As the practitioner begins to develop their Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan form movements, gradually refining, correcting and connecting the whole body’s movements together in a slow, even and continuous motion. They will become aware that through the turning (Zhuan) of the legs, torso and arms that they should remain soft (Rou) and relaxed (Song) at all times. Whereas, some individuals will try and over rotate the movement of the legs, torso and arms using more of a twisting (Ning) action that can cause tension to accumulate within the whole body which can then hinder the circulation of the Qi to flow smoothly.
The Li Style Taijiquan involves a lot of changing of direction by turning the whole body in a 180% degree circle, which can place a lot of exertion on the legs making it very difficult to maintain a feeling of relaxation within the muscles, tendons and ligaments and especially the joints as the whole body turns. Again some individuals can some times over rotate their body using more of a twisting action which can bring tension and stiffness into the lower extremities. This can also be caused by trapping the bodyweight between both legs (Shuang Zhong) for which many practitioners of the Li Style Taijiquan sadly do a lot. Rather than learning to skilfully shift their bodyweight from one leg to another maintaining that the bodyweight is placed solely on one leg at a time. This will then allow the non-Weighted leg muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue to fully relax, so that one leg is full (Shi) of Qi and the weight of the body, while the other leg is empty (Xu) as the bodyweight and Qi is released.
As for the turning (Zhuan) of the torso it is especially important that the individual only turns until the waist (Yao) stops turning naturally. Which allows the muscles of the lower back and hips to remain soft and relaxed, while at the same time a gentle stretching of the spine is applied. Whereas, to many individuals try and over exert using more of a twisting (Ning) action of the torso as in the practice of Yoga, trying to increase their flexibility, which in-turn can cause to much tension to gather in the muscles of the lower back, and stiffen the spine.
In the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan the arms and hands must be kept as soft, loose and relaxed at all times making sure that the joints are never fully straightened or locked. When having to rotate the arms and hands around, make sure to softly turn them around and not to use any force like twisting or wringing them as again it will gather tension within the arms and restrict the flow of Qi.
Turning (Zhuan) is considered to be (Yin), while twisting (Ning) is considered to be (Yang). As turning uses softness and twisting uses strength, turning fills (Shi) and twisting flushes (Xu).
Rollaways is a well known two or more person counter, counter flow exercise of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu system. This exercises trains the practitioners to develop their defensive & offensive hand and foot methods (Shoujiaofa) refining their timing, reactions, accuracy, speed, fitness and concentration. The Rollaways exercise combines both linear, angular and circular footwork methods (Bufa) which in turn allows the practitioner of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu to learn how to control the fighting distance between each other. Using footwork that allows you to enter deeply into your training partners defence and to then quickly use clever defensive footwork to retreat, evade and deflect your training partners counter attacks.
Learning how to develop clever footwork methods (Cong Bufa) in the practice of the paired Rollaways exercise is used to control the fighting distance between each other, meaning that each practitioner has to learn both defensive & offensive footwork methods that involves a rhythm of short and long mixed stepping patterns. This mixed stepping pattern of using short and long helps both practitioners to enter deeply or shallowly into each other’s fighting space. Using clever footwork must be used also to defend and evade oneself from each other’s attacks, for example using a long defensive stepping method to defend by increasing the fighting distance between each other, means that you create enough time to see each other’s counter attacks and are easily able to deflect them away or allow them to fall short of their target.
Whereas, using a series of clever short defensive footwork methods can be used to lure your training partner to step forwards to attack deeply. By using clever defensive footwork to just be out of distance of your training partners attacks, allows you to then enter into the training partners fighting space using your much shorter weapons like your elbows (Zhou), Shoulders (Jian) and knees (Xi) to counter strike and kick back with. As your partner begins to defensively step back to deflect and evade your attacks you can then follow using a series of long stepping methods to control the fighting distance to maintain your counter attacks making your partner fall onto your offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).
The basic linear Rollaways exercise that is taught within the LFIAA Feng Shou-Kung Fu teaches students and practitioners to use a series of clever straight line short and long range stepping methods to help control the fighting distance between you and your training partner or opponent. Some times entering shallowly or deeply and some times defending using a series of mixed short and long range stepping methods to escape and evade or even to lure your training partner or opponent into a trap.
When many people reach a certain age usually around 40 years of age, hundreds of individuals begin to suffer with joint pain, tenderness,stiffness, locking and swelling around the area of the lower back. This can be caused by poor working conditions, illness, injury or simply wear and tear from old age, some people are affected by Osteoarthritis within the spine which can cause chronic pain and limit the individuals ability to move freely. In China there is a saying “That you are as old as your back” and if you have ever suffered with a painful back problem yourself or have seen maybe a family member or friend suffer with one, then you will understand the saying. As having a painful back problem can make the individual feel really old, as they are usually bent over from the waist and when they walk they shuffle their feet like an old person, their range of mobility is great reduced and limited.
Both in America and Australia scientific research studies and trials have taken place on how the practice of taijiquan can benefit suffers of lower back pain. One particular randomised trial of around hundred sixty individuals who’s average age was around 44yrs took part in a 10 week taijiquan course,the results showed that taijiquan significantly improved bothersome back pain symptoms. The participants also mentioned that they experienced lower pain intensities, less pain related disability, and felt that their health related quality of life improved, and, in general, felt better for practicing taijiquan.
In the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan the movements of the arms performing various size circles in the empty space that surrounds them are connected to the shoulders and upper back muscles and the thoracic spinal column. Through their movements the upper back and thoracic spine are gently stretched and exercised, allowing for the muscles in the shoulders and upper back to become more relaxed as they release their tension and for the thoracic spine to become more supple as the stiffness is gradually reduced.
It is the slow turning of the waist from side to side that also gently stretches the muscles of the lower back and lumbar area of the spinal column. In the taiji classics it is stated “That the power begins in the feet and travels upwards through the both legs into the waist, were the waist directs and leads the power through the spine and into the arms and hands”. Another saying is ” If the waist moves, so do the hands, if the waist does not move, neither do the hands”.
Through the gentle, slow, smooth actions of the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan form anyone who suffers with lower back pain can receive great benefit it practice I. Helping to manage or prevent lower back pain as we all travel through life.
A particular fighting range that very few practitioners of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu seem to not want to specialise in is the ability to apply fast, practical and effective throwing methods (Shuai Fa) from various types of holds, grips, punches and kicks. A fast throwing method can be a devastating technique that can quickly finish a confrontation causing serious damage and pain to the attacker, especially if they were thrown onto a hard surface. Master Chee Soo would teach the throwing methods separately to those students who were interested in learning them only through the “Breath Art” (Chi Shu) System, which mainly incorporated many Joint Locking (Qin Na) type of throwing methods.
These same type of throwing techniques that Master Chee Soo taught through his”Breath Art System” he also taught to his senior Feng Shou-Kung Fu black sash grades as part of their training syllabus. So within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers all the students are taught throwing methods from a variety of holds, punches and kicking techniques, these throwing methods are usually taught from the Whirling Hands/Arms ( Xuan Shou) and Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) exercises which develop tactile awareness. The reason why the throwing methods are taught from a sticking hands exercise is that to apply an effective throwing technique the student must be able to develop their ability to listen, stick & adhere, neutralise and follow the attackers energy or power and then be able to turn the attackers own strength and power into a fast, devastating throw.
At a higher level of fighting skill not only has the Feng Shou-Kung Fu student got to learn how to apply effect, powerful throwing methods from various holds and grips. They must also learn how to apply these same throws from punching & kicking techniques that come from all angles. These particular throwing methods not only involve joint locking throws such as Finger (Zhi), Wrist (Wan) and Elbow (Zhou) they also include shoulder (Jian), Hip (Kua), Leg (Jiao) type throws that any gender can easily learn and use effectively to defend themselves.
The Chinese consider that a good, well timed powerful throw that tosses the attacker either onto their head, back, hips and legs can cause serious damage and pain to them inflicting great trauma such as dislocation of the hip, shoulder joints, concussion and serious damage to the spinal column and nervous system. The throwing methods are greatly enhanced if the attacker is just thrown onto a hard surface like concrete or stone or even frozen ground. A well balanced Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner must be skilled in all areas of fighting and this includes throwing methods (Shuai Fa) that can also be combined with your defensive and offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).
One of Tai Chi’s classic principles is not to be caught “Double Weighted” (Shuang Ding) that means the bodyweight should not be placed evenly between both legs. In many cases there are two many practitioners of the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi who do not pay enough attention to this very important T’ai Chi classic principle. Learning to shift the bodyweight from one leg to another has many health related benefits for which I will talk about a little later in this particular blog, firstly alternating the bodyweight from one to another brings the famous Yin & Yang (Tai Chi Lun) symbol into actual use, as the leg that carries the bodyweight is considered to be Yang, full, strong, active. Whereas the leg that carries no bodyweight is considered to be Yin, empty, light, non-active hence the constant shifting of the bodyweight allows Yang to change into Yin and vice-versa.
This constant shifting of the bodyweight from one leg to another either in a forwards to backwards direction or from side to side becomes a gentle rocking or swaying action that is performed throughout the entire form. Slowly placing the bodyweight onto one leg will gradually strengthen the muscles, tendons and bones of the lower extremities, plus it will develop an aerobic exercise that will raise an individual’s heart rate to 50-74 percent of maximum, depending on the type of intensity of T’ai Chi and your age.
Another reason why the shifting of the bodyweight from one leg to another in the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi is so important is that it increases the flexibility of each individual. It allows the muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia around the joints of the ankles, knees and hips to warm up and have enough time to adapt to stretching, changing shape and releases any tension and stiffness that may have built up without being torn or strained.
The rocking of the bodyweight from one leg to another also allows the individual to relax more into themselves, as the rocking action is like a mother who holds her baby in her arms and gently rocks and sways to allow the baby to fall asleep. Well this rocking action allows the T’ai Chi individual to achieve a deeper state of relaxation as their nervous system becomes more calmer and soothed due to the slow, predictable gentle rocking of the bodyweight, which will gently allow the tissues to gradually feel safe and release their holding patterns and tensions.
So above are just a few reasons why it is important to transfer the bodyweight from one leg to another in the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi for the maintenance of health, fitness and wellbeing and not to be caught using Double Weighted postures which sadly many practitioners of the Li Style Tai Chi still perform.
I have properly mentioned this before, but when I was studying and learning the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu under my teacher Master Chee Soo especially with the weapon side to this Chinese internal martial art style. The actual weapons forms were really long consisting with over two-hundred movements which would take many years to learn, as Master Chee Soo would not just concentrate on teaching one particular weapon, he would teach two or three weapons on the same course which obviously meant that there was to much information for anyone to really take in and sadly a lot of students never fully completed the Staff (Gun) or the Broadsword (Dao) forms. So having gone through that experience I decided that it was much more better to teach and develop shorter weapons forms that were full of techniques that could also be practiced as individual weapon fighting training drills to sharpen the various techniques of each particular weapon and individual, and also did not take to long for every student to learn, own and maintain its practice.
The Short Broadsword Form that I developed out of the much longer traditional sabre form that Master Chee Soo taught covers 16 Postures which amount to around eighty movements with over 18 Broadsword defensive and offensive fighting techniques. Personally I would much prefer to learn a shorter weapon form that I could fully learn within a year or two that I could practice from beginning to end. Rather than learn a much longer weapon form that may take me four or more years to learn and in some cases never learn.
Learning each of the 18 individual defensive and offensive sabre techniques (Dao Fa) that are found within the LFIAA Short Feng Shou Broadsword Form allows the practitioner to have a much more better understanding of the correct energy needed to perform each particular sabre technique. Instead of just swinging the Broadsword without knowing what action one is performing with the sabre. An example would be to stab forwards in a straight line with the Broadsword with great force (Dao Ci) or to use just the tip of the Broadsword to quickly point (Dao Dian) targeting the opponents arms or hands to disarm their weapon. Simply stabbing forwards does not mean that it’s the same technique every time, the stabbing technique (Dao Ci) can be performed deep or shallow, long or short.
Another aspect to the LFIAA Short Feng Shou Broadsword Form is that it consists of two different speeds slow and fast. Whereas in the traditional Broadsword form as taught by Master Chee Soo it only consisted of just one speed which was slow and continuous throughout the entire form. The much faster speed develops the practitioners cardio fitness, agility and power release (Fa Jin) of the whole body into the Broadsword.
As with all Chinese internal martial arts each style has its own kicking techniques which also means that they have methods to defend against them. In the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu Style the defence against kicks was known as “Ankle Controls” (Huai Guan Shu) as Master Chee Soo called the training method, again as with other styles of Kung Fu the hands are used to defend against high kicks and punches, whereas, the legs are used to defend against low line kicks.
Master Chee Soo taught two methods of defence against kicks or Ankle Controls as he called it, these two methods is the Yin & Yang Principle of soft (Rou) and hard (Ying). The (Yin) soft methods (Roufa) mainly use the opponents strength, balance and their aggression against themselves by using parry’s and deflections that absorb the opponents strength and redirect the opponents kick away from its intended target, whist they are off balance the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner would then counter attack back with a combination of hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).
The second option is to usethe (Yang) Hard method (Yingfa) against your opponents kicks. This includes open hand & closed Fist strikes, elbows and knees to smash into the opponents kicking leg, targeting their muscles, joints, nerves and Qi-cavities (Qixue) to destroy their kick leaving them wide open to a series of hand & foot counter attack strikes and kicks by the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner.
The Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner has to learn how to defend against all types of kicks, such as a front kick, round kick or even a knee all delivered at various heights sometimes from a single attacker or more. Once the practitioner has reached a reasonable skill level in being able to recognise and respond against various kicking techniques using both (Yin) Soft or (Yang) Hard defensive methods. They can then counter attack back using their own offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa), or apply fast takedown methods leading to powerful joint locking techniques to damage or subdue the opponent or they could use fast throwing techniques that toss the opponent onto their back, head or either side causing great damage.
Firstly the “Rollback Method” (Lu Fa) is one of taijiquan’s eight energies and all the many different styles of taijiquan express these eight energies through their particular forms and through the two-person paired exercise known as “Sticky or Push Hands” (Nian/Tui Shou). Rollback mainly means to yield and give way to any in-coming strength and then neutralise it and re-direct this in-coming strength and force away from your body. There are two particular types of the “Rollback Method” one is called the “Small Rollback Method” (Xiao Lu Fa) and the other is obviously called the “Large Rollback Method” (Da Lu Fa).
Within the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan Square Yard Form the “Small Rollback Method” is the most particular method that is practiced and most evident within the whole forty-two posture form. The “Large Rollback Method” can only be seen a few times within the Li Style taijiquan form. A Small Rollback Method is performed by simply shifting the bodyweight from the front leg to the rear, or the rear leg can take a small step backwards as the bodyweight shifts on to it. Usually the individual will turn their waist and torso to one side to re-direct the in-coming force away. Again the type of “Small Rollback Method” employed within the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan is usually and mostly performed with the bodyweight shifting onto the back leg, while the torso remains square on to the front leg, there is hardly any turning of the waist to re-direct the in-coming force or strength.
Whereas, the “Large Rollback Method” (Da Lu Fa) is performed by stepping backwards with the front leg and immediately the bodyweight is shifted onto it, again the waist and torso turns to one side so as to re-direct any incoming force away. This particular method of the Rollback is only performed a few times in the long form section of the Li Style taijiquan, but it is used extensively in the practice of the “Taiji Pushing Hands Exercise” (Taiji Tuishou) as it the Small Rollback Method.
For many individuals who study and practice the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan square yard form the ability and understanding on how to express the eight energies of taijiquan allows them to have a much deeper energetic connection to their movements, as each of the taiji eight energies will naturally transform one into the other or as Laozi once mentioned that “Everything must shrink before it can expand”, and applying the eight energies into your Li Style taijiquan form is just another way to express the principle of Yin & Yang and bring it alive in a practical method. To those who also practice the Li Style taijiquan and do not know about the eight energies of taijiquan, then I encourage you to find out about them, as through the learning of them and applying them into your practice of the Li Style taijiquan form will greatly give you more depth and enhance your over-al experience of the practice of taijiquan.
A very little known kicking method that many students of the “Hand of 5he Wind Boxing Style” (Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu) do not seem to train and practice and yet was taught by Master Chee Soo is the “Hip Strike” (Kua Da). Master Chee Soo mainly taught the Hip Strike kicking method as a defence against any type of circular kick that is aimed at your body coming horizontally from either side, you were taught to simply step in close to your opponents body and deliver the Hip Strike to their body knocking them off balance. Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers, students are taught to practice the “Hip Strike” foot pattern alongside the many other types of kicking methods that are taught and practiced in the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu.
When the “Hip Strike” Kicking Method is taught it can be used defensively to just bump and knock the opponent off balance. Or it can be taught offensively alongside strikes, kicks and throws or takedowns. Obviously the “Hip Strike” Kicking Method is a short range weapon that means the student as to use skilful footwork methods (Bu Fa) and skilful hand methods (Shou Fa) to close the distance between themselves and their opponent. Or the “Hip Strike” could be used if the opponent themselves decides to close the distance.
The “Hip Strike” Kicking Method is a very powerful tool to have in one’s tool box when it comes to protecting yourself. As if timed and delivered accurately and correctly it could easily drop the opponent to the ground, especially if the “Hip Strike” is targeted at the opponents groin, even colliding into the opponents own hip or thigh could cause a dislocation of their hip and possibly a dead leg. Now when you combine the “Hip Strike” alongside your Striking & Kicking methods (Shoujiaofa) or your wrestling and throwing methods (Shuaijiaofa) then it becomes a very useful weapon.
In the Chinese fighting arts when you are taught various Kicking methods, you are taught to use all the surface areas of the leg which include the toes, ball of foot, instep, sword edge of the foot, the heel, back of heel, the shin, calf and knee as well as the hip to use defensively or offensively. Sadly not many students of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu system actually know how to use the “Hip Strike” method, hence why you don’t see it being performed openly as many don’t use it or are even aware of this powerful close range Kicking Method.
Over the many years that I have been studying and practicing the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan all I seem to hear from the many other teachers who also teach a version of the Li Style taijiquan is the cultivation and circulation of the vital energy (Qi). But no one seems to mention or teach how to develop the correct body mechanics on how to issue whole body power (Zheng Shen Li) through the movements and actions of the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan form.
This i believe is because of two main reasons. The first reason is that everyone is taught to perform the Li Style taijiquan form slowly, learning how to combine their breathing with their movements, which helps to cultivate and circulate the Qi helping them to strengthen their health & wellbeing. The second reason is that the emphasis on practicing the Li Style taijiquan is purely based upon maintaining and improving one’s health and not on developing taiji as a self defence discipline. Hence, this is why no one seems to mention the existence on how to train and develop the ability to issue whole body power (Fa Jing) through the actions and movements of the Li Style taijiquan form. When you decide to practice any style of taijiquan purely for health & wellbeing then a little of the whole art of taijiquan seems to become lost and this is what as happened to the Li Style taijiquan, no one seems to talk about developing their ability to issue whole body power (Fa Jing) in the practice of the Li Style taijiquan and using correct body mechanics to do this effortlessly.
There is no reason why the Li Style taijiquan form cannot be performed using fast movements. Which is why I could not understand why there was a reason to learn the “taiji flying hand form” which is some times also known as “taiji dance”. As again this particular form does not emphasise or include any understanding on how to issue whole body power, it’s just a bunch of movements performed at a fast even pace. If practicing the Li Style taijiquan form slowly is considered as Yin, then obviously practicing the Li Style taijiquan form with a combination of slow & fast actions can be considered Yang, hence to be completely balanced in the study and practice of the Li Style taijiquan every individual needs to practice the Li Style taijiquan form at both speeds. Practicing the Li Style taijiquan at both slow and fast speeds then allows everyone to develop their ability to store, cultivate, circulate and issue Qi as a power source towards attaining health, wellbeing, fitness and hopefully a long life.