As we carry on from the previous posture from the Li style Taijiquan form, we now move to the next new posture which is called the ” White Crane Exercise its Wings” . As you will see in the accompanying video that there are a few differences from the Li style Taijiquan form taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers than those individuals who are teaching and practicing the Master Chee Soo version.
In the ” White Crane Exercise its Wings” version as taught by many of Master Chee Soo students, many perform it standing in a double weighted stance (Shuang Zhong) , plus when they turn from the waist many over rotate their body which causes tension to develop in the lower back. Whereas in the version taught by the LFIAA the individuals body weight is transferred from one leg to the other, always ending up with one leg substantial and the other leg insubstantial, plus the turning from the waist is a slight forty five degree turn, allowing for the lower back to remain soft and relaxed.
In the Master Chee Soo version of the Li style Taijiquan “White Crane Exercise its Wings” the student ends up in a riding horse stance (Mabu) a double weighted posture, also their use of the “cross arms” position is allowed to rest on their body. Whereas, again in the LFIAA version the student ends up in a Leopard stance ( Bao Shi) maintaining his or her body weight on one leg and the “cross hands” is only with the wrists being crossed with the both arms kept away slightly from resting on the body.
I have decided to introduce to all of my students in the LFIAA who are practicing the Li style Taijiquan the “Five Character Poem” by Li Yi Yu as a guideline for a better understanding and practice of Taijiquan. The minds intent (Yi) is important as it controls each individual’s movements in the practice of Taijiquan either for health maintenance or for the use of self defence.
The first poem by Li Yi Yu
The heart (Xin) emotional mind is quiet and calm. When the heart ( Mind) is not quiet or calm, then I am not concentrated on one thing. When I lift hands, forward and backwards, left or right, I am totally without direction or purpose. In the beginning the movements do not follow the mind. Put the heart on recognising and experiencing. Follow the opponents movements, follow the curve, then expand. Don’t lose him, don’t resist, don’t extend or withdraw by yourself. If the opponent as power, I also have power, but my power is first. If the opponent is without power, I am also without power, however my mind (Yi) is still first. One must be careful in every movement. Wherever I am in contact, the heart (Mind) must be. One must seek information from not losing and not resisting; if I do that from now on, in one year or in half a year I will then be able to apply this with my body. All of this is the mind (Yi) and not internal power (Jin). If I practice this longer and longer, then the opponent is controlled by me and I am not being controlled by the opponent.
Carrying on with our blogs covering some of kicking techniques of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers of the “Li Family Internal Arts Association”. Master Chee Soo calls the kicking techniques as “Foot Patterns” so we are going to carry on with the next combination what Master Chee Soo would a ” Foot Pattern Five”.
As demonstrated by Shima Sara Keane on the accompanying video with this blog, who is a 1st Dengji black sash teacher of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu under the LFIAA. The foot pattern five is a combination of a “Scooping Kick” with the ” Spinning, Turning Side Kick”, here the individual takes two steps forwards before delivering the “Scooping Kick” and then adding on the ” Spinning, Turning Side Kick” taking the extra step in the foot pattern five combination allows the practitioner to alternate from his or her right or left sides of the body greatly developing their ability to be co-ordinated on both sides of their body.
As with normal within the training in the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Gongfu all kicking techniques involve both defensive or offensive hand techniques as already demonstrated by Shima Sara Keane. This always gives the practitioner a sense of enemy and makes sure that their hand techniques disguises there kicking techniques.
Adding either defensive or offensive hand techniques alongside your ” Foot Patterns” is something that everyone should be doing. This is obviously seen in the ” Foot Pattern Five” kicking combination, as you need to take two steps forwards to perform the “Foot Pattern Two” Scooping Kick , as you take the two steps forwards you will need to disguise your stepping actions by either adding two alternating defensive hand methods or two striking, offensive hand methods as already demonstrated by Shima Sara Keane in the video. To simply walk forwards in a relaxed manner with your both arms hanging down by the sides of the body is a very lazy, over relaxed and dangerous thing to teach students who are hoping learn Feng Shou-Gongfu as as ” internal Martial Art”.
You will notice that even when Shima Sara Keane adds on the ” Spinning, Turning Side Kick” ( Xuan Zhuan Ti) onto the end of the “Foot Pattern Two” to make the combination five kicking technique, she also adds in a defensive hand technique as she performs the spin into the side kick and also finishes with offensive hand techniques after the spin side kick.
The Daoist Kunlun’s ” Flap the wings & disperse the qi” Qigong combines passive, soft movements with the more dynamic, vigorous actions. It is a cleansing exercises that removes both muscle tension and joint stiffness on a physical level, plus it helps to release blood stasis and blocked qi in the energy pathways and on an emotional level it can release worry, anxiety, frustration, sadness and anger.
From the rising of the both hands up the front of the body to chest height the energy points (Qixue) located in the centre of each palm stimulates the yin energy channels on the front of the torso, raising the wings up to the middle dantian. The rolling or circling of the both arms and shoulders gently stretch the chest and shoulder joints to release tension and stiffness.
The pushing of the both palms forwards at chest height also stretches the upper back and spine, plus the muscle, tendons and joints of the both arms, which in turn opens the yin & yang energy channels of the both arms. The pulling of the both arms backwards behind the back of the body enhances the stretching of the shoulders, chest and energy channels.
As the both arms are being pulled behind the body the heels of both feet rise of the floor, the both hands are then pulled around the sides of the body and quickly release in a flicking action that disperses sickly energy (Bing Qi). At the same time the both heels are dropped heavily onto the ground which causes a vibration or shaking of the muscles in both legs that removes blood stasis and energy blockages in the legs.
The whole Flap the wings & disperse the qi exercise is then repeated as many times as the individual wishes.
The fourth posture in the Li Style Taijiquan Form is called the “White Crane Exercises its Wings” in the version that is taught by many of Master Chee Soo’s students. Within the LFIAA as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers we call it the “Single Whip Posture”. Many of you will already notice that within the LFIAA version there are a few differences from the Master Chee Soo version of the posture.
Firstly there is a transference of body weight from one leg to another, ending up with the body weight placed onto the left leg using a high left half squat stance (Zou Gao Dun Shi) or a Leopard Stance ( Bao Shi) using Li family terminology. Whereas, in the version taught by Chee Soo’s many students they use a Riding Horse Stance ( Mabu Shi) which means they are “Double Weighted” ( Shuang Zhong) with their body weight being evenly distributed between there two legs which is a big mistake in Taijiquan.
Secondly in the Chee Soo version the students hold their both arms directly out to the sides which make their shoulder blades come together causing tension in the middle of the upper back, plus it makes their chest expand, whereas it should be sunk and the back rounded. In the version taught by the LFIAA you can see that both arms are held in front of the body, allowing the chest to sink and the back to round, aiding the circulation of qi around the body.
Thirdly, you will notice that there is a lot more use of the waist turning from side to side in the version taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers, again in the Chee Soo version the torso is held rigid and stiff. Plus they do not use their eyes (Yan) to look at the primary hand, instead they simple stare straight ahead like a Zombie. In the LFIAA we are taught that the eyes follow the waist, so we look at the Tigers mouth (Hu Kou) of the left hand. We’re our eyes are is were our concentration should be, if we are staring straight ahead how can we be guiding our qi into the primary hand if we are not looking at it.
What is meant by the word to “Relax” (Song) in the Internal Arts of Taijiquan, Qigong and Feng Shou-Gongfu. In Chinese the word “Song” means to be loose and relaxed, this does not mean to be limp like a wet fish, but to be upright and loose in the joints, muscles and not stiff and tense. Many people use the word to be “Soft” but again this can mean that the individual becomes to relaxed so that there is no inner strength.
The importance in being “Loose” (Song) in the practice of the Internal Arts of Taijiquan, Qigong and Feng Shou-Gongfu benefits the circulation of both the blood ( Xue) and energy (Qi) of each individual to flow smoothly throughout the whole body, plus it helps to release their muscle tension and joint stiffness allowing for freedom of movement and a greater range of mobility.
In the martial art side of the Internal Arts being loose and relaxed allows the individual to move his whole body faster as there is little muscle tension that may offer resistance, so his or her strikes and kicks move much more quickly. Also because the individual is more relaxed this allows him to be able to feel and sense his opponents intention when they both come into contact with each other, through his or her skill in being able to listen (Ting Jing) through they sense of tactile awareness.
Being loose/ relaxed (Song) also helps the practitioner of Taijiquan or Qigong to move gracefully and lightly as if they were floating of the ground. If you have ever seen a good performer of Taijiquan go through his or her movements their expression of being relaxed & loose is simply an amazing experience as they move effortlessly in being totally loose, relaxed in a controlled manner. Please do not think that because the practitioner of Taijiquan is relaxed and loose that he or she has no strength or power in their actions. Many people assume that because you are soft and relaxed that you have no strength and are weak. This is the great mystery of Taijiquan that every practitioner must try to achieve, as one of my teachers would always mention ” Be as soft as a butterfly wing on the outside and as strong as a steel bar on the inside” this can only be achieved by learning to be loose ( Song).
Once you have learnt the first three linking kicks known as the “Scooping Kicking Techniques” what my teacher Master Chee Soo would call “Foot Patterns 1,2,3,”. The very first kick that a beginner of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu would learn is the “Spinning Turning Side Kick” (Xuan Zhuan Ti) or “Foot Pattern 4″, after this the practitioner would then be taught to make various kicking combinations by combining the first three linking kicks of Foot Patterns 1,2, & 3 with the Spinning, Turning Side Kick or Foot Pattern 4.
Usually, when the practitioner is taught to combine the three linking scooping kicks with the spinning side kick. It is first taught that you perform one of the linking kicks ahead of the spinning side kick,which can make the foot patterns 5,6 & 7. In the accompanying video that comes with this blog Shima Sara Keane who is a 1st Dengji Black Sash of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu demonstrates the first linking kick with the spinning side kick to make the ” Foot Pattern 5″ kicking combination. Obviously it is also performed with both defensive or offensive hand techniques and can be performed using either a long or short spinning side kick which allows the practitioner to deliver the spinning side kick off either his or her front or rear leg.
The ” Foot Pattern 5″ kicking combination does not have to be performed with the “Foot Pattern 1” scooping kick ahead of the Spinning,Turning Side Kick. It can be reversed so that the Spinning side kick is performed ahead of the foot pattern 1 scooping kick. By practicing both versions develops the agility of each practitioner to skilfully apply their kicking techniques alongside strong hand techniques, which will greatly improve their over-al standard of Feng Shou-Gongfu.
The third posture that is part of the Li Style Taijiquan Form is called “The Fair Lady Weaves the Shuttle” (Nu Bian Chansuo) this involves the practitioner rocking his or her body weight from the front leg to the rear leg at the same time the both hands move together drawing a vertical circle in one direction and then reversing it in the opposite direction.
From the ” Play the Lute” posture the practitioner transfers his or her weight onto their back leg and the both hands draw back towards the body as if you were holding a ball between your both hands. The Pericardium 8 energy points ( Laogong) located in the centre of each palm face and connect to each other, as if holding an energy ball. The both hands then face the body and move upwards towards the chest the (Laogong) Pericardium 8 energy points (Qixue) stimulate the yin channels on the front of the body as they raise.
The practitioner then steps forwards transferring his or her body weight onto the front leg, the both hands then move forwards with the back of the hands facing front, fingers pointing upwards and the hands alongside each other. The practitioner then retreats drawing his or her body weight back onto the rear leg,the both hands simultaneously draw back towards the body at the same time as the body weight is transferred back. The both hands rotate around in a small circle in front of the shoulders so that the both palms face forwards.
He or she then takes another step forwards transferring the body weight onto the front leg at the same time the both hands move forwards as if you they were pushing against something with the (Laogong) points in the centre of the palms facing forwards and the Tigers mouth ( Hu Kou) the space between the thumb and index fingers kept open and apart. The practitioner then draws his or her body weight backwards again onto the rear leg and at the same time the both hands simultanously draw back towards the body with the backs of the hands facing the body.
The over-al movementts of the arms and hands are performed using small and large circles, there should be no linear actions and the both arms and hands should not exsert any strength in their movements, but remain soft and relaxed at all times as seen in the accompanying video.
This particular kicking technique is what we like to call a “Spinning,Turning Side Kick” ( Xuan Zhuan Ti) or as my teacher Master Chee Soo would call a “Foot Pattern 4″. This actual kicking technique when we teach it to our students within the LFIAA is broken down into either a long or short technique and it is always performed with either defensive or offensive hand techniques.
This ” Spinning, Turning Side Kick”is quite a difficult kicking technique to perform and is taught very early to students so that they can quickly master its skill. The footwork in performing the long Spinning, Turning Side Kick involves the forward foot taking a half step forward and the rear foot then taking a forward toe-in hooking step, so that the both feet make either an “L” or “T” shape. The individual then rotates his or her body in a 360 degree circle by spinning on the balls of both feet. The body weight is quickly transferred onto the toe-in when spinning the body the unweighted leg is then used to deliver the “Stamping Side Kick” as performed by Shima Sara Keane in the accompanying video that comes with this blog.
In the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu the kicks are mainly kept low, targeting your opponents lower extremities. This allows the practitioner to deliver fast, powerful, quick kicking techniques that can be easily disguised when combined with defensive or offensive hand techniques, plus because your kicks are kept low it is also easy for the practitioner to remain on balance were he or she can adapt quickly to the situation. Hence it is the same with the ” Spinning, Turning Side Kick” which when timed correctly can deliver a tremendously powerful kick, using the bottom of the heel of the kicking foot to deliver its devastating power.
Within the spectrum of the Martial Art world from the most aggressive version of the modern Mixed Martial Arts to the non- aggressive version of the more traditional Internal Martial Arts (Neijiaquan). Where does the actual word of “Wellbeing” mean and sit within the spectrum of Martial Arts. The word “Wellbeing”is mainly associated with healthy eating and correct exercise like Yoga and Pilates to improve ones health, but within the Internal Martial Arts, which within themselves are a system of developing the Mind, Body & Spirit the word ” Wellbeing” is also associated to their practices.
We are all aware of how the practice of Tai Chi , Feng Shou- Gongfu or Qigong are very beneficial towards strengthening each individual’s state of relaxation, flexibility and concentration for the purpose of health and wellbeing. But if your personal health and wellbeing are now being threatened by another individual who is going to physically cause you harm, then this is exactly were your martial arts training now becomes so important in being able to maintain your own wellbeing from a violent confrontation.
As I have already mentioned in the spectrum of the martial arts world. The more modern Mixed Martial Arts would be considered at the more extreme end of the spectrum, as the training develops a high level of fitness, but because of its physicality both in its training and fighting it is very harmful to both the opponent and the practitioner. An actual Mixed Martial Art practitioner who is fully active in the fighting arena has a career span of only two or four years all according to the injuries that they pick up and wether their body can keep taking the punishment, hence Mixed Martial Arts can be very detrimental to the maintenance of wellbeing. Whereas, in the more traditional Internal Martial Art world which is at the low end of the spectrum the training is very beneficial to the wellbeing of the practitioner, plus if he or she is confronted with an aggressive situation simply dodging the opponents attack and then pushing them of balance to escape is all that is needed then so be it. As it is not about developing a massive ego to stand and fight to the end, it’s about maintaining your wellbeing.
In the traditional Internal Martial Arts the word “Wellbeing” as a double meaning , the Internal Martial Arts practice both helps to maintain a far more healthier individual, plus through its practical, effective martial art techniques can also be used to protect your wellbeing from a violent encounter that could cause you serious physical,emotional and mental harm. So the word “Wellbeing” can also mean to be able to look after yourself holistically through correct diet, exercise and practical self protection methods.