Springtime is nearly upon us and it brings the season of the Green Dragon (Qing Long) which is associated with the five element “Wood” (Mu) whose colour is green and Wood is produced from from Water and produces Fire. This springtime Seated Qigong Exercise is practiced to nourish and repair the functioning of the Liver internal organ during the three months of spring, the Liver is considered to be the mother of the Heart (Fire) and the son of the Kidneys (Water). The practitioner will perform the spring green dragon Qigong exercises from a seated position facing the direction of the East and then end up facing the direction of the South.
The Four Seasonal Seated Qigong exercises are one of the five traditional Daoist Qigong styles that are still today being taught within China’s Daoist temples and monasteries as part of their “Nourishing Life Arts” (Yang Sheng Shu) exercises. The Four Season Seated Qigong was created by the Daoist monk Chen Tuan 960-1279 which make theses Qigong exercises around nine hundred years old, Chen Tuan was also said to be the creator of the Chinese internal martial art of “Six Harmonies and Eight Methods” (Liu He Ba Fa Kung Fu).
The springtime Seated Seasonal Qigong exercises are broken down into seven sections that only take around ten to fifteen minutes to perform. Personally I much prefer to practice the Four Seasonal Seated Qigong exercise immediately after my Seated mediation practice, as the Four Seasonal Seated Qigong exercises are considered to be external work (Waidan), whereas the Seated Meditational practice is considered to be internal work or (Neidan so I get a balanced Yin & Yang workout that promotes not just physical wellbeing, but emotional, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.
The seven sections of the springtime green dragon Seated Qigong exercises involve the knocking of the teeth, the swallowing of Qi, co-ordinated stretching movements and breathing exercises, self massaging methods which should be practiced everyday once in he morning and once in the evening for the three months of springtime. Today in many community’s around the world thousands of people are actively participating in all kinds of physical sport to help them gain good heath and wellbeing. The practice and study of the Four Seasonal Seated Qigong exercises effect each individuals physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing through soft, relaxed, passive activity that combines both body, mind and breath work.
All traditional Chinese internal martial arts will cover striking (Da). Kicking (Ti), wrestling (Na) and throwing (Shuai) and so it is with the “Hand of the Wind style” (Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu). Sadly thou only a few very rare individuals will actually practice the throwing aspect of this unique internal martial art, many prefer to study and practice the first three fighting ranges of striking, kicking and wrestling. For myself as a long term teacher and practitioner of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu I find it astonishing that certain individuals choose not to fully explore and become skilful within all of the fighting ranges and especially the throwing methods of this internal martial art.
Irrespective of how good you might become at the striking and kicking fighting ranges there is always a possibility that your opponent will get close enough to grab or hold you in some way bringing them into the wrestling fighting range. If your opponent has managed to get in close enough to wrestle you around, then there is also a great possibility that they will take you to the ground and continue within the wrestling range. Obviously this is not a good position to be in when you consider that you could both be rolling around on a hard concrete surface and also in a vulnerable position if more than one opponent decides to what to join in and help their friend.
This is were the throwing methods become very useful, within the internal martial arts there is a saying “Throw when connected”. If you find yourself in a position we’re your attacker as managed to get close enough to take a hold on you, rather than struggling with them in a wrestling situation you quickly enter into a fast, powerful throwing method that could involve a very painful joint locking technique that could break their joint or you decide to use a more body leverage type of throw which all ends up with your opponent being propelled into the ground in an awkward off balance position with great force being applied that can only end up with the opponent being very badly hurt, especially if they are thrown onto a very hard surface or object.
I have mentioned this before in other blogs that I have written that the Chinese consider throwing methods (Shuai Fa) as finishing techniques. Because if you have thrown your opponent effectively onto a hard surface there is always a chance that the opponent could land heavily on their head, shoulder, back, hip or knees causing great damage and hence immediately stopping the confrontation or at least the opponent gets up fully shaken and not feeling the same individual. That is why I cannot fully understand why many students of the Original Feng Shou Quan-Gongfu do not practice the throwing methods of this unique internal martial art. As I can guarantee that nearly in every physical confrontation your opponent will get close enough to be able to wrestle you and as for females there is more than likely possibility that a male attacker will try and grab and hold them to force them onto the ground or carry them off and simply learning some easy, practical and fast throwing methods could save them from a serious situation.
Bagua Zhang has a unique method of solo training to help its practitioners to develop and maintain their ability to listen (Ting) through the sense of touch. This is developed rough the very rare “Bagua Zhang’s Circle Walking Pole Methods” where the practitioner uses various types of weighted poles some light and some heavy to develop their sense of touch (Gan Shou) while walking around in a circle, changing direction and height while all the time remaining in contact with the pole. While the Bagua Zhang practitioner walks the circle they will learn to use various parts of their leading (Yang ) arm to control the pole like using the outside and inside of the wrists to coil and stick (Zhan) and adhere (Nian) to the pole, some times the pole will rest on the forearm while the practitioner walks the circle, they will even use the gap between the thumb and index finger known as the “Tigers Mouth” (Hu Kou) to stick and adhere to the pole trying to remain in full control.
There are “Eight Changing Palm Forms” that the practitioner must learn and perform while remaining in contact and control of the pole at all times. These particular “Eight Changing Palm Forms” are practiced on both sides of the body to develop a balanced and skilful practitioner. While walking around in a circle the practitioner must be aware of the speed that they are walking, it should be smooth and continuous without any pauses or loss of balance and definitely no dropping of the pole . Once the practitioner has learnt the “Eight Changing Palm Forms” in an orthodox way, they will then practice them in an unorthodox way mixing them up in a multiple amount of variations.
But the main point of practicing the “Circle Walking Pole Methods” is for each practitioner to develop their ability to Sense (Gan), Stick (Zhan), Adhere (Nian) and Listen (Ting) through their tactile awareness. While remaining in contact with the pole the Bagua Zhang practitioner will use various hand methods (Shou Fa) like turning (Zhuan), rolling (Gun), Coiling (Chan) and twisting (Ning) to help them maintain control of the pole at all times. These particular hand methods will also develop the practitioners joint, muscle and tendon flexibility within their shoulders, elbows wrists and fingers. Whereas, , the use of the feet to walk the circle using such stepping methods (Bu Fa) as the rolling step (Gun Bu), hook step (Kou Bu), swing step (Bai Bu) and the lotus step (Hua Bu) to change direction will also develop the Bagua Zhang’s practitioners flexibility within the joints, muscles and ligaments of the lower extremities which will also promote a stronger flow of blood and Qi into the four limbs.
In the video below Laoshi Keith Ewers is practicing the Bagua Zhang’s Circle Walking Pole Method practicing both the Single Changing Palm Method and the Third Palm Change method known as the “Coiling Palm Method” outside in the winter sunshine and cold developing his Sensing Hands skill.
One of the main problems that many individuals find within the study and practice of Tai Chi is the ability to fully maintain their concentration levels for the duration of a typical class training session that can be of an hour or more. I was taught that it is only through plenty of repetition of the Tai Chi Form during a class training session that individuals will gradually begin to develop their concentration, but it’s not just done to simply repeating the movements of the Tai Chi Form, it’s also down to how skilful you can make your Tai Chi movements become while you are practicing and not to simply copy and follow the person in front own movements, which many beginners obviously will do and what happens they pick the bad habits of the person, rather than concentrating on their own actions.
There are many different layers to the practice of the Tai Chi Form that every individual has to become aware of and be able to perform them. Theses particular layers are there to allow the individual to skilfully perform their Tai Chi movements in an accurate, relaxed and precise manner with the whole body moving as a connected whole with no isolated actions, secondly it means that the individual as to become fully mindful of their actions, making sure that they are in constant control of their physical movements with the mind leading the whole body. It is important that the individual maintains the same speed of their actions from the start to the end, there should not be any sudden change of speed for example when the individual steps forwards the lifting of the foot off the floor and the lowering of the foot back onto the floor must be of the same speed. Some individuals concentrate more on lowering their foot onto the ground slower than lifting it, whereas it should be of the same speed and it is up to the individual to fully concentrate and control their stepping.
Another layer for example that the individual must be fully aware off is the actions of their arms, for example their both wrists must close and gently open to control the actions of the fingers to either lower or raise them while performing the actions of their Tai Chi Form. Sometimes individuals will tense their wrist joints and lock them up not even realising that they are no longer performing the opening & closing of the wrist joint which means the skilful element as lowered, which is due to the lack of concentration by the individual. Developing the ability to concentrate is properly the hardest element of Tai Chi practice for any individual to develop and strengthen, it can only be improved through regular practice and lots of time and patience by every individual. Sadly I have seen many an interested individual stop their study and practice of the Tai Chi Form mainly because that they find it to difficult to calm and still their mind to be able to concentrate and raise the skilful performance of their Tai Chi Forms actions.
Within the practice of the Taiji Straight Sword (Taiji Zheng Jian) there are thirteen Sword techniques that was passed from the famous Daoist Wudang sect who are famous for their sword fighting skills. The first particular Taiji Sword technique that will be discussed here in this blog is the “Draw Method” (Chou Fa) for which can be performed in three directions.
- The Horizontal Draw Method.
- The Upward Draw Method.
- The Downward Draw Method.
The Taiji Straight Sword draw method can be used defensively or offensively as a defensive technique it is used to draw cut the opponents wrist or arm to disarm them. offensively you can use the draw method to attack your opponents legs, torso or head from any of the three directions mentioned above. The study and practice of the thirteen Taiji Sword Methods is usually practiced by learning and understanding one method at a time with a training partner, it is the equivalent of learning the eight energies or gates of the Taijiquan solo form Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Squeeze, Split, Elbow, Pluck and Bump.
The draw method of the Straight Sword can be seen extensively within many Taiji Sword forms, it is an easy to learn technique but very hard to master once against a training partner, while the both of you are practicing the freestyle Taiji Sword sparring exercise. Today many people practice the Taiji Straight Sword Forms for fitness and general health and wellbeing and as an extended practice of the Taijiquan barehand solo form. But sadly not many practice the two-person Taiji Sword fencing exercises that lead on to its freestyle exercise.
The upward draw method looks very similar to the lifting sword technique (Ti Fa), but the draw method uses the middle and top end of the Straight Sword but the draw method is curves back towards yourself to slice defensively against the arms or wrists of the opponent, whereas the Taiji Sword splitting method travels straight downwards. Offensively the downward draw method can be used to attack your opponents head to torso.
Firstly a student of Taijiquan is introduced to the thirteen Taiji Sword Techniques through the study and practice of the Taiji Sword form, the next stage is to then practice each of the thirteen Sword techniques individually with a training partner to become fully familiar with each technique, the third stage is to then combine the thirteen Sword techniques together in a two-person matching sword exercise for which there are many types of sword exercises to help the student to naturally respond and adapt using the thirteen Sword techniques, the. Last stage for the student is to then progress to the freestyle Taiji Sword sparring exercise.
Before anyone begins to practice any of the Taiji Qigong thirty six (Sanliushi) exercise form they must first understand the five sections of the body that must be involved in every exercise. Within the practice of Taiji Qigong there is a saying “That if one part of the body moves, then all parts of the body must move as well”. This saying basically means that the whole body actions must be smoothly linked and connected together, with no isolated parts of the body not moving and not being involved with the rest of the entire body’s actions. So what are the five body sections that must be linked and connected by each individual while performing any of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercise
The five body sections that must be all active in any of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercises are the .
- The Legs (Tuo).
- The Torso (Shen).
- The Hands/Arms (Shou/Bei)
- The Eyes (Yan).
- The Breath (Xi)
The legs are used to rise and sink or to rock the body weight from one leg to another either in a sideward or forwards to backwards direction. The torso involves the expanding, contracting and turning of the waist (Yao) and the gentle stretching of the spinal column, The action of the hands and arms must also involve various size circles that are performed slowly and relaxed, The eyes correspond to the individuals ability to concentrate, for where the eyes are looking is were the individuals concentration should be and that should on guiding and leading the Qi into the primary moving limb. The breathing is used to control the over-al speed of each movement, the individual must try to co-ordinate their movements with their breathing. The breathing must be long, deep, slow and smooth usually on the inhalation the body actions are either rising or contracting, whereas on the exhalation the body’s actions should be sinking or expanding.
The more the individual can skilfully learn to interlink and connect the whole five body sections together, more body fluids and Qi will be pumped around the entire body improving the circulation that is important to each individuals. Health and wellbeing. As the nutrients that body’s internal organs need to function properly to maintain a healthy individual fully relays on your circulation. Because all the body movements are controlled by the breathing, which means everything moves very slowly, allowing for the mind and body to become deeply relaxed, calm and still helping to release any stress, anxiety, irritability and tension that has accumulated through illness, work conditions or family commitments.
Each of the Taiji Qigong thirty-six exercises are very easy and simple to learn, but very hard to master as each exercise as many layers to them. Which means that the individual must be mindfully aware of activating these many layers which can take many years to Master and become skilful with, but their first step must be to fully integrate the five sections of the body in their Taiji Qigong exercises.
What is meant t by applying the 70% rule in the practice and study of the taiji qigong thirty six exercises (Sanliushi). Firstly the aim is to teach individuals to stop them from stiffening their joints or tensing up their muscles and using to much strength in their actions while performing any of the taiji qigong exercises. If you consider that the locking of the body joints and the fully tensing up of the muscles is considered to at 100%, then the individual is asked to try and lessen their stiffness and muscle tension to about 70% they must be fully be-aware while performing any of their taiji qigong. movements not to fully lock the joints of their whole body, nor should they use any great amount of physical strength by the tensing of their muscles, their body movement must involve the feeling of softness and lightness which will help them to relax and release any hardness or heaviness that they carry in their body’s joints and muscles that they have accumulated over the years due to poor posture, bad working conditions or illness.
As the individual begins to apply the 70% rule within their practice of the taiji qigong exercises they will begin to experience various sensations that maybe they have not felt for many years. Firstly they might begin to feel a tingling sensation like pins & needles within they finger tips and on the surface areas of their skin, some individuals will also experience warmth or heat flowing through the length of their extremities and in time throughout their entire body, this is a sign that the blood and qi are beginning to gain strength in its ability to circulate freely and that any blood stagnation and qi blockages that may have built up due to lack of correct exercise has began to be released and flushed out. Usually some individuals might also experience an emotional change, for example if they have been feeling a bit depressed or sad they might notice that their spirits has become more lighter, they feel more happier. Some individuals might become more deeply relaxed as the anxiety and frustration that stuck inside them has suddenly been removed.
Learning to abide by applying the 70% rule to all of the taiji qigong 36 exercise form will gradually allow each individual to dissolve any stiffness or tension that can affect their health on a physical, emotional, mental or even an energetic level. Allowing them to strengthen their vitality levels which in-turn will help them to improve their health and wellbeing, bringing a better quality of life. Obviously it takes a lot of time and patience for individuals to allow their body to become more relaxed, but if they can begin to practice regularly sticking to the 70% rule slowly they will begin to notice improvements in how more calm, relaxed and soft their body and mind is becoming.