As a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for over twenty five years I can honestly say that without hesitation that practicing the Li family internal martial arts has effectively helped my ability to treat patients. I began my training studying the Li family bodywork massage (Tui Na) system,plus medical qigong and most recently acupuncture (Zhen Bian), I have studied under various teachers both in the United Kingdom and in China. But mainly under the guidance ofMaster Chee Soo.
Through the practice of the Li family arts of Lishi Taijiquan & Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu inculcates correct and aligned body movement patterns in the body. This has many implications for health practitioners, if you are performing massage or physical medicine, working in proper posture and alignment prevents you from injuring yourself,because you using the whole body in a way that protects your joints and tissue. Although one can intellectually understand correct alignment and may even counsel patients on poor posture, without a regular discipline like that of the Lishi Taijiquan or Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu systems that practice and incorporate correct body mechanics, posture and alignment can quickly fall by the wayside as one is attending to a client.
Over the years I have noticed many massage therapists use their hands incorrectly,in a fashion that is disconnected from the body and therefore end up injuring their hands and wrists. In the practice of Lishi Taijiquan and Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu, postures and movements create an integrated structural alignment that is both dynamic and ongoing. It becomes natural and second nature for the practitioner to adapt automatically and use these same principles in the practice of Energy Bodywork Massage and Acupuncture.
When the body is aligned and connected internally and externally ,it is relaxed ( Song Jin). Qi does not move through the body smoothly if the muscles are to tense or through joints that are bent at angles that reduce the pliability of the limb or body area. When Qi flows smoothly, we can achieve more with less effort for a massage therapist this can mean using less isolated muscular force to achieve the disired result. As a practitioner of Energy Bodywork Massage when the Qi is flowing smoothly, your sense of touch becomes refined and my hands can penetrate much more deeper and quicker into the tissue of my patient, plus I can also sense and feel the articulations of my patients energy under their skin as it changes due to my massage techniques. These same factors can also help me to insert and manipulate acupuncture needles more smoothly and to sense the internal change occurring in the patients body through the handle of the needle more skilfully.
When I was taught the Clock Face Evasion Stepping sets ( Zhong Mian Bu) by Master Chee Soo for which there are eight different sets to learn that teach you how to dodge an in-coming attack by moving your body in variou ways by either simply stepping out to an angle or by rotating your body to evade. At first I simply concentrated on dodging out of the way from my training partners attack by stepping out to any of the eight directional angles that are taught to help get around my training partners back and both sides of the body. This taught me how to use angular footwork to effectively evade my training partners attacking techniques and place my self in the best optimum position to counter attack.
To counter attack I also realised that learning the Clock Face Evasion included that I had to develop my linear stepping method which ment using the “Ladder Step” (Ti Bu). This included what we call both a short attack Ladder Step (Duan Jin Gong Ti Bu) and a long attack Ladder Step (Zhang Jin Gong Ti Bu) to close the gap quickly on my training partner using a striking or kicking technique in combination. Within the learning and practice of the Clock Face Evasive Stepping sets there are three basic levels that each student must study and fully master. The first level is to basically learn any of the eight sets of the Clock Face Evasions and understand the body mechanics that are asked to perform the method of evading to any of the eight directional stepping angles, secondly this particular set is then taught and practiced in a attack and evade routine were each student takes it in-turn to alternatively strike and evade to any of the eight directional angles. Finally the third stage is what we call ” freestyle” which means that what ever angle you choose to evade to, you must then counter attack from. This third stage combines both linear and angular stepping methods.
At the highest level of development within the practice of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu Clock Face Evasion Stepping ( Zhong Mian Bu) the inclusion of ” Circle Walking” is also added to the exercise. The inclusion of walking the circle transforms the Clock Face Evasion exercise both into a defensive and offensive exercise, at first it is taught to students as a method of defensive evasion but then transforms into an offensive stepping method were the three stepping actions of linear,angular and circular are all combined together. Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu students are taught to “Circle Walk” (Yuan Zou) using the natural stepping action alongside other linear or angular stepping techniques separately at first so as to prepare them for the work ahead.
There are numerous methods within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that an be used to enter and open up the opponents defence. These so called “Entering Techniques” (Ru Men Fa) can be used either defensively or offensively to get beyond the opponents defences and exploit their openings to follow up with powerful strikes, kicks, joint locks or throws either singularly or in combination with each other to finish the situation. In the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers the entering techniques are taught and used to allow the student to express the full extent of their understanding on how to skilfully use this Chinese internal martial art.
Within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu there are three traditional forms taught which were passed down by Master Chee Soo, these are the Poison Hand Sets ( Du Shou Fa), Active Mist Sets (Shi Yan Fa) and the Harmony Fist Sets (He Quan Fa). The learning of the entering techniques allows the student to bring various elements of these three forms together to make a multitude of fighting techniques, as the poison hand sets develop skilful striking, the active mist sets develop skilful defence and the harmony fist sets develop block & strike response which can then becombined with various low line kicking techniques, devastating joint locks and finishing throws that make Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu a very practical and effective fighting art.
Most of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that is taught and practiced by many of Master Chee Soo’s senior students today have lost the unique style and flavour of this internal martial art. Many teach it as a Chinese kickboxing system, while others sadly teach just parts that are separated and are not fully joined together. Today most students are only interested in learning its forms and practicing it as a fitness exercise rather than concentrating on practicing its many fighting techniques and applications which allows each student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to regain its unique style and their ability to skilfully apply their internal martial art to adapt to any situation.
Learning the “Entering Techniques” allows the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to develop their skill in being able to create a multitude of fighting techniques that combines the whole art together. Which should be the ultimate aim of all practitioners to freely express this unique Chinese internal martial art.
A major characteristic of the practice of Yang style Taijiquan is its constant shifting of the body weight from one leg to the other. This constant shifting of the body weight allows the practitioner of the Yang style Taijiquan to develop a swaying action with their whole body, while performing their slow, soft, graceful movements with the arms and the light stepping action of their feet. It is through the many different stepping methods which are performed in the practice of the Yang style Taijiquan form that allows the practitioner to develop this swaying action of shifting the body weight from front leg to back leg and from back leg to front leg in a smooth,slow, rocking, swaying movement.
The development of the swaying action within the practice of the Yang style Taijiquan form and sequences allows each student to increase their leg strength, as each leg as to support there own body weight which increases the strength of the muscles, ligaments and bones of each individual helping them to improve their balance and cardio fitness. As learning to shift the whole body weight alternately from one leg to the other means that the heart needs to pump more blood ad energy into the bigger muscle groups of the legs, which will increase the students cardiovascular fitness increasing their blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) circulation through their whole body.
Obviously once the practitioner of the Yang style Taijiquan has been training and practicing regularly for a few years, this development of a smooth swaying action of the whole body will have an increasing effect on soothing and calming their nervous system which allows them to remain relaxed and loose ( Song Jin) within their taijiquan movements. Many beginners do not recognise the swaying/rocking action at first it usually needs to be pointed out to them for them all to see and understand its action.
How does a student learning the Chinese internal martial art develop strength and power in their defensive and offensive fighting techniques. It is developed through both moving ( Dong) and non-moving (Jing) qigong exercises that increase tendon, ligament and muscle strength and invigorate the circulation of both blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) which promotes both strength and power, plus good health and wellbeing in each student.
Within the practice of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu a student will learn the “Eight Standing Post Qigong” (Ba Zhan Zhuang Gong) this is a series of eight standing postures that are held for a period of time to strengthen the student both physically and mentally. These eight postures will stretch the students tendons and ligaments and open their joints, but will also strengthen their muscles and bones. Internally the Eight Standing Post Qigong will strengthen and cultivate the students three treasures ( San Cai) which are their essences (Jing), energy (Qi) and spirit (Shen),
Practicing the Eight Standing Post Qigong for a student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu will produce strength both externally (Waigong) and internally (Neigong) which will then produce power into each students defensive and offensive fighting techniques. The Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu does not advocate students lifting weights to develop muscle strength, as it causes the tendons and ligaments to shorten and the body retains a tremendous amount of muscle tension and joint stiffness which can obviously effect the speed that the student can move their whole body,plus it can slow down blood and energy circulation. A Feng Shou-Gongfu student will develop their tendon, ligament strength and flexibility like that of an elastic band which can produce a springy, soft power rather than a stiff hard power. This is developed through the Eight Standing Post Qigong ( Ba Zhan Zhuang Gong) exercises.
Over the many years that I have been training and teaching the Daoist internal martial art of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu I have been asked by so many students what should they do to enhance their ability or what I like to call achieving the “Gongfu Body”. Because Feng Shou Quan is considered to be an internal martial art (IMA) that utilises fast evasive footwork and the ability to strike and kick while being on the move. Then the student must develop a supple and pliant body that allows them to move their whole body quickly both in their defensive and offensive techniques.
This why the correct warming up, loosening and stretching exercises that each student learns and performs at the beginning of every LFIAA Feng Shou-Gongfu training session is so important. As the exercise routines should develop each students joint, tendon, ligament and muscle flexibility, plus it should involve isometric exercises to help strengthen the students tendons, muscles and bones. But more importantly it should invigorate both blood and energy circulation and not cause it to stagnate.
Exercises like press ups, sit ups and lifting weights for the Feng Shou-Gongfu practitioner should not be performed as it increases muscle tension, which can slow down the circulation of blood and energy, plus slow down the individuals body movement because of the added muscle tension and joint stiffness. Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu develops its power from a relaxed and pliant body that does not do any isolated movement without the whole body being involved. Many believe that lifting weights will enhance they ability, maybe in the more harder types of martial arts but nort in the soft internal martial arts which Feng Shou Quan is part of.
The learning of multiple joint locking techniques within the Chinese internal martial arts is practiced throughout, with some practitioners advocating at least seventy percent of their martial art to its development, whereas, others will only use a small percentage of joint locking techniques within their internal martial art,there would rather concentrate more on striking and kicking methods. My teacher Master Chee Soo always taught joint locking ( Qinna) techniques as part of studying the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu and we at the LFIAA still continue with the learning and training of applying fast, accurate, powerful joint locking techniques as taught and passed onto us by Master Chee Soo himself.
Within the LFIAA all students studying joint locking techniques as part of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu will progress through various levels from basic to intermediate to advanced level. During basic level each student will simply be learning how to apply joint locks from various types of holds and grips, the intermediate level will teach each student to apply a wide variety of joint locks (Qinna) from strikes and kicks, whereas the advanced level is were each student as to apply fast, accurate joint locks from a fast, flowing counter, counter exercise were each individual can strike or kick from any angle using singular or multiple striking and kicking methods.
At an advanced level an Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu practitioner should be able to apply any type of (Qinna) joint locking technique from any angled strike or kick. Likewise they should also be able to skilfully escape from a joint lock being applied on themselves by either countering back with another joint lock technique, or counter with a strike or kicking method to help them escape from the attempted joint lock being applied on themselves.
Over my many years of studying and practicing this Chinese internal martial art of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu the one thing that my teacher Master Chee Soo would always mention and demonstrate to us all was that (Qinna) joint locking should not be taught and practiced separate from the striking and kicking techniques. They should be combined and trained alongside each other, as the ultimate aim of all Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu practitioners is to flow from striking, to kicking to wrestling to throwing in any order so that this Chinese internal martial art becomes so natural and instinctive to each practitioner.
One of the biggest problems that I find as a teacher within the individuals and groups of people who are studying and practicing the Taiji Qigong thirty six exercise form (Taiji Sanliushi) under the banner of the LFIAA. Is that many students become to complacent in their practice, their actions become sometimes to stiff as they do not concentrate on softening the major joints by refining their movement. Some of the reasons why to many students are stiff in their performance of the taiji qigong exercise is that they do not do enough solo practice on their own or that they are new to the practice and make beginners basic errors.
Learning to improve and refine the movements of any of the taiji qigong exercise will only benefit in allowing the essences (Jing) and energy (Qi) to flow smoothly around the whole body,nourishing the internal organs to maintain their healthy functioning towards our health and wellbeing. To many students make the big mistake of being more concerned about simply remembering the correct order that each of the taiji qigong exercises should flow, rather than being more concerned about the quality of the taiji qigong movements.
Obviously taiji qigong is a mind & body exercise which means that for each student to skilfully refine the quality of their taiji qigong movement means that their concentration as to be totally on their practice and nothing else. Ultimately each student should then in time be able to feel the flow of their blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) circulating through their body has they perform their taiji qigong exercises. There are many subtle levels to the practice and study of taiji qigong and not everyone will achieve these levels, as to reach these subtle levels takes each individual hours and hours of quality practice so that their understanding, knowledge and application greatly improves and deepens. Sadly to many individuals are lazy in their practice and their quality is poor, they are only concerned about learning the form and not mastering the movements.
One of the more subtle levels of practicing taijiquan is were the practitioner uses their mind (Yi), breath (Xi) and body movements to guide and lead ( Daoyin) the vital energy (Qi) throughout the whole body. For any individual to achieve this level must mean that they have developed a strong concentration over the many years of their taijiquan practice. As without a strong mind they will not be able to connect to their qi and guide it into their hands and fingers,so that the qi can now combine with the practitioners strength and become a more intrinsic form of energy (Jing) which produces a tremendous amount of unlimited power.
Over-al the practice of taijiquan is governed by the interactions of the eight energies which are ward off, rollback, squeeze, press, split, elbow, pluck and bump. Learning to use the mind (Yi) to guide the energy (Qi) and for the energy to combine with the strength to produce the intrinsic energy (fa Jing) brings each of the eight energies of taijiquan into full application, as the practitioner can at anytime release their intrinsic power from any part of their body at anytime they wish.
When practicing taijiquan for the purpose of “Nourishig Life” (Yang Sheng) for health and wellbeing the practitioner just learns how to connect the mind to lead the energy smoothly around their body, While their intrinsic energy ( Jing) is kept hidden within their flowing movements, it is only when taijiquan is performed either as a martial art as in the practice of taiji’s pushing hands exercise (tuishou) that the practitioner will release their intrinsic energy ( Fa Jing) obviously to those around them to see and feel their taijiquan power and strength.
As I have already mentioned above at the heading of this blog , that not many individuals will reach this subtle level of taijiquan practice because it takes each individual a longtime of many hours, days, weeks, months and years to refine, develop and strengthen their taijiquan actions, so that the mind is strong enough to connect with and guide and lead the energy (Qi) to combine with the whole body to produce the intrinsic energy ( Jing) into their taijiquan movements.
Within the LFIAA we teach both the Daoist Yoga and Dao Yin exercises that was passed down to us by Master Chee Soo. Many individuals get mixed up with the two practices as there are quite a lot of similarities between the two systems, firstly with each Dao Yoga exercise there are two parts to them, the first is called the “Passive” (Yin) set which uses gentle movements to mobilise the cultivation and circulation of the three treasures ( San Bao) of the body which are the essences (Jing), energy (Qi) and the spirit ( Shen). The second part to each Dao Yoga exercise is known as the ” Extension” ( Yang) set which mainly allows the individual to develop their joint, muscle, tendon, ligament flexibility through very strong and dynamic stretching. An individual practicing any of the Dao Yoga exercises will try and maintain a constant slow movement from beginning to the end of each exercise, there should be no pausing or holding of a posture.
Whereas the Dao Yin ( Guiding & Leading) exercises are singular in there actions, but their movements can also be constantly moving as in the practice of the Dao Yoga, as well as being held in position. The Dao Yin exercises can be passive or dynamic like that of the Dao Yoga, but there is more variation and use in the breathing techniques that are used alongside the movements of each Dao Yin exercise for example there is the use of Normal breathing (Zi Xi) and Embryonic or Reverse breathing (Tai Xi) plus there is Swallowing breaths ( Yan Ju Xi) and Holding / Closing breath (Bi Qi).
Usually alongside the practice of both the Dao Yoga and Dao Yin exercises is the added practice of Daoist Meditation (Zouwang). Dao meditation is a great compliment to the other two disciplines in the maintenance and improvement of the individuals health and wellbeing,the Daoist call all three practices and disciplines as ” Life Nourishing Arts” ( Yang Sheng Shu) as they strengthen and transform the three treasures of the body the Jing, Qi and Shen. Dao Meditation is a really great way for everyone to learn how to fully relax both mind & body and help to release the build up of stress, tension and anxiety.