A very rarely seen Feng Shou-Gongfu hand form is what my teacher Master Chee Soo used call the “Ping On” form ( Balancing Fist)? This particular form is a combination of both defensive and offensive techniques performed simultaneously in various combinations. Basically the ” Ping On” form is also a combination of the other two more popular hand forms taught within the Feng Shou-Gongfu system. Which are the Poison Hand Striking sets and the Active Mist Defensive sets.
As far as the ” Ping On” form not many of Master Chee Soo’s students have actually been taught this rather rare and unique Feng Shou-Gongfu-Gongfu hand form. Within the LFIAA as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers the ” Ping On” form is practiced at first moving to four directions, which can be performed either in a clock-wise or counter-clockwise direction. After the student as become more familiar with a certain amount of the ” Ping On” forms he or she can then practice them within a circle.
The learning of the Feng Shou-Gongfu “Ping On” forms is to teach the practitioner to be more direct, positive and aggressive with his or her attacking and counter attacking fighting techniques. These particular forms also teach the Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioner to use a fast footwork alongside a variety of Yin & Yang striking combinations using the fist, palms, elbows and fingers to target vital areas on your attackers body. Of cause at anytime the Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioner can easily add devastating kicking and joint locking techniques, plus fast throwing methods to any of the ” Ping On” striking forms. This then allows the practitioner of Feng Shou-Gongfu to have a wide range of fighting techniques that he or she can easily flow into at their finger tips, helping them to over-come and adapt to any situation that may arise.
This rare Feng Shou-Gongfu hand form was not openly taught by Master Chee Soo. There are properly only two or three of Master Chee Soo’s senior students who were taught it. Laoshi Keith Ewers was taught the “Ping On” (Balancing Fist) both by Shifu Derek Williams who was the second highest Black Sash 4th Dengji grade to Master Chee Soo in the 1970’s and by Master Chee Soo himself. The three main Feng Shou-Gongfu hand forms that are taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers are the Poison Hand Striking Sets, Active Mist Defensive Sets and the “Ping On” Balancing Fist Forms or Sets. These three hand forms set up the key basic foundation ( Jiben Gong) defensive and offensive techniques for the Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioner.
The front energetic meridian that starts at the perineum at (Hui Yin) Ren 1 point. Travels directly up the front of the torso to the mouth, ending at the tongue. This meridian is know as the Conception Meridian (Ren Mai) and is called the “Sea of Yin” as this particular energetic meridian controls and influences all of the Yin energy channels and organs. Along the length of this Conception Meridian lays quite a few important energy points and centres that are used in the practice of the Traditional Chinese internal arts of health, healing, meditation and of cause martial arts.
Firstly let’s start at the ( Hui Yin) Ren 1 point. This particular point is called the “Meeting of Yin” as all of the Yin energetic channels of the legs meet at this point. The Daoist consider this point to be the “South Pole” , where as the (Bai Hui) Di 20 point is considered to be the “North Pole” as they are situated on the “Taiji Pole” a central line that runs directly through the centre of the body. Thirst two points influence each other by one controlling the other.
The next important point along the Conception Meridian is known as (Qi Hai) Ren 6 point meaning the ” Sea of qi”. This point is used to locate the lower Dantian which lays two to three inches below and behind the belly button. The lower Dantian is where we generate our Source Energy ( Yuan Qi) which is a mixture of our essences ( Jing) and energy (qi) to promote good health and wellbeing.
Moving up into the centre of the chest between the two nipples we will find ( Tan Zhong) Ren 17 point. This is the entry point for the ” Middle Dantian” ( Upper Sea of Qi) and this is where we transform the (Yuan Qi) Source Energy into Spirit ( Shen) to allow us to contnect to our Original Spirit (Yuan Shen) so we can then connect to the Dao (The Way).
Finally the last point I will mention on the Conception Meridian ( Cheng Jiang) Ren 24 point is its last point located at the root of the tongue. When we contact our tongue to the roof of the mouth, we then connect both the front and back energetic meridians of the Conception and Governor Meridian together forming the “Small Heavenly Circle” ( Xia Zhou Tian). The placing of the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth in Daoism is known as the ( Magpie Bridge) as it connects Yin & Yang.
Within the practice of any of the internal arts such as, Taijiquan, Qigong, Gongfu or Bodywork Massage, Acupuncture the understanding of the energetic meridians, channels and their points are very important to deepening our knowledge in learning how we can manipulate the vital energy of our body to help in either healing, meditation, or maintaining health and wellbeing or for self defence purposes.
The Governor Meridian ( Du Mai) is considered a Yang energetic channel that starts at a point known as Du 1 located between the legs and is known as ( Hui Yin) Meeting of yin. It then travels up the back through the spinal column to finish at the roof of the mouth. Along this Yang energy channel are a few important energy points (Qi Xue) which can help in the cultivation of the vital energy towards strengthening health and wellbeing through the regular practice of Taiji Qigong.
The Gate of Life ( Ming Men) Du 4 point is located in the lower back opposite the navel and is considered to be the back door to the lower Dan Tian ( Elixir Field). This point lays directly between the two kidneys and is important in their functioning. Of our vitality, essences,(jing) and energy (qi). The next important point along the Governor Meridian is the Big Vetebra ( Da Zhui) Du 14 point, this point is important as it allows the qi to flow into the yang channels of the upper extremities and upwards into the head. The next point along this meridian is the crown of the head ( Bai Hui) Hundred Meeting point Du 20. This point is also called by daoist the Mud Pill point or the Spirits Gate and is considered to be the North Pole on the Taiji Pole, whereas the ( Hui Yin) is considered to be the South Pole, both effect each other if being used to treat certain ailments. The last important energy point along this meridian is located between the eyes and is called ( Yin Tang) in acupuncture and ( Ming Tang) by Daoist practitioners meaning the Wisdoms Eye or Sky Eye, Du24.
It is important that all practitioners of the internal arts learn the energy meridians and points along these channels to help them better understand how to manipulate their own energy circulation, while practicing their Taiji Qigong exercises to help them strengthen their cultivation and harnessing of both heaven and eart energy ( Tian Di Qi) to improve health and wellbeing.
In the practice of the Traditional Chinese internal arts of health, healing, meditation and martial arts they all use the same energetic system to circulate and cultivate the three treasures of essence ( jing), energy (qi) and spirit (Shen) throughout the whole body. Properly one of the most important energy meridians is the Belt Meridian (Dai Mai), this particular meridian wraps around the waist connecting both the left and right yin & yang channels, plus the upper and lower yin & yang channels.
The Belt Meridian is considered to be both a yin or yang meridian, as the front part wraps around the waist and is considered yin, whereas the Belt Meridian wraps around the back connecting to the front the back section is considered yang. This meridian is vitally important in being fully open in the maintenance of allow a smooth flow of energy between the upper Nd lower channels of the body. If the Belt Meridian is closed or blocked then energy cannot flow downwards to the feet, those individuals who suffer with cold feet, lower back pain or stiffness of the joints of the lower limbs usually means there is a blockage within the Belt Meridian.
The practice of Taiji Qigong idevelops a supple waist through its movements which allows the energy to flow smoothly between the upper and lower portions of the body, plus the opening of the Belt Meridian also allows the right and left sides of the bodies energy channels to flow better increasing health and wellbeing. When we suffer with a traumatic event in our lives, emotionally the Belt Meridian will store the negative energetic emotion and sometimes when it is released or opened can cause certain emotions to be released which have stored maybe for a long period of time.
The Belt Meridian also connects to the Conception Meridian ( ren Mai) and the Govenor Meridian ( du Mai) helping to maintain a smooth flow of jing, Qi and Shen through them to nourish the whole body and maintain a healthy balance.
As with most traditional styles of Taijiquan all of them involve training in various weapons such as the straight sword (Jian), sabre (Dao) and the staff (Gun). Each of these particular weapons have their own solo form, where the practitioner of Taijiquan can practice their chosen weapon and develop their skill in handling the weapons characteristics. For example the practice of the Taiji straight sword develops your shoulders, arms and wrist, the sabre develops the muscle within the back and shoulders, whereas, the practice of the Taiji staff develops the practitioners waist.
Over the many years that I have been teaching and practicing the Li style Taijiquan I see many individuals practicing the various Li style Taiji weapon forms. But I do not see them practicing the two-person weapon drills that should also be practiced to develop each practitioners skill and understanding of how to use the weapon in maintaining contact or sticking (Nian) and adhering (Zhan) to your training partners weapon. The very first Taiji weapon that I choose to teach my students is the Taiji staff, I do not start teaching them the Taiji staff form,but rather start them off with solo Taiji staff defensive or offensive techniques which are practiced in a fixed position and then involve Taiji stepping methods in all directions to improve their co-ordination, balance, concentration and how to combine the legs, waist and arms into one whole body unit.
After a few sessions of practicing the Taiji staff solo drills, I then give my students the opportunity to practice the two-person Taiji staff drills to teach them how to use the staff defensively and offensively, developing their ability to use correct timing, accuracy and to remain in contact with your partners weapon. No matter what style of Taijiquan you practice they will all advocate that you develop your ability to stay in contact with your training partner or opponent. Usually this is developed through the practice of Taiji Pushing Hands exercise ( Tuishou) and so it is the same in the practice of the Taiji weapons and especially the Taiji staff.
I have seen many a student start nervously learning the Li style Taiji staff solo and two-person staff drills and then see them with a big smile on their face and a feeling of being invigorated and excillerated through the practice of the Taiji staff. Sadly in nowadays many individuals are only interested in wanting to learn the solo Taijiquan form for relaxation reasons and do not wish to learn any of the Taiji weapons mainly because they don’t know they exist or are scared of being hurt.
As I have already mentioned in a recent blog , to be considered as a Chinese internal martial art means that practitioners who are studying the Li family’s Feng Shou-Gongfu must also be practicing Energy Cultivation Exercises (Daoyiin) to promote internal strength and well-being. There are two kinds of Energy Cultivation Exercises that are taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers in his Feng Shou-Gongfu system, the first method is to increase the smooth circulation of blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) throughout the entire body, especially into the extremities as they are used to perform both defensive and offensive techniques. Laoshi Keith Ewers teaches a series of eight guiding and leading ( Daoyin) exercises that involve Feng Shou-Gongfu defensive and offensive movements which are performed slowly with deep breathing, plus fast to release internal power ( Fajing).
The second Energy Cultivating Exercise that Laoshi Keith Ewers teaches in his Feng Shou-Gongfu- is another set of eight fixed position exercises which involves various stances and arm gestures that are performed in the practice of Feng Shou-Gongfu both defensively and offensively. These eight fixed postures are aimed at developing both physical, mental and internal energy strength, plus to develop flexibility in the joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles increasing the practitioners range of mobility. J
The importance of practicing and studying the eight fixed posture ( Daoyin) exercises is not just to help your fighting techniques of your Feng Shou-Gongfu, but to also help you improve your over-Al health and wellbeing, so that you can still maintain and enjoy your Feng Shou-Gongfu practice well into your old age. The practice of the eight fixed posture ( Daoyin) exercises are able to nourish your mind and body and promote long life (Yangsheng) they can be practiced alongside your Feng Shou-Gongfu techniques or you can practice them separately on their own.
If you are practicing a Chinese internal martial art then you must also be practicing some form of internal energy cultivation exercise to gather, build and circulate internal energy and transform the three treasures ( San Cai) of the body the Essence ( Jing), Energy ( Qi), Spirit ( Shen) to strengthen and promote health and long life. Your Feng Shou-Gongfu cannot be considered an internal martial art if you do not practice Energy Cultivation Exercises to give power and strength to your Feng Shou-Gongfu fighting techniques.
Another aspect that I have noticed over the years of practicing and teaching the Li style Tai Chi, is the lack of awareness in various practitioners in the use of the “Waist” (Yao) when performing their Tai Chi movements. The Waist is properly the most important mechanical connection in the body, as when it turns it guides the energy into either the right or left hand to perform their applications of warding off or pressing or any of the other eight energies that are used in the movements of Tai Chi.
Health wise using the Waist allows the lower back to be gently be stretched and kept loose allowing the individual to maintain a healthy back and spine. The use of the arms in conjunction with the turning of the Waist will then stretch and loosen the whole back and spine, plus the turning of the Waist benefits the internal organs of the lower jiao or abdomen, such as the intestines, bladder and kidneys flushing them clean by removing any blood or energy stasis that may occur due to lack of regular exercise, or trapped food etc.
I have noticed how many practitioners of the Li style Tai Chi do not use the Waist enough to guide their arm actions. Many simple use only their arms and legs and keep their body stiff and rigid. Over the years I realised that there are two ways to perform the Li style Tai Chi, those who perform their Tai Chi by just moving the arms and legs, keeping their torso stiff and rigid are performing a ” Box Style” shape of the Li style Tai Chi. Whereas those few individuals who use the action of their Waist to connect the legs and arms together in a smooth whole body movement perform what I call a ” Circular Style” of the Lishi Tai Chi.
An example of this is how many practitioners of the Li style Tai Chi keep their lower back stiff when they perform ” Play the Guitar” (Shouhui Pipa) there is no use of the action of the Waist turning to either side to connect the legs and arms smoothly together. But rather the lower back is held stiff and it is only the arms and legs that are moved. This gives an over-Al appearance of a rigged box style version of the Li style Tai Chi, rather than a smooth, flowing circular style. When it comes down to making circles in the movements of the Li style Tai Chi it is not just down to the leg and hands drawing the circles. It also means the body must draw horizontal and vertical circles in co-ordination with the whole body actions of the arms and legs.
My teacher Master Chee Soo would always talk to his students using what I would call the Yin & Yang riddle. He would always mention to go upwards you must move down first, to go right, turn left first and vice-versa. This was to be applied in the movements of the Li style Tai Chi form and the only way to achieve this is through the use of the Waist and the whole body follows.
Within the practice of Tai Chi as far as its stepping methods is concerned the body weight should be placed only onto one leg, shifting and alternating the body weight from one leg to another as the individual performs his or her Tai Chi form. Double Weightedness (Shuang Zhong) as far as Tai Chi stepping methods is where the body weight is evenly placed between both legs. This is a major mistake by individuals who practice the Li style Tai Chi as in the Li style Tai Chi short form alone I still see practitioners standing in the Single Whip Posture ( Dan Bian Shi) in a Riding Horse Stance ( Ma Bu), White Crane Exercises its Wings in a Riding Horse Stance and also in the Double Whip Posture standing in a Snake Stance ( She Bu).
Double Weightedness in the stepping methods of the Li style Tai Chi is known as a Yin & Yang stance, which is not a good posture to be in, as it momentarily hinders the practitioners ability to keep a smooth continuation of movement by shifting the body weight from one leg to another. A Double Weighted Yin/Yang Stance means that the practitioner as to add in another small re-adjustment either by making another extra stepping action, or by shifting the body weight onto one leg to allow the practitioner to continue moving. A Double Weighted Yin/Yang Stance causes the practitioners to slight pause or hesitate their movement , plus it can leave them vulnerable to be knocked of balance.
In the philosophy of Tai Chi Yin/Yang theory, by continually practicing the shifting of the body weight to be placed on one leg at a time, follows the principle that Yin & Yang are in constant change and balance each other in being insubstantial and substantial. Whereas the use of Double Weighted Yin/Yang Postures actually means there is no Yin & Yang Posture as it now becomes a Neutral Posture (Wuji Shi) as the body weight is equally distributed on both legs. Learning to maintain the full body weight on one leg at a time has many benefits such as strengthening the the muscles of the legs, tendons and ligaments which in time develops a better sense of balance, plus the legs are called the second heart in China, as the more you work them the greater effect they have on strengthening your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate which pumps more blood around your body, improving your circulation and removing any blood stasis.
When keeping to the principal of maintaining the body weight onto one leg at a time in the practice of the Li style Tai Chi form. Means that certain stances within the Tai Chi form have to be changed like using a Leopard Stance rather than using the Riding Horse Stance in the movements of the Single Whip Posture ( No 12) for those who don’t know what a Single Whip Posture is. Or using a Cat Stance instead of a Snake Stance in the Double Whip Posture ( Shuang Bian Shi) as seen in the accompanying photo with this blog of myself in the Double Whip Posture using a Cat Stance ( Mao Bu) simply changing the stance can stop the use of Double Weighted Postures which are still taught and practiced by many of today’s Li style Tai Chi practitioners.
Many individuals do not realise that there are two versions of the Lishi Taijiquan style as taught by Master Chee Soo. The first version that he taught was during the 1960’s & 70’s and is what I like to call the traditional Li style Taijiquan. The second version that he taught during the 1980’s and what is still being taught in our present time is what I like to call the Simplified version of the Li style Taijiquan.
I started to learn the Lishi Taijiquan form in 1976 and one of my first teachers was a women by the name of Joyce Hartford who was awarded the grade of 4th Dengji Black Sash by Master Chee Soo, Jo has far as I know is properly still the highest graded female teacher of the Li style Taijiquan to this day. It was Jo who taught me the traditional version of the Li style Taijiquan, I much prefer to practice and teach the traditional version to my own students as it was taught to me by Jo Hartford and Master Chee Soo. There are quite a few slight differences from the traditional to the more simplified version that is taught and practiced today.
For example let us look at the “Double Whip Postures” (Shuang Bian) in the new simplified version of the Li style Taijiquan as taught in the 1980’s and onwards, in the Double Whip Posture the both arms are held out to the both sides at shoulder height with the palms facing the ground. In the traditional version of the Li style Taijiquan the fingers of both hands are pointing upwards with the both palms facing right and left as demonstrated by myself with the accompying photo with this blog. I was taught that the joints of our body can help to slow down or increase the blood flow throughout out body, especially into our extremities. In the traditional version of the Li style Taijiquan Double Whip Posture the fingers and the palms are held upright this allows the blood to pool and slow down at the wrist joints and when the wrist and palms are then relaxed by moving into the next posture the individual will experience a flush of warm blood flowing into his or her hands and finger tips which promotes a stronger tangible sensation of energy ( qi) in their hands. The upright palm and fingers of the traditional version of the Li style Taijiquan also promotes energy flow through the three Yin meridians of the arms which are the Lung, Heart and especially y the “Heart Protecter Meridian or Pericardium Meridian” (Xin Bao Mai) as it opens the energy points ( qixue) of the Pericardium point 6 Inner Gate ( Neiguan)’, point 8 Labours Palace ( Laogong), and point 9 Middle Rushing ( Zhong Chong).
In the new simplified version of the Li style Taijiquan as taught from the 1980’s the Double Whip posture as the both palms facing the ground. This particular version does not use the wrist joints to control the amount of blood flow into the hands and fingers, nor does it focus on targeting either the Yin or Yang meridians specifically, because of the both palms facing the ground the Pericardium point 8 (Laogong) is slightly more hollowed at the centre of the Palm, giving a feeling of gathering energy into the hand, rather than exiting energy out of the centre of the palms Laogong point as in the traditional Li style Taijiquan version with the both hands and fingers held in an upright position which allows the energy point in the centre of the palms ( Laogong) to exit energy out.
When I began my training in the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu firstly under the guidance of my first teacher Shifu Derek Williams 4th Dengji and then directly under Master Chee Soo. Each instructed me to train and use various parts of my body to strike or kick with and not just simply use my hands and feet. In the traditional Chinese internal martial arts they call this particular type of training tthe “Seven Stars” (Qi Xing Fa) . Both of my teachers told me that within Original Feng Shou-Gongfu we should try and develop the skill to use any part of our body as a weapon as in the Seven Star training, which develop the use of the 1). Hands, 2). Feet 3). Head, 4). Shoulders, 5). Elbows, 6). Knees. As weapons.
Today many of the so called teachers of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu as taught by Master Chee Soo are simply teaching either a kind of Kick-Boxing version, or a self defence version covering joint locking techniques. I don’t see or hear these so called teachers talk or demonstrate the use of the hips as a kick or a shoulder as a strike for example. A highly skilled practitioner of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu- should be able to use all parts of his or her body to perform strikes,kicks, wrestling or throwing techniques. This is simply not about becoming more aggressive or going hard as some would like to think. It is simply developing and expanding your over-Al self awareness and skill level to use any part of your body defensively or offensively, after all the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu is a martial art and not a health art or a meditative exercise, nor is it an exercise for fitness. It is a high level Chinese internal martial art that many individuals will not and can not reach unless they committ themselves fully to their training under a good teacher who respects it and teaches it as a Chinese internal martial art.
Another point I would like to mention is that I’ve also noticed how many teachers and students of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu are still training strikes on their own, kicks on their own, joint locks on their own. No one seems to be able to combine them all together in the way they should be performed. Surely a good judgement of skill is how easily and smoothly a practitioner of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu can flow effortlessly combining all areas of his or her art into one, adapting to a situation with great skill and control. The aim for all practitioners of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu is to ask your selfs can you develop your own art into one, or will it simply stay non-connected by training your strikes,kicks,wrestling and throwing techniques separately on their own?