over the many years that I have been studying and teaching the Chinese internal arts of health, healing, meditation and martial arts the more and more I realise that it is a road that is becoming less travelled by millions of people. Gradually I believe that there will only be hand full of individuals left who can actually teach and offer a high level of practice in the Chinese traditional internal arts.
Here in the west more and more people are aware of and just practice taijiquan has just a relaxation exercise and not a complete system of health, meditation and self defence, slowly the internal arts are being eroded away and watered down to look nothing like they were originally created for. Even
now more people are more likely to train in sport martial arts like Taekwondo or kick boxing mainly because it does not take to long to learn them. whereas, the Chinese internal martial arts can take many years of dedicated practice to reach a good standard of ability.
The way I see it, is that the training within the Chinese traditional internal arts of health, healing, meditation and martial arts will return back to the way that it was originally taught and that was to teach just one on one. Where a teacher would just choose to teach too just one dedicated individual and pass on his knowledge and internal art to someone who he could fully trust to practice and teach the full spectrum of the traditional internal arts, reach a high level of ability and who would then also pass it on to another. This is the only true way that the full quality of the Chinese internal arts can be maintained and also help to keep the full style alive and not vanish altogether.
One of my teachers once asked me if I could think of any other activity that could offer everything that the Chinese traditional internal arts could offer me even in old age. And I realised the answer was no I could not think of any other activity that had everything or more in it, which included the ability to maintain my health, the ability to heal other people, spiritually give me guidance and strength to go through life’s difficulties and to even give me the ability to protect myself and family.
Here we are again with another explanation of one of the kicking methods that can be found in the practice of the Li family’s Feng Shou-Gongfu. This particular blog will cover the “Stomping Kick” (dun ti) which is a downward kicking technique that is performed with the toes facing inwards or out wards.
The stomping kick is not a flashy kick that would catch many peoples eye, but because it’s not flashy does not mean that it is not effective and easy to learn and use. It is obviously a close range kick where you are closing the distance between you and your opponent or your opponent as rushed in close to you. It is a practical kicking technique that can be easily combined with other kicking techniques or strikes, joint locks and throws. The targets to aim at are your opponents toes, instep, or ankles the kick can also be used in a turning body kick, where you rotate your whole body either in a 360 degree or 180 degree circle spinning towards or away from your opponent.
Another aspect to the learning of an effective stomping kick is that it can be easily disguised, especially if you use your footwork and hands to confuse your opponent then at anytime deliver the stomping kick, for which your opponent won’t see it coming, but he or she will feel its destructive power and usefulness as a fast close range defensive or offensive tool that every practitioner of Feng Shou-Gongfu needs in their tool box.
The stomping kick is rarely seen in many other martial arts, especially those that are directed towards competitive sport like kick boxing, Thai boxing, Taekwondo etc it is only the traditional martial arts that advocate its usefulness and practice it alongside other techniques that are not taught in competitive martial arts. But for self defence use you will not be able to find another kicking technique that is so effective and easily trained so that everyone from a young child to the more elderly individual can use it.
The Chinese internal mind & body art of Baguazhang which mean ” Eight Trigram Palms” gets its name from the “Yi Jing” the book of changes. The name “Bagua” corresponds to the eight cardinal points of the compass, north, south, east, west, north east, north west, south east and south west which are also known in the Yi Jing as Heaven, Earth, Fire, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind and Lake. The name ” Zhang” means palm.
The practice of baguazhang involves the use of eight palm shapes, three stepping methods which are combined together while walking around in a circle. The palms, body and footwork are continuously twisting and turning, constantly changing direction while walking around in a circle usually made up of eight steps. Regular practice of baguazhang will greatly improve the circulation of the blood (xue) and qi to flow smoothly throughout the entire body helping to maintain the functioning of the internal organs. One aspect of the health benefits from practicing baguazhang is its muscle tendon changing exercises ( yijingjin) which develop flexibility throughout the whole body’s joints helping to release muscle tension and joint stiffness, improving the over-al feeling of relaxation. In Traditional Chinese medicine the tendons are considered to be the extremities of the Liver organ and because of the actions of baguazhangs muscle tendon stretching exercises the Liver organs energy is maintained at optimum levels of health.
As I have already mentioned baguazhang involves the use of the legs to walk around in a circle doing as many laps as you can. This walking of the circle can be practiced either slowly or briskly, the circle can be small usually around eight steps or it can be bigger it’s all according to the size of your training area. Baguazhangs circle walking exercise as many health related benefits such as it strengthens the leg muscles and bones which can benefit osteoporosis, arthritis suffers, plus it promotes blood circulation into the lower extremities. In China there is a Daoist saying that states ” A tree blight affects the roots first” which means that old age starts in the legs, when our leg strength is in decline and we can no longer get about on our own power then old age comes quickly. Through the gentle practice of Baguazhang circle walking exercise each individual can maintain and improve their own Heath and well-being through harmonising their mind, body and breath.
The learning of a Chinese internal martial art is much the same as going into your local food store to shop for various kinds of foods that are very particular to your own taste. As each and everyone of us is very much individual with our own likes and dis-likes, and so it is with the learning of an internal martial art. Even thou we might all be learning the same Chinese internal martial art like “Feng Shou-Gongfu” we will all like different kicking, striking, locking or throwing techniques from each other. Our own unique styles will be different even thou it’s the same style that we all are learning.
Once you start your practice you will begin to experiment with many different defensive and offensive techniques which you will then choose to fit into your own particular style. As a teacher you must also learn to teach your students the full range of your internal martial art and that includes the techniques that you personally would not use in your own style. But, as a good teacher you must also allow your own students to pick and choose their own unique style that might be completely different from your own by teaching and showing them the full internal martial art.
Even thou we all practice the same internal martial art, as individuals we will all specialise in different areas of that martial art, for example some might involve more kicking and striking. Were others may promote more wrestling and throwing and less striking and kicking for the learning of the Chinese internal martial arts are very much like shopping in a food store were you are picking your own favourite colours, flavours and tastes that fit your own likes as we are all individuals and not robots as taught in other popular martial arts.
When certain individuals take their first steps towards the learning of any of the Chinese traditional internal arts of taijiquan, baguazhang or qigong. Especially, if they are learning them to help maintain and improve their own general Heath and well-being .Then they have got to realise that it takes a long time for their taiji form work or qigong exercise to develop, improve and mature through hours and hours of regular practice which can take months and years to achieve.
Many individuals enter into taijiquan and qigong classes with the intent that it will only take a few sessions to fully learn what each system has to offer. But, when they realise that it is going to take a longer duration of time to fully learn the depth that each particular internal art has to offer, they then back off and completely stop they training and learning, many enter with an ego and attitude that they are much better than what in reality they are, and sadly when they do realise that they are not as good as they thought they were. Instead of becoming more patient and willing to persist with their training to reach a good standard of ability and depth of understanding and knowledge within there chosen internal art, they would much prefer to stop. As the Taoist proverb says ” Once you allow your cup to overflow, you cannot take in anymore information. So always keep your cup half full and be prepared to learn new information”.
The learning of any of the Chinese internal arts takes time to develop and to discover the great depth that each individual taijiquan or qigong exercise or form has to offer each person to help them strengthen their physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual qualities to help them cope and live with the many difficulties that life has to offer everyone. Many do not really appreciate the full benefits of how learning a Chinese internal art has to offer in helping many to control and manage various ailments, allowing the elderly to maintain reasonable amount of flexibility and balance to allow themselves to carry on as usual with their lives independently.
If you have been studying any of the Chinese traditional internal arts for many years your form work should have moved on to a greater level of skill. The body moves as a whole, with perfect ease and control, your mind and body are fully connected so that you can feel your qi move within your body alongside the opening, closing, rising and sinking of your bodies movements and actions. If your form work is still the same as when you first started then you are either not practicing enough or you are not being taught correctly. The journey that you travel as far as your training within the Chinese internal arts is considered, should develop and mature with age just like a top quality bottle of vintage wine.
My teacher the late Master Chee Soo once told me that there was over 400 moving exercises ( dong Xing) within the Li style Dao Yoga (Lishi Kai Men) system. This includes sitting, lying and standing postures which are broken into two sets which we call a Passive ( Yin) set and a more active Extension (Yang) set.
All of the moving exercises must involve five components which are the use of 1). The Legs, 2). The Arms, 3). The Torso, 4). The Breathing, 5). The Eyes. No matter wether you are practicing a sitting, lying or standing Dao Yoga exercise you must combine both the lower and upper extremities together, obviously this will include the moving of the torso by either bending it forwards, backwards or side wards or rotating it in a circle or twisting from side to side. All the physical movements are then co-ordinated with slow deep rhythmic breathing what I like to call ” Whole body breathing” (zheng Shen xi) the breathing is also used to focus the mind on the timing of the movements to stop the mind from wondering off. Again I call this ” the lights are on, but no one is at home” . And many individuals have this problem of not being able to concentrate for too long a period. Another technique to stop the mind from breaking its concentration is to use your eyes to focus on the primary hand that is moving, as we all know the saying ” the eyes are the windows of the mind” and were the eyes are, the concentration his. The development of the mind to reach a high level of concentration takes many hours of dedicated practice and through the practice of Dao Yoga’s moving exercises each individual can attain a fully, strong connected mind & body.
When all of the five components of the body are fully united together, then each individual will be able to develop a far more stronger ability to tangibly feel and move their own qi within themselves. As the body and mind becomes more fully inter grated to be able to guide and lead (daoyin) the qi to either rise, lower, open or close etc, then the more accomplished and beneficial the practice of Dao Yoga will be towards strengthening your general health and well-being.
Carrying on with our blogs which are covering the Li family’s Feng Shou-Gongfu kicking techniques. In this particular blog I will be explaining the “Hooking Kick” ( kou ti fa) which again is another effective and practical technique that is often used by many of the practitioners who practice Feng Shou-Gongfu.
The hooking kick is delivered horizontally from inside to outside. I some times call this kick the coiling kick as it can be used to bend around your opponents body and hit him from behind. The hooking kick can also be performed as a turning hooking kick, rotating the whole body either clock-wise or anty-clockwise. When using the hooking kick the back of the heel is the tool that is best used to issue a very powerful kick that feels as if you have been hit by a sledge hammer. The hooking kick can be delivered with the toes pointing inwards or out wards and is also used to throw your opponent to the ground.
When the hooking kick is combined with other kicks like the stamping kick then it is a technique that all Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioners want to learn and add to their own. It is especially used to target your opponents lower extremities such as the yin & yang acupuncture channels that run up and down the inside and outside of your opponents legs. The knee joints, calf and thigh muscles and nerves are also targeted as well as the groin.
As I have already mentioned in other blogs on the kicking techniques of Feng Shou-Gongfu. For a women looking to learn a martial art to boost her self confidence, self awareness and self protection then Feng Shou-Gongfu is ideal as it’s many kicking techniques are practical, effective and easy to learn as all of Feng Shou-Gongfu kicking techniques are used to attack your opponent below the waist which makes them fast and easy to disguise.