Regular practice of the Chinese exercise of ” Daoyin” Guiding and Leading methods include a wide variety of practices from lying, sitting, standing and walking exercises. But one thing that they all have in common with each other is that the mind, breathing and body actions all have to be involved to help stimulate the individuals blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) to flow naturally and smoothly throughout the whole body. In today’s world there are many that will tell you that the practice of “Daoyin” is a particular style, sequence or form, when in actual fact it is not, it is simply a method of involving the mechanics of the mind, body and breath to be able to successfully move the individuals Yin & Yang energy.
Through the practice of ” Daoyin” which can involve gentle, passive actions alongside the more dynamic and vigorous movements that can improve an individual’s flexibility. The ultimate aim of its practice is to develop a greater sense of sensitivity to the tangible movement of energy (Qi) as it moves through the individuals own body. There are many individuals who practice ” Daoyin” and still cannot feel the movement of qi as it moves around the body, to many get caught up in the practice of the physical actions of ” Daoyin”, rather than concentrating on their own awareness of their qi as they are performing their ” Daoyin” exercises. For example, when an individual is performing an exercise were they are slowly raising their hands above there own heads, they should become aware of the tangible feeling of their own qi as it raises upwards from the ground through their legs, torso arms and into their head. What does the sensation feel like as the qi rises upwards, they should become accustomed to the sensation they feel so that they can understand and recognise it when it happens again, so that they gain a better knowledge of how to control it.
When practicing any particular style of ” Daoyin” no matter wether it comes From a martial art, medical or health discipline to many individuals place most of their efforts on the circulation of the blood and qi and not on the cultivation or storing of it. To many times have I seen certain individuals practice their Taiji Daoyin exercises and only concentrate on moving the qi into their limbs, once they have completed their practice I don’t see them quietly sit or stand and store their qi. They just walk off or get involved with other tasks like physical workouts, eating a large meal or going off to work. No wonder by the end of their day they are worn out, all of the energy they developed was wasted as their body was having to digest the large meal they recently had straight after ther Taijiquan class.
An individual must spend just as much time in finishing their ” Daoyin” practice correctly by taking the time to sit or stand quietly and gather their newly developed qi and store in their elixir field (Dantian). Obviously there is a lot of technique that an individual must skilfully learn to apply and successfully store their qi.
The Original Feng Shou-Gongfu is a wide and deep Chinese internal martial art that covers many training exercise that allow its practitioners to develop their skills within the areas of striking,kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques. Sadly too many of Master Chee Soo’s senior students who are teaching the Feng Shou-Gongfu to thousands of students are still dictating that their students only learn the individual sections of the Feng Shou-Gongfu and that they are never allowed the chance or opportunity to “Put it altogether”.
To develop confidence in a student you must allow them to have the time togrow and by letting them free to express their own style and to do this. The teacher must allow their students to combine all the many different areas of their training within the Feng Shou-Gongfu so that their understanding and knowledge to adapt their fighting art to any given threatening situation that may or may not occur. To many students are practicing Feng Shou-Gongfu as an extension of the Li style Taijiquan and are simply looking at it as a fitness or relaxation exercise and not as a Chinese internal martial art.
Nobody in the many different Feng Shou-Gongfu associations or organisations will be able to develop a high level of skill within Feng Shou-Gongfu. For example if a student is only allowed to practice kicking techniques without combining ward offs or strikes alongside them, then a student will not be able to develop the ability to combine defensive and offensive techniques together, but simply practice kicking techniques with their hands hanging down in an over relaxed manner and not with a sense of enemy. All Chinese internal martial arts have developed various exercises that allow they top senior practitioners to go against each other in a manner that allows them to fully express their fighting art, in Chinese it is called “Sanshou” in English we call it ” Sparring”.
In the Chinese internal martial art of Feng Shou-Gongfu the use of ” Sanshou” or (Free Fighting) is not what you see in the Chinese kick boxing sport of ” Sanda” where the individuals wear protective equipment and boxing gloves that makes them look like any other martial art style like boxing or Thai boxing etc. In the original Feng Shou-Gongfu free fighting exercise of “Sanshou” the practitioners are allowed to fully express their fighting art in a controlled manner without the use of any protective equipment, which can limit the practitioner to fully use their Feng Shou-Gongfu techniques and water down they Gongfu system.
If students of Feng Shou-Gongfu are not allowed to combine and express their fighting art after many years of practice. Then their over-al level of skill will not rise to a high standard, it will simply stay low level. Feng Shou-Gongfu is a martial art and should be practiced as so and not as a fitness exercise, or a kick boxing art were it loses its own unique style and flavour and becomes standardised, nor should it be a relaxation exercise as an extension of Li style Taijiquan. The ultimate aim of any Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioner is to be able to “Put it Altogether” in a practical, effective and skilful way time after time.
Within the practice of energy bodywork massage it involves the manipulation of the patients joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles through the use of rotation and traction techniques that develop flexibility in a patients joints and muscles where there was none due to stiffness and the accumulation of turbid blood and qi that causes blockages affecting the health and wellbeing of the individual.
When the practitioner of the energy bodywork massage apples any of the rotation or stretching techniques on a patient there are a few things that they need to take into consideration. Applying a traction technique on a much heavier individual than yourself makes it very impractical, plus applying traction to an individual on a much high massage table or on a table that is to low which cannot be adjusted is also going to be impractical in achieving a beneficial treatment.
When a practitioner uses a stretching technique on a patient it is important that they do not force the stretch, also they must never reach the patients maximum traction on their first stretch. The practitioner must repeat the tractioning technique several times, each time being inside the patients stretching limit and never pushing beyond it. Before any energy bodywork massage practitioner attempts to use any type of traction technique on a patient it is vitally important that the practitioner warms up the area by increasing blood flow into the area to warm up the muscles, tendons and joint that they are going to stretch. The ultimate aim is to enliven the muscle,tendons and joint area by stimulating the blood and qi. To apply stretching on a cold joint that is not full of blood can cause the small fibres to rip which will weaken the limb.
During the tractioning technique of a patients limb the practitioner must pay attention to what compensates during the out stretch to lessen the stretch. They must be aware of their supporting hand is not unintentionally lessening the stretch by stabilising the patient limb, the tractioning must be a slow constant pull that allows the patient to remain relaxed,there should be no in and out tractioning there should be no instability or no unstable moments which can cause the patient to tense. In the practice of traditional Chinese energy bodywork massage (Tui Na Qigong) the term stretching is not the correct term used it is actually called ” Enlivening the Muscles and Tendons” (Gao Huo Jin) the word stretching or tractioning is a more modern term.
Lengthening the muscles,tendons and opening the joints allows fresh blood and qi to enter into the spaces created due to the tractioning method. It will flush out the turbid blocked stagnant blood and qi that has accumulated causing various health ailments to gradually strengthen and improve, obviously the stretching of the muscles and tendons also releases any build up of muscle tension allowing the patient to fully relax.
White Ape Offers Fruit is the Sun Style Bagua Zhang ( Eight Trigram Palms) Monkey Posture (Hou Shi). A practitioner brings their both hands together infront of their chest, both palms are facing upwards with the fingers of each hand pointing out to each side, the elbows of both arms squeeze together in an embracing action that allows the chest to sink and the back of the practitioner to round encouraging the qi to sink downwards into the lower elixir field (Dantian).
As in the more popular exercise of Taijiquan which can be used for both health and self defence. So it is with the practice of Sun Style Bagua Zhang eight animal postures, which also can be used to promote health, wellbeing and self defence. In the practice of the Monkey Posture (Hou Shi) of Sun Style Bagua Zhang will greatly develop both strength and flexibility within an individual’s mind and body. Walking the circle while holding the Monkey Posture ” White Ape Offers Fruit” will effect both the heart and lungs of the practitioner to promote blood and qi circulation and the cultivation of strong energy to boost the individuals health.
The heart is effected through the various speeds that the practitioner uses while walking the circle performing the Monkey Posture form. The duration and amount of repetions that a practitioner can do in walking the circle, changing direction and fully being engaged in the practice of the Monkey Posture Form will result in how much the heart gets invigorated which in turn pumps more blood around the body to develop fitness and health. Each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang eight animal postures each connect to an internal organ and the practice of the Monkey Posture Form connects to the “Lungs” which is the main nternal organ that transports the qi that we bring into the body through our breathing into the rest of the internal organs. As in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said that the “Lung Qi” descends downwards to distribute the qi to the other organs.
The embracing action of the Monkey Postures “White Ape Offers Fruit” with the rounding of the back,shoulders brought forwards, chest hollowed. Allowing the lungs to fully open to fill and gather the qi in the upper Jiao or chest area strengthening the ” Lungs”, also the muscles that surround the lungs are used to massage them helping them to maintain their healthy functioning of bringing fresh qi into the body and dispersing the more sickly would ( Bing qi) out.
In the practice of the energy bodywork massage (Tui Na Qigong) the practitioner must develop a high level of skill in their tactile manipulation of the patients qi. Obviously they must first learn how to connect to the patients qi, once they have achieved this they can then manipulate the qi of the patient to move in any direction like raising, lowering or entering. One major characteristic of the energy bodywork massage is that unlike other massage systems that quickly move from one area of the patients body to another. In the practice of energy bodywork massage the practitioner will spend more time on one area of the patients body, the reason for this is that it takes time to gather the patients qi, but once the practitioner has connected he or she can then manipulate the qi to move upwards or downwards through the acupuncture channel of the patients limb.
It is vitally important that the practitioner practices qi cultivation exercises (Qigong) to skilfully become sensitive to the sensations of qi as it moves through their own bodies so that they can then recognise and achieve the same tangible results within the patients body. Usually a sick patients energy is very low and because the practitioner regularly practices the cultivation of qi their energy is greater in volume, hence through skilfull hand manipulation techniques draw and connect to the patients energy and then be able to move it to treat many types of external and internal diseases.
As when an acupuncturist uses a needle to puncture the skin and to enter deeply into the patients body to either stimulate or disperse the patients qi. Then so must an energy bodywork massage practitioner be able to have developed the skill to use their hands to enter deeply into the patients body by connecting to the patients own qi and then be able to penetrate it deeply into the patients internal organs to then gather, exit or scatter the qi to help treat any disorders that the patients suffers with.
An energy bodywork massage practitioner must also be able to place their both hands each on an acupuncture energy point (Qixue) of the same meridian, for example they place one hand on the crown of the head at the (Baihui point) and the other hand covers the navel or (Shenque point). Which they then send the qi from one hand to the other to travel up and down the patients Conception meridian also called the front meridian to remove any qi blockages that may lead to such ailments as hypertension,insomnia or vertigo etc.
The ultimate aim of all of the traditional Chinese internal arts of Taijiquan, Bagua Zhang and Qigong is the correct alignment and coordination of the “Nine Pearls” to develop the whole body power (Quan Shen Li) by increasing the smooth flow of both the blood (Xue) and energy (Qi though out the body. In the practice of the Chinese internal arts (Neijia), one of the most important methods of practice is ” repetition” of a certain technique or form, this allows the individual to gradually develop the “Stringing of the nine pearls”.
What do we mean by the ” Stringing of the nine pearls”. Well this is a term used in the practice of Taijiquan and Qigong by some teachers to describe the alignments and coordination of the “Nine Major Joints” of the body which are the toes, ankles,knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers. If the individual through their practice of Taijiquan or Qigong can develop and maintain a smooth coordinated movement of the nine major joints together, they will be able to generate a strong internal power that flows upwards from their feet through their body and into their palms and fingers. No matter what direction they move in be it forwards, backwards or side wards.
In the practice of The “Eight Trigram Palms” (Bagua Zhang) they use the term ” Rolling the Nine Pearls Upwards”. This means to align and coordinate the “Nine Major Joints” of the whole body to produce or generate an internal power that rises upwards from the feet through the body and is issued out of the palms and fingers (Fa Jing). Obviously at a higher level of ability and skill an individual should be able to issue power (Fa Jing) out of any part of their body, as long as the whole body is involved using the principle of “Stringing the Nine Pearls” together.
In the practice of Taijiquan and Bagua Zhang they do not advocate “Isolation” of a single part of the body moving on its own, while the rest of the body is static. This is considered to be a big mistake that I see many beginners perform in the Taijiquan, Qigong and Bagua Xhang classes that I teach. For example, a beginner will place their concentration fully on the movement of their arms,that they forget to move their feet by taking a step, which means the top half of the body is moving,but the lower portion becomes static. This is why that regular practice is so important in the development and improvement of the alignment and coordination the nine major joints in the study of the internal arts.
While practicing the Bagua Zhang circle walking exercise it is extremely difficult to remain relaxed (Song) and maintain corroct posture alignment. Especially, once you have done several laps of walking the circle holding a particular posture with your both arms, it is very hard not to tense the muscles and lock the joints, and stop the shoulders from rising upwards. To maintain correct posture alignment as in other practices of qi cultivation is very important in allowing the individuals qi to flow smoothly through the whole body, but to also allow the qi to gather and store itself in the lower dantian (Elixir Field).
When walking the circle in the practice of Bagua Zhang, the individual must remain relaxed as possible so as to conserve their energy. Once the individual starts to tense their muscle and stiffen their joints, this forces the body to burn or use up more energy, plus it makes the body become more heavier. Which means that the individual mentally will start to become tense, irritable and lose their focus, the individual will not be able to increase the amount of circles they can complete in both directions in the practice of Bagua Zhang which is extremely important in the cultivation of qi for the maintenance of health and wellbeing.
In the practice of Bagua Zhang the creator of the system ” Dong Hai Quan” left thirty-six poems for the Bagua Zhang practitioner to read and follow to help them maintain correct practice.
“When the chest is relaxed, the Qi will sink. Round the back, drop the shoulders and extend the arms. When the Qi reaches the lower dantian, the hips are tucked under to allow the Qi to circulate. The Qi will flow and the spirit (Shen) will lift”.
You can see in this poem that the importance of maintaining correct posture while walking the circle in the practice of Bagua Zhang is important in both the cultivation and circulation of the qi around the whole body. Good Bagua circle walking practice will strengthen an individual’s energy (Qi), essences (Jing) and spirit (Shen) to improve health and wellbeing.
Today many individual take up the practice of jogging to keep fit and healthy, they run several miles from home and then return. Whereas, in the practice of Bagua Zhang you can walk around in a circle, changing direction as you wish, holding various postures, slowing or speeding up as you walk the circle and you can maintain your health and fitness and you never left your home.
In the practice of energy bodywork massage it is important that a practitioner is able to work on effecting the patients essences (Jing) by mainly working on the muscularskeletal system. By using various massage technique the practitioner can remove any blocked or stagnant blood within the patients muscles and joints which can lower a patients energy levels weakening their immune system and if left for a long period of type allow various types of disease to attack the body like arthritis, colds and influenza etc.
It is also important that the practitioner can also connect to the patients own qi and be able to guide and lead it strongly enough around the patients body to treat many ailments that can effect their emotions, mental and even their spirit. Such as insomnia or lack of sleep which many individuals suffer from, if left for a long period insomnia can effect the individuals emotions making them feel irritable, angry or even violent to those around them. At its worst state. Insomnia can cause the individual to become hysterical effecting their mental and spiritual balance. The practitioner must be able to connect to the patients energy and be able to stop it from continually rising upwards and be able to lower it and anchor it by using skillful massage techniques which will also strongly affect the patients emotions,mental and spiritual levels to help bring them back into a more relaxed and balanced state.
Usually if an individual as been suffering with a long term chronic ailment you will find that it now effects them physically and emotional. If it is serious it can cause mental and spiritual issues as well, the practitioner must be able to work on these levels to effect the patients Jing,qi and Shen to help bring them back into balance using their own understanding and skill in their massage techniques to manipulate the patients physical, emotional and spiritual levels. A practitioner must be able to change and adapt their treatment protocol to each individual as there are many causes to an ailment like insomnia which can be caused from excessive exercise late in the evening causing their qi to rise and not lower. Or it can be from a poor diet where the blood pressure rises and the qi stagnates in the upper chest and head etc. Using one protocol to treat many ailments does not always work on certain patients, so the practitioner must be able to change their treatment protocol and find the correct method of treatment.
When I started to learn the throwing arts of the Li family martial arts under my teacher Master Chee Soo, he would teach two methods of throwing, one is what he called as the ” Breath Art” (Chi Shu) which I think was his version of his many years studying Aikido. The other was the Chinese wrestling/ throwing art called “Shuai Jiao” which is similar to the Japanese art called “Judo”.
He would mention that any of the throwing techniques that he taught could easily be incorporated into the other Li style arts like Taijiquan or Feng Shou-Gongfu as all of the arts he taught where all closely linked. Within the traditional Chinese internal martial arts of “Eight Trigram Palms” (Bagua Zhang) or the “Mind,Body Boxing” (Xingyiquan) they also include throwing techniques that they have incorporated from the joint locking art (Chin Na) and of cause ( Shuai Jiao).
I know that a few of my teachers senior students still teach what he would call the ” Breath Art” (Chi Shu) as their version of the Li family’s throwing art. We in the LFIAA much prefer to teach and combine the throwing arts into the Taijiquan and Feng Shou-Gongfu like the Chinese do with all the other styles of Yang, Chen, Wu & Sun style Taijiquan or the Gongfu styles like Bagua Zhang or Xingyiquan.
In the LFIAA when it comes to teaching or practicing the throwing techniques we just simply call them either ” Taiji Kuai Jiao” meaning the fast throws of Li style Taijiquan or ” Feng Shou-Kuai Jiao” the fast throws of our Gongfu system. This makes it easier to teach rather than asking students to attend a class or course to learn throwing techniques under another name. Plus you also give the students the opportunity to practice their throws alongside strikes,kicks or out of the Pushing Hands Taiji exercise giving them the chance to deepen their knowledge and understanding of how to bring their art together in a practical and skilful way. Learning throwing techniques should not be taught separately on their own, but included alongside the art that your students are already learning.
All Chinese martial arts no matter whether they are external or internal all advocate that learning to use various weapons should be an extension of the hands. Even my own teacher Master Chee Soo mentioned it and demonstrated it on many occasions, he would demonstrate this by using a rolled up magazine to defend against strikes and kicks or one of the best demonstrations that I’ve witnessed him doing, was a performance using a pair of Chop sticks ( Kuai Zi) against a two attackers, with one using a dagger. Obviously he would teach and demonstrate the use of the staff (Zhang), Broadsword ( Dao) and straight sword ( Jian) but it was the demonstrations of him using everyday kind of implements like a belt, scarf or umbrella that fully expressed the principle that anything around you can be used as a weapon, as it is just an extension of the hands.
Again, obviously you must have a good martial art system with a foundation that is practical and fully balanced that can also allow you to naturally progress from hand to hand fighting into using various kinds of weapon naturally. The original Feng Shou-Gongfu is one such martial art that has this foundation to allow its practitioners to pick up any kind of weapon and immediately feel comfortable in its useage. Usually a student or practitioner can start learning how to use a weapon after about a year of practice in the original Feng Shou- Gongfu system as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers.
Today, there are many other teachers out there who teach Feng Shou-Gongfu and include weapon training in their classes to their students. But mainly they just teach and cover weapon form work, with no two-person weapons drills, this to me is a great waste of time as weapon form work only teaches correct posture, balance, coordination and concentration, but weapon form work does not teach the practitioner how to react or use spontananity to change and adapt to a situation and over-come it using the skill of the practitioner, nor do they allow matching different types of weapons against each other. Over-al it does not teach the practitioner to have the ability to pick up any implement and use it skilfully to defend themselves, I was always taught by Master Chee Soo to be able to fully use any type of weapon both offensively and defensively as it was just an extension of my hand and a continuation of the teaching principles and concepts that make up the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu of the LFIAA.