One of my teachers once told me that as a student of the Daoist health maintenance arts ( Yangsheng Shu) and martial arts (Neijiaquan) you must first discipline the physical, this in turn will gradually help towards the individual being able to discipline their mental and spiritual qualities. At first the student must learn to sink their energy (Qi) within their lower elixir field (Yi Shou Dantian) to gather and cultivate their energy to strengthen heir health, vitality and wellbeing. Then through the practice of taijiquan, daoyin or meditation ( Zou Wang) their should begin to learn how to use their mind (Yi) to lead and guide their (Qi) throughout the entire body.
It is very difficult for the mind’s intent (Yi) to penertrate deep inside the body and connect to the energy (Qi) and especially so, if the individuals body is tense, rigid and hard. It is vitally important that individuals learn how to become fully relaxed (Song) within their practice, as the mind’s intent (Yi) can easily then penertrate inside their bodies and connect to their energy (Qi) to guide and lead it around the whole body. Gradually the more the student develops their concentration the more they will use it to guide their qi while practicing their taijiquan form or daoyin/qigong exercises.
At first the student performs their movements slowly, coordinating their body (Shen), breathing (Xi) and concentration (Yi). But more and more the mind’s intent (Yi) begins to take control in connecting with their energy (Qi) as it grows In strength , so that ultimately the mind (Yi) becomes the driving force within in every action that you perform not just within your practice, but within everything you do in your normal daily life. As your mind’s intent (Yi) grows in it strength to guide and lead (Daoyin) the energy (Qi) within your actions, each person will begin to tangibly feel the movement of their energy as it travels throughout their entire bodies,sensations like heat, tingling, fullness, heaviness and even movement will gradually be felt in time.
As the individuals mind intent (Yi) grows in its strength they will be able to connect and control their energy (Qi) much more quickly and will be able to control the quantity of energy (Qi) that is needed at any given time. For example as an health and wellbeing exercise the individuals energy flow must be smooth,constant and balanced. Whereas, within the martial art usage it must be produced fast, repeatedly and powerfully into each extremities when and where needed to be combined and transformed into intrinsic energy (Jing) for which all Daoist internal martial arts must produce.
There are many individuals who practice taijiquan as an health and wellbeing exercise. But do not understand that it is also an internal martial art style as well, and that all of the postures follow the same guidelines to help improve each individual’s blood (Xue), energy (Qi) flow throughout the whole body to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing. Another reason why the taijiquan postures follow certain guidelines is for the individual to be able to store and harness the strength/power (Jing) within certain areas of the body which we call in taijiquan as the “Five Bows” (Wu Gong) also known as the Five Bends.
The “Five Bows” are the two arms and legs, plus the spinal column. Within the practice of taijiquan individuals are taught to never fully extend or straighten their limbs by locking their elbows or knees, as this can cause the individual to become tense, stiff and rigid making them feel hard and heavy in their movement, rather than being soft and light. The locking of the joints, especially the elbows and knees can cause the blood and qi to become stagnant and stuck affecting the individuals vitality levels and general health.
Sadly, not to many individuals are aware of using their back muscles and spinal column within their taijiquan movements. Some keep their backs very stiff and do not try and link their spine with the rest of heir movements. In taijiquan the spine can gather a tremendous amount of (Jing) power to be released quickly to add strength and force to the individuals over-al actions. Allowing the spine to become supple and soft helps the taijiquan individual to have a greater sense of mobility and the spine becomes the bow string and the arms,hands become the arrows.
A classic saying of taijiquan is to “Seek the straight within the curve” which is another way of seeking how to store the power (Jing) within the bent,curved or bows of the body. Obviously those individuals who practice taijiquan for health and wellbeing need not be concerned about the storing and issuing of (Jing) through the opening (Kai) and closing (He) of the five bows of the body. But if you are some one who practices taijiquan pushing hands exercise ( Tuishou) then it is important that each individual fully understands how to release their (Jing) through the actions of the five bows (Wu Gong).
Within the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu there are a numerous amount of seizing and grasping ( Qin Na) techniques that are taught and practiced by all students of this Daoist internal martial art. Properly one of the most easiest of joint locking techniques to perform is the ability to manipulate the elbow ( Zhou) in a variety of arm locking methods that can be applied either in a straight or bent arm position. Students in the Original Feng Shou-Gongfu system of the LFIAA are taught to apply fast, practical and effective arm locks from grips and holds, punches from various angles were the opponent fully extends their arm when striking, or from a bent arm position when the opponent is contracting their arm.
Because the elbow is the middle joint of the arm to an extent it is properly the easiest joint to attack with Qin Na techniques, as it moves slower than the hand, so it is easier to attack it with various Qin Na techniques that can cause serious damage by “Mis-placing the bone” (Cuo Gu). Practicing either a straight or bent arm locking technique can also be combined with other joint locks like that of the fingers (Zhi) or wrists (Wan) to be used to fully subdue or immobilise the opponent into submission.
Obviously any Qin Na technique like arm locks must be applied quickly, crisply, suddenly and powerfully without letting the opponent know, it should be a total surprise to the opponent that catches them off balance. Once the arm lock as been applied the student must quickly decide to either subdue and control the opponent. Or due to the aggressive intent of the opponent break their joint using a short, fast jerking action with plenty of “Power” (Jing) behind your technique. Against an aggressive opponent who is fully committed to causing you serious harm,breaking their arm can immediately bring the confrontation to a quick and painful end.
A skilled practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu is taught to use various parts of their body to apply many types of arm locking techniques,not just simply using the hands. For example they can use their shoulders, torso or even their knee to apply an effective joint locking arm technique.
When you first start practicing the many Taiji Qigong exercises that the LFIAA teach to help with the maintenance of good health and wellbeing. At first you will notice that your breathing is vary shallow, tight and forced which means that the tempo of your Taiji Qigong movements are also fast. As breathing is truly the master of humans, it is important for our health that we then learn how to breath correctly. Our lungs are made up of many tiny air sacs that all expand when we draw air into the lungs, sadly many areas of our lungs do not get fully exercised, which can leave us suffering witn a lack of vitality due to shortness of breath.
Through the co-ordination of a variety of arm movements and correct breathing the student will gradually develop their own ability to breath deeply into their lungs. The movement of the arms in the practice of Taiji Qigong will help to activate the muscles both on the outside, surrounding the lungs and as well as invigorating the internal muscles that allow the lungs to expand and contract. One such aspect is to allow the breath to expand into the back muscles like the Lattissimus Dorsi muscle on either side of the back, when the student performs any of the Taiji Qigong exercise where the both arms are lifted together or in a singular method above the head the back muscles will come into play and with the intention of breathing deeply into the lungs like filling a balloon. The whole body will expand and allow the qi to spread and fill the entire body, obviously when the student exhales and slowly contracts the lungs the whole body will shrink and relax.
It can take many weeks, months and years to gradually develop the ability to breath deeply into the lungs, allowing them to expand and fill all of the many chambers or sections that make up the lungs. To many individuals take breathing for granted and sadly suffer from weak lungs which can cause I’ll Heath like asthma, heart attacks, palpitations etc. Through the regular practice of Taiji Qigong each individual will in time be able to breath longer which will develop their vitality, stamina, concentration levels and of cause health.
Taiji Qigong teaches the student to develop a better sense of breath control, lengthening their breathing and the ability to direct their breath to the front, back or sides of their lungs. To many at first can only breath into the top half of their lungs making them have a shallower breathing method, but after practicing some Taiji Qigong exercises they will be able to breath much deeper into the bottom of their lungs, gradually their will be able learn how to breath into the sides of the body to activate the Latissimus Dorsi muscles, some times called the “Wings” as seen in the picture that a company’s this blog.
In a recent blog I mentioned about how to use the Staff (Gun) to disarm an opponent who is also holding a Staff. I spoke about two methods of using the Staff to disarm, one was how to use either end of your Staff to coil around your opponents limbs, mainly their wrists ( Wan) and elbows (Zhou) to force them to release their hold on their Staff. Another method was simply to use your own Staff to strike your opponents hands or arms to release their hold and damage them at the same time. Yet another method of using the Staff to apply a disarm is what we call the “Sliding Technique” (Gun Hua Dong Xie) these particular Staff disarms can be performed from any defensive or offensive technique and are very fast in their application.
Let’s assume that your opponent is using his Staff to chop horizontally towards your head from your right side, you perform a high corner block to your right side using the front end of your Staff, but instead of knocking his Staff away from you, you remain incontact with his Staff by using your adhere/stick energy (Zhan Nian Jin). You then quickly use the blocking end of your Staff to slide down your opponents Staff to strike his lead hand forcing him or her to release their hold on their own weapon. It is very important that you immediately follow up with a series of strikes to their head or body.
Another example of a sliding disarm technique is when you perform a downward chopping strike with your Staff to your opponents head, forcing him or her to perform a horizontal roof block with their Staff. You them try and remain incontact with your Staff with your opponents once you have forced them to block, you then quickly can slide your Staff side wards to hit and strike your opponents both hands forcing them to release their hold on their Staff disarming them.
Obviously, at anytime your opponent could use a Staff sliding disarm against you, so it is important that you learn how to counter their efforts, because it can happen so quickly the only defence you have against it is to develop your ability to feel through your Staff using your adhere/stick (Zhan Nian Jin) skill, which will allow you to feel and respond to their attempts to use the Staff sliding disarm technique.
There are three main evasive sets that are taught within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to students, these are the Clock Face Eight Direction Stepping ( Zhong Mian Ba Gen Bu), Box Steps Evasions ( Xiang Bu) and the Five Lotus Petal Evasion Sets ( Wu Hua Ban Fa). The Five Lotus Petal Evasions teach the student to move individual parts of their whole body that the opponents strike or kicks are aimed at. For example if your opponent decides to aim a strike or kick targeted at your stomach the student would either swing their hips out to either side or to draw their hips backwards away from the on-coming blow to evade it.
The Five Lotus Petal Evasion Sets gets its name from the five areas of the body being used to evade and dodge from your opponents attacks. (1). The head is moved to dodge a blow by simply slipping the head to either side, very similar to the way a boxer would slip a punch over their shoulder, (2). The chest is moved by turning to either side from a strike, allowing the strike to pass infront of the chest or behind the back, (3). The hips can be moved to evade a low punch by slipping them out to either side or by drawing them back, (4). The legs can also be moved out to either side or picked up to evade a lowline kick attack (5). Lastly, the whole body can be moved by side stepping out to the right or left sides in a variety of ways which include facing the opponent or turning the back on the opponent.
Primarily the Five Lotus Petal Evasions teaches the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu student to move various parts of their body using a natural reflex or responsive manner, where the attacker throws a very fast punch or kick and you must quickly respond by moving the part of the body the punch is aimed at out of its path in a reflex action. Obviously you can use your hands to block or deflect the punch in combination with your Five Lotus Petal Evasions. The ultimate aim of all students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu is to be able to develop a natural skill in being able to combine their defensive ward offs and evasions like the Five Lotus Petal Evasions alongside their offensive striking, kicking and joint locking, throwing techniques in a practical and effective way.
Has I have already mentioned, some times it is more effective to simply move the head to either side to slip the punch over your shoulder just like a boxer would do, than moving the whole body out of the way. By rolling the head to the side to evade the opponents punch, allows you to remain close to your opponent and enables you to respond back with a variety of counter attacks. Once the student has learnt how to move various parts of their body to evade for which the practice of the Five Lotus Petal teaches us to, the next stage is to add simultaneous ward offs, strikes and kicks in combination with these individual body evasions.
Another method of learning how to apply practical, fast and effective methods of “Seizing & Grasping Techniques” ( Qin Na Fa) to subdue, immobilise or even seriously injure your opponent is through the techniques of ” Dividing the Tendons” ( Fen Jin). These particular techniques cause tremendous pain on the opponent and can easily render them helpless in seconds,leaving them open to any follow up strike or kick, the dividing the tendons Qin Na techniques are very easy to apply,a lot more easier than trying to place a wrist or arm lock on. In actual fact both dividing the tendons and mis-placing the bones (Joint Locksj can be combined together to inflict serious damage on your opponent.
It is important that the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu must learn to strengthen their fingers if they wish to become skilful in the application of Dividing the Tendon techniques. This can be achieved by practicing some simple exercises like squeezing a squash ball in each hand to strengthen the students own tendons and fingers to develop a strong grasp, another exercise is to tie one end of cord to a piece of wood about to six inches in length the other end of the cord to a 5lb weight. Hold the wooden handle in both hands and gradually wind the cord around the wooden handle to lift the 5lb weight, then slowly lower the weight back onto the floor by using your both hands to slowly unwind the cord. Practicing this exercises in a few repetitions which greatly strengthen your grip.
Within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Master Chee Soo there are two hand techniques that are taught to each student to seize and grasp the tendons and muscles, these are the Eagle Claw hand method (Ying Zhua Fa) which uses the fingers to tear and grasp and the Tigers Claw hand method (Hu Zhua Fa) which involves the heel of the palm and four fingers to tear and grasp the muscles or tendons. When I was first taught some of the Dividing the Tendon techniques I can honestly tell you that you would not go back for a second try as they were very painful and effective, especially the areas of the inner thigh, trap muscles, pectoral muscle/tendon and the hip muscles they are all very painful areas to have grasped and torn.
A common practice among practitioners of taijiquan and baguazhang for the cultivation and circulation of the blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) throughout the whole body for the maintenance of good health and wellbeing is the practice of taiji ball qigong exercises ( Taiji qiu qigong fa). Using various size wooden balls the taiji or bagua practitioner performs a variety of exercises that can be practiced as a static, swaying or walking set of exercises that helps to improve the practitioners balance, co-ordination and concentration. Each of the many taiji ball qigong exercises all involve the use of the Legs (Bu), Hands (Shou), Body (Shen), Eyes ( Yan) and breathing (Qi Xi).
Practicing the taiji ball qigong exercises alongside the practice of your taijiquan or baguazhang forms gives the practitioner many options to continue their solo training and help improve their over-al techniques. Using the taiji wooden ball allows the taiji or bagua practitioner to strengthen their tendons, ligaments and tone their muscles, it can help to improve flexibility within the spinal column and waist that allows the practitioner to fully develop an intergrated, unified body and mind that can produce strength and power into their actions.
Taiji ball qigong training is a good addition to anyone’s practice as it gives each individual another alternative to their own solo practice. Not only will it help to cultivate strong internal energy or a strong physical body and mind. It will also greatly improve the taiji practitioners sensitivity through skilful contact and manipulation of the taiji ball, for example in the practice of taijiquan there is the two-person exercise called “Pushing Hands” (Tuishou) which aims to develop eech taiji practitioners ability to feel and listen through their sense of touch, to be able to adhere/stick (Zhan/Nian Jin) and listen (Ting Jin) by being in contact with a training partner. Practicing taiji ball qigong exercises will also develop the practitioners ability to adhere/stick and listening skills.
A typical taiji ball qigong exercise involves the taiji practitioner holding the ball with both hands and begins to draw an horizontal circle at waist height moving in a clockwise direction for a series of rotations and then changing the direction for the same number of repetitions. Breathing inwards when the ball comes towards the body and breathing outwards when the ball moves away from the body. As the ball is moved around in an horizontal circle the both hands palms and fingers gently squeeze against the ball, each hand takes it in turn to become the dominant (Yang) and passive (Yin) hand which develops good qi flow into the arms, hands and fingers and develops both the adhere/stick and listening skills.
Alongside the practice of striking and blocking with the Staff (Gun) a practitioner must also learn how to disarm their opponents staff. Disarms in the practice of using the staff can include striking either one or both of the opponents hands or arms forcing them to drop their weapon, this is properly the most easiest and faster method of disarming an opponent. Staff disarms also involve learning to coil your staff around your opponents wrists or elbows again forcing them to release their hold o their staff, learning to skilfully use your own staff to coil around your opponents limbs ca also lead to applying joint locking techniques (Qin Na Fa) on your opponent.
Obviously, to apply any staff disarming technique like using your staff to coil or wrap around your opponents limbs takes plenty of skill, as the practitioner needs to develop a high level of ability in there Adhereing and sticking skill (Zhan/Nian) when using the staff. They also need to be accurate, precise and their timing has to be spot on. A great training method that my teacher Master Chee Soo would teach for learning how to develop the ability to adhere/stick and listen skills (Ting Jing) and to practice the many disarming techniques was the “Pushing Staff Exercise” ( Tui Gun Fa). This exercise would be practiced in a stationary and moving step method.
To effectively apply any staff disarming technique must be practiced from a defensive or offensive method. The defensive method of disarming must be applied from a defensive block,this is properly the easiest method of learning how to use disarms, as your opponent is aggressively closing the distance between you and them, which means their upper limbs are much closer for you to use a sliding strike to their leading hand or arm. Plus you can use either end of your staff to coil around your opponents wrists or elbows to apply various joint locks. It it much more differcult to apply a disarm from an offensive technique, unless you can close the gap using your footwork to enable your staff to remain in contact with your opponents staff, so that you can then Colin around their upper limbs to force them to release their weapon.
A disarm is only effective as long as the practitioner immediately follows up with a strike, using their own staff to thrust, chop or smash the opponent anywhere on their body to finish the fight. A good disarm creates an opportunity in the opponents defense for the practitioner to attack into. It is important that when learning how to skilfully apply staff disarms that they are also practiced with a series of follow up strikes. The most skilfull method of disarming is to apply any type of joint lock, as it must be performed fast, strongly and accurately, not giving your opponent any chance of escaping.
Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers. Each student has to learn and practice the “Eight Standing Post Energy Exercises” ( Ba Zhan Zhuang Qigong), externally each particular posture or exercise will stretch the students joints, tendon, ligaments and muscles to develop a pliant, supple body. They will also strengthen the students body especially their tendon, ligaments and bone strength as they are taught to the hold a particular posture for a long duration, which means learning to hold a posture with most of the body weight being simply transferred onto one leg and the arms held out at various angles and heights.
Internally, each student has to learn how to develop a calm and focused mind, this is really important as the student has to learn how to use their mind (Yi) to lead their energy (Qi) through the small and large heavenly circle. Within the practice of the Eight Standing Post Qigong exercises Laoshi Keith Ewers breaks down the teaching of the circulating and mobilising of the qi through various channels and meridians into three training practices. It is important that a student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu skilfully learns and achieves the ability to flow their qi into their extremities by using their mind to lead the energy (Yi Yi Yin Qi). The Eight Standing Post Qigong teaches the student to achieve this ability to enable their defensive and offensive martial techniques.
Practicing the Eight Standing Post Qigong involves breathing, concentration and postures, it combines the external (Wai Gong)with the internal ( Nei Gong) to develop strength, vitality, health and wellbeing. Each student first learns each of the Eight Standing Post postures in an orthodox method making sure to practice them on both sides of their body. The next stage is then to hold each posture, but to then use their mind and breath to lead the qi around the torso into the both arms to the centre of the palms ( Laogong Points) and finger tips, plus to guide the qi down the outside of the legs into the feet, where they then focus on their ( Yongquan Points) and guide the qi back to the lower elixir field (Xia Dantian).
Once the student is able to skilfully use their mind to lead and guide their qi around their body and into their extremities, they can then mix up their Eight Standing Post Qigong postures into an unorthodox practice. But without developing the skill to use the mind to the lead the qi, then the practice of the Eight Standing Post Qigong exercises are just an empty practice that is mainly external (Wai Gong). But if you are practicing an internal martial art then you must make sure you achieve the internal ( Nei Gong) development.