The saying that “The best form of defence is offence” is an option that very few practitioners of the Daoist Boxing Style Of Feng Shou-Kung Fu put into action. As many simply think that the only time they would use their Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting methods would be if they were attacked. So many practitioners work their fighting methods from a point of view of defence and counter attack, but within a typical fighting situation, where the confrontation becomes drawn out with the possibility of more attackers joining in. The practitioner has to then work from the principle that “The best form of defence is offence”, rather than waiting for your attackers you must now take the fight to them.
Learning to change your fighting methods purely from a defensive to offensive will take some practitioners out of their safety zone. Meaning that they have to develop their courage to become more aggressive in applying their fighting ability to cause harm to their attackers. For the practitioner of the Daoist Boxing Style of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu this means that they have to work various techniques on how to enter deeply into an opponents defence to quickly end the confrontation. The defensive use of the downwards pressing arm as a blocking of deflecting technique must now be looked at as an offensive striking technique that allows the practitioner to attack and enter deeply into the opponents defensive line.
The downwards pressing arm strike offensively is used to trap the opponents blocking arm against their own body. The practitioner would combine a follow up strike immediately after they use the downwards pressing arm strike to slam into the opponents head or body, this immediately places the opponent into defence mode were the practitioner can then use a wide variety of follow up fighting techniques such as more striking combinations, kicking, wrestling or throwing methods.
Master Chee Soo taught what he liked to call “Three Star Principle”. This was a principle of how to combine all the fighting techniques of this Daoist boxing style into defensive or offensive fighting methods that combined striking, kicking,wrestling and throwing techniques. There are a tremendous amount of people who are learning and practicing the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, but they do not have any idea on how to combine any of these striking, kicking, wrestling & throwing techniques together to create effective, practical fighting methods. This Daoist boxing style is only as effective as the practitioner who uses it, if there is no effort by the practitioner to practice, research and discover this boxing style to a high level of proficiency, then no matter what particular grade you hold and wear around your waist you won’t be able to defend yourself.
The practice of taiji ball (Qiu) qigong is becoming more and more popular as each passing year goes by. It is an excellent alternative to just practicing various bare hand taijiquan forms, as working with a large heavy wooden ball offers a slight resistance which helps to strengthen the tendons and bones of each and every individual, promoting more Qi, blood and lymph to circulate around the entire body, strengthening and nourishing each persons health and wellbeing.
Within the LFIAA Laoshi Keith Ewers teaches both a double small ball taiji qigong form and the large heavier taiji ball form that incorporates movements taken from the Li Style Square Yard Taijiquan Form and also the Taiji Flying Hand Form (Taiji Feishou Shi) to make up the taiji ball qigong forms and exercises. The study and practice of taiji ball has been performed by many Taijiquan practitioners for well over two hundred or more years, there are many health related benefits to the practice of taiji ball. It is especially good for strengthening the core muscles, the chest, back and shoulder muscles are exercised which is beneficial for suffers of Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Falls Syndrome and Hypertension.
When an individual practices with the large heavier wooden taiji ball. It is not just the arms, shoulders, chest, back and core muscles that are worked. The leg muscles, ligaments and bones are strengthened and worked as well, as the weight of the large wooden taiji ball is transferred from the upper body into the lower extremities, which means the legs work very hard to balance the whole bodyweight onto just the one leg at a time and maintain a smooth transition of the bodyweight and taiji ball included.
Taiji ball qigong is a very enjoyable and a fun way to learn and practice taijiquan in general. there are numerous amount of exercises within taiji ball qigong that can greatly help each individual to maintain and improve their agility, coordination, concentration, breathing, flexibility and strength. The practice of the taiji ball qigong is complimentary to Taijiquan in general, as it not only helps to improve various attributes of your body, it can also help to develop your tactile sensitivity in being able to use your sense of touch to enhance your listening skills (Ting Jin), sticking skills (Nian Jin), adhere skills (Zhan Jin). As we all have to hold the ball in our hands, which means we must learn to improve our sense of touch through the practice of the Lishi taiji ball qigong forms & exercises.
Many individuals who study and practice taijiquan in general, irrespective of what particular style of taijiquan you practice all can get easily stuck in their practice by focusing to much on their physical actions. Obviously you must achieve accuracy in your movements, but many individuals get stuck in the progress of their taijiquan, because of the lack of regular study which is the main reason why many people cannot remember the correct order that each sequence of their taijiquan form should be performed. It is this reason why many will not be able to attain a level of proficiency that allows them to seek the Stillness within their Actions.
To reach the level where the practice of the Yang style taijiquan sixteen step form or any other style of taijiquan becomes a “Moving Meditation” practice. Each individual must be able to flow continuously from each posture to another without pausing, hesitating or suddenly speeding up their actions, their actions must be dictated by their breathing which must be long, deep, slow, quiet and smooth. Through the slowness of their movements, the mind will gradually become calm and still, less thoughts will enter the mind to distract it from its concentration. But to achieve this level of taijiquan practice will take each individual many hours of self practice.
Through hundred of hours of repetition practice of the Yang style taijiquan form. The individual will reach a level where they simply perform their taijiquan form not focusing on each movement and not trying to remember the order that they should be performed in, rather they just perform their movements “naturally” (Ziran) mindless of their actions as their mind is in a state of Stillness. They are unaware of time and space, they are in a state of “Action/No Action” (Wel Wuwei).
Some of us have actually reached this Wei Wuwei level. The amount of times that I have taught a taijiquan class or workshop and have brought the session to a close to suddenly hear someone say, wow that time went really quick. This happens because the individual was fully focused on their practice that they had no understanding of space & time, hence they were in a state of Action/ No Action.
With all the stresses, strains and worry that our present time as to offer everyone. From making sure you remain socially distant from people, keeping up your hygiene of washing your hands regularly to wearing a face covering every time you step outside of your house has become the new normal for everyone around the world. For many this can become very stressful time, causing anxiety, panic attacks, tension and anger to rise. Which can obviously lead towards individuals suffering with illnesses caused by all the worry and stress that our present time has to offer.
Finding a nice quite place and some time to practice a few easy to learn Taiji Qigong exercises can help everyone to relax their body and calm their minds. Taiji Qigong exercises are performed slowly with coordinated deep breathing, but please do not think that going slow is easy, in actual fact it is much harder than you might think. Because the body is moving slowly, means that your bodyweight can be placed on one leg for a long time before it is shifted onto the other leg, the arms may be extend above the head which means that you must develop the strength to lift them and hold them there. Moving slowly through the taiji qigong exercises helps to strengthen the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to promote better blood and lymphatic fluid to circulate around the entire body to boost the immune system and attain good health.
Moving slowly in the practice of taiji qigong is controlled by the individuals breathing, which should be gradually developed so that every individual can breath deep, long, slow & smoothly in time with their movements. Gradually each individual will notice that their concentration levels are improving, which in-turn will allow their minds to become more calm with less distracting thoughts entering their mind. Over-time each individuals mind will remain focused, calm and relaxed as they perform their taiji qigong exercises with less distracting thoughts for up to an hour of practice time, but this takes plenty of regular practice to achieve.
All you need to practice your taiji qigong exercises is a quite place to perform them, which could be indoors or outdoors. You must make the time to practice say about 15 to 20 minutes or more if you can, finding the time to practice is properly the most difficult to do, but in our present state we’re many are in lockdown or working from home, means that many now have plenty of time on their hands to do some practicing. Wearing loose clothing and light training shoes will also help every individual to move freely allowing their bodies to open and stretch to release tension, stiffness and improve the mental health of all those who are confined to their house.
Usually the downwards arm pressing ward off is used defensively to block and deflect the opponents in-coming blows by students of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Whereas, in the LFIAA, students are all taught how to use the downwards pressing arm striking methods to enter and open up the opponents defence, which can lead to a series of powerful striking & kicking combinations or wrestling and throwing techniques.
Offensively to use the downwards pressing arm strike (Xiang Xia An Bei Da). The practitioner has to enter with a strike that forces the opponent to react with a blocking technique against your strike. The downwards pressing arm strike is then used to remove the opponent blocking arm and to press it firmly against their own body, the practitioner at the same time enters with an immediate follow up strike directed at the opponents head or body. Usually if the opponent is slow in reacting, then you can flow into following up with more strikes, kicks and even into takedowns or throws.
When we enter and use the downwards pressing arm strike. It is the practitioners forearm that is used to press against the opponents blocking arm, pinning it a against their own body with a strong forwards energy that also forces the opponents bodyweight to be shifted onto their rear leg. The practitioner positions themselves on the outside of the opponent, keeping themselves away from the opponents rear hand just in case they decide to attack with it.
As the practitioner enters using the downwards pressing arm strike, they immediately follow up with a powerful strike which can be an open hand or closed fist strike towards the opponents head. It is very important that you enter with an immediate follow up strike even if you want to flow into some sort of joint locking technique or throwing method, as the entry strike places the opponent onto their back foot defensively.
Firstly find a place where you cannot be disturbed, it has to be were there is plenty of fresh air entering the room. Then find a comfortable cushion to sit on while you begin your meditation practice, or if you find it difficult to sit cross legged or in a full lotus position, then you can sit in a chair. Make sure that you maintain a straight spine, your chin slightly tilted forwards to maintain a straight line from the basis of your spine to the top of the head at the (Bai Hui) point. Your both hands can be held in what ever meditative hand shape (Yin Shou) you like to use, I personally use the Taiji Knot hand shape that can be seen in the accompanying picture of myself.
Next gently close your eyelids to we’re there is only a very fine line of light entering. The Daoist’s call this “Closing the curtains”, concentrate on breathing in and out through your nose, breathing deeply, smoothly and quietly into your lower Dantian, place the tip of your tongue just behind the top teeth on the hard area, this is called connecting the “Magpie Bridge” (Que Qiao) by Daoists as it connects two Yin & Yang vessels together to flow the Qi around the whole body.
Next place your mental focus on two areas, firstly on the tip of your nose, if you find this difficult or you find to many thoughts are still invading your mind. Then place your focus on your lower Dantian, just below your navel. Most individuals immediately find this place helps them to relax, then sit quietly and focus on your breathing as it enters and leaves your lower Dantian, trying not to allow any thoughts to enter and distract your concentration, your mind must gradually become as Still as a pond of water with no ripples, or a mirror that is not clouded, as the Daoist Huanchu Daoren once mentioned below in a saying.
When water isn’t rippled, it is naturally still. When a mirror isn’t clouded, it is clear of itself. So the mind is not to be cleared; get rid of what muddles it, and its clarity will spontaneously appear. Pleasure need not be sought; get rid of what pains you, and pleasure is naturally there. Huanchu Daoren.
It will take plenty of time and effort before each individual can sit in meditation and gradually discipline their mind to become still and calm, as clear as a mirror or as clear as a sunny day with no clouds in the sky. But with dedicated practice everyone can achieve the mindfulness level of “thoughts of no thoughts” and as another Daoist once said “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step”.
The practice of using a ball shape tool, that was at first made of stone and then wood, as been a practice of taijiquan for hundreds of years. Nowadays, the practice of taiji ball qigong is growing in its popularity around the entire world, has many individuals and groups are finding great health benefits from its practice. The Li Style Taiji Ball Qigong Form as created by Laoshi Keith Ewers of the Li Family Internal Arts Association (LFIAA) uses actions taken from the Traditional Li Style Taijiquan Square Yard Form to make up the taiji ball qigong form.
The practice of taiji ball qigong is both a combination of internal elixir (Nei Dan) and external elixir (Wai Dan) qigong training. The external benefits of taiji ball qigong practice is to strengthen the physical body like the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles because of the weight of the taiji balls (Qiu) that are used. In the practice of the Li Style Taiji Ball Qigong Form two wooden balls are used, weighing around two lbs in weight which allows the practitioner to have a slight feeling of resistance in each hand.
The Li Style Twin Taiji Ball Qigong mainly works the shoulders, chest, and back areas of the body. Whereas, the more heavier single taiji ball which can weigh up to five or more pounds in weight works the shoulders, upper & lower back, abdomen core muscles and legs due to the greater weight of the taiji ball. Especially as the practitioner shifts their bodyweight from one leg to the other as they step and perform their taiji ball qigong movements. The twin lighter taiji balls allow for the practitioner to maintain a loose, relaxed and flexible structure as they perform their taiji ball qigong movements.
The internal benefits of practice is to train the mind to develop a much higher level of concentration and focus. Taiji ball qigong is a soft-moving meditation we’re the actions move slowly, which will enhance the practitioners concentration to lead the Qi around the whole body and through the large heavenly circle (Da Zhou Tian). Part of the mindfulness practice is also to breath long, deep, slow and smoothly in time with the taiji ball movements and develop a good sensitivity to feel the Qi.
Health related benefits of the Li Style Taiji Ball Qigong Practice can help individuals who suffer with Arthritis. As holding a taiji ball encourages more Qi and blood to enter into the joints and nourish and strengthen them. Taiji ball qigong also benefits Osteoporosis suffers as holding a taiji ball becomes a weight bearing exercise that can help to strengthen the bones. The balancing of the blood pressure can also be of benefit for those suffering with Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) as the movements are performed in a relaxed, calm manner.
As with most Chinese Internal Martial Arts (CIMA) they all involve the four fighting ranges of Striking (Da), Kicking (Ti), Wrestling (Na) and Throwing (Shuai). Practitioners of the Li Family’s (Lijia) Feng Shou-Kung Fu should aim to develop a high level of skill that allows them to adapt and change their fighting methods to overcome their opponents, this means that they can instantly use a wide variety of defensive and offensive fighting methods that combines the four fighting ranges mentioned above.
Learning to defend from a series of blows, to then create an entry technique that instantly turns your defence into a successful counter attack that may involve and combine striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques to defeat your opponent. Or learning to attack your opponent, rather than waiting for the opponent to attack and use skilful entering methods that again lead towards blending the four fighting ranges together in a variety of ways. All these methods wether defensive or offensive takes tremendous amount of skill and courage from each practitioner.
Feng Shou-Kung Fu holds an extremely amount of depth within its practice. But sadly many of its practitioners struggle to develop their ability to flow from a striking range into a throwing method, or from striking into kicking method. Many struggle taking the fight to the opponent were they have to be creative in understanding how to use aggressive entry techniques to open up their opponent defence that allows them to apply their striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques.
When I first started to learn Feng Shou-Kung Fu from Master Chee Soo, he would teach a lot of “Three Star Fighting Principles”. He would teach us how to defend against the opponents attacks using various types of blocks and deflections and then counter attack back using striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques. This taught us how we could combine our fighting methods together in a wide variety of techniques. Sadly during the 1980’s he decided to stop teaching the “Three Star Fighting Principles” (San Xing Yuan Li) which left many practitioners not knowing how to combine and blend the Feng Shou-Kung Fu ‘s throwing, wrestling, striking and kicking techniques together.
Like many qigong forms and sequences that are part of the Daoist Kunlun Mountain School Wild Goose Qigong System. They are all combined with both passive, gentle movements that at times can resemble tai chi, and the more vigorous, dynamic and stretching actions that can resemble yoga practices. The Wild Goose Seven Star Opening Qigong is just one of those typical qigong forms that makes up the Daoist Kunlun System and involves both passive & vigorous actions.
But alongside the passive, calm and vigorous, active movements. The Seven Star Opening Qigong also involves self massaging methods of patting & striking (Pai Da Fa) on the Acupuncture meridians and channels (Jingluo) and their related energy cavity points (Qixue) to stimulate and tonify the flow of Qi through these energy pathways to help nourish and strengthen the functions of the internal organs (Zangfu) to maintain and improve health and wellbeing.
The more gentle, passive actions that are involved with the practice of the Seven Star Opening Qigong Form (Qi Xing Kai Gong Shi) allows the qi to flow smoothly around the entire body. The individual coordinates their breathing (Xi) to be in time with their actions!making the breath dictate the speed of the bodies actions, this gradually allows the mind (Yi) to become more calmer and quite. Whereas, the more active, vigorous movements have a tendency to invigorate the blood (Xue) circulate strongly around the whole body, removing both blood stasis and energy blockages that may have accumulated within various areas of the body.
The Wild Goose Seven Star Opening Qigong can greatly benefit many individuals who suffer with muscular tension and joint stiffness within the shoulders, back muscles, spinal column, hip joints and leg muscles. As the actions of this particular qigong form can help to stretch and open these areas of the body to release the trapped muscular tension and stiffness within the joints, allowing for each individual to develop a more relaxed, supple body with a greater range of mobility.
In the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Daoist Meditation practice’s. It is important that each individual as developed a supple and relaxed body for the long periods of time spent in sitting meditation practice. The last thing that you want to suffer with in meditation practice is that your body suddenly becomes stiff and begins to ache in certain areas, such as the back, hips, knees, because your body is full of tension and stiffness the body cannot relax fully. This can become a big distraction for the mind which is trying to become calm, still and clear, causing the individual to stop their meditation practice. But with regular Daoist Yoga practice each individual will gradually begin to develop their flexibility, releasing the tension and stiffness that as accumulated within their body, allowing for the body to become more relaxed (Song).
As each individual gradually increases their flexibility and develops a more relaxed body. They will begin to notice that their blood and Qi circulation will improve throughout the whole body as the body becomes more pliable. Plus through the repetition of each of the Daoist Yoga sequences the individuals concentration will also improve, which is exactly hat is needed in the practice of Daoist Meditation. The training of the mind to remain still and calm is a very difficult skill to achieve, the last thing you want is a body that is full of tension and stiffness while you sit and meditate as the mind will become agitated and distracted with the individuals discomfort.
When Master Chee Soo taught the Daoist Meditation it was always after everyone had practice some Daoist Yoga. He knew that everyone’s body would be more relaxed and their mind’s would be calm from the Daoist Yoga practice, ready to sit and meditate without any discomfort or distractions. Obviously each individual could just perform their Dao Yoga Sequences and not go into meditation, so as to just improve their health and wellbeing by strengthening their body, mind and breath through the many lying, sitting and standing Dao Yoga exercises and sequences.
Personally I believe that practicing some sitting meditation (Jing Zuo) after performing some Dao Yoga (Kaimen) sequences, compliments one and other. Again you do not have to practice some Dao Yoga exercises to sit and meditate, you can simply just go straight into your meditation practice. But if you happen to be working all day at a desk or have been standing upright for long periods of time, your body might need to be stretched and opened up a little to release the physical tension allowing your body a nice chance to re-energise itself and also aid the relaxation of both the mind & body before you decide to sit and practice some quite meditation.