It makes a very cheesy concept. But will focusing solely on this aspect and stripping yourself of a positive explosive power give you an advantage or necessarily longer lasting health?
While being like water is important, it is not everything. The aim of qigong, be it Tai Chi or Hung Gar qigong, is to generate Yang Qi. Yang Qi is the power of life. Whatever you do as a living person requires Yang Qi. When your Yang Qi is strong, you will be healthy and most likely productive. When your Yang Qi is weak, you will not have good health.
Yin Qi on the other hand helps to balance the Yang Qi. It prevents Yang Qi from being over dominant and it helps the body get rest. Yang Qi will generate Yin Qi, and Yin Qi will generate Yang Qi. Both Yin Qi and Yang Qi are responsible for the body's recovery from stress and illness.
Depending on the style and stage of progression a person is at, the middle or upper dan tian could also be used. The visualization uses fire and is in contrast to the 'be like water' misconception people get. This misconception is very likely due to misinterpreting Bruce Lee's philosophies.
Being like water is important too. Because if you are not relaxed, the qi will be stagnated and will not flow around your body, though your physical body may be moving. Water means to flow. To flow, the part of the body with power has to let go, so the power can move to the next part of the body. The next part of the body has to relax so it can accept the incoming power. What Bruce Lee and other Kung Fu philosophers say about being like water actually means to flow by letting go and accepting, rather than being soft and rhythmic.
Keeping the body energized and nourished will require fiery positive energy, as well as a relaxed state to allow movement of Yang Qi.
Qigong for the Old
A common perception is that styles like Tai Chi or Wing Chun are soft, doesn't use much strength and thus they are suitable for lifelong practice till an old age. This underestimates the potential of these styles and also creates an unfair perception of styles which uses strength and hard force - that they are only for the young and can lead to health issues and injuries for the older person.
There are enough lifelong practitioners of Hung Gar or Shaolin that disproves this. By keeping up their internal and external strength, these practitioners stand as inspiration to others that age is only a mentality. Ultimately, it is the practitioner's choice to go easy at an older age.
For the older person that is only just picking up qigong, there is no doubt that the practice is of great benefit because it generates Yang Qi that circulates around the body and give it warmth and energy. The biggest issue of the elderly is they feel cold easily and may be lacking in drive and energy. The circulation of Yang Qi keeps the body warm, preventing rheumatism.
Rheumatism, or Feng Shi in Mandarin, is made up of Feng (Wind) and Shi (Damp). Warm positive energy dissipates the Shi Qi (Dampness) that has already accumulated in the body. Your body's qi shield also prevents the external world's Feng to invade the body.
An older person is also more likely to be mature in thinking and may have diminished Yang Qi to allow their Yin qualities to stand out, thus they may be able to grasp the concepts of qigong and neigong more easily, though this still depends on the talent of the individual. An open mind is also very important as it would be hard for anyone to achieve anything when they are stiff and unaccepting.
It is advisable for older people to practice qigong or exercise in the morning when the Yang Qi is increasing as the Sun rises. In Chinese philosophy, morning is the wood element of the five elements. It symbolizes rising energy. When an old person trains qigong in the morning it will help to spread the qi to the arms and legs.
Training at midday is not advisable for the old and weak because the pure Yang of the sun is too much for an old person with diminished Yin Qi to withstand. Long time practitioners of of both hard and soft styles have an advantage because they've been manifesting for years Yang Qi that protects and generates Yin.
Always good to start young
Vitality definitely decreases as a person ages. When it comes to picking up kung fu and qigong, it is always more advantageous to start young.
Young people often need more Yin Qi to balance the Yang Qi. It is beneficial for a Kung Fu practitioner to start manifesting Yin Qi as early as the teenage years. The calming and supportive nature of Yin Qi will allow Yang Qi to grow stronger. In fact both Yin and Yang Qi will grow stronger when they are combined together. This is also why Kung Fu practitioners who start qigong practice early can still be healthy and able-bodied at old age.
Misconceptions about kung fu practice is aplenty, often reinforced by popular culture. It is important that students and practitioners of kung fu and qigong make a deeper study of their own and other styles to acquire deeper understanding of what they are practicing. Finding a good teacher that focuses not only on physical training but the intricacies behind the physical training can help.
We come back to the misconception that in kung fu and qigong, we have to “be like water”. Being Yin - adaptive and flowing - is but one aspect. We must not neglect the fire or Yang aspects in kung fu and qigong of strength and power. At the end of the day, it is all about control and balance.
Life long practitioners of hard styles like Mok Kwai Lan, Chi Kuan Chun show how it is possible to retain our vitality, strength, speed and power to middle and a ripe old age !