When students begin there study and practice of Taiji Qigong many concentrate upon obviously learning and remembering the movements at first, then they will concentrate upon learning to combine their breathing with the movements, some will then go onto opening and closing of the joints. But very few will concentrate upon stretching their tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments when practicing any of their Taiji Qigong exercises.the stretching of the skin tissue can be performed in two directions both moving outwards towards the fingers and toes and backwards towards the torso. Learning to stretch the skin tissue and muscles is a subtle layer within the practice of Taiji Qigong to help increase the smoothl flow the qi through the acupuncture channels, collaterals and meridians.
When practicing the Taiji Qigong exercise of “Lifting the Ball” (Ju Qiu Gong Fa) with the right arm/hand start to gently stretch the skin tissue, muscles and tendons of the right foot, calf, back of thighs, the bottom, lower and upper back, right shoulder, bicep,forearms into the hand gradually lengthening your reach from the bottom to the top. Then allow the skin tissue and muscles to gently stretch back towards the torso moving from top back towards the bottom, then repeat on theopposite side of the body.
As I have already mentioned above the stretching of the skin tissue, muscles and tendons is a subtle layer and obviously should be practiced and combined with the other layers such as opening and closing the joints, opening and closing the qi cavities (Qixue). All these subtle layers need to be practiced and combined together to allow the outside physical actions of your Taiji Qigong exercise to connect and work the inside of the body,meaning the gentle massaging of the internal organs (Zangfu) to maintain and improve their functioning towards strengthening our health and wellbeing.
The practice of Taiji Qigong becomes a very powerful exercise tool towards maintaining health and slowing down the aging process, especially when the student begins to combine all of the subtle layers that make up each Taiji Qigong exercise to allow the student to connect their outside actions to penertrate deeply to the insides of their body by being able to move the bodily fluid like the lymphatic fluid, blood, synovial fluid and the spinal fluid. In traditional Chinese medicine this is considered the essences or (Jing) which must then combine with the qi.
For students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu training with various weapons helps to improve their fighting awareness of being able to practically change and adapt their fighting techniques to overcome any situation infront of themselves. Students under the guidance of Laoshi Keith Ewers begin their weapon training with the Staff (Gun) which includes basic Staff striking and blocking exercises, disarms, joint locking, throws and form practice. Practicing with the Staff is all about controlling the distance between yourself and your opponent for your Staff to be used at its best protential usage, this means that the student must also apply skilful footwork to evade the opponents attacks, plus to place them inan advantagous position to counter attack from.
The individual basic Staff ( Jiben Gun Fa)practice of stance work, footwork, striking, blocking etc must all come together into one exercise that allows the students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to develop their ability to become skilful in their ability to react, time,change and adapt their fighting techniques to the opponent infront of themselves to be allowed to fully find and express their art. Under the instruction of Laoshi Keith Ewers Students are taught the Staff Rollaways Eight Directional Stepping exercise which allows them to bring various elements of their internal martial art together and build their confidence in being able to use it.
Practicing the Staff Rollaways exercise also allows each student to become aware of controlling the space between each other to fully use the Staff both defensively and offensively. All parts of the Staff are used as the student skilfully allows the Staff to pass through the hands smoothly remaining in contact with it at all times using either end of the Staff to attack with at various angles in single or multiple attacks, including feints to draw a response from the opponent to open up their defence,were the student can then take advantage of.
My teacher Master Chee Soo used to say that Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu was a thinking mans art meaning that there is a tremendous amount of strategy that each individual must be made aware off,simply repeating the same movements or actions are not going to work against an experienced fighter, as he can lure the an suspecting student into many traps to over power them. The Staff Rollaways exercise is like a big game of Chess were each student is trying to use their footwork to position themselves in the best position to attack from, sometimes the student is thinking of setting the opponent up in three movements ahead, if this does not happen he must then change and adapt again.
As individuals begin to practice and study the Wild Goose Qigong (Dayan Gong) 128 posture form many will begin to refining their actions and improve the connection of the whole body transforming their Wild Goose Qigong practice to a much deeper level. Obviously for some individuals it can take a very longtime before they can understand how to refine and improve their skill , Wild Goose Qigong practice involves both passive and vigorous movements, dynamic stretching, breathing methods and pressing qi cavity’s (Dian Xue) methods.
Many individuals simply concentrate on moving from one posture to another trying to maintain an even flow of movement, rather than connecting the energy points of the feet with the energy points of the hands, so that the activation and circulation of the vital energy (Qi) is stimulated throughout the whole body. Through the correct use of manipulating the body weight an individual can activate the energy points on the toes and especially the “Bubbling Spring Yongquan point” located on the ball of the foot as well as the qi points on the heels of both feet to allow the qi to travel upwards and downwards through the acupuncture meridians and channels (Jingluo) of the legs gathering the Yin earth energy into the body. Whereas, the qi points of the arms and hands gather in the Yang Heaven energy into the body were both energies are then alchemically transformed together to help nourish, repair and strengthen the functioning of the internal organs (Zangfu) to boost our health and wellbeing.
Combining breathing to the passive, slow actions of the Wild Goose Qigong will again enhance the sensation of energy to be pushed and pulled throughout the whole body,especially as both the hands and feet will also manipulate the qi points located on the extremities to connect the upper and lower portions of the body together in a much more powerful unit. By the individual becoming more aware of how to stimulate the energy points of the upper and lower body in their practice of the Wild Goose Qigong form will transform and deepen their practice to another level.
For those individuals who are interested in Daoist Meditation the practice of the twenty four seasonal sitting daoyin (Guiding & Leading Exercises) are an excellent complimentary practice that can be performed either leading towards the individual begining to sit and meditate or performed after they sit. As there are four seasons Spring, Summer, Autum and Winter there are six daoyin exercises for each season, which means that has each season runs over a period of three months allowing the individual to practice two seasonal sitting daoyin exercises each month, which coincide with the phases of the new moon each month.
At the time of writing this blog we are in the last month of Spring (May) and Spring coincides with the internal organ of the Liver and the individual uses these seasonal sitting daoyin exercises to help repair, nourish and strengthen their Liver. As well as cultivating and circulating their energy (Qi) to boost their health and wellbeing. These seasonal sitting daoyin exercises all involve various breathing methods, arm and leg movements and self massage techniques on the various acupuncture points (Qixue) and meridians (Jingluo) to stimulate the smooth flow of qi unhindered to nourish the internal organs (Zangfu).
Practicing any of the seasonal sitting daoyin exercises before you begin to meditate can quickly place you in the correct frame of mind, relaxing both the body and mind and stimulating the flow of blood and energy around the whole body. If you decide to meditate first and practice any of the seasonal sitting daoyin exercises afterwards,then they can be used stimulate the senses to wake the whole body up from a long period of sitting meditation practice. The seasonal sitting daoyin exercises can also be practiced separately on their own as a method of attaining good health and wellbeing by strengthening, nourishing and repairing the functioning of each internal organ as each season passes.
Summertime is the season of the “Red Phoenix” and it is quickly approaching and it will be the time of strengthening, nourishing and repairing the “Heart” through the six seasonal sitting daoyin exercises that are performed during the summer months.
For the many individuals who are practicing and studying a particular style of tFeng Shou-Gongfu no doubt you have come into contact with the Poison Hand Striking Sets. Hopefully you are being taught how to use these striking sets in combination with other areas of the Feng Shou-Gongfu system like kicking and the soft & hard ward offs and blocks for example. If you are being taught how to use the poison hand striking sets as a practical and effective fighting method, rather than just practicing them in their rigid form structure which mainly only allows the student to use these rigid poison hand sets facing each other. The whole purpose of Feng Shou-Gongfu is to be able to attack your opponent from any angle from either side, the rear and of cause the front, which means that the Poison Hand Striking Sets must also be able to work effectively from any angle.
For example if you have managed to position yourself behind your opponent and was going to use a particular Poison Hand Striking Set to attack with, what particular striking set would you decide to use? Would you use the first Poison Hand Striking Set, properly not as the opponents back is to hard for finger spear strikes, you would end up damaging your own hands instead of your opponent. So what actual Poison Hand Striking Set would work , lets say Poison Hand Striking Set four, five and six as long as you vary the strikes from different heights to attack the opponent ribs, kidneys and spinal column.
Simply learning and practicing the Poison Hand Striking Sets within their rigid form like structure will not teach the student of Feng Shou-Gongfu to be able to change,adapt and overcome to any situation. This will only happen if the student begins to combine the Poison Hand Strikes out of each particular set with each other, plus to then combine them with various soft and hard wards offs and blocks, other than the arm ward off that is used within most of the Striking sets. Obviously you can then combine the Poison Hand Striking Sets with kicks, joint locks and throwing techniques, it is only by learning to combine and connect others areas of your Feng Shou-Gongfu together that suddenly the whole art opens up and becomes a very practical and effective internal martial art
Master Chee Soo would always say that the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu had its own unique style and concepts. It is only by the learning and understanding of how to combine the many different areas of the Feng Shou-Gongfu training syllabus together in a numerous amount of practical and effective fighting methods that the student begins to develop the unique Feng Shou-Gongfu style.
Developing the ability to remain relaxed while performing your taijiquan form or sequence is vitally important for the circulation of the blood (Xue) and energy (Qi) to flow smoothly unhindered throughout the entire body. One area of the body that I encounter a lot with individuals who begin to learn taijiquan is the “Wrists”. Many individuals carry a lot of tension and stiffness is within their wrists and are often unaware that they are. This can sometimes be down to the individuals work environment, we’re they are maybe sitting at a desk infront of a computer that they use all day, people driving vehicles for long periods with their both hands held firmly on the steering wheel or maybe manuel workers lifting and holding heavy objects. All these particular jobs can cause the individual to hold tension and stiffness within the wrist joints and other areas of the body.
Through the practice of taijiquan it encourages and teaches the individuals to relax their wrists and other joints by using soft, slow and relaxed movements, the upper body especially must be kept relaxed, light and soft, whereas the lower body should have a feeling of heaviness within the legs. Learning to gently open and close the wrist joint acts like a pump that pushes more blood and energy into the palms and fingers so that gradually the individual begins to feel sensations of heat, tingling, fullness or a flushing movement of warmth passing through the whole larm and into the fingers. In the practice of taijiquan the teacher will ask the individual to push forwards with their fingers firstly and to gently raise the palm at the end of its movement, this is called “Extending the fingers and settling the wrists” this allows the wrists to remain relaxed and activates the acupuncture point located on the inside of the wrists known as the “Inner Gate” (Neiguan) which lays on the Pericardium Meridian.
Many beginners tense and stiffen their wrists when pushing forwards using their palms, this tension and stiffness stops the energy (Qi) from arriving within the palms and fingers and does not allow the individual to release excess heat within the heart by releasing it out through the palms and fingers. Another aspect why many beginner individuals hold tension within their wrists is that their whole body is not fully connected and moving in the correct way that taijiquan asks for, an example of this is to watch a beginners movements, many will step and move their arms and hands at the same time, some will move their hands first and not actually step. Because the correct order of movement within taijiquan is disorderly this will encourage the beginner student to use more strength and tension within their upper body movements. Whereas, if the beginner student is taught correctly to move the whole body first and the arms and hands follow this then allows the student to soften their hands and arms more as the power is being generated more by the body and the hands and fingers simple emit and express the energy (Qi) outwards.
Once the student begins their practice of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu they will learn all of the many different areas like learning the many evasions sets, poison hand striking sets, soft and hard ward offs, blocks and deflections, kicking methods and joint locking techniques and throws. Some students will spend many years simply learning these many different areas and sadly never achieve the opportunity to combine all these areas together in a multitude of fighting techniques. My teacher Master Chee Soo would call this method of combining all the different training areas together as “Three Star Principle” ( San Xing Yuan ) which ment defend, attack and counter attack or attack, defend and counter attack.
Thre true skill for any student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu is to naturally flow from striking to kicking to a fast effective takedown in a numerous amount of variations which allow the student to adapt and change their fighting techniques to overcome any situation that confronts them. If you are still learning a particular Feng Shou-Gongfu style from a teacher who does not allow or know how to combine the poison hand striking methods with various kicking techniques either defensively or offensively for example, the chances are your teacher has not been taught how to apply “Three Star Principle” and properly you will spend your training time going over the same subjects, but never have the opportunity to develop your Feng Shou-Gongfu to a very practical and effective internal martial art.
One particular training method that I teach to my students to help them connect their striking and kicking methods together is an exercise what I have termed as a ” Three Star Flow Drill”. The training partner will attack with a series of strikes in a particular order, the student will then use a variety of wards off and evasions to defend the training partners attacks, but will immediately counter attack back with a series of striking and kicking techniques which must naturally flow spontaneously. This exercise will teach the student to react and respond naturally without even thinking. But obviously it is completely upto the student to add variety to their counter attacking techniques and to not respond with the same fighting technique all of the time.
It is only when you can spontaneously and naturally flow with your internal martial art and react and overcome a situation using your Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu techniques combined together can you say that you are skilled in this unique Chinese internal martial art.