Red Sand Palm

A synopsis by Todd Plager

Qi Gong exercises are roughly defined as “energy exercises” where “qi” means “air” though in this context is translated as “energy” and “gong” means “exercise”. Red Palm is a Qi Gong system that can be beneficial in opening the channels between the five limbs and the dantien. The five limbs are the two arms, two legs, and the neck-head. As the dantien is the storage area for qi, opening these channels will help the flow of qi reach the extremities. Enabling the flow of qi to the two palms (the lao gong points), the soles of the feet (the yong quan points) and the palette (roof of the mouth) will also benefit those practicing taijiquan.

Those practicing Red Palm may notice that their palms have indeed turned “red”. This condition and that of leaving a red mark on an opponent (sometimes this mark may appear at the point of impact as well as on the opposite side of the body!) provides the adjective from which this system derives its name. Red Palm is an “internal” form of qi gong. In contrast “iron palm” is the external form of this type of qi gong. In addition to opening energy channels of the body, Red Palm practitioners will build a stronger awareness between their bodies and the environment.

The seminar given by Mr. Yan on June 5th, 2004 focused on the first five postures of the Red Palm system – known as the Tiger Section. The Tiger Section is only one part of the extensive Red Palm Qi Gong System. After completing some warm-up exercises (in this case Eight Pieces of Brocade) the seminar focused on two sections:

1.        Meditation Exercises
2.        The Tiger Section

MEDITATION EXERCISES

In movement training, such as taijiquan, the common thread of focus is posture. In meditation, the focus is on the breath. These preparatory meditation exercises will assist those new to focusing on the breath, and help to connect the breath with the body. One can sit in a chair, crossed legged on the floor or in a lotus or half lotus posture. Practice each of these exercises in order for 5-10 minutes each. In between each posture you may stand and stretch. If you have difficulty with any exercise, go back to the previous exercise, work on that one and then move forward in the series again.

EXERCISE #1

Place your hands over your dantien (men place left hand over right – women place right hand over left) – the area just below your navel. You may also rest your hands palms down on your knees or over the area where your legs cross.

Focusing on your breath, count each time you exhale up to ten. Then start again, each time counting to ten. If you lose your place or your mind wanders, just come back to the count. Remember to focus on the exhalation of your breath – not the inhalation. Do not match your breathing to your counting, rather match your counting to your breathing. This exercise will help bring awareness to the act of breathing and begin calming the mind and body.

EXERCISE #2

Position your body as in Exercise #1. Continue to count each time you exhale. Now focus on how you are breathing – the feeling of the breath coming through your nose down into your lungs. Notice how fast or slowly your breath is coming and how shallow or deep the breath is. Do not try to control or alter your breath, just bring your awareness to it.

EXERCISE #3

Again, position your body as in Exercise #1. Continue to count each time you exhale. Now focus on the connection between the belly and the breath. Bring your awareness to the feeling of breathing and the feeling of the belly moving.

EXERCISE #4

Place one hand on your upper chest and your other hand on your belly. Continue to count each time you exhale. Release the tension in your chest and relax as you breathe. Let your inhalations happen as they will and each time you exhale relax the chest and let the belly relax outwards. Use your hands to provide sensory feedback on your breathing. As you practice the upper body will get lighter and the breath will sink lower in the belly.

EXERCISE #5

In this exercise, place your hands palms up on your knees. Follow the same instructions as in Exercise #4. As your chest relaxes bring your awareness to the middle of each palm – the lao gong point. You may feel some warmth in your palms at this point in the series.

EXERCISE #6

Maintain the same posture and follow the same instructions as in Exercise #5, but now turn your palms face down. This exercise is a “link” to Red Palm Meditation.

EXERCISE #7

Maintain the same posture and follow the same instructions as in Exercise #6, but now turn your palms face out in front of your body. The tips of your fingers rest at shoulder height. Be sure to keep your elbows dropped and your shoulders relaxed. Again, upon exhale feel out to the center of your palms. This is the final preparatory exercise before beginning Red Palm Qi Gong.

RED PALM QI GONG

The Tiger Section

There are two styles of internal Red Palm Qi Gong: a soft style and a hard style. The seminar focused on the soft style. The order of the exercises is important, so be sure to practice them in the order given. As a preparation for Red Palm, stand in Wuji meditation with the hands at sides for 3-5 minutes. Be sure to “return to wuji” in between each of the different exercises resting the hands over the dantien for a moment. These exercises can be practiced with the emphasis on the exhale or inhale, though beginners are advised to start with the exhalation.

As you breathe focus on keeping the chest relaxed and the belly soft as in the meditation exercises detailed above.

When practicing the series and focusing on the exhalation you should feel as if your palms are extending outwards – without actually moving! When practicing for inhalation, one should feel as if the palms were “grabbing” – again without actually moving.

The series works in multiples of seven. Each posture should be held for seven exhalations. The fifth posture is a movement cycle and should be completed seven times. When you want to increase the length of each posture add seven. So, you would start with seven, then: 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and 49. 49 is the maximum number of exhales or repetitions for any single posture. After completing all five postures for the given number of repetitions, one may do a second set focusing on the inhalation.

POSTURE #1

Stand with your feet hip to shoulder width apart. Place your hands at your sides with palms down towards the ground. Be careful not to kink your wrists. Focus and count each exhalation to seven. Relax your chest and allow your belly to expand upon each exhalation. Bring your awareness to the center of your palms and feel as if your palms are extending. Return to wuji.

POSTURE #2

Stand as in Posture #1. Bring your palms up in front of you until your finger tips are
about shoulder height. Remember to keep your elbows dropped and shoulders relaxed. Breathe as in the previous exercise. . Bring your awareness to the center of your palms and feel as if your palms are extending.

POSTURE #3

Stand as in Posture #2. Bring your palms up over your head so that they face towards the sky. Do not bend the body backwards or look upwards. Breathe and feel as in the previous postures.

POSTURE #4

Stand as in Posture #3. Bring your palms down and out towards your sides. Remember to keep the elbows dropped and the shoulders relaxed. Feel as if you were extending your palms outwards. Breathe and feel as in the previous postures.

POSTURE #5

The fifth posture is actually a movement cycle incorporating all of the previous four postures. It is performed in one continuous movement. Start in Posture #1, move to #2, then #3 and finally #4. Then repeat the cycle for a total of seven times. Let your body breathe as it will, but continue to focus on the exhalation. Be sure to perform the cycle in the order described above.

After completing the entire series you may choose to do a second set with emphasis on the inhalation.

Three Dimensional Turning in the Return to Wuji System

A synopsis by Todd Plager

On November 11th and 12th of 2006 Mr. Yan hosted a seminar in Dania, FL. The subject was “Three Dimensional Turning in the Return to Wuji System”. This title describes “universal silk-reeling” – essentially the ability to move in any direction around a given force in order to avoid “double weighting”. This review will attempt to describe in words, an experience that you may be hard pressed to describe even while participating in it.

The exercises presented in the seminar aimed at breaking the pattern of “flat movement” or movement within only one or two planes. While the seminar focused primarily on the silk reeling of the arms, strong emphasis was placed on internal relaxation beginning at the top of the body and progressing downward, hence the “return to wuji” aspect of the seminar.

We began with a look at both the “rolling arm backwards” and “cloud hands” movements. The exercises started in the vertical circle and progressed towards three dimensional movement. We were asked to imagine a force being applied to our arm and change the direction of movement while still maintaining the same circular direction. After working with single arm movement we then progressed to two arm movement using the “12 patterns” of circular movement.

We then took these same solo-exercises and performed them with a partner. The helper would apply force in order to provide a potential double weighting situation and an opportunity to change from two dimensional to three dimensional turning. This is an important distinction – the natural inclination when force was applied was to change the direction of the circle (thereby producing evidence of the two-dimensional nature of the movement). Finding a way to continue the same direction of the circle (rolling arm backwards or cloud hands) was a mind-bending exercise that required the participants to find a multidirectional approach to their movement. Maintaining wuji alignment and avoiding double weighting as much as possible made the exercise even more challenging.

The exercises progressed from a fixed position with a partner to a moving step with a partner. The helper would provide force – changing the point of contact as each circle around the point was completed. It is important to note that 180 degrees of movement was our starting point and that eventually we experienced movement through 720 degrees and more.

Mr. Yan demonstrated that all of the solo exercises of the 12 patterns could be mixed with footwork in any direction to provide an unlimited range of possible scenarios.

Up to this point in the seminar we had been free to choose the three dimensional direction of our movement. Mr. Yan then placed a limitation on this in that we were now required to take a contact point and provide three dimensional turning in at least 8 different directions while still maintaining the overall same circular direction. This was an exercise in creating different fulcrum points for our movement. It also forced us to move in directions that we might not naturally have taken – in turn opening up the possibility of even more varied movement. We spent a great deal of time exploring the multitude of various fulcrum points and the pathways needed to achieve directional movement that touched those points.

Mr. Yan employed a number of tools to help us experience this type of movement. At one point he used an improvised “double weighting indicator” (a light piece of grass). The end of the grass was used as the contact point and the participant had to move around this point in a variety of directions without bending the grass. Additionally, Mr. Yan drew arrows on the arms of a few participants to show them how they could maintain an overall circular direction while using three dimensional movements to go around the point of contact.

On a personal note, these arrows and their movement played out in my mind for the next week. At one point I had a minor “a-ha” moment when I realized that we are not bound to find three dimension movement only from our own perspective. I will attempt to describe what I experienced. I made this “discovery” through this example (direction given from my perspective):

The helper grabs my right wrist with his left hand. He twists my arm in counter clockwise motion. Picture an arrow on his arm pointing left.

I am required (for the sake of the exercise) to rotate my arm in a clockwise motion. Picture an arrow on my arm pointing to the right. I am also required to perform this movement within the context of a cloud hands overall circle.

At first glance this seems like a double weighting puzzle without a way around the force. However (and I am describing only one of many unlimited possibilities in a purely mechanical way for the sake of the example) if I drop my elbow down and move it closer to the helper and change my fulcrum point from my wrist to my knuckles, my arm will start to move in the same direction of my helper as my elbow describes an arc that takes it from “my side” over to “his side”.

Essentially I have moved out of my own two dimensional half sphere into a three dimensional full sphere where movement can play out from any direction.

By the end of the seminar we had all experienced movement in a way that might not have occurred to us before. This three dimensional movement is essential for the deeper understanding and experience of taiji. Many thanks to Mr. Yan and all who participated for a successful seminar experience.

Internal Throwing with Cao

A synopsis by Glenn Harrison

On April 29th & 30th, Mr. Yan taught a workshop on Internal Throwing as it relates to our “return to Wuji System” in Dania Beach, FL. The first day was on how to use various internal throws using Chin Na. On the second day, Mr. Yan introduced internal throwing using leg sweeps and traps. In addition to the leg sweeps and traps, Mr. Yan showed how to add the concept of “Cao”.

Mr. Yan explained that Cao is not just limited to a shoulder strike, but can incorporate many parts of the trunk as a striking area. The addition of the Cao strike after the opponent is falling from the sweep or trap vastly compounds the severity of the technique. This is where Mr. Yan demonstrated how the Chen Tai Chi form is filled with stepping to create the Cao strike on the opponent. This kind of stepping to produce the Cao strike is rare and only attributed to the Chen Tai Chi system. He showed how some Chen Tai Chi masters like Chen Zheng Lei prefer to accentuate the Cao while practicing their form.

As part of the internal throwing technique, the Cao strike starts with stepping through the opponent’s center and is directed at a 90% angle to the direction in which they are falling. Mr. Yan said, “that this strike was like getting T-Boned in a car accident and that the force is compounded”. It only takes one time to feel the devastating consequences of this application even at slow speeds.

Having been a student of Mr. Yan’s for several years now, I have come to grow fond of the Chen Tai Chi system and the Cao striking.

Glenn Harrison is a doctor of oriental medicine, Chen Tai Chi & Qigong instructor living in Nokomis, FL.

Internal Throwing

A synopsis by Jim Dees

A special treat was offered during the weekend of April 18th and 19th 2006. Mr. Yan held a seminar in Dania Beach on the topic of combative throwing from the perspective of “return to Wuji system”.

Internal throwing is first and foremost not a technique. It is more akin to joint locking taken to the next level. And, those who were present will attest to both its effectiveness and practicality. The key to this method of throwing lies in the manner in which the opponent is set up.  Heard over and over again were the instructions: inward, downward, and backward. Meaning, bring the opponent in to you, sink the chi down and step back.

That is it? Inward, downward and backward? Yes in the sense that to do “return to Wuji system” all that you must do is relax. All the subtleties of any internal art are present and required when in contact with your opponent. Herein lie the challenges. Unlike other methods, this method makes you the eye of the hurricane, not to push the opponent away, rather to bring him in closer. This is one indicator of how well you performed the throw. If he came in to your feet and showed you his back/soles of feet then you did well. If he went away from you, then you missed something.

After a warm-up and an explanation of the principles and philosophy of internal throwing Mr. Yan performed demonstrations on the participants.  It was then that we really appreciated the benefit of the sandy beach.  As our first example a wrist lock to the outside was used to illustrate the ideas taught. The students followed the instructions as Mr. Yan went to each group and made corrections. Common problems quickly surfaced.

Here are the common problems:

  • The thrower’s movements would become flat (no silk reeling/twisting).
  • The opponent was pushed away instead of having been brought in to you.
  • Use of the shoulders and chest instead of sinking and using the whole body.

A helpful indicator for proper execution was the opponent’s fingertips.  They should point to the ground. This tip was offered for the participants to gauge their own performance and to help them avoid flat movement.

Other throws that were examined were a defense against someone grabbing your arm both inside and out, arm bar, and defense against a roundhouse punch. The solutions were always the same: inward, downward, and backward. Initially, the common problems were similar: flat movement, use of the chest and shoulders, pushing the opponent away and use of obvious strength. But, Mr. Yan was able to resolve these issues through demonstration, correction, and repetition. One of the main benefits of the seminar was having so many different people to touch during the two person exercises. This is crucial in any internal martial art as one bridges the gap from theory to application.

The second day of the seminar a brief review of the principles and philosophy was conducted. An additional element was added, sweeping.  In essence once the opponent is twisted around by the methods detailed on the first day of the seminar, the internal artist is able to pick up one of his feet and sweep the opponent’s base. This is more detailed and devastating that it appears on the surface. The leg of the internal artist is raised due to his sinking. Those familiar with “return to Wuji system” will grasp this concept immediately. The opponent’s balance will be teetering as he is literally screwed into the ground. The sweep actually releases the pressure only to delivery him to a less desirable situation. It is done in such a manner as to split the person.  Unlike the sport of judo where one can break his fall, this is not possible when being thrown in the manner described.

The throwing aspect of “return to Wuji system” is not well known and even less often taught. Those in attendance got a rare glimpse into this area of internal martial arts that is quite practical.  The applications gave great insight into the “return to Wuji system” form as well as Taoist philosophy.

Six Healing Sounds

Six Healing Sounds of Chinese Medicine
by Max Yan and Todd Plager

Sun Si Miao was most probably a Taoist Monk who lived circa. 690 A.D. in the Tang Dynasty. A man of many talents, he was responsible for the invention of gun powder as well as organizing a method of sound therapy. Although the Chinese people had been using sound as a tool for healing for many thousands of years, Sun distilled the core of the art into six healing sounds, and created a system for using them.

Sound therapy is a form of vibrational medicine and a health practice. The vibration stems from sounds created by different positions of the mouth and tongue. These various sounds affect different parts of the body, organs and meridians. The sounds are also related to the seasons. Sun was the first to record these different sound-body-season combinations.
The following will give an overview of the six healing sounds and an approximation of what they sound like. If the reader is interested in practicing this art, it would be best to have someone who knows, personally demonstrate the sounds.

1. Su – Sounds like “shhh”
Season – Spring
Organ – Liver (also relates to the eyes)

2. He – Sounds like “huh”
Season – Summer
Organ – Heart and Circulatory System
(Also relates to tongue)

3. Hu – Sounds like “who”
Season – Occurs between all seasons
Organ – Spleen and systems of digestion

4. SI – Sounds like “ssss”
Season – Fall
Organ – Lung and Respiritory System
(Also Relates to the nose)

5. Chui – Sounds like “chewee”
Season – Winter
Organ – Kidney and Systems of Elimination and Hormones
(Also relates to the ears)

6. Xi – Sounds like “ssea”
Season – Occurs between all seasons
Organ – Triple Burner System – For absorbing energy from food

To use the system effectively, practice Wuji first and then the healing sounds. Repeat the first sound six times and then go on to the next and repeat it six times. Do this for all the sounds. For additional benefit, repeat the one sound that refers to the current season six more times at the end of the set. It is important to follow the exact order of the sounds as they are listed here. When first learning the sounds, it will be necessary to whisper the sounds, to insure correct mouth/tongue placement. Once the placement is correct, the sounds are created with just the breath – no audible sound is heard. This practice can be used for a particular health issue, but may also be used to maintain good health.

Xing-yi Five Element Form and the Yellow Court

A brief synopsis by Todd Plager

On November 19th and 20th 2005, Mr. Yan conducted a training camp at the Dania Beach Pier area. The topic was the Xing-yi Five Element Form. Mr. Yan explained that the camp would focus on the practical experience of this art form. To that end, two person exercises would play a significant role in the time we spent together. 

On the first day the group started off with a set of warm-ups for all the major joints in the body. Next Mr. Yan spent some time discussing a small section of the External View of the Yellow Court Scripture. Here is the section (a short translation):

“Lao Tzu leisure living composed 7 words poems.
To explain how to free one from his own body and spirits.

Up there is huang ting and there is guan yuan down below.
There is a dark gate behind and there is ming men in front.
Breathing goes through the middle into the dantien.
The water from the jade pond fertilizes the clear root.
Whoever can practice carefully will enjoy long life.

Yellow court sage wears red clothing.
Guan Yuan like a bellows closed two sides of the gate.
Hold the dark gate and let the energy go higher and higher.
The jing and chi are very subtle in the dantien.
Clear water from jade pond will produce rich nutrients.
Clear root will be firm and strong and will never deteriorate.”

Mr. Yan explained that studying the Yellow Court Scripture is a good continuation of our study of (Daoist exercise) Red Palm training (taught in the two previous seminars). He further elaborated on the benefits of proper Wuji meditation and the tremendous health benefits that can be gained from this training. According to the guidelines laid out in the Yellow Court, systems such as Red Palm, Taijiquan and Xing-yi have the same foundation. In fact, these guidelines form the foundation for all Daoist exercise. It is so important that according to a poem by Chen Wang Ting (credited with synthesizing Chen Taijiquan) the Yellow Court Scripture is the only book he retained in his later years. The Yellow Court Scripture is training for the spiritual level – compared to the Yellow Emperors Internal Classic which focuses on Qi level Daoist health training. We followed the discussion with a half hour of Wuji meditation.

Following a short break, the group assembled for two person drills. Mr. Yan detailed the concepts of: centerline, body alignment, six harmonies, closing/opening and the importance of dropping the elbow. Mr. Yan divided every single Xing-yi movement into two parts: bear and eagle. While we practiced the drills it became apparent how important these concepts would be in real life combat. We switched partners every fifteen minutes in order to broaden the experience of the difference in people’s energy.

On the second day of the seminar, we again started with warm-ups and a half hour meditation. The next part of the seminar would focus on linking the various two person drills we had learned the previous day with different footwork and stances. These linked drills would constitute our practice of what is known as the Xing-yi Five Element Form.

The subject then turned to the history and deeper meaning of Five Element Philosophy and how it relates to our body. Mr. Yan used an acupoint chart and model to show us how the Five Element form works on certain acupoints along the Five Element Meridians.

The group also took some time for ACT level and certification testing. As many of the students practice their forms with an understanding of proper acupoint alignment it was no surprise to see fine demonstrations of form and principle. Our Third Level Test is comprised of being able to maintain structure and alignment while taking a straight single direction push from someone not more than the participant’s body weight plus 50%. Many in the group have gained the skill that one usually sees only in a “master’s demonstration”.