LFIAA Technical Director Keith Ewershttps://lfiaa.wordpress.comover forty years experience within the traditional chinese internal health, healing, meditation and martial arts. studied in China at the Xi Yuan Hospital for advanced Tui Na Bodywork Massage and Qigong. Is the technical director for the LFIAA which holds regular classes, seminars, courses in the UK.
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.
As I have already mentioned in previous blogs, the practice of taiji qigong can be performed from a standing post position (Zhan Zhuang), A standing/moving position (Jing Fa), A rocking/swaying position (Zhuang Fa) or from a moving step position (Dong Bu Fa). The Moving Step Practice is properly the most difficult to perform, as stepping is involved, meaning the individuals could easily lose their balance or become unstable and wobble effecting their body alignment and structure causing the whole exercise to be non beneficial.
The moving step taiji qigong exercise of the Repulse the Monkey Posture. Involves the five components of the body the legs (Tui), torso (Shen), hands (Shou), concentration (Yi) and breathing (Xi) to be fully harmonised together. Each individual must try and maintain a slow, smooth and even speed as they transition their bodyweight from one leg to another as they step backwards, making sure that the breathing dictates the speed of the movements.
The taiji qigong stepping practice will develop each individuals balance, coordination and concentration. The advanced practice is to really slow the physical actions down, so that the individual is barely moving at all. This asks for every individual to have a great sense of control over their breathing, slowing their breathing down, which means a tremendous amount of concentration has to be used by each individual. The over-al practice now transforms into a “Moving Meditation” practice with greater emphasis now begin placed on the physical, mental and breath work of each individual. In the practice of taijiquan in general the slower the practice the greater it strengthens the individual, improving their fitness levels, health & wellbeing to live a long life.
One of my personal training exercise that I regularly perform every morning alongside my Daoist Meditation practice, is the Wild Goose Seven Star Opening Qigong Form (Dayan Qi Xing Kai Gong). This particular form involves both passive & vigorous movements that are combined with the breathing to circulate the blood, Qi and lymph fluid around the body to both nourish and strengthen the functioning of the internal organs (Zangfu) to maintain health and to allow us to live longer.
The Wild Goose Seven Star Qigong combines passive, slow actions with the breathing to allow the mind, body & breath to guide and lead the Qi through the twelve Yin & Yang meridians. Removing any blockages that may cause a weakness within the Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) field that protects the whole body from external pathogens attacking the body and weakening our immune system, causing illnesses to set in and attack our wellbeing. Some of these passive actions involve stretching movements of the arms, legs, back and spine to release muscle tension and joint stiffness that can accumulate and effect the circulation.
The more vigorous actions are performed slightly faster and the breathing is kept normal. The vigorous movements are done to strongly raise the heart rate to pump more blood and lymph fluid around the body to remove any blood stagnation that may happen within the body, due to lack of proper exercise, injuries, or illnesses. With this balance of both passive and vigorous actions the Wild Goose Seven Star Opening Qigong Exercise helps to fully nourish and strengthen the health, mobility and fitness of its practitioners.
Another great benefit of practicing this qigong form is that it can be performed within a small confined space. Yet it involves dynamic stretching movements, exercises that improve and maintain your ability to balance on one leg, passive & vigorous actions that calm and still the mind, yet. Improve fitness and stamina, plus allowing the practitioner to develop their sensitivity to the movement of Qi as it circulates within the whole body during their Wild Goose Seven Star Opening Qigong Practice.
Another of the Arm Ward Off Methods that many practitioners of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu only seem to use defensively is the downwards Pressing Arm technique (Xiang Xia An Bei Shi). We in the LFIAA use this particular technique not just defensively, but offensively as well to enter into the an opponents defence to open them up for a series of striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing combinations.
On using the Downwards Pressing Arm Ward Off as an attacking tool. The aim is to attack with a direct attack forcing the opponent to perform some kind of high blocking technique, then the practitioner would enter with the Downward Pressing Arm Method, forcing the opponents blocking arm to be pressed into their body, so that it was made immobilised. Obviously this Downward Pressing Arm technique would be combined with a simultaneous strike at the same time, which then forced the opponent to use their rear hand to block or simply get hit with a heavy strike.
Once the practitioner of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu has used the Downwards Pressing Arm to enter into the opponents defence. There are a numerous amount of follow up fighting applications that the practitioner can easily flow into, these involved striking & kicking methods (Shoujiaofa), which then could lead into wrestling (Qin Na) or throwing (Shuai Fa) Methods. Giving the practitioner the ability to adapt and change their fighting methods to overcome the situation that their opponent might use.
Many practitioners of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu are very defensive in the way that they practice their fighting methods. But this is just one half of the Yin & Yang symbol, the defensive is considered to be Yin, while the offensive is considered to be Yang. The practitioner of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu should be comfortable and accomplished in both aspects to be fully balanced with this Li Style Daoist Boxing system.
In the practice of the Daoist Boxing of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu (Hand of the Wind Boxing). We see the use of the piercing, extending palm strikes in the Poison Hand Striking Sets, especially in sets one and two, many practitioners are taught that the piercing, extending strike is mainly a finger striking method. Sadly this limits its ability to be used more widely, as there are only a few certain areas on the opponents body that you can use a finger palm strike effectively. But there is also a great risk that you can seriously damage your fingers if you were not accurate with your finger strike that you could hit hard bone and break your fingers.
Hence, why we in the LFIAA also emphasis that you can use the forearm of the piercing, extending palm to strike with. Using the little finger or thumb edge of the forearm to strike your opponent anywhere on their body and not just be limited to using the fingers to strike with. This then means that the practitioner can use the piercing, extending palm strike more widely in its application to not just strike the opponent, but to also use this particular palm strike to apply joint locking techniques (Qin Na) that can lead into many throwing methods (Shuai Fa).
Another aspect to the usage of the piercing, extending palm strike. Is that many practitioners of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu only look at the piercing, extending palm striking method (Chuan Chang Zhang Da Fa) As an offensive, attacking technique. But it can also be used effectively as a defensive tool, deflecting the opponents strikes away and used as a bridging method to stick, adhere to the opponents striking arms limb. Hence giving it a more flexible, dual aspect ability to adapt and change to fit the situation at hand and to blend naturally with other defensive & offensive techniques.
This is why alongside the learning and practicing of the Poison Hand Striking Sets (Du Shou Da Fa). Each individual applies them practically using the Three Star Principle with a training partner, so that each practitioner can research and explore each technique delving deeper into its usage defensively or offensively. I personally enjoy exploring and researching the techniques, as you always learn so many more variations and ways to apply the techniques. Developing you knowledge and understanding of how to combine various defensive and offensive techniques together in some many possible variations.
Many individuals who practice the Daoist Yoga of the Li Family. Mainly practice the hundreds of sitting, lying, standing exercises to develop their muscle, tendon and joint flexibility, which also improves their range of mobility. But the exercises can also be used to strengthen the muscles, tendons and bones to give greater strength to our body structure allowing for us to improve our fitness and endurance.
When you perform a certain sitting, lying or standing Dao Yoga exercise, if you are concentrating on improving your flexibility and range of mobility. Then you work on keeping your body slowly moving until it reaches its maximum stretch, then on the next repetition you try and increase your stretch a little more further. Obviously this also means that your length of breathing must also correspond to the extension of your movements. Whereas, if you are focusing more on developing your strength, then the movements are really slowed down or some times held a little to develop that muscular, tendon and bone strength and endurance.
On focusing using the Dao Yoga exercises to increase your strength. Also means that mentally you must remain calm and still to help you really slow down your actions. For example, if you are lowering yourself into a chicken stance (Ji Shi), rather than just dropping your weight suddenly onto your front leg, you will slowly lower down taking a few seconds to place the bodyweight onto the front leg. Then when rising, again you will slowly rise taking several seconds to do so, this will begin to develop strength and insurance within the muscles, tendons and bones of the arms, legs, back, shoulders and core.
If the individual has a distracted mind when practicing any of the Dao Yoga exercises for strength. Then you can guarantee that their actions will be fast due to their mind being full of thoughts. Whereas, if their have a calm, clear and still mind then their actions will be much slower, longer in their actions to develop strength and endurance in both the mind & body in the practice of the Li Style Daoist Yoga Exercises.