Another great benefit individuals can receive from the regular practice of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigram Palms) System is that each particular form only consists of in total eight movements which are obviously performed on both sides of the body to develop a more co-ordinated and connected mind, body and spirit. Because each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang form are only short and compact they can be practiced within a small confined space, so are ideal for people who do not have a tremendous amount of room in their. houses to practice in. As some times the British weather can be very inclement to go outside and practice, due to each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms being short and compact, they are each filled with a tremendous amount of information on the study and practice of qigong, meditation and self defence methods.
Each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms can be practiced either in a linear or circular method, obviously the circular training method is the more advanced and can be used to practice within any size area that the individual may have, unlike Tai Chi that needs a lot of room to practice in, Bagua Zhang can easily fit into any size space. Contained within each of the forms are a large amount of information that an individual can just specialise on just one subject like for example the study and practice of qigong. Each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms contains both Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang Gong). Fixed position moving Qigong plus Moving Step Qigong Practice that can be used to strengthen the health and wellbeing of each person.
As for the self defence aspect to the study and practice of Sun Style Bagua Zhang again there are many techniques of striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques hidden within the forms that are very easy to learn, practical and effective that anyone of any age, gender can learn and achieve a high standard of proficiency. As for the Meditative practice the circle walking meditation practice of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang can greatly compliment the sitting mediation, to develop a more relaxed body and a strong focused mind that eventually will reach clarity and tranquillity.
When you are first taught the tactile awareness exercise known as “Whirling Hands” (Xuan Shou) in the practice of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu you are firstly taught to use just the single arm practice with your training partner. This could be a cross body or parallel Single Whirling Hand practice, after a while the student would then progress to the changing hand practice method, making sure to always have one arm or hand in contact before taking the other hand off. This single & changing Whirling Hands practice allows the student to practice both a clockwise and anti-clockwise circle using small, medium and large interchanging circles and spirals.
After a few months of practicing the single & changing Whirling Hands Method ( Xuan Shou Fa) developing their ability to listen, stick, adhere, follows to their training partners arm. The student is then allowed to strike at each other using the arm that is in contact from any angle, this will enhance each students skill in being able to listen and sense through their touch when each partner is going to strike and remain in touch all the t8me developing their ability to stick (Nian) and adhere (Zhan).
After a longer period of training say a year or two each student will then progress to the double Whirling Hands practice, this then allows each student to explore the “Eight Circles” (Ba Yuan) that can be drawn by the both hands while practicing the Whirling double hands practice. Obviously each student has the option to either remain in contact with each other using the double hands practice or they can easily switch to a single, changing hand practice and back into the double hands method.
Once each student has began to understand how to utilise the eight circles of the Whirling double hands practice they can then move onto adding strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws into their practice, while trying to remain in contact at all times. The practice of the Whirling Hands Exercise (Xuan Shou) develops each student skill in being able to fight close in.
Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu students are taught to develop their tactile manipulation skill through the study and practice of the Whirling Hands exercise (Xuan Shou) for which they are taught to use a single, changing and double hands method. The double whirling hands method is the most advanced practice for any student to learn, as from this double hand practice the student should be able to apply their strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws.
At the beginners level students are taught to practice the double whirling hands exercise from a fixed position to help them develop their root (Gen) or to develop a strong connection with the earth to help improve their balance and to develop strength into their fighting techniques. After a few years of practicing from a fixed position they will then begin to practice moving step practice, were they are allowed to move in any direction applying their strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws.
Whirling hands practice teaches the student to stick, adhere, yield, and follow your training partners attempt to strike or push you. Through your contact of your both arms you are able to listen and sense your partners intention to strike or even kick you, it obviously takes a long time to develop your tactile skill in being able to feel through your sense of touch your partners every movement, knowing which hand he or she is going to use to strike at you, knowing which of his or her legs is carrying his or her body weight so that you know which leg they are going to use to try and kick you or step with.
All of the traditional Chinese internal martial arts like taijiquan, baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Ziranquan and Feng Shou Quan all place great emphasis on developing a high level of proficiency in their ability to stick and adhere to the attacker and it is through the Whirling Hands (Xuan Shou Fa) method that each student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu practices to acquire this most valued skill.
The practice of Eight Trigram Palms (Bagua Zhang) is gradually becoming more popular as a Mind & Body exercise alongside the other more recognisable Exercises of Taijiquan and Qigong which have been regularly practiced by thousands of people from all around the world for many years. The practice of the Eight Trigram Palms (Bagua Zhang) is famous for its twisting, Spiralling and of cause its circle walking practice, it can be performed slow or fast all according to each individuals capability and like the practice of Taijiquan it also develops each individuals balance, co-ordination, concentration and relaxation. But it offers a little more to the individual as it also increases their over-al joint, tendon and muscle flexibility, plus their cardio fitness and stamina.
It is through the practice of its Circle Walking practice that develops the individuals cardiovascular fitness and stamina. As the Circle Walking practice also combine two elements, firstly the upper body holds a certain Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang) static posture with the both arms creating a particular shape with the both palms pointing into the centre of the circle in a rounded shape, with the torso turned towards the centre, while the lower body is constantly moving, by stepping around the circumference of the circle using a variety of stepping methods such as the lion step (Shizi Bu) which is a fast heel/toe stepping action or the Mud Wading Step (Tangnibu) which places the whole of the sole of the foot onto the ground, extending the toes. Another Bagua Zhang Stepping Method is the Crane Step (He Bu) which lifts the knee up to hip height as if the individual is stepping over an object, obviously this particular stepping action will work the balance and develop greater leg strength.
The Bagua Zhang Circle Walking practice encourages the individual to hold a “Still” static upper body posture, while the lower body is constantly on the move. Hence combining t”Stillness with Movement”. The static holding of the upper body develops strength within the core muscles of the trunk and especially the shoulders and arms, whereas the constant stepping action of the legs develops agility and fitness which strengthens the blood and energy (Qi) circulation throughout the entire body.
Another great aspect to the study and practice of Bagua Zhang is that unlike Taijiquan it can be practiced within a small confined space because the size of the circle the individual walks can be made to fit the space you are practicing in. They say in Bagua Zhang the bigger the circle the more it will work your fitness, whereas the much smaller circle will stretch and work the joints more.
Over the many years that I have spent studying and practicing the Li/Lee Style Hand of the Wind Boxing (Lishi Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu) I have seen many teachers (Shifu) and students perform this unique Chinese internal martial art placing great emphasis on the “Art” (Shu) form more so than the Martial (Wu). It’s a very fine path that we practitioners of this fascinating Daoist martial art that was passed on to us all by the late Master Chee Soo all walk. As placing great emphasis on making your Feng Shou-Kung Fu look graceful, beautiful and Artistic to the naked eye is good, as long as the individual as also developed a high level of “Martial” skill to back up their graceful, flowing actions, as if they cannot then their Feng Shou-Kung Fu is just a series of flowery hands & legs with no substance.
On the other side of the coin. If you simply concentrate on the “Martial” side of your Feng Shou-Kung Fu it can make each individual style of fighting look very rigid, hard, direct and obvious. Whereas, the highest form of Art is “Self-Expression” being able to fully express yourself honestly and naturally within your chosen subject hence “Feng Shou-Kung Fu”. Combining both your Martial skill with the ability to Self Express your own fighting Art using graceful, beautiful movements is the panicle of any practitioner irrespective wether it is an internal or external martial art.
Sadly for me to many of my former practitioners have spent a great deal of time learning and practicing this particular internal martial art and have placed to much time and effort on the Art side trying to look graceful and beautiful. But have not spent any time on developing the Martial aspect. As Master Chee Soo would always like to quote to me “Do not read a poem to a fencing master” literally meaning “Action speaks louder than Words”. It alright looking graceful and beautiful in your Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting movements as long as you can back it up!
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, its-a fine path that we all walk, sadly some individuals have strayed off the path towards achieving the balance between “Martial” proficiency and “Artistic” self expression.
In the practice of taijiquan and qigong each individual begins to smoothly and precisely synchronise the movements of the legs, torso and arms together . At first the integration of the legs, torso and arm movements will seem rather dis-jointed at first but gradually over time through regular practice the unity between the legs, torso and arms will greatly develop and improve, the individual will then begin to sense and feel power and strength in their taijiquan and taiji qigong. actions. At first when a beginner performs their taijiquan and taiji qigong actions the strength used mainly manifests from the actions of their arms, meaning that the strength is obvious (Ming Jing) as they still hold tension within their arms and shoulders.
After a while as the individual gradually begins to loosen and relax (Song) the obvious tension and strength used will slowly diminish from their taijiquan movements and through the smooth integration of the whole body actions a more hidden and refined power (An Jing) will begin to manifest and over time greatly develop within each individuals taijiquan and taiji qigong movements. Once this internal power (Nei Jing) begins to move inside the individuals body they will begin to experience a strong tangible sensation of tingling, heat, thickness/fullness and heaviness moving into their limbs as their Qi and blood circulation greatly improves.
Through the actions of the legs the power is drawn upwards through the centre of the ball of the foot (Jiaodi) were it then travels upwards to the “Sea of Qi” (Qihai) located below the navel, were the waist then guides and leads the power into the shoulders and arms to enter into the heart of each palm (Zhangxin) were the power is them emitted outwards into the air. Once the individual begins to sense the movement of their inner power, especially into the heart of their both palms they will also experience a constant feeling of great warmth or heat in their palms and a feeling of holding a small Qi ball in each hand.
In the practice of taijiquan and taiji qigong the legs and torso move first, while the arms & hands follow this allows for the power generated in the legs and waist to be guided and released out through the both hands through the filling, emptying, opening, closing, rising and sinking actions of the joints of the legs, torso/spine and arms smoothly, connected and unified together in their actions.
There are three hand shape methods used within the practice of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu which can be used both defensively and offensively to defend oneself against punches, kicks and many types of grips and holds. One of these particular hand shapes is known as the Crab Claw Method (Xie Zhua Fa) which uses the thumb and index fingers to seize and grasp the opponents joints, energy points, tendons and muscles to apply joint locks, chokes & strangles. The Crab Claw Method can be used alongside other striking and kicking techniques to enhance the control and power using a single or double grasping methods that can be applied either on the outside or inside of the opponents limbs.
Usually the Crab Claw Method is used to seize & grasp the fingers of the opponent and apply painful, fast finger locking techniques, it can also be used to seize the opponents windpipe to apply a quick and effective choking technique or to seize the muscles and tendons of the neck to slow or stop the blood flow. Another aspect to the usefulness of applying the Crab Claw Method is to seize & grasp the energy points (Qixue) located on the limbs, torso and neck to effect the circulation of the opponents energy (Qi) to either slow or stop its flow.
Out of the three main seizing & grasping hand methods the Crab Claw Method is the weakest of the three as it only uses the thumb & index fingers. Whereas, the Tiger Claw (Hu Zhua) and Eagle Claw (Ying Zhua) all use more fingers and hand to seize & grasp making them more powerful in their usage. So when applying the Crab Claw Method it is combined with other defensive Ward offs and deflections, usually the Ward Off or parry would be used to connect to the incoming blow and then divert it away from its intended target, were the Crab Claw Method would then be used to seize & grasp the opponents limb to further control it and then a series of follow up strikes, kicks and joint locks can be used.
It is also important that each student begins to learn and understand the energy pathways and the more important energy points located on them to be able to attack and disrupt the opponents energy flow by using the Crab Claw Method to seize & grasp the energy points by digging, pressing or squeezing your thumb and index fingers or nails into your opponents energy cavities (Qixue) to cause great pain that numbs the area causing Qi disruption. The Crab Claw Method of seizing & grasping is a very useful tool for every student of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu to develop and become skilful in its usage.
For any individual who begins their study and practice of the ancient Chinese mind, body & spirit exercise known as “Qigong” (energy work) for them to connect and awaken their life force or Qi can be a gradual processsion that can take many weeks, months and even years for them to actually experience the first sensations of their Qi moving inside themselves. Over time as the individuals body, mind & spirit becomes more profoundly connected into an integrated whole through the regular practice of qigong they will notice certain changes in themselves such as that they seem to become more relaxed both physically, emotionally and mentally, their vitality levels have grown stronger, their body has become more supple and pliant.
One of the best aspects for anyone wishing to take up the study and practice of qigong exercise is that no matter what your age or health condition are, you can still start your Qigong practice at anytime in your life and help to improve your health and wellbeing. The practice of qigong can also help to heal and manage many types of ailments that many individuals suffer with such as arthritis, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes etc.
To tangible be able to sense, feel and experience your life force Qi moving around inside your body while performing your Qigong movements. Means that you have to place your mind inside your body and begin getting used to looking inside of yourself using your mind, concentration , Intention. Rather than looking outside at the external world, allowing your minds thoughts to become distracted, confused and stressed causing the mind to become more disconnected from the body. Through your Qigong practice your minds intent will begin to gradually grow the more you can release and free the mind of distracting thoughts the more focused and calmer it will become. As the mind becomes more still and focused it can then begin to listen, feel and connect to the tangible sensations of your life force Qi as it move throughout your entire body.
It obviously takes time, so be patient in your study and practice of your Qigong exercises and gradually you will begin to experience the life changing sensations of your Qi moving around inside yourself. Every day it will grow stronger and stronger improving your over-al health, vitality levels promoting a long happy life.
In today’s very fast and sometimes often violent world the need to learn a practical and effective self defence method is just as important in today’s society as it was in the past. Especially when you hear of people being attacked in their homes, age does no longer matter as the very old are attacked, the young are dying because of gang fighting and innocent individuals are all caught up in it. To the Chinese the practice and study of taijiquan is all about learning how to strengthen and improve one’s health, and wellbeing to live a long and peaceful life.
But in the spectrum of practicing taijiquan the importance of learning how to protect yourself is at the extreme end of the spectrum. As when you are attacked by a violent individual it can greatly effect your health if you are lucky enough to survive the assault. For many individuals who have been violently attacked they suffer still long after the actual assault, their bruises, cuts and scrapes can heal, their bones can be set. But their emotional and mental anguish can last for many years causing them to become fearful, timid, insecure lacking any self confidence etc.
Learning Taiji Qin Na-self defence does not mean that the individual has to learn to fight to the death. But to learn techniques and methods that could help them to break free of many types of holds and grips and to then apply punishing, painful joint locking techniques that use little strength to apply that are easy, practical and effective ways to break free and escape. Learning the self defence training of taijiquan is just another means to learning how to maintain your health & wellbeing and to protect your life, it is just as important as any type of exercise that develops your fitness like dance or jogging, but it offers you more in being able to protect yourself if needed.
At any time in your life there is always a possibility that you may be assaulted by some violent idiot. Many believe that it will properly happen in their youth, but you are more than likely to be attacked in your old age and learning taijiquan for self defence is just as important as studying it for its health & wellbeing benefits as it all about protecting your life, health and self.