The vertical spiral is a fundamental principle of Master Moy’s interpretation of the long form. This is a point that many students want to minimize or omit because it is the hard part. It’s important that you rise to full height and sit to the extent of your capacity. One move that many want to compromise on is “Carry Tigers”. At the top of “Cross Hands” you’re fully erect holding a big ball as you do the turn leave your hands/arms at that height and sit away from them and in doing so you will elongate your chest.

A version of the donyu that mimics the move above is done with the arms like at the top of “Cross Hands” as you sit away from your hands/arms the elongation of your chest will massage your thalamus gland and squeeze your lungs. This is an important version for people who live or work in area of high atmospheric pollution or when it’s cold and flu season. Try to keep the hands/forearms in a fixed position. Do the donyu in whatever version that you’re working on.

A mistake many make while doing donyus is they allow too much weight to go into their heels. This causes balance issues and put too much strain on the knees. It’s very important that your weight be evenly distributed across the foot. Just let your weight sink into the floor.

If your knees hurt just below the knee-cap, your knees are going too far forward. If the inside of your knees hurt you’re either letting your knees collapse inward or you’re using too wide a stance for the flexibility of your hips which causes your knees to be pulled inwards.

Whenever doing any stretching only stretch to about 80% of your capacity. Visualize your joints stretching from their center.

When doing the toe kicks curl your toes, not tightly but closed. Focus your intent on the top of your foot right above “Bubbling Springs”. When doing heel kicks pull your toes back towards your knee. The focus of your intent is the center of your heel. Kicking high is like sitting low it’s not a goal but a by-product of time and effort. It’s important to keep in mind that the kicks are not about kicking but about building balance. So be sure you’re lifting your Bai Hua and dropping your tailbone.

It is impossible to issue a strong enough warning about controlling your ego and not going off to kick things. If you cannot do deep snakes by the box full there is a good chance your knees and ankles are not strong enough to withstand the shock of contact.

When doing your personal practices stand in “Opening to Tai Chi” (Wuji) for as long as you can before doing your sets. Seek the alignment that gives you relaxation. The soles of your feet are where your body weight meets the floor, you want the weight to be spread evenly over the foot. Play with your posture until you have it. Next check your hips. Your weight comes down your spine and into the pelvis so the weight on both hip sockets must be equal. Again play with your posture above that point until you have them equal. Your tailbone is dropped and you’re lifting your Bai Hue. Feel your spine, are all things equal, change your torso till it is. Relax your eyes, paying attention to the back of your eyes. Let your eyes close to the point where you can still see but someone across the room would thing they were closed. Let your eyes gaze off at nothing. Breathe deep into your lower abdomen and as you stand it will slow down on its own. As you stand, your body will start to sway around, just let it happen. What is going on is your body is finding its balance point, so just relax and let it. Stand for as long as you can before starting sets.

If you stand with your weight on both legs like donyu or on the back leg, have someone gently push down equally on both shoulders from behind. When your weight is on the front leg, have someone push on palms of your extended arms. If your alignment is good you will feel it on the soles of your feet. If you feel it in the small of your back, knees or anywhere else you have corrections to make.

In “Tiger Mouth” the flap of skin between the thumb and forefinger must be taut but the hand must be relaxed. Don’t let the thumb go too far forward and keep it relaxed. If the thumb gets tense so will the arm, do lots of the forearm turning exercises.

If in the middle of the set you find yourself thinking about the shopping list, work, kids etc. focus on your breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing just listen to it and let it take you back into yourself. Don’t get upset with yourself, just float back into the set. It’s so easy to write “Let the mind be calm, concentrated and focused.” You can’t force it but if you allow it, it will happen. This is a tool to help you get back into the flow; don’t do the set listening to yourself breath.

Depending on the flexibility of your hips and spine “Punch Low” can be done differently. It can be done a lot like “Needle at Sea Bottom” where the fist touches the floor in front of the back foot or it can be done with a little longer step and the fist/arm coming out at about 45°. For strong backs only, again a little longer step and the fist/arm comes out at groin height (groin level your height). Like the punch the arm/fist can be either thumb on top or rolled so that the inside of forearm is up. Regardless of how you do it never try to lift your torso. Push off of “Bubbling Spring” on your forward foot and the more you relax your torso the more it will just pop up on its own. Its martial application would be what a boxer would call a low blow.

Just let your elbows sink on their own. If you force them down you will lock up your shoulder and have difficulty moving your arms. The key is getting your elbows to relax, how do you do that? By doing more donyus and toryus.

If your upper back, shoulders and arms get tired or you have balance issues then you’re not lifting your Bai Hua.

Your brain, spinal cord and nerve roots are enveloped in three layers collectively called the meninges. These three layers, the Pia, Arachnoid and the Dura protect the central nervous system. The Dura whose name comes from the same root word as durable is a tough outer sheath. When we expand and contract the spine in a controlled manner this moves the dura, massages the central nervous system and pumps cerebrospinal fluid. In time we will not just massage the spinal cord and brain stem but the brain as a whole. Now, setting out to intentionally massage the brain is high level stuff but we already move it in our day-to-day life. It is not an accident that the sloucher and the headache go together. One of the best cures for most headaches is a good set of donyus and toryus. Studies done by the “National Natural Science Foundation of China” have shown that students who practice daily have higher levels of brain activity leading to lower stress levels and better problem solving capacity, resulting in higher grades and better attendance.

In moves where the hand rises to approximately 90° to your forearms like “Brush Knees” and “Monkeys” if you feel your forearm when the hand is raised the muscles will be tense. Trying to move tense muscles is like trying to move with the brakes on. As your arm/hand come out leave your hand so that the back of your hand and forearm are flat until the last second and the hand rises up to 90°. Visualize strings/wires pulling your fingers out and up.

Snap, crackle and pop. Your joints are free to make all the noise they want as long as there is no pain associated either at the time or later. Depending on the cause most will decrease in time. If you did a billion push-ups in your youth, expect your elbows to talk to you for a very long time. If you spent a large part of your life walking on hard flat surfaces your knees will probably do likewise.

Old injuries, operation sites and scars will sting, burn, itch, ache, and feel warm or hot as your practice deepens. In many cases it will feel like you have re-injured yourself, talk to your instructor. Scars will get softer and lighten in color and in some cases disappear.

Whenever possible take your training outside. Always respect the weather and its effect on you but you should not fear it. As you train your pores open up so conditions like extreme hot or cold, wet, windy should be treated with caution. As your training deepens your ability to deal with adverse conditions increases. Go by how you feel and be aware of changes in yourself.

One of the sure signs that what you’re doing is working is what referred to as “The Drop”. This will occur when your muscles of your lower abdomen learn to relax and can expand so your internal organs can slide down deeper into the torso cavity. This has a number of profound effects on you: First your center of balance is lower so you are more stable. Second your lungs have more room to expand so you oxygen intake increases. Third your heart also has more room so it doesn’t have to work as hard so you blood pressure goes down along with your pulse rate. At first a student will get about one fingers width and with a lot of hard work in time will see up to two to three fingers width of drop. This is just one of many reasons why hard style exercises like sit-ups must be avoided.

Training partners are useful for not just keeping an eye on each other’s form but people are willing to do more when they work with someone else. Snakes are one of the exercises that work well with a partner, with each student holding the wrist of the other. While you can practices push hands against a wall with a beach ball but to say it’s not the same would be the understatement of the year.

Try slowing down your exercises. Three toryus per minute, ten seconds out and ten seconds back. Do all of them at a speed that you feel is slow. Feel the difference.

When going down in donyu it is very important that as the tailbone drops that the spine gets pulled down and the head just comes along for the ride. Likewise going up as the Bai Hue rises the spine gets pulled up and the tailbone comes along for the ride. This expansion and contraction of the spine is the essence of the donyu. If you lock up your spine all you have is an exercise for the legs and lower torso.

When doing the donyu it is important that you don’t lean forward and stick your backside out. The purpose of the donyu is to strengthen the body and pump the spine. Never sacrifice form for depth of sit. People who have strength or flexibility issues which impede proper form should use the donyu bar.

You don’t have to force your tailbone to drop just let it lead the way down and the same coming up with your Bai Hue.

When we drop our tailbone and lift our Bai Hue one of the many things that we are doing is stretching the small muscles that connect our vertebra. Now these muscles are relatively small but full of nerves. If you have ever done something to your back that caused sparks to fly out your ears for a week or two chances are good you over stretched one of these. By dropping our tailbone and lifting our Bai Hue we protect ourselves from such an enjoyable experience.

If your hips don’t move then nothing moves. In time the rotation of your tailbone will be the spark that starts the movement of your hips. When the hips move the feet and hands move.

One of the reasons these systems either attract or repulse people is that when we walk out on to the training room floor we leave our egos and all the stories we tell ourselves and anyone who will listen back on the chair. Out on the floor there is just you and all your weaknesses are exposed. Any real growth will start with an honest appraisal of your needs before you can begin to understand what you need to work on. In these systems as in life the path of least resistance goes nowhere fast. If something is hard to do, guess what you need to work on.

While doing either set what we are doing is contracting and expanding. Our joints are opening and closing, our spine lengthening and shortening, our internal organs are getting moved around. Feel it happen. If there was one question that Master Moy asked incessantly it was “What do you feel?” If you can’t feel it, you can’t control it. Until you teach yourself to listen to your body as it moves you cannot cross the threshold to making them your own.

Class time is for learning new techniques and getting corrections, not perfecting them. The bulk of your training time should be done alone and a smaller amount of time with a partner or small group.

If you are new to the concept of training alone don’t start off with a multi-hour workout or you may never want to do another one. Rather start out with what free time you have and grow from there. Do a few donyus and toryus here and the first seventeen moves there and toss in some of the exercises here and there. Now as you’re sitting there reading this you may well be thinking “I don’t have any free time to spare!” but you do, as your sitting there do a few of the forearm turning exercises. The more effort you invest in finding the time the more you will find. Make a point of doing something right after getting up and just before going to bed.

Only you can reach into that big box of excuses to find the one that fits the moment. If you practice every day you will grow every day. Skipping days is like walking backwards.

If you want to understand these systems there is only one way that can happen and that is to do them and think about them after. The more you do of both the deeper your understanding will be.

Be patient, practice every day and take your training seriously.

When a person went to a workshop with Master Moy they could find themselves working on any number of things. A good bucket full of donyus and toryus was a given but the one move from the set you could always count on getting a few hours of time was Brush Knees. The reason for that is few moves in the set do as much for a persons well being than the knees. It opens up the big meridians (Ren Mai and Du Mai) which is the first step in having good circulation of energy.

If he saw someone for the first time at a workshop and all they were doing was, “Open, Step, Push, open, step, push…. That was fine, get the frame down pat we can fill it in later. Now on the other hand if he saw your face around a time or six, he expected more.

With that in mind lets take a look at what he was looking for. From the top with both arms open. It’s important that both arms be kept equally alive. As the arms open at the top you will feel a stretch from the bottom of the back foot to the top of your head. Just release your back leg and it should just pop straight forward into stepping position. If it doesn’t then just step through. As your hips square the back leg, spine and pushing arms move and reach their extension together. The thumb of the forward pushing hand is centerlined along with the fingers of the lower hand. As the lower arm starts to swing down and up the forward leg pivots outward at the hip. Now it is important that the condition of your knees and the traction of the floor be taken into consideration. What you can do in cotton soled shoes on a smooth marble floor and what you can do on fresh asphalt in new runners are two different things. If you can safely do it, do the turn of your forward leg with the weight on it but if not then shift part of your weight back till you can safely to the turn. You won’t have to shift much weight back to do the turn. Keep in mind that the structure of the leg doesn’t change and only turns in the hip socket as you open your hips. You start your lower arm swing and spiral down as the forward pushing arm reaches it limit. How low you sit is not as important as how smooth your spiral is. That said men should try to sit as low as possible. As you spiral into your hip to sit leave the upper body where it is and sit away from it dropping at the rib line. As your lower body drops away there is a chance you will feel a warming sensation in the palm of your forward pushing hand. If this occurs then put a star in your journal with the notation to the effect of, “Starting to make this work!” While this warming sensation should occur in all moves of the set many people feel it for the first time doing Brush Knees.

The “Monkey Mind” is a mind that is un-focused and has difficulty concentrating and flits about constantly. When we do Repulse Monkeys it’s the monkey mind we’re pushing away. The move promotes concentration and clarity of mind. Many a student’s degree/diploma hangs on the wall because of the power of this move.

Points to keep in mind for Monkeys: As the arms swing to open at the top, the stepping leg goes straight back and lands on Bubbling Springs but doesn’t turn in until the hips are squared. The weight sits on Bubbling Springs in the front foot and will turn on it’s own as you push off of it. The push of the front leg will square the hips and bring the pushing arm forward. The thumb of the pushing hand is in line with your sternum at heart height. The lower arm is also centerlined and sits at navel height. The lower arm doesn’t sink on it’s own but when you sit it goes along with body. It’s important that both arms be kept equally alive. You sit in the middle like in a toryu. Like in Brush Knees men should try to sit lower.

Many different types of relationships have come off the training room floor. What is also too true is many people have injured themselves performing for that special someone. Braggadocio has no place on the training room floor. When doing the forms or exercises do them like no one is watching.

One of the best sure fire ways of injuring yourself is to skip four or five days then try and make up for it in one big push. Do something every day and your risk of injury will drop.

There seems to be some confusion over what to do when someone is told to drop their tailbone. Put your hands on the small of your back and play around until there is no curve and it’s flat. Cognations you just dropped your tailbone. Now it doesn’t stay like that all the time it’s constantly pumping back and forth transmitting power up your spine. There is a place in every move to pump it back and forth. This is also known as the sacrum pump. Note: A pelvic tilt/thrust that goes beyond flat and tightens the abdominal muscles which we don’t want to do as it compresses internal organs.

When you Hold the Ball it’s not just a crossing of your arms but a whole body event. As your spine contracts the upper body curves inward, the sternum sinks and the spine rises out of your back as your arms close. When the arms cross, the tailbone drops and the spine begins to expand, the sternum rises, the spine sinks into the body and the arms open. The movement in your spine or arms never stops.

When your chest is open, like at the top of Knees and Monkeys, your spine is sunk into your back and the sternum is pushed out of your chest. In moves like Step up to Raise Hands your sternum is sunk and your spine rises out of your back. So what is your spine/sternum doing at different parts of the Donyu/Toryu?

When watching someone do a move three times for you, the first time watch the feet, second, the waist/hips and lastly everything. It is a common beginners mistake to think that how you flap the arms around is important. If the stepping isn’t right then the waist/hips can’t do what they should making what the arms do immaterial.

Pick the move in the set that you feel least comfortable with. Do it, ten times a day, ten minutes a day, ten hours a day, whatever works for you, until that is no longer your least comfortable move then move on to the next.

While we’re performing these movements the twisting, relaxing and tensing assists the heart in moving the blood through our bodies. Even though we are working our heart rate goes down as it doesn’t need to work as hard. The blood is removing the waste products (carbon dioxide, lactic acid). When the set ends our heart rate goes up as it no longer has our movements to assist in the removal of the waste. It is important that between the end of the set and the bow that we wait for our heart rate to go back down. This is why the pause at the end of the set is very individual and the only time you should all bow in unison would be at a demo where you’re performing not practicing.

In the punch just before the second Cross Hands Master Moy uses the same technique Doug Nettleton uses at the second Flying at a Slant. It’s more commonly called Back Stepping and can be grafted into any number of moves to avoid objects in your way. Its martial application is to make room for yourself to work in but when just about every club has a support post or two it’s a good tool to avoid them.

Sweep Lotus is a very useful tool in teaching how to do the rest of the kicks in the set. If the student leans back then there is no way they can slap their foot. If they turn their kicking hip forwards again they won’t be able to reach their foot plus they’ll be out of square to boot. It’s important that your upper body leans forwards to keep your balance and your hips stay square otherwise you lose the power of the kick. Slapping your foot is not mandatory or as important as the two points above. If flexibility is the issue then snakes, snakes and a few more snakes. Note: The hip of the kicking leg goes forward to step into Shoot Tiger after the foot has been slapped not before.

The foot work for getting into and out of Snakes in the set can be done a number of different ways. For people with knee issues the safest way is to emulate the method used by both Master Moy and Doug Nettleton in their respective videos. The foot work goes: As you shift you weight back you pivot on the center of the right heel 90° back. Pivot on bubbling springs of the left foot 45° to your left. Keeping your weight over the right leg start to spiral down. As you spiral down around your spine to face your left foot, while doing so time the pivot of the center of your left heel 90° to your left with the turn in your spine. Pushing off of your back heel and lead with your bai hui. Lift not just the crown of your head but the whole of your upper body. As your weight passes over your left foot pivot on the center of your right heel 45° forwards. Keep the push from the back foot alive. As you come up the spine from the tailbone to the bai hui rises up as one piece into whatever move is next. It’s not how low you sit but how smoothly you transfer energy into and out of the move. Sitting low is a matter of teaching yourself to relax into structure. Three Points to keep in mind: 1) Stepping and alignment must be precise. 2) Refrain from locking your hip joint and sitting on it as this will take to load off the muscles and put it on the ligaments. 3) Using the muscles of the lower torso to compensate for mistakes in the legs. If the muscles in your lower torso get tense re-think your stance/stepping.

Whether you’re doing the forms or exercises it’s not about knocking out “X” number of cookie cutter shapes before moving on to the next but rather changing them in mid stream to suit the needs of your body at that moment. To use a musical analogy, you may use the same methodology to tune an instrument but each time will be highly individual to that situation. So too with your training it’s not about doing it. It’s about using the exercises and forms to tune your body, look for tension in your body then play with the moves till it’s works for you.

At first glance Slanting Flying and Wild Horses look the same. While it’s true they share a number of common attributes they are very different moves. In both moves when you hold the ball the arms cross in front of your centerline. As your hips square the back leg, spine and pushing arms move and reach their extension together. The extended arm is again on the centerline to shoulder height with the lower hand by your thigh. In both the push comes from the back heel and it is VERY important that your stepping foot is on the ground before your ball opens and the spine/arms begin to expand. When you sit the deeper you can spiral into your hip your stepping will not only be more stable but you will generate more power. The longer the reach/stretch the more your back foot will pop off the floor when you release it, this contraction will help you stand up. They differ in that in Slanting Flying the energy expressed by your arm is forward and upward whereas in Wild Horses it’s sideways. In slanting flying the intent is on the upper arm and shoulder. Whereas in wild horses it starts at the base of the thumb and goes up the forearm. Neither is a finger strike but rather a throw. The theory is your stepping leg goes between their legs and the sweep throws them. One of the takes on the name Slanting Flying is you come in at a slant and they go flying.

It’s not uncommon for students to get cramps either in their calves or the soles of their feet. When this happens straighten your leg and reach with your toes for your knee and this will alleviate the cramping.

Have mini-workshops, get together with your friends, spend the day going up and down, back and forth. Take turns correcting each others form. Don’t forget to do the 109th move together as well.

Q&A #4

Lifting the Bai Hui.

– When lifting the bai hui it is very important not to create any tension between the tailbone and the base of the skull. If you stretch the neck it will become tense and impede the flow of fluids including oxygen carrying blood. Just lift it, don’t stretch it.

It is relatively easy to tell if your head is tilted one side or the other. If the head is tilted too far back this will disrupt your balance. A sure sign that your head is too far back is your throat will get dry.

Relax.

– If you relax everything at the same time you’re going to collapse into a pile and probably hurt yourself. If a muscle group isn’t needed to perform the action at hand then there is no reason for it to be active (tense). If one unneeded muscle group is tense then there has to be an equally tense group on the other side of your body. When this occurs then you’re fighting yourself to move. The goal is to be able to move with the least amount internal friction as possible.

The long road to being relaxed is filled with much stretching and twisting.

Opening of Hips.

-With the chair such a large part of our day to day life the opening of the hips is the first major hurdle the student has to overcome. This is the reason for the wide stance, low sit donyu and the long step/lean toryu. The use of these versions of the donyu and toryu will give the student the flexibility in the hips and lower back to do three things at the same time:
1) Open the Kua, think of a ball held between your knees. You want a “U” between your legs not a “V”.
2) Drop not just your tailbone but the whole of the lower back.
3) Maintain a straight line between bai hui and tailbone.

Until the student can do this the qi will not sink. This is a state know as “Leaking-Hips or Pelvis”.

Going all the way.

– A major mistake that many make when doing the toryu or similar moves in the set is that they don’t spiral into their hips to the extent of their capacity. You can look as pretty as a picture in the middle of the movement but it’s at the ends that the majority of the benefit is to be found.

Knees Collapse In During Donyu.

-letting your knees collapse inward while going down in the donyu is asking for knee injuries. It’s important to keep your Kua open!

Think of the center of your heel as the center pin on a clock face and your feet as the hands. While standing in donyu apply a very, very slight amount of torque outwards to bubbling springs. You will feel the spiral wrapping around your legs and up into your torso. This spiral that starts a the bottom of your foot will one day come out the top of your head at the bai hui. In time the level of torque at the bottom of your foot will wax and wane as you load and empty your leg. For now use the wrapping energy to keep your knees open and to protect them. The old saying goes, ” Take great pains not to over twist your knees or you will be in great pain!”.

Intention or will.

– Your intent is not the same as doing but if you don’t intend then you won’t do it. Your intent guides your body. When the intent moves, the body follows.

These arts are the kind where you use your intent (mind) and not your strength. Our chi and mind (or intent) is the leader, and our flesh and bones are the followers.

Music.

-The problem with music is it’s too easy to get lost in the music and not yourself. That said if there an unacceptable level of outside noise some form of white noise can be helpful.

The state of mind a person gets into when totally absorbed in a piece of music is where you want to your set to take you.

Visual cues of advancement.

-When watching a group of students doing the set the demarcation between the beginner (Regardless of how long they’ve been around.) and the student who’s set is growing is the beginners arms are moving on their own, while there is very little movement in the waist. In a more advanced form the forearms rotate and the arms are controlled by movement in the shoulder blades which in turn comes from movement in the spine and the waist is “always” turning.

Three Mitigating Factors.

– In our journey from raw beginner to some point down the never ending road three factors will decide how far we go. They are:
1) Physiology and history.
2) Work ethic.
3) Level of instruction.
Now, a healthy twenty year old with no history of injury will have a greater potential to go further then a forty year old who has numerous injuries. A twenty year old with no work ethic will not get 1% as a far as a forty year old with a strong work ethic. Without high quality instruction all the effort in the world will always be limited.

This is the reason why you should seek out and spend as much time as possible with the highest level of teachers/instructors you have access to.

Whenever possible teachers/instructors will arrive early. Take advantage of that time for personal corrections. Keep in mind that these people are not mind readers if you’re working on this or that, tell them so they can keep an eye on those aspects.

How far down the road we go is not important, what is, is that we become a good as we can become.

Continuous Movement.

– When doing the sets and exercises it’s the continuous movement that brings most of the benefit. These movements facilitate the pumping of various fluids which in turn cleanse, repair and nourish our bodies. Now, doing consecutive sets of the forms is the easy part, it’s the exercises that can be challenging. Master Moy was a big fan of doing donyus in sets of 108, only to be repeated. When doing the toryu the goal is to be able to change sides with the least amount of disruption in the flow. If you have the room to move forward then as you sink your weight into your back leg pivot on the heel of the front foot to 45 degrees out then just step through. If you don’t have the room or just want to stay in one place just use the foot work from single whip to turn around and face the other way. When doing your personal work pick one of the exercises and do it for as long as possible to get the most benefit out of it.

Mr. Vs Master.

– To the vast majority of his students he’s known as “Master” Moy but this was a title that he shunned and to the people who were close to him he was just “Mr.” Moy. We may have called him “Master” behind his back out of respect but never to his face. Since his passing the use of the title “Master” has become universal. For the purposes of this blog we use the term “master” as that is what most will relate to.

Problems getting stuck at the bottom of donyu.

-The old joke used to be, “The down yous aren’t the problems, it’s the up yous.” Think of the torso as having two parts, the top half and the bottom half with your rib line the divide. When going down the bottom half will drop faster than the top. When you get to the bottom you have to let the top half finish dropping before you turn the forearms and start back up.

Regardless of what you’re doing, if you’re going up then all of you must finish going up before starting to go down and the same when going down. When part of you is going up and another part of you is going down then there are going to be issues.

That said at some points when coming forward you’ll be dropping your tailbone while lifting bai hui to stretch the spine and vice versa coming back. An example would be Step Up to Form Seven Stars.

Disjointed arms.

– When you synchronize the movement of your knees and hip/tailbone you’re not just straightening and bending your legs but lifting and dropping your spine. When you push your hips/tailbone forwards, you push up on the base of your spine. Providing you’re lifting your bai hui the energy will travel up the spine. This movement can be transferred to the arms/hands if the upper body and arms are relaxed.

At first you’re only going to be able to let your arms hitchhike on the energy wave. The more you can relax the upper body the easier your arms will move. The more you do the exercises for the upper body the easier it will be to relax.

The rotation of the spine and the forearms must be synchronize.

That is the simplified mechanics of moving your arms/hands with movement generated in the hips/spine, however, it will take a considerable amount of time and practice to achieve any modicum of proficiency.

Taoist Yoga.

– The two great cultures on either side of the Himalayas have been exchanging and sharing since the beginning. At various times and places, different forms of yoga moved north where they were collected, reformed and assimilated by the Taoists.

Breathing.

– Different schools deal with breathing in a variety of ways. Just move and trust your body to breath on it’s own. Your body will neither starve itself of oxygen or hurt itself if you just relax and not be concerned with breathing. The more you learn to relax the more naturally you will breath. Smile to reduce the tension in the upper chest and you won’t get short of breath.

Tiger’s Mouth.

– Tiger’s Mouth is ubiquitous to all internal systems and a good number of the Shaolin schools. The meridians of the arms change at the fingertips. An open and relaxed as possible hand will facilitate the smooth flow of qi. Many students will find that their fingers develop a life of their own. Fingers may rise, drop or spread apart from the rest. Let the fingers do what they want and ignore them. The tiger’s mouth is between the forefinger and the thumb, it should be held as open as possible without any tension. The hand should be held as if it was against a very large ball.

Knee Issues.

– Of the three joints on the leg the knees gives us by far the most grief. At the first sign of pain STOP! Stepping must be precise! Otherwise one side of the joint takes more of the weight which leads to more wear and tear. When you stand in toryu with weight on the front leg you’ll find that the hip of the forward leg can be raised and lowered. You want it as low as possible. Now you don’t go forward then drop but rather as soon as forward movement begins the hip start to drop. This not only protects the knee by not letting it go forewords but squares the hips at the same time. The more forward the knee, the more power it generates when you spiral up off of it but it also places more stress on it. When you see people who can safely spiral up when their knees are pasted their toes, when they talk you listen, when they move you watch.

Until the student understands how to use bounce back force they should avoid doing donyus which go below 90 degrees. There is an increased chance of injury to the ligaments and tendons if you try to power your way up from below 90 degrees without using bounce back force.

Bounce Back Force.

-Derives it’s power from the thoracolumbar fascia rather than the ligaments and tendons of the limbs. When you sit below 90 degrees it feels like your coming down on a big, wide elastic band. This propels you up past 90 degrees where your legs can safely take over the lift.

Squaring the Hip.

– When squaring your hips always use the hip of your bent leg. If you try to square with the hip of the extended leg you’ll disrupt your alinement. Sink it to square it.

Stepping Length Vs Upper Body Movement.

-The ranger of movement of the upper torso is directly tied to the stepping length. Long steps correlate to long torso movement. If you use short steps and move your upper torso through a long movement your knees will take an increase in pressure.

Foot Correction.

– It’s perfectly acceptable for students with flexibility issues to make minor foot adjustments at the end of a move to get into stepping position. Providing 1) you’re aware you’re doing it. 2) The goal is to eradicate the need for corrections in due course by using the long step/reach toryu and work at sitting lower in donyu which is especially important for men.

Differences in hands when bowing.

– In the study of meridian theory the student will find two charts. One for the female body and one for the male. Different physiologies require different wiring systems. Which in turn have different circulations of energy.

Stress.

-Stress is just a part of life. Some people just go out of their way to make it worse. The depletion of the adrenal glands by over stimulation is the cause of most of the symptoms we think of as stress. The toryu and brush knees are two of the best movements we can do to keep the adrenal glands replenished.

Square Back?

– Shoulders in line with hips, bai hui in line with tailbone.

Bone Stacking?

-When were lifting our bai hui and dropping our tailbones, providing it’s in a straight line we’re creating an environment where our vertebrae will naturally form a self-supporting column.

Push Hands Competitions.

– It’s not that Master Moy had anything against push hands, he had no use for competitions period. To seek ones self-glorification at the expense of another he felt was wrong. He felt that competitions were divisive not unifying. If you go to a sports event, what’s more likely to break out, a fist fight or a love in? Plus push hand competitions have rules galore…. He didn’t play by their rules. More importantly, push hands is a tool, not a game. That said, if someone showed up at the door and respectfully requested to feel him that was always granted.

Q&A #2

Questions about Chop with Fist and Punch.

– In Chop with Fist the rise of the arms and the spine are coordinated. In time the extension of the spine will raise the arms. Three things happen simultaneously, right foot is planted, the hips square and the arms and spine reach their apex. The tailbone leads the drop and the spine/torso follows. The arm and fist just go along for the ride. Allow the arm to drop effortlessly though it’s range of motion. As the arm drops the point of your elbow leads the way and is the focus of your intent. The last half of the move is in reality an elbow strike at an opponent behind you. Now, the punch can be done two ways, first when looking down you see the palm of the hand and inside of the forearm. As the punch comes out it turns a quarter of a turn in so that it ends with the fist vertical and the side of the forearm up. Or it starts with the the fist vertical and rotates a quarter of a turn out to end with the palm and inside of forearm up. In all internal systems the strikes are done with the elbow down. When you rotate the arm so that the back of the fist is up then the elbow is sideways. Serious mistake! Doing this not only breaks up your alignment but also leaves you much more vulnerable to counter-attack.

The fist ends directly in front of the sternum at heart height. The fist is never clenched, it is just closed very loosely. Many people find as the fist comes out it wants to tighten up. Diligent practice of the first two exercises will cure this.

At first the strike comes from the center of the back heel. It is very important that the knee and elbow open and close together as the spine expands and contracts. In time the power will come from the lower back/hips and be expressed through the limbs.

Lower back issues and Cross Hands

– Many people needlessly place their lower back in jeopardy by doing the rise and turn in Cross Hands at the same time. At the end of Appear to Close Entrance you’re stretched out in a toryu. To rise up just pull your knee back on the front leg to straighten the leg. Pivot on the center your left heel. Pivot on Bubbling Spring of your right foot and donyu. Now whether you do a high or low donyu is irrelevant but what is, is that at the bottom of your sit you push off with the right foot and rise up on the left leg and step over at the top.

Stepping Toryu?

-Think “Parting Wild Horse’s Mane”. Now this version of the toryu is a fair ways down the road so it doesn’t use the long forward lean used to stretch the body. As you reach the peak of your spiral up just relax the back leg and release it and let it flow into forward stepping position.

What is Tendon Changing?

– Tendon Changing also know as “Muscle/Tendon Changing” is a term for exercise systems which change the body from a weak to strong, from sick to healthy. They accomplish this by opening up the meridians to promote the smooth flow of qi.

The two main meridians are the Conception (Ren Mai) and the Governing (Du Mai).

The Conception (Yin) regulates the six main yin meridians and the Governing (Yang) regulates the six main yang meridians.

When these open up and the qi is freely and smoothly flowing then the body becomes strong, flexible and healthy. This maintains the health and proper functioning of the related organs.

While the donyu and toryu and other excises accomplish the same task they should not be confused with the system Yi Jin Jing.

Flexibility issues

– Flexibility for most is an ongoing issue. It’s important to understand that the ligaments, tendons and the fascia are around 30% water so keeping yourself properly hydrated is essential for their safe function.

When working on your flexibility you must keep in mind that you can’t do what you can’t do but you can do as best as you can as often as possible. This something that you have to work on daily.

Turn up the heat as being cool will make you stiff. The bath, shower, hot tub, sauna and the like are good places to practices stretching. Do make sure to use a non slip surface.

Many people have found the sitting meditation postures difficult to do. Time and patience will do wonders. Many have found sitting on the floor as often as possible and for short periods of time with their backs up against the wall and legs flat on the floor helps.

Why are there no left handed punches?

– In Yin/Yang theory the condition which causes the most health problems is an imbalance with too much yang. When Yang Ch’eng-fu (1883–1936) developed this form and began teaching it in 1922 or 23 it was intentionally made more yin than yang. At some point the diligent student will start to become more balanced. Some schools at this point start to teach the mirror or opening to the left form. Which is more yang than yin. Others like us will teach a more balanced form like lok hup. This is why Master Moy considered the tai chi form the door opener and the goal lok hup.

Stiff Neck

– For many neck issues are just a part of life. While moves such as “Wave Hands as Clouds” work the neck we don’t always have the time or space to be doing the wave. Either stand in Opening to Tai Chi or sit up straight. Lift the bai hui and gently/slowly turn the head back and forth through it’s range of motion. You can time the movement of the eyes to the motion of the head. Never force either the neck or eyes. Some people use to joke that Master Moy was part owl for the range of motion he had in his neck.

Balance issues when spiraling up.

– When spiraling up it is essential to lift the bai hui as this lifts the spine and brings the upper body along with it. Failing to do this, the lower body tries to spiral up but it has this dead weight sitting on top of it causing it to wobble. Also keep your eyes looking forwards with eyes focus relaxed.

What is so important about spiraling?

– In the study of qi gong theory we encounter two terms, “Bone Shrinking” and “Bone Stretching”. Now we’re not talking about changing people’s height but rather what we can do to the bones by spiraling. Bone shrinking occurs when these spiraling moves pulls the connective tissue around the joints, drawing the bearing surfaces together increasing their stability. Bone stretching occurs when we wrap the muscle around the the long bones. This is the action that is responsible for increasing bone density. More importantly this action promotes the cleansing of the marrow which in turn promotes healthy blood.

On the martial side a rotating limb will not only be harder for someone to grab on to but be more effective as a deflection agent. If you were to make hole in steel plate would you use a hammer and nail or a drill? The power of the drill is not it’s downward pressure but it’s rotation. Spiraling energy will penetrate deeper then a straight push.

Pictures of Master Moy taken towards the end of his life show the symptoms of a heart condition. What was the nature of his health issue?

– He was a sickly child from birth. When he was around 6 or 7 his condition took a grave turn for the worst. In desperation his father turned to the monks at Hua Shan. They agreed to do what they could providing they could train the boy. No one knows what they did but it didn’t cure him only slowed it’s progress to the point that he could have a semi-normal life. Despite the combined efforts of the best western and Taoist medical practices this condition eventually led to his premature death.

To the very end he was the consummate teacher and his concern for his students garnered him the everlasting loyalty of those who were close to him.

Some say he passed too young, in reality, he had sixty years of life that he wouldn’t of had without Taoist intervention. Rather than bemoaning his early passing we should be grateful that we had him at all.

When someone sends us a question it’s safe to assume that someone else has had the same question and others will benefit from it as well. With that in mind from now on when we receive a question the answer will be posted in the next Q&A blog.

From Attitudes Hints and Cautions

Q: Where do forearm rotations originate for the advanced?

A: For the advanced all movement originates in the lower dantain.

Q: Can we do rows of separations?

A: Of course you can, after the second kick just go back to the first. Since Fair Ladies starts and ends with a Grasp Birds Tail you can just repeat that move. Most of the moves can be done either in rows or circles…. Go find them.

From Attitudes, Hints and Cautions #2

Q: Should I stop using a mirror after beginners class?

A: It doesn’t matter if you know this, that and a few more things, when you’re learning something new you’re back to being a beginner. What we were saying was that after a point while working on a move you shouldn’t need to watch yourself because you should be inside of yourself.

Q: When you advise people to look inwards all you talk about are the externals muscles, tendons and ligaments and say nothing about feeling inside the torso, why?

A: For the first few years if not more the average student will have very little to feel internally. By all means try to feel.

Q: Walk in a circle?

A: Place the outside foot straight and the inside foot at 45° inwards, while you turn the waist so that your upper body faces the center of the circle, the hips remain square, eight steps will take you back to where you started. When you step with the outside foot your torso will rotation on the top of your supporting leg. Use heel and toe turns to change direction. Try to do an equal number going both ways. The number of people who Master Moy taught Bagua to you could put in a mini-van and drive across country with, however he had people at different times walk in a Bagua circle without doing anything special with their arms. If you want to experiment with different Bagua arm movements have fun.

Regarding strength training.

Q: What about Tai Chi Ball?

A: Unlike the ruler and bang which a person whose been around for a while should be able to pick up from a video, ball forms are much more complex then meets the eye. To learn a ball form correctly a teacher is pretty much needed. Despite being the right size and weight don’t use bowling balls as they are made of the wrong material. Tai Chi Balls are either wood, stone or iron. Yes proper use of the Tai Chi Ball will increase strength.

Q: What about Baoding Balls?

A: The hollow ones with the chimes inside are for therapy in the event of hand injury, arthritis or some other condition. Stone balls are for both therapy and strength training. Solid steel balls are for strength training.

Q: What about wrist weights?

A: We’ve never used them so we really can’t speak to them. That being said other schools use brass, iron or steel rings which go around the forearms. We won’t say don’t use them but wouldn’t recommend them for someone who hasn’t been around for a while and would do a lot of the upper body exercises before and after.

Q: What about weight vests?

A: Weight vests have been used by Bagua and a number of other internal styles for a very long time. If you can’t do a hundred or so consecutive donyus there is no point in using one. If you can start off with a small weight increase and slowly work up in weight.

Q: What about pole shaking?

A: Pole shaking also has been used by a number of internal styles for a very long time. At first glance it looks deceptively simple but a person can do serious injury to themselves if they don’t know what they’re doing. If you can’t find a teacher don’t play with it just because you can find a pole.

Activities like lifting weights and punching heavy bags fall into a classification called Ying Gong. While these have a place in traditional Taoist training for the most part they were for people between their mid-teens to mid-twenties. It’s important that the student understand that our power comes not from muscles but from bone, tendons and chi. The power of these three are brought together with the concept of alignment. The more the student can use proper alignment, the more the bones take the force of the movement. The more of the force that the bones take, the more the muscles can relax. The more time and effort the student invests in understanding how to use alignment with rotational whole body movements the less they’ll need muscles. When we say relax into the move what were saying is find your alignment so that you can relax your muscles. Understanding how to find and use their alignment is one of the first major hurdles the student has to grasp. When a person understands how to maintain alignment with rotational whole body movements then they can move mountains.

This is why Zhan zhuang (Standing Tree) is so important, as it teaches you what alignment feels like in stillness. Timing is the key to keeping alignment while moving. Push hands is a very important tool in understanding how to maintain alignment while moving. If your push hands partner has a good understanding of alignment and you lose yours they will fold you up like a house of cards. In these systems there is an old saying, “You must invest in your loss.” People who have a strong understanding of their alignment have been folded up in push hands many times.

From The Big Picture

Q: Who is Mui Ming To?

A: Mui Ming To is or was a Taoist priest with whom Master Moy and Mrs. Tang Yeun Mei founded the Fung Loy Kok on the grounds of the Yuen Yuen Institute in Hong Kong in 1968. When the Canadian branch of the Fung Loy Kok was opened in 1981 he came over and conducted classes in meditation. Other than that we know nothing of him, if he is still alive he would be quite old.

Q: Who is Master Yeung?

A: Master Yeung was a qigong master in Hong Kong with whom Master Moy studied with, for how long we’re not sure. We’re also not sure how his teaching influenced what we do today but undoubtedly he still lives in us today. It’s our understanding that he passed away some time ago.

Q: What is spontaneous qigong?

A: Like Yi Quan it has principles but no set form. The body expresses itself as it feels it should. To be honest we don’t know much about it and know of no one in North America who teaches it.

Questions in general

Q: What’s the difference between external and internal?

A: External uses muscles to accomplish the task at hand, internal uses bone, tendons and chi unified by alignment in rotational whole body movements.

Q: Is internal superior to external?

A: The short answer is NO! If there was a superior form then there would only be one form. They are simply different ways of getting the job done. The old adage is “It’s not the form you practice but how you practice your form.” At the end of the day it’s all about you alone on the floor doing your thing over and over again. That being said properly done there is a lot less chance of injury in internal systems.

Q: What is the differences between an instructor and a teacher?

A: Decades of experience. An instructor’s job is to give the student the basic form and fix the most glaring mistakes. Of course the more experienced the instructor the more refined their corrections but they can only change the outside of the moves. They lack the experience to see or change the inside of the form. A teacher has the experience to understand how to change the outside of the form to acquire the most internal movement and provide the strongest structure. If you broke your leg twenty years before meeting Master Moy to him it had a big neon sign with a flashing arrow pointing to it. The way you moved told him more about you than your words could.

Q: Is Hatha yoga compatible with what we do?

A: Yes, While Hatha yoga and Taoist yoga obviously have many differences they also share many concepts in common. Taoist yoga has fewer postures but they are held longer. Taoist yoga made up part of Master Moy’s personal work. Quite a few people have found Hatha yoga an effective adjunct to what we do as it’s good at opening the joints.

Q: What can we do to improve our stepping.

A: While doing the toryu one of the things you’re doing is training the tendons and ligaments to the basic stepping form. By doing lots of toryus your body learns to recognize if it’s in or out-stepping.

Q: In Chop with fist we’re asked to step Ba gu. What does Ba gu mean?

A: Ba gu means “Opening of the Joint”. When you step Ba gu you open the hip joint.

Q: What does Kwa mean?

A: If you were to go looking for a pair of pants or a skirt you would have to know the measurement of your kwa. It’s means waist/hips. For our purposes we’re talking about it’s the connective tissue which joins the upper legs and lower torso to the pelvic girdle. Flexibility of this region is absolutely essential for what we do. Other schools call exercises from the donyu family kwa squats. The long step toryu and the snakes as well as the donyu are used to increase the flexibility of the ligaments and tendons.

Q: What are jins?

A: Jin (勁) is a term used to describe the different ways of using the body’s physical energy in internal systems. Different authors from different systems have given slightly different names to some but it is generally recognized to be about sixty different jins.

A few that we would use.

Zhuan jin – Use of rotation in the waist and limbs to generate force.

Peng jin – Use of correct alignment so that the moves may be done with the least amount of muscular strength.

Pan jin – Dropping the tailbone to connect your center (spine) down into the earth (Rooting).

Ding jin – Lifting the Bai Hui to keep the spine correctly aligned.

Q: What can we do to improve our timing?

A: As mentioned above, timing is about keeping alignment while moving. No two people will have the same joint surfaces so where you will be at any given point will not necessarily be same as anyone else. Just as the move never stops neither should you, the rotation must be kept alive through out.

Use the six points below to get the basics of timing and like everyone else you can then spend the rest of your life perfecting them.

1. Body/Joints: The three joints of the body are the neck, upper back and lower back. These joints must move together.

2. Arm/Joints: The three joints of the arm are the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Movement begins at shoulder and runs through the elbow to the wrist.

3. Leg/Joints: The three leg joints are the hip, knee and ankle. Movement begins at hip and runs through the knee to the ankle.

4. Hands/Feet: The movement of the hands tracks the movement of the feet.

5. Elbows and Knees: The movements of the elbows track the movements of the knees.

6. Shoulders/Hips: The movement of the shoulders track the movement of the hips.

No body part or joint moves in isolation. Everything moves together.

Q: What can we do to improve Sweep Lotus?

A: Six words. Snakes, snakes and some more snakes. Do them slowly off of a bar when ever you can. After your done either do a set or go for a walk but what ever you do don’t go and sit down. These will stretch out your legs and open the kwa. The kick is a crescent kick in that the foot comes up on the inside and down on the outside. The tighter the loop the harder to do the kick will become.

Q: Why didn’t Master Moy leave a lineage holder to carry on?

A: When he first arrived it was his plan to train twelve people who were equal to him. Then that changed to one person but that to didn’t pan out. After that he only took people as far as they were willing to go. If a person is up to their ears in university life, careers, credit card bills, mortgages, kids, spouse then they just don’t have the time to invest in reaching those levels. If a person was to study in a temple setting they would train four times a day for two and a half hours per session. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for on average five years or so. At the end of this time they would still be very much considered a beginner! At this time their teacher would become more of an adviser. We were all more concerned with the showy displays of our means of life then we were in dedicating our lives to understanding these systems. Our failure to work hard enough is manifested in some of the problems that his “children” are dealing with today. This is not to say that some of his students didn’t reach levels of understanding but he had high expectations for us.

Q: How do we respond to the vitriolic comments made on the internet about Master Moy and his systems?

A: You Don’t! These people are too ignorant to understand, too lazy to try. These are the same people who will dump on you for the clothes you wear and the music you listen to or any other reason they can glob onto so they can feel important. To get into a discourse with them only lowers you to their level. Many people in the west suffer from a condition we call knot-holism. When you look through the hole in the fence you may have a clear view of what little is visible but it’s not until you raise yourself above the fence that you get to look at the big picture. Unfortunately many people are content with the little picture.

Many people have claimed that his systems are deleterious or even dangerous. Long before any student was ever taught them Sun Di saw and approved them. We’re not talking about some ignorant wannabe here but rather one of the iconic figures of the Hong Kong internal martial arts scene who served as a ruler of quality against which many were measured. If he felt that Master Moy was doing something wrong he would have said so.

One of the complainers on an on-line form exposed their reason of complaint when they posted. “How can we pay the bills with these people in the neighborhood.” If the student is nothing more than an adjunct to a profit margin then what do they really care about?

Master Moy told us that we should do what we feel is right and not be concerned with the opinions of others.

Q: Why did so many senior people leave?

A: We are not going to comment on, question or criticize the actions of others. We will say if you study the history of other masters and their schools you will see the same trend among them. Some students come but for a short time and drink fully before going off to drink from elsewhere, others will spend their life in one school. After a master passes away it’s not uncommon for some of the students to stay and keep the school alive while others will seek further instruction elsewhere. Still others will start their own schools. Today some of Master Moy’s former students are found studying in Taoist Temples or either with or under teacher from schools that may or may not be from the same family tree. It’s important that people understand Master Moy was not the be all and end all. He was just one of many who are fully qualified to compose and teach these systems.

If you’re a beginner or just got into continuing you had best wait until these concepts are introduced in class before putting them into practice. Sitting and spiraling are two of the fundamental concepts of these forms that Master Moy left us. If there is a common mistake that intermediate students make is that they only give a token effort to sitting and spiraling.
 
The sit is just a matter of relaxing and letting gravity do all the work. Let yourself sink till your joints start to feel tension. The more you can relax your joints the deeper your sit will be. The spiral is a matter of timing. In some literature this concept is referred to as “drilling”. Just as a drill bit has a constant spiral so should your rise and sit. From however low your sit is at 45° your rise should peak just as your hips become square and the inverse when sitting. 
 
There is only one way to learn to relax (Song) and that is to do the exercises and sets daily the rest will come on it’s own.
 
The lymphatic system relies on muscular contractions to move lymph around the body. Sitting and spiraling provide optimum movements to accomplish this. They also assist the heart in moving blood up from the legs and reduce the effort that it has to make.
 
The single leg donyu is the tool to use when working on both the sit and spiral. Stand with your heels together, one foot pointed straight and the other to 45°. Step forwards one foot length with the straight foot and put your heel where your toes were. Keep about 95% of your weight on the back leg. While your front foot is flat, most of it’s weight is on bubbling springs. From the bottom of your sit lift your bai hui, lift hip, pull knee back and push foot into the floor, The line between your bai hui and tailbone must come straight up. Relax, spiral back down. As you come up and go back down your hips will go from 45° to square and back to 45°. Very important that you go straight up and down. If you feel any discomfort in the knee, stop and re-adjust. Move arms as in the regular donyu, they’ll move in a diagonal track as you spiral. Change legs often as you will quickly find these are quite taxing. When you feel comfortable doing these kick them up a notch simply by lifting the front foot. Once you lift your foot it becomes like a crane movement so be sure to lift your bai hui to maintain your balance.
 
Place your hand on your hip and feel your femur rotating. You should get the same feeling not just in the donyu and toryu but in the set as well.
 
When doing rows of Brush Knees and Monkeys stop the movement when the arms form a “T” at the top and do a single leg donyu before carrying on with the movement. Front foot up or down is your choice. Make sure not to let your arms flap like a bird while you sit and rise.
 
Many of the moves in the sets have more than one point at which to sit. Sitting is more difficult at some points than others, but with practice you will find what works for you. Watch the more experienced people to see where they sit. Depending on your level you can look for either the easier or harder points.
 
If your going to be sitting while stepping it’s important to do your sit while the stepping leg is close to the supporting leg and not extended too far ahead or behind. Step with your heel down then roll onto the foot. If you experiment stepping flat footed and heel first you’ll see there is a world of difference between the two.
 
Some have asked, if sitting is so important, why is it when we watch videos of Master Moy we don’t see much sitting going on. The more advanced a person becomes the more the movements become internalized and the moves externally level off. Make no mistake we’re talking about decades of hard work to reach that level. To quote one of Leung Tzu-pang’s tea drinking buddies, Tung Ying Chieh, “There is no short cut around long, hard, lonely practice.”
 
A mirror is a wonderful training aid….. for the beginner. If you’re watching yourself in the mirror then your mind is outside of your body and not inside of it. The mirror for the most part is so the instructor can keep an eye on things.
 
As you move look inwards, feel the balance and weight shift, the tension and relaxation exchange of your muscles. Learn the difference between muscles, tendons and ligaments. Feel your bones rotating and joints moving. Feel how the weight sits on the bottom of your feet. Master Moy use to tell us “Don’t just do the move, feel the move“. Most people don’t feel their inner body unless it hurts, go exploring. Look for and make harmony and balance.
 
These forms are cumulative. Even if all you can spare is ten minutes a day to do a few donyus and toryus you will get the most benefit if you practice daily. The same time every day is preferable but anytime is better than never.
 
Never hold or lengthen your breathe. Breathe naturally. Let the movement of your body control your breathing. With time and effort you will be able to control your bodies movement with your breath.
 
Don’t practice when you’re too hungry or too full. Small amounts of fruit and or carbs make a good snack at a workshop. Don’t eat a big meal right after a long session, wait an hour or so.
 
Keep your fluid intake up both during and after practice.
 
Never drink anything cold! Never gulp or guzzle!
 
Drink room temperature or warm fluids.
 
Don’t drink too much water.
 
Don’t sit down right after practice, walk around for a bit. If space is limited walk in a circle.
 
If it’s cold or wet outside, cool down before going out.
 
Understand your personal level for training. Your intensity should gently push your limits but not so much that you feel out of sorts the next day.
 
The sets are broken down into bits and pieces then named and numbered purely for teaching/learning proposes. Once the student can do the sequence then comes the task of forgetting all the bits and pieces and making it all one move. To the trained eye the student will stop and start between moves for some years.
 
Master Moy used to tell us “Do the set as if your enemies were all around you.” These forms are three dimensional, they must be alive in all directions, not just where your nose is pointed.
 
If something doesn’t feel right there’s a reason. Stop, re-adjust and try again.
 
If the student wants to be good at these forms then they must spend a lot of time thinking about them when they’re not doing them and not thinking about them while doing them.
 
If the student is not serious about their practice then the deeper understanding will not come.
 
When doing the exercises Master Moy told us not to count them because then your mind is on the goal and not what you’re doing.
 
Lifting weights, doing push ups and chin ups are all hard style exercises and have no place in our game plan as they will nullify what we’re trying to accomplish. The movements of the three are for the most part linear while everything we do is rotational. The two exercise systems build muscle tissue in very different ways. Linear movements build short thick tissue while rotational movements build long sheath-like tissue. Linear movements build unsymmetrical tissue with weak spots while rotational movements build symmetrical filled out tissue. With linear movements it’s very easy to damage tendons and ligaments. With rotational movements they become stronger and more flexible.
 
Sit ups are also hard style but the consequences of doing them are much more deleterious. When you create a hard exterior as in the proverbial six pack then do the rotational movements found in our forms you are compressing the internal organs against the walls of the artificially hardened abdominal muscles. Serious damage can be done to the kidneys by insisting on doing these.
 
For people who wish to increase arm and hand strength they should consider the Tai Chi Ruler and the Bang Stick. The Ruler is yin and the Bang is yang so you should practices both. At one time Eva Wong taught these forms if anyone has video of those forms or can point out similar forms on YouTube they it would be appreciated.
 
The ignorant might say that in the donyu the legs are a linear movement but when it is done properly the femur is rotated.
 
When doing donyus if the toes need adjusting, do it while the body is going up. If the heels need adjusting, stop.
 
When doing donyus start with high ones and work your way down as low as you feel comfortable. When they start to get too hard go back to doing the high one and work your way down again. Keep doing this until you can no long keep the form.
 
When doing consecutive sets of the forms make each set a little slower than the proceeding set.
 
Be patience with yourself, you have a lot to learn and remember it’s not a race.
 
Trying too hard can be just as detrimental as not hard enough.
 
Keep a journal. Very important for your growth.
 
To imitate is easy, to understand is hard. Strive to understand.
 
Repetition is the origin of skill and training is the door to expertise.
 
 
 
Crane movements like Golden Cock and the kicks can be next to impossible to do without wobbling if proper technique isn’t used. The most important thing to do is to lift the Bai Hui. If you were to put an eye hook into the top of a dolls head and attached a string, would the doll fall over as long as the string was kept taut? Now we’re not going to be putting eye hooks in anyone’s head but by concentrating on lifting the Bai Hui we can keep from wobbling. Just as important, stand as tall as possible while lifting the knee cap on the standing leg at the top. Reach with the outside of the hip of the standing leg for the knee of the raised leg. Reach for the floor with tailbone. Lastly the arms must be kept alive. In Golden Cock you must reach from the shoulders with equal force. A major mistake that students make in the kicks are they hold their arms like they`re holding a newspaper to their chest. You’re holding the ball, the arms are rounded and the contractions and expansions never stop. In Separations and Turn and Kick there are three contractions and expansions in a row.
 
In Separations when you’re coming up lift the Bai Hui and the tailbone together.
 
Practice standing at the top of the move. In Golden Cock have someone push on the raised hand with the palm of their hand using the above concepts and without. In the kicks, stand with the raised knee relaxed and the lower leg just hanging down. The arm on the same side of the kicking leg is always over the leg, the other arm is your balance point. Go looking for it. Make sure the center of the wrist joint is at the same height as the center of the shoulder joint. If you start to wobble concentrate on lifting the Bai Hui and the tailbone. Stand longer/more on your weak side.
 
In all moves where the hands end at shoulder height the center of the wrist joint and shoulder joint must be at the same level.  
 
When you reach, reach from the shoulders, doing this will cause the shoulder blades to slide out. If done with equal force then the pull on either side of the spine will be equal.
 
When the weight shifts from one foot to the other the hands/arms must move while the weight is shifting. If the arms/hands continue to move after the body has stopped then the move becomes a hard style move using the power of the arms not the power of the body.
 
The shoulders won’t relax until the elbows do. That is the reason the first exercise the student learns is the forearm rotations.
 
Master Moy taught that move number 86, “White snake turns and puts out tongue” could be done two ways. White Snake can be done with an open hand palm facing up or with a fist. Regardless of the name on the piece of paper if the move is done with an open palm then it`s White Snake. If it`s done with a fist then it`s Turn and Chop with Fist. Either are acceptable.
 
The name for Snakes, either the move or exercise, is derived from the “Legend of the White Snake”. In both of them five things are important. Keep the weight over the supporting leg. The torso must turn as much as possible towards the extended leg. The torso starts to turn as it begins to drop or rise. Keep the torso as upright as possible. The distance between the center of the heels should not exceed leg length. If the student has a leg that shorter than the other then the shorter leg is the ruler.
 
The hardest thing students have about understanding Hold the Ball is that they are the ball. The entire set is “hold the ball”. Advanced instructors will correct the student’s form by watching their “ball” expand and contract as it rolls around the room.
 
In Opening to Tai Chi the hands rise as you reach for the floor with your tailbone. The knees bend very, very slightly. In all the moves that the hands/arms rise you drop your tailbone. When your hands/arms come down the tailbone goes up and you stand tall.
 
Until recently western medicine felt that by time a person was in their mid-thirties the individual bones of the tailbone and the sacrum would fuse into one piece. Now they understand this a plight of the sedentary. Other than doing donyu, toryu and the set the most beneficial thing you can do for your spine/tailbone is walking. On the other hand one of the most detrimental things you can do is sitting in a chair. Slouching is even worse. If your going to watch TV sit cross-legged on the floor.
 
In a future blog we’ll discuses in detail why the capacity to drop the tailbone is so important to doing these forms.
 
If there is a signature move in the Yang Long Form it would be Single Whip which occurs nine time, ten counting Horizontal Whip. Master Moy taught several different ways to do the whip depending on the individual. First we’ll talk about weight transfer, then feet and lastly upper body.
 
Everyone’s met the first one where the weight shifts from front/right leg to the back/left then back to the right. Now there is a tendency to think of this version as only a beginners move but if you’re on a high traction surface, have knee or balance issues then that’s the one to do. The second should be no stranger either where the weight is held in the middle with a little more weight on the front/right leg. The last will be a stranger to most. You keep all the weight on the front/right leg through out the turn.
 
When it comes to feet, everyone does the one where you leave the back/left foot until the turn is finished. Then you go “Oh look at that there’s a foot, I should move it” then you step out with it. The second is a heel and toe turn. As your pivoting on the center of the front/right heel you pivot at the same time on Bubbling Springs of the back/left foot. Both pivots start and finish at the same time and turn at the same speed. Pivot until the right foot is in position then step with the left leg. Doing the turn this way will stress the balance more so be sure to lift the Bai Hui.
 
Due to centrifugal force as you come around the torso will want to go backward. To balance this let your arm ball get bigger by allowing your hands/arms go out and spread apart as you come around. The faster you do the turn the larger your arms movements will be.
 
Some people (mostly women) Master Moy had do a shallow scoop as soon as they came around. Others (mostly men) he had do a deep scoop after coming all the way around. The deeper you scoop the taller you stand.
 
The wrist is always bent to it’s full range of motion. The fingers tips are held together, with either the fingers extended or rounded causing a round hold between the thumb and index finger.
 
Some of the common mistakes that people make while doing the whip are as follows: they come straight up rather than spiraling up, don’t turn their heads to follow their hands as the hands come up to the side, don’t drop their tailbone when their hands come up or don’t use the dropping tailbone to lead the sit.
 
Master Moy taught to the individual. It would be one thing if he had all the mesomorphs do the same and all the ectomorphs do the same but no, that’s not the way it was. He could have a number of people on the floor working on the same move and they would all be doing it differently. In one case he had twins doing things differently. When he passed away he took decades of experience with him. Now if you’re a beginner it’s best you do just what you’ve been told to do but if you have been kicking around for a while you should feel comfortable enough with your set to explore inside it.
 
Master Moy used to tell us that he was just our guide, it was our job to find the master living in us. Through out our journey our bodies will be our best teacher, we must learn how to be good students.
The following article was writen by CS Tang a former student of Liang Zi Peng. It was translated it into English by his student Bernard K. on whose blog “Be Not Defeated by the Rain”  it first appeared. The article is an exerpt from CS Tang’s forthcoming book on Yiquan.
 

 

Sun Zhi is the Mandarin spelling for the person we know as Sun Di (孫秩) (1917-1999).
 
Dun Yao and Tuo Yao are Mandarin for Donyu and Toryu. 
 
 
 
 
Three Treasures of Southern Yiquan – 南派意拳
 
 

In Hong Kong, the first person to come to teach Yiquan publically was Liang Zi Peng, and his system is more concise and easier than many systems nowadays. It is generally referred to as “Southern Yiquan”. The system as taught by Liang, both in form and gong fa, is different from that taught by Han Xing Men and the Yao Cheng Guang and Yao Cheng Rong: and the difference between Master Han and the Yao Brothers’ Yiquan is also very vast. Each of these masters who came to teach in Hong Kong has their own system. Thus it can be seen that the same school of boxing founded by Wang Xiang Zhai, has developed in Hong Kong into three distinct branches based on the same fundamentals. It is worthwhile for the practitioner to study, explore and seek each branch’s own distinct flavor.

The Southern Yiquan taught by Liang Zi Peng has its own unique style and appearance, and has a deep and beautiful philosophy, with a core teaching that is easy to grasp, this is all due to the fact that Liang faithfully adhered to Master Wang’s teachings and developed and popularized them.

Southern Yiquan is simple and complete, and is elegant and outstanding, because it retains the original face of Yiquan, its philosophy meshes with that of Master Wang, and complement each other exactly, even though its attack philosophy is very deep, and its gong fa is a cut above, when we see its unique Zhan Zhuang, Dun Yao and Tuo Yao, these are described as the “three treasures” of Southern Yiquan.

The changing Jin of Zhan Zhuang is the basis of Southern Yiquan, the form is simple and complete and can be divided into three variations – the posture for cultivating health, attacking posture, and power posture. The practitioner begins to generate internal heat and experience spontaneous movement, strengthening the body and the spirit, increasing endurance and patience, alertness increases, and once’s vital energy is arises, the mind is quick and body movements refined, and the quality of the Qi begins to change, a contradictory strength arises in the body, and each part becomes unified into a whole, the four limbs and the skeleton become as one, naturally generated a startling hunyuan power, attacking and defending in a single thought and able to react to any change. This is the first step in the basic kung fu of Southern Yiquan.

Once the practitioner has achieved a basic power, the folding and extension and retraction, forward and backward, open and close and inhaling and exhaling, have a specialized training method. Using the methods of dun yao and tuo yao, one can bring out the practitioner’s full potential and power.

Dun yao is also known as the Dragon Squat, it trains the arching and springing power of the sacral verterbrae and hips and aims at training each joint to be relaxed and extended at the same time, and therein lies the contradiction. First one sinks from the top of the head to the coccyx, then one extends from the coccyx to the top of the head, in the middle one folds into the hips and springs out from the spine. One relaxes and sinks from the head to the soles of the feet, and pushes out from the soles of the feet to the top of the head. With each rise and fall, contraction and release, it becomes easy to cultivate a startling, explosive energy.

Tuo Yao trains the opening and closing of the body and the inhaling and exhaling and develops the shaking energy. Using the spine as the axis, turn the shoulders as the shaft. When training this is separated into the single tuo, double tuo, fixed step tuo, moving step tuo, advancing and retreating and left and right. Using this one can generate the contraction and extension, opening and closing, spiraling and shaking, and the change from being empty to firm, as well as learning the special way of using your body and the stepping. One can hope to attain the beautiful power of Jian Wu / health dance, floating like a spirit, with an eerie elegance that the gods and spirits cannot fathom. All this can be attained by Dun Yao and Tuo Yao. Hence the importance that Southern Yiquan places on the three treasures.

When speaking about fajin and “sinking the roots into the earth” these are practices that Southern Yiquan places great emphasis on. Even though they are two practices, they are intimately inter-related. In order to realize how jin is expressed, one has to understand that it relies on the how firm the lower basin is, whether it is water jin or fire energy, long jin or one-inch jin, bounce jin or explosive energy, they all have the same repulsive energy. Whether it is one hundred pounds or five hundred pounds, if the lower basin is not firm the power will not be strong, straight and clean. Without a straight jin, penetrating power, with a shaking and misaligned body, how are we to issue clean force to shatter stones and scare the heavens?

When sinking the roots into the earth, the Qi should be like the nine pearls threaded together, the body should be cotton with a core of steel, every joint is “song” or relaxed and each joint is extended, and each joint linked together. The Qi should flow through each joint, lifting the head, bringing the shoulders forward, rounding the back, loosening the kua, and lifting the kneecaps, supported in the thighs and sinking into the soles of the feet, the enemy’s jin should be listened to through the hands and felt and reacted to by the body and controlled by the spirit. Thus the body responds to force, and the body responds to the enemy. You have to realize that the dantian is the center, and the source of Qi and power, those who know how to use it well spiral and explode, and extend in all directions, like the extension of a heavenly spirit and the solidity of the muddy ox in the earth. This is sinking of the roots into the earth – standing on earth with a hundred catties.

The most representative master of Southern Yiquan in Hong Kong at present is Master Sun Zhi. Master Sun is addicted to the martial arts, and has spent his life studying Yiquan. His abilities are extraordinary, with many accomplishments. He practices the hardest, and his power is simple and strong, his fire power has an explosiveness renowned through the martial world. He has fought many duels, he attacks and enters without covering himself, and is undefeated. In his late years, his power is deep, and his arts are his passion and hobby. [He has since passed away]

 
 
 
 
Little is know of Master Sun’s background other than he was student of Leung Tzu-pang (Laing Zhi Peng,梁子鵬) for quite some time. He was probably Master Moy’s closest friend and after Leung Tzu-pang passed away in 1974 he became Master Moy’s teacher and adviser. He was a highly accomplished martial artist who excelled at LokHupBaFa, Yi Quan, Bagua, Xing Yi and Tai Chi. As the mainland fell to the communists martial artists of every creed and color fled to Hong Kong. In this seething cauldron Lei Tai and push hand competitions were as stiff as ever found. In this world Master Sun was know as “Sun the Unbeatable” and only the best of the best came to be humbled before him. There are videos of him on YouTube doing Lok Hup and Yi Quan and in one of the Lok Hup videos (posted by jgraham1953) Master Moy does a cameo for a few seconds.
 
In his book “Liuhebafa: Six Harmonies and Eight Methods”, Liang Shihong refers to the donyu, toryu and zhan zhuang as Leung Tzu-pang’s three treasures.
 
While the article is about Yi Quan, the forms are simply different methods of incorporating the internal principles. At the end of the equation LokHupBaFa, Yi Quan, Bagua, Xing Yi and Tai Chi will all take the student to the same place. Most students will never get a good grip of one form, for Master Sun to excel in five forms speaks of the depth of his practice.
 
The article only speaks of one way to do the donyu, hints at the number of different toryus. The paragraphs on fajin and rooting give the student some idea of how far is yet to go.
 
When they speak of nine pearls, think nine joints (Lok Hup Post).
 
Single tuo, what we call the toryu.
 
Double tuo, two person, like double snakes, using the hand movements from the form of toryu that the hand cross at heart level.
 
Fixed step tuo, like fixed step push hands, moving back and forth 3,6 or 9 steps.
 
Moving step tuo, advancing and retreating and left and right, think stepping in Brush Knees and Repulse Monkeys.