The ancient Daoist’s of China realised a longtime ago that combining movement , breathing and sound that an individual could treat certain types of ailments that affect the five Yin internal organs (Wu Zang) of the Lungs, Kidneys, Heart, Liver and Spleen. Because the body is around 75 percent Water when we use any of the sounds of the Six Secret Breaths combined with their associated movements the intended organ that has been decided to be exercised can be gently or strongly vibrated to either tonify and strengthen its functioning or it can be dispersed, cleansed to rid its self of any toxins or sickly qi (Bingqi) that can cause disease within the organ.
When the individual performs any of the Six Secret Breaths they will take an inhalation that makes no sound through the nose and then make an exhalation out through the mouth emitting sounds that are specific to “blowing, exhaling, giggling, expelling, hushing and resting breaths”
- Expelling breath controls the Heart.
- Blowing breath controls the Kidneys.
- Exhaling breath controls the Spleen.
- Resting breath controls the Lungs.
- Hushing breath controls the Liver.
- Giggling breath controls the Triple Warmer.
I was taught the Six Secret Breaths also known as the Six Healing Sounds (Liu Zi Jue Gong) by my teacher Master Chee Soo who mentioned that the practice of these sounds are not just performed by individuals to treat disease. But should also be practiced on a daily basis to help maintain and improve good health and wellbeing. Each particular sound is performed with its associated movement that gently stretches and works the muscles around the area of the body that each of the organs being practiced are located. This movement will manipulate the muscles giving each particular organ a massage to help tonify or disperse the qi within each organ along with the sound tha5 is used to vibrate it.
Each of the Six Secret Breaths can be performed from a standing, moving, seated or lying down position. Usually , if any of the sounds were used to treat a specific organ from disease then the individual would also be taught to use visualisation of the specific colour associated with the diseased organ and would also be asked to face the correct direction also associated with the organ to absorb the positive qi to help heal and rid the sickly qi out of the organ using a combination of movement, breath, sound, visualisation and direction.
One of the best solo practices that I regularly practice is the Bagua Zhang Eight Pole Methods. These are a series of eight different Bagua Zhang palm forms that are performed with a pole of various lengths and weight to help develop the practitioners ability to stick (Zhan), adhere (Nian), follow (Sui) and neutralise (Hua) to the subtle changes of the poles angles and movement, while the practitioner walks around in a circle constantly changing direction using twisting, turning actions of the whole body and the changing of their body height from upright to suddenly dropping down to the floor. Obviously the pole takes the place of a training partner, but you can still develop your own tactile awareness skill to develop your ability to listen (Ting) through your sense of touch and to remain in contact with the pole at all times.
When learning a traditional Chinese internal martial art you will need to use your eyes to watch your opponents actions and be able to quickly block their attacks and be able to counter back. But another sense that is trained within the internal martial arts like Bagua Zhang and Taijiquan is the ability to listen to the opponents intention through your sense of touch. As some times you can be so close to your opponent that you cannot see all of their attacks, whereas, if you can stick and adhere to your opponent limbs or body you will be able to feel their intent before they even move and be able to neutralise it, within the internal martial arts there is a saying ” that if my opponent does not move, I don’t move. But if my opponent moves, I have already countered.
Performing the Bagua Zhang Eight Pole Methods is a great way to maintain and improve your tactile awareness without the aid of a training partner. It also develops your footwork, flexibility and fitness and it a very enjoyable exercise, the more you can use various size poles of different weights the greater you will strengthen your tendon and muscle strength within your arms and shoulders, plus the more will develop your ability to sense different types of pressure against your arms so that you can listen more skilfully to your opponents. Each of the Bagua Zhang Eight Pole Methods include strikes, kicks, joint locks and throwing techniques that the Bagua Zhang practitioner performs while connecting to the pole while walking around in ever changing circles.
In the video that accompanies this blog Laoshi Keith Ewers is seen performing the “Sun” or Wind trigram palm pole form. You will notice how he uses his both arms to coil around the pole remaining in contact at all times while changing direction and walking around in a circle, learning to stick and adhere to the pole to enhance his ability to listen, feel and sense his opponents intention through touch.
Once a student has become very proficient with the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu Solo Staff Form (Dan Gun Shi) as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers of the LFIAA. They will then move onto learning the two-person matching Staff form (Duilian Gun Shi) this is were they will learn to put the basic blocks (Lan) and strikes (Da) that they have learnt from the Solo Staff Form into practical usage against another training partner. Obviously there are subtle levels to the learning of the two-person matching Staff form that both training partners will have to learn and develop if they wish to fully become skilful with the Staff.
The first level is considered the basic (Jiben) level and this is were both students gradually learn to remember the two-person matching staff form sequence from start to finish. The second level is were they can begin to add in more speed and power to both the defensive blocking and offensive striking techniques. The third level is a combination of both flow and power into the matching staff form giving it a more realistic approach that enhances the students confidence and skill with the Staff both in defence and offence.
Master Chee Soo only taught a traditional Feng Shou Quan staff form that was very long in its sequence, but he never taught a two-person matching form. The LFIAA still teaches the traditional Feng Shou Quan staff form as passed on by Master Chee Soo, but we also teach a short solo staff form that each student must learn as a step towards learning the two-person matching staff form. Sadly today there are still many of Master Chee Soo’s students who only practice the traditional long staff form and do not participate in any two-person staff training drills or the two-person matching staff forms to help them develop their staff fighting skill to a much higher level and standard.
Practicing the Original Feng Shou Quan two-person matching staff form is a really enjoyable exercise that involves both linear and angular footwork methods. The student learns to use either end of the staff plus the centre to block and attack with, they also learn how to remain in contact developing their tactile ability to stick (Zhan), adhere (Nian) and listening (Ting) to their training partners actions.
Today within the practice of Tai Chi many of its practitioners use such tools like that of the Tai Chi Sword (Jian) or Tai Chi Fan (Shan). Whereas, those who practice Qigong also use such tools like the Wooden Ball or a Short Stick which are held in each hand to strengthen their muscles and tendons while practicing their movements , likewise within the practice of the “Eight Trigram Palms” (Bagua Zhang) they are taught to use a long pole which should be taller in height of the individual, they then place one end of the pole ion the ground in the centre of an imaginary circle, the other end of the pole is resting on the individuals forearm, the pole should be held at a 45 degree angle while the individual begins to walk around he pole in a circle suddenly changing direction and height while remaining in contact with the pole at all times.
There are eight different short palm forms that the individual learns and performs while walking around the pole in a circle using twisting, turning actions of the whole body to develop muscle, tendon and joint flexibility, while all times remaining in contact with the pole. What particular Bagua palm form is performed on ons side of the body should also then be repeated on the opposite side this will develop the individuals co-ordination, concentration and balance. The speed that the individual uses to walk around the pole can be performed slowly with co-ordinated deep breathing to help them cultivate and circulate their Qi to strengthen their health or if they wish the individual can walk at a much faster pace, speeding up the whole of their actions to develop their cardio fitness and stamina levels as well as improving their flexibility.
Learning the Bagua Zhang Pole Walking Qigong Exercise offers the practitioner another option to help them maintain their practice when they do not have a training partner to work with. It is suitable for everyone, irrespective of age or gender and is a very enjoyable exercise that will and can help to strengthen and improve everyones physical, mental, emotional and energetic attributes. For as we all grow older our body and mind will gradually begin to weaken and unless we learn to look after ourselves we can end up losing our own independence And having to rely on family and friends to look after us.
If you were to walk into any Chinese park in he early mornings you would be able to see individuals and groups of people practicing a variety of exercises that involve the use of swords, fans and poles to help them become fit and healthy. Bagua Zhang Pole Walking Qigong Exercise can be practiced within a small area, you simply need a long pole and to wear loose clothing that you can feel relaxed in and does not restrict your ability to move your body freely, you can practice inside or outside all you need to give is your time and effort to help develop your health, fitness and wellbeing.
Many individuals who study either Tai Chi or Qigong like to further their practice by involving a straight sword (Zheng Jian) or a fan ( Shan) which are commonly used by Tai Chi practitioners. Qigong individuals also use a short stick to help them improve their flexibility or wooden ball s which are held in each hand to strengthen their tendons as they perform their Qigong form. You just simply need to walk into any Chinese park in the early mornings and you will see a wonderful sight of groups of people of various ages exercising using swords, sticks, fans and wooden balls to help maintain their health and wellbeing everyday.
One unique practice that is used by individuals who practice the “Eight Trigrams Palms” ( Bagua Zhang) is to a use a pole that is higher than the individuals own height to walk around in a circle with one end of the pole resting on the individuals forearm and the other end of the pole touching the ground. The pole is held at a 45 degree angle while the individual begins to walk around the pole in a circle, suddenly then changing the direction of the circle using a wide range of twisting, turning actions of the whole body, while still maintaining contact with the pole all of the time, what movements are performed on one side of the body is also then immediately repeated on the other side. This exercise develops the individuals, balance, co-ordination, concentration, flexibility and fitness. As the speed of the walking and change of direction can vary from slow to fast, maintaining constant contact with the pole develops tactile awareness and agility by the individual.
Within the Bagua Zhang Pole Walking Qigong exercise there are eight different methods of walking around the pole using twisting, rotating, spiralling actions of the hands to help remain in contact with the pole at all times. Each particular hand form can be linked together using a numerous amount of variations that the individual can perform,every time they practice they can create a different sequence or pattern of movements, giving themselves plenty of opportunity to explore and find new variations on being able to link the eight palm methods together.
Using some type of training tool as used by practitioners of Tai Chi or Qigong and even Bagua Zhang students is another example of how to exercise on a regular basis to further your own health and fitness. Practicing the Bagua Zhang Pole Walking Qigong exercise is suitable for everyone, any age or gender as you only need a small area to practice in to help maintain your own physical, mental, emotional and energetic strength as we all get older and our body and mind will begin to weaken unless we learn to look after ourselves. It does not cost a lot of money to buy a pole to practice with, you can wear any loose clothing that allows you to relax and move around freely. All it takes is your own time and effort to practice and enjoy this wonderful exercise to cultivate your Qi.
The kicking techniques that are taught within the “Original Hand of the Wind Boxing” ( Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu) come under the heading of “Foot Flow Training” (Jiao Lian Gong) a term that was used by Master Chee Soo to express the large variety of kicking methods that are used alongside the striking (Da), joint locking (Na) and throwing (Shuai) Techniques that make up this unique Chinese internal martial art. Within the LFIAA style of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu that is taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers there are three training methods that are taught to students when they begin to learn the foot flow training methods.
The first training method of the many kicking techniques that are taught to students is called “Basic or Foundation Foot Flow Training” (Jiben Jiao Lian Gong) this is we’re the student combines stepping methods alongside their kicks, usually more steps than kicks and performed with no hand methods (Shou Fa), presently there are still many teachers of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu who are currently still only teaching this very basic method of the Foot Flow Training to their own students. Not allowing their students to develop and progress their kicking skill to a much practical, effective method of self defence.
The second method of Foot Flow Training that is taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers to his students is known as the “Intermediate or Middle Level” (Zhong Fa Jiao Lian Gong). This is were students learn to combine both defensive and offensive hand methods (Shou Fa) alongside their kicking techniques, usually at this level the stepping methods turn into kicking techniques, which again can be used either defensively or offensively, so there are no steps only kicks, which can give this level of Foot Flow Training a very cardiovascular workout for the students as it is a very full on practice for every student to develop their own agility, co-ordination, flexibility, speed, power, accuracy, and rhythm.
The third method of Foot Flow Training that is taught to the students of the LFIAA Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system is known as the “Transforming Level” (Hua Fa Jiao Lian Gong). This is were the student can now either uses a step or turn the step into a defensive or offensive kick allowing the student to have greater flexibility In being able to hide their kicks, plus it can give the student different rhythms and speed of being able to deliver faster kicks were they can use the step to get closer to their opponent to effectively use their many kicking techniques alongside striking, wrestling or throwing tmethods.
It has now been over twenty years since the death of Master Chee Soo and it is obviously now down to his senior students to take on the responsibility to maintain the development of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu into the future. This means that some things have to be added too and some things have to be changed to keep this Chinese internal martial art from becoming to rigid and limited in it ability to adapt and change with our present time. Sadly this has not happened with the Foot Flow Training methods, there are still teachers of the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu who after so many years still teach to their students the basic level of kicking were they advocate more stepping methods than kicks with no defensive or offensive hand methods combined at all. But casually allow their students to practice kicks with their hands hanging down by their sides, this particular method of Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu Foot Flow Training is more aimed towards gently exercise than as a traditional Chinese internal martial art that develops confidence and skill in each student to be able to effectively defend themselves.
One of the most popular postures of the Li/Lee Style Taijiquan form that students like to practice either on its own as a Taiji Qigong exercise or as part of the Li/Lee Style Taijiquan form is the “Drive Tiger Away To The Mountain Posture”. Within this particular Li Style Taijiquan posture the eight gates or energies that are performed within the Drive Tiger Away To Mountain involve the usage of the four main primary eight energies of Ward Off (Peng) Squeeze (Ji), Rollback (Lu) and Press (An). To perform the Drive Tiger Away To The Mountain only involves three actions of the whole body, firstly the student steps forwards into a left Dragon stance/ with their both hands placed as if holding a big ball in front of their body with the right hand on top facing the left bottom hand. The second action is for the student to then take a step backwards with their left foot moving into a right monkey stance, both hands revolve and turn as if carrying a big ball bringing the left hand on top of the right hand with both palms facing each other. Th third and final action of the Li Style Taijiquan Drive The Tiger Away To The Mountain Posture is for the student to step forwards into a right Dragon stance and with their right arm perform a Ward Off technique with the right palm facing forwards, while the left palm performs a Pressing technique bringing their left hand down alongside their left hip.
Obviously, as in most of the Li/Lee Style Taijiquan postures the use of the waist (Yao) is also used extensively within the Drive the Tiger Away To The Mountain Posture to guide the body’s power (Jing) which is directed from the legs through the torso into the both hands where the power is issued out into the opponent. Let’s assume you are being attacked and your opponent as attempted to reach out and grasp you or even throw a punch at you, the student raises their right arm upwards to perform a Ward Off technique to attach (Zhan) and connect (Nian) to the opponents attackingl limb on the inside of their arm. The student then delivers strike to the back of the oppponents head using their right palm, this strike will make the opponent to learn forwards, were the student then uses their left hand to come upwards to support the opponents head between their both hands as if holding a ball using a Squeezing technique.
The second action of the Li Style Taijiquan Drive The Tiger Away To The Mountain Posture is for the student to step backwards with their left leg into a right monkey stance performing a large Rollback technique. At the same time rotating the opponents head as if spinning a ball between both Hands finishing with the left hand on top of the right. Obviously this is performed fast, causing tremendous damage to the neck muscles and spine of the opponent. The third action of this popular taijiquan posture is for the student to perform a Ward Off technique using their right forearm to bounce the opponent away as they step forwards into a right Dragon stance.
Again obviously the student should practice the Drive The Tiger Away To The Mountain Posture on both sides of the body. Once a student has learnt and practices the Li/Lee Style Taijiquan short form on the right side of their body, they must also then repeat the form on their left side of their body so as to fully bring a balance to each posture and a strength of technique within their body.
My teacher Master Chee Soo taught many types of weapon training within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu to his students. One particular weapon was the “Rice Flail” (Mi Lian Jia) or “Nunchaku” in Japanese, this type of weapon was made famous by the late Bruce Lee within his films. I personally do not like the weapon as it was not a true Chinese traditional weapon and decided not to teach it to my own students but replace with with the Three Sectional Staff (Sanjiegun) which is a recognised traditional Chinese weapon and considered to be a three Sectional whip which can be used at close and long range, unlike the Rice Flail which can only be used effectively at close range.
When using the Three Sectional Staff it can be combned with strikes, kicks and joint locks at close range and used as a one or two section whip at long range. It can be used against a wide range of weapons such as the Staff (Gun), Broadsword (Dao), Straight Sword (Zheng Jian), Spear (Qiang) or against another Three Sectional Staff (Sanjiegun). Within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu there are numerous amount of counter/counter training drills that the student can practice with or without a weapon to help them develop their understanding, knowledge and skill within the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system. Any weapon like the Three Sectional Staff can be used within the “Rollaways” two-person counter/counter exercise to allow the student to become more skilful within its usage combining evasion, blocks, strikes, kicks, joint locks, disarms and takedowns within the exercise.
Obviously like Master Chee Soo who also taught a Rice Flail form. We also teach a Three Sectional Staff form which teaches the students basic blocks, strikes at close range and swinging techniques or flowers (Hua Fa) at long range, learning a weapon form also allows the student to have something to practice if they cannot find a training partner to practice with. Again all theses weapon forms are combined with footwork to allow the student to freely move around in any direction as if they were fighting multiple opponents.
No matter what particular Chinese internal martial art (Neijiaquan) you decide to study and practice they must all involve certain body mechanics that can help each individual to correctly and accurately to produce power within the movements of the whole body, but to also stop the individual from mis-aligning their body and causing their body not to be fully intergrated which can obviously waste their energy and body power within its actions. Hence, there are three anchors (San Mao Lian) that are taught in the practice of Bagua Zhang that acts like a chain to allow the Bagua Zhang practitioner to release power that starts within the feet and is guided through the whole body into the hands ands fingers to be issued out forcefully into an opponent, these three anchors allow the Bagua practitioner to be able to intergrate the whole body and release power (Fa Jin) at anytime from any part of the body, no matter if they are using small or large circular actions.
The first anchor to be found and developed within the practice of Bagua Zhang is the feet. The both feet press into the ground and draw up the Yin energy of the earth into the body through the feet and is then guided through the flexing of the knees through the legs to the pelvis. Through the skilful manipulation of being able to open and close the lower joints of the lower extremities the bagua practitioner can store and release power effortlessly. The second anchor is the pelvis, the bagua practitioner learns to extend and release their power from the pelvis through the length of the spinal column into the shoulders. Again the bagua practitioner has to learn how to skilfully manipulate their torso to draw the power from the both feet through the legs into the pelvis up through the spine and into the hands.
The third anchor is the elbows. The bagua practitioner has to learn how to connect their elbows to their spinal column so has to continue drawing the power released from the legs and torso into their both hands. Poor actions of the elbows either working solo or together can affect the power being released into the hands to become weak and useless in being able to defend oneself against a strong opponent. It is only through repetitive training of the Bagua Zhang forms that the practitioner of bagua can gradually begin to fully intergrate the whole body, linking the three anchors of the body to skilfully release and harness the body’s natural power to use it effectively within Bagua Zhang defensive or offensive actions.
The theory of the three anchors (San Mao Lian) can be used and performed in any other Chinese Internal Martial Art system be it for self defence to be able to release great power into your fighting techniques. Or it can be used to promote more qi flow to develope each individuals health and wellbeing through correct body mechanics that intergrate the whole body.
Under the direction of Laoshi Keith Ewers students who study and practice the Original Feng Shou Quan- Gongfu will be taught a short staff fighting form, which includes many two-person Staff fighting drills that teach the students how to block (Lan) defensively and how to attack with the staff using chopping (Kan), poking (Tiao) and splitting (Pi) strikes. When I first started to learn the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu system under Master Chee Soo I was taught the Large Staff Form, but because there are many movements to learn and become skilful with, there were not many two-person drills taught by Master Chee Soo from the Large Staff Form and sadly many students failed to complete and fully learn it because of its size. That is why we at the LFIAA teach students a short staff form that is filled with information and easy to learn and complete. So that students will have a complete staff form that they can perform that involves basic and intermediate level skill using the staff (Gun).
There are too many students of other associations and organisations who learn and practice the Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu learning no staff form but have no idea what particular movement is a defence block or attacking strike. They are taught to simply perform the long staff form without any sense orf an opponent, which makes their actions become “dead techniques” as there is no inten or correct martial attitude because none of the students actually know what they are doing. They simply practice the long staff form because it’s part of their training syllabus. Surely it would be better to study and practice a weapon form that is full of defensive and offensive movements that the student can actually understand and learn how to adapt and change their techniques to overcome a ny situation.
I am a great believer in teaching short weapon forms to students as they have something that is very practical, effective and easy to learn, but might take plenty of years to master, at lest they also have a weapon form that they can fully practice and know that they have fully reached the end of the form. Whereas, learning a long staff form could mean that it takes a lot more longer to learn and complete. Alongside the learning of the solo short staff form under Laoshi Keith Ewers, students will also move on to practicing the two-person matching staff form of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu as taught by the LFIAA,. Again this particular form is full of practical staff fighting techniques that quickly teaches the students to become skilful with the staff which is what every student should be able to learn and develop as soon as they begin their staff weapon training. Rather than just practicing a staff form that they do not understand and stops them from develop practical, easy to learn staff fighting techniques.