Bagua Zhang has a unique method of solo training to help its practitioners to develop and maintain their ability to listen (Ting) through the sense of touch. This is developed rough the very rare “Bagua Zhang’s Circle Walking Pole Methods” where the practitioner uses various types of weighted poles some light and some heavy to develop their sense of touch (Gan Shou) while walking around in a circle, changing direction and height while all the time remaining in contact with the pole. While the Bagua Zhang practitioner walks the circle they will learn to use various parts of their leading (Yang ) arm to control the pole like using the outside and inside of the wrists to coil and stick (Zhan) and adhere (Nian) to the pole, some times the pole will rest on the forearm while the practitioner walks the circle, they will even use the gap between the thumb and index finger known as the “Tigers Mouth” (Hu Kou) to stick and adhere to the pole trying to remain in full control.
There are “Eight Changing Palm Forms” that the practitioner must learn and perform while remaining in contact and control of the pole at all times. These particular “Eight Changing Palm Forms” are practiced on both sides of the body to develop a balanced and skilful practitioner. While walking around in a circle the practitioner must be aware of the speed that they are walking, it should be smooth and continuous without any pauses or loss of balance and definitely no dropping of the pole . Once the practitioner has learnt the “Eight Changing Palm Forms” in an orthodox way, they will then practice them in an unorthodox way mixing them up in a multiple amount of variations.
But the main point of practicing the “Circle Walking Pole Methods” is for each practitioner to develop their ability to Sense (Gan), Stick (Zhan), Adhere (Nian) and Listen (Ting) through their tactile awareness. While remaining in contact with the pole the Bagua Zhang practitioner will use various hand methods (Shou Fa) like turning (Zhuan), rolling (Gun), Coiling (Chan) and twisting (Ning) to help them maintain control of the pole at all times. These particular hand methods will also develop the practitioners joint, muscle and tendon flexibility within their shoulders, elbows wrists and fingers. Whereas, , the use of the feet to walk the circle using such stepping methods (Bu Fa) as the rolling step (Gun Bu), hook step (Kou Bu), swing step (Bai Bu) and the lotus step (Hua Bu) to change direction will also develop the Bagua Zhang’s practitioners flexibility within the joints, muscles and ligaments of the lower extremities which will also promote a stronger flow of blood and Qi into the four limbs.
In the video below Laoshi Keith Ewers is practicing the Bagua Zhang’s Circle Walking Pole Method practicing both the Single Changing Palm Method and the Third Palm Change method known as the “Coiling Palm Method” outside in the winter sunshine and cold developing his Sensing Hands skill.
One of the main problems that many individuals find within the study and practice of Tai Chi is the ability to fully maintain their concentration levels for the duration of a typical class training session that can be of an hour or more. I was taught that it is only through plenty of repetition of the Tai Chi Form during a class training session that individuals will gradually begin to develop their concentration, but it’s not just done to simply repeating the movements of the Tai Chi Form, it’s also down to how skilful you can make your Tai Chi movements become while you are practicing and not to simply copy and follow the person in front own movements, which many beginners obviously will do and what happens they pick the bad habits of the person, rather than concentrating on their own actions.
There are many different layers to the practice of the Tai Chi Form that every individual has to become aware of and be able to perform them. Theses particular layers are there to allow the individual to skilfully perform their Tai Chi movements in an accurate, relaxed and precise manner with the whole body moving as a connected whole with no isolated actions, secondly it means that the individual as to become fully mindful of their actions, making sure that they are in constant control of their physical movements with the mind leading the whole body. It is important that the individual maintains the same speed of their actions from the start to the end, there should not be any sudden change of speed for example when the individual steps forwards the lifting of the foot off the floor and the lowering of the foot back onto the floor must be of the same speed. Some individuals concentrate more on lowering their foot onto the ground slower than lifting it, whereas it should be of the same speed and it is up to the individual to fully concentrate and control their stepping.
Another layer for example that the individual must be fully aware off is the actions of their arms, for example their both wrists must close and gently open to control the actions of the fingers to either lower or raise them while performing the actions of their Tai Chi Form. Sometimes individuals will tense their wrist joints and lock them up not even realising that they are no longer performing the opening & closing of the wrist joint which means the skilful element as lowered, which is due to the lack of concentration by the individual. Developing the ability to concentrate is properly the hardest element of Tai Chi practice for any individual to develop and strengthen, it can only be improved through regular practice and lots of time and patience by every individual. Sadly I have seen many an interested individual stop their study and practice of the Tai Chi Form mainly because that they find it to difficult to calm and still their mind to be able to concentrate and raise the skilful performance of their Tai Chi Forms actions.
Within the practice of the Taiji Straight Sword (Taiji Zheng Jian) there are thirteen Sword techniques that was passed from the famous Daoist Wudang sect who are famous for their sword fighting skills. The first particular Taiji Sword technique that will be discussed here in this blog is the “Draw Method” (Chou Fa) for which can be performed in three directions.
- The Horizontal Draw Method.
- The Upward Draw Method.
- The Downward Draw Method.
The Taiji Straight Sword draw method can be used defensively or offensively as a defensive technique it is used to draw cut the opponents wrist or arm to disarm them. offensively you can use the draw method to attack your opponents legs, torso or head from any of the three directions mentioned above. The study and practice of the thirteen Taiji Sword Methods is usually practiced by learning and understanding one method at a time with a training partner, it is the equivalent of learning the eight energies or gates of the Taijiquan solo form Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Squeeze, Split, Elbow, Pluck and Bump.
The draw method of the Straight Sword can be seen extensively within many Taiji Sword forms, it is an easy to learn technique but very hard to master once against a training partner, while the both of you are practicing the freestyle Taiji Sword sparring exercise. Today many people practice the Taiji Straight Sword Forms for fitness and general health and wellbeing and as an extended practice of the Taijiquan barehand solo form. But sadly not many practice the two-person Taiji Sword fencing exercises that lead on to its freestyle exercise.
The upward draw method looks very similar to the lifting sword technique (Ti Fa), but the draw method uses the middle and top end of the Straight Sword but the draw method is curves back towards yourself to slice defensively against the arms or wrists of the opponent, whereas the Taiji Sword splitting method travels straight downwards. Offensively the downward draw method can be used to attack your opponents head to torso.
Firstly a student of Taijiquan is introduced to the thirteen Taiji Sword Techniques through the study and practice of the Taiji Sword form, the next stage is to then practice each of the thirteen Sword techniques individually with a training partner to become fully familiar with each technique, the third stage is to then combine the thirteen Sword techniques together in a two-person matching sword exercise for which there are many types of sword exercises to help the student to naturally respond and adapt using the thirteen Sword techniques, the. Last stage for the student is to then progress to the freestyle Taiji Sword sparring exercise.
Before anyone begins to practice any of the Taiji Qigong thirty six (Sanliushi) exercise form they must first understand the five sections of the body that must be involved in every exercise. Within the practice of Taiji Qigong there is a saying “That if one part of the body moves, then all parts of the body must move as well”. This saying basically means that the whole body actions must be smoothly linked and connected together, with no isolated parts of the body not moving and not being involved with the rest of the entire body’s actions. So what are the five body sections that must be linked and connected by each individual while performing any of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercise
The five body sections that must be all active in any of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercises are the .
- The Legs (Tuo).
- The Torso (Shen).
- The Hands/Arms (Shou/Bei)
- The Eyes (Yan).
- The Breath (Xi)
The legs are used to rise and sink or to rock the body weight from one leg to another either in a sideward or forwards to backwards direction. The torso involves the expanding, contracting and turning of the waist (Yao) and the gentle stretching of the spinal column, The action of the hands and arms must also involve various size circles that are performed slowly and relaxed, The eyes correspond to the individuals ability to concentrate, for where the eyes are looking is were the individuals concentration should be and that should on guiding and leading the Qi into the primary moving limb. The breathing is used to control the over-al speed of each movement, the individual must try to co-ordinate their movements with their breathing. The breathing must be long, deep, slow and smooth usually on the inhalation the body actions are either rising or contracting, whereas on the exhalation the body’s actions should be sinking or expanding.
The more the individual can skilfully learn to interlink and connect the whole five body sections together, more body fluids and Qi will be pumped around the entire body improving the circulation that is important to each individuals. Health and wellbeing. As the nutrients that body’s internal organs need to function properly to maintain a healthy individual fully relays on your circulation. Because all the body movements are controlled by the breathing, which means everything moves very slowly, allowing for the mind and body to become deeply relaxed, calm and still helping to release any stress, anxiety, irritability and tension that has accumulated through illness, work conditions or family commitments.
Each of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercises are very easy and simple to learn, but very hard to master as each exercise as many layers to them. Which means that the individual must be mindfully aware of activating these many layers which can take many years to Master and become skilful with, but their first step must be to fully integrate the five sections of the body in their Taiji Qigong exercises.
What is meant t by applying the 70% rule in the practice and study of the taiji qigong thirty six exercises (Sanliushi). Firstly the aim is to teach individuals to stop them from stiffening their joints or tensing up their muscles and using to much strength in their actions while performing any of the taiji qigong exercises. If you consider that the locking of the body joints and the fully tensing up of the muscles is considered to at 100%, then the individual is asked to try and lessen their stiffness and muscle tension to about 70% they must be fully be-aware while performing any of their taiji qigong. movements not to fully lock the joints of their whole body, nor should they use any great amount of physical strength by the tensing of their muscles, their body movement must involve the feeling of softness and lightness which will help them to relax and release any hardness or heaviness that they carry in their body’s joints and muscles that they have accumulated over the years due to poor posture, bad working conditions or illness.
As the individual begins to apply the 70% rule within their practice of the taiji qigong exercises they will begin to experience various sensations that maybe they have not felt for many years. Firstly they might begin to feel a tingling sensation like pins & needles within they finger tips and on the surface areas of their skin, some individuals will also experience warmth or heat flowing through the length of their extremities and in time throughout their entire body, this is a sign that the blood and qi are beginning to gain strength in its ability to circulate freely and that any blood stagnation and qi blockages that may have built up due to lack of correct exercise has began to be released and flushed out. Usually some individuals might also experience an emotional change, for example if they have been feeling a bit depressed or sad they might notice that their spirits has become more lighter, they feel more happier. Some individuals might become more deeply relaxed as the anxiety and frustration that stuck inside them has suddenly been removed.
Learning to abide by applying the 70% rule to all of the taiji qigong 36 exercise form will gradually allow each individual to dissolve any stiffness or tension that can affect their health on a physical, emotional, mental or even an energetic level. Allowing them to strengthen their vitality levels which in-turn will help them to improve their health and wellbeing, bringing a better quality of life. Obviously it takes a lot of time and patience for individuals to allow their body to become more relaxed, but if they can begin to practice regularly sticking to the 70% rule slowly they will begin to notice improvements in how more calm, relaxed and soft their body and mind is becoming.
Within Traditional Chinese Medicine they say that it is the functioning of Five Yin internal organs of the Liver, Heart, Lungs, Spleen and Kidneys that dictate each individuals emotional health & wellbeing. If there is an imbalance of energy (Qi) with any of the Five Yin internal organs they can in turn affect each other, each particular Yin internal organ can develop either positive emotions that help to keep the individual healthy or they can develop negative emotions that obviously can cause illnesses. Each of the Five Yin internal organs are also associated with Liver (Wood), Heart (Fire), Lungs (Metal), Spleen (Earth) and Kidneys (Water) they can either work with each to promote and strengthen or they can work against each to drain and weaken.
For example the Five Element cycle of mutual generation starts with the Heart (Fire) if the Heart Fire descends downwards it can develop a deep sense of calm within each individuals,. Whereas, the Qi of The Spleen (Earth) rises and mixes with the descending Fire Qi of the Heart they both turn into a fluid that moistens the Lungs (Metal) which then mixes the Qi and blood into Yang Water (Kidneys). The Kidneys (Water) is then used to moisten the Liver (Wood) which in turn becomes calm and harmonious. It is said that when the Five Elements move through this cycle then the hundred diseases are prevented from arising.
The Overpowering cycle of the Five Elements are when Liver (Wood) overpowers the Spleen (Earth), the Spleen (Earth) overpowers the Kidneys (Water), the Kidneys (Water) overpowers the Heart (Fire), the Heart (Fire) overpowers the Lungs (Metal), the Lungs (Metal) overpowers the Liver (Wood), this is when there is an imbalance of Yin & Yang energies within the individual which can emotional imbalance which can turn into poor health or illness. For example an individual suffering with a Yin Liver (Wood) problem can have fits of rage and temper due to the Liver Qi rising. If an individual suffers with a Yin Spleen (Earth) Problem affecting the Kidneys (Water) this can make the individual become obstinate and inflexible , Water and Earth when mixed turns into Mud which can mean that the individual can become inflexible and find it hard to differentiate between “Fact & Fiction”.
It is through the correct practice of the “Six Healing Sounds Daoyin” Methods that an individual can help to remove any negative Qi that may be effecting their emotional health and wellbeing, for example if the individual feels that their Liver (Wood) Qi is beginning to rise due to an argument or someone annoyingly is making you feel irritable then rather than blowing your top and losing your temper, you simply begin to practice the (Shu) sound to help lower your Liver Qi and help you to calm down. The practice of the Six Healing Sounds should be practiced on a daily basis to help keep your emotional state in balance, which in-turn maintains the mutual generation of the Five Elements cycle of Yang Qi through the five Yin internal organs.
In the accompanying photo Laoshi Keith Ewers is performing the Six Healing Sound for the Heart moving-step exercise to help develop a smooth flow of Qi and a deep feeling of calmness.
When you are surrounded on all four sides by multiple attackers the Chinese use poetic words to explain the skill that is needed by the practitioner of the Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu to defend themselves successfully. The Chinese say that your movement must be like “Threading through blossoms to hit willow trees” (Chuan Huan Da Liu Ren Xi Dong). My teacher Master Chee Soo would also mention that it is best to turn your attackers against each other by simply weaving in and around them by constantly being on the move, obviously you are not just evading all the time you are actually hitting your opponents. When we practice defence against multiple attackers in our classes the person in the middle of the circle has to draw on their own skill and ability to bring all of their training together to stop them from being hit by their attackers.
This means that all the dedicated practice time that every student has spent learning their evasive footwork sets, ward offs & deflections their Poison Hand Striking Methods and kicking techniques must now all come together and be skilfully expressed to stop their training partners from successfully hitting them with their own striking and kicking techniques. Practicing self defence from multiple attackers is a great way to allow students to test how much of their Feng Shou-Kung Fu training they have developed and are allowed to express themselves freely, naturally and instinctively, able to adapt and change their fighting techniques to overcome any situation that their attackers place them in.
In the study and practice of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu students are taught a wide variety of multiple attack training exercises to teach them how to better handle the situation if ever it was to happen in real life. These multiple attack exercises are both trained with armed and unarmed training partners to skilfully teach each student to raise their standard to skilfully use their Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting methods to the best of their ability. Irrespective wether the student in the middle of the circle who is surround by four or more attackers be either male or female they both must equally demonstrate their ability to defend themselves by freely expressing their Feng Shou-Kung Fu training, because the student in the middle happens to be a female who is surround by men, she must still develop the ability to defend herself by showing confidence in her own ability and the courage within herself to make it happen. Hence she must “Thread through the blossoms to hit the willow trees”.