For thousands of people who study and practice the Chinese Mind, Body & Spirit discipline of taijiquan all would have come to understand the meaning of cultivating and mobilising the energy known as (Qi) pronounced as “Chee”. All teachers would have explained to their students that the internal energy (Nei Qi) is cultivated through correct breathing, which have to be precisely in time with their taijiquan movements by using their own intention Yi) to connect their breathing and movements together in a smooth, flowing sequence.
Gradually after many months and few years of regular daily practice, each individual will begin to experience certain sensations inside of themselves such as a tingling, sensation within the arms, hands and fingers. Or they could feel heat throughout the whole of they body, at a more higher level the individual could experience a sensation of energy movement (Yun Qi) like flushes, pressure or shaking. Which are all signs of strong energy cultivation and circulation through their practice of. taijiquan.
Another type of energy that a lot of people who study taijiquan might not have come across is the development of various energies or strength (Jing). Within the practice of taijiquan it is said that there are over fifty different methods of developing (Jing), already most individuals would have come a crossed eight of them as they are known in taijiquan as Ward Off (Peng), Rollback (Lu), Press (An), Squeeze (Ji), Pluck (Cai), Split (Lie), Elbow (Zhou), Bump (Kao). These eight energies (Ba Jing) can be found in every style of taijiquan form practice they can only be skilfully developed through the study and practice of the two-person tactile exercise called “Pushing Hands” (Tuishou)
Obviously to learn, perfect and train in the development of the many types of taijiquan defensive and offensive powers (Jing) is to use taijiquan as a method of self defence. It is important that every individual who wishes to study and practice taijiquan as a self defence discipline to help them maintain their own or family and friends wellbeing if they are suddenly attacked must fully be skilled within the many defensive & offensive powers (Jing) that taijiquan practice can develop and offer them.
The Eight Trigram Palms (Bagua Zhang) is a Mind, Body & Spirit exercise that incorporates a series of short, compact forms that are all linked together in a sequence, while walking in a circle, constantly changing direction using twisting, Spiralling and rotating actions of the whole body. Each of the Bagua Zhang forms are short with only eight movements in total that are performed on both sides of the body, but these eight movements demand that each individual develops their ability to co-ordinate, maintain their balance and hold their concentration while performing the form, while walking in a circle.
It is through the intricate movements of a typical Bagua Zhang form that begins to develop the individuals ability to concentrate and calm their mind. This is down to encouraging each individual to concentrate on maintaining the same speed as they perform their movements and of walking the circle, there should not be any sudden speeding up or slowing down of their movements and differently no stopping or pausing of their actions. Secondly the individual needs to concentrate on the timing of using their waist (Yao) to lead and guide the actions of the turning of their feet and hands. So that the whole body the legs, torso and arms are all co-ordinated and connected together as one unit, gradually this will begin to strengthen each individuals ability to concentrate and hold their focus for a long period of time, slowly beginning to tame their minds from allowing thoughts to enter their mind and distract them from their Bagua Zhang Practice.
The Chinese consider the mind to be like a playful monkey (Hou) which allows loads of thoughts to enter and confuse the mind, for-which some of these thoughts can cause the individual to become tense, irritable, anxious. It is through the practice of Bagua Zhang external (Wai Gong) and Internal (Nei Gong) practices that will develop each individuals ability to be able to calm, tame and occupy their own mind at all times, remaining in control of their mind, rather than their. Monkey Mind being in control and causing anxiety and stress issues that can greatly affect each persons health and wellbeing.
As with the practice of Tai Chi which places great emphasis on learning how to breath correctly. The practice Of Bagua Zhang also places the same importance on learning correct breathing in co-ordination with the movements of each of the short and compact forms that will greatly enhance the connections of the mind & body of each person helping them to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing.
Another great benefit individuals can receive from the regular practice of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigram Palms) System is that each particular form only consists of in total eight movements which are obviously performed on both sides of the body to develop a more co-ordinated and connected mind, body and spirit. Because each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang form are only short and compact they can be practiced within a small confined space, so are ideal for people who do not have a tremendous amount of room in their. houses to practice in. As some times the British weather can be very inclement to go outside and practice, due to each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms being short and compact, they are each filled with a tremendous amount of information on the study and practice of qigong, meditation and self defence methods.
Each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms can be practiced either in a linear or circular method, obviously the circular training method is the more advanced and can be used to practice within any size area that the individual may have, unlike Tai Chi that needs a lot of room to practice in, Bagua Zhang can easily fit into any size space. Contained within each of the forms are a large amount of information that an individual can just specialise on just one subject like for example the study and practice of qigong. Each of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang forms contains both Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang Gong). Fixed position moving Qigong plus Moving Step Qigong Practice that can be used to strengthen the health and wellbeing of each person.
As for the self defence aspect to the study and practice of Sun Style Bagua Zhang again there are many techniques of striking, kicking, wrestling and throwing techniques hidden within the forms that are very easy to learn, practical and effective that anyone of any age, gender can learn and achieve a high standard of proficiency. As for the Meditative practice the circle walking meditation practice of the Sun Style Bagua Zhang can greatly compliment the sitting mediation, to develop a more relaxed body and a strong focused mind that eventually will reach clarity and tranquillity.
When you are first taught the tactile awareness exercise known as “Whirling Hands” (Xuan Shou) in the practice of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu you are firstly taught to use just the single arm practice with your training partner. This could be a cross body or parallel Single Whirling Hand practice, after a while the student would then progress to the changing hand practice method, making sure to always have one arm or hand in contact before taking the other hand off. This single & changing Whirling Hands practice allows the student to practice both a clockwise and anti-clockwise circle using small, medium and large interchanging circles and spirals.
After a few months of practicing the single & changing Whirling Hands Method ( Xuan Shou Fa) developing their ability to listen, stick, adhere, follows to their training partners arm. The student is then allowed to strike at each other using the arm that is in contact from any angle, this will enhance each students skill in being able to listen and sense through their touch when each partner is going to strike and remain in touch all the t8me developing their ability to stick (Nian) and adhere (Zhan).
After a longer period of training say a year or two each student will then progress to the double Whirling Hands practice, this then allows each student to explore the “Eight Circles” (Ba Yuan) that can be drawn by the both hands while practicing the Whirling double hands practice. Obviously each student has the option to either remain in contact with each other using the double hands practice or they can easily switch to a single, changing hand practice and back into the double hands method.
Once each student has began to understand how to utilise the eight circles of the Whirling double hands practice they can then move onto adding strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws into their practice, while trying to remain in contact at all times. The practice of the Whirling Hands Exercise (Xuan Shou) develops each student skill in being able to fight close in.
Within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu students are taught to develop their tactile manipulation skill through the study and practice of the Whirling Hands exercise (Xuan Shou) for which they are taught to use a single, changing and double hands method. The double whirling hands method is the most advanced practice for any student to learn, as from this double hand practice the student should be able to apply their strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws.
At the beginners level students are taught to practice the double whirling hands exercise from a fixed position to help them develop their root (Gen) or to develop a strong connection with the earth to help improve their balance and to develop strength into their fighting techniques. After a few years of practicing from a fixed position they will then begin to practice moving step practice, were they are allowed to move in any direction applying their strikes, kicks, joint locks and throws.
Whirling hands practice teaches the student to stick, adhere, yield, and follow your training partners attempt to strike or push you. Through your contact of your both arms you are able to listen and sense your partners intention to strike or even kick you, it obviously takes a long time to develop your tactile skill in being able to feel through your sense of touch your partners every movement, knowing which hand he or she is going to use to strike at you, knowing which of his or her legs is carrying his or her body weight so that you know which leg they are going to use to try and kick you or step with.
All of the traditional Chinese internal martial arts like taijiquan, baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Ziranquan and Feng Shou Quan all place great emphasis on developing a high level of proficiency in their ability to stick and adhere to the attacker and it is through the Whirling Hands (Xuan Shou Fa) method that each student of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu practices to acquire this most valued skill.
The practice of Eight Trigram Palms (Bagua Zhang) is gradually becoming more popular as a Mind & Body exercise alongside the other more recognisable Exercises of Taijiquan and Qigong which have been regularly practiced by thousands of people from all around the world for many years. The practice of the Eight Trigram Palms (Bagua Zhang) is famous for its twisting, Spiralling and of cause its circle walking practice, it can be performed slow or fast all according to each individuals capability and like the practice of Taijiquan it also develops each individuals balance, co-ordination, concentration and relaxation. But it offers a little more to the individual as it also increases their over-al joint, tendon and muscle flexibility, plus their cardio fitness and stamina.
It is through the practice of its Circle Walking practice that develops the individuals cardiovascular fitness and stamina. As the Circle Walking practice also combine two elements, firstly the upper body holds a certain Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang) static posture with the both arms creating a particular shape with the both palms pointing into the centre of the circle in a rounded shape, with the torso turned towards the centre, while the lower body is constantly moving, by stepping around the circumference of the circle using a variety of stepping methods such as the lion step (Shizi Bu) which is a fast heel/toe stepping action or the Mud Wading Step (Tangnibu) which places the whole of the sole of the foot onto the ground, extending the toes. Another Bagua Zhang Stepping Method is the Crane Step (He Bu) which lifts the knee up to hip height as if the individual is stepping over an object, obviously this particular stepping action will work the balance and develop greater leg strength.
The Bagua Zhang Circle Walking practice encourages the individual to hold a “Still” static upper body posture, while the lower body is constantly on the move. Hence combining t”Stillness with Movement”. The static holding of the upper body develops strength within the core muscles of the trunk and especially the shoulders and arms, whereas the constant stepping action of the legs develops agility and fitness which strengthens the blood and energy (Qi) circulation throughout the entire body.
Another great aspect to the study and practice of Bagua Zhang is that unlike Taijiquan it can be practiced within a small confined space because the size of the circle the individual walks can be made to fit the space you are practicing in. They say in Bagua Zhang the bigger the circle the more it will work your fitness, whereas the much smaller circle will stretch and work the joints more.
Over the many years that I have spent studying and practicing the Li/Lee Style Hand of the Wind Boxing (Lishi Feng Shou Quan-Kung Fu) I have seen many teachers (Shifu) and students perform this unique Chinese internal martial art placing great emphasis on the “Art” (Shu) form more so than the Martial (Wu). It’s a very fine path that we practitioners of this fascinating Daoist martial art that was passed on to us all by the late Master Chee Soo all walk. As placing great emphasis on making your Feng Shou-Kung Fu look graceful, beautiful and Artistic to the naked eye is good, as long as the individual as also developed a high level of “Martial” skill to back up their graceful, flowing actions, as if they cannot then their Feng Shou-Kung Fu is just a series of flowery hands & legs with no substance.
On the other side of the coin. If you simply concentrate on the “Martial” side of your Feng Shou-Kung Fu it can make each individual style of fighting look very rigid, hard, direct and obvious. Whereas, the highest form of Art is “Self-Expression” being able to fully express yourself honestly and naturally within your chosen subject hence “Feng Shou-Kung Fu”. Combining both your Martial skill with the ability to Self Express your own fighting Art using graceful, beautiful movements is the panicle of any practitioner irrespective wether it is an internal or external martial art.
Sadly for me to many of my former practitioners have spent a great deal of time learning and practicing this particular internal martial art and have placed to much time and effort on the Art side trying to look graceful and beautiful. But have not spent any time on developing the Martial aspect. As Master Chee Soo would always like to quote to me “Do not read a poem to a fencing master” literally meaning “Action speaks louder than Words”. It alright looking graceful and beautiful in your Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting movements as long as you can back it up!
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, its-a fine path that we all walk, sadly some individuals have strayed off the path towards achieving the balance between “Martial” proficiency and “Artistic” self expression.