Hun Yuan Qigong Part 2

In my previous article on Master Ma's unique interpretation of the HunYuan Qigong, we looked at the lineage and principles of these exercises and described the first three forms.  To recap, practice of these forms helps to programme into the body the relaxation, alignment and tissue stretching which serves as a foundation for the HunYuan system.  The forms also train the basic mechanics and feel of peng, lui, ji and an, albeit in a very subtle and unobvious way.

In this article we are going to look at the next three forms of the qigong set.  It is in these forms that the silk reeling principle begins to be developed.  In each form a chain of rotational movement is established which, to paraphrase the classics is rooted in the legs, directed by the pelvis, flows up as a wave through the spine and is expressed through the as a circle or spiral.  Each form explores the potential for movement in a particular plane.

Although there are no obvious martial applications to these movements, they contain the seeds of most of the defence and attack strategies in Hun Yuan Tai Ji Quan.  In the early stages of my training Master Ma placed great emphasis on these movements, sometimes spending and entire lesson weaving a continuous flow of improvised strikes, parries and throws out of the seemingly simple forms.  Later when I began to study the more intricate Tai Ji forms I was glad of this repetitive grounding in basic movement.

Fourth Movement - Rub the Tai Ji Ball

This movement is easier to do than to describe! Starting from Wu Ji position, each arm in turn makes a circle in the forward, vertical plane, rising up close to the body, extending directly forward and then dropping down and circling back.  The action is a chopping action similar to Xing Yi Quan's Pi Quan although it is the little finger edge of the hand that chops down rather than the palm.  The two arms work in coordination: one arm extending while the other is withdrawing.  Master Ma emphasised that the arms should be coordinated and linked:  "The two hands talk to one another."

The engine behind this movement is a horizontal rotation of the pelvis around the body's centre line.  As the pelvis rotates right, the left arm is extended and vice versa.  It is essential that the legs remain well rooted and the knees do not drop in as the pelvis rotates.  With practice one can feel the powerful torsional movement in the legs, pelvis and spine, which translates smoothly into a linear movement in the arms.  This is an example of seeking the straight from the curved.

The circles of the arms start small and close to the dantien and gradually expand to the maximum extension that is compatible with good alignment.  The direction of the arm circles is then reversed and the arms gradually wound back in from large to small.  Finish with the closing movement described in the previous article.

When this simple circle is working smoothly, the practitioner can begin to add coiling to arm circles so each arm-twists around its axis in coordination with the arms circles and pelvic rotation. 

Fifth Movement - Sun and Moon Circles

This movement works with the same forward plane vertical circle as the forth movement.  However the way power is generated is totally different.  In Sun and Moon circles the arms move together rather than with opposite motion.  From Wu Ji position, the first circle is forward up and out.  Begin by twisting the arms out so that the backs of the hands face each other in front of the dantien.  Raise the arms in front of the chest to the height of the middle dantien.  As you do this the elbows move up and out to the sides.  Continue the circle by sweeping the arms forward and then down.  At the top of the circle the backs of the hands face forward and the elbows point downward.  At the bottom of the circle the arms twist back to the starting position.

As with the forth movement, the circles start small and get progressively bigger with each repetition.  The direction of the circles is then reversed and the movement winds down from big to small.  The Movement finishes with the closing sequence.

Three key areas of power generation are trained in this movement.    Firstly the torso movement.  This is based on the same opposite force between the body and arms that is found in movements one to three:  As the arms rise the body sinks.  In Sun and Moon circles we are looking for a flexing wave force that travels up the spine and drives the arms out like a whip.

The second aspect of power generation is in the shoulder blades.  This is the link between the spinal wave and the arm circle. Many Tai Ji practitioners are weak and immobile in this area and would benefit from this exercise.  Each cycle of movement involves a rolling of the shoulder blades so that at the top of the circle the blades have spread forward and out from the spine and at the bottom they have drawn back close to the spine.    The knack is to accomplish the shoulder blade movement without hunching the shoulders at the top of the circle.

Finally as you perform Sun and Moon circles you will begin to experience a continuous spiralling and unspiralling of the arms.  This is the first clear expression of silk reeling in the Hun Yuan Qigong. At an advanced stage this spiralling becomes an ever present aspect of Hun Yuan movement. The combination of the torso movement, shoulder rolling and arm spirals creates a very smooth, adaptable and powerful whipping action.

Sixth Movement - Earth Closes, Heaven Opens, Heaven Closes, Earth Opens

This movement works a similar circular force in a vertical but sideways plane.  Much of the body mechanics: opposite force, whipping force, spiral force have already been explored in previous exercises.  Master Ma emphasised the sixth movement in the training of explosive “Fa Jing” and shaking force.  At an advanced stage this exercise was the basis of innumerable variations involving twisting stepping and spiralling.

Starting from Wu Ji position, the arms move in and cross in front of the lower dantien (it is not of great importance which arm is in front).  The arms then rise continuing to stretch to opposite sides until at the height of the upper dantien they draw apart and circle out to the sides and down.  The opposite force in the torso and the spiralling in the arms is the same as movement five.  This constitutes Earth Closes, Heaven Opens.  After a number of repetitions, the direction of movement is reversed to form Heaven Closes Earth Opens.  As ever we finish with the closing movement.

When the movement is done correctly, the practitioner will feel a compressive force n the torso and spine as the arms cross, which releases like a spring as the arms separate.  This adds a further dimension to the expression of power.  Master Ma stressed that the release must be allowed to happen as a result of correct alignment, movement and timing rather than being made to happen by muscular effort.

Movements Seven to Twelve

I do propose to describe the remaining movements in detail as they introduce little new material and detailed description may seem tedious to the reader.  Their names and functions are as follows:

7.    Circular Extension and Contraction:  Links arm circles and spinal wave to leg movement and stepping.

8.   Single Leg ascending and descending:  Explores connection between Kwa, dantien and legs, develops powerful ability to uproot an opponent.

9.   Double Leg ascending and descending:  Continues ideas explored in 8, strengthens wave action in the spine.

10.  Belt Channel Winding.  Works with horizontal circles and explores torsional storing and release between upper and lower body.

11.  Returning Qi to Lower Dantien.  A cool down movement to close the set and strongly store Qi in the lower tantien.

12.  Health Massage.  Further cool down movements that rebalance the Qi in the rest of the body.

There are a number of teachers, mainly in the North East of England, authorised by Master Ma to teach this set in its entirety.  We also hope that Master Ma will return to the UK during 2008.

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