Today many, many people are turning towards the practice of qigong/meditation to help them cope with the stresses and strains that a modern lifestyle can bring. As many individuals are seemingly suffering more and more with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, plus physical ailments as chronic fatigue, arthritis and emotional issues like irritability, anger, fearfulness etc. Practicing qigong/meditation can help individuals cope and manage their ailments as they go about with their daily lives.
One particular discipline that I have been practicing for many years is Chen Tuan’s Four Seasons Seated Qigong/Meditation Exercises (Si Ji Zuo Gong). These seasonal exercises coincide with Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn which coincide with the kidneys, liver, heart, spleen and lungs. Hence the practice of the Four a Seasonal Seated Qigong/Meditation exercise is to maintain the healthy functioning of the internal organs for the maintenance of health, wellbeing and long life.
In the practice and study of Daoist meditation (Jing Zuo) the aim is to cultivate and transform the three treasures (Sancai) of body, which are the essences (Jing), energy (Qi) and Spirit (Shen). Whereas, the Four Seasonal Seated Qigong/Meditation exercises are designed to cultivate, nourish and strengthen the three treasures to promote good health and to live a long life, so that one can then continue their daoist meditation to transform the essences into energy, energy into spirit and the spirit to nothingness.
The Four Seasonal Seated Qigong/Meditation exercise combine various breathing methods, with self massaging methods of the energy channels and energy points of the body, plus gentle stretching movements that promotes blood and Qi circulation around the entire body all performed from a seated meditation cross legged position. I personally like to perform the seasonal qigong/meditation exercises after my daily meditation practice, whereas,some individuals would do the opposite. I find that both practices compliment each other greatly and can benefit many individuals who are suffering with various mental, physical and emotional problems.
The Traditional Yang style Taijiquan Forms are known for their large frame movements and long sequences that take up a lot of room. Whereas, the Simplified 8 Step Yang Style Taijiquan Form maintains the characteristics of the large frame movements, but it can be performed within a small confined area, which makes it an ideal introduction to Taijiquan practice for complete beginners, plus for those more experienced individuals who are looking for a taijiquan practice that can be performed indoors in a small area.
The Yang Style 8 Step Taijiquan Form involves stepping forwards, sidewards to both sides and turning the body. It also involves single leg standing postures to strengthen the legs and improve the balance, plus large frame actions of the arms to help improve the flexibility of the muscles, tendons and joints of the whole body. It also as the iconic Taijiquan “Wave Hands in Clouds Exercise” (Yun Shou Fa) which many individuals practice as a separate exercise on its own because of its flowing turning actions of the torso that are beneficial to strengthening the digestive system.
Please do not be fooled by the “Simplified” name attached. As by no means does it make the practice of the Yang Style 8 Step Taijiquan Form feel easy. It still holds a tremendous amount of depth that each individual must learn how to master, as each person must still follow the guiding principles of connecting the five components of the legs, torso, hands, concentration and breathing together in a continuous slow, smooth and flowing action which can take plenty of practice time to achieve.
What makes this particular 8 Step Taijiquan Form exercise so popular is that it does not take up a lot of room. Basically, the individual remains roughly in the same spot as they stand making it an ideal practice that can be performed in the comfort of their home. Usually the more Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan Forms need a large amount of space to perform them in and many individuals struggle in being able to practice these larger forms in their homes.
The practice of the Wild Goose Patting Qigong (Dayan Pai Da Gong) involves passive and vigorous actions that stimulate the circulation of the Qi, blood and the lymphatic system to help strengthen the defensive Qi (Weiqi) to defend against external pathogen that can attack our body and weaken our immune system and affect our health and wellbeing. Alongside the passive and vigorous actions the Wild Goose Patting Qigong also combines circle walking practice using various energetic hand shapes also known as “Mudra’s” in Indian or (Shou Yin) in Chinese to cultivate and nourish each individuals Qi.
But the most important aspect to the practice of the Wild Goose Patting Qigong is it’s patting (Pai) and striking (Da) methods on the Yin & Yang Meridians (Jingmai). The patting and striking methods are performed to clean and dredge the Yin & Yang meridians and channels of blocked Qi that can affect an individuals physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing. During everyday our bodies can accumulate muscular tension, joint stiffness that can not only affect each person’s blood circulation and energy levels. If left to build up within the body, it can also affect a persons emotional state, making them feel more anxious, irritable, frustrated or even angry.
Practicing the Wild Goose Patting Qigong regularly can help to keep our physical, emotional and mental states in a more balanced and relaxed place, to help us cope better with the pressures that life can bring to all of us. Alongside the Wild Goose Patting Qigong energetic circle walking practice that strengthens each person’s balance and concentration levels, developing a deep feeling of calmness inside is a great exercise that cannot only be practiced on its own. But can greatly compliment other holistic exercises like Meditation, Taijiquan, Dao Yoga etc.
One of the most important attributes a practitioner of the Li Style (Lishi) Feng Shou-Kung Fu can develop is their tactile ability. To develop a practitioners tactile awareness in the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Feng Shou-Kung Fu we practice the Whirling Arms Method (Lun Bi Fa) which develops our ability to Stick (Nian), Adhere (Zhan), Follow (Sui) and Connect (Lian) to our opponents arms and feel for their sudden changes of forward pressure, strength or force and to then divert it away. Over the many years that I have been studying and practicing the Li Family Internal Martial Arts (Li Neijiaquan) there are many practitioners who also be practicing the Whirling Arms Exercise and are simply just doing that “Whirling” their arms?
There is a tremendous amount of information that can be found in the practice of the Whirling Arms Exercise. Especially if you begin to combine the four fighting ranges of Striking (Da), Kicking (Ti), Wrestling (Na) and Throwing (Shuai) within its practice. To develop a high level of tactile skill in the study and practice of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu Whirling Arms you need to develop your defensive techniques such as your ward offs, deflections and parries, but you must then develop your offensive striking and kicking methods, so that you and your training partners can test each others tactile skill by trying to touch, hit or strike each other, attacking from both the outside and inside lines.
To greatly develop your tactile skill you must have some kind of threat to yourself that will definitely focus your mind on your ability to “feel” your training partner or opponents intention to strike or kick you. Then once you have felt were the opponents punch is going to come from, you are then able to deflect the blow away using an appropriate ward off that deflects and redirects the opponents force away, but you must still be able to remain in-contact with the opponents attacking limb at all times, once you have managed to deflect the opponents strike, you can then immediately strike back from the outside line or you can open up your opponents inside line and then attack using a punch or palm strike.
Obviously, once you have detected your opponents intention to strike using either they right or left hand. Then after using the correct ward off or parry to deflect the in-coming blow away, you can then apply any type of joint locking technique onto your opponents attacking limb. Which you can then follow up with by using a particular throwing method (Shuai Fa), your training partner or opponent must try and escape your joint locking method by using either another counter joint locking method, or by striking or kicking technique to escape your own joint lock.
Within the Li Family Arts there are many practitioners who are practicing the Whirling Arms Exercise and are simply just “Whirling” their arms around without attempting to attack each other. Which means that they cannot be developing their tactile ability to a high level, as there is no threat to themselves. Whereas, if you combined striking or kicking techniques into the Whirling Arms practice then your ability to feel or sense your opponents attacks would greatly improve to a higher skill level.
One of my teachers favourite Qin Na wrist locking methods was the Small Entwined Wrist Lock” (Xiao Chan Wan Suo) which is illustrated in the accompanying photo that is attached to this blog. Which he taught how to apply extensively from strikes and many types of holds and grips. This particular wrist lock (Wan Suo) once applied needs very little strength from the practitioner to apply to control their assailant, as a tremendous amount of pressure and bodyweight is fully placed onto the assailants wrist joint causing great pain and discomfort. My teacher Master Chee Soo taught many variations on this particular wrist lock, plus he taught a wide range of counter techniques against the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock” if it was ever applied on ourselves.
There are many styles of martial arts that also employ the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock Method” such as Aikido, Jujitsu, Taijiquan and many styles of Kung Fu. The reason why such martial art styles practice this particular wrist lock is that it can be applied practically and very quickly by both the young and old alike. Within the Li Style Qin Na-Kung Fu there is both the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock” and also the “Large Entwined Wrist Lock Method” (Da Chan Wan Suo Fa), plus the “Carrying the Basket Entwined Wrist Lock Method” (Dai Lan Zi Wan Suo Fa) which uses the elbow (Zhou) to apply the wrist lock. Master Chee Soo taught a many variations of both the “Small and Large Entwined Wrist Locks”.
Once the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock Method” is fully applied the pain that is inflicted onto the assailant can be used to take them to the ground, were they can be pinned and immobilised under control. Or the practitioner can use the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock” to set up the assailant for a heavy strike targeted at a vital area of the body like an energy cavity (Qixue) which can render them unconscious. Master Chee Soo would. Also teach a wide variety of counter joint locks (Fan Qin Na) against the “Small Entwined Wrist Lock” which would involve finger, wrist, elbow and shoulder joint locks as counters.
When I was first taught the basic meditation methods (Jiben Jing Zuo Fa) of the Lishi Daoist Meditation practices by my teacher Master Chee Soo. It was in a large group of over twenty-five students who had attended a Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan course, during the morning practice we had asked several questions about the breathing methods (Xi Fa) used within the practice of the Li Style Taiji Square Yard Form, for which Master Chee Soo answered saying that combining the breathing with the movements helped to anchor the mind’s concentration. But to fully develop the breathing one must practice meditation alongside your taijiquan practice, then we were asked to sit on the floor crossing our legs naturally or in the half or full lotus position. Then he taught us how to hold a particular Daoist Yin & Yang hand shape or mudra (Yin Shou) that allowed our Qi to circulate freely into our hands and arms.
Once we were in the correct meditation posture with a straight spine, chin slightly tucked in. We were then asked to place the tip of our tongue to the hard palate just behind the top teeth, then we were told to half close our eyelids and focus our eyes on the tip of our nose (Shanggen), then we were told to concentrate on our breathing trying to quieten our breathing so that we could not hear our breath, making the inhalation as long as the exhalation and to remain fully relaxed at all times.
We were allowed to sit and meditate for around fifteen minutes and then he told us to slowly come out of our meditation. Then he asked us if we thought the time that we spent meditating went quickly or slowly? He then asked if we felt that our breathing reached deeper into our Dantian (Elixir Field) located below and behind our navel and that the practice of meditation and taijiquan benefit each other and should be practiced alongside each other.
Since then, all those many years ago I have regularly meditated and have found great health benefits both physically, emotionally and mentally in myself. Especially in our very fast and stressful modern lifestyle we’re many individuals are suffering from anxiety, depression, irritability and many other types of illness that are caused by stress, the practice of Daoist meditation can really help to calm, relax and allow the mind to become more still benefiting many individuals over-al health and wellbeing, plus the connection between seated Daoist meditation and the moving meditation practice of the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form are very closely related and the practice of both disciplines are a great way to nourish, replenish & strengthen the body, mind & spirit.
One of the most popular exercise that many individuals like to practice out of the Taiji Qigong 18 Exercises is the “Wave Hands in Clouds” (Yun Shou) exercise were the individual draws to alternating sidewards circles with both hands, while rising and sinking from the legs (Tui) and turning from the waist (Yao) from side to side, at the sametime combining their breathing with the movements. Harmonising the five components of the whole body together in a skilful way.
The Wave Hands in Clouds exercise can be performed in three training methods. 1). As a static exercise. 2). As a rocking/swaying exercise. 3). As a moving/walking exercise. The first method the static exercise is what is usually practiced as part of the Taiji Qigong 18 Exercise Form, sometimes the sidewards rocking or swaying exercise is used as well. Whereas the moving or walking Wave Hands in Clouds exercise is rarely practice, unless you study and practice the more Traditional Taijiquan Forms or Sequences.
As an health and wellbeing exercise the practice of the “Wave Hands in Clouds” (Yun Shou Fa) will strengthen the muscles, tendons and bones of the lower extremities, improving blood and Qi flow into the both feet. The turning of the waist from side to side will benefit the digestive system, working the Spleen, Stomach, large & small intestines to flush out any stagnant blood or food that can accumulate causing various digestive problems. The turning of the waist (Yao) can also help to release muscle tension in the lower back, plus stiffness of the spinal column. The drawing of sidewards circles with the both hands can gently stretch the muscles of the shoulders and upper back, strengthening the Lungs and Heart to promote blood ( Xue) and Qi (energy) to circulate through the whole body, nourishing and replenishing the functioning of the internal organs to generate good health, fitness and long life.
To the Daoist Autumn is the period of the “White Tiger” (Bai Hu) and it corresponds to the “Metal Element” which is associated to the Lungs. At this particular time of the season many individual’s can fall ill from the cooling temperature that the autumn season can bring, especially if the Summertime was very hot, the Heart can over heat and affect the Spleen causing the Spleen to overheat, which then rises upwards to affect the Lungs causing them to become dry and deficient, which can cause the Lung Qi to weaken allowing the individual to become susceptible to catch colds, coughs or even suffer with influenza.
When an individual comes to my clinic for a treatment I will sometimes teach them maybe one or two of the Eight Healing Sounds Qigong exercises to help tonify or disperse the excessive or deficient Qi within a particular internal organ that may be the cause of their illness. As the autumn season I would teach my clients the Lung sound and its actions to help strengthen the Qi within the Lungs to fight against the cooling temperature of autumn which can effect the Qi of the Lungs and weaken them.
The exercise for the Lungs can be performed from either a lying, sitting, standing or even a walking practice. It is especially beneficial to practice the Lung exercises a little more than the other sounds, especially at this particular time of the year which corresponds with the seasonal effects on the internal organ that is connected to that season, which is the Lungs as we are in the autumn period. Many individuals suffer with colds, cough and chest congestion at this time of the year as their Lung Qi as become weak and deficient. Hence learning and practicing the Eight Healing Sounds Qigong can help to maintain the balance of Qi within each of the five Yin Zang organs to help maintain good health and wellbeing throughout the different changes of the seasons as the year progresses.
Obviously, just like the autumn period. Each of the four seasons can have an effect on its associated internal organs, so by regularly practicing the Eight Healing Sounds Qigong the individual may suffer less with the seasonal effects and maintain a healthy constitution.