Enhances Nitric Oxide. Jiaogulan Tea? Nitric Oxide. Honey? Yep, Nitric Oxide. Acupuncture? Nitric Oxide.  Vitamin C?  I could go on, but you get the point. There are a ton of books and internet articles on Nitric Oxide. I don’t want to repeat that information here or begin a biology/chemistry lesson.

We will be talking about it alot on this quest. This is a good book for information on nitric oxide:

I’ll mention a few things that I think are important. First, if anyone says they understand Nitric Oxide, I think they are lying. It’s been studied alot, however, it seems like people are still figuring this thing out. To get through alot of the information, you need a PhD in biochemistry. That’s why the book above is a good introduction. It was written by one of the guys who put alot of the pieces together and is viewed as one of the discoverers of it–and won a nobel prize for it.

What I do know about it, is that it is involved in helping arteries expand, which in turn improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure. However, that’s extremely simplistic. To make it more complicated there are several forms of it. Scientists are constantly finding new ways it is used in our bodies and the role it plays in disease and health. It has roles in inflammation modulation, blood flow, hair growth, diabetes, hormone release, brain health and even erectile function :O to name just a few things.

Alot of chronic diseases thought to be normal aging are probably caused by our inability to produce enough nitric oxide. Many prescription drugs, like viagra for example, increase nitric oxide by blocking the enzymes that help break it down in the body. There other techniques to increase nitric oxide production by ingesting  the substances that produce it. For example, the amino acid arginine or nitrates from vegetables (yes, nitrates may not be so bad after all).   You can teach your body to produce more by exercise.

Another interesting aspect of Nitric Oxide is that it is a toxic gas that kills viruses and bacteria. In fact, there were some studies that showed producing enough of it killed tuberculosis and scientists were recommending eating peanuts (high in arginine and probably nitrates) to help ward it off. 

As with everything, too much is probably bad and there is some evidence that overproduction probably causes alot of damage in our bodies. That’s why you will see nitric oxide products with liberal doses of antioxidants included. 

Bodybuilders have caught on to this and you will find a wealth of products claiming to boost nitric oxide. These products help the muscles swell up with blood. If you examine the ingredients, you will find a basic formula: amino acids that provide the ‘food’ for nitric oxide and herbs/chemicals that slow or prevent it’s breakdown or speed up it’s production. Read the labels on these products for clues on the next big elixir to try.

I’ll be writing more on this in future posts…

Jing Chi Shen

As I come across interesting theories and paradigms, I’ll be writing about them here.

One very helpful paradigm for comparing items on this site comes from  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and it’s view of the body’s energy system.    In TCM, there are three concepts called ‘Jing Chi and Shen‘.  There aren’t very good english equivalents for these terms, but loosely translated, ‘Jing’ means the core energy you were naturally alloted at birth.  One can think of this as the size of your energy battery you are given.  There are alot of really esoteric ideas concerning how this  ‘Jing’ size is determined but it largely is inherited from the parents and the circumstances around conception.  Interestingly enough, this concept is not unique to TCM, but is found in many Spanish cultures as well.  The bottom line is, according to this theory, when your Jing starts to fall short, you grow old and eventually die.  We’ll be looking at strategies to make the most of our Jing on this site.

Next is ‘Chi‘.  I’m sure everyone has heard of ‘Chi’ and it’s alternate spelling, ‘Qi‘.  Chi can be thought of as your energy level and ability to accomplish things in the world.  People who get a lot done and rarely get sick are said to have alot of ‘chi’.  Chi is also thought of as the ingredient of the flow of ‘energy’ in the body (primarily via fascia)  and many TCM doctors aim to get this flow properly balanced in the body through herbs, acupuncture, etc.  The amount of Chi we have can be augmented by diet, certain practices (which we’ll be exploring too) and through sleep.  However, the amount of basic Jing is an important driver for how much Chi someone has (according to this paradigm).

Just to be clear, I’m not crazy about vague terms like Jing Chi Shen, but just bear with me.  I think this is a good model to have in our arsenal for the quest.

The last concept, ‘Shen’ is loosely translated as ‘Spirit’.  This is often seen in the eyes and people call it ‘charisma’ or ‘aura’.  How much chi you have drives your spirit and charisma.

In TCM, many herbs are said to operate on one or all of these levels.

A very common analogy is a candle.  The wick is compared to Jing.  The wax is compared to Chi and the flame is compared to Shen.

I read this book many years ago and found it to have a good explanation of these concepts and pretty decent overview of many herbs and tonics medicines from China.

Must Read This Book

I wanted the first post to set the tone for how information on this site is to be read and for how we should approach any strategy or recommendation we may come across.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a ground-breaking booked called ‘Fooled By Randomness’ that should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

In this book, which is a difficult read I must admit, he explains how much of what we think is obvious ’cause and effect’ can actually be randomness.  Many of us don’t truly understand randomness.  Randomness contains patterns and clusters by it’s very nature.  Much of what we think is caused by our skill or foresight can simply be just luck.  Many doctors and scientists are fooled by randomness when they perform experiments or test theories.  It’s hard not to be fooled, especially when we are puffed up with confidence and believe something strongly.  However, mathematics doesn’t lie and after reading this book, your ideas will change.

So as we test theories, supplements and practices in our journey, let’s always keep a level head and a skeptic’s critical thought process.

Don’t be fooled by randomness!