Within the Traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts there is a saying that the “Whole Body is a Fist”. Meaning that any part of the body can be used to defend with and propel your opponent forcefully to the ground, many practitioners who study and practice the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu mainly focus on striking methods that involve the use of their hands and arms. Such as open hand palm strikes, closed fist and knuckle striking techniques, plus using the elbows to strike with. But very few focus on using and developing the “Shoulder Striking Methods” (Jian Da Fa) that are used when in close to the opponent.
Most practitioners of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu are firstly introduced to the its striking methods (Da Fa) through the practice of the Poison Hand Striking Sets (Du Shou Da Fa). But the shoulders are considered to be the “Root” of the upper limbs and the fingers and hands are considered to be the tip, the Poison Hand Striking Sets mainly focuses on using the tips, the hands & fists to strike with, but the use of the elbows (Zhou) and shoulders (Jian) can be employed as striking tools alongside the use of the hands. A skilful practitioner of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu should be able to use any part of their body to apply both defensive or offensive techniques.
The use of the shoulders can be applied to not just striking your opponents body, but can be used to attack the opponents elbow joints to break the arm, they can be used to apply fast throwing methods. Basically, developing your ability to strike your opponent using your “Shoulders” allows you to enter deeply into your opponents defence and combine other striking and kicking techniques alongside the use of your Shoulder Striking Methods. Sadly after the death of Master Chee Soo the over-al standard of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu in my own personal point of view has gradually dropped, with many practitioners turning it into a fitness come health exercise rather than an internal martial art. Many simply focus on learning the “Art” and not the “Martial” aspect.
In the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan Square Yard Form there are both Single (Dan) and Double (Shuang) Whip (Bian) postures. Within the Li Style Taijiquan Short Form both can be seen and performed, yet many practitioners of the Li Style Taijiquan perform the Single Whip Posture using a double weighted stance usually in a Riding Horse (Qi Ma Shi). As you properly all know that there should not be any double weighted stances at all in the practice of taijiquan in general, yet when the practitioner performs the Double Whip Posture (Shuang Bian Shi) the Leopared Stance (Bao Shi) is used otherwise known as a “High Half Squat Stance”, which places the bodyweight onto one leg.
So if the practitioner places their bodyweight onto one leg using the Leopard a Stance, when performing the Double Whip Posture. Then surely the same must be performed when performing the Single Whip Posture as seen in the accompanying photo of Laoshi Keith Ewers performing the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form In the Kowloon Park, Hong Kong, China. The reason why I ask this question is that firstly there should not be any double weighted stances (Shuang Zhong Shi) used in the study and practice of taijiquan, yet many practitioners still widely use them in the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form. Secondly, using double weighted stances means that for a few seconds the lower body stops moving, while the movements of the upper body are kept moving isolated from the non- moving lower limbs, which again goes against the Taijiquan classic rules that “If one part of the body stops moving, then the whole body should stop”.
Using single weighted postures allows the whole body to keep moving without pausing, hesitating or re-adjusting. As the Taijiquan classics says “If one part of the body moves, then the whole body moves”. This can only be maintained by each practitioner of the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan eradicating the many double weighted stances that are used by many practitioners and change them to single weighted stances. In simple terms, stop using Bear, Riding Horse, Snake and Eagle Stances and instead replace them with Cat, Leopard and Monkey Stances. Hence, then there are no more Double Weighted Stances used when one performs their Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form.
To many practitioners of the Li Style Taijiquan do not follow any of the guiding principles or rules that every other practitioner of other styles of Taijiquan follow. They are simply left to interpret what they think their Li Style Taijiquan should look and perform as. Sadly, because of this the use of Double Weighted Stance as been widely introduced into the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan, were it should never of happened if there was guiding rules for every practitioner to follow and understand on how to maintain accuracy and discipline in their practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan Square Yard Form.
One of the most underrated defensive & offensive hand methods (Shou Fa) taught within the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu I believe is the “Cloudy Palm Method” (Yun Zhang Fa). Many practitioners who study and practice the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu only teach the Cloudy Palm as a defensive technique to deflect in-coming blows away from their intended target. But the usefulness of the Cloudy Palm Method is to use the back of the wrist and back of the hand as a hooking technique that can be used skilfully to trap and move the opponents limbs, creating better lines to attack with powerful striking techniques.
As with every defensive & offensive hand techniques that are taught within the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu. They can be used in a singular, double or changing hands methods and so it is the same when using the Cloudy Palm Methods. As a defensive tool the Cloudy Palm can be used to defend against high or low blows that come from various angles, such as hooks, straight blows, uppercuts etc. When using the Cloudy Palm Method to defend with it can not just be used to deflect blows, but it can also be used to remove an opponents guarding limb out of the way, if it is in the way of your line of attack, or it can be used to trap and pin your opponents limb.
Primarily the Cloudy Palm Methods can be used to open up your opponents defence by either entering from the outside to inside or vice-versa. It can also be use to hook the opponents wrist to pull the opponents arm downwards from a high line to low-line position or the Cloudy Palm can be used to hook the opponents elbow joint and pull it in an horizontal direction to create an opening line to attack the opponents body. The Cloudy Palm Method is a great tool to have and develop if one knows how to fully use it other than just as a method to deflect blows away, but knows how to use it to remove obstacles to enter deeply into your opponent defence.
As with all of the defensive and offensive hand methods that are taught and practiced within the Feng Shou-Kung Fu System they can all be used alongside striking methods (Da Fa), kicking methods (Ti Fa), wrestling methods (Qin Na Fa) and throwing methods (Shuai Fa). And so it is the same when using the Cloudy Palm Methods to defend against an opponent.
In the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan, there are two major actions that many individuals who study and practice this particular family style have a tendency to not be aware of. What I am talking about you might say, well it is the use of the waist (Yao) and the hips (Kua) either individually or combined together as each individual performs their taijiquan movements. Because the Li Style Taijiquan can be performed within a small area, moving in eight directions, some times it means that the individual involves the turning of the whole body in either a 90 or 180 degree rotation. Meaning that the hips and waist must be involved to allow each individual to rotate their body in various directions.
Some times the waist (Yao) is used separately on its own without the hips (Kua) moving, as in the “Repulse The Monkey Posture” (Daonian Hou Shi) as seen in the accompanying photo of myself performing the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form in the Kowloon Park, Kowloon, Hong Zhong, China were the hips remain square on to the front, but the waist is used to lead and guide the arms and hands smoothly into place. Another posture were the waist is used on its own to guide the hands is the “Crane Exercises Its Wings Posture” (Baihe Liangchi Shi) were the individual turns their waist (Yao) to the right and left, but the hips (Kua) remain square on, not moving at all.
Obviously, when turning the body in a 180 degree rotation to the right or to the left, it is the waist that turns firstly with the hips following as the bodyweight shifts from one leg to another, the hands and arms follow the turning of the waist they must not move ahead of the waist turning. There are many benefits in allowing the waist to turn separately from the actions of the hips, firstly the core muscles of the abdomen are used and strengthened, this is some times why some teachers say to move from the “Dantian” meaning to use your waist to guide and lead the whole body. Secondly the gentle turning of the waist allows for a far more supple back and spinal column, which again can release any blockages that may occur within the nervous system that travels the spinal column, plus releasing muscular tension that has accumulated in the muscles of the back, allowing the individual to become more relaxed and calm within themselves.
The stepping methods (Bu Fa) of every style of taijiquan involves the raising, lowering shifting, opening and closing actions. Sadly when you see many individuals performing the Li Style Taijiquan to many simply rock their bodyweight from one leg to the other without even lifting the foot off the ground, others lift the foot, but from the hip joint, keeping the leg straight without bending the at the knee joint. Many have become very lazy in their stepping methods which means that they have stopped themselves from improving their leg strength, which in-turn will benefit their ability to maintain a better sense of balance.
It is important that each individual who performs the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form try’s to lift the foot off the ground with the hip and knee joint kept relaxed and bent. How high the individual lifts their foot off the ground is entirely up to themselves, but there must be daylight between the ground and foot and obviously it must be kept as a natural action as possible. The lifting of the foot means that the individual as to place all of their bodyweight onto their supporting leg and th3 slower that they lift the foot off the ground the more the supporting leg works harder in maintaining the balance. Again before the individual lifts the foot off the ground they must make sure to “Shift” the bodyweight onto the supporting leg, this allows the joints in the non-weighted leg to become “Open” making it easier for the whole leg to be lifted.
Once the individual lowers the foot back onto the ground to take a step in any direction. Again it must be performed as slowly as possible, so that the supporting leg is beginning to work really hard. Once the the foot as been “Lowered” back onto the ground the individual then can immediately “Shift” the bodyweight onto that leg “Closing” the joints of the hips, knees and ankles as the bodyweight is placed onto the leg. A big problem with many individuals who practice the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan Square Yard Form is that they use to many “Double Weighted Postures” (Shuang Zhong Shi) which makes them become very lazy in their footwork, which will effect their ability to develop strong, fit legs muscles that can support their bodyweight to greatly improve their balance, blood, lymp and Qi circulation throughout the entire body.
Within the LFIAA Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu as taught Laoshi Keith Ewers the weapons taught as part of this internal family martial art are the Staff (Gun), Sabre (Dao), Straight Sword (Zheng Jian), Walking Stick (Zhang), Three Sectional Whip (San Duan Bian) Dagger (Bi Shou), Belt/Sash (Dai) and the Spear (Qiang). My teacher Master Chee Soo would like to teach to his students much longer weapon forms that sadly many did not complete, as it took so long to cover the many weapons that he taught as part of the Li Style (Lishi) Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Whereas, we at the LFIAA have chosen to only teach a shorter version of each weapon form, but they are packed with many two-person defensive and offensive training exercises.
As for the Spear work (Qiang Fa) a student has to learn the Staff (Gun) before they can progress to the Spear training. As the focus of the Staff is on both ends of the Staff, whereas, the Spear mainly focuses on the Spear point to stab, cut, hook and coil. The Spear form that we teach within the LFIAA Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu is packed with two-person defensive and offensive training exercises, has it is these particular two-person fighting exercises that brings the Spear applications alive and develops the practitioners skill to handle the weapon proficiently.
Obviously the Spear has its own unique fighting techniques that are different to the way the Staff is used. Each practitioner has to learn these sometimes difficult techniques to give the Spear its own particular style, learning the Feng Shou-Spear Form helps to teach every practitioner the basic, intermediate and advanced Spear fighting techniques that are found within the form itself. That is why learning the Spear form is so important for every student to learn and practice to improve the quality of their Spear techniques.
One of the reasons why I much prefer to teach shorter weapon forms, rather than the more traditional longer forms that were taught to me by my teacher Master Chee Soo. Is that every student can learn a particular weapon form that is taught within the LFIAA Feng Shou-Kung Fu within a year or two. Rather than taking five or ten years or more to fully complete the form, the shorter weapon forms allow the student to learn a complete weapon form in a much shorter time period, allowing for the student to then practice and improve their over-al skill and development of that particular weapon.
When I see fellow practitioners of the Li Style Dao Yoga System performing various exercises. Many just seem to do isolated movements, were they just lift an arm up to shoulder height or above their head, but the rest of the body remains static, non-moving, not connected to the rest of the body. Basically Dao Yoga is just another name for Daoyin (Guiding & Leading) or the more popular name now being widely used is “Qigong”. Irrespective of what name is used to describe this particular style of exercises, the exercises themselves must combine the Five Components of the whole body within its actions, which are the Legs, Torso, Arms/Hands, Concentration and Breathing there should be no isolated actions. As the aim of the whole Li Style Dao Yoga System is not just to exercise the external physical body, but to also effect the internal circulation of the blood and Qi to nourish and strengthen the functioning of the internal organs for better health and wellbeing.
If the exercise being practiced is to really benefit the body, them it is important that the whole body is used and fully connected. In the practice of the Li Style Dao Yoga exercises there are two sets for every exercise, what is known as the “Sequence” or (Yin) set. The Yin set is performed very slowly with coordinated breathing and the movements are performed slowly and gently. Whereas, the second set is known as the “Extension” (Yang) set, which is again performed slowly with breathing, but the actions are more dynamic with the aim to stretch as far as possible and to increase the stretch on each repetition. Over-al non of the movements must be held statically in one position and the individual forced to stay in that position and told to relax. Each of the exercises are kept slowly moving and are guided by the practitioners breathing skill in coordination with the movements.
If the whole body is kept in harmony with the five components being involved in each exercise, then the Qi will also flow smoothly through the meridians and channels (Jingluo) throughout the entire body. But if the practitioner performs isolated actions, then the parts of the body that are not moving, the Qi will either slow down or stagnate causing blockages to occur inside the energy pathways. Sadly to many students are taught isolated Dao Yoga exercises were one limb is moving and the rest of the body is not.
Everyone who has and who are still studying and practicing the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, would have involved themselves in the sticking hands exercise known as “Whirling Arms” (Lun Bi Fa). This exercises involves both single, changing and double hands practice, we’re both partners begin to connect their hands together with each other and begin to rotate, circle or whirl their hands/arms around each others joints, staying contact with each other to develop their listening skills (Ting Jin), trying to feel for your training partners strength, pressure, force, centre of gravity etc.
Once both training partners have made contact and began to whirl their arms around, changing from either a single, changing to a double hands practice. They then begin to strike at each other from any angle as they whirl their arms around in small, medium and large circles and coils. At first each partner takes it in turns to strike at each other using straight, circular and vertical striking angles, which can include both open hand or closed fist striking, plus elbows and shoulder strikes as well. It is the slight change of pressure or the sudden feeling of lightness that one feels as the training partner breaks their contact in their attempt to strike at you from any angle that you are really listening for. Because of this the defending partner really will begin to develop their ability to listen through their tactile touch, if they are not able to feel the sudden change of pressure from heaviness to lightness, then they will receive the strike that their training partner has delivered.
Once you add striking to the practice of the Whirling Arms exercise, then each partners development to listen (Ting) through their tactile skill will greatly improve to a high proficiency level. Hence, so will their defensive ability also improve in being able to use the appropriate ward off or deflection technique to defend against the in-coming strike. Once you add striking into the Whirling Arms practice, anywhere on each partners body, the groin, stomach, ribs, chest, throat, neck, face and head are all targets to strike at, from the whirling circles that each partners arms perform.
The Middle Triple Heater (Sanjiao) is located between the sternum and the navel and within this area lays the Liver, Spleen and Stomach internal organs. The middle jiao corresponds to the transformation of the food that we eat, extracting the clear and turbid essences from the food and then transporting the clear Qi to the upper jiao of the Lungs and Heart to be spread around the entire body to nourish, strengthen the functions of the internal organs to maintain our health and wellbeing. Whereas, the turbid, sickly Qi is passed downwards into our large and small intestines, kidneys and bladder to be released out of the body.
Today many individuals suffer with digestive problems due to poor diet or the stresses and strains that life can bring to each and everyone one of us. Working on the middle jiao using specific massage techniques can help to gather, rise, lower or disperse any blocked blood or Qi within the middle jiao that may be causing the irritability within the Spleen and Stomach causing the individual to feel nausea, reflux, constipation, irritable bowel xyndrome or even diarrhoea which obviously can cause pain and discomfort to each individual. Using certain massage techniques the practitioner of the Li Style Medical Bodywork Massage can help to remove any obstruction that is causing the problem, bringing balance back into the middle jiao, so that the smooth flow from Qi from the three heaters (Sanjiao) flows freely downwards and upwards within the body.
When using the Bodywork methods (Shenfa) on a patient the Li Style Practitioner might find themselves remaining in the same position for a long period of time. Which means that the practitioner must develop their strength to remain in the same stance and posture for a long time without moving, plus when using their massage techniques they must endure the treatment for a long period of time without changing the technique, within themselves they must also develop a calm and still focused concentration (Wuwei) to be able to feel and listen to the Qi within the patients body to better guide and lead (Daoyin) it to help ease the patients discomfort and successfully treat their ailment.
Once the practitioner of the Li Style (Lishi) Medical Bodywork Massage has spent a few years learning the basic massage techniques (Jiben Tui Na Shenfa) that makes up the whole of the foundation practice. They are then able to develop and practice various treatment methods or protocols to treat a wide range of ailments, obviously they will not use all of their massage techniques that they have learnt. But choose to use the correct and appropriate massage techniques that are better suited to treat the patients ailments, so maybe you will only properly need to use three different massage techniques to connect to the patients jing, Qi and Shen.
One of the most popular treatment methods that I often use in my clinic is to regulate and balance the Qi within the three sections of the patients body. What we call the Triple heaters or (Sanjiao). The upper heater or jiao ranges from the top of the chest to the bottom of the sternum and is used to balance the Qi of the heart and lungs, whereas, the middle heater or jiao begins from the bottom of the sternum to the navel and regulates the Liver, Spleen and Stomach, the lower heater or jiao is located from the navel to the pubic bone and it regulates the Qi of the patients Kidneys and Bladder.
When using certain massage techniques to treat ailments of the three triple heaters or Sanjiao. Then the practitioner must use techniques that will penetrate their Qi deeply into the core of the patients body to connect to the patients Qi within their internal organs. For example in the accompanying photo that is attached to this blog you will see myself placing my both hands on the upper back of the patients body, to treat the upper heater and the heart and lung organs that lay inside. My both hands will sink my Qi down to connect to the patients Qi, were I can then begin to gather the patients Qi in the upper jiao to strengthen the Qi within their lungs and heart if they are suffering with a deficiency. When using these particular massage techniques the practitioner may stay in one position for a long time to connect and guide/lead the patients Qi to treat they symptoms, to be able to work for long periods of time staying in one position, means that the practitioner must remain calm and still inside themselves, so as to maintain their sensitivity and connection to the patients Qi.