Heavenly River Monastery

Hard Qigong


Hard Qigong (sometimes known as “Iron Shirt’ or ‘Golden Bell’) develops the Qi of the internal and external body (muscle, bones, and skin), to make the body healthy and strong, and offer protection against injury and attack. It increases vitality, strength, fitness, conditioning, stamina, endurance and hardship for character training (Spirit). Traditionally, this type of training accompanied martial arts training, as itinerant martial artists needed strong bodies, in addition to their skill, to survive attacks by gangs of bandits and even wild animals. They also needed internal training to repair the body following injury and to nourish and replace expended Qi.

Internal training, such as Hard Qigong, is mostly missing from today’s martial art regimens, in part due to modern lifestyles and impatience, but also due to the cultural secrecy of old school Chinese masters unwilling to share their skills with Westerners or ‘outsiders’. So, many of these ‘hidden’ skills died with them and became extinct.

The seemingly ‘superhuman’ feats performed by Hard Qigong practitioners are these are just demonstrations (or tests), and merely the result of progressive training. These feats are not necessarily part of the actual training itself and certainly not the point of it at all. The main objective is training Qi, health, strength, and Spirit (conquering fear). 

Hard Qigong is an invaluable aid to any style of martial art, but it is a separate health skill in its own right and its amazing  benefits are available to all. 

This skill was passed down to my Sifu, Master Michael Tse (pictured left) by Grandmaster Zhan Jia Liang, the 9th generation successor of the Heavenly River Monastery skill.

Level 1 is a totally safe and healthy exercise suitable for everyone of all ages, men and women alike, and features none of the training that may cause some to mistakenly consider ‘harmful’. As Qigong, its primary aim lies in health promotion, and it also prepares the body for the later levels of training. It is unlike any other health exercise, and the impact on vitality and spirit can be perceived instantaneously.

Hard Qigong opens specific acupuncture channels and works on the internal body, especially the lungs (for creating power needed in punching, pushing etc.) and kidneys (for creating internal Qi needed to withstand attacks such as punches, kicks, and weapons). Training the lungs in this manner benefits asthma and depression. Training the kidneys nourishes the Bone Qi and marrow, making the bones stronger. It also increases the blood circulation, which benefits internal Cold and Damp conditions and stagnation, including arthritis.

Advanced levels develop the back, head, and fingers, and then later the softer, more vulnerable areas such as throat, neck, and ribs, and require special equipment for training. After Iron Body is acquired the focus shifts to Qing Gong, or Light Gong, whereby the body is trained to be very light and nimble.


Hard Qigong is not taught in weekly classes. It can only be learned over a series of weekend seminars  or by studying privately. (Check Events Page to see when/ if it is being offered.)

In order to progress to the higher levels, the student must train for fixed periods of time and then take and pass examinations to demonstrate understanding of the forms and correct use of the energy, prove that the necessary standard of fitness and stamina has been achieved, and finally accept never-before-experienced punishment and hardship, to prove the Hard Qigong ‘Spirit’ (a mind free of fear and doubt) has been developed.

This particular style of Hard Qigong originates from the Buddhist Heavenly River Monastery, located in Hebei province, during the Ming Dynasty, around 400 years ago.

Unlike many other styles that concentrate in conditioning the external body, this style trains the internal body first, with various unique and special breathing techniques (such as ‘Eating the Air’ and ‘Swallowing Qi’) that direct Qi and combine with dynamic and powerful movements and strong stances. Meditation is an equally important part of this training, needed to ‘calm down the fire’ and euphoria created by the forms. As with all Chinese Qigong skill, health is the priority, with the emphasis on balancing yin and yang.


Adam Wallace, 765 Anderson Ave, #1-4, Cliffside Park, NJ 07010. Tel: (212) 330 8327 email:wallace@dayanqigong.com