Master Jou, Tsung Hwa Memorial

Medalists Fund
PURPOSE. To put the dantian at the center of taijiquan practice:
  • to encourage taijiquan players to focus on dantian development
  • to honor and perpetuate the example and gongfu of Master Jou, Tsung Hwa (1917-1998)

THE CHALLENGE.   The Magic Tortoise School offers the Jou Medallion* as a prize to any taijiquan player of two or more years experience who can toss a U.S. penny one vertical foot with their lower abdomen. Yang Banhou (1837-1892) practiced this demonstration of dantian development with rice grains; Jou, Tsung Hwa (1917-1998) suggested the one foot standard, and used pennies.

The Jou Medallion

*THE JOU MEDALLION.   The Jou Medallion is a two-inch, custom designed, high relief, art quality medal-- die-struck in bronze and protected by a light lacquer. It features a sculpted portrait of the late Master Jou, Tsung Hwa on the obverse, and his "essentials for the practice of neigong" in characters superimposed over a taiji diagram on the reverse. The Jou Medallion is the only medal awarded to taijiquan players from any school or style for private, individual achievement, rather than for competition or performance.

[Design by Dr. Jay Dunbar; calligraphy by Almanzo “Lao Ma” Lamoureux; layout by Francis J. Chandler; and bas-relief by Charles L. Vickers, whose credits include the 2005 “Minnesota” Quarter and the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Medal.]

THE METHOD.   From a supine position (lying on your back), usually with head and knees raised, and without touching your body with your hands, toss a U.S. penny placed on your lower dantian as high as you can. For more information and practice tips, see below.

ELIGIBILITY.   To enter the Dantian Challenge you must have been studying taijiquan for a minimum of one year (verification required: you may be known, vouched for, or you may demonstrate your knowledge of a taijiquan form. A letter signed by a person who is known or vouched for will also suffice). You must agree to allow your name to be listed with other medalists if you are successful.

NOTE:  Participation in the Dantian Challenge is free. However, we gratefully continue to welcome donations to the Jou Tsung Hwa Memorial Dantian Challenge Fund.

RECOGNITION.   Each participant who meets the standard will receive the Jou Medallion (one for life), a certificate, and will have their name added to the list of medalists on this website.

The First Magic Tortoise Event
Penny Tossing at The First "Magic Tortoise" Event, 1984.
Jay Dunbar and Steve Rhodes on the ground, watched by Rusty Ault, Nevitt Ensminger, Bernie Mayr, Michele Bittner, Jeff Davis, Kathy Kimball, Jane Marshall, Thom Efird, Pat Rice, Almanzo (Lao Ma) Lamoureux, Kim Ragland and Kam Hitchcock-Mort. (Baby Katharine Dunbar in stroller to right!)

BACKGROUND.   Master Jou, Tsung Hwa is the author of The Dao of Taijiquan: Way to Rejuvenation and was host of the annual Zhang Sanfeng Festival, held at Tai Chi Farm near Warwick, New York from 1984 until the year after his death. He encouraged players of all schools and styles to share with one another and learn from classic stories and principles to demonstrate the martial ability, health benefits, and spiritual advancement promised by the art of taijiquan.

Master Jou was a living example of achievement in all aspects of taijiquan, and an inspiration to others through his indomitable will to better himself and his unwillingness to rest on his laurels. He continually strove for breakthrough; and when he achieved something, he would set goals that were further off: he would "raise the bar." Master Jou constantly practiced dantian movement and the relation of that movement through chansijing to all other parts of the body. His primary method of cultivation was prebirth or reverse breathing, which he refers to in the 7th edition of The Dao of Taijiquan as "breathing without breathing": wu xi zhi xi. This was the centerpiece of his teaching, and resulted in a practice we now call "Yi Yue (One Moon) Neigong."

Master Jou was inspired by the story of Yang Yu (Yang Banhou), oldest surviving son of Yang Luchan, who liked " test his inner force by putting a few grains of rice on his abdomen, and while he was saying 'Ha,' the grains were launched to the ceiling." (The Dao of Taijiquan, pp. 57-58). Lying on his back, Master Jou could toss a coin several feet in the air from his dantian -- a casual feat he could perform at any time, even through his clothing. To him, this was a measure of qi in the dantian, which he referred to as "money in the bank." Master Jou believed that taijiquan players serious about following the classics should strive to toss a coin at least one foot.

The penny toss is not an end in itself; but neither is it a "parlor trick." While accomplishment of the one foot standard does not guarantee that a player will be superior in form, push-hands, or health, it does indicate that the player has laid a proper foundation for subsequent achievement. Forms and applications are like appliances: they must be plugged in to a power source to work properly. In taijiquan, this source is the dantian. Yet players continue to rely on muscular force because they have not tapped the dantian's potential.

The first step is to convert your dantian into a power plant through the practice of taiji qigong. The penny toss is simply a way of testing the energy levels the dantian is generating. Next, you must check your wiring: you must connect your power supply, through various breakers and switches, to the outlets throughout your house. Chansijing exercise, meditation, and the structural and dynamic considerations described in the classics will help you accomplish this. Finally, empowered directly by the dantian, the forms and applications of taijiquan will work as they were designed to work: the shiny chrome toaster will make toast instead of merely looking good on the counter. Or to use another of Master Jou's analogies: isn't it sad to see taijiquan players expending so much effort pushing their cars around? It's time to put the key in the ignition and start the engine. In taijiquan, dantian development is an essential step toward genuine ability.

SPONSOR.   The Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School, based in Chapel Hill NC, is the originator and sponsor of the Jou, Tsung Hwa Memorial Dantian Challenge. The school reserves the exclusive right to certify the accomplishment of the standard, to produce and award medals and other certificates of participation and achievement, and to publish the list of those who have successfully met the Dantian Challenge.

OPPORTUNITIES TO BE TESTED.   To participate in the Jou, Tsung Hwa Memorial Dantian Challenge, contact Dr. Jay Dunbar at or 919-(919) 360-6419. You may, for example:

  • visit the Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • invite a faculty member of the Magic Tortoise School to your area
  • make an appointment to be tested at an event Dr. Dunbar may be attending, such as the Zhang San Feng Festival in East Stroudsburg PA

SUPPORT THE CHALLENGE BY GIVING TO THE DANTIAN CHALLENGE FUND! To make this event a reality, both now and "in perpetuity," please consider making a donation to the Dantian Challenge Fund. Make checks payable to "Dantian Challenge Fund" and send to: Dr. Jay Dunbar, 15 Timberlyne Road, Chapel Hill NC 27514-1522. Supporters are listed on the Magic Tortoise School's website at four levels: White Cloud Immortal ($100+), Cinnabar Field Marshal ($50-$99), Qi Booster ($25-$49), and Stone Tortoise ($1-$24). Multiple donations are cumulative.


Master Jou Tsung Hwa was renowned and respected for his generosity, broadmindedness, his tenacious will, and his insight into the classical writings of taijiquan. He was particularly concerned that taijiquan be understood as the embodiment of the eight trigrams and five elements, the energetic patterns which underlie the Book of Change. These patterns reveal the defining secret of internal arts. By the application of the method he refined, Master Jou demonstrated the full potential of taijiquan as martial art and healing system, and challenged his students to do the same. His remarkable dantian development, the heart of his method, was driven by his belief that the old teaching stories should be taken as practical guides to self-development, not merely as colorful anecdotes.

Master Jou used many techniques to cultivate abdominal power. He practiced the movement lying down, placing various objects (eg. bricks, rocks, balls) of increasing weight on his abdomen. He used a device called a "Tummysizer" that applies a light pressure to the abdomen and automatically counts the number of times the abdomen executes one full cycle of contraction and expansion. He thought about inventing a "Nautilus for the dantian." And of course, he practiced pre-birth breathing assiduously, day and night. For Master Jou's specific advice about the dantian test, read pages 6-7, and
138-142 in the seventh printing of The Dao of Taijiquan: Way to Rejuvenation". See also "Breathing Without Breathing" by Master Jou, Tsung Hwa, on this website.

Strengthen the abdomen with isometrics, weights, or exercises for the abdominals. Practice pre-birth breathing regularly, and the "penny test" only every so often. We too can be creative, but we should remember his injunction not to overdo it! This kind of development is possible for both men and women, but women should not practice pre-birth breathing vigorously during menstruation. Physical practice of abdominal techniques should cease during that period, and mental focus may be lifted to the heart center (xin zhong). Anyone can overdo this training, and intestinal discomfort or muscular soreness or strain should be taken as sign that you should scale back the frequency and/or the intensity of your training, or take a break for a few days.

The Dantian Toss.
Here is the way Master Jou recommended that the dantian toss be practiced:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees raised. You may wish to expose your abdomen so that the penny can be placed directly on the skin.
  2. Support your head at an angle with your arms or preferably a pillow or some other device.
  3. Place a penny, other coin or object on the point you believe is your dantian. The dantian may also be located by trial and error: the spot from which you feel the greatest internal propulsion will be your dantian.
  4. Inhale and exhale deeply a few times, then contract the abdomen and expand outward suddenly to the halfway point.

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The Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School
c/o Dr. Jay Dunbar, Director
15 Timberlyne Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-1522