Saturday, October 10, 2009

aquiring gong li.

When considering internal martial arts it is extremely important to understand gong li (trained force). Gong li should be the very foundation of one's martial art training. In this article I will talk briefly about what gong li is and how to get it, as well about my perception of some major problems in internal martial arts training.

What is gong li?: gong li literally means trained strength, or the skill of strength.
gong li is something that is developed over years of hard training and constant work towards achieving the maximum amount of force possible every time you train. However, gong li is also slightly deeper than that. When I started training internal martial arts I first didn't know about gong li. I read a lot of books by people like Cheng Manching about the idea that internal martial arts were entirely about softness and physical relaxation. When I first encountered the term li as it applied to internal practice I was schocked. Li literally means strength or power. I read that li was a vital part of internal arts practice and almost had a heart attack because it went against the idea of softness overcoming hardness and the weak defeating the strong. It seemed to be against the basic principles I had read about before.
However, after I met some very talented and extremely patient teachers, I came to know that it is impossible to achieve fully relaxed power without first training strength. Without basic gong li training you will not have the foundation to later practice with soft force.

How do I work on gong li in my training: Gong li training has many stages and is the work of a lifetime. Basically my experience of the training progression goes thusly: 1) learn a basic movement slowly and softly, focus on getting the movement correct and understand the small movements contained within it. 2) start to gradually put muscular force into the movement and try to understand the body mechanics. At this point you will have stiff and unrefined force, it won't be connected and it won't be pretty, but just keep on working at it. 3) once you have hard muscular force you can start to work toward relaxing while emitting force. However this does not mean that you make the movement soft. Actually this means that you put in even more force, but it doesn't come from your arm muscles like it did before. Now the force is integrated with the structure and you will start to develop real power with less physical effort. at this stage it is also important to train your structure, because relaxed force comes from a good structure and good coordination. One way to do this is to practice standing posts like holding the tree or san ti.
4) after this you may naturally start to add elements of mental training into your practice. One valuable thing to do is to focus your mind on your attacking fist, foot, elbow, shoulder or whatever part of your body is emitting the force.
Gradually you will be able to focus on your whole body and the area outside your body that you are attacking. This will give you even greater force and you will have solid gong li.

Once my teacher told me the following about the importance of developing gong li: "when masters give public demonstrations they will always show how relaxed and effortless their movements are, however when they practice behind closed doors they always use force".
I believe this sums up the need for gong li training well.
A falacy in internal martial arts is the idea that you can train without use of force and still be able to use force when you need it. This is simply not the case.
Without going through the stages of developing gong li, you will never be able to convincingly beat people since your force will not be big enough to actually hurt them. This is extremely important when considering self defense because in a self defense situation you can not expect that softly neutralizing and redirecting an opponent will be enough to keep them from attacking you again.
In my opinion having gong li is one of the most important parts of internal martial arts training.

Friday, September 18, 2009

surviving santi

If you are anything like me you probably hate standing in santi. However santi is an extremely important posture in xingyiquan and if you don't stand in it everyday you will Never get the correct structure to maximize the force put out by your body.
So, lets discuss why santi is hard to practice and what you can do about it:
1) santi is difficult because it makes the muscles in your thighs burn and your arms ache from holding them stationary for a long time.
2) Santi is boring because you are just hanging out holding on to a posture for half an hour.

1) switch sides every once in a while.
Say you can stand for five minutes before your legs give up the ghost, then in that case stand for five minutes on one side, switch and do it on the other side, and then when that side gets tired switch again. This gives your legs enough time to have a chill out session and stop hurting and to get your mind ready to stand on that side again. I have used this method and I find that it really helps when building up to longer standing sessions. Of course you eventually want to be able to just stand in one posture for fifteen or twenty minutes, but you have to take baby steps.
2) pay attention to body mechanics and body feelings. this goes to the heart of what santi is about, IE: developing your liuhe (six harmonies). When you focus on how your body is moving into place then you are developing you external harmonies, when you focus on the body feelings and creating feelings in your body you are working on your internal harmonies. Not only that bad focusing on those things will make standing for a longer time feel like standing for a shorter time (another great method is to count your breaths since you end up thinking about your breath and not just about how boring standing in santi is).

I know that for some of you this is old hat, but if it helps your practice then I'm happy :D

64 palms of cheng style bagua.

Here is a partially translated list of my teacher's version of Cheng style bagua's sixty four circular palms :D

64 palms of Cheng style Baguazhang

1, Single Changing palm(单换掌)
青龙探爪--Black Dragon Extending Claw
掩肘掌--Elbow Blocking Palm
推窗望月(推掌)-Push the Window and Watch the Moon,
叶底藏花--Flower Under the Leaf
青龙反身--Black Dragon Turning Back
青龙探爪--Black Dragon Extending Claw
1-2,行步撩衣--Walking while Holding the Coat
1-3,进步沉掌--Stepping Forward and Sinking Palm
1-4,提膝冲掌--Striking with Palm While Moving Up the Knee
1-5,片旋掌--cloud-chopping palm
1-6,反身腋掌--Turning Body and Inserting the Palm
1-7,反背掌--Strike with the Back of the Palm
1-8,提膝单撞掌--Single Palm Pushing while Moving up the Knee

2,double change palm (双换掌)
青龙探爪--Black Dragon Extending Claw
掩肘掌--Elbow Blocking Palm
推窗望月--Push the Window and Watch the Moon,
指天插地--point to the sky and the earth,
合肘分掌--elbow inward and extend the palm,
燕子抄水--the swallow skim the water,
走马活擒--capture alive
青龙反身--Black Dragon Turning Back
2-2,拧身盖掌--twisting the body and attack downward palm
2-3,拧身摞带掌--turn back the body with pulling palm
2-4,迎面三穿--three thrusting palm
2-5, 下揶上扑--(cloud chopping) inserting downward and pushing upward
2-6,返身挑打--turn back and attack with upward-block
2-7,转身顶肘--turn the body and attack with elbow
2-8,撞掌转身双扑--double pushing with turning body

3, 顺势掌--positive turning palm
3-2,风轮劈掌--wind-wheel chopping palm,
3-3,顺势探掌--positive turning and extending palm,
3-4,顺势腕打-- positive turning attacking with waist,
3-5,顺势转身后蹬腿--positive turning the body and kicking backward,
3-6,顺式摆莲--positive turning and lotus-kicking
3-7,顺式顶肘--positive turning and attacking with elbow
3-8,燕子斜飞--Swallow flying obliquely

4-2,背身轮劈掌--turning back and wind-wheel palm,
4-3,背身探掌--turning back and extending palm
4-4,背身腕打--turning back and attack with waist
4-5,背身卧牛腿--turning back and kicking backward,

5, 翻身掌--Body turning-over palm

5-3,懒龙翻身--dragon turning the body lazily
5-6,鲤鱼翻身下按--carp(can be done with clouding chopping movement)
5-7,鹞子翻身啄食--sparrow hawk
5-8,蛟龙翻身--dragon turning the body downwardly

6,磨身掌 Body Grinding Palm
青龙探爪--Dragon Extending the Claw
转身摞带--Turing the body and Pulling
阴阳鱼掌--Yin-Yang Symbol Palm
阴阳摆步--Yin-Yang Turning Step
背身指天--Turning Down the Body and Pointing the Sky
背身上转掌--Turning Down the Body and Up-turning Palm
举火烧天式--Fire the Sky
白蛇缠身--White Snake Coiling the Body
白蛇伏草--White Snake hide in the grass
前探掌--Forward Extending Palm
走马活禽--Capture Alive
叶底藏花--Flower hiding under the Leaf
青龙反身--Dragon Turning the body
6-2,磨身双分掌--extending two palms(one upward and the other one downward)
6-3,磨身献桃--present peach
6-4,磨身顶肘--elbow attack(上下肘法)
6-5,凤凰夺窝-- phoenix protecting the nest(presenting peach and kicking at the same time)
6-6,鬓角插花--put flowers on the side of head
6-7,金鸡撒膀--Rooster extending wings
6-8,顺水推舟--Following the flow and Pushing the boat (原先:脱身换影)

7,回身掌--returning back palm
迎风甩头--snake whipping forward against wind
平削掌--horizontal chopping palm
翻身吐信--turning the body and spit the tongue
金鸡独立--rooster stands with one leg
转身掖掌(或者低架子,叫转身燕子抄水)--turning the body and inserting the palm( the other palm extends)
片旋钻天--chopping and fly to the sky
蹲身插地--insert to the earth
(狮子)俯身张口--lion on the ground and opening the mouth
力转乾坤--turn the universe
风摆荷叶--wind swinging the lotus leaf
翻身吐信--turning the body and spit the tongue
背后推山--push the mountain from the back
转身伏虎式--taming the tiger while turning the body
走马活禽--capture alive
叶底藏花--flower under the leaf
7-2,横扫千军(接反背掖掌)--sweep the army
7-3,回身上挑前击掌(推窗照鬓)--pushing the window and soothing the forehead
7-4,青龙盘爪(上摞下后膝顶打,接后手盖横推掌)--blue dragon holding claws
7-5,青龙盘腿下势--blue dragon coiling the claw and moving to low posture(象山西宋式形意拳龙形单腿双推兼下势)
7-6,回身双劈掌--turning the body and double chopping palm(first vertical second horizontal)
7-7,海底探针--seeking needle from the ocean


8-2,转身指天插地--turning the body and pointing to the sky and earth
8-3,转身反劈下盖掌--turn the body and reverse chopping and smashing palm
8-5,转身双推 (金龙合口加缠手杀双推 )

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

chest movement

once you have the basic posture of xingyiquan its time to start thinking about what kind of internal movement you can make to develop more power. Xingyi focuses on sinking the chest and rounding the upper back, but there is more to the chest than just that requirement. To achieve power in certain movements the chest has to do one of three things:
1) sink and close: This is useful in vertical movements such as pi quan, where the power created by the chest rounding closed develops the jin of the movement.
2)open and close: this is important in many animal movements. In the deffensive part of the movement the chest opens up and then on the attack the chest closes and rounds inward. This is a more advanced method of jin development and allows for more power to be obtained, but requires the situation to be right if it is to be applied practically.
3) horizontal waving of the chest: this is important in some animal movements such as swallow. This especially useful when going from defense to attack in movements that go straight forward such as moves with beng quan contained in them.
Not many people talk actively about the role of the chest in xingyi so I just wanted to throw this out there for anyone who is interested.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Zhang Zhaodong's martial arts

While seeing my teacher recently I had a chance to delve more into Zhang Zhaodong's xingyiquan and got to learn a bit more about the correct posture in Zhang Zhaodong style bagua. I would like to share a few points about Zhang Zhaodong's martial arts in this article (though admitedly I know very little about Zhang Zhaodong style since I have only learned the five elements and three animals from his xingyi and just a few basic palms from his bagua).
1) Zhang Zhadong style has extremely extended postures. Much more extended than other styles of xingyi and bagua. This is partially because Zhang was a very tall and broad chested man, he thus developed a style that would give him a great deal of power and an even longer reach. This style is good for me because I am a large guy, so it allows me to express force more clearly through my whole frame.
2) Zhang Zhaodong's xingyi has a unique use of the rib cage in many movements. In santi shi the rib cage is separated from the rest to the torso and turns forward. In Pi the shape is basically the same. In Zuan the rip cage extends forward to assist in throwing the fist out. In Pao the rib cage is turned dramatically in place of the hips so that much of the power is developed by the ribs. In Zhang Zhaodong's bagua the posture is hugely extended and the chest is pushed out as opposed to curved in like in Cheng style bagua. The body mechanics are very difficult and require a lot of energy expenditure to get them right. My teacher has only shown me a few basic palms since he believes that if I start the form right away I will only have a Cheng style posture (which I think is probably true since its difficult to break old habits). The bagua has an even longer posture than the xingyi.

From what I've learned, Zhang Zhaodong style is a very nice practice with many phsyical challenges and it will require a great deal of work on my part to master the style. I hope that I don't make too many mistakes over the time between now and when I go to see my teacher next :D

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Montreal craziness

Well folks, I have once again been blessed to be able to come down to Montreal and see my teacher. This time around we have been working on the 64 circular palms of Cheng style baguazhang and some basic elements and animals of Zhang Zhaodong's xingyiquan (hopefully in preperation to learn more of that wonderful xingyi bagua). I've also been reviewing zhang's bashi and I think I've made real progress on it. Expect a video soon :D
I'll be coming back to Guelph next weekend and trying more actively to promote my club. I want to get lots of people out circle walking in the park and maybe even doing some xingyiquan.
Have a safe and happy rest of your summer and keep training!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Hillside was great. Fun seminars both days with lots of people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Thanks to everyone who came. I hope you had as good a time as I did :D