As the Chinese have mentioned for many years that the practice of any weapon is just simply an extension of the hand. But what they fail to mention is that each person needs to have a fully developed martial art foundation, as the boxing side and weapon side of any traditional Chinese internal martial art should be closely related to each other making it easier for each person to take the natural step to study weapons. Thousands of individuals around the world practice the straight sword (Jian) especially those who study taijiquan who mainly practice it for the maintenance of health and wellbeing. But not many actually practice the many two-person sword exercises that lead more to developing the martial skill of handling the straight sword.
Practicing the two-person straight sword exercises that can be found within the Original Feng Shou Quan Sword form will develop and improve each persons attributes such as their timing, accuracy, precision, reactions, balance, co-ordination and concentration, above all they will greatly develop each persons practical ability to handle the Feng Shou Quan Straight Sword under pressure from your training partner, they are also very enjoyable and a fun way to study the straight sword.
For any student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to begin their study of the straight sword will also benefit them in learning how to use other weapons like the more popular dagger ( Bi Shou), the dagger or knife being much smaller and easier to conceal uses the same attacking angles as that of the straight sword. Obviously the straight sword is wielded at a longer range than that of the dagger which is used much more up close. As already mentioned if you have a very good structured boxing art that teaches the same principles that can be related to the study and practice of any weapon then it means that no matter what the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu picks up as a weapon like a shoe, a rolled up magazine, an umbrella or a straight sword the individual should be able to adapt and skilfully use the weapon.
When anyone begins to practice their taijiquan form movements the ultimate aim is to be able to move smoothly, continuously without any hesitation or unevenness. To reach this level of performance takes many hours of dedicated practice on a regular daily basis. Within taijiquan practice there is a saying that ” if one part moves, everything moves, and if one part stops, everything stops” basically, this means that there should be no isolated movement, were an individual simply moves their arms and the rest of the body is static. This kind of mistake is what a total beginner would make within their first few months of taiji training.
To go further there is also another saying within taijiquan that states ” All parts must be strung together like a string of pearls” this means that every movement within a certain posture should all move in unison with each other for example if you were to push your both palms forwards you would step forwards first pushing off the back foot and sinking into the front foot,your waist then guides the upward force from your both feet through your torso into your shoulders, elbows, wrists, palms and fingers. Hence all the bodies joints are strung together like a string of pearls all moving together in any direction. If we just look at the action of the upper extremities when pushing the palms forwards, many simply concentrate on the movement of the hands, rather than concentrating on the different parts of the limb like the shoulders leading the elbows leading the wrists which in-turn are leading the fingers, become aware of moving jont by joint than just moving the whole limb as a whole.
Please remember the heading at the top of the page says ” All parts move” and not all movement moves. Many individuals make the mistake of concentrating on linking the taiji postures together rather than linking the individual parts ( joints) together that make up the distinct movements of each posture. By concentrating on linking the individual parts or joints together of each taiji posture will not only promote a more connected whole body, it will also improve a stronger sense of energy circulation throughout the entire body as more parts of the body are moving in harmony with each other, rather than only some parts moving and other parts are not.
Interinsically the qi flows stronger into the hands because the whole body moves as one, adding strength and power to your taijiquan movements that only you can feel. To the person watching they just see a relaxed, soft, continuously flowing individual on the outside, yet within until they can touch you will they be able to feel the strength within. All this comes from the development of “stringing all parts together like a string pearl necklace”
Today there seems to be a growing interest in Mindfullness Meditation with it being offered to people who are working in offices,in schools and university’s to help them combat stress related ailments like anxiety, depression, hypertension and nervousness. Daoist Meditation uses various names to discribe its practice such as ” Sit and forget” (Zouwang) or “Tranquil Sittig” (Jing Zou) I was first taught Daoist Meditation by my teacher Master Chee Soo who only taught it alongside the practice of Daoist Yoga (Kai Men), he would advocate that each individual sit in meditation for only fifth teen minutes at a time, but you must do this on a regular daily basis at least three times a day. He would always mention that it was better to sit in meditation for short periods rather than forcing yourself to sit for longer periods of upto one or two hours.
Today many individuals sit in meditation simply to improve their relaxation levels, some practice to help prevent or manage certain health problems. My teacher always taught Dao Meditation as a method for cultivating energy (Qi) to strengthen each persons health and wellbeing to promote a long life. The Daoists mention that the practice of “Zouwang” sitting and forgetting should help to strengthen the three treasures (San Cai) which are the essences (Jing) to transform into energy (Qi) to then transform into spirit (Shen) to transform into the void (Dao). Lao Zi in his book the Daodejing would mention that everyone should learn how to ” Empty the mind & Fill the belly” this is a mention to the practice of meditation.
Nowadays to practice meditation an individual will need to find a place were they can “Sit and forget” without being disturbed by children, the phone ringing or to much loud noise lik traffic etc. Daoist Meditation can be performed in various postures like sitting with the legs crossed or lying down on your back or right side, it can be practiced sitting in a chair for those who find sitting in a cross leg position to uncomfortable. As my teacher would advocate just sit and meditate for around fifth teen minutes concentrating on your breathing and emptying your mind of extraneous thoughts.Practicing Dao Meditation alongside the other practices like Taijiquan, Qigong or Dao Yoga is truly a great method of promoting health and wellbeing in a very fast and sometimes stressful modern lifestyle that we all live.
For any interested individual wishing to fully learn the traditional Chinese straight sword (Jian) irrespective of what style they practice all individuals need to be fully committed and disciplined to training with it on a regular basis. Studying the Original Feng Shou Straight Sword Form is a great way to practice solo, as all of the footwork like the defensive and offensive ladder stepping ( Ti Zi Bu) as practiced in the boxing is included, there are balancing postures, there are various blocking techniques and of cause there are attacking methods. Practicing the Original Feng Shou Straight Sword Form will develop each individuals agility, co-ordination and concentration it will promote strong blood and qi flow throughout the entire body.
But within the Original Feng Shou Straight Sword Form there are plenty of two-person training drills or exercises hidden within its structure that two training partners can practice with to develop their practical techniques and become skilful in wielding the straight sword. These particular two-person sword drills can be performed in a linear or circular training method that improves each training partners timing, precision, reactions, accuracy but more importantly it will develop each individuals ability to stick & adhere (Nian Zhan) and listening skills (Ting Jin) in the use of the sword.
The ultimate aim of any individual studying and practing the Original Feng Shou Straight Sword is to be able to spontauosly wield the sword in a practical and natural skilful way. To be able to reach this level of skill each student of the Original Feng Shou Quan system must then practice the “Rollaway Eight direction stepping exercise” which allows the student to skilfully develop their sword techniques using linear,angular and circular footwork. This is a really great training exercise that teaches the student to adapt to any given situation and really develops their understanding and knowledge in being able to skilfully wield the Original Feng Shou Straight Sword.
The studying and practicing of taijiquan was never ment to be easy that is why it was called by the Daoists ” The Supreme Ultimate” being considered the highest form of practice ment that each person has to accept that the learning and progression of taijiquan can be at times slow, frustrating, and.hard work. Over my years of teaching and practicing taijiquan I have never met anyone yet who can quickly learn all the movements and guiding principles by attending one class session.Obviously it takes each individual many hors, days, months and years of practice to fully learn and develop their skill and understanding of taijiquan. But nowadays there are certain individuals who are not prepared to put the hard work in to achieve a reasonable standard of taijiquan, never mind reach its higher levels.
The study and practice of taijiquan is a life long journey of constant refinement of the taijiquan forms actions. Each serious practitioner of taijiquan fully understands that their taijiquan is never the finished article it is a life long journey of trying to improve their physical,mental and spiritual qualities to strengthen their health and wellbeing and attain a long life. I personally believe there are three types of taijiquan student in our modern age the low level, the intermediate level and the high level student. The low level taiji student is only interested in wanting to relax they attend classes but cannot remember the movements,they simply follow the teacher or person infront of themselves,their minds are daydreaming and wondering off with other extraneous thoughts that enter their head,physical they are in the room,but mentally they have left I call this individual “the lights are on, but no one is at home student”. This particular person has no interest in furthering their taijiquan development or the mastering of its movements they let the person infront of them do the work by simply following their actions,not caring if the person is accurate or not.
The intermediate level taiji student is someone who has learnt and remembers the taijiquan forms movements they are precise, accurate in their actions. But because of their busy lifestyles they cannot commit to attending further training, hence they stagnate in development and cannot seem to strengthen theirmental and spiritual aspects of taijiquan’s training. Whereas, the higher level student of taijiquan is someone who thinks nothing of practicing on their own on a regular daily basis as well as attending regular classes. To these particular type of individuals taijiquan has now become a way of life, inwhich they fully understand that they are constantly refining their practice to help them strengthen their three treasures of jing, qi and Shen to prolong life and attain good health.
My teacher would mention that only one in ten students would go onto reaching the higher levels of taijiquan,turning their practice into a natural holistic discipline just like brushing your teeth every morning and night it never becomes a chore. I have lost count of how many people that I have seen begin their practice of taijiquan having been told by someone that it is easy to learn because of it slow movement, they suddenly realise it’s not and that their balance, co-ordination and concentration is not as good as they thought it was and instead of persevering with their practice immediately give up never to return. As Lao Zi said in his Daodejing ” a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” in the journey of taijiquan study not many remain on the path they either give up, or get distracted in other directions,whereas only a few will stay on the path and reach the deeper levels of its practice.
My teacher Master Chee Soo would call them the “Downward Sun Palms” I call them ” Pressing Palms” (An Zhang) and they can be performed in a single ( Dan), double (Shuang) and changing (Zhuan Huan) method they can be used defensively or offensively. Many practitioners of this Chinese internal martial art ( Neijiaquan) only use the pressing palms defensively as a ward off or as a deflection against your opponents strikes or kicks. But here in the LFIAA we teach our students that the pressing palms can also be used offensively to attack with alongside kicks, joint locks and fast throwing (Kuai Shuai) techniques.
Defensively the pressing palms (An Zhang) must raise and fall in a circular action, guiding your opponents strikes downwards towards the floor either directly or indirectly. A very important aspect when using a pressing Palm technique is that they must cross your centre line to protect against the opponents blows aimed straight at your head or body. For each particular pressing palm ward off that the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu uses they will create an opening in your opponents defense for which the student can then counter back with their own strikes, kicks, joint locks or throws.
Offensively the pressing palms can also be used to strike with helping to open up your opponents defense for each student to take advantage off by applying following up techniques like using joint locks, throws or kicks. As in the use of using the pressing palms (An Zhang Fa) as a method to ward off they must use the action of rising and falling in a circular fashion, this rising and falling action adds great weight, strength and force to the pressing palm techniques which can be used both defensively or offensively. When used offensively to strike with using the circular rising and falling action of a pressing Palm can give the student a type of shocking power (Zhen Jin) to each strike that can cause serious damage to an opponent.
Offensively used the pressing palm strikes can be used singerly, double or as an alternating, changing series of strikes that are fast, powerful and practical in their usage. Obviously they can be used alongside hidden kicks, punishing joint locks and devastating throwing techniques. In the LFIAA the pressing palms or downwards sun palms as my teacher would call them of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu are used in a dual method, both for defense or offence and not just defensively as advocated by other practitioners of this Chinese internal martial art.
Practicing qigong exercises on a regular daily basis can really benefit an individual’s health and wellbeing to better cope with the stresses and strains that life throws at all of us. Within the LFIAA we offer various styles of qigong from sitting, lying to standing and moving exercises that can help the individual to relax, reconnect to themselves, replenish low energy levels, increase their flexibility, releasing stress, anxiety, tension etc
When individuals begin their practice of qigong, many are just concerned about learning to relax, developing their energy cultivation, storage and increase qi circulation throughout their body. This is a good thing to practice as it differently can help to boost the individuals over-al health and wellbeing. But there is another aspect to the practice of qigong that many individuals don’t realise and this is called “dredging” ( Shu dao) or ” Cleasing” (xi tuo) certain methods like stretching can be considered as a method of dredging as it releases muscular tension and joint stiffness out of the body to speed up the feeling of being loose and relaxed ( song). An individuals holistic health and wellbeing should include the body, emotions, mind and spirit and practicing qigong correctly and deeply should be able to effect these different areas of ourselves helping to keep our energies balanced and intact.
Many individuals suffer with emotional problems that greatly affect their health and these can be caused by serious illnesses, a traumatic accident or incident, death of a loved one or family friend or relative all this traumor can lay deep within us and can sometimes rise to the surface and show itself in the individual suffering with states of sadness, anger or being fearful and afraid. This can cause the individual to suffer with anxiety, depression, irritability, frustration, aggression and stress that can effect not only their emotional health but their mental state as well. Practicing qigong can also benefit certain individuals who are emotionally out off balance, by using certain actions an individual can learn to gradually dredge and clean any traumatic emotional blockages that as laid deep within themselves out. Obviously this can take each individual many months and years for this deep emotional blockages to be gradually dissolved and dispersed out, but with correct qigong practice on a regular basis many individuals can greatly benefit.
Within LFIAA qigong classes over the many years that I have been teaching and practicing I have seen many individuals feel the power of qigong exercise in its ability to help release traumatic emotional blockages that many individuals hold deep within themselves affecting their health and quality of life. I have seen people crying openly has their sadness as been dredged clean and dispersed, I have add people constantly laughing and feeling joyous as their fear is being dredged clean and I have also seen people speak and shout loudly as their anger is being dredged clean from themselves all have felt much better afterwards, more relaxed and calmer in themselves, hence this is the power of qigong’s practice to fully effect each individual holistically bringing them back into balance by dredging clean all of their negative sickly energy ( Bing qi) on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level.
It is very important that each and every practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu develops a high level of manipulative hand skill in being able to open up the opponents defence and to skilfully enter with powerful strikes and kicks and devastating joint locks and throws that can quickly finish a situation. These particular entry techniques must combine various footwork methods that allows the practitioner to enter directly or indirectly with fast, skilful hand techniques.
For a student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to develop skilful hand manipulative techniques they must learn to combine various techniques like ” changing hands” with the ” rolling hands exercise” which develops their ability to “stick & adhere” ( Nian Zhan) to the opponents limbs and to be able to listen (Ting Jin) to their opponent response and intention and skilfully be able to counter and overcome them. Obviously to be able to develop this particular skill can take the practitioner many hours, weeks, months and years of dedicated practice, but once achieved the skill will never leave the Feng Shou Quan practitioner.
For the practitioner to be able to use effective entry techniques against an aggressive opponent they must be smooth, fast and well trained. This can only happen if the practitioner is willing to put their time and energy into their training to fully develop their entry techniques and discover what works and what does not work. They will have to realise that many areas of their Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu training will have to be combined to make their entry techniques flexible, practical and adaptable enough to change against any obstuckle or sudden threat that may occur and be able to overcome them. Over the many years I still see certain students of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu only practice individual training exercises that do not combine other areas of their training together which is of great importance. For example I still see student practicing kicks ( foot patterns) with their arms hanging down by their sides with a lazy and over relaxed manner that leaves them wide open to counter attacks, plus there no use of combining wards offs, party’s or even strikes alongside the practice of their kicking practice.
The Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu has its own distinct style and when you see it being used skilfully to enter your opponents defence combining its own defensive and offensive techniques smoothly together constantly changing from one to another without thought, to flow and adapt to what the opponent has to offer and completely control or finish the situation is the ultimate level of proficiency for any practitioner of Feng Shou Quan to reach. I sometimes believe that to many practitioners of other schools of Feng Shou Quan spend to much time training defensive techniques, rather than training their offensive techniques, because if you choose to use any entering techniques on your opponent then you need to train on being more offensive in your fighting techniques.
This taijiquan principle of “drooping the elbows and sinking the shoulders” is vitally important for several reasons. Firstly it allows the taiji practitioner to remain relaxed as lifting the shoulders and elbows will only tense the individuals shoulders and upper back, which can also cause the blood pressure to rise trapping the individuals qi up in their upper jiao, head causing dizziness, paipitations etc. Dropping the elbows and lowering the shoulders allows the blood pressure not to raise upwards, plus the shoulders and upper back are able to remain soft and relaxed.
Secondly the raising of the elbows and shoulders allows the individuals centre of gravity to rise, making the lower portion of the body to become light and the upper portion of the body to feel heavy. This means that the taijiquan practitioner has no “root” or strong connection to the ground which gives them no strength in their posture , meaning that they can easily lose their balance. The correct taijiquan posture should be the opposite were the top half of the body should feel light and lower half of the body naturally feels heavy as the bodies centre of gravity sinks downwards. Giving the taijiquan practitioner a strong root and connection to the ground adding strength to the individuals posture and movement.
Thirdly drooping the elbows and sinking the shoulders during the practice of the taijiquan’s movements also allows the individuals qi to naturally sink downwards into the lower elixir field (Xia Dantian) helping each individual to be able to cultivate, store and circulate their qi to help them to maintain their vitality levels and improve their health and wellbeing through the correct movements of taijiquan. Sinking the shoulders allows the individuals back to open and round, while the chest is able to hollow and sink which makes it easier for the qi to circulate around the Dumai and Renmai energy channels. The elbows should always be below the hands once the both or just one arm is moving above the waist, but if the both or single arm is lower than the waist then the elbows are above the hands.
Paying more attention to drooping the elbows and sinking shoulders and your taijiquan practice will transform to another level. To many individuals just concentrate on the bigger movements and not the correct shape and feeling of their qi as it flows through their body while practicing taijiquan.
The practice of taiji ball qigong exercises are designed to strengthen the individuals tendons and muscle promoting both blood and qi flow into the upper extremities. The taiji ball itself can vary in its size and weight, beginners are asked to start their taiji ball qigong exercises with a lighter in weight ball and after some time they can progress to a heavier ball. Taiji ball qigong exercises can be performed in a fixed position were the individual moves their arms and torso, secondly they it can be performed in a rocking of the body weight from one leg to another and lastly it can be performed as a moving or walking practice.
Obviously any movement that the individual performs with the taiji ball qigong exercise the whole body must be fully involved and intergrated. Practicing with the taiji ball (taiji qiu) increases the flow of qi throughout the whole body especially into the hands, but practicing with the taiji ball can also develop the individuals tactile sensitivity in using various aspects of their hands and arms to remain in contact to manipulate and control the ball. This constant contact with the ball develops the individuals ability to listen (Ting), stick ( Nian) and adhere ( Zhan) with various parts of our hands and arms to the ball, which in-turn will help the individual in the practice of the two-person taiji sensing hands exercise (Ganshou) also called push hands ( Tuishou) to sense and feel your partners intentions in trying to break your balance.
The practice of the taiji ball qigong exercises is another method that individuals can practice on their own or in a group alongside their taijiquan forms to help them all strengthen their balance, co-ordination and concentration. But more importantly to help them maintain and improve their health and wellbeing. All the different styles of taijiquan each have their own unique taiji ball qigong exercises that resemble the movements of their taiji forms or sequences, when practicing with the taiji ball qigong it should be the legs and torso that makes the arms and taiji ball move, it should not just be the arms, hands and ball moving while the rest of the body remains still.
Regular practice of the taiji ball qigong exercises will diffenately benefit your taijiquan form practice by developing an internal strength within your movements and a strong intent with your mind to lead the qi.