One of the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu forms is called ” Active Mist” (Huo Yan Shi) this particular form mainly advocates that the student learn practical defensive techniques. It is important that every student of this Chinese internal martial art develops good confidence and skill in their ability to block or ward off multiple strikes from various heights and angles and the study of the Active Mist forms will definitely do this. My teacher Master Chee Soo would always say that if you can develop a high level of skill in your defensive techniques then you have a foundation to launch your offensive techniques.
Once each student as a good understanding of the Active Mist forms, they can then use the many defensive techniques as entry’s towards applying joint locking techniques against an opponents strikes or kicks. They can also be used to set up a variety of fast throwing methods, there are numerous amounts of fighting applications that a student can discover within the many Active Mist Forms that are taught within the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu.
Master Chee Soo would always like to emphasis in the Active Mist Forms a simultaneous block/ward off and strike combination. The reason for this is that the learning of the Active Mist Forms will naturally lead the student into the learning of the “Harmony Fist Form” ( Ping Quan Fa) which teaches the student the ability to simultaneously block and strike. And Master Chee Soo liked to add this block & strike method into the Active Mist Forms which means that even thou the Active Mist Forms are purely taught as a defensive form they can actually also be used as an entry method to set up a variety of fighting techniques.
One of the fascinating aspects of training within the Chinese internal martial arts for myself is the development of tactile awareness through sensitivity exercise like “Rolling Hands” (Gun Shou) or Whirling/ Wheeling Hands (Lun Shou) as my teacher Master Chee Soo would call it. All Chinese internal martial arts ( Neijiaquan) have tactile two-person training exercises for example taijiquan ( Supreme Ultimate Boxing) has a pushing hands exercise called (Tui Shou), likewise baguazhang ( Eight Trigram Palms) has a two-person sensitivity exercise called “Soft Hands” ( Rou Shou). These particular exercises were designed to increase each practitioner tactile sensitivity and develop their ability to listen (Ting Jin) to their opponents intention as soon as contact was made between the two of them.
Practicing the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu two-person sensitivity exercise of Rolling Hands greatly enhances each students ability to feel their opponents intent. The exercise develops many kinds of energies (Jin) that the student must master. Such as listening energy ( Ting Jin), sticking energy (Nian Jin), adhering energy ( Zhan Jin), by learning and developing your skill in these various type of energies ( Jins) for which there are over fifty types to learn and master will help each practitioner to quickly know which limb your opponent is going to use to either strike or kick at you, and for which you can then quickly adapt to and overcome the opponents attacks.
The Rolling Hands exercise is firstly practiced from a static position for several months to maybe a year. The student will them proceed to combine stepping actions which could mean that they simply move in a straight line in a forwards and backwards direction, after some time each student will then be taught to add in angular and rotational stepping methods. While all the time remaining in contact with each other circling each hand or arm around each other’s. In the use of the hands each student can use either a single hand changing from on hand to the other or they can use both hands at the same time.
Within the use of the Rolling Hands exercise the both hands can be used defensively or offensively to deflect or block a strike, or they can use them to strike the opponent from any angle or they can be used to seize and grasp ( Qinna) your opponents limbs and apply punishing joint locks or throws.
Within the thirty six taiji qigong exercises ( Sanliu Taiji Qigong) that are taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers of the LFIAA. There are many taiji qigong exercises that involve rocking or swaying the whole body in a forwards, backwards and a side to side motion, this swaying action has many health benefits like improve the blood flow into the four extremities, strengthening the individuals legs to help them improve their balance, but this swaying motion can also have a great effect on soothing and calming the individuals Nevous system, allowing for each individual to fully relax into their own being, releasing both mental and physical tension, anxiety and stiffness out of the whole body.
If we take a look at nature (Xing) we can see this rocking and swaying motion being applied every day, for example when a gentle breeze blows against a tree, the tree begins to sway gently back and forth and when the wind stops the tree returns to stillness. Hence this is the action that each individual performs when they practice the thirty six taiji qigong swaying or rocking exercises, gently stimulating the energy (Qi) to flow smoothly through the Nevous system and energy pathways (Jing Mai) of the body, allowing the body and mind to become calm.
As I have already mentioned above there are basically two methods of the swaying or rocking exercises that are practiced. This is the front to back direction or vice-versa, plus the side to side motion. The swaying of the body in a forwards to backwards direction allows the qi to to move to the front of the body which includes the face, chest, abdomen and backwards into the back & spinal column, back of the head and hips. Whereas the side to side direction allows the blood and Qi to flow into the side of the head, neck, torso, hips. Obviously the blood anQi will flow naturally into the four extremities. In time once the individual has been studying and practicing the thirty six taiji qigong exercises for a long time they will begin to experience various sensations of their Qi moving around their body, especially when they are practicing a swaying or rocking taiji qigong exercise.
The key to developing a strong sensation of QI movement within the body is to maintain a relaxed body and when practicing any of the swaying taiji qigong exercises to make sure that the over-al motion is smooth, slow and steady. There should be no sudden jerking of the body, were the body suddenly speeds up and then slows down. The whole body motion must be maintained at the same slow speed in both directions, this will allow the individual to fully relax and calm the nervous system.
The first thing that everyone is taught in their very first taijiquan class is that you must remain relaxed and loose (Song Jin) at all times. At first each individual will relax their muscles and joints, but the teacher will mention that your relaxation has to reach deeply inside of you to go deeper into the marrow of the bones and into the internal organs (Zangfu), as well as your meridians and energy points (Qixue). Ultimately the more the deeper into oneself you can become fully relaxed and loose the better it will be for the individuals health and wellbeing.
Obviously the more softer we can become through learning to relax deeply into ourselves the more we can release the build up of stress, tension and anxiety from our body and mind. The practice of Taijiquan encourages each individual to become soft, loose and light in their actions promoting strong blood and energy flow throughout the entire body. This feeling of relaxation is greatly enhanced by each individual combining their breathing in time with their movements, the deep rhythmic breathing that is used in the practice of taijiquan has a strong effect on soothing and calming the nervous system which helps to speed up this feeling of being totally relaxed.
As in the use of taijiquan as a internal martial art this feeling of being relaxed and loose is important because the individual can generate a tremendous amount of strong springy power into their fighting techniques. Because they have learnt over the many months and years to fully relax and loosen their muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints which develops this soft springy type energy that the individual can tap into at anytime, as well as learning how to connect their whole body movements into one smooth,flowing action that can produce this strong springy (Peng Jin) energy from any part of their body in any direction.
Relaxation in taijiquan does not mean to totally relax like a wet fish, it means that you still have shape, but you are loose and soft on the outside,yet strong and full on the inside. For some individuals it can take them a very long time to attain this deep state of being loose and relaxed in their taijiquan training. But as Lao Zi mentions “the tree that does not bend against the storm is up rooted and broken, whereas the tree that is soft and supple and bends against the force of the storm survives”.
There are many types of kicking techniques (Ti Fa) practiced by students of the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that range from stamping, hooking, swaying to chopping etc. But it is the use of correct stepping methods that allow for fast, practical and effective kicking techniques. Traditionally all the kicking techniques taught and practiced by a practitioner of this unique internal martial art are aimed no higher than the opponents waist, only on very rare occasions will a practitioner perform a high kick.
There is a saying within the Chinese internal martial arts that for every step there is a kick. So it is very important that you know how to step correctly to deliver your kicking methods, in the accompanying video that comes with this blog you will see two female students performing a stomping kicking technique taking it in-turn to practice the kick back & forth between each other. You will also notice that when they are performing the kick that they sometimes use their front leg and rear leg to apply the stomping kick. For each of the female students to perform the kick they must make sure to use correct footwork and you can see that the foot that is used to step will either point it’s toes directly towards the training partner or it will turn its foot outwards or inwards. The turning of the foot to point outwards allows the female student to apply the stomping kick off their rear foot, while pointing the toes of the front foot towards their training partner and then stepping forwards with their rear foot turning its toes inwards allows the student to apply the stomping kick off their front foot.
Obviously this video of the two female students performing the various ways of performing a stomping kick is simply training their stepping and ability to deliver the stomping kick off both legs. But in time these kicks will be combined with hand work (Shou Fa) which obviously needs to be added to help disguise their kicking technique. There is a saying that I always mention to my students that a really good kick should be felt by your opponent, but not seen. This means that through good skilful hand work which includes strikes, joint locks or throws and correct footwork all help for your kicking techniques to become successful in being applied as they disguise your kicks.
Within my own LFIAA Taijiquan classes many individuals take up its practice for many reason, for example like learning to relax, gentle exercise for the elderly, improving their balance and the very rare individuals who take it up as an internal martial art. But for those who participate mainly to improve their health and wellbeing and have been practicing for many years should begin to experience the effects of their taijiquan practice and study continue into their everyday lives. Especially to those individuals who have been studying taijiquan for at least more than two years and obviously regularly practice on their own and within a class structure.
At its most highest of levels the practitioner of taijiquan should be able to perform their taiji form at a very slow speed which is determined by how long and deep their breathing is, their aim is to harmonise the concept of Yin & Yang which manifests itself in the practice of taijiquan by involving rising, lowering, opening and closing, insubstantial and substantial. This aspect leads the taijiquan practitioner deeper into their study and practice leading them more towards the “Moving Meditation” practice which unites their body, essences (Jing), breath (Qi) and mind (Shen).
Once the practitioner can achieve the level of attaining “Stillness within Motion” and within themselves develop a deep feeling of inner calmness and tranquility in their practice of taijiquan. Then the aim is for this inner feeling of calmness and stillness to over flow into their daily lives. Over my years of practicing and teaching taijiquan I have heard many students mention that they really feel relaxed from their class practice, but within seconds of leaving the class get very irritable with someone cutting them up in the traffic. This means that their practice of remaning calm and still inside has not transformed itself into their daily life.
If you practice correctly, then after a long period of time with consistent regular practice of taijiquan it is only natural for its effects to manifest themselves in each individual, like strengthening the concentration, breathing correctly and maintaining a soft, pliant body and more importantly subduing the emotions, so that we feel more contented, balanced within ourselves. Which all helps us understand that our taijiquan practice should not be left in the class room, but should over flow into all areas of our lives allowing us to combat the stresses and strains of our fast modern lifestyles.
Adding power to your defensive and offensive techniques is what every student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu wants. As power is what scares your opponents and earns their respect, once your opponent as felt your heavy shocking power on his or her arm when you defensively block their incoming strike this will immediately place them on the back foot and really make them think if they should to continue their attack, as every time they attack or defend they receive painful reminder of what they have infront of the themselves.
There are three methods of body mechanics that a student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu will learn how to develop and issue power (Fa Jing) into their techniques. Firstly they will learn and practice rotational or horizontal power which is learning how to turn their body around a central axis, secondly they will then study how to use and deliver a vertical power by learning how to whip the spine in a rippling or wave like action. Thirdly these two methods are then combined together to add tremendous strength and power into the students techniques.
A student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu will practice these two body mechanic methods at first from a static position. This obviously trains the upper body and is quite easy to practice, but it is when the student apples these two body mechanics with their stepping actions that it takes a bit longer for each student to get the timing and precision accurate to be able to issue great power into their defensive and offensive techniques.
The key technique to adding power into the students techniques is to be able to remain loose and relaxed (Song Jin). This allows the body to respond like a spring that is flexible, elastic and soft making it easier to have an abundance of easy power that can be used practically and effectively in all of the students movements.
Among many of the fast evasive footwork sets that are taught and practiced by many students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu. The Box Step Evasion Sets are properly the most easiest to learn, but the most differcult to actually apply. Over my many years of practicing and teaching this unique Chinese internal martial art I have come across many an individual who claim that the Box Step Evasions are of no use? This I totally do not agree with, I place this accusation down to fact that the individuals did not have enough experience of practicing Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu and the obviously the ability to put all together.
Firstly, the Box Step Evasions teach two basic elements to the practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu. The first element is the ability to dodge your opponents strikes and kicks by stepping around their attacks or by simply moving away to gain distance. The second element is to develop the ability to enter into the opponent to apply effective joint locks and fast throwing techniques, this does not just mean entering by facing your opponent it also involves entering by using “Turning the back” methods as seen in the accompying video that comes with this blog of my son performing a Box Step Turning the Back application.
As I have already mentioned many times in my blogs that I have written on the subject of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu, sadly to many students and teachers of this internal martial art still do not understand how to combine all of the many parts together in a multitude of fighting applications. They still practice their kicking techniques separately from their throwing techniques for example, rather than understanding how one can lead into the other. This is why many practitioners still do not know how to apply the various Box Step Evasions methods skilfully together by combining themwith their defensive and offensive techniques.
It is not that the Box Step Evasions are not effective in their usage, but rather that there is not enough understanding or knowledge of how to use them alongside the striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing aspects of this unique style of Gongfu. It takes many hours of dedicated study and practice to learn how to use them.