The taiji qigong 18 exercises are easy to learn and suitable for everyone to practice. Each of the 18 exercises abides by the taiji guiding principles, which includes that every individual who practices the taiji qigong exercises should rise (sheng), sink (xia), open (kai), close (he), be heavy (zhong), or be light (qing), as well as being full (xu) and empty (Shi) while performing each of the 18 exercises.
Rising (Sheng) and sinking (Xia) of the body helps to connect the bottom with the top and vice-versa, the rising and sinking works the legs which develops strengthen the lower extremities, plus working the legs activates the cardiovascular system, which promotes blood and Qi circulation around the entire body. Whereas, the opening and closing actions of the individuals joints as they perform each of the taiji qigong 18 exercises act as pumps that control the amount of blood, Qi and lymphatic fluid that circulates into the extremities and around the whole body.
Heaviness and lightness is what each individual feels through the actions of each of the taiji qigong 18 exercises as the bodyweight shifts from one leg to another, or as one arm is moved slightly ahead of the other. As for the sensations of fullness and emptiness as one performs a typical taiji qigong exercise, as the bodyweight shifts forwards onto the front leg as the both hands gently push forwards, as in seen in the accompanying photo that comes with this blog, the individual will feel the front leg and front of their body, plus their both arms filling as the blood, Qi and lymphatic fluid flows into them. But the back leg and the back muscles will feel empty and cool as more blood and Qi moves to the front of the body.
Although each of the 18 Taiji Qigong exercises are easy to learn. Each particular exercise holds tremendous depth and it is through the following of the taiji guiding principles that each individual can attain the depth of information that is held within each of the 18 taiji qigong exercises. Following the taiji guiding principles gives better structure and discipline to each individual as they practice each of the exercises, allowing for them to receive all of the health related benefits that each of the taiji qigong exercises offers towards strengthening, nourishing and repairing one’s health and wellbeing.
Every teacher of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu follows a particular training syllabus that lays down the basic foundation for students to reach a higher standard of fighting proficiency. The Feng Shou-Kung Fu training syllabus allows students to cover individual areas such as learning various kicking methods or foot flow patterns, Poison Hand Striking Sets (Du Shou Da Fa) that teach correct body methods (Shen Fa) to issue power into the striking techniques. Plus evasion sets, plus joint locking techniques and much, much more. The Feng Shou-Kung Fu training syllabus is used then to examine each individual student to judge their own progress in being able to learn and practically perform each section of the training syllabus.
Once a student has attained their black sash grade (1st Dengji) they should then be able to combine each of the individual sections that make up the training syllabus. For example when the student applies a particular joint lock from a punch, the student should use the appropriate ward off to deflect the incoming blow away, but remain (Stick/Adhere) in contact with the limb, then enter with a strike or kick combination before applying the joint locking method, which is then used to take down the opponent to the ground, followed up with more striking or kicking methods or even another joint locking method to subdue or immobilise the opponent.
The ultimate aim of every practitioner of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu is to be able to access all areas of their basic training syllabus and bring it together in a large variety of applications. This is what Master Chee Soo would call the “Three Star Principle” ( San Xing Fa) which basically means “Attack, Defend & Counter”. This is the key to bringing all of the various sections of the student training syllabus together in a vast amount of defensive or offensive fighting methods that every student should be encouraged to learn and perform.
Sadly, to many teachers of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu who do not have a good understanding or skill level in the “Three Star Principle”. Simply, they just offer their students the training syllabus, with out being able to demonstrate to their students how to bring together in various Attack, Defend & Counter fighting methods. Which can greatly effect each students ability to grow and develop their own proficiency levels to fully discover and express this unique Chinese Internal Martial Art of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu.
Without guiding principles in the study and practice of Tai Chi, there is no structure or discipline to its movements. This is what is happening to the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi Square Yard Form, there are individuals professing to be qualified teachers giving instruction to interested students and yet they are not laying down any guiding principles to those interested students, about how the Li Style Tai Chi should be structured and disciplined within its actions. I have personally asked both teachers and students of the Li Style Tai Chi what guiding principles have been taught and passed onto them by their teachers, so as to give better structure and understanding on how they should practice and teach the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi Square Yard Form.
Without any guiding principles on how the student should perform the Li Style Tai Chi, allows everyone, both teacher’s and students who practice this particular Tai Chi Style to interpret the movements to their own ideas. I recently came across a student who learnt his Li Style Tai Chi from another teacher, this individual was also taught some the Li Style Dao Yoga (K’ai Men) Exercise from the same teacher. When I watched this individual demonstrate his Tai Chi Form, I noticed a few things that were not within the guiding principles of practicing Tai Chi. For example, this person was over twisting his torso which was bringing more tension into his back muscles. When I pointed this out to him, he said mentioned that was the way he was taught. Sadly his Dao Yoga was corrupting his Tai Chi, both of these systems are individual in their own right and each have their own structure and discipline and everyone should take care as to not mix the two practices together.
In the practice of Tai Chi the back muscles must remain soft and relaxed, there is no twisting of the waist only turning of the waist which more gentle. Structure and discipline within the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi allows every individual to gradually improve the quality of the Tai Chi form because they follow guiding principles that have been passed onto them by more experienced practitioners of the Li Style Tai Chi. Rather than being allowed to freely interpret the movements to what think their Tai Chi should look like.
Another example, there are still some teacher’s who advocate the usage of “Double Weighted” (Shuang Zhong) Stances in the practice of the Li Style Tai Chi Square Yard Form. But the guiding principles say that there should be an understanding of Substantial (Xu) and insubstantial (Shi) within the legs. As Double Weighted Stances means that the over-al movement of the lower bodies extremities stops, pauses, which means that the upper body is moving in isolation, compared to the lower body which has stopped, whereas the whole body should be moving to promote better blood, lump and Qi circulation throughout the whole body. As the guiding principles of Tai Chi “That if one part of the body stops moving, then the whole body should stop moving. Whereas, if one part moves the whole body moves”.
One of the characteristics of the Swimming Dragon Qigong is It’s spiralling, Coiling actions what the Chinese term as “Reeling Silk Energy Work” (Chan Si Jin Fa). This includes the whole body spiralling and rotating in small to large circles that gently stretch open the joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles to increase each individual’s flexibility, allowing for a more relaxed body as the tension is gradually released from the tendons and muscle, the stiffness being released from the joints, which will then increase the circulation of the blood, lymphatic fluid and Qi to flow smoothly u hindered through the entire body, strengthening, repairing and nourishing the functions of the internal organs to deliver good health and wellbeing.
An example of one of these “Reeling Silk Exercises” that are part of the the Swimming Dragon Qigong (You Long Gong) is the “Serving Tea Cup Methods” (Gong Cha Bei Fa). We’re the practitioner assumes he or she is holding a small cup of tea in each hand and begins to spiral their arms above their head and around the body, without spilling or dropping the contents in the tea cups, moving both arms at the same time, while keeping the both palms facing upwards to balance the tea cups. This particular exercise stretches the joints, tendons and muscles of the upper extremities, plus the torso rotates from the waist in either a clockwise or counter clockwise direction to stretch and work the muscles of the back and core, plus to stretch the joints of the spinal column.
The “Serving the Tea Cup’s Exercise” flushes a tremendous amount of blood and Qi through the entire body and especially into the both arms and hands. This helps to remove any stagnated blood or Qi blockages that can slow down the circulation, weakening the immune system and the “Defensive Qi” (Wei Qi) which protects the whole body from external pathogens. Plus, the lymphatic system is activated to flush toxins out of the whole body that has accumulated over time.
The “Reeling Silk Method” (Chan Si Jin Fa) is also performed by the both legs to increase blood, lymp and Qi flow into the lower extremities to help strengthen, nourish and repair the muscles, ligaments and joints to maintain their health. This can be seen in the Swimming Dragon Qigong postures “Fisherman Cast His Net” and the “Dragon Chases the Moon” where the whole body rotates and spirals in small and larges circles. The ankles, knees and hips rotate in circles to stretch the ligaments and joints to flush blood and Qi into the feet and increase the flexibility of the lower extremities.
There are many training exercises that are taught and practiced within the Li Family’s Internal Martial art of Feng Shou-Kung Fu. One of these particular training exercise is the Single Attack (Dan Chong Da) which can be practiced from either a line or circular attack training method were the attacking students, for which there can be many of, can attack using various offensive striking and kicking techniques aimed at various sections of the defenders body. The student who is defending can use dodging and evasive methods, blocks and deflections to defend with against the incoming blows and kicks. To counter attack back, the defender can also then use a series of offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).
This particular Single Attack training exercise is a great way for students to find the art of Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Allowing themselves to fully express their own particular style, using what defensive and offensive techniques feels practical and effective to themselves. The Single Attack (Dan Chong Da) develops each students timing, reactions, accuracy, agility and concentration as they don’t have much time to think. They just have to react in a very instinctive way that forces the art of Feng Shou-Kung Fu to naturally express itself in what ever way the student wishes to use it.
The two training methods of a line attack to a circular single attack training method offer the defending student different ways to practice and use their Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting techniques. The line attack is were the attacking students are lined up one behind each other, they then follow each other to attack one at a time. The defending student must step of the centre line from the on rushing students attack, using skilful evasive footwork and defensive hand methods (Shou Fa) to place themselves in a more advantages position to counter attack from. They must them immediately be ready to receive the next on coming Attack from the following student.
Whereas, the circular single attack is were the attacking students have surrounded the defending student. They then take it in turn to attack the student in the centre of the circle from various angles. Such as the front, either side or from the rear of the student in the centre of the circle. The defending student who stands in the centre of the circle as to control the centre of the circle, constantly turning their body around to protect their rear as each attacking student rushes in to try and hit them with either a strike or kick, they use skilful evasive footwork and defensive hand work alongside fast counter attack strikes and kicks.
When I see individuals performing the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi Square Yard Form to many seem to expand their chest and bring their shoulder blades towards each other. This causes tension within the muscles of the chest and upper back which can restrict the flow of Qi to circulate through the Governing Meridian that travels directly up the spine. You can see this happen when individuals perform the “Gathering Heaven’s Energy” were they stand with both feet together and both hands are held directly above their head with both palms facing upwards. This causes the back muscles to become tense and expands the chest, causing the Qi to rise upwards, which then can stagnate in the upper chest and head.
The sinking or hollowing of the chest allows for the Qi to sink downwards through the Conception Meridian into the lower elixir field (Xia Dantian). The rounding of the back allows for the Qi to rise upwards through the Governing Meridian as mentioned before. Many a student of the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi sadly raises their shoulders when lifting their arms, they also have the tendency to bring their shoulder blades together as seen in the “Single Whip” posture which collects tension within the shoulders and upper back. Whereas, the back must be kept soft and relaxed, while the shoulders droop downwards to allow for a good flow of Qi around the body.
When practicing Tai Chi in general it is not just simply about just doing the movements. It’s how you do the movements, there is a lot of depth to the practice of Tai Chi and ultimately it’s all about the refinement of your movements to allow for the better circulation of your essences (Jing), energy (Qi) and spirit (Shen) to mix and transform, strengthening your body to help you maintain a youthful energy in your old age. Sadly many individuals do not pay any serious attention to how they perform their Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi Square Yard Form’s actions, they are just happy to do some Tai Chi not really concerned about its accuracy or quality. But sadly it is the Li Style Tai Chi itself that suffers as it is gradually being watered down and its deeper knowledge is slowly being lost to everyone.
The study and practice of Tai Chi is a life long journey, constantly refining and improving its over-al quality of practice in helping to strengthen each person’s health and wellbeing. That is why individuals who practice the Li Style (Lishi) Tai Chi Square Yard Form should be aware of “Sinking the Chest & Rounding the Back” to help the mobilising of the Qi to circulate smoothly around the entire body without any hinderance.
In the practice of Tai Chi in general all of the actions that are performed by each and every individual have to be fully connected. This is done by each individual working on the timing of their waist (Yao) leading the actions of their hands and their stepping methods. When you watch beginners perform their Tai Chi movements they have a tendency to do isolated actions, that are not obviously smoothly connected which can also be a lack of concentration from the individual.
In the practice of Tai Chi it is the waist that leads the actions, it is this timing between the waist and the arms & legs that makes a good Tai Chi practitioner. Beginners have a tendency to let the arms move ahead of everything, which leads to isolated movements, in Tai Chi practice it is the whole body that moves first and the actions of the arms and hands that follow. Developing the timing between the waist, hands and legs comes down to how strong each individual can maintain their concentration, as it is through the correct timing and smoothness of each individual’s Tai Chi actions that the mind & body become fully united.
Another aspect to balancing the mind & body is through the timing and co-ordination of the breathing (Xi) with the movements. As the individual inhales the actions of the whole body should raise and the arms should come closer to the body, whereas on the exhale the individual should sink and lower their bodyweight, plus their arms should move away in an expanding action. The timing and co-ordination of the breathing with the individuals Tai Chi movements will slowly and gradually strengthen each person’s concentration, so that they can remain fully in control of their actions and connect the mind, body and breath.
At the highest level of practicing Tai Chi for health & wellbeing, it is each individual’s aim to seek what the Chinese call “Seeking the Stillness within the Motion”. This is were the mind (Yi) is fully in control of the actions of the whole body, the mind becomes calm and still, while the body moves slowly, smoothly and effortlessly through the Tai Chi sequence in a form of “Moving Meditation”.