Body Mechanics and Structure

The need for proper body mechanics cannot be overlooked. The general rule is that when the body is in alignment then the chi will flow. If we violate proper structure then turbid energy will create restrictions in the proper flow of chi. The first place to establish proper structure starts with the basic horse stance. The horse stance (ma shi) is the mother of all other stances. One of the methods to assist in remembering root principles is to use short phrases that help express an essential idea. For the fundamentals of good structure four words are used:

Xi (knees)

Kou (inward pressure)

Qua (hips)

Yuan (round)

One should sit comfortably in a horse stance as though embracing a horse or holding a large ball between the legs.

The feet should be straight ahead or pointed slightly outward and the knees should be in alignment with them.

There should be an opening for the inner qua (MingQua) and embracing pressure for the outer qua (XiKou).

The qua (hips and pelvic area) should be round ( QuaYaun), but not to the point of causing the stomach to suck in. Excessive roundness can cause the chest to collapse.

Avoid putting your dominant weight on the knees.

Don’t stick the butt out. It will cause the back to arch excessively.

The spine should be relaxed and naturally straight.

The dominant weight needs should be on the qua, which is the carriage of the body. The knees assist in carrying the weight.

One should relax into the root of the qua, which is aligned to the big toe joints. The feet grab the ground to assist in rooting.

The chi should be consolidated into the lower dan tien.

A good stance will allow energy to flow freely through the body. Xi, Kou, Qua, Yuan are the four words for proper structure. It needs to be understood that these principles apply to all stances.

The following illustrations show common violations performed when sitting in the horse stance. They can adversely effect the knees, ankles, the back, the spine, the hips, the neck and the shoulders.

ADDITIONAL THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR GOOD PRACTICE:

Upholding

The tongue is placed at the roof of the mouth connecting the cycle for the chi to move through the proper cycle.

Uprightness

The head, the body and the heart are in alignment.

Three points of alignment

The tip of the hand, the nose and the foot are in alignment when facing the opponent.

San Jie- three joints

A minimum of three joints must be consciously involved in any movement.

Lien Li, Lien Zi, Lien Ji, Lien Chi

(1) Practice principles,

(2) Practice structure,

(3) Practice opportunity,

(4) Practice chi or breath.

This series of words can be called the ‘four linking necessities’. This is also an example of a memory phrase that can assist the practitioner in conceptualizing important aspects of their training.

(1)  The practitioner needs a clear understanding and practical knowledge of the principles of their practice. Ask yourself why you are doing this and what  is the purpose.

(2)  These principles must be rooted and linked to a solid foundation. This foundation constitutes the practitioner’s structure.

(3)  When the principles are linked to a good foundation the practitioner has the skill. What is needed through experience is the ability to link the skills with the opportunities created when an opponent is encountered.

(4) The practitioner develops fluidity in the ability to seize opportunities through having a calm and steady chi or breath. How we control ‘chi’ directly relates to how we generate force or issue power (fa jing).

Hui Bei –Tiger’s back

 This generally refers to opening, closing, expanding, rounding and engaging of the Levator Scapulea Muscles or descriptively referred as ‘the wings of the back’. The reason this is called the Tiger’s Back is it involves the same movements a cat uses when it lashes out to grab its prey. A house cat also has the ability to make itself look bigger than it is by expanding the back while raising the fur and hissing. In addition to having the ability to be expansive and open, the tiger’s back is also supple and fluid. The practitioner needs to emulate these traits.

Xiong Yoa- Bear’s waist

This refers to having a strong and powerful midsection. This does not mean to have six pack abs. A bear’s waist is strong and powerful, while being soft and relaxed. The root of the spine is in the waist and the lower portion of the back is also part of this area. This is where the kidneys are located. In fact, most of the organs used for assimilating nourishment are in this area. The bear is the master of the digestive system, being able to shut it down for hibernation without causing damage to the body. A strong midsection, which is flexible and relaxed, is good for martial art and good for health.

Gun, Zuan, Zheng, Gou – Rolling, Drilling, Striving, Encircling

Gun, Zuan, Zheng, Gou – Rolling, Drilling, Striving, Encircling

The terminology is borrowed from the Ba Gua system. These four words are used as a reference for variations of Jin (force). There are four separate energies, which flow sequentially from the inside to the outside door of the body. As an example refer to the illustration below for the right arm and hand movement.

Gun (rolling) implies the circling motion of the arms and shoulders.

Zuan (drilling) is a turning and forward motion constituting a drilling movement with the arms.

Zheng (striving) refers to extending the arm to its’ farthest extreme.

Gou (encircling) implies an embracing movement across the front of the chest. These are the four basic arm movements, which make up ‘nei chan si jing’ structure or inside circling with the arm.

It needs to be understood that the four energies (Gun, Zuan, Zheng, Gou,) are not simply a sequence of arm movements, but rather an extension of what the body has created. In the ideal sense this group of energies can and does exist without the arms moving at all.

In order to have a better understanding of this it helps to introduce another related principle that also is borrowed from Ba Qua system and is considered one of the nine essentials.

Rise to Drill, Fall to Overturn- PiZuan DiFan

To rise refers to the unbroken arcing line of force. The force is derived from to the energy of the earth and is released through the waist and midsection (dan tain). The chest and back should be engaged with the spine in proper alignment (upright), in order to generate force properly. This rising principle is related to ‘striving’.

To drill refers to a relentless penetrating energy. This force is like a bird of prey, which folds its’ wing back to dive like bullet into the forest after its’ quarry.

To fall is smooth flowing force, which permeates the postures the way water finds the pathways to all things. This energy has a settling, enveloping quality. This principle is connected to encircling.

To overturn refers to the circulating force that is constantly in action in and around us. This includes the front, back, left, right, upward, downward, inside and outside. The force turns continuously like a wheel in all directions. This creates a condition, in which nothing is penetrable. This principle is related to ‘rolling’.

GUN, ZUAN, ZHENG, GOU- DRILL TO RISE, FALL TO OVERTURN

Although principle has a relationship to overturning, drilling, striving and encircling, it has a far more encompassing relationship to all of the body’s movement. This means it applies to the arm movements whether they move inside out or outside in as in the illustration below.

DRILL TO RISE, FALL TO OVERTURN- ARM CIRCLING OUTSIDE INSIDE

This equally applies to the legs. All forms of kicking, stepping and related footwork have a direct connection to the principle of (Drill to Rise, Fall to Overturn). Refer to the following illustration.

DRILL TO RISE, FALL TO OVERTURN- LEG SEQUENCE

Again, one needs to understand that this principle applies to more than the extremities, such as, the arms and legs. The source of all techniques comes from the body. The hips, the midsection, the back and all the organs are related to the core of the body. All movement that is creative must generate through a spirally kind of energy. The term ’silk reeling’ is used much of the time to describe this kind of force. Once the spiral reaches it’s peak there will be a falling and an overturning as long as something generates the original force. The original force is intention.

Pi Feng-Chopping Seal

BASIC PRACTICE # 5 -Pi Feng- Chopping Seal

Pi Feng is translated as Chopping Seal. Another description for the method is “Double Flag Waving Step”. The term seal refers to covering the body, or sealing off any leaks in one’s position. In martial arts, whenever we leave an opening for attack it is called a leak. As with all Six Harmony methods, Pi Feng is both an offensive and defensive technique. To an untrained eye, it appears that the practitioner is waving his hands from side to side.

1) Start from a relaxed position with the right leg forward. Draw the left arm forward across the front of the body. As you do this, the palm will turn inward, using Nei Chan Si Jing. The right arm is still relaxed, with the hand down near the hips in front.

2) The right hip sinks (chen) and opens (meng qua) while the right arm lifts to slightly above the shoulders.

3) The right arm splits out in a long arc horizontally from left to right.

4) The right hand continues to split out and arc down along the right side of the body. From this position you proceed to do the same technique in the opposite direction.

Key Points:

  • The energy for execution of this technique comes from the qua.
  • This involves dropping one side of the qua while lightening the other (Yi Si- One Side Empty).
  • The movement has a slight bouncing quality, as if there were a ball bouncing from one side of the hip across the midsection to the other.
  • The energy, in addition to moving up and down, also circles from front to back.
  • There is a figure eight quality to the qua movement.
  • The arm and hand movements need to be long and extended.

Open/Close-Expand/Sink

BASIC EXCERSIZE # 1 – OPEN/CLOSE- EXPAND/SINK

Starting from a comfortable horse stance spread the arms out to the side with the palms up (fist or open palm) aimed away form the body. The forearms should be horizontal at the level of the waist. Concentrate on sinking and closing inward at the same time. This practice is not required to be done quickly, so take your time (refer to illustration below).

From here, shift to one side, either the left or the right, pressing the forearms outward at shoulder height. Concentrate on opening and expanding, at the same time. Do this for five to ten minutes before moving on (refer to illustration below).

Six Harmonies Explained

The purpose of Six Harmonies is to establish the conditions needed for conscious movement. In order to understand what those conditions are we need to understand what is required to function harmoniously. There are physical aspects to this and there is an energetic aspects also. The three internal aspects of the Six Harmonies are:

Essences or Jing

This is the energy we given at birth.

Air/Breath or Chi

This is our birth energy that we have cultivated through intention.

Spirit or Shen

This is when our Chi is refined or streamlined towards a specific point. This can mean to generate a great deal of force for an important task that is of a physical nature or it can also be directed towards a higher spiritual awakening.

 

These internal aspects are directly related to the physical body. In other words, the body is the vehicle by which these energies are cultivated. Likewise the cultivation of these suttle and dymanic forces assist in the health and transformation of the physical body. There are various methods used to explain the working dynamics between the physical and internal relationship. When explaining the three external portions of the six harmonies it is important to make a distinct connection to the three internal. The three external aspects of Six Harmonies are: Hands, Eyes, and Body

Hands or ‘Shou’

The hands are the one of the first physical appendages that we use to make sense of our environment. What we can grasp with the hands are things we want to understand. The first thing a child does before it eats something is grab hold of it. For this reason the hands are related to the essences. The hand is the first contact.

Eyes or ‘Yan’

The next step in the process is the conceptual vision of the environment we inhabit. We touch something and we develop a picture of what it is. We become attracted to the things we touch. This attraction leads our awareness towards the substance of our experience. To transform essences into chi one needs a clear conceptual understanding before an intention can be established. The eyes lead to the intention of ones’ desire.

That intention leads the chi. Therefore the eyes and the chi are connected.

Body or ‘Shen’

Once the hands and eyes become active the body will follow. In this way the spirit and the body are together.

Once one has a general knowledge of what constitutes the internal and external aspects to the six harmonies how they are explained can very. The following series of phrases is one example:

EYES———————-AND————————HEART TOGETHER >>>>>>>>

HEART——————-AND————————CHI TOGETHER >>>>>>>>>>>

CHI———————–AND————————-BODY TOGETHER >>>>>>>>>

BODY——————–AND————————-LEGS TOGETHER >>>>>>>>>>

LEGS——————–AND————————-HIPS TOGETHER >>>>>>>>>>>

All six aspects are connected harmoniously and simultaniously. These include both the internal and the external. This next series is and example of how the internal and the external can be explained separately:

HEART(XIN)—————————————-MIND(YI)

MIND(YI)——————————————-CHI(BREATH)

CHI (BREATH)———————————–FORCE(LI)

 

SHOULDERS(JIAN)—————————-HIPS(QUA)

ELBOWS(ZHOU)——————————-KNEES(XI)

HANDS(SHOU)———————————-FEET(JIAO)

 The following version is the Yin Style Ba Qua explanation for six harmonies. Note here that before the three external and the three internal aspects are presented the relationship between the heart and the mind are clarified:

HEART —————CREATES ———————MIND

MIND —————–CREATES———————CHARACTER

CHARACTER——-CREATES———————CLEAR FEELING

 The three external

 EYES ————————————HEART

WAIST———————————- BODY

HANDS———————————FEET

 

The three internal

 

MIND————————————THOUGHT

STILLNESS—————————MOVEMENT

HARD———————————-SOFT

 ‘The mind(heart-xin) leads the intent(yi-mind). The intent leads the breath/air (chi). Chi leads the force (li).’

(1) The popular translation for mind is Yi. Along with this term there is also another Chinese word for mind and that is Xin. The direct translation of Xin is heart. It commonly means “intention idea or thought”, referring to an unexpressed idea or desire. Xin must exist before Yi. When you want something it is Xin. When you intend to do it or actually accomplish the task, then it is called Yi. This is translated as “mind” or “intention”. From this standpoint Xin is the master of Yi and Yi is the one to make masters ideas a reality. Xin generates the idea and Yi is brought forth. Once Yi is generated Chi will flow. There is a common Chinese saying; Use your mind to lead your chi, “Yii Yi Yin Chi”. In the beginning the eye (what we see or envision) and the heart ‘Xin’ are together.

(2) The mind (Xin-heart) leads the intent (yi-mind). To create a clear intention there needs to be clarity of purpose. For these there needs to be the conceptual understanding (eye), the emotional need (heart) along with the physical ability (body). The intent will follow naturally from this course.

(3) The intent leads the chi. After enough practice you can move without hesitation. The body and the chi will move naturally and automatically. This is what is referred to as the intent leading the chi.

(4) Chi leads the spirit. Spirit is a higher level of alertness. When we are at this higher level the chi will go to the whole body at this higher level with the spirit.

(5) Spirit follows movement. Using what we see, hear and feel, the spirit receives the signal, which is sent to the mind producing an instant response. The power of the response will flow automatically.

(6) Movement without thought. This means to no longer focus on a technique or anything at all. Our response is instantaneous.

THE EXTERNAL SIX HARMONIES

  • Body and joints move together. This refers to the spine, back and neck. Before the body can move as a unit the back must be engaged in relation to the spin and the base of the neck.
  • Hand and joints together. The hand joints move from the shoulder to the elbow to the wrist.
  • Foot and joints together. The foot joints move from the hip to the knee to the ankle.
  • Hand in relation the foot
  • Elbow in relation to knee
  • Shoulder in relation to hip

All joints must start and stop together in harmony.

Kun: To Tie, Bind or Wrap

BASIC EXERCISE #4- KUN- TO TIE, BIND OR WRAP

 Kun energy is highly sophisticated. To develop this energy requires extensive practice. Six Harmonies Praying Mantis draws heavily from this kind of energy. There are particular exercises, which can help one to develop this ability to wrap up an opponent. The following is one of these exercises.

This exercise is approached in a similar manner as the “lion playing with the ball”. The arms move on a vertical plane in front of the body. The motion can be separated into four distinct parts. These are: Zuan (drilling), An (pressing), Zhang (expanding), Chen (sinking).

The practitioner drills forward along the centerline, intercepting and dissolving the oncoming force (Zuan).

The practitioner continues by pressing forward and slightly downward (An).

The opposing arm then covers over the top and wards off, catching the root of the opponent (Zhang). After the opponent’s root is caught, the arm continues to circle outward while matching this with a downward sinking force (Chen) in one fluid movement, dispersing and disrupting the opponent’s force.

ZUAN-DRILL

AN-PRESS

ZHANG-CHEN, GROW-SINK

Lion Playing with the Ball

BASIC EXERCISE #3- SHI ZI WANNONG ZHI QUI- LION PLAYING WITH THE BALL

This is a practice, which has many variations within many styles of Chinese martial arts. It requires both internal and external principles.

This exercise starts with the practitioner standing in a comfortable horse stance, with the arms in front of the body and palms facing each other as though holding a ball.

The upper hand will come over the top of the sphere and descend downwards and forwards.

At the culmination of the forward motion the practitioner will touch an imaginary space in front of him with the tips of the fingers and the ridge of the palm. The term for this movement is “Tan Zhang” (probing palm).

The movement continues with the arm settling and the wrist dropping. The term for this is “Zou Wan” (sit wrist). The motion continues with the elbow of the penetrating arm sinking and covering the centerline of the body.