For many individuals who practice and study Taijiquan especially for health & wellbeing many are unaware that the actions that they perform while practicing their particular Taijiquan style sequence are guided by the Eight Methods (Bufa) of Peng, Lu, An Ji, Cai, Lie, Zhou, Kao. It is only when you use the movements of your Taijiquan as a method of self defence (Zi Wei) that these Eight Methods become alive as a practical application that can be easily applied to escape from many types of holds and grips and can also be used to subdue or immobilise the assailant as they try to attack and control you.
A brief example on how the Taiji Eight Methods can become a practical application is as seen in the accompanying photo of the “Crane Nods Its Head Finger Lock” (Bai He Zhi Suo). Once the Taiji practitioner has managed to grasp and seize the assailants fingers with their own hand they can actually use Four of the Taiji Eight Methods to apply this finger lock.
- Once you have gripped the assailants fingers by surrounding them in a firm grip using your own hand this is the “Plucking Method” (Cai Fa).
- As you grip the assailants fingers with your own hand you begin to tighten your grip by using the “Squeezing Method” (Ji Fa) of your fingers.
- Then you begin to bend the assailants fingers backwards to apply the finger lock by using the “Pressing Method” (An Fa).
- To break the assailants fingers you also need to apply the “Splitting Method” (Lie Fa) using a shaking or jerking type of power.
Obviously there are many types of joint locking methods one can apply against an assailant who decides to attack you by holding you in a certain way from the rear, or side or even from the front. Using the Taiji Eight Methods to help escape the assailants particular type of hold, you can then subdue or immobilise them using a superior knowledge and understanding of correct angles, leverage & fulcrums. So that each particular joint locking technique can be applied easily, quickly and effectively without the need to use a great amount of strength to apply them.
Irrespective of how old you are you could be assaulted at any time in your life by a work colleague, a friend or a family member or a stranger in the street. Simply by practicing Taiji Self Defence and learning how to use the practical applications of the Eight Methods could help to protect your health and life from a traumatic violent experience.
For many individuals who study and practice the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu many do not realise that there are “Ground Fighting Methods” which includes striking, kicking and joint locking techniques. A particular stance that every individual would be familiar with who practiced Feng Shou-Kung Fu is the “Drunkard Stance” (Zui Han Shi) this is the only stance that is practiced lying on one side of the body on the ground with the same side of body’s arm and leg raised to protect oneself. The Drunkard Stance is thought by many to only be used if the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner has slipped over, been knocked over from a push, punch or kick, to then be able to protect themselves using their arms and legs to block any attacks and to counter attack back with their own strikes, kicks, trips and sweeps.
But the Drunkard Stance can also be used to take the attacker to the ground from a standing position by using a series of throws that include binding of the attackers legs and arms to help trip and throw them over to the ground. Sadly not many practitioners of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu fully utilise the Drunkard Stance to its full potential in being able to defend oneself from the ground or actually use the Drunkard Stance to take the attacker to the ground. Again sadly the Drunkard Stance (Zui Han Shi) is a particular stance for many practitioners of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu system who have never seen the reason for its usage other than a stance that is practiced as part of learning all of the other stances.
In using the Drunkard Stance to take the attacker to the ground the Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner will use their defensive hand methods (Shou Fa) to block and attach themselves to the attackers punch, they will then use their bodyweight as leverage to throw the attacker to the ground, while simultaneously using their legs to trap and bind the attackers legs to trip and throw them to the ground either in a forwards, backwards or side wards direction. As the practitioner drops their bodyweight and lowers their body towards the ground, their body will turn in a forwards rotation remaining close with as many areas of their body in contact with the attackers for better control, landing in the Drunkard Stance.
What are the benefits of using the Drunkard Stance to take an attacker to the ground. Firstly if the attacker is much bigger and heavier than yourself and you can time the technique fast and skilfully. Then you can use the hardness of the ground to seriously hurt your attacker or slow them down at lest to either escape or continue your own attacks. Secondly, you might be confronted by an attacker on a wet, icy slippery ground we’re you cannot stand upright for long, so you decide to take them to the ground first.
To be a highly skilful practitioner of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu means to fully utilise all of the stances either in a defensive or offensive way combining them with your blocks, evasions, strikes, kicks, wrestling and throwing methods and this includes the Drunkard Stance (Zui Zhan Shi).
All styles of T’ai Chi involve the Eight Methods of Ward Off, Rollback, Squeeze, Press, Split, Elbow, Pluck, Bump. no matter wether the individuals practices T’ai Chi either for health, wellbeing or self defence. Learning to use the Eight methods of Tai Chi in a practical and effective manner to protect oneself is just as important as practicing the slow, graceful, flowing movements of T’ai Chi to maintain your health. As being physically assaulted either in your place of work by a work colleague, or in school, university or assaulted in the street or at home is going to greatly effect your physical, emotional and mental state of health, causing trauma that could affect each individual for years afterthought assault.
The practice of the Tai Chi Self Defence Methods that are taught by the LFIAA is purely a non-aggressive system of self protection that teaches individuals how to skilfully use the Eight Methods of Tai Chi to escape from various types of holds and grips that an assailant might try and use to intimidate, control and hurt you. Then using a superior knowledge of angles, leverage and balance each individual is able to apply easy to learn, fast, practical, effective joint locking techniques that subdue or immobilise the assailant without the need to use a great amount of strength to apply them.
In today’s very fast and some times violent world no one can actually say that they will not find themselves in an aggressive situation. Irrespective of how old you are an assault could happen at anytime in your life from a complete stranger, friend or family member. Simply learning the Eight Methods of T’ai Chi Self Defence could help to save your life and health by being able to escape from a life threatening situation or be able to calm and control the situation by effectively applying a technique to subdue the assailant.
To us in the LFIAA practicing and studying T’ai Chi for health, wellbeing or self protection is simply on the same spectrum, as it is all about having to look after your life. As practicing the Eight Methods of T’ai Chi to prolong your life and maintain good health through its “Moving Meditation” practice is no different than having to use the Eight Methods of Tai Chi to protect your life and health if you were assaulted.
As the practitioner begins to develop their Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan form movements, gradually refining, correcting and connecting the whole body’s movements together in a slow, even and continuous motion. They will become aware that through the turning (Zhuan) of the legs, torso and arms that they should remain soft (Rou) and relaxed (Song) at all times. Whereas, some individuals will try and over rotate the movement of the legs, torso and arms using more of a twisting (Ning) action that can cause tension to accumulate within the whole body which can then hinder the circulation of the Qi to flow smoothly.
The Li Style Taijiquan involves a lot of changing of direction by turning the whole body in a 180% degree circle, which can place a lot of exertion on the legs making it very difficult to maintain a feeling of relaxation within the muscles, tendons and ligaments and especially the joints as the whole body turns. Again some individuals can some times over rotate their body using more of a twisting action which can bring tension and stiffness into the lower extremities. This can also be caused by trapping the bodyweight between both legs (Shuang Zhong) for which many practitioners of the Li Style Taijiquan sadly do a lot. Rather than learning to skilfully shift their bodyweight from one leg to another maintaining that the bodyweight is placed solely on one leg at a time. This will then allow the non-Weighted leg muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue to fully relax, so that one leg is full (Shi) of Qi and the weight of the body, while the other leg is empty (Xu) as the bodyweight and Qi is released.
As for the turning (Zhuan) of the torso it is especially important that the individual only turns until the waist (Yao) stops turning naturally. Which allows the muscles of the lower back and hips to remain soft and relaxed, while at the same time a gentle stretching of the spine is applied. Whereas, to many individuals try and over exert using more of a twisting (Ning) action of the torso as in the practice of Yoga, trying to increase their flexibility, which in-turn can cause to much tension to gather in the muscles of the lower back, and stiffen the spine.
In the practice of the Li Style Taijiquan the arms and hands must be kept as soft, loose and relaxed at all times making sure that the joints are never fully straightened or locked. When having to rotate the arms and hands around, make sure to softly turn them around and not to use any force like twisting or wringing them as again it will gather tension within the arms and restrict the flow of Qi.
Turning (Zhuan) is considered to be (Yin), while twisting (Ning) is considered to be (Yang). As turning uses softness and twisting uses strength, turning fills (Shi) and twisting flushes (Xu).
Rollaways is a well known two or more person counter, counter flow exercise of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu system. This exercises trains the practitioners to develop their defensive & offensive hand and foot methods (Shoujiaofa) refining their timing, reactions, accuracy, speed, fitness and concentration. The Rollaways exercise combines both linear, angular and circular footwork methods (Bufa) which in turn allows the practitioner of the Feng Shou-Kung Fu to learn how to control the fighting distance between each other. Using footwork that allows you to enter deeply into your training partners defence and to then quickly use clever defensive footwork to retreat, evade and deflect your training partners counter attacks.
Learning how to develop clever footwork methods (Cong Bufa) in the practice of the paired Rollaways exercise is used to control the fighting distance between each other, meaning that each practitioner has to learn both defensive & offensive footwork methods that involves a rhythm of short and long mixed stepping patterns. This mixed stepping pattern of using short and long helps both practitioners to enter deeply or shallowly into each other’s fighting space. Using clever footwork must be used also to defend and evade oneself from each other’s attacks, for example using a long defensive stepping method to defend by increasing the fighting distance between each other, means that you create enough time to see each other’s counter attacks and are easily able to deflect them away or allow them to fall short of their target.
Whereas, using a series of clever short defensive footwork methods can be used to lure your training partner to step forwards to attack deeply. By using clever defensive footwork to just be out of distance of your training partners attacks, allows you to then enter into the training partners fighting space using your much shorter weapons like your elbows (Zhou), Shoulders (Jian) and knees (Xi) to counter strike and kick back with. As your partner begins to defensively step back to deflect and evade your attacks you can then follow using a series of long stepping methods to control the fighting distance to maintain your counter attacks making your partner fall onto your offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).
The basic linear Rollaways exercise that is taught within the LFIAA Feng Shou-Kung Fu teaches students and practitioners to use a series of clever straight line short and long range stepping methods to help control the fighting distance between you and your training partner or opponent. Some times entering shallowly or deeply and some times defending using a series of mixed short and long range stepping methods to escape and evade or even to lure your training partner or opponent into a trap.
When many people reach a certain age usually around 40 years of age, hundreds of individuals begin to suffer with joint pain, tenderness,stiffness, locking and swelling around the area of the lower back. This can be caused by poor working conditions, illness, injury or simply wear and tear from old age, some people are affected by Osteoarthritis within the spine which can cause chronic pain and limit the individuals ability to move freely. In China there is a saying “That you are as old as your back” and if you have ever suffered with a painful back problem yourself or have seen maybe a family member or friend suffer with one, then you will understand the saying. As having a painful back problem can make the individual feel really old, as they are usually bent over from the waist and when they walk they shuffle their feet like an old person, their range of mobility is great reduced and limited.
Both in America and Australia scientific research studies and trials have taken place on how the practice of taijiquan can benefit suffers of lower back pain. One particular randomised trial of around hundred sixty individuals who’s average age was around 44yrs took part in a 10 week taijiquan course,the results showed that taijiquan significantly improved bothersome back pain symptoms. The participants also mentioned that they experienced lower pain intensities, less pain related disability, and felt that their health related quality of life improved, and, in general, felt better for practicing taijiquan.
In the practice of the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan the movements of the arms performing various size circles in the empty space that surrounds them are connected to the shoulders and upper back muscles and the thoracic spinal column. Through their movements the upper back and thoracic spine are gently stretched and exercised, allowing for the muscles in the shoulders and upper back to become more relaxed as they release their tension and for the thoracic spine to become more supple as the stiffness is gradually reduced.
It is the slow turning of the waist from side to side that also gently stretches the muscles of the lower back and lumbar area of the spinal column. In the taiji classics it is stated “That the power begins in the feet and travels upwards through the both legs into the waist, were the waist directs and leads the power through the spine and into the arms and hands”. Another saying is ” If the waist moves, so do the hands, if the waist does not move, neither do the hands”.
Through the gentle, slow, smooth actions of the Li Style (Lishi) taijiquan form anyone who suffers with lower back pain can receive great benefit it practice I. Helping to manage or prevent lower back pain as we all travel through life.
A particular fighting range that very few practitioners of the Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu seem to not want to specialise in is the ability to apply fast, practical and effective throwing methods (Shuai Fa) from various types of holds, grips, punches and kicks. A fast throwing method can be a devastating technique that can quickly finish a confrontation causing serious damage and pain to the attacker, especially if they were thrown onto a hard surface. Master Chee Soo would teach the throwing methods separately to those students who were interested in learning them only through the “Breath Art” (Chi Shu) System, which mainly incorporated many Joint Locking (Qin Na) type of throwing methods.
These same type of throwing techniques that Master Chee Soo taught through his”Breath Art System” he also taught to his senior Feng Shou-Kung Fu black sash grades as part of their training syllabus. So within the LFIAA Original Feng Shou-Kung Fu as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers all the students are taught throwing methods from a variety of holds, punches and kicking techniques, these throwing methods are usually taught from the Whirling Hands/Arms ( Xuan Shou) and Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) exercises which develop tactile awareness. The reason why the throwing methods are taught from a sticking hands exercise is that to apply an effective throwing technique the student must be able to develop their ability to listen, stick & adhere, neutralise and follow the attackers energy or power and then be able to turn the attackers own strength and power into a fast, devastating throw.
At a higher level of fighting skill not only has the Feng Shou-Kung Fu student got to learn how to apply effect, powerful throwing methods from various holds and grips. They must also learn how to apply these same throws from punching & kicking techniques that come from all angles. These particular throwing methods not only involve joint locking throws such as Finger (Zhi), Wrist (Wan) and Elbow (Zhou) they also include shoulder (Jian), Hip (Kua), Leg (Jiao) type throws that any gender can easily learn and use effectively to defend themselves.
The Chinese consider that a good, well timed powerful throw that tosses the attacker either onto their head, back, hips and legs can cause serious damage and pain to them inflicting great trauma such as dislocation of the hip, shoulder joints, concussion and serious damage to the spinal column and nervous system. The throwing methods are greatly enhanced if the attacker is just thrown onto a hard surface like concrete or stone or even frozen ground. A well balanced Feng Shou-Kung Fu practitioner must be skilled in all areas of fighting and this includes throwing methods (Shuai Fa) that can also be combined with your defensive and offensive hand & foot methods (Shoujiaofa).