In the study and practice of the Yang Style (Yangshi) Taijiquan simplified forms, there are many ways a practitioner can practice each individual posture. Each particular posture can be performed from a static, fixed position, or by using a rocking, swaying practice or by using the moving step (Dong Bu) method. The moving step practice is properly the most difficult to perform as the practitioner has to become aware of maintaining their balance, while smoothly transitioning from one side of the body to the opposite.
The Yang Styles Parting the Horses Mane Posture (Yema Fenzong Shi) is one such posture that can be performed as a “Moving Step” practice. Which allows every practitioner to coordinate the actions of the taiji eight energies of Squeezing (Ji), Ward Off (Peng), Rollback (Lu), Pressing (An) and Splitting (Lie) on either side of the body to develop their precision, accuracy, timing, concentration and balance. But more importantly to coordinate their movements, breath and intention to guide & lead their Qi, look and lymph through their entire body to help maintain and improve their health, fitness and wellbeing.
In the practice of Daoist Meditation (Zuo Wang) after The practitioner as sat for a while in meditation. It is best to then to do some moving qigong practice to help maintain the circulation, as if you “Sit” on a regular basis, the Qi and blood can slow down and become stagnant in certain areas of the body. So by practicing some moving qigong exercises like that of the Yang Style Taiji Parting the Horses Mane Moving Step Practice can help to maintain the smooth flow of blood (Xue), lymph (Linba) and Qi (energy) throughout the whole body to help cultivate, nourish and strengthen the bodies health & wellbeing.
Daoist Sitting Meditation mainly opens the “Small Heavenly Circulation”. Whereas, the practice of the Yang Style Taijiquan Moving Step Methods (Dong Bu Fa) opens the Small and Large Heavenly Circulation. By practicing both the “Sitting and Moving Meditation” Methods a practitioner can gradually begin to refine, cultivate and nurture their jing, Qi, Shen to strengthen their health towards living a long life (Chang Ming).
Some teachers and practitioners of the Li Family’s Daoist Boxing Art of Feng Shou-Kung Fu have a tendency to teach this internal martial art with techniques that are used purely for defence and techniques that are used to attack with. This way of practicing is very limited, to say that an inside or outside sun palm ward off can only be used for defence hinders the practitioners ability to be flexible and natural within their fighting methods.
Whereas, in the LFIAA we are taught that there is both a dual Yin & Yang, defensive or offensive in every technique. It is just down to how the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner chooses to interpret the practical application. For example the inside rolling arm ward off (Nei Gun Bei Jie Duan) can be used to defend, by deflecting the opponents in-coming blow away using a soft (Yin) rolling action that guides the blow aside. Or the same rolling arm ward off can be used to strike heavily (Yang) against the opponents arm or body. Hence the same technique combines a dual Yin & Yang method, it just how to choose to use them.
Having the ability to use every technique as either a defensive or offensive fighting method, allows the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner to develop a practical, refined, natural and effective internal martial art that fits their own size, bodyweight, and attributes. Obviously each individual needs to practice on a regular basis to maintain their fitness, flexibility, coordination, agility, timing, accuracy, reactions, precision and concentration. Another aspect that I have noticed over my many years of practicing and teaching the Li Family’s Daoist Boxing Arts, is that many practitioners practice from a position of only using their fighting techniques from a purely defensive situation. Meaning that they wait until the opponent launches they blows and then they go into action, but there are going to be times, where they might find themselves not being able to stop and defend against the opponents heavy attacks. So they will need to change their strategy to an offensive action, as the best form of defence is attack. Hence they will have to learn how to attack, how to open and enter into the opponents defence to land their own striking & kicking techniques.
Master Chee Soo would mention that a typical practitioner of the Li Family’s Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Should be able to change and adapt their fighting methods to overcome any situation that their opponent may use. This can only happen if the practitioners fighting techniques are simplified, natural, practical and skilful.
For the hundreds of individuals who study and practice the Li Family’s arts of health, healing, meditation and martial art. For many practitioners, especially in our present time and properly over the last forty years give or less a few, only know that the practice of the Li Family’s Dao Yoga Exercises are performed alongside the Li Style Taijiquan. But the Dao Yoga is in its self a whole system on its own that was originally taught separately, from the other arts that made up the full Li Family system. The Dao Yoga consisted of sitting, lying and standing exercises that were taught using a (Yin) Sequence, Passive Set and a (Yang) Extension, Dynamic Set. Daoyin Breathing Exercises that we’re made up of eight (Yin) breathing methods, eight (Yang) breathing methods and four (Yin/Yang) breathing methods. Alongside all this there was also the Qi Sensitivity Exercises and Daoist Meditation Practice’s.
As my teacher Master Chee Soo would often mention. Each of the individual disciplines that make the whole of the Li Family’s Arts all compliment each other and are connected to each other. Hence, why practicing the Dao Yoga can greatly benefit those who study the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, as the stretching exercises can greatly help in developing each practitioners flexibility and mobility, allowing them to move quicker, strike and kick faster due to releasing muscular tension and joint stiffness that can accumulate within the body. For those who study and practice the Li Family’s Push & Pull Bodywork Massage, the practice of Dao Yoga can help to develop their body alignment, concentration and of cause their Qi cultivation and circulation. So that they can connect to the patients Qi with their own and be able to guide & lead it anywhere within the patients body to treat a wide range of ailments.
Sadly today. Many individuals only contact with the Li Family’s Daoist Yoga is to perform one or two of its exercise during a Li Style Taijiquan class. We at the LFIAA still practice the full system of the Li Family’s Daoist Yoga discipline separately on its own with its Daoyin breathing exercises and Daoist Meditation practice as taught to us by Master Chee Soo. This helps to keep the whole discipline alive and to keep its own originality as an important discipline that makes up the whole of the Li Family’s Arts (Lijia Shu).
One of the most topics that is spoken about in the practice of taijiquan in general, is how to grow strong “Roots” (Gen), meaning how to develop stability in the performance of the Taijiquan form work. Well there is only one way to develop your root and that is through the practice of either “Push Hands” (Tui Shou Fa) or any other tactile two-person exercise like the Whirling Hands Exercise (Lun Shou Fa). Because an important part of these two particular exercises, is that you are both trying to break each other’s balance, which means that you must sink your Qi to maintain a strong stable stance.
The practice of the fixed position freestyle Whirling Hands Exercise is were both individuals test each other’s tactile skill. By abiding to the principles of “using softness to overcome hardness”, which means that both individuals must remain relaxed and loose, while maintaining a stable stance, as the bodyweight shifts from one leg to another, the both hands are constantly moving, sensing, feeling through the touching of both hands. Searching and listening for your training partners tension and issuing of strength were you can then yield, follow, neutralise and borrow their strength and return it back with your own strength combined.
I have mentioned this so many times before in other blogs and articles. That to become skilful in the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form, each person must also fully engage within the tactile two-person exercises like Stick/Push Hands and both of the Whirling Hands & Arms Methods. As without these three training methods an individual can miss out on a tremendous amount of important information that can help them to transform their taijiquan form work to a much higher level of awareness and ability. Even more emphasis by every person must be placed on practicing these tactile two-person exercises, as many individuals place most of their efforts in the study of the Taijiquan form or Daoyin breathing exercises or even the Dao Yoga exercises.
Practicing the Taiji whirling hands (Lun Shou) Exercise will bring the movements of the Li Style Taijiquan form alive. As both are one and the same, as they both utilise the actions of the “Eight Energies” of Peng, Lu, An Ji, Cai, Lie, Zhou, Kao. Which to be really honest I think many of those who teach, study and practice the Li Style Taijiquan are unaware of their existence, hence why not many practitioners ever mention them within their practice of the Taijiquan form, it’s because of this lack of understanding of the “Eight Energies” that they cannot see the link between form and the two-person tactile exercises, they still believe that they are separate Taijiquan exercises and cannot see the importance of why they should practice and study them.
At this present moment in time we’re we are still in the grip of the Covid-19 lockdown. Many of us who are studying and practicing the Daoist Boxing of Feng Shou-Kung Fu will still need to find the time to do some solo practice, just to keep the body & mind connected and maintain our agility, flexibility, coordination, concentration, timing, accuracy, precision, fitness and relaxation.
I personally find that adding some of the Li Style Dao Yoga Sequences/Form. Alongside the many solo defensive & offensive hand and foot (Shoujiaofa) fighting exercises, Daoyin breathing exercises and maybe some weapon training forms and finish with some standing post qigong (Zhan Zhuang) is a really good workout considering we are in lockdown and cannot make contact with any training partner.
As my teacher once said to me “The learning is easy, but the maintenance is the hardest”. Which means its fun and enjoyable to learn new things, but this still does not mean that you can make any of the new information work and be practical & effective. Especially if you don’t practice and sacrifice any of your precious time to self practice on a regular basis, as it’s only through your self practice that this new information that you have learnt, can turn into something useful and not remain useless.
There is tremendous depth to the practice of the Li Family (Lijia) Daoist Arts. Especially within the Feng Shou-Kung Fu, but if you don’t maintain your practice in these difficult times, then your proficiency level will drop. The most important aspect to learn within Feng Shou-Kung Fu is to maintain and improve your health & wellbeing, as without this you cannot do anything. So just spending a few minutes of your time to perform some Daoyin breathing exercise or standing post (Zhan Zhuang Qigong) alongside your striking & kicking techniques gives you so much more to practice with and at the same time makes you feel better both physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.
LFIAA Li Family Six Healing Sounds Daoyin. “The (Ha) Sound For The Heart” (Lijia Liu Zi Jue Daoyin).
It was at the end of the 1970’s that I attend a Friday evening course n the Li Style Daoist Yoga (Kaimen Daoyin) which was held in Cwmbran, South Wales. We went through a series of Dao Yoga Sitting & Standing Exercises that stretched the tendons and muscles, opened the joints to increase the circulation. Then after the Dao Yoga Master Chee Soo taught us the Six Healing Sounds Daoyin Exercises (Lijia Liu Zi Jue Daoyin). For which I never saw him teach these same exercise ever again, on any Daoist Yoga or Taijiquan course that I ever attended.
The Six Healing Sound to regulate the Qi within the Heart is the (Ha) sound. The sound can be made non-vocalised (Quiet) or it can be made vocalised, the non-vocalised being more (Yin) is used to strengthen and nourish the organ, whereas, the vocalised (Loud) sound is more (Yang) and is used to dredge and clean any blocked or stagnant Qi out, for example if there is to much heat being accumulated within the Heart, it can cause some individuals to become emotionally over excited, even hysterical which can lead to hypertension, palpitations and heart problems. Practicing the Six Healing Sound for the Heart can help to release this accumulation of heat and disperse the blocked Qi, which will lower the heart rate and bring calmness to each individual emotionally.
For those who suffer with a lot of stress within their lives. Practicing the Six Healing Sounds Daoyin can greatly benefit in helping to release the tension, anxiety and stress that has built up. Especially for those individuals who suffer from emotional and mental problems due to the stress that they are suffering under. you can either just sit or stand and perform the sounds without any of the physical actions, obviously with lots of repetition or you can combine the sounds with the physical movements that corresponds with each of the Six Healing Sounds. The actual physical movements for each of the sounds which are targeting the internal organs (Zangfu) of the Heart, Spleen, Liver, Lungs, Kidneys will work the soft tissues like the tendons, muscles, fascia and skin that surround each organ and gently begin to massage each organ helping to either tonify or disperse the accumulation of sickly Qi to improve the regulation of each organ to maintain over-al health and wellbeing.
So it is very important for the practitioner of the Li Style Daoist Boxing System of Feng Shou-Kung Fu to not only be skilful within their defensive hand methods. But to also be just as skilful in using the same hand methods to attack and open up the opponents defence. there is no difference in using a Sun Palm lifting technique to deflect an in-coming blow away, than the practitioner using the Sun Palm lifting technique to enter into the opponents defence by
The same hand methods (Shou Fa) that are used to defend oneself against an opponents punches and kicks, can also be used to open up an opponents defence. The Sun Palm, Cloudy Palm and Arm ward offs can be used to manipulate an opponents protecting arm aside to create opening within their defence so as to deliver a fast, powerful striking combinations that can finish the confrontation quickly. There are always going to be times within a fight, we’re the practitioner has to take the initiative to attack and put the opponent under pressure, as the saying goes “The best form of defence is attack”.
A practitioner of the Daoist Boxing of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu has to be not only skilful in their defensive hand methods, but to be just has skilful using the same hand methods to attack and open up the opponents defence. For example if the practitioner uses a single upwards, lifting Sun Palm Ward off to deflect the opponents in-coming blow away, then they can also use the same technique, the Lifting Sun Palm to remove the opponents guarding arm away, so as to enter and attack.
To many of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioners are taught to think that the hand methods (Shou Fa) are to be only used to defend oneself from in-coming blows. Whereas, to be fully balanced within this Li Style Daoist Boxing System they should be just as comfortable in using the same hand methods to attack with. Learning how to use your hand methods like the Cloudy Palm Method (Yun Zhang Fa) to open up your opponents defence, can then give the practitioner the opportunity you then flow into striking, kicking, joint locking and throwing methods. Which are purely down to each and every practitioners ability to be fully versatile and balanced within their own fighting ability to not only defend with skilful hand methods, but to be just skilful in their attacks using the same hand methods.
When performing the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan Square Yard Form the practitioner will draw circular shapes in the air. While performing the movements of their Taijiquan Form practice, these circular shapes involve Vertical, Horizontal & Sidewards circles,combining both small and large circles that blend, smoothly and naturally from one into another. So when we perform the two-person tactile exercise what we know as “Whirling Hands” (Lun Shou), we also draw these same circular shapes while remaining in contact with each other. The only difference is that we are both trying to upset each other’s balance, which means we must not use strength against strength.
By combining the three basic circular shapes into the practice of Whirling Hands. It allows both practitioners to remain relaxed by making sure that their both hands are kept moving at all times, both trying to push against each other’s body, using the fingers, back of the training partners hands, the elbow & shoulder. With this intent from both sides to strongly touch and push against each other’s body, means that strength as to be issued, which then allows the receiver to feel that strength that is issued towards them to then follow (Sui), Yield (Qian) and Neutralise (Hua) that strength lead it away using one of the basic three circular shapes.
Obviously the practice of Whirling Hands (Lun Shou) and the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan Form are one and the same. By practicing the Whirling Hands Exercise a practitioner can learn many things on how to improve their Taijiquan Form, such as correcting their body alignment, learning how to better sink their Qi into their stances and into the ground to greatly improve and strengthen their root (Gen), not to become tense and stiff within their muscles, tendons and of cause joints, but to remain loose and relaxed (Song) at all times. These are just a few examples of what an individual can learn from the practice and study of the Whirling Hands Exercise there are many, many more things that an individual can learn to better improve their Taijiquan from the Whirling Hands practice.
Today, many individuals seem to place all of their attention into the study of the Li Style Taijiquan Form, a few Daoyin breathing exercises and some Dao Yoga exercises. But sadly the study and practice of the tactile exercise of Whirling Hands & Arms are being less practiced. Which as a negative knock on effect in the individuals development, as to strengthen your root and balance, you need someone to push against you. This cannot happen by just performing the Taijiquan Form.
As I have already mentioned in previous blogs that I have written on the subject of the Li Style (Lishi) Dao Yoga Art. There are many types of exercises for which are originally performed separately, but we at the LFIAA have a tendency to perform them in a sequence of joined up exercises which look very much like a form. The exercises are designed to strengthen, increase flexibility and develop stability. The exercises are combined with the breathing (Xi) and performed slowly in a relaxed manner.
Obviously the Li Style Dao Yoga Exercises are there to help each individual to circulate their Qi, blood and lymph around their body to enliven, nourish and strengthen their health and wellbeing. The exercises can target various areas of an individuals body, for example you can perform a sequence of exercises that will stretch the muscles of the back and spine to release muscle tension and stiffness of the spine to improve mobility, flexibility and relaxation. Another example is to perform exercises that will strengthen the leg muscles and improve the individuals balance and agility.
Because we are all different from one individual to the next. Meaning that some of us may be to stiff and tense within certain areas of the body more than others, say like the hips. So we may need to enliven the area to bring more fresh Qi and blood into the area to nourish and strengthen the joints of the hips, allowing for the blood and Qi to flow into the space between the joints and to remove the turbid Qi (Zhao Qi) and stagnant blood out. The importance of practicing Dao Yoga is to help maintain and improve the health of the practitioner and to work on the areas of the body that needs treatment.
Because there are so many ways that a typical sequence of Dao Yoga exercises can all be joined together. This allows the practitioner to perform certain exercises that can target various parts of the body. Like developing the fitness of the legs to help with the balance, or exercises to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Regular practice of the Li Style Dao Yoga Sequences can also benefit the practitioner in their Daoist Meditation, as the Dao Yoga will develop a more relaxed body.
The healing or medical arts of the Li Family Arts as taught by the LFIAA. Involves Bodywork Massage, Acupuncture & Medical Daoyin Exercises. The Push & Pull Bodywork Massage is made up of ten sections of massage techniques, which can be used to work on the musculoskeletal system, or directly on the internal organs (Zangfu), or on the Yin & Yang Meridians and Channels (Jingluo) that cover the entire body to treat both internal or external disease.
To effectively use the bodywork massage to treat disease, a practitioner must be well educated in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and practice. They must know how each of the Yin & Yang Meridians connect and flow into each other, they must be able to locate the 360 Acupuncture cavities which lie on the energy pathways of the entire body. They must understand Yin & Yang theory, Five Element theory, they should be able to read the pulses and tongue of a patient to begin to diagnose problem or imbalance within the patients body and to then begin to formulate a protocol to treat the patient. Simply just practicing the many massage techniques does not mean you can treat a patient with a serious disease.
Basically my teacher Master Chee Soo, would teach the bodywork massage to his students, especially if they were teaching the martial arts of the Li Family Arts. As many individuals who attend these classes can end up with various injuries, so he would show us how to reduce and dissolve a bruise, swelling or a black eye, some more serious methods like how to realign a dislocated joint like a shoulder or elbow. I personally have had in my own many years of teaching the Li Family Martial Arts, had to re-align dislocated fingers and elbows, reduce bruises, bring individuals around from being knockout by using the hand manipulative techniques of the Push & Pull Bodywork Massage Methods.
Sadly, the Healing Arts of the Li Family that we teach and practice within the LFIAA is not flourishing as much, like that of the other arts that are taught within the Li Family. Such as the Li Style Taijiquan or the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu as most individuals much prefer to choose and practice these two most popular disciplines, rather than the bodywork massage.