The Daoist Kunlun “Playing with the Qi Ball” Qigong ( Yan Qi Qiu Gong) is a great energy cultivation exercise that involves continuous spiralling of the arms & hands that develop flexibility within the joints and tendons of the shoulders, elbows, wrists. Plus it works on the upper back and spine releasing any tension or stiffness found there.
There are three stages to cover in the learning of the ” playing with the qi ball qigong”exercise. The first stage is performed from a static position, where it is the hands and arms that are moving in a spiralling action with the palms of both hands facing each other all of the time. The shoulders are also gently rotating so that the back and spinal column are involved in the whole exercise. This stage is for the beginner.
The second stage is to combine the use of the legs in harmony with the spiralling action of the arms and hands. Here you simply learn to walk in a straight line using the Mud Wading Step ( Tang Ni Bu) then you turn around and repeat the exercise in the opposite direction. The spiralling of the hands and the stepping must all be co-ordinated with the breathing so the whole exercise must be practiced slowly.
The third stage is the same as in the second stage. But instead of walking in a linear direction the third stage is performed walking in a circle, roughly around eight steps in diameter and again it is practiced slowly with deep breathing.
Playing with the qi ball qigong exercise promotes flexibility in the back muscles and spinal column. It increases blood ( xue) and energy ( qi ) to flow smoothly throughout the whole body nourishing the internal organs improving over-Al health and well-being. When practicing the Playing with the Qi Ball Qigong exercise while circle walking produces a strong meditative exercise that strengthens the connections of the mind & body. The whole exercise can be practiced within the confines of a small area and is suitable for everyone, irrespective of age or gender.
All the Chinese internal martial arts involve the practice of “Standing Post Qigong” ( Zhan Zhuang) and so it is with the Sun style Xingyiquan ( mind & body boxing) . Many individuals are aware of various postures that can be used to practice the zhan Zhuang, properly the most popular is to stand with feet at shoulder width apart and both arms held at chest height as if hugging or holding a big ball.
In Xingyiquan the main posture that is used to practice Zhan Zhuang is the trinity stance or three body posture ( Santi Shi). Standing with the right side leading with the body weight held in a 50/50 percent with the body weight evenly held between both legs. The leading hand is held out infront at eye level with the rear hand held Palm down infront of the lower dantian. The eyes are looking through the Tigers mouth ( Hu Kou) of the front hand. The tongue touches the upper magpie bridge and the perineum is held up to close the lower magpie bridge.
The breathing is in and out through the nose and should be slow, deep, smooth and long. The aim is to hold the three body posture for around five minutes for a beginner on both sides, for the more advanced you only need to stand for twenty or thirty minutes. Even thou it looks as if nothing is happening on the outside there is movement happening on the inside, it is not just simply to stand for a long period of time in just one posture and feel nothing happening this becomes a dead posture with no benefit towards internal energy cultivation.
Once you stand in the three body posture ( Santi Shi) and have learnt how to align your bodies joints so that they are properly stacked in a correct alignment without any leaning or tilting of the body. You can then learn to fully relax by feeling the flesh of your body which includes the muscles, tendons,, ligaments and nerves relaxing and just hanging downwards of your skeleton, as they were clothes hanging of a washing line. This exercise will help to remove any tension within the body and allow the blood ( xue) and energy ( qi) to flow smoothly throughout the whole body.
One of the most difficult aspects to the learning of the Chinese internal arts is the ability to sense the qi movement within the body. This is especially so for beginners and for individuals who have been practicing taijiquan, or qigong but only trains at irregular periods.. As the more regular you can practise on a day to day basis will encourage your qi to flow smoothly, unhindered throughout the entire body.
To be able to feel your qi move within side yourself when practicing either your Taijiquan or qigong takes time and there are few things that you need to do to help make your qi circulate stronger through your body. The first aspect to do is to fully relax the whole body’ s muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves. The second aspect is to practice using slow, gentle movements and the third and properly the most important is a calm, relaxed and focused mind.
The basic beginning sensations of qi movement within the body, are firstly you may feel warmth in the hands and feet then generally throughout the whole body. The next is a feeling of tingling or pins & needles effects within the fingers and toes thirdly the feeling of heaviness in the legs and arms. Fourth the fingers palms, arms, legs and feet feel thick or swollen as the blood and qi increases in it quantity into the limbs. These are pretty basic qi sensations that most individuals will begin to experience after a month or two of daily practice.
The more advanced feeling of qi movement is the feeling of your qi rising upwards as you slowly lift your arms. The experience can feel like pressure slowly rising upwards like warmth, also when lowering your both arms downwards you might experience the feeling of a heavy weight being lowered downwards. You should also feel the qi move from side to side as your body turns or moves fro side to side. The feeling can be a slight ot strong feeling of warmth or a feeling of one side being heavy,while the other side feels empty, some people can actually feel as if one side fills up and the other side feels empty.
Many people practice the many different styles of Taijiquan and qigong mainly for relaxation purposes and have never felt their own qi move through the body. Properly this is because they have never been taught how to recognise the movement of qi or it’s because they don’t practice regularly enough to increase the strength of qi as it moves alongside the actions of their Taijiquan and qigong forms. The practice of the internal arts ( Nei Shu) can affect you on a physical, emotional, mental, energetically and spiritually level, feeling your qi movement is important for the maintenance of your health and well-being.
Every martial art has its own particular fighting style and training methods that enhance its own unique charteristics.. Within the original Feng Shou-Gongfu system it is the Three Star Principle ( San Xing Yuan Li) of attack, defend & counter theory that allows the practitioner of this Chinese internal martial art its unique fighting style.
The Three Star Principle is the core training exercise and theory that runs entirely through the whole of the Feng Shou-Gongfu system. It is a really massive subject for every practitioner to learn and develop throughout they life time of practice. Because Feng Shou-Gongfu is based upon a duality of Yin & Yang likewise, the Three Star Principle can also be used defensively or offensively. My teacher Master Chee Soo would always emphasis the use of Three Star Principle as a defensive method and rarely teach it as an offensive method. Also there are many individuals claiming to teach the original Feng Shou-Gongfu system but add in other martial art techniques like kick boxing or western boxing etc to make up their fighting techniques which lose the unique characteristics of the original Feng Shou-Gongfu system.
At its most simplistic Three Star Principle can consist of just one strike or kick or a combination of both to be used to protect yourself from a violent situation. But at its most skilful it can consist of a combination of strikes kicks, joint locks and finishing takedown or throw. Every beginner no matter what martial art they will learn will learn how to punch or strike, then move on to kicking techniques,then maybe wrestling or throwing. But sooner or later they will have to bring all this material together in various fighting techniques. This is what the Three Star Principle of Feng Shou-Gongfu is all about, it allows the practitioner to express his or her martial art in their own unique individual style in a simplistic or skilful manner.
Within the Sun style Baguazhang there are eight ability’s ( ba fa) which are used to bring the fighting techniques of the Baguazhang forms to life. This blog will be exploring the “Moving Strike” (ban da) which is obviously one of the eight ability’s..
As with everything in Baguazhang the principle of Yin & Yang is always based upon a dual basis. Meaning that the “Moving Strike” can be used for offence as well as defence. Sun Lutang mentions that the “Moving Strike” is used to move the opponents arms, legs and body which allows the practitioner of Sun style baguazhang to use his or her palms, fists, forearms, elbows and shoulders to be used as the “Moving Strike” to defend against any in-coming blows. Whereas, they can also be used offensively to strike and Attack your opponent either singularly or in combination with other techniques such as kicking, wrestling or her owing methods.
The”Moving Strike” is used extensively throughout the many Sun style baguazhang forms and is used in co-ordination with the other eight ability’s to make many variations, usually they involve three of the eight ability’s in one technique for example you could have a ” Moving, Hookbing, & Pushing Strike” or a ” Lifting, Moving & Carrying Strike”.
It is only through the learning and understanding of how to use the Sun style baguazhang’s eight ability’s (ba fa ) that the practitioner of Master Sun Lutangs baguazhang becomes a practical, effective and fascinating Chinese internal martial art ( Nei quan Shu) for everyone to learn be it for self defence, health & well-being or energy cultivation.
When I first started to learn Feng Shou-Gongfu many of the teachers would place certain ward offs as only being used as a defensive tool and certain strikes only used as offensive tools. But in the philosophy of yin & yang they can be used as a duel method for both defence and Attack.
For example the “Sun Palm” is used both single, double and changing and to many practitioners of Feng Shou-Gongfu is only used defensively . As many of its teachers have only ever learnt it in this particular aspect and hence they then teach their students the same. But this is only keeping to the yin aspect, whereas the “Sun Palms” can also be used as offensive techniques to attack your opponent with and be used as an entering technique, were you can then add in kicking, wrestling or throwing techniques.
This attitude of just placing various techniques as either defensive or offensive is limiting to the practitioner and the system itself. Whereas looking at each technique as being used in a duality aspect allows greater variation of technique and usage. Feng Shou-Gongfu “Sun Palms” no matter what direction they are used in must not be looked at as just a defensive tool, once you break free of that negative outlook you will really begin to open the many secrets that Feng Shou-Gongfu as to offer and realise itis a very practical and effective Chinese internal martial art ( Nei Quan Shu).
When practicing any of the internal martial arts ( Nei Quan Shu) once you have learnt and understood the external six harmonies ( Wai Liuhe) you then must place into practice the internal six harmonies ( Nei Liuhe) which are 1). The mind ( xin) connects to the intent ( yi). 2). The intent (yi) connects to the energy (qi). 3). The energy (qi) connects and combines with the strength ( Li).
When many people begin there’ practice of any of the internal martial arts like Taijiquan or Baguazhang they can some times use to much strength within their movements and this can actual hinder the flow of qi through the whole body. The aim is to relaxe the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints so that there is no resistance to stop the blood (xue) and qi from flowing smoothly.
To fully express the qi into your movements is to fully use your intent (Yi) to guide and lead the qi around the body. To do this you must be able to focus your mind for a long period of time, and this can only be developed and strengthened by repetitive practice of your Taijiquan and Baguazhang solo forms.
The ultimate aim of all internal martial artist is to be able to issue power ( Fa Jing) into their techniques with great ease and with an abundance of effortless power. Internal power is a combination of the the physical body ( external six harmonys) and the mental focus which is the ( internal six harmonys) Al working together in perfect balance to produce great power. Obviously it all comes down to the skill of the individual to produce this internal power.
When I watch individuals practice their taiji qigong exercises many are just going through the exercise without any thought to maintaining the correct accuracy and timing of the actual movements. Many just go through the exercise slowly thinking that is all they need to do. Unaware that it is important to remain accurate and focused on the exercise at hand.
In the practice of taiji qigong timing is everything, once you choose a particular taiji qigong exercise to practice then you must perform it as accurately as you can. Making sure that the whole body is kept relaxed and the posture remains upright without any unnecessary leaning in any direction. The upper and lower portions of the body must be connected and move together as one unit, plus the breathing must be in co-ordination with the movements.
Many individuals do not concentrate on maintaining the accuracy and timing of their taiji qigong exercise. This is an immediate tell tale sign that the individual is not fully focused and that their mind is drifting off. Taiji qigong is just as much as a mental workout than a physical one, but many just turn it into a relaxation exercise and not meditation with the aim to cultivate energy to nourish ones earth and well-being.
There are many fighting forms that are pRt of the sun style Baguazhang system. But no matter what particular form you practice they all include the eight ability’s ( ba fa) which are 1). Moving, 2). Hindering, 3), Knocking, 4). Hooking, 5). Pushing, 6). Supporting, 7). Carrying, 8). Lifting. By learning the eight ability’s you are able to use any of the fighting forms as a method of self defence.
The sun style baguazhang is a very practical and effective fighting art. It has cut out all of the Flowery techniques and only uses straight forward techniques that are easy to learn and use. Within the sun style eight animal forms ( ba shou shi) there are numerous fighting techniques that can only be brought to life once you learn and understand the eight ability’s.
Today not many people are aware of baguazhang and its benefits towards internal energy cultivation towards nourishing life ( yang Sheng) and martial arts for practical self defence. Baguazhang is a Daoist internal martial art that is still unknown by millions of people, yet it is properly the most beautiful and fascinating of all the Chinese internal martial arts like taijiquan or xingyiquan.
Sun style baguazhang is suitable for the young and the old, irrespective of gender or creed. It follows the natural principles of the dao, wei wu wei, yin & yang and constant change. An excellent exercise for the promotion of good health and well-being, plus a very useful martial art to have at your finger tips.
Most Chinese internal martial arts practitioners use a particular fighting stance when confronting an opponent properly the most used is the trinity stance ( Santishi) taken from the mind & body boxing (system Xingyiquan). Although every posture can be used to fight from, especially if your opponent attacks you with surprise, but when you know that a confrontation is going to take place then you will naturally move into a fighting stance of some sort.
All martial arts have a fighting stance for example just look at the way a boxer stands or a Thai boxer even a person who does karate they all have their own unique style. The aim of a fighting stance is to place yourself into a position that you can both defend and attack from using your particular martial art style, wether it might be a striking or kicking or wrestling martial art or a mixture of them all.
When using a fighting stance the body weight transference between the legs can differ slightly from a particular martial art style. A boxer likes to have a wide stance with the body weight kept evenly distributed between the legs, a Thai boxer would use a more narrower stance with the body weight kept more to the back leg which allows the Thai boxer to use his front leg to kick. Whereas a karate person would usually have a wider stance with the body weight placed more onto the front leg, which allows the karate person to punch powerfully. In Xingyiquan when using the trinity fighting stance the legs are about shoulder width apart with the body weight distributed in a sixty to forty percent ratio with the sixty percent weight on the back leg. This allows the Xingyiquan practitioner to move in any direction to defend or Attack.
The reason for the Practitioner of Xingyiquan to have their front arm held out infront of themselves is to cover the centre line and stop your opponent from attacking directly at your centre line and force him to throw circular strikes, which will obviously open up your opponents own centre line allowing you to take advantage.