Because our lifestyles are so hectic, fast and at times very stressful I find that when certain individuals attend my taijiquan classes they seem to take a very long time to settle down and calm their minds and body. This comes down to many things such as rushing straight from work to class, traffic delays meaning that they arrive a little late for class and many, many more situations arise that can disturb the students ability to relax and concentrate. This is were it is really beneficial to begin your taiji class session off with some Standing Post Qigong (Taiji Zhan Zhuang Gong) for about ten to twenty minutes, this allows your students to calm and still their mind bringing them into a much better state to practice their taijiquan solo and two-person exercises.
If you are practicing taijiquan for the promotion of health and wellbeing then to add some taiji Standing post qigong to your private training session will greatly benefit your over-al taijiquan experience. Standing post qigong allows the individual to still their mind, relax the body and cultivate their energy (qi), all of the taijiquan solo form postures can be used to practice Standing post qigong some being more difficult than others to perform, but with some regular practice you will be able to hold a posture for a long period of time.
When you begin to really practice your taijiquan solo form very slowly you will begin to realise why practicing Standing post qigong is so important. As the practice of taijiquan seeks to find the “Stillness in the Motion” whereas, taiji Standing post qigong practice seeks to find the “Motion within the Stillness”, plus the slower you move the more strength you must develop in your posture to maintain your balance and body alignment and to maintain an even, smooth speed while opening, closing, rising and sinking the whole body in a unified motion.
Starting some of my taijiquan classes off with some Standing post qigong practice has had some really beneficial results with some of my students saying that they felt more relaxed, yet fully focused on they taijiquan practice. Standarding post qigong allows them to transform their minds into a better state of stillness to practice their taijiquan, especially if they have rushed into class with a mind full of thoughts, problems that can have a negative effect on they taiji practice.
Learning and understanding how to use the external and internal “Six Harmonies” (Liu He) within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu will greatly transform the individuals defensive and offensive echniques. Above all, the one thing that every individual who practices Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu must develop in their ward offs, strikes and kicks is the ability to issue strength, because without the ability to produce strength their opponent will not fear them, as their techniques will be empty and weak. It is through the correct practice of combining the Six external and internal harmonies that he student of the Orginal Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu can produce rest strength within their defensive techniques.
Through the correct use of “Body Mechanics” (Shen Fa) when the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu uses a particular defensive ward off (Peng Jin) against the opponents strike. It is not the hand or arm that deflects the blow away, it is the linking of the whole body moving in harmony with its self that adds strength to the students hand or arm ward off to deflect the opponents blow away effectively and safely.. simply trying to ward off a heavy blow delivered by the opponent using an hand or arm ward off that is isolated in its action without the rest of the whole body connected to it action is to weak to keep defending against an aggressive opponent who constantly throws heavy strong blows which in time will land and find their targets, causing serious damage to the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu student.
Obviously it takes time and great effort for the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu student to develop skilful body mechanics that are totally refined and working precisely in time with each other, producing an effortlessly amount of strength and power (Jing) in every defensive or offensive technique that the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gnngfu performs. Understanding how to use the Six Harmonies correctly in your defensive movements will develop an inner confidence within each student in their ability to ward off any type of attack with great inner strength.
I personally believe that for the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to gain respect as an effective internal martial art is simply down to good teachers being able to develop the ability to issue strength and power (Fa Jong) into their students fighting techniques, and not just teaching a bunch of flowery, isolated, weak and empty movements that have no internal strength or skilful body mechanics that would not stop anybody, but place their students into a false sense of ability to defend themselves.
Within the practice and study of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Master Chee Soo there are four main forms that was taught Poison Hand (Du Shou), Active Mist (Hao Yun), Harmony Fist (Ping Quan) and Hand Shape Form (Shou Pai Fa). Once the student starts to learn and remember the many different movements and sets, they then have to look at developing power (Jong) both in their defensive and offensive actions. This means learning how to move their body correctly in a particular way that it adds more power to the students striking or kicking methods, without the student developing any power or strength in their fighting techniques would mean that the opponent would not show them any respect, as the opponent knows that he or she cannot get hurt.
Learning how to produce and issue power (Fa Jing) comes from the student learning correct body mechanics to issue strength and power effortlessly. We are told that the strength and power begins in our feet (Jiaodi) passes upwards through our legs into our waist (Qi Hai) and then travels up through our torso into our shoulders and arms and is then issued out through our palms centre (Zhangxin). Being able to produce great power only come from the student practicing repeatedly for many weeks, months and even years gradually refining their body mechanics to effortlessly issue power from a relaxed, pliable body.
Sadly, there are many students and teachers who just simply practice the many forms within the Feng Shou-Gongfu and are not aware that they also need to learn how to use correct body mechanics to enhance their forms and sets, transforming them into a more practical and powerful weapon that can seriously cause damage to an opponent. It is important that when the student practices any of the Poison Hand Striking Sets (Du Shou) that they seek to find the “circle within the straight line” understanding this saying can help the student transform their Poison Hand Strikes to another level of skill in being able to issue power (Fa Jung) effortlessly and repeatedly.
It is only through hours and hours of repeated practice learning to gradually refine their body mechanics to such a degree that they can produce great power through little body movement. Sadly today less and less students are willing to sacrifice their time to achieve this even of skill.
Within the practice of the original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught and passed onto us by Master Chee Soo who only taught a few martial art guiding and leading (Wu Gong Daoyin) exercises to help cultivate, store and circulate the qi into the extremities for both martial arts usage and health maintenance. Master Chee Soo would always tell us that the martial art Daoyin/Qigong methods must come out of the actual movements and actions that are used both defensively and offensively in the practice of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu. One such popular exercise that was taught by Master Chee Soo was the “Four Directions Breathing Exercise” (Si Fang Xi Fa) this was a basic pushing palm (Tui Zhang) method that promoted qi and blood flow into the both palms simultaneously. But within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers there are a wide variety of martial art guiding and leading exercises (Wu Gong Daoyin) that are taught both slowly to gently guide and lead the qi and blood into the extremities, plus they are also performed fast to produce an explosive power (Fa Jing) into the extremities for martial art usage.
Obviously practicing the various martial art guiding & leading exercises (Wu Gong Daoyin) that are taught to students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu does not just simply involve coordinating the breathing with certain martial art movements. It must also involve the activation of various acupuncture meridians (Jingluo) and energy points or cavity’s (Qixue) that are located on the extremities and torso. This is where the student must coordinate their mindful intent, breathing and body movements together skilfully to guide and lead their qi either into their hands or feet both for the development of health or martial art usage.
Alongside the ability to balance the concentration, breathing and body movement together within the practice of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu martial art guiding & leading methods (Wu Gong Daoyin Fa), the student must also learn how to use correct body mechanics to produce a wave like movement of energy (Qi) that travels from the feet, through the legs, torso and arms to be expressed out through the palms and fingers that produces a tremendous internal power (Nei Jing) that can be used to effectively defend ones self from an aggressive opponent.
Because the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu involves the twisting of the tendons and sinews, plus the circular action of the joints both in its defensive and offensive martial art techniques, then the practice of its martial art guiding & leading exercises (Wu Gong Daoyin Fa) must emulate these same type of actions so that they become natural and the same. Uniting both the internal and external together.
Most styles of taijiquan practice a two-person taiji fighting form which allows the individuals to explore the eight energies of Ward off (Peng), Rollback (Lu), Press (An), Squeeze (Ji), Split (Lie), Bump (Kao), Pluck (Cai) Elbow (Zhou) that makes up their own particular style of taijiquan. The LFIAA teach both the Yang style simplified sixteen and twenty four posture taijiquan forms which can also be transformed into a two-Person fighting forms allowing the students to bridge the gap between the study of the taijiquan solo form and the taiji pushing hands (Tuishou) exercise.
To bring the solo taijiquan simplified forms into a two-person fighting sequence means that as one student performs the eight energies of their taijiquan solo form. The other student must be able to feed the correct attack and counter attacks to allow their training partner to perform the taijiquan form in its correct order. This means that both students must use different types of taiji stepping methods (taiji bu fa) to place themselves in the correct angle to perform their taiji fighting techniques, plus both students must try and remain in contact with each other which will enhance their tactile awareness and develop their listening (ting Jing), Stick ( Nian Jing) Adhere (Zhan Jing) energies that are also developed from the taiji pushing hands exercise.
The practice of the Yang style Taijiquan simplified taijiquan two-person fighting form involves striking techniques (da fa), kicking techniques (ti fa), joint locking techniques (Qin Na fa) and throwing techniques (shuai fa). It brings the student into the practice of taijiquan as an internal martial art and will give each person more depth and understanding in their practice of taijiquan as a whole. Within the practice of the taiji fighting form as there is within the solo taiji form there are many subtle levels for each person to pass through enabling them to reach a much high level of performance and skill. It will also improve each person balance, co-ordination, timing, precision, accuracy, continuity and concentration.
Throughout the whole world there are thousands of people practicing taijiquan, some for the maintenance of health and wellbeing and some for its self defence methods. Sadly there are a few individuals who do not know that taijiquan is also a formidable internal martial art and practicing its self defensive techniques can also deepen the individuals knowledge and understanding of this ancient holistic body, mind & spirit discipline to a much deeper level. Irrespective of what particular style of taijiquan the individual chooses to practice they all include the eight energies of Ward Off (Peng) Rollback (Lu), Press (An), Squeeze (Ji), Split (Lie), Pluck (Cai), Elbow (Zhou) and Bump (Kao).
In the practice and usage of taijiquan as a method of self defence these eight energies of Peng, Lu, An, Ji, Lie, Cai, Zhou, Kao are also combined together to allow the individual to practically and effectively defend themselves using the same movements of the eight energies that are also used in the performance of the taijiquan form sequence. An aspect of using taijiquan for self defence is its method of seizing and grasping (Qin Na) the joints, tendons and muscles through the use of applying fast, easy to learn, powerful joint locking techniques that can be applied by everyone, irrespective of age or gender.
Taiji Qin Na joint locking techniques combine the eight energies (Taiji Ba Jing) in a numerous amount of variations to effectively allow the taijiquan practitioner to create a vast amount of joint locking techniques that can be applied against many types of holds, grips, punches and kicks. The practice of taiji qin na uses both small and large circles and spiralling actions to apply punishing joint locking techniques that do not need the individual to use a great amount of strength to apply them. Simply learning how to use basic physics theory on how to use leverage, angles, gravity etc to apply powerful joint locking techniques
For those who practice taijiquan forms for their health and wellbeing would also greatly benefit from learning how to use those same actions of taijiquan to apply practical joint locking techniques as a passive method of self defence that will richly give much more depth, understanding and skill in their pursuit of mastering taijiquan.
At the beginning of your taijiquan journey for which over the many weeks, months and years that you regularly practice each individual should with correct guidance begin to transform their taijiquan form work to a much deep and proficient level. One such particular level is the usage of the six external harmony principle for which all internal martial arts like taijiquan use to generate a great sense of internal strength through their physical actions. One aspect of the six harmonys that I believe in concentrating on during my taijiquan form practice is the combination of the shoulders (Jian) and Hips (Kua) working together. The hips are the biggest joint within our bodies and like the shoulders connect to our spinal column and if we concentrate on the opening (Kai) and closing (He) of the hip joints they then act like a big pump that drives the bodily fluids like the lymphatic, blood, synovial and spinal fluids,plus our energy (Qi) strongly through our legs and torso. Whereas, the shoulder joints connects to the spine and upper extremities and like the hips act like pumps to circulate the blood, synovial, lymphatic fluids and Qi into our arms, hands and fingers.
Concentrating on connecting the movements of the shoulders and hips together in the practice of your taijiquan form practice will also greatly improve the flexibility of the muscles and tendons of these big joints, increasing the individuals range of motion and producing a great amount of internal power into your taijiquan movements. As I have already mentioned above both the shoulders and hips connect to the spinal column and the direction of energy as it is told to us in the taijiquan classics “starts in the feet, passes through the legs into the hips, spine/torso and then passes through the shoulders and is expressed out through the palms and fingers”. It is through regular practice and the refining of the movements of your taijiquan form that your whole body moves precisely in a well timed and skilful way that produces an hidden power that can only be felt and not seen.
Through the working of the hips and shoulders moving together in harmony will produce a gentle wave like movement through the spinal column. This gentle wave like ripple of the spinal column helps to keep the spine supple and pliable releasing stiffness and tension from the spine and back muscles greatly benefitting those who suffer with back trouble. But it is through this gentle rippling and wave like action of the spinal column that also produces a great amount of power that is emitted out through the hands and fingers. Another of the taijiquan classics also says “that the outside actions should also connect and move the inside” so that the whole body is fully connected, involved and ultilised throughout every action that we take.