In the study and practice of the Chinese Straight Sword (Zheng Jian) irrespective wether it be Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Xingyiquan or even the Shaolin sword styles. They will all involve the use of the Sword Fingers (Jian Zhi) hand shape to help each practitioner to balance the flow of Qi through the both arms and especially into the straight swords tip. It is said the the Sword Fingers hand shape originated from the Wudang Daoist Sword Methods and gradually filtered into other sword styles like the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Straight Sword Square Yard Form practices.
Originally there are eight different shapes that the “Sword Fingers” can be held while the practitioner practices their Straight Sword techniques. In the picture that is attached to this blog, the “Sword Fingers” are held in the Heaven Sword Fingers hand shape (Qian Jian Zhi Fa) as each of the eight sword fingers hand shapes corresponds to the eight trigrams symbol (Bagua Tu) and these are found within the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Straight Sword Square Yard Form.
The use of the “Sword Fingers” (Jian Zhi) not only allows each practitioner of the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Straight Sword to balance the flow of Qi through the both arms. It is also used to add strength and support to the sword hand, plus it is used to aid the practitioners own balance when the sword is held further away from the practitioners body to maintain their stability. Obviously many practitioners place all of their awareness on the sword hand as it is the primary, but just as much awareness must also be placed on the “Sword Fingers” hand shapes to balance the Yin & Yang energy within the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Straight Sword Square Yard Form.
There are many different straight sword form practices. But there are not many that can be performed within a small confined area, unlike the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Straight Sword Square Yard Form that is taught and practiced by the Li Family Internal Arts Association (LFIAA) as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers who is a lineage holder of the Li Family Arts (Li Jia Shu).
As with every Chinese Internal Martial Art they all cover the four fighting ranges of Striking (Da), Kicking (Ti), Wrestling ( Na) and Throwing (Shuai). So it is the same with the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, but sadly not every practitioner will train within each of the four fighting ranges, as many practitioners do like to be thrown, so they do not bother to train and study this particular fighting range. Me personally, I believe that to be a complete practitioner of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu you must reach a proficient level of skill within each of the four fighting ranges so as to be a balanced internal martial artist.
There are many different types of throwing methods (Shuai Fa) to learn and master within the Feng Shou-Kung Fu. But not every throw will work on every opponent, you must be intelligent and understand that there is a correct time and place to implement throwing techniques against a certain type of opponent, and there is also the time when it is best not to try using a throwing method. Usually against a much bigger, heavier and possibly stronger opponent you are best to just stick to striking and kicking methods. Whereas, against a much thinner, lighter opponent you can actually apply your throwing techniques to great effect.
Applying a fast, powerful throwing methods on an opponent can be very devastating to them, causing serious damage, especially if they are thrown onto hard ground. As there is a possibility that they could land awkwardly on their back, head, shoulder or pelvis causing serious damage that finishes the confrontation altogether or definitely slows them up. Successful throws can be applied from punches, kicks, various grips or holds that your opponent might try to attempt to do. All highly skilled martial artists will study and practice various throwing methods as they are very powerful techniques to have within your own toolbox if you need to use them against the right types of opponent.
In the middle of a serious aggressive confrontation your opponent might be able to get close enough, so that they can grip and hold your arms, torso or your head. At this particular range they are close enough to punch, elbow, knee or even try to throw yourself to the ground, this is were a fast, practical and powerful throw could be applied to help finish the confrontation or allow you to escape from the situation. A skilful practitioner of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu should be able to cover and blend together the four fighting ranges, so as to adapt and change their own fighting methods to overcome any situation that confronts them. Turning a serious of strikes into a set up to throw the opponent or catching your opponents kick and then throw them onto their back or head or apply a certain joint lock that then is also used to throw the opponent to the ground were they are then pinned and immobilised.
Because we humans move around through the actions of opening and closing our joints. It is through the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Qin Na-Kung Fu that you are taught how to manipulate the joints of an assailant to hinder their own mobility and cause tremendous pain on them, by either mis-placing their joints (Dapo Jie) or by dividing the tendons ( Fen Jin) using various joint locking techniques that use very little strength to apply that any women or girl can use to defend themselves.
Today no matter were you live, you could easily find yourself in a very threatening situation we’re a stranger, friend, work colleague or even a family member suddenly decides to attack you in your place of work, school, university, outdoors or in your own house. Maybe you find yourself alone with no one to step in and protect you and your assailant has grabbed you from behind, this is were you wished you had learnt some martial arts training to help give you the opportunity to escape from your assailants hold, and to then quickly and efficiently apply a devastating joint lock onto your assailant forcing them heavily onto the ground, were you can then subdue and control them or cause them serious damage.
Many females feel that they do not need to learn some basic self defence. Because they think an assault will never happen to themselves, and learning some self defence is a total waste of time, Until they are suddenly attacked. Within my classes I have heard many stories by women who have been attacked or found themselves in awkward situations that really frightened them and made them realise that they needed to learn self defence to protect themselves.
Learning the Li Style Qin Na-Kung Fu teaches females how to break free of many types of grips and holds and how to apply fast, practical joint locking techniques that need no amount of great strength to apply them. Once a women has managed to apply a finger lock for example on a much bigger Male they are surprised how quickly the Male becomes under their control through the pain inflicted by their finger locking technique and how little strength was used to effectively apply the technique. The Chinese hundred of years ago learnt how to manipulate the joints of the skeletal system to control and immobilise an aggressive person using very little strength that both a male or female could use to defend themselves against much bigger and stronger assailants.
One of the exercises and sounds that is performed as part of the Traditional Chinese Medical Qigong of the “Eight Healing Sounds” is the “Sui” sound which is aimed at working our skeletal system or in other words our bones and the Marrow that is found deep within them. The Marrow is the spongy substance that is found in some of our bones, in children it is found in every bone to aid their development and growth, whereas in adults at about the age of 25Yrs the bone Marrow is mainly found within the flat bones such as our skull, spinal column, pelvis, shoulder blades and the long bones of our arms and legs.
The bone Marrow produces red blood cells and is connected to the lymphatic system, producing lymphocyte cells that support our immune system to fight of external pathogens that can weaken our immune system and cause illness. Within Chinese medicine the bone Marrow is connected to the functioning of the Kidneys and the water element.
Chinese medicine holds that your protection from external pathogens depends upon the health and strength of your Kidney Jing and defensive energy (Wei Qi). If the individual has low Kidney Jing, the bone Marrow will suffer, the Wei Qi will become weak, hence the individual will develop low immunity to pathogens which can mean a pattern developing of catching regular colds, influenza and allergies.
Practicing the Eight Healing Sounds exercise for the skeletal system to strengthen the bones of the individual, by using the “Sui” sound to vibrate and resonate the Marrow inside the bones. Can also help to strengthen the individuals immune system to fight off external pathogens, boost the Kidneys to maintain their healthy functioning. The Eight Healing Sounds Medical Qigong practice can be performed from a lying, sitting, standing or walking position.
The Li Style Taiji Straight Sword practiced by the LFIAA is the “Square Yard Taiji Sword Form” which can be practiced within a small confined area, moving in the directions of the eight trigrams (Bagua) just like the Li Style Taiji Bare Hand Solo Form which hundreds of people practice for health and wellbeing purposes and which has become a very popular exercise. The Li Style Taiji Straight Sword Square Yard Form involves both upright postures, low postures and single standing leg postures to strengthen the leg muscles, tendons and bones to benefit better balance, plus, to invigorate the circulation of the blood and improve fitness.
The welding of the straight sword (Zheng Jian), while performing the slow, soft flowing movements can take a lot of concentration by the individual. As the individual has to make sure that both of their arms are moving in harmony with each other, and that there are no isolated actions, were the sword arm is moving while the free arm is not. Both of the individuals arms must be constantly moving at the same speed with the free arm being used to support and balance the sword.
The free hand must be held in what is known as the “Sword Fingers” ( Jian Zhi) were the index and middle fingers are kept extended, while the ring finger, pinky finger are bent covering the Laogong Qi cavity located in the centre of the palm, the thumb touches the ring finger to form a circle. The Sword Fingers hand shape is held in the eight different shapes while performing the Li Style Taiji Sword Form to help balance the flow of Qi through the whole body and through both hands.
I have already mentioned before in a previous blog that when I first learnt the Li Style Taiji Straight Sword Form. It was taught in a long linear line by my teacher Master Chee a Soo and there are still many of his students who still practice it in this particular way. Whereas, we in the LFIAA have created a Square Yard Sword Form that can be performed in a confined area just like the Li Style Taiji Form itself, which means that we are keeping with the unique style of the Li Family in being able to practice its forms in a small area.
Over the many years that I have been teaching and practicing taijiquan in the Li, Yang and Sun styles and also through its many qigong exercises. I always come across the same problem with many individuals who decide to take up the study and practice of taijiquan, that because the practice of taijiquan and its qigong exercise involves slow, gentle flowing actions that it is easy to learn. The amount of individuals who suddenly realise that taijiquan is not an easy exercise to learn, that they have to engage fully in its practice, that they must remember and retain the quality of the movements and exercises.
To many individuals fall into this lazy attitude that they cannot retain the accuracy, quality and discipline of their taiji qigong actions. They believe that because it’s action are performed slowly that it will be easy, actually the slower the movements the more the body works in maintaining its balance by placing the bodyweight fully onto one leg alternating from one to the other for long periods, plus the arms are held away from the body not being allowed to touch and rest on the body. Then the individuals mind must then fully engage to harmonise the breathing with the accurate and disciplined movements.
The actual name that the Chinese give to taijiquan when translated into English means “Supreme Ultimate”. By giving it this name the Chinese were not messing about, they expected every practitioner of taijiquan to aim high in developing a quality based mind, body, breath exercise that fully brought the whole being into harmony to strengthen the health, fitness and wellbeing to live a long life with a youth vitality in their old age. Sadly, today to many individuals try and water down the practice of taijiquan and its qigong exercises making it so easy that it no longer challenges the individual to strengthen their mind and body connections.
There is a tremendous amount of depth in the practice of taijiquan that many individuals will never achieve. Because they are lazy in their approach to the practice and study of taijiquan, many do not do any daily self practice to help maintain the quality and accuracy of their movements, many cannot even remember the movements and exercises that they have learnt because of a lazy attitude, thinking that they will attain a high level of practice by not practicing themselves, this is a strange paradox.
Wrestling training (Jue Di Fa) methods as practiced in the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu mainly combines joint locking techniques with a variety of holds. Each practitioner attempts to place a particular hold on each other, while the other training partner then produces a counter method to escape from the hold and then continues their own attack. Each practitioner can apply joint locking methods on each other and also perform their counter methods, they can also attempt to apply strangles and choke holds on each other, as well as basic holds and grips. Usually the Wrestling training begins from a standing position, were after a few months and years of regular practice they can then introduce striking and kicking methods into their wrestling practice. This teaches each practitioner to develop their tactile manipulation skill to a high degree of skill.
The basic level of Wrestling in the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu begins with a light standing practice. We’re the aim is to present a hold, choke, strangle or a joint locking technique on each other, but to allow each other to escape without fighting and resisting against each other, trying to keep the exercise as a fast, flowing exercise that develops footwork, body movement and tactile awareness. Gradually as each practitioner becomes more experienced with this training method the holds, chokes and joint locks that each practitioner attempts become more stronger and quicker in their application, which means that the counter methods must become more skilful.
Once the standing wrestling as developed to a high level of proficiency, then each practitioner can begin to add punches and strikes to help them escape from a particular hold, strangle or joint locking technique. Obviously, this then allows each practitioner to become aware that the training partner can use punches or strikes to escape their holds or locks. Which they then have to try and continue their wrestling methods by locking up their training partners attempted punching and striking methods to escape.
Once each practitioner has reached a high level of proficiency combining punching, striking techniques alongside their wrestling methods. They can then add both high & low line kicking techniques to help the: escape from various holds, chokes and joint locking methods. Again each practitioner has to then become aware that each other can use kicks to escape, they then have to try and continue their wrestling by joint locking or holding their attempt kicks. Usually at this stage both practitioners can now take their wrestling onto the ground were they can continue to apply various holds, chokes, strangles, joint locks on each other, plus continue using punching and kicking techniques to escape from holds.
There are many types of ward offs, deflections and parries used in the practice of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Many are used to defend against both high and low blows crossing the centre line of the body to deflect and parry away any in-coming blows. But there is no particular ward off that was taught by Master Chee Soo that covers the centre-line, preventing an opponent if they were to use a series of straight blows by blocking, intercepting and entering into their own defensive space.
In the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu that is taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers, it is the “Piercing Palm Method” (Chuan Zhang Fa) that is used to directly cover the centre-line, as it moves forwards in a rising (Qi) drilling (Zuan), overturning (Fan), and falling (Luo) action that cuts into the opponents striking limb, deflecting the blow away. But at the same time penetrates into the opponents own defensive space to help launch an opportunity to counter strikes.
Most of the defensive ward offs and deflections used within the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, cross over the centre-line from a side to side or up to down direction. Which can some times leave the practitioner venerable and open to an opponent who uses feints to draw a reaction from the practitioner. Whereas, the Piercing Palm moves forwards towards the opponent covering the centre-line in a rising, drilling, overturning and falling action as already mentioned above. This direct forwards movement of the Piercing Palm can quickly turn defence into an attack, allowing for the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner to apply more offensive striking, Kicking or even wrestling methods to overcome their opponents.
The effective use of the Piercing Palm Method (Chuan Zhang Fa) as a direct defensive tool that covers the centre-line and cuts into the opponents attacking blows. Can also be used as a “bridge” to close the distance on the opponent, so as to enter deeply into their own defence and take their own space that they are standing in, by using fast, flowing offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa). The Piercing Palm Method is not just used to defend against high, straight blows, it can also be used against low straight blows to deflect, connect and enter with.
Developing the Piercing Palm Method (Chuan Zhang Fa) and adding it into the toolbox of your Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu defensive hand techniques is one that every practitioner should learn and have. As there were no particular defensive ward offs, deflections or parries that move directly forwards and towards the opponent that was taught by Master Chee Soo, only defensive hand or arm techniques that brush away any in-coming blows to either side, upwards or downwards. But none that moved directly forwards to cover the centre-line.
The Standardised Taiji Qigong 18 Exercises have become a very popular exercise for thousands of people around the world. As these exercise are very easy to learn and to perform, but can take individuals many hours of dedicated practice to master the depth that each of the Taiji Qigong Exercises has to offer towards strengthen the muscles, tendons and bones, improving the flexibility of the joints, tendons & muscles and developing each person’s cardiovascular fitness and respiratory system.
Every movement of the Standardised Taiji Qigong 18 Exercise should be performed slowly, maintaining the same speed throughout the actions of each exercise. The slowness of the movements are dictated by co-ordinating the breathing (Xi) with the movements, the breathing has to be deep, long, slow and smooth. This then begins to strengthen the concentration of the each individual as they need to time the breathing and movements smoothly and accurately together. Even thou, that each of the Standardised Taiji Qigong 18 Exercises look easy to perform, there is actually a tremendous amount of depth involved in each and every exercise. That every individual has to attain if they wish to maintain a high proficiency level within its practice.
Every exercise that is part of the Standardised Taiji Qigong 18 Exercises Form (Taiji Qigong Shibashi) as to follow various guidelines and principles that every style of taijiquan also follows. These guidelines develop discipline and accuracy in every movement that each person performs as part of the Taiji Qigong Exercises. In the practice of taijiquan the whole body should be involved in every movement, the legs, torso, arms, concentration and breathing are all combined and united together, so that the whole body moves as a complete unit, without any isolated movements. There are many individuals who practice the Standardised Taiji Qigong Exercises and are self taught, copying the exercises from books and videos. But sadly they do follow any of the taijiquan guidelines, hence you can see them performing isolated actions, which is not correct taijiquan practice.
Each of the Standardised Taiji Qigong 18 Exercises helps to strengthen the individual’s muscles, tendons and bones, increases their flexibility and range of mobility, plus builds their fitness and stamina to improve their general health and wellbeing, irrespective of age or ability.
I believe the uniqueness of the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan System is its ability to perform its movements within a small confined area. Which makes it quite unique, as the more larger traditional Taijiquan styles like the Yang, Chen, Wu and even the Sun style can take up plenty of room in its practice of their forms. Today the Chinese are gradually bringing out more smaller simplified Taijiquan forms like the Yang Style Taijiquan 8, 16 and 24 postures forms, there is now a Chen Style Taijiquan 18 Posture form, plus there is also a Sun Style Taijiquan 13 Posture form. But it is the uniqueness of the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form that makes the practice enjoyable, as it can be performed in doors or out doors in a small space.
Sadly, when it comes to the practice of the Li Style Taiji Sword Form, as what was taught to me by Master Chee Soo. The Li Style Taiji Sword Form was taught in a long linear line moving in one direction and then turning and moving back in the opposite direction. We at the LFIAA now teach the Li Style Taiji Sword Form in a Square Yard Form Method, that allows the practitioner to move in eight directions only taking at least two steps at the most in any of the eight directions. This then means that the Li Style Taiji Sword Form can be performed as a Square Yard Form that can be performed within a small confined area just like the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Hand Form.
I personally believe that the uniqueness of the Li Style (Lishi) is its ability to perform the entire movements of its forms within a Square Yard of were the practitioner is standing. So it is only natural that it’s weapon forms should also follow in the same manner, it is this ability to perform its movements within a small confined area that gives the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan it’s unique style and flavour.
The question that I would like to ask is, why is the Li Style Taijiquan Hand Form performed within a Square Yard and its weapon forms are performed in big long lines. Surely, it’s weapon forms should also be performed within a Square Yard Method just to bring the whole style into balance with its self and give the style its own uniqueness. This is what we have began to do within the LFIAA, the Li Style Taiji Sword movements are still the same used, but are now performed within a Square Yard format rather than in a big long line, allowing for its practitioners to perform its entire form within a small area.