The method of meditation that is taught and practiced by the Li Family (Lijia) and what was taught by Master Chee Soo follows the “Water Method” of practice. Which means that a practitioner of this particular method does not try and force any progress by using their mindful intent (Yi) to guide the Qi around the body, which is the (Fire Method) of meditative practice. But instead learns to “Sit & Forget” (Zuo Wang) following the simplistic and natural (Ziran) path, trying to achieve emptiness (Xu) leading towards stability in “Deep Stillness” (Jing) to achieve this level there must be “No Mind & No Action” (Wuwei).
The Daoist philosophy Zhuang Zi mentioned that one should “Sit like a dead block of wood and the mind should be like dead ashes”. This obviously, means that once the practitioner sits and chooses their particular sitting posture and meditation hand shape method (Yin Shou Fa) their body should not move, they should not twitch, sway or itch themselves at anytime, the acquired mind should gradually become calm, quiet and still. No thoughts, thinking, planning, pictures should enter the mind. Obviously this will take many practitioners many months and even years to achieve this level of a calm, quiet and still mind. Sadly many practitioners give up after just a few weeks of practice has many expect quick results and have great expectations of reaching enlightenment within a few months, this is their ego and acquired mind working.
Simply learn to relax, just let go of any tensions, anxieties and worries. Do not place great expectations on yourself just enjoy the feeling of forgetting and entering into emptiness and stillness. Like water it always finds the path that leads it to the sea, it might take a long time, but you know it is a safe practice. Whereas, practicing the “Fire Method” of Daoist Meditation can lead to many health problems like headaches, palpitations, hypertension, insomnia etc. As many practitioners of the “Fire Method” have a tendency to force a great amount of Qi around the body using strong concentration, if the practitioners concentration is not strong enough it can lead to Qi stagnation in various areas of the body leading towards health problems.
Sitting & Forgetting does not use the mind or any emotional desire to quickly advance in the meditation practice. The practitioner must be sincere, gentle and humble in their practice, below is some text of the Heavenly Worthy’s Jade Pivot Treasury Scripture on the practice of “Sitting & Forgetting” (Zuo Wang) Daoist Meditation.
The Heavenly Worthy spoke: it takes sincerity to enter into the Dao. It takes silence to guard it. It takes gentleness to use it. The use of sincerity appears to be ignorance. The use of silence appears to be cautious speech. The use of gentleness appears to be unskillful. Now when these are thus, you may forget your bodily form. You may forget your own Self. You may forget that you are forgetting.
Another iconic posture and immediately recognised and performed by hundreds of Yang style taijiquan practitioners from all around the world, this is the “Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail Posture” (Lan Quewei Shi). There are many ways that a practitioner of the Yang style taijiquan can practice this particular posture as a qigong exercise, they can firstly practice each of the four individual postures that make up the whole of the Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail Posture, each as a “Standing Post” qigong practice, or it can be performed as moving qigong exercise, were the practitioner focuses on the upper body actions, but with no stepping. Or it can be performed as a “Moving Step” practice, which is my much preferred method of practicing this posture.
Working on the Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail Posture as a moving step qigong practice. Allows the practitioner to coordinate the movements on both sides of the body, developing their accuracy, timing, precision and over-al quality and skill. This includes the stepping actions to be light and agile like a big cat walking, the both arms move like floating clouds in a blue sky, the body like a willow tree that gently yields against the wind and then straightens itself upright. The practitioner can repeat the whole exercise as many times as they wish, developing the both sides of the body to move as one complete unit, promoting the circulation of the blood, lymph and Qi to flow smoothly throughout the entire body, strengthening, nourishing and repairing the health & wellbeing of the practitioner.
In the practice of Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail Posture. There are the four energies of Ward Off (Peng), Rollback (Lu), Squeezing (Ji) and Pressing (An) to be found and developed by each practitioner. Plus there are the six wrist methods (Liu Wan Fa) that are used in the Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail Posture, as the practitioner performs each of the four postures that make up the complete Grasping the Sparrow’s Posture there are certain wrist actions that the practitioner must employ in each of the four postures to help manipulate the Qi to circulate into the hands and fingers or for the power (Fa Jin) to be issued out.
The Li Style Daoist Yoga involves lying, sitting & standing exercises that are usually performed separately from each other. But within the LFIAA version of the Li Style Daoist Yoga, it is practiced in flowing sequences, where five or more postures are performed all combining together to create a flowing sequence of various exercises that stretches the soft tissue, fascia, tendons and muscles and opens the joints to allow fresh blood, Qi and lymph to circulate around the entire body to strengthen, nourish and repair the health of each individual.
When I first began to study and learn the Li Style Daoist Yoga from my teacher Master Chee a Soo. He would always mention how the practice of Daoist Yoga benefits all of the other mind & body disciplines that make up the whole of the Lee Family Arts (Lijia Shu) that he taught, such as the Taijiquan, Gongfu, Bodywork Massage & Meditation. He would mention that they are all connected to each other, even thou they are separate disciplines in there own right, as the Daoist Yoga exercises can improve the Gongfu practitioners body to move faster, as the body releases the stuck muscular tension within their muscles and tendons and the stiffness out of the joints is released to increase the practitioners mobility, flexibility and speed. It can help those who practice the Taijiquan to cultivate and circulate more energy (Qi). Whereas the Bodywork Massage practitioners can improve their body alignment, endurance and sensitivity to the movements their Qi. In the Meditation practice a practitioner will need to develop a relaxed, supple body, so as to Sit for long periods of meditation practice time.
Practicing Daoist Yoga exercises can develop a more relaxed and flexible body. Allowing each individual to develop a “feel good” attitude within themselves as they go along with their daily lives. They feel more happy and contented and their body has a freedom of ease in its range of mobility, their mind seems more relaxed and calm, yet their concentration is strong. Stresses, strains, anxieties and worries can be released from the mind & body as each individual performs their Dao Yoga exercises and sequences.
Practicing Daoist Yoga can be performed indoors or outdoors. Indoors you will need somewhere warm, dry and quiet with plenty of fresh air entering the practice room. Outdoors it needs to be a dry, warm and quiet place under a tree to receive and harness more Qi, or alongside a river bank to help develop a calm and relaxed manner. The individual will need to wear loose clothing for ease of movement and to relax in while performing their Dao Yoga movements. I usually practice Dao Yoga sequences after I have done my Meditation practice, as it can help to awaken my body up after a long period of sitting meditation practice, allowing for the blood and Qi to circulate around the whole body nourishing and repairing towards better health & wellbeing.
I have mentioned this many times in previous blogs that I have written on the study and practice of the Standardised Taiji Qigong Exercises. There are only three circular shapes used within the practice of taiji qigong these three shapes are horizontal, vertical and sidewards. There are no straight lines within the practice of taiji qigong, yet so many individuals do them when they practice, ignorant of the fact that they should be using circles. Why use circles, because the joints rotate fully within their sockets, gently stretching the soft tissue, fascia, tendons and muscles, as the joint rotates it gently extends and opens to allow fresh blood and Qi to enter into the space between the joints, flushing the more stale, turbid, stuck blood and Qi away. Whereas, simply using straight line actions can isolate certain joints not to be fully used, meaning that little blood, Qi and lymph is moved.
Once the individual has a good understanding of how to apply the three circular shapes in their taiji qigong movements. They must then become aware of the size of each circle that is performed, be it a large, big circle, or a small circle. They must then also become aware of how the three circular shapes can blend together as they perform their taiji qigong exercises, some exercises involve more than one circular shape to be used and each circle must smoothly interchange with each other, the ignorant just use straight line actions, hence their skill in manipulating the Qi to circulate around the whole body is very limited.
The drawing of the three circular shapes all blending smoothly from one into another, helps the circulation of Qi to mobilise itself, flowing throughout the whole body from top to bottom and bottom to top. When an individual adds their breathing and concentration to the gentle, slow, circular movements of their taiji qigong, they are able to feel the warmth, tingling, pressure of their Qi as it moves through their body. The practice of taiji qigong is not just about exercising, it’s about developing the ability to become sensitive to the movement of the Qi (energy) as the individual uses their concentration (Yi) intent to combines with the breath (Xi) to steadily guide & lead the Qi anywhere within the body and feel its movement and direction. Sadly very few individuals are willing to sacrifice their own time & effort to practice regularly to achieve this level of skill.
In most schools of meditation and especially within the Daoist Meditation practices, we are taught to listen to our inner most self while sitting, so as to discipline the mind and stop distracting sounds and thoughts from entering and interfering with our meditation practice. At first a practitioner is told to listen with their ears (Er Ting) to listen inwards, the ears are connected to your Essence (Jing) which is stored within our Kidneys, and if you keep over using your hearing it can deplete your Jing levels which is very important to us all if you wish to progress deeper into your meditation practice.
When you begin your Daoist Meditation practice you are told to use your ears to listen to your breathing (Xi) or to any noises that your body fluids might make while you are sitting. This advice is actually wrong, as you should not be trying to hear any noise at all, as soon as you hear your breathing or the movement of your body fluids then your awareness is drawn to these noises and suddenly your mind becomes full of distracting thoughts and pictures. Your aim is to use your ears to listen, but hopefully not to hear anything, the more you can quiet your mind the more the mind will reach the level of Stillness.
Obviously your breathing as to be deep, long, smooth, quiet, light and natural (Ziran). You should not be able to hear your breathing or any other sound, this then closes the ears off to the outside world and there is no leakage of the Essence (Jing). Once your mind begins to become more Still then you will not use your ears to listen anymore, but now you will use your Heart/Mind (Xin Ting) to listen inwardly, the heart corresponds to our emotions so you will use your mind to listen for any type of emotion or desire that may show itself within yourself and stop the mind from moving towards Stillness.
When sitting in meditation it is not just the closing of the ears to stop them from leaking any of your Essence (Jing) from the body. But the eyes (Yan) are also closed so that there is only a slight feint light still entering, this is to turn the spiritual light inwards to conserve it. Also the tip of the tongue touches the hard palette behind the top teeth, what the Daoist term as making the “Magpie Bridge” (Que Qiao) this stops the Qi leaking out through the mouth through over talking. So you can see that an important aspect of Daoist Meditation is to conserve your Jing, Qi & Shen.
The saying that “The best form of defence is offence” is an option that very few practitioners of the Daoist Boxing Style Of Feng Shou-Kung Fu put into action. As many simply think that the only time they would use their Feng Shou-Kung Fu fighting methods would be if they were attacked. So many practitioners work their fighting methods from a point of view of defence and counter attack, but within a typical fighting situation, where the confrontation becomes drawn out with the possibility of more attackers joining in. The practitioner has to then work from the principle that “The best form of defence is offence”, rather than waiting for your attackers you must now take the fight to them.
Learning to change your fighting methods purely from a defensive to offensive will take some practitioners out of their safety zone. Meaning that they have to develop their courage to become more aggressive in applying their fighting ability to cause harm to their attackers. For the practitioner of the Daoist Boxing Style of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu this means that they have to work various techniques on how to enter deeply into an opponents defence to quickly end the confrontation. The defensive use of the downwards pressing arm as a blocking of deflecting technique must now be looked at as an offensive striking technique that allows the practitioner to attack and enter deeply into the opponents defensive line.
The downwards pressing arm strike offensively is used to trap the opponents blocking arm against their own body. The practitioner would combine a follow up strike immediately after they use the downwards pressing arm strike to slam into the opponents head or body, this immediately places the opponent into defence mode were the practitioner can then use a wide variety of follow up fighting techniques such as more striking combinations, kicking, wrestling or throwing methods.
Master Chee Soo taught what he liked to call “Three Star Principle”. This was a principle of how to combine all the fighting techniques of this Daoist boxing style into defensive or offensive fighting methods that combined striking, kicking,wrestling and throwing techniques. There are a tremendous amount of people who are learning and practicing the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu, but they do not have any idea on how to combine any of these striking, kicking, wrestling & throwing techniques together to create effective, practical fighting methods. This Daoist boxing style is only as effective as the practitioner who uses it, if there is no effort by the practitioner to practice, research and discover this boxing style to a high level of proficiency, then no matter what particular grade you hold and wear around your waist you won’t be able to defend yourself.
The practice of taiji ball (Qiu) qigong is becoming more and more popular as each passing year goes by. It is an excellent alternative to just practicing various bare hand taijiquan forms, as working with a large heavy wooden ball offers a slight resistance which helps to strengthen the tendons and bones of each and every individual, promoting more Qi, blood and lymph to circulate around the entire body, strengthening and nourishing each persons health and wellbeing.
Within the LFIAA Laoshi Keith Ewers teaches both a double small ball taiji qigong form and the large heavier taiji ball form that incorporates movements taken from the Li Style Square Yard Taijiquan Form and also the Taiji Flying Hand Form (Taiji Feishou Shi) to make up the taiji ball qigong forms and exercises. The study and practice of taiji ball has been performed by many Taijiquan practitioners for well over two hundred or more years, there are many health related benefits to the practice of taiji ball. It is especially good for strengthening the core muscles, the chest, back and shoulder muscles are exercised which is beneficial for suffers of Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Falls Syndrome and Hypertension.
When an individual practices with the large heavier wooden taiji ball. It is not just the arms, shoulders, chest, back and core muscles that are worked. The leg muscles, ligaments and bones are strengthened and worked as well, as the weight of the large wooden taiji ball is transferred from the upper body into the lower extremities, which means the legs work very hard to balance the whole bodyweight onto just the one leg at a time and maintain a smooth transition of the bodyweight and taiji ball included.
Taiji ball qigong is a very enjoyable and a fun way to learn and practice taijiquan in general. there are numerous amount of exercises within taiji ball qigong that can greatly help each individual to maintain and improve their agility, coordination, concentration, breathing, flexibility and strength. The practice of the taiji ball qigong is complimentary to Taijiquan in general, as it not only helps to improve various attributes of your body, it can also help to develop your tactile sensitivity in being able to use your sense of touch to enhance your listening skills (Ting Jin), sticking skills (Nian Jin), adhere skills (Zhan Jin). As we all have to hold the ball in our hands, which means we must learn to improve our sense of touch through the practice of the Lishi taiji ball qigong forms & exercises.
Many individuals who study and practice taijiquan in general, irrespective of what particular style of taijiquan you practice all can get easily stuck in their practice by focusing to much on their physical actions. Obviously you must achieve accuracy in your movements, but many individuals get stuck in the progress of their taijiquan, because of the lack of regular study which is the main reason why many people cannot remember the correct order that each sequence of their taijiquan form should be performed. It is this reason why many will not be able to attain a level of proficiency that allows them to seek the Stillness within their Actions.
To reach the level where the practice of the Yang style taijiquan sixteen step form or any other style of taijiquan becomes a “Moving Meditation” practice. Each individual must be able to flow continuously from each posture to another without pausing, hesitating or suddenly speeding up their actions, their actions must be dictated by their breathing which must be long, deep, slow, quiet and smooth. Through the slowness of their movements, the mind will gradually become calm and still, less thoughts will enter the mind to distract it from its concentration. But to achieve this level of taijiquan practice will take each individual many hours of self practice.
Through hundred of hours of repetition practice of the Yang style taijiquan form. The individual will reach a level where they simply perform their taijiquan form not focusing on each movement and not trying to remember the order that they should be performed in, rather they just perform their movements “naturally” (Ziran) mindless of their actions as their mind is in a state of Stillness. They are unaware of time and space, they are in a state of “Action/No Action” (Wel Wuwei).
Some of us have actually reached this Wei Wuwei level. The amount of times that I have taught a taijiquan class or workshop and have brought the session to a close to suddenly hear someone say, wow that time went really quick. This happens because the individual was fully focused on their practice that they had no understanding of space & time, hence they were in a state of Action/ No Action.
With all the stresses, strains and worry that our present time as to offer everyone. From making sure you remain socially distant from people, keeping up your hygiene of washing your hands regularly to wearing a face covering every time you step outside of your house has become the new normal for everyone around the world. For many this can become very stressful time, causing anxiety, panic attacks, tension and anger to rise. Which can obviously lead towards individuals suffering with illnesses caused by all the worry and stress that our present time has to offer.
Finding a nice quite place and some time to practice a few easy to learn Taiji Qigong exercises can help everyone to relax their body and calm their minds. Taiji Qigong exercises are performed slowly with coordinated deep breathing, but please do not think that going slow is easy, in actual fact it is much harder than you might think. Because the body is moving slowly, means that your bodyweight can be placed on one leg for a long time before it is shifted onto the other leg, the arms may be extend above the head which means that you must develop the strength to lift them and hold them there. Moving slowly through the taiji qigong exercises helps to strengthen the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to promote better blood and lymphatic fluid to circulate around the entire body to boost the immune system and attain good health.
Moving slowly in the practice of taiji qigong is controlled by the individuals breathing, which should be gradually developed so that every individual can breath deep, long, slow & smoothly in time with their movements. Gradually each individual will notice that their concentration levels are improving, which in-turn will allow their minds to become more calm with less distracting thoughts entering their mind. Over-time each individuals mind will remain focused, calm and relaxed as they perform their taiji qigong exercises with less distracting thoughts for up to an hour of practice time, but this takes plenty of regular practice to achieve.
All you need to practice your taiji qigong exercises is a quite place to perform them, which could be indoors or outdoors. You must make the time to practice say about 15 to 20 minutes or more if you can, finding the time to practice is properly the most difficult to do, but in our present state we’re many are in lockdown or working from home, means that many now have plenty of time on their hands to do some practicing. Wearing loose clothing and light training shoes will also help every individual to move freely allowing their bodies to open and stretch to release tension, stiffness and improve the mental health of all those who are confined to their house.
Usually the downwards arm pressing ward off is used defensively to block and deflect the opponents in-coming blows by students of the Li Style Feng Shou-Kung Fu. Whereas, in the LFIAA, students are all taught how to use the downwards pressing arm striking methods to enter and open up the opponents defence, which can lead to a series of powerful striking & kicking combinations or wrestling and throwing techniques.
Offensively to use the downwards pressing arm strike (Xiang Xia An Bei Da). The practitioner has to enter with a strike that forces the opponent to react with a blocking technique against your strike. The downwards pressing arm strike is then used to remove the opponent blocking arm and to press it firmly against their own body, the practitioner at the same time enters with an immediate follow up strike directed at the opponents head or body. Usually if the opponent is slow in reacting, then you can flow into following up with more strikes, kicks and even into takedowns or throws.
When we enter and use the downwards pressing arm strike. It is the practitioners forearm that is used to press against the opponents blocking arm, pinning it a against their own body with a strong forwards energy that also forces the opponents bodyweight to be shifted onto their rear leg. The practitioner positions themselves on the outside of the opponent, keeping themselves away from the opponents rear hand just in case they decide to attack with it.
As the practitioner enters using the downwards pressing arm strike, they immediately follow up with a powerful strike which can be an open hand or closed fist strike towards the opponents head. It is very important that you enter with an immediate follow up strike even if you want to flow into some sort of joint locking technique or throwing method, as the entry strike places the opponent onto their back foot defensively.