Because there are many styles of Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigram Palms) each has their own particular palm shape that depicts their own unique style. For example it is said that some Yin Bagua Zhang practitioners use the “Ox Tongue Palm” (Niu She Zhang) while other styles use the “Willow Leaf Palm” (Liu Ye Zhang). But the Sun style Bagua Zhang practitioners use the “Dragon’s Claw Palm” (Long Zhua Zhang)) this particular palm shape is like the both hands are about to catch a ball in each hand, the centre of the palm is hollowed, while the fingers are separated and curved at each joint.
The Tigers mouth ( Hu Kou) which is the gap between the index and thumb is held open and rounded. This gently stretches the palm allowing for the qi to flow smoothly into the fingers and palms. By allowing the fingers to be separated and slightly curved forwards means that the centre of the palm can become hollow, which lets the qi gather into the centre of each palm, activating the energy point (Qixue) which is located in the centre of each palm and is called the “Laogong” which is on the Pericardium Meridian or also known as the Heart protector.
While the Sun Style Bagua Zhang practitioner begins to walk the circle they will hold the Dragon’s Claw Palm shape with both hands.The sensation that each individual should feel in their both hands as they perform the circle walking exercise is a build up of warmth or heat in the Laogong points located in the centre of each palm, this warmth will then spread to the fingers allowing for the both hands to have the feeling of fullness or thickness which means the both palms are full of qi.
In general the Sun Style Bagua Zhang is known as the “Dragon Style” even thou it involves the practice of another seven animal shapes such as the Bear, Sparrow Hawk and Lion for example. Over-al it’s style and flavour is that of the Dragon shape, hence why Sun Lutang himself called the posture the “Green Dragon Turns Its Body ” ( Qing Long Zhuan Shen).
One of the best and most powerful exercises that I have come across that really helps to keep the body relaxed, supple and full of energy (Qi) and blood (Xue) flow is the Daoist Wild Goose Qigong ( Dayan Gong Fa) exercise. No matter how old or young you maybe you can benefit from its practice, the Wild Goose Qigong is a combination of soft, passive Taijiquan movements alongside the more dynamic Yoga type stretches that greatly improve lightness within the body as the muscles, tendons , ligaments and joints are gently released of their tension and stiffness, allowing for the individual to become relaxed and their Qi to flow in abundance throughout the whole body.
Wild Goose Qigong involves both slow and fast actions this is to try and achieve the ” Stillness within the Motion”. The slow movements are guided by the individuals ability to breath long, slow, smooth and deep which allows the mind to become connected to the body and for the intent (Yi) to both gather the Qi in the Elixir Filed ( Danrian) and to guide the Qi to the extremities. Whereas the fast movements are more about the promotion of increasing the blood flow ( Essences) “Jing” and to develop a more cardiovascular workout for the individual, increasing their stamina and fitness levels.
In the accompanying photo Laoshi Keith Ewers is performing the Wild Goose Qigong posture “Flying over the sea” which is taken from the 1st 64 postnatal set and is part of the fast or vigorous movements that Laoshi Keith Ewers like to call the cardio workout. Because of its fast, vigorous actions it expels sickly Qi ( Bing qi) out of the body through the vibrating of the both arms and hands, releasing this sickly or turbid qi out through the energy cavity points on the finger tips and palms. While the both arms and hands are performing the ” Vibrating Hands” ( Chan Shou) the legs are also involved as the body weight is being gently rocked from front leg to back leg in a swaying action that stimulates the energy cavity points in the feet to draw Qi upwards into the body.
Wild Goose Qigong is an excellent exercise for improving health and wellbeing, irrespective of age or gender. It will differently help to maintain an individual’s strength and vigor well into their old age allowing them to live a full active lifestyle. Regular Wild Goose Qigong increases and maintains the individuals mobility and range of motion, strengthens their bones and concentration. It is properly the best form of natural therapy that anyone will come across to help them live a long life (Changming) and nourish their essences, energy and spirit.
The main fighting stance that a practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu should adopt to receive an aggressive encounter is usually the ” Snake Stance” Sher Shi) this particular stance is a six/four weight ration stance which is used by practitioners of the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers. This six/four stance allow the practitioner ease of mobility in any direction, plus the power or “Jing” is load like a spring in the rear leg ready to be released into the hands or feet to cause devastating damage to the opponent. Master Chee Soo would always advocate that the Snake fighting stance was a 50/50 weight ratio, but this means a double weighted posture that limits the practitioner ability to move and meet or evade an attack from any direction.
The front foot of the Snake fighting stance that is used in the LFIAA Daoist martial art points forwards, while the rear foot toes are pointing at a forty five degree inwRd angle. The weight is placed onto there at leg like a spring ready to be released, both knees are slightly bent and the hips are sunk. The torso is turned side on to protect the centreline or front door (Zhong Men), the rear hand is placed just below the sternum to protect the stomach and groin areas, while the front or leading hand is held slightly higher to protect the face. The eyes should be looking beyond the front hand at th opponent and your intention (Yi) should expand towards your opponent to connect to their energy to feel if they ar weak, or strong, in their manner. The torso should be upright, no leaning forwards or to the sides as this can limit your power within your defensive and offensive techniques.
The purpose of a good correct fighting stance is that it allows the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu practitioner to launch their defensive and offensive techniques from a strong base or foundation. It gives the practitioner the opportunity to move in any direction not just against a single attacker but also possibly from multiple attackers. The hand positions should be compact, giving little room for your opponent to attack into, the elbows should be bent, hanging downwards and tight against the body to protect the ribs, but mote importantly coiled like a spring to shoot fast, accurate strikes to any given target. Within The LFIAA Daoint internal martial arts taught b Laoshi Keith Ewers the hands and arms are used to protect the up and middle portions of the body, while the legs and feet ar used to protect th lower aspect of the body.
A particular good Snake fighting stance should place the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu practitioner with all of their weapons pointing towards the threatening opponent infront of themselves. The hands, elbows, shoulders, face, knees, and feet are directed towards the opponent ready to be used in a defensive or offensive method. Laoshi Keith Ewers also calls the Snake fighting stance the “Triple Stance” ( San Shi) meaning it should have an upper, middle and lower structure which connects to the Daoist three powers theory ( San Cai) of Heaven (Tian), Man (Ren) and Earth (Di).
Again within all of the different styles of Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigram Palms) the use of the “Swing Step Method” ( Bai Bu Fa) is widely used. In the practice of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang the Swing Step Method is used to perform an outward palm change, this is where the practitioner turns his back to the centre of the circle to change the direction that they wish to walk the circle, plus change the palm that points towards the centre of the circle.
Usually to perform the outward palm change (Nei Huan Zhang the practiitioner will take three steps to turn away from the centre of the circle and to rejoin it walking in the opposite direction. This particular footwork develop flexibility within the lower extremities of the hips, knees and ankle joints, it stretches the tendons and ligaments to increase the practitioners range of mobility. To apply the Swing Step Method means to open he joints which allows the blood to flow downwards into the feet, plus it opens the three Yin meridians on the inside of the legs and closes the three Yang meridians on the outside of the legs.
As for the use of self defence the Swing Step Method can be used to perform many types of kicking techniques such as Stomping, Stamping, Hooking, Scooping and Swinging aimed at the opponents lower limbs. It can also be used to apply joint locking techniques and throwing methods when coordinated with the upper palm techniques. When you combine the Swing Step and the Hooking Step methods of Bagua Zhang the practitioner has the ability to make endless amount of inward and outward changes, it allows the practitioner to evade and dodge placing themselves in a more advantageous position to counter attack.
The highest ability that any practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu can achieve in their skilful expression of this Daoist internal martial art is the fighting techniques of “Three Star Principle”. At one particular period of his teaching of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu Master Chee Soo rigorously taught the Three Star Fighting Techniques ( San Xing Fa) which showed how the practitioner could easily combine the many different elements of their Daoist martial art into practical, effective self defence methods to allow the practitioner to adapt and adjust to any situation and over come it.
The Three Star Principle of “Attack, Defend & Counter” is also connected to the Daoist theory of he three powers (San Bao) of Heaven (Tian), Man (Ren) and Earth (Di). It can also be associated with High (Shang), Middle (Zhong and Low (Xiao). The Three Star Principle can also be performed defensively or offensively in a Yin & Yang combinations of as many as ten thousand methods ( Wanwu). A simple method of the Three Star Principle in a Yin defensive aspect would be for your opponent to attack you either with a strike or kick, you simply dodge their attack using a particular evasive footwork method like the box step or clock face angled step that positions you in a very advantageous position to launch your own counter attack like a double palm pushing strike ( Shuang Zhang Da) to knock your opponent off balance giving you enough time to escape the violent situation.
Obviously the more skilful and proficient that you can become in your development of this Daoist internal martial art means that you can fully express your Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu by combining many elements of your art together against an aggressive opponent. For example your opponent strikes at you , you use a soft palm reflective ward off with a clock face evasion angled step to position you in a advantageous place where you then launch a fast poison hand hand striking combination followed up with lowlife kicking technique that sweeps your opponent off their feet throwing them heavily to the ground, where you then finish with a punishing joint locking technique. Within an instant you have expressed all of your years of studying and practicing this Daoist martial art to its most potent usage in a couple of seconds.
At the highest level of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu the practitioner should be able to spontaneuosly flow and adapt naturally using all aspects of their Daoist martial art with such natural ease and skill that they make it look easy, so totally relaxed and comfortable within themselves. Obviously to reach this level of proficiency takes each practitioner plenty of hours, days, weeks, months and years of dedicated practice. First thing is that you need is a good teacher who can demonstrate the Three Star Principle and show you multiple ways of putting your Daoist martial art together in wide vareity of fighting techniques, yin & yang theory, and fighting strategy to develop your skill to the highest standard.
Another stepping action that can be found in the many different styles of Bagua Zhang (The Eight Trigram Palms) and especially within the Sun Style Bagua Zhang is the “Hooking Step Method” (Kou Bu Fa). This is where the practitioner basically points the toes of each foot towards each other to form a letter “V” this particular stepping action allows the Sun Style Bagua Zhang practitioner to perform an inward palm change ( Zhang Huan)of”of, an inward palm change means that the practitioner while walking around the circle decides thatt they want to change direction, so they perform the inward Palm change turning to face the centre of the circle and then walk in the opposite direction.
Performing the “Hooking Step Method” ( Kou Bu Fa) closes the hip, knee and ankle joints which slows down the circulation of blood flow into the legs, once the practitioner opens their joints to change direction a flushing effect of blood is released into the feet. Also because of the Kou Bu Step the three Yin meridians on the inside of the legs are closed meaning that the Qi is slowed down, but once the practioner decides to move off in the opposite direction the meridians then get dredged clean with a strong flow of Qi into the feet. So you can see that the opening and closing actions of the legs and feet can control the flow of both blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) into the lower extremities allowing the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints to become strong and healthy.
As an internal martial art Sun Style Bagua Zhang when performing the ” Hooking Step Method” (Kou Bu Fa) can be used to perform many types of kicking techniques like stomping, stamping, hooking, scooping, swinging methods which are usually targeted at the opponents lower limbs. The Hooking Step Method can also be used to apply joint locking techniques on the opponents lower limbs joints to hinder they ability to move. In conjunction with the upper palm techniques of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang and in coordination with the Kou Bu stepping method the practitioner has many practical and effective fighting techniques at their disposal.
The one thing that has totally captured my attention within the practice of Bagua Zhang in general is its ability to perform tight turning, twisting actions of the whole body in conjunction with fast palm striking techniques and hidden kicking methods. All this is to be found in its elusive stepping actions of fast inward and outward stepping actions that allows the Bagua Zhang practitioner to end up completely behind the opponent or to turn their back and deliver effective strikes, kicks and throws that appear from nothingness.
As the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu has its origins within Daoism, then it is obvious that this internal martial art (Neijiaquan) involves all of the Daoist symbolises to help give the practitioner a better understanding and knowledge on how best to skilfully use this internal martial art for both health, energy cultivation and self defence. The symbolism of the “Cloud Dragon and Wind Tiger” is just another repensentation of Yin & Yang, as the Cloud Dragon (Yun Long) represents the receptive or (Yin) energy and the Wind Tiger ( Feng Hu) represent the creative or (Yang) energy.
My teacher Master Chee Soo once told me that Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu has two sides to its practice and usage. In its defensive aspect it should be soft, yielding and evasive, but in its offensive aspect it should be hard, strong and powerful. The real skill comes in being able to naturally balance the two forces together, so that the practitioner can suddenly turn soft into hard and vice-versa within a blink of an eye, constantly changing and adapting to overcome the situation infront of you. So the aim of each practitioner is to resemble the coliing, twisting, elusive Cloud Dragon in your defencsive techniques and use fast, powerful and strong actions of the Wind Tiger in your offensive techniques, hence symbolising the balance of Yin & Yang within your Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu.
It will take each practitioner a longtime of study and practice before they can get to grips with being able to balance soft and hard techniques naturally. Master Chee Soo would literally teach students the Yin side of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu for many years until he felt that they had a better understanding of using softness. For example he would teach more deflective ward offs that aimed to knock your opponent off balance both from a punch or kick attack, he would also teach evasive footwork without the emphasis of strong counter attacks. Practicing seizing and grasping (Qinna) techniques he would not use any intention to break the joint, but rather subdue and immobilise the opponent. Whereas the Yang side of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu would involve hard limb destructive strikes or blocks against a punch or kick, three star principle was always emphasised in that once you made a defensive action that you followed it up with. Series of hard and powerful counter attacks which could include a combination of powerful striking and kicking techniques to a fast and destructive joint lock to a throw.
Sadly within the last ten years of his life Master Chee Soo wished only to teach the Yin side of this fascinating Daoist internal martial art. Which ment that a whole generation of students never got to actually see him perform or practice it themselves the Wind Tiger Yang side of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system, leaving them to just continue with their practice of the Cloud Dragon Yin aspect of this Daoist internal martial art. It is not until each practitioner has learnt both the Yin Cloud Dragon and Yang Wind Tiger aspects of this Daoist internal martial art that they can truly say that they practice a balanced Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system.
There are many styles of Bagua Zhang (Eight TrigrM Palms) and each has its method of walking the circle which Bagua Zhang is famous for. Many styles advocate the usage of the “Mud Wading Step” (Tang Ni Bu) which places the whole of the sole of the foot onto the ground, pointing the toes. But other styles like the Sun Style Bagua Zhang use the “Natural Stepping Method” ( Zi Ran Bu) which places the foot onto the ground using a heel/toe stepping action, which some Bagua Zhang styles calling the “Rolling Step” (Gun Bu) or the “Tiger Step” ( Hu Bu).
There are many benefits to using the Mud Wading Step as it strengthens the legs as the body weight sinks downwards more as the individual lowers their pelvis, which also gently stretches the spinal column. But as for martial art usage it is not as fast as the Natural Step. The Natural Step allows the Sun Style Bagua Zhang practitioner to quickly move around the circle using the actions of rising, lowering, opening and closing of the lower extremities joints, Master Sun Lutang who created the Sun Style Bagua Zhang was famous for how fast he could walk the circle and would always encourage his students to walk the circle faster.
As for using the Natural Stepping Method in the practice of Bagua Zhang to develop health and wellbeing, there are primary three levels or basins that one should practice. For beginners and the more elderly student then they start with the upper level, which is simply like walking the circle as if taking a gentle stroll down a road the body is upright and the centre of gravity is high. Whereas the middle level is where the both knees are bent deeply and the hips and pelvis sink downwards,more, so that you can feel your both legs are carrying the weight of the body. It is this particular middle level that many Sun Style Bagua Zhang students remain in their practice, as it develops a strong flow of blood throughout the whole body and of cause as the student learns to walk the circle more they cultivate more energy (Qi), plus they connect their mind and body together. The third level is the most strenuous as it involves the student bending their knees deeply and lowering their body as close to the ground as possible placing a great amount of body weight onto each leg while the student walks around in a circle. Obviously this lower level strengthens and works the legs and cardiovascular system to the maximum which improves health and wellbeing.
One of the most important attributes for any practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfuis the ability to listen (Ting Jin) through the sense of touch . The Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that was passed onto myself by Master Chee Soo was based upon practical fighting methods, he would always mention that ” It is no good reading a poem to a fencing master” meaning words are useless if you cannot back it up. It was always emphasised that you must become proficient at being able to skilfully apply your fighting techniques within the four ranges of striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing.
The Rolling Hands exercise (Gun Shou Fa) is there to develop the Original Feng Shou Quan practitioner ability to Attach (Nian), Adhere (Zhan), Connect (Lian) and Following (Sui) as soon as contact is made between you and your opponent. This immediately gives you the chance to read, sense your opponents intention before they actually put them into action, allowing you to quickly adjust and adapt your defensive and counter attacking techniques to their fully effective use. The more variety of training partners that you can practice your Rolling Hands exercise with will greatly benefit your skill in being able to feel each in individuals intent and raise your skill to a high standard.
Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers we call the sensitivity exercise “Rolling Hands”, but Master Chee Soo would call it by another name of “Whirling Arms” (Lun Bei) other internal martial art teaches also call it by “Soft Hands” (Rou Shou). For any practitioner to not learn and develop their ability to listen (Ting Jin) would greatly lack a very important tool to help them become more skilful within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu.
Learning to Attach (Nian) means to intercepts the opponents in-coming attacking limb by using a soft deflective type of ward off that allows you to attach and stick to it. Adhereing (Zhan) means to remain in contact and not to become separated, Connecting (Lian) means to fully connect and sense your opponents intent and remain stuck to their limb, whereas Following (Sui) means to literally follow your opponent in which ever direction they may move to, for example if they choose to move towards you, you must move awY, but still remaining in contact not to become separated. To be able to aply this particular type of skill takes plenty of days, weeks and years of regular practice, but it is so important to take your proficiency and skill to another level.
The Chinese internal martial art of ” Eight Trigram Palms” (Baguazhang) develops each individual’s flexibility not by practicing stretching exercises, but through its relaxed, flowing , twisting, spiralling movements that are found within all of its forms and are well aligned. Through correct alignment and keeping the whole body relaxed Baguazhang will gradually develop the individuals joint, tendon, muscle flexibility,increasing the individuals range of mobility, through its twisting and spiralling of the torso the spinal column and muscle of the back and rib cage are gently stretched, releasing muscle tension and jont stiffness which speeds up the over-al feeling of relaxation in the individual.
Within the performance of Baguazhang there is a very famous exercise practiced which is called ” Serving Tea Cups” this particular exercise was made famous by the originator of Baguazhang Master Dong Hai Quan who was working for the Emperor of China serving people with food and drink at an event with loads of people there. It was through his practice of baguazhang’s skilful footwork and the serving tea cup actions that allowed Dong Hai Quan to weave easily through the crowds of people with such ease that he became noticed by the Emperor. The “Serving Tea Cup” actions of Baguazhang are performed by using the hands and arms in a coiling, twisting , spiralling action that develops flexibility in the shoulder joints and stretches the tendons of the arms which increases both blood (Xue) and energy (Qi)flow into the extremities. The Serving Tea Cup actions of the hands and arms should be then connected to the waist and legs, so that the whole body is fully intergrated and connected together as a whole.
The stepping actions of Baguazhang footwork like the ” Hook Step” ( Kou Bu) and the “Swing Step” ( Bai Bu) which are used in Baguazhang forms allows the individual to develop their hips, knee and ankle joint flexibility, again increasing their range of mobility within their lower extremities to produce greater blood and energy circulation into the feet and legs. Not only does the opening, closing, twisting,rotating, coiling of the whole body develops natural flexibility within the Baguazhang practitioner , it also develops strength.
Through the constant fascial twisting that occurs in Baguazhang movements develops a refined strength. This is because it’s like weaving and combining several strands of rope together to create a stronger unified object. Coiling and spiralling movements develop a kind of tensile strength that resists being compressed and equally distributes the strength throughout the whole body.