Because the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu is guided by the principle of Yin & Yang changing and transforming into its opposite state. What once was light turns into dark and what once was hard turns to being soft and so it is with the fighting methods of this unique Chinese internal martial art. When practicing the Poison Hand Striking Sets to many practitioners simply look at the striking methods as purely offensive and do not consider that they can be also used defensively as blocks (Lan) and deflections (Peng) applying this principle of Yin & Yang as a dual method of skilfully using Feng Shou Quan’s Poison Hand fighting techniques to enter into your opponents defence and begin to apply strikes, kicks, joint locks or throws to quickly and effectively finish the situation.
To many teachers get caught up into teaching of the Poison Hand Striking Sets as just an exercises and do not focus enough on developing the Striking techniques to be used in combination alongside various types of Kicking, Wrestling or Throwing techniques that can really give much more depth, knowledge and understanding to each practitioner of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system. Within each of the many Poison Hand Striking Sets that exist within Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu, each individual set consists of a tremendous amount of what my teacher Master Chee Soo would call as “Three Star Fighting Skill Methods” (San Xing Wu Shu Fa), sadly this seems to be lost as I do not see or hear teachers of the other associations and organisations of the Li (Lee) family style covering this information. For example, If we look at the Splitting Palm strike (Pi Zhang Da) which is used within the very first Poison Hand Set (Du Shou Shi) simply as a strike, then the practitioner is limited in developing their skill, but if the practitioner also looked at the Splitting Palm Strike as a method of blocking as well then they will have developed a dual method that can be used to change and adapt and overcome any situation.
When you consider all of the Poison Hand Striking Sets that are taught within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by the LFIAA and then consider the amount of Striking techniques that can also be used as a dual technique to defend or attack with which include both open hand and closed fist methods, which can be all delivered from various angles. Then you realise the amount of depth and knowledge that lies within each of the Poison Hand Striking Sets that can truely allow the practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to attain a high standard of ability.
Because to many teachers practice the Poison Hand Striking Sets more as an exercise rather than researching and applying its many fighting techniques. Does not instill or develop any confidence within the students ability to use Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as a practical self defence method to protect themselves against any aggressive situation. Today there are many teachers of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu who themselves do not fully utilise the knowledge that can be found within the many Poison Hand Striking Sets and hence these certain teachers limit their own students ability to grow in their confidence and be proud of their Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as an effective and practical Chinese internal martial art for everyone.
There are numerous amount of lowline kicking methods that are both taught and practiced by the students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system as taught by the LFIAA. One of these lowline kicking methods is the “Ankle Sweep Kick” ( Huai Sao Jiao) this particular kicking method can be used both defensively or offensively by the student always combining this particular kicking method with hand methods (Shou Fa) to help create an open to use the kick effectively or to disguise the kick until the last moment not giving your opponent any chance to escape or evade the kick.
The Ankle Sweep Kick can obviously be performed from either the front or rear foot and as it’s name says it targets the opponents ankles to knock them off balance and to possibly break their ankle. When using the foot to perform the ankle sweep kick the student will use the sole of the foot to attack the opponents ankles by pointing the big toe edge of their foot upwards. A really good well timed ankle sweep kick can quickly make the opponent be knocked to the floor, it can also be combined with fast powerful striking techniques to distrust the opponents balance allowing for the student to follow up with a striking combination.
Obviously the lowline ankle sweep kick can also be combined with other kicking techniques that allows the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to target other vulnerable areas on the opponent like attacking their back leg or groin area. When we use the same leg to perform the ankle sweep kick and then use the same leg to deliver another kick we call this particular kicking method a “Swaying Kicking Method” (Bai Jiao Fa) or sometimes also known as a double kicking method (Shuang Jiao Fa) for which there are a nemurous amount of kicking variations. Another alternative is to switch legs by using say your right leg to perform the ankle sweep kick and then quickly use your left leg to perform another type of kick to follow up with.
Defensively the ankle sweep kick can also be used to block (Lan) against kicks aimed at your own legs by your opponent. It can also be used to sweep your opponents off their feet while they are delivering a series of punches towards your head. This obviously as to be timed with your hands deflecting your opponents punches.
Practicing the Li (Lee) Style Taijiquan posture of “White Crane Exercises its Wings” Question, should there be any double weighted stances (Shuang Zhong Shi) as I have noticed that still today there are students of various associations and organisation who teach the Li Style Taijiquan and advocate that their students hold a series of double weighted stances while performing the White Crane Exercises its Wings Posture.. rather than teaching them to gently shift their body weight from one leg to another which will greatly strengthen their legs, helping the student to maintain their balance, plus it will stimulate their cardiovascular system as they are working the bigger muscles of the legs which in-turn raises the heart rate to develop fitness and stamina.
Simply moving into a series of double weighted stances while performing the White Crane Exercises its Wings Posture is a very lazy way of practicing the Li Style Taijiquan. As it does not work the legs enough to strengthen them and improve the students ability to balance on one leg, nor does it as I have already mentioned above stimulate the cardio system to invigorate the heart and lungs. Another important principle to the practice of any Style of Taijiquan be it the Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and even the Li Style they all must clearly demonstrate the harmonious inter-changing of Yin to Yang and vice-versa. There should be Yin & Yang within the movements of the legs, arms, torso, breathing and the student must be able to distinguish them and clearly perform them in their practice of whatever style of taijiquan they chose to study and practice.
So in the case of the Li Style Taijiquan White Crane Exercises its Wings surely there should be no double weighted stances as these clearly do not demonstrate the principle of Yin & Yang in action. But there are still teachers of the Li Style Taijiquan that still demonstrate and teach their students to perform double weighted stances obviously this is wrong. Holding double weighted stances in the practice of Taijiquan in general limits the student as:
- It does not develop fit and strong legs.
- It does not stimulate the heart and lungs to circulate the blood and Qi.
- It causes the student to keep readjusting their body weight.
- It stops the student from maintaining a continuous, smooth flow of movement from one to another.
- It does not improve the students ability to strengthen their balance
The practice of Taijiquan as an exercise towatds developing each individuals health and wellbeing must be an exercise that the individual feels has worked their muscularskeletal system, stimulated their cardiovascular system, soothed their nervous system, calmed and concentrated their cognitive qualities, worked. their respiratory and digestive systems. After their practice the individual should feel that they have exercised and worked themselves, taijiquan practice is about strengthening, nourishing, replenishing, repairing ourselves and not simply about learning to just relax.
When I was studying the Original Hand of the Wind Boxing (Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu) under my teacher Master Chee Soo he would mention that the presumed fighting stance held was a Snake Stance (She Shi) with the body weight being held fifty, fifty between the both legs. This ment that the individual held a double weighted stance (Shuang Zhong Shi) which does not allow the practitioner of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu the ability to move quickly in any direction without having to do a slight readjustment of their body weight. Obviously the both feet must not be in alignment with each other as this will limit the practitioners ability to remain on balance, plus it limits their ability to reach as they will have limited waist mobility.
Within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught within the LFIAA by Laoshi Keith Ewers the students are taught to stand in what is known as a Gathering Stance (Tun Bu Shi) with the body weight held in a 70-30 weight ratio with a distinction that the front leg is empty and the back leg is solid (Qian Xu Hou Shi Can Xiang Yi). This allows the student to move easily to either dodge or to move to attack using strikes or kicks etc. Usually the front guarding hand is held out in front to cover any blows that are directed towards your head and chest, whereas, the rear guarding hand is held below the elbow of the front arms elbow and is used to protect against any blows directed towards your abdomen or groin area.
There are many names given to the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu fighting stance such as the “ready stance” or the “snake stance” or the “on guard stance”. As already mentioned Laoshi Keith Ewers likes to call it the “Gathering Stance” as you are gathering your energy, concentration, thoughts, strategy to respond to your opponents attack and begin to change and adapt your fighting methods o overcome the situation. Moving into the Gathering Stance (Tun Bu Shi) can happen at any time during a physical confrontation it can be taken after you opponent as delivered a series of attacks and you have had to defend and the both of you take a short pause before you engage with each other again. Or you have delivered a fatal series of blows and you resume your Gathering Stance taking a short pause to see if you need to continue to defend yourself.
Obviously you only move into the “Gathering Stance” when you know for definite that there is going to be some kind of aggressive confrontation with one or more opponents. As the fighting stance that you move into is giving a signal to your opponent that you are ready for the confrontation, you must make sure that your defensive stance has closed off any gaps that your opponent can deliver any blows towards, usually this means covering your centre line as most attacks are directed straight at you. Within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers the hands and arms defend against any blows that are directed towards the head and body, while the les and feet defend against any low line attacks I recited towards the les and feet.
There are many ndividuals who practice the Li (Lee) Style Taijiquan and still perform what I call the single whip posture (Dan Bian Shi) still in a double weighted (Shuang Zhong) riding horse stance. This means that for the individual to move into the next movement they have to adjust they body weight which effects there smoothness of movement from one posture into the next. More importantly it also limits the individuals ability to perform a variety of the Taiji eight energies of Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Squeeze, Pluck, Split, Elbow and Bump especially within the practice of the sticki/adhere hands exercise (Nian Zhan Shou Fa). If we assume to remain using the double weighted riding horse or bear stance in the practice of the Lishi Taiji single whip posture then we are limited to simply using the eight energies of Pluck, (Cai) and Press (An) because the individual as centred their body weight between their two legs. Another aspect that I’ve also noticed is once the individual as performed their single whip movements they then seem to look straight ahead and do not focus on the primary hand to place their intent (Yi) to guide their qi.
As you can see in the accompanying photo of Laoshi Keith Ewers performing the Lishi Taijiquan “Single Whip Posture” (Dan Bian Shi) he has his body weight located onto his left leg using a left leopard stance (Zuo Bao Shi) he is also looking at his left hand which is the primary hand , hence using his intent to guide and lead the qi into the primary or substantial (Shi) limb . By placing himself into a left leopard stance he is no longer in a double weighted stance, which means that he does not have to add any readjustment to smoothly continue moving into the next posture. Also he can apply more fighting applications for example, using his elbow (Zhou) to strike with or his shoulder (Jian) and hip (Kua) to bump (Kao) to knock his opponent off balance or with the is out stretched left arm apply a splitting technique (Lie Fa). While the right claw hand apples the plucking technique (Cai Fa) to carry the opponents seized arm.
The practice of the Lishi Taijiquan involves that each individual understands that they must combine the five major conponents of their legs (Bu), torso (Yao), arms/hands (Shou) eyes (Yan) and breathing (Xi) into every movement and action of their Lishi Taijiquan form practice. The whole body must be fully integrated and unified, its movements must be smooth and continuous without any pauses, hesitations due to lack of balance or concentration. Many individuals forget that their eyes must also be used within the practice of Taijiquan and that is why it bothers me when I see individuals looking straight ahead when they are practicing the single whip posture. To me it says that their mind (Yi) is not present and connected to their body and more importantly not connected to their qi as were the eyes (Yan) are is also the intention (Yi) and were the intent is the energy (Qi) will follow.
Sadly today to many individuals are practicing the Lishi Taijiquan and basically watering it down, making it to easy to learn with no internal substance to it at all, to many simply concentrate on the physical and not connecting the internal and external together in the circulation, cultivation and nourishing of the qi to strengthen the body, mind and spirit through quality Lishi Taijiquan practice.
One popular method that is used within the practice of the Standing Post work (Zhangong) to cultivate qi for health and wellbeing comes from the “Mind & Body Boxing System” of (Xingyiquan) and is called the Trinity Posture (Santii). This is one of my favourite Standing Post postures that I practice more than any other, again good body alignments must be maintained to allow for a good flow of energy throughout the whole body. The stance should be sixty percent of the body weight placed onto the back leg, while forty percent should be placed onto the front leg, that is why this stance is some times called the 6/4 stance. You can if you wish hold a 50/50 stance with the body weight evenly distributed between both legs, this allows the individual to stand for a much longer period of time. Irrespective of we’re you place your body weight both knees should be bent with the pelvis sunk down as if riding on a horse.
The torso is held upright with the body square on to the front leg with both shoulders and hips in alignment. The nose and navel should also be lined up with each other. The chest should be slightly hollowed and the back rounded with both shoulders squeezing towards each other from the front. The front arm is extended forwards with the Palm face it forwards and the fingers pointing upwards. The tiger mouth (Hukou) the area between the thumb and index finger should be rounded and kept open and level with the eyes which look directly at the tigers mouth, the front elbow should be inline with the front legs knee. The rear hand is placed in front of the navel with the tigers mouth facing the body with the Palm facing the ground, both armpits of each arm are held open, the front hand should be inline with the nose and front foot.
The crown of the head (Baihui Point) should gently push upwards to the sky and the tip of the tongue should touch the roof of the mouth known as the “Magpies Bridge” (Que Qiao). The breathing should be in and out through the nose with the breathing being long, smooth, deep and even the individual should not be able to hear their own breathing. The. aim should be to then hold this posture for 10 to 15 minutes on each side of the body, gradually building the standing time to 30 minutes each side. The mind (Yi) should be placed on the lower elixir field (Xia Dantian) located at the navel to collect the vital energy (qi), as Lao Zi mentions within his book of the “Dao and Virtue” (Daodejing) “Fill the belly and Empty the mind” which means to gather and store the qi while clearing the mind.
Practicing the Standing Post methods (Zhangong Fa) is a really good way to strengthen both mind and body to mprove health and wellbeing irrespective of how old you are or what gender you are. You can practice them in-doors or outside in the fresh air in some quite spot were you cannot be disturbed. You do not need any special clothing other than everyday loose clothes to help you remain relaxed.
One of the most important reasons for practicing the Original. Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu Rolling Hands exercise is to develop your tactile awareness skill, which is very much needed when you are fighting in-close as you have no time to react to your opponents attacks, but through your sense of touch you can immediately feel their intentions, body weight and direction and quickly re-direct it. There are many types of tactile energy work that each student must learn and develop to a very high standard of proficiency
- Listening Energy (Ting Jin) is the first method the ability to listen through your sense of touch and contact with your opponent. This means that no matter what part of your body makes contact with your opponent you should be able to listen (Ting Jin) through that area of contact to feel your opponents intended move, obviously the more aggressive your opponent is the easier it is to feel their intent and direction of force.
- Sticking Energy ( Zhan Jin) is to develop the ability to attach and stick to your opponent, it is important to make contacts be able to listen through your sense of touch on your opponents intention. Being able to remain in contact with your opponent is a very differcult thing to achieve.
- Adhere Energy (Nian Jin) is the ability to adhere to your opponents limb while he is trying to pull away, you must make sure that you remain relaxed and pliable enough to adjust with your opponents actions of trying to break contact from you. Again the Adhere Jin is one of the most differcult Jins to develop skill in.
- Following Energy ( Sui Jin) is a combination of both the Stick, Adhere Jins to make contact and then to remain there for as long as possible by then following your opponents actions, but being ready to change and redirect your opponents strength should they try and attack.
- Joining Energy (Lian Jin) once you have developed the ability to attach and follow your opponents intention . The next stage is to develop the ability to join with your opponent, so that you can immediately feel every little change in the opponent intent to be able to develop the next stage of “if my opponent does not move, I don’t move, But if my opponent moves slightly I have already moved”.
- Coiling Energy (Chan Jin) is a type of controlling energy technique that allows the individual to circle around the opponents joints to be able to limit there range of movement and to redirect the opponents strength and possibility to strike. To skilfully use the Coiling Energy the individual must be able to attach to the opponents limb using any surface area of their fingers (Zhi), hands (Shou) or arms (Bei) this includes the back of the hands and arms as well as the inside.
There are many more types of energy (Jins) that can be developed through the practice of Rolling Hands ( Gun Shou Fa) to help the student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to become highly skilful with their tactile ability. Which allows them to have a better sense of control when fighting at close range with an aggressive opponent and to be able to successfully apply their own strikes, kicks, wrestling or throwing techniques in a natural, spontaneous flow that allows them to change and adapt their techniques to overcome the situation in front of themselves.
We all know that no matter what Style. Of taijiquan that you practice they all incorporate the heel to toe stepping action to make sure that the individual can distribute their body weight onto the stepping foot for good balance in the performance of their taijiquan form or qigong practice. I’ve have noticed with my own students that they fully concentrate on placing the heel onto the floor first, then lower the toes secondly so that the sole of the foot is gently being pressed into the ground as their body weight begins to sink downwards into the foot and then into the ground to develop their “rooting energy” (Gen Jin). But when it comes to lifting the back foot to take another step forwards, many simply lift the whole of the foot off the floor quickly, rather than gently lifting the heel firstly and then gradually lifting the ball of the foot and then toes in a rolling action from heel to toe as the body weight and centre of gravity is being lifted of the foot.
Basically to many individuals concentrate on the heel to toe stepping action of the foot being placed onto the floor and not the heel to toe action off the foot being lifted of the floor. Obviously to lift any foot off the floor the individual has to make sure that their body weight is being fully placed onto the none moving leg as this leg becomes substantial or full (Shi) and the moving leg becomes insubstantial and empty of body weight (Xu). It is the transference of the body weight being shifted from one leg to another that either presses the heel onto the floor or the lifting of the body weight that lifts the heel off the floor, but it should be performed slowly, smoothly and evenly with no jerking or fast clumsy actions.
Once the heel of the front foot as been placed onto the floor, it is the sinking of the hip joint (Kua Jie) towards the knee joint (Xi Jie) and the sinking of the knee joint into the ankle and foot that lowers the toes and ball of foot onto the ground. This gradual sinking of the body weight through the legs major joints gives the individual a feeling of the body weight moving in a “Rolling” action (Gun Fa) across the whole sole of the foot as the heel is placed onto the floor and then the toes. Whereas when the individual begins to lift up their back foot, it begins with the body weight being slowly shifted onto the front leg that allows the heel to be lifted off the floor, which in-turn pushes the ankle joint (Huai Jie) towards the knee joint which in-turn lifts the hip joint allowing then for the whole of the foot and toes to be lifted off the ground ready to take the next step forwards.
The practice of taijiquan involves the sensation of rising (Sheng) and falling (Lou) actions of the whole body, this rising and falling action must also be performed by the stepping actions of the legs and feet.
When you begin to practice the Chinese internal martial art of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu (Hand of the Wind Boxing) you will be introduced to a wide variety of footwork or stepping methods (Bu Fa) which ch should be combined with both defensive and offensive techniques. Usually all students are taught to start their practice of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu using the Ladder stepping method (Ti Bu Fa) which are performed using both a short attack/ defensive stepping method and a long attack/defensive stepping method, these two particular Ladder stepping methods are linear in their actions. Whereas the ZigZAg stepping methods (Jiu Chi Xing Fa) are diagonal in their stepping actions.
When using the ZigZAg stepping method the stance that is manly used is the Riding Horse Stance (Qi Ma Shi) which allows the student to combine a series of low line kicking methods in combination with their defensive or offensive hand methods (Shou Fa). Also because the ZigZag step moves in a diagonal direction it can also be used to dodge the opponents attacking techniques, allowing the student of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to position themselves around the opponents back or sides to launch effective counter attacks.
Within the practice of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu we are taught that every stepping action can be easily turned into a kicking methods (Jiao Fa) and this is so with the ZigZAg stepped no methods. When the student steps out diagonally into a riding horse stance the whole of the leg and foot can be used to apply an effective low line kicking technique such as stamping, hooking, stomping and springing methods which are used to disrupt the opponents balance, while the student attacks the opponents upper body with powerful striking techniques.
Today many practitioners of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu mainly use the more direct stepping methods of the Ladder step and do not fully advocate the ZigZAg stepping method against one opponent, but do teach it to their students when surround by multiple opponents. But I was taught that to become fully accomplished with the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that you had to be comfortable using your defensive and offensive techniques using any type of footwork or stepping method no matter how many opponents were in front of you.
The Sun Style ( Sunshi) Five Element Boxing (Xingyiquan) involves five short individual fist forms that correspond to the five martial art methods of Splitting (Pi Quan), Drilling (Zuan Quan), Pounding (Bao Quan), Crushing (Beng Quan) and Crossing (Heng Quan). These then connect to the elements of Metal, Water, Fire, Wood and Earth which are then connected to the five internal organs of the Lungs, Kidneys, Heart, Liver and Spleen. Practicing any or all of the Five Element Fist Forms will cultivate strong energy (Qi) and blood (Xue) circulation to strengthen each individuals health and wellbeing.
The Crushing fist method (Beng Quan Fa) is a Wood element form which benefits the internal organ of the Liver. The Crushing Fist can be quickly delivered as a single powerful punch or a series of fast and powerful punches that take the shortest route to its target which is a straight line. Defensively the Crushing Fist (Beng Quan) can also be used to cut into the in-coming strike aimed towards the body, using the forearm to cut into the opponents attacking strike.
As an exercise towards strengthening the health and wellbeing when you combine your breathing to the Crushing Fist form movements the individual can greatly develop their cardio fitness. The strengthening of the legs is enhanced through the stepping actions which again will promote blood flow as the Chinese consider the legs to be the “Second Heart”. Meaning the more you work them the greater the effect on the heart rate they have.. many individuals do not realise that there is circular movement in the practice of the five element fist forms and this circular actions is obviously performed by the joints, which in-turn will develop the individuals flexibility and their ability to release joint stiffnesss and muscular tension on a physical level, as for the emotional level it can also benefit by helping to release any frustrations, irritability or stress that as accumulated. It can also help to develop the individuals ability to concentrate and calm the mind from all of the chaos that goes on within our minds.
The Wood element is associated with the Liver, anger hurts the Liver as it allows the energy (Qi) to rise upwards into the head which can cause problems with the Heart which in-turn effects the blood pressure and nervous system to become out of balance causing illness. Practicing the Crushing Fist form (Beng Quan) can help to regulate he Liver organ and release any build up of sickly energy (Bing Qi) allowing the individual to become more calmer in the self.