The Rising Hands Qigong exercise can be performed from a static or walking practice. It incorporates five actions of the whole body which are:
1). The use of the legs to transfer the body weight from one leg to another, plus the use of the feet to step using the Mud Wading Stepping method (Tangnibu).
2). The use of the torso by turning from the waist side to side, while maintaining an erect posture.
3). The use of the arms and hands to slowly rise and lower in front of the body, aligning the centre of each palm ( Laogong point) with the upper and lower dantian ( heavenly elixir centre).
4). The use of the eyes to follow the rising up of the hands from side to side to help maintain timing and concentration.
5). The use of the breathing to co-ordinate the of whole body movements and to keep the mind fully focused and anchored to the whole exercise.
The aim of the Rising Hands Qigong (Shang Shou Gong) is to change the essences (Jing) into energy (qi) and change the energy into spirit (Shen) and to change the spirit into nothingness (Dao). This is the ultimate aim of all Taoist qigong and meditation practices to promote good health and long life.
Regular practice of the Rising Hands Qigong exercise can help individuals to relax and to help release stress, anxiety & tension. As the movements of the Rising Hands Qigong exercise are performed slowly and smoothly which helps to calm the nervous system, it promotes strong blood circulation and replenishes low energy levels. Because of the arm actions that are used it is also beneficial towards strengthening the muscles around the lungs and help the lungs to draw in and expel air to promote it functioning to spread energy throughout the internal organs.
Rising Hands Qigong is an ideal exercise for everyone, irrespective of age, gender or ability. In China loads of people practice qigong as a form of “Moving Meditation” to help strengthen the connections of the mind & body which will help improve their balance and co-ordination.
The Rising Hands Qigong ( Shang Shou Gong) Exercise comes out of the Taoist Kunlun Wild Goose Qigong System. The aim of the Rising Hands Qigong exercise is to increase the flow of energy (qi) between the upper, middle and lower dantian ( heavenly elixir) as to change the essences ( Jing) into energy (qi), changes into spirit (Shen) which returns to nothingness (Dao).
The Rising Hands Qigong exercise can be performed from either a static or moving exercise, the moving exercise involves walking either in a straight line or in a circle using the Mud Wading Step (Tangnibu) which allows the earth energy (Di qi) to rise upwards into the body through the yin energy pathways (jingluo).
Practicing the Rising Hands Qigong is very beneficial towards releasing stress, anxiety & tension as it’s movements are performed smoothly and slowly which has a calming affect on the individuals nervous system allowing the individual to relax deeply into themselves. Due to the actions of each arm rising and lowering in front of the body will also help to strengthen the functioning of the lungs to fully draw in and expel air out which will also increase the blood circulation around the entire body.
Regular practice of the Rising Hands Qigong exercise will also improve each individuals balance, co-ordination and concentration as anyone of any age can practice the Rising Hands Qigong exercise. In China the practice of meditation is performed from a sitting, standing or walking position, the Rising Hands Qigong also comes under the walking meditation practice and is a suitable exercise for the elderly to maintain their physical and mental strengths. There are five components to the Rising Hands Qigong exercise which are:
1). The use of the legs through stepping and weight transferring .
2). The use of the torso to turn slightly side to side from the waist, while remaking erect.
3). The use of the arms to rise and lower in front of the torso, aligning the centre of the palms ( Laogong point) with the upper & lower Dantians.
4). The use of the eyes (yan) to follow the rising hands from side to side and to keep the mind focused on the timing of the movements.
5). The use of the breathing to co-ordinate with all of the movements and to anchor the mind and stop it from wondering off.
This is the last blog that’ I will be explaining the eight energies within the practice of Taijiquan. In the last seven blogs I have covered the eight energies of ward off ( Peng), rollback ( Lu), squeezing (Ji), pressing (an), grasping (Cai), splitting (lie), elbow (Zhou) and now the last one bump( Kao) .
Like the Elbow ( Zhou) technique which is not obviously seen in the Taiji forms, but is always there. The Bumping technique ( Kao) is again much the same, you cannot see it within the Taiji form sequences, unless you are already aware of it due to your understanding of were it is used in conjunction with some of the other eight energies.
Within the practice of the traditional and simplified Yang style Taijiquan forms the use of the Bumping technique is used in the posture of “Parting the horses mane”, Single whip and Cloud hands postures. Usually the Bumping technique is used in combinations with the splitting and elbow techniques.
Most individuals think that the Bumping technique involves the use of only the shoulder. But, in actual fact you can use your hips, thigh or your back to Bump your training partner off balance. The use of the Bumping technique is used to fully knock your partner off balance or it can be used to trap their body weight onto just one leg, were you can then use a splitting technique to throw your partner to the floor.
The Bumping technique can also be used in the practice of Tai Chi Joint locking techniques ( Qinna), especially when applying either an arm or shoulder lock by using your shoulder to Bump into your opponents own elbow or shoulder joint.
In the practice of the Chinese Internal martial Art of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu (Hand of the Wind Boxing) it is very important that each practitioner of this particular Chinese family Gongfu style reaches a high level of skill to be able to defend themselves. This can only be achieved through hours and hours of training, constantly practicing their techniques in a repetitive manner.
As a beginning student you are taught the basic techniques,it is only when the teacher can see that the beginner as fully learnt the basics that he or she is them shown more slightly complicated techniques which again they must learn to master before being moved further ahead in their training. This constant repetitive training gradually teaches the practitioner of Feng Shou-Gongfu to be able to naturally respond and react using the techniques that they have learnt.
The only way to naturally develop your response, reflex and reactions within you’re Feng Shou-Gongfu is through repetitive training of you’re techniques. That is why you must learn you,re basics properly and lay a good foundation that can be built upon for you to achieve higher levels of skill. Over the years I have seen many individuals start their learning within the Feng Shou-Gongfu system and sadly they never achieved a reasonable level of proficiency, as they would not put the time and energy into their training that was needed to help them reach a higher standard where their response and reactions were natural.
In any martial art you must practice you’re techniques in a repetitive manner for your body to learn the mechanics of how to deliver the power into your techniques and to constantly refine the movements so that your mind & body are fully connected and your body responds and reflexes in a natural skilful reaction.
The Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form as become a popular form of exercise for thousands of people from all around the world. The reason for the Li style Tai Chi popularity is that it can be practiced within a small confined area, unlike the other styles of Tai Chi like the Yang, Chen and Wu styles that need a larger space to practice in.
The Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form consists of 42 postures which are very beneficial for various ailments like back stiffness or muscle tension, arthritis and poor circulation etc. there are no low posture in the Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form, but there are balancing posture where you stand on one leg. Like all styles of Tai Chi all the movements are naturally flowing from one into another, never being held by pausing for to long before moving into the next.
Regular practice of the Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form will develop each persons balance, co-ordination and concentration. It will also improve their joint, tendon and ligament flexibility throughout the entire body. One of the characteristics of the Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form is it’s turning of the body in a one hundred eighty degree rotation from right to left and vice-versa. It repeats this turning of the whole body a few times . Another characteristic is for every time you perform the “Brush Knee and Side Step” posture each one is different from the previous one. This allows the individual to learn variation, as each of the Li style Tai Chi postures are just an example of expressing the eight energies of Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Cai, Zhou, Lie Kao and there are many ways that these eight energies can be performed.
The Li style Tai Chi Square Yard Form is suitable for everyone, any age, gender or ability it uses medium to small size movements that move in four directions which are forwards, backwards and to each side.
Another of the eight energies of Taijiquan is known as the Elbow or Zhou. This is used in every movement of the Yang style Taijiquan form, but is not as obvious as some of the other eight energies like the Ward Off, Rollback or Pressing techniques? What do I mean as non obvious, we’ll there is no posture called “Elbow” in the Traditional or Simplified Yang style Taijiquan forms. But the Elbow technique is there in every movement for example, when you perform the “Parting the Horses Mane” Taiji posture, the arms are always kept bent by curving the joints, especially the elbow. This allows you to maintain your low centre of gravity and stop your shoulders of rising upwards.
To fully see the use of the Elbow technique in the practice of Taijiquan. Then you will need to practice the Taiji Two-person Pushing Hands exercise (Taiji Tuishou). The Elbow technique is then used to break your training partners balance by forcing him or her backwards, side wards or downwards by using the Elbow to strike your partners torso. The Elbow technique can also be used to maintain your balance by using it to wipe your training partners hands of your own torso or arms in co-ordination with your Rollback technique.
In the practice of the Taiji Pushing Hands exercise the Elbow technique is usually used in conjunction with the Bumping technique ( Kao Jing) and the Splitting technique (Lie Jing). For these three particular Taiji eight energies techniques to be successful in breaking your partners balance, then you must stay very close to your training partners body learning to use your Ward Off, Pressing and Squeezing techniques to open up his or her defence allowing you to step in close to use your Elbow technique.
No matter what Chinese internal martial art you practice be it Tai Chi, Xingyi or Baguazhang or any of the little known internal family styles. There is one thing that they all have in common and that is the development of issuing power ( Fa Jing) from their body into their strikes or kicks. Without this power development your martial art is useless and the Chinese call it “Flowery hands and brocade legs”
When you first start your practice within the internal martial arts your techniques feel awkward and clumsy and the power is obvious ( Ming Jing). As the individual uses greater muscular power and large movements that telegraph his or her intentions.
After a few months of regular practice the individual will gradually progress to the second stage which is the hidden power ( An Jing). At this level the individual has developed a feel for his or her movement structure and is now listening to his or her body. At this stage we would expect the individual to have a better expression of power, it should feel smooth and well connected in motion and we’ll balanced. The individual who can achieve this level would be quite powerful and a force to be reckoned with in a combat situation.
The third stage of development takes a few years to achieve and this stage is known as the mysterious power ( Hua Jing). At this stage the individual is quite powerful in a way that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. They are able to fully harmonise their connection of the mind & body. Their ability to store and release power is truly subtly and extremely difficult to see. The movements of the body are small and refined and carry a great force making this stage of development very dangerous in a combat sense.
These stages are all achieved naturally with time and practice. But the reason to reach the final stage of mysterious power is quite obvious as it all leads towards fighting efficiency. Larger movement structures are not only telegraphic to the opponent, but also inefficient in terms of body energy as they will cause the martial artist to tire quickly under the rigours of combat.
There are many different layers to be found in the practice of qigong. Many beginning students do not fully understand what they are entering into, some just think it’s about moving the arms in a relaxed manner, while the mind wonders off into a day dream. Usually, once they have entered into their qigong practice after some time they soon begin to realise that there is a lot more going on than just moving the arms and day dreaming.
Regular qigong practice will develop and improve each individuals balance, co-ordination, concentration, flexibility, relaxation and general health and we’ll-being. Within its practice qigong works on many different layers like opening and closing the joints, activating the energy points in the centre of the palms (Laogong) and on the balls of the feet (Yongquan), developing a strong ground path and above all co-ordinating the breathing with the movements.
What is meant by developing a strong ground path? actually, I call this particular layer “Connecting the bottom with the top”. The aim is to fully utilise the whole body to move in the same direction, wether it’s rising or lowering or moving forwards and backwards or in any direction. So that not one part of the body is isolated and working on its own. For example when you step forwards to push with both hands, the momentum for you to push your both hands forwards actually comes from the rear foot pushing into the ground to generate a wave of force that raises through the back leg into the torso and out through the arms into the palms and fingers and beyond. Likewise, when you rock backwards transferring your body weight on to your rear leg and gently pulling your both hands back towards your body. It’s the front foot pushing into the ground that generates a wave of force that raises upwards into your two hands, allowing you to have the momentum to rock backwards as seen in the photo that accompanies this blog.
Basically, it’s the legs that give strength to the whole body, the waist helps to direct this rising force into either one hand or both, and also init’s reverse action. So this is what we call developing the ground path to develop strength in your movements. In Tai Chi they have a saying ” That if one part moves, all parts move. If one part stops, all parts stop” another way of expressing the principle of whole body power in every action that you do in the practice of qigong.
When you see a really good qigong practitioner practicing their qigong forms or movements you are immediately drawn in by his or her passive or vigorous, soft flowing movements that make him or her seem as if they are floating across the ground effortlessly, their movements seem to be like soft cotton wool. But it’s not until you make contact with him or her that you can actually feel the strength hidden inside their soft, graceful movements. Soft on the outside (Yin) and strong on the inside (Yang).
The Baguazhang ( Eight Trigram Palms) Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises are rarely seen and taught. But if you can learn these Eight Pole Circular Walking Exercises they are a great training method for any Bagua person to practice the numerous palm changes that are within their own style of Baguazhang.
These Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises will help to improve each persons footwork not just in learning how to walk around in a circle. But to also teach them how to fully rotate their whole body using the hook step (Kou Bu) and swing step (Bai Bu) and changing direction, while maintaining their balance and posture and staying in contact with the pole at all times. Another benefit of practicing the Bagua Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises is that it will develop strong energy (Qi) and blood (Xue) flow throughout the entire body, as these Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises can also be practiced slowly with deep breathing and can be practiced as a Qigong exercise.
The aim of the individual while practicing any of the Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises is to remain in contact with the pole all the time without losing touch, while practicing and demonstrating the various palm changes and footwork of Bagua. When starting your practice of the Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercises you should start with a heavy pole as this will strengthen the tendons of the arm that is in contact with the pole, plus you will also begin to enhance your sense of touch by learning to stick/Adhere to the pole as well as developing your listening skill to feel the weight of the pole on your wrist, outside and inside of your forearms as well as the palm and back of your hand. This will help you to further progress in your Bagua training to be able to use it as a form of self defence.
The Bagua Eight Pole Circle Walking Exercise are also a great way to practice them individually as a Bagua Qigong exercise for the maintenance of health and we’ll being and also as a form of circle walking meditation.
Carrying on with the theme of identifying the Eight energies of Taijiquan. We will now take a look at the “Pluck Or Grasping” technique (Cai Jin) which is seen in the Taiji posture known as the “Single Whip” (Dan Bian), where the Taiji practitioner forms a hook or beak shape with his or her one hand, while the other hand performs a pressing technique (An Jin) as seen in the picture that accompanies this particular blog. The aim of beak shape held hand is acknowledge that you have held or grasped your opponents limb to immobilise it, while your other hand strikes him.
The use of grasping in the art of Taijiquan is used to either uproot your opponents balance or to apply various joint locking ( Qinna) techniques on your opponents attacking limb to either subdue hm or her or to pull them onto a strike or kick.
The grasping technique is always used alongside another of the Eight energies, such as the “Rollback” technique which allows you to yield against any in-coming force by transferring your body weight backwards on to your rear leg. It is here that you can then use the grasping technique to pull your opponent off balance. Another example of how to combine the grasping technique alongside another of the Eight energies is with the Ward Off technique (Peng Jin). Here you use your Ward Off technique to deflect an in-coming blow and then using the hand of same limb that performed to Ward Off technique to then grasp your opponents striking limb to immobilise it so that you can then use your other hand to strike him as seen in the Single Whip and Fan thru the Back Taiji postures.
As with all of the Eight energies of Taijiquan the best wAy to bring these energies alive is through the practice of the Taiji Pushing Hands exercise, where you will develop your skill to listen (Ting Jin)’ Stick/Adhere ( Nian Zhan) to your training partners limbs and bring your Eight energies to life in many variations than what is practiced within the Taijiquan solo