Gao Ba-gua; The Book of The Twenty Four
The Foundation Skills
The following techniques form the first third of the three section Gao Ba-gua system as taught to me by Hung I-mien. Hung, one of five brothers, had started as a young man in his own family Shaolin (Hung Family Style). He told me two of his brothers had died prematurely, due to over – exertion. His father attributed their death to the strain caused by the practice of Hung family Southern Shaolin Boxing. After WWII, a teacher of the so-called “soft” arts, Chang Chuen-feng came to Taiwan from Tienching. Chang had studied with a variety of teachers and styles, and had been the director of a boxing school in Shanghai. Father Hung, hearing of Chang, sent his remaining three sons to study with him. Hung I-mien became one of his senior students. Hung taught me this system of Ba-gua in 1982 and 1984. Prior to that I had seven years of intermittent instruction and monitored daily practice, from R.W. Smith who pioneered research on “Chinese Boxing” during his stay in Taiwan from 1959-1964. Later Hung I-mien assigned me ten years of “homework” which I followed, returning to him in 1995 to confirm my skills and expertise in the system he taught me. I say this as some self appointed critics have made the claim I “learned the entire Gao Ba-gua system in two years”. In reality it took me 19 years and I did return to Taiwan to get my teachers approval in 1995. Moreover I illustrated each form drawn by my own hand and approved by Hung who also taught me an application for every single movement in the system. I believe it is very rare that a student and teacher worked in such harmony, intensity and detail. So I have not had any reason to create or invent applications except on the circle which Hung regarded as “Graduate Work”believing that was the place where creativity could be allowed but only if applications had been mastered in the sixty four linear or “Ho-tien” Intermediate Stage of training.
Robert Smith too, had studied with the Hungs, but mainly with Hung I-shang, whose system of Tang Shou Tao merges elements from teachers of Southern Shaolin and Hsing-I, with admixtures of Ba-gua and Chin-na (bone-locking). Smith published a book on Ba-gua which has since been re-issued by North Atlantic Press. His text introduces Hung I-shang’s teaching (significantly different from I-mien who Smith incorrectly calls “Hsien-Mien”) on Gao Ba-gua and then shows the circle training from another teacher-Kuo Feng-chih as Smith was unable to learn the Gao circle. Because his text is uneven and misleading I will clarify the Gao system, which he has partially introduced. Where he has “Eighteen Exercises” I was taught twenty four “Tien Gen” or “Celestial Gates” sometimes called “Stems” referring to Astrology. Actually Chinese Astrology only has 22 Stems and 10 in its older forms. (There are actually eighteen Lohan exercises or “Muscle Change” techniques which are not directly related to these twenty four exercises).
The number twenty four is itself significant. In Traditional Initiate Level Taoism one is taught 24 Contracts with Spirits of the Stars. This is core teaching for a Taoist Priest. In Ancient Chinese Culture, particularly in Buddhism, numerology plays an important part. Numbers stand for qualities as well as quantities and are considered not only helpful for organization but also as magical powers in themselves. Twenty Four corresponds to a 3 x 8 correspondence in which the Ba-gua or “Eight Cosmic Changes” concept of Taoism is shown as three tiers. These eight cosmic changes are used to orient houses in Feng Shui, site graves and invoke spirits from the stars. There are eight changes, or a Ba-gua for Heaven, a separate Ba-gua set for Man, and another set for the Earth. Ba-gua theory defines the human as a medium- connecting the power of Heaven to the Earth- like a lightning rod.
Basic Ba-gua theory teaches for a human being to fully manifest their optimum potential, they must establish a harmony between all three octaves, or three levels- in themselves. This can be achieved using the body as a antennae. The first step is to align the spine and limbs for maximum mechanical efficiency, then align the breath to the limb movement, which in turn gives efficiency of mental concentration, and finally the mind to the breath, which allows detachment from conditioned emotions. Once this is done, a new field of emotions can be received – that is, consciousness itself begins to open up-and a direct emotional experience of the world, unencumbered by mental conditioning, can be perceived. But, this depends on the motives of the student. The student must desire this to get it. The desire for higher emotions and communion with more beautiful and good things is what unites the octaves and allows the student to bring Heaven to Earth. Otherwise, the emotional detachment developed from body and breath control, can simply make them a heartless person, or worse, an empty vessel vulnerable to any passing spirit or mood (including their own!).
On the technical side, the twenty four tactics or movements (and they are both) establish a sound muscular-skeletal foundation for efficient and easily learned fighting techniques through development of the “Horse Riding Stance” or more properly “Horse Riding Step”. This stance is obviously derived from- and seen often in- different styles of Shaolin. For the beginner it is probably a good idea to chalk a square on the floor, the length of their stride and practice pivoting in horse stances on the square. It can also be done stepping on bricks placed in a square. This teaches a great deal of fighting efficiency with and without weapons, because it teaches the essential skill of being able to step into any direction with minimum effort and maximum precision with the option of being able to squat or “duck under” a strike.. To put it bluntly, Gao Ba-gua required, in the school of Chang Chuen-feng, a sound foundation in basic Northern Shaolin stance and movements. This may be Chang’s influence rather than Gao’s since it was Chang’s school that taught Northern Shaolin before going to Hsing-I. Whatever the cause, the essential intention behind the twenty four movements/tactics is to give a good tactical grounding -which for all practical purposes is derived from basic Northern Shaolin.
Mastering the twenty- four “Celestial Stems” means, not just form practice but practice with a partner in drills for correct distance and timing. Work with a heavy bag is advisable too, for adding strength and power in the techniques. I would advise going through the “24” also with a stick, mock knife and sword. This will give you an overall understanding which will be an excellent background for further study in ANY martial art. Some teachers use these postures to flex and extend the back for physical conditioning. My teacher Hung occasionally did this but emphasized it was NOT essential. My own belief is that there are healthier and sturdier ways to do this doing ground work. The reason I say this is simple; it is a bad idea to practice leaning back in any posture. In Ba-gua we have specific tactics to catch people who do this and crack their spine. Rose Li, one of my other Ba-gua teachers once said to me, “Some teachers have you lean back –very pretty—but not good for fighting-very dangerous”. And it is true. Develop your spine by practicing bridging techniques from wrestling but do not condition the habit of leaning backward or forward when it comes to tactics. Especially during the training of the 24. Incidentally on the whole technique of “leaning” whether forward, sideways or backwards—sometimes you HAVE to do it to dodge something or get around something or someone. The point of the training is to AVOID HAVING TO LEAN. Your footwork should do the job. If you are leaning all the time your feet are in the wrong place. There is one time you DO lean in Gao Ba-gua. That is during the initial training of pushing someone. This is true both in the 24 and the 64. Many students do not bend their knees enough so if you have them lean in their practice causing them to bend their knees more and so their legs will get stronger. But this is preliminary and a part of pedagogy. I was taught to lean in my first year of training, with the torso forming a continuous line with the rear leg. This is also excellent training to learn to align and load the weight bearing hip. It is also really good when warming up. Once the students strengthen their legs and “get down” their heads need to be brought up-and their tailbone needs to go down to free-up their ability to use the follow step and the front kick which is nearly always present in Linear or “Post-Heaven Ba-gua”. Also remember the bodyguard side of Ba-gua—that is its history. As long as your torso is vertical and your head is up if you are bumped from any side you can skip, hop or step and stay on your feet. In a crowd this is a real plus. It is best not to give your head to a knee or face lock voluntarily!
After this training in both form and technique, when you are grounded in rapid “Horse Stepping” to four directions with the Horse-step, and you have good clear angles on attack and defense – then you go to the next stage of training. This training consists of sixty – four strings or linkages of movements. These sixty four strings are nick-named “Post-Heaven” by the Chinese. A clear translation would be “After Creation”. The implications are very Platonic. There is, implicit in this theory, the assumption there is a Heaven, and in it, all is ideal. When Heavenly things come down to Earth, they get tainted or become more crude, more earthy. So the sixty- four strings of movements are the “Earthy Ba-gua” skills- the tactical or “fighting” skills. They are not particularly subtle but they get results! They are however, more subtle than the previous “Tien Gen” or “Twenty Four”, which are, after all, Commando/Military Exercises. The movements of the “After Creation Ba-gua” which we can call for convenience “The Sixty- Four” mainly consist of techniques from Hsing-I and Tai Chi, two other well known “styles” of Chinese Martial Art forms. It is good to remember Tai Chi too, was taught -in the old days- as movement strings done over and over on one side, then the other, then alternating sides at varying speeds.
After passing through the curriculum of training of the “Twenty Four” and the “Sixty- Four” one was then taught “The Mother Palms.” These were called “Pre- Heaven” or “Pre-Creation” meaning they were more beautiful and ideal in form and function. These forms are done while walking a circle and they are likely derived from sources in India. They resemble certain kinds of Kalaripyattu (South Indian Martial Art) and Thang Tha (North Indian/Manipuran Martial Art). I was told by Thang Tha expert Khilton Nangmeithem, “Ba-gua has South Indian hands and North Indian footwork”. It also show strong similarities to some of the old Shiva dances as found in the Tandavas or Indian Dance Classics. The circle walking is the chief feature of all Ba-gua styles and the half dozen or so styles which exist at present, each have their own way of doing it. Circle walking also is used by Taoists as a ritual meditation, and in Shaolin Boxing as agility training- so there is a debate over how and when it was put in the Ba-gua martial art and by whom.
This “mixing of styles” in order to produce specific skills is not unusual in Chinese Martial Arts Systems, and it is very important for the modern practitioner to know – in older times Chinese Martial Arts were seen as a whole entity of study, with various types of training rather than a plethora of contradictory styles.
It was usual in the older times (1600-1900+) for a young man in the early phase of his physical training to learn strength training, weight lifting, different forms of agility training and acrobatics. As a matter of fact many “martial arts guys” were involved in the Chinese opera-which uses a lot of acrobatics in it’s performances. Forms or “Shadow Boxing” were taught to Opera performers and Martial Arts people alike, to develop fluency of movement. Some forms were more flamboyant and oriented for stage performances, while others were strictly functional. Later, more advanced training, and sophisticated choreography of forms and subtlety of functions were naturally discovered and taught. Weaponry was interspersed throughout this training since it was a necessity of the time. Often a Martial Artist was trained by one teacher in empty hand and another in weaponry. Styles were less important than teachers and who you learned from was more important than what you called it. At any rate, form practice and various forms of conditioning were both used to test the character of the student – to see his commitment to the teacher and the method, at which point deeper and more profound training was passed on. Of course this system of instruction was abused and many students were taught intricate forms -often for years-which were left unexplained because they “had not shown their commitment” or some such excuse which allowed incompetents to use secrecy as a refuge. And in modern times this still happens. I hope to avoid encultured confusions and expose the Gao Ba-gua system as an efficient and systematic set of training exercises, forms and drills – which in the end give one tactical fluency (physical self defense) and esoteric understanding (psychic self defense).
Training The Twenty Four Tactics
The Horse Step-It’s Important
Over half the “Twenty Four” are done in a “Horse Step” position. Since horses were the main mode of transportation when this was developed -it only makes sense a man would learn to stay in the saddle and also be able to use the legs he developed from that to duck under a punch! The Horse Step also teaches one to do a very important thing- Get off the line of attack, by side stepping. Any art that teaches a person to face your opponent directly- and not move- is asking to be hit! The Horse Step can be chalked or marked on the ground as a square. It can also be practiced by stepping on bricks placed in this formation (for sure-footedness) as well, or putting punching bags in a four square formation to learn to turn and hit. The main thing is to get comfortable and fluent while moving side to side in a skipping fashion or forward or backward or stepping and pivoting. After this training footwork is fluid (work on it for a month or a year! Emphasize hitting with the shoulder or hip as well as the hand or foot- when you slide into a horse-step ) you can add the arm movements. In the old days student dedication could be tested by having them hold the Horse Step as a Horse Stance, that is, a fixed position. Even ten minutes will make your legs really scream. But if you only practice it as a static position your legs will be strong but stiff. It is important to learn to move around too!
*Remember all the following can first be practiced STANDING in a Horse Stance. After you get skilled in them then MOVE into a Horse Step doing the positions. Practice SIDE STEPPING and doing the technique, then STEPPING BACK ON A LINE and also STEPPING FORWARD AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE. Later also, do the hand movements in any of the classical stances in both static and stepping forms.
THE FIRST PHASE of the Twenty Four consists of Fourteen Hand Movements done in a Horse Stance.
1: Open Hand Strike
First go into a Horse Step. The first arm movement of the Twenty Four is an open palm strike or pierce with the fingers to the opponents face. When he blocks, grab his sleeve or wrist and pull. As your pull, roll his arm over, turning his elbow up. As you do this extend your other arm in an open hand strike. But be sure to keep your striking arm’s elbow down, to check his elbow in a possible arm lock.
If your opponent is really big and tries a straight right punch step laterally left, and extend your right arm like a strike, but really just to graze and get contact with his arm. Extend your right palm or fingers to his eyes so you can begin to get his attention and control his balance. Then do the rest of the technique i.e. pull his right wrist with your right hand, while striking with your left palm. If his wrist is too big to hold, take his sleeve. If he retracts his punch quickly then retract your arm quickly. Don’t even try to grab. If he attacks with a quick retracting jab you deflect with a quick short slap. Your reaction is geared to his. In traditional Shaolin if both of you are using a left lead hand, you parry all his left strikes with your left and only dare use your right hand if he commits with his right hand. Try to use your lead hand for most of your initial defense. This principle is common to western boxing, particularly in the upright style of the great welsh flyweight Jim Driscoll-his left hand jab did most of the work in the ring.
Another significant function on this movement deflects his arm to the inside, for example if he punches with a straight right, step laterally to your left and push his right elbow in with your left open palm. This will bring your body in- perpendicular to his right side- where you can attack above or below his arm with either of your arms. This angle is also convenient to go to a wrestlers’ sleeper hold or go for a leg pick up too. If you fence or do any other kind of weaponry you will see this opens his right arm pit, rib cage, exposes the hamstrings and allows a swing kick to the tailbone or anus.
2 :Technique; Swing Punch
Again use your Horse Step. Do the first technique to his face take his wrist or sleeve and pull down but this time swing your other arm underneath to punch him in the ribs or lock his elbow. If your angle is right and your arms long enough you can hit underneath to his chin too.
3: Grab his windpipe
Horse Step. Grab his windpipe with your hand palm up. Use your thumb to squeeze his larnyx against his s.c.m.(sterno-cleido mastoid) muscle. When he grabs your hand to take it off his throat, turn your palm over rotating his arm, and pull down to your hip. Then go for his throat with your other grab. If he grabs your other wrist cross his arms and throw him.
4: Guard your head/ hit with a palm
Horse Step. Turn 30-45 degrees and raise your left forearm up to protect your left temple while hitting to the front corner with your right open palm.
If he hooks with his right arm, deflect it with your left and hit him under the chin or in the heart with your palm. If he has a long reach hit his bicep or shoulder then chop to the neck with the same hand.
Pull your hands down to your hips, while clenching them into a half fist, like your are clutching fabric. On the function simply pull his arm down past your side to go around him.
5: Circular Deflection and Hammer
Horse Step. Swing your left fist and forearm across your lower body like a pendulum touching your inner left elbow with your right palm. Turn your waist to the right and raise your bent left elbow -and your right palm is still in it -in front of your face. Then swing your left back- fist forward and down. Be sure your hips turn with this and the arm comes down heavily. On the function deflect his straight right, which is going to your naval, with your left forearm, dragging his arm past you. You will find he will meet your lifting left elbow. Then hammer his temple or if he grabs your left wrist with his left hand pull it across his neck or body to twist him off balance for the next strike.
6: Horizontal Chop
Horse Step. Extend your left hand palm up to the left side with your elbow well bent. Turn your waist and DRAG your hand through the air across your body til it can go no further and then turn the palm over and Drag it back. This is not just a turning chop, this is a horizontal draw cut with a weapon. Your other hand is put behind and across your low back/kidney area. This indicates he either has an arm- hold on you, or you are holding a sword or knife, behind your back. On the function have your training partner put your arm behind your back in a “chicken wing”. As he pulls you into position you follow your elbow -the one he is positioning-with your step. Turn around on him and chop to his head. If his arms are long and he pins your arms with both of his, and you cannot turn -back kick him. The back kick, however, is reserved in the training sequence/Gao curriculum til later.
7: Angular Chop
Horse Step. With your right arm behind your back reach your left arm out to the side and upward about forty five degrees. Chop down toward the opposite knee being sure to be aware of your right hip joint and how much it work this technique. The function or partner exercise, can be a throat grab to a man standing beside you. If he deflects it grab his wrist, if not he may grab your wrist then simply chop down as before carrying his arm over your shoulder to lock or to bring his head into range of your other hand, which can punch, chop or slap.
8: Double Chop
Horse Step. Both hands are ready to chop. One protects the head with a vertical forearm at about 45 degrees. The other is pushing up at the height of the heart. The arm protecting the head chops down-if your left arm chop to your right side as though hitting the opponents’ arm. Then lift your right arm straight up to the sky and drop it in a dead weight strike all the way down past your waist, but to your left side. After the right arm completes this action, raise it to protect the head as in the previous guard and push up with the left palm, thereby ending with the guard on the other side. The function works well on a man trying to use both hands in punching your midsection. Chop each of his forearms alternately directly over the radius (upper forearm) on the soft muscle tissue. When you raise your guard to protect your head try to stay on your opponent’s elbow to control his ability to turn his body. Use your lower palm to strike his rib cage, diaphragm.
9: Slap Down
Horse Step. Raise your left arm, well bent and like a Swan’s neck, with fingers down, above your forehead. Protect your body with your right arm, palm down. Let the spine and back muscles work a little on the lift. (As an exercise you can arch back, but in combat it is a bad idea since you could get pinned). Slap down with your left palm heel turning your body slightly to the right and following through, past your waist. Your right arm withdraws slightly along your right ribs. The function is good on a hay maker or long right hook. If your opponent or training partner tries it, deflect high and bounce off his arm to slap down on his jaw toward his other arm. In training be sure your partner protects his face with his other open palm and you can hit it rather than his jaw. Watch out for the bounce reaction as your partner will be moving forward and you can easily hit his face as well as his guarding hand.
10; Direct Face Clamp
Though not unique to Ba-gua, this movement is a chief feature of Ba-gua. Begin as usual in the Horse Step. Swing your left hand out to the left side at groin level, hitting with the back wrist and forearm. The action is like throwing something. Your other hand is behind your back holding a sword or simply staying away from the action (with bladed weapons it can be extremely useful to put the free arm behind your back!). Now take your left hand palm up and raise it like an overhand throwing action and slap forward to your front right. The function works well for a man standing on the left side of you. Slap to the groin or deflect his low left punch with that slap. Take your left leg behind his left leg. Grab his windpipe and if he is your size throw him over your left leg. He may grab your left hand and you can use the same movement to extend his right arm over your shoulder for a throw or break.
11: Reverse Face Clamp
This uses the same lower deflection as the fifth hand technique (Circular Deflection and Hammer). Begin in the Horse Step. When your opponent tries a straight right punch to your abdoman, deflect it with your left forearm, open hand rotating out and drag your opponent slightly by you by turning your body to the right. Then fold your left elbow and hit his face and after following through take your open palm and cover his eyes, turning his neck and throwing him back. Your right arm is held behind your back throughout, either holding a weapon, or being held there by your attacker. This same technique can be done pivoting on either heel as you shift your weight. For example if you deflect with your left arm as above, pivot on your right heel, turn your body to the right, and then pivot your left heel in slightly, after your weight shift. You will be in a front weighted, right forward lunge. For the elbow technique pivot/toe out your left foot and then shift your weight to the left leg as you use your elbow. Then use your open left palm on his face, as you shift your weight into your left foot. After the weight shifts to your left foot, pivot your right foot in slightly. You should now be in a left lunge or left forward stance, having carried his head and whole body in a sort of whiplash movement, across your left leg.
12: Spear, Pull and Kick
Begin in a Horse-Stance. Extend your right palm in a palm up spear to the height of your opponent’s eyes. Be careful to keep your right elbow down and slightly bent throughout the movement. Turn your right open palm down, and pull it to your right hip in a right fist, while, at the same time kicking with your right foot with a low and short toe kick. The final position looks as though you have simply brought up your right foot to a toe-in step. On the function, your opponent does a low left punch to your midsection. Step to your right with your right foot, into a horse step and deflect the punch inward with your right forearm while reaching for your opponent’s throat. As your opponent deflects (or grabs) your right hand with his right hand- use your right to grab his, pulling it across his body and turning him to the left. Then use your right knee into his thigh or groin. On a larger man you may kick higher, across his knee cap or shin, for more effect. Experiment with distance on this technique – it will work better from a higher stance and from the limit of your opponent’s reach.
13: Elbow and Press
Begin in a Horse Stance. Take your right elbow straight out to the side at head height. Then Press your palm down, at the height of your hip joint, and back slightly behind you. Then do the same with your left arm and hand. Give your shoulder blade plenty of movement on this and really extend your elbow. The tactic can be used when having an opponent on either side of you. Feint or really strike with the elbow to one -on the one side then reach down and push his hip joint BACK -toward his rear. You will know if this is done correctly because he will pick up his toes before falling back. Then you can complete the form by doing the same thing to the opponent on the other side. The same elbow technique can be used to the chest, heart or even if the opponent is tall -to the groin. You can also forego the elbow technique- and just using the press action-you can duck a swinging punch to your head, and go behind your opponent – then press the back of his knee (use a lot of follow through) causing his head to fall back for your follow up hold or strike
14. The “Weed Pull” with one hand. ( covered below in the two hand version)
15: The “Weed Pull”-reaching down the leg to grab and pull
Begin in a Horse Stance. With your right hand reach down the side of your right leg- emphasizing rotation in your shoulder joint-with your palm turning out. After your hand reaches it’s full extent, close the fingers into a grip and rotate the arm back over, while pulling it to your hip. As your right hand goes to your hip reach across with your left hand to your right side, when it stops over your right knee, grip and turn over -as done with the other hand- but pulling back to your left hip.
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE SECOND PHASE OF BASIC TRAINING: Moving steps and other stances
16: Lunge and Push
Begin in a left lunge-left foot ahead in a long step, with most of the weight in your left leg. Be sure your stance is fairly wide-that is your feet are not on a line but are wide enough-about shoulder width. Shift your weight- keeping your torso vertical, – back into your right leg, bending your right knee well- at the same time drop your arms by your side and turn your open hands palms forward. As you shift your weight forward push upward with your open left palm and carry your right palm by your left elbow. Be sure not to let your left knee over bend-keep the left knee on a perpendicular line behind or directly above the left toe. Unlike some styles of Martial Arts – KEEP THE RIGHT OR REAR KNEE WELL BENT. On the tactic, have your training partner do a left punch toward your left rib cage-from your left side. As you shift your weight back into your right leg, deflect his left arm with your descending left forearm. As you shift your weight forward to push or hit his chin with your left palm, use your right palm to check his left elbow-in case he tries to stick you with it.
17: Turn and Push
Begin in a pigeon toed or “Hour Glass” stance. Hold your palms up -with your fingers out – at the height of your eyes. Turn your body to the left while you shift your weight into your right foot. Pull both your hands down in a half clenched pull, in front of your knee. Retract your left foot to a fist width in front of your right foot. Step into a left lunge with your left foot pushing your left hand with your right, your right thumb overlapping and bracing your left. Follow step with your right foot a half step, shift your weight to it, and toe in your left foot to repeat the movement turning to the right side. Tactically, imagine your opponent swinging his right hand to your face in a hook.You step inside to the hourglass foot position, raising your hands to deflect his arm, and you use your right shoulder to hit his sternum at the same time. Your extended right thumb should hit his right eye. Grab his arm and turn pulling him around you and down. The pull can be on his sleeve or skin, particularly the skin of his inner arm, which is more sensitive. If he succeeds in staying on his feet after being pulled around push/strike his carotids with the two hand push. You can also do this movement to the outside of a straight punch (Hung favored this as did the ancient Greeks), locking the arm and then pulling the opponent around to push or strike him. As usual going to the outside is favored to avoid being strangled.
18: Stand, Grab, Pull and Strike
Begin with your feet parallel at shoulder width. Put your left arm behind your back. Extend your right hand, palm up to the height of your own throat. Close your right fingers as though pulling a rope, and pull your right hand to your right hip-while you squat down, into a full squat. Three-quarters of the way down with the squat, extend the same pulling right hand behind you and swing the open right palm forward and up for a groin strike. After the groin strike, stand up with your hand still out and change it to a chop, with your right hand edge facing down. Squat down again and chop with your right hand, behind you, in line with your right shoulder. After chopping rearward, stand again and this time, change your hands, putting the right behind your back. Then use your left palm for the throat grab- continue the sequence as before, with the other hand.
19: “File”or grip release
Begin in the Horse Stance. Raise your right hand open and fingers out, in front of your solar plexus. Take your left open hand and place it on the right shoulder. Scrape your left forearm, using the ulnar bone, down the right bicep, separating the muscle fibers. Continue going down the right arm, turning the right arm so that the left forearm can press and flatten the fibers of the extensor muscles of the right arm. Finish the scraping action taking the left ulnar over the back of the right hand. After this, leave the left arm out at solar plexus height and scrape down it with the right arm. The function of this is both therapeutic and tactical. On the tactical side, have your opponent or training partner grab your right wrist with his left hand. Apply hard pressure with your left ulnar bone edge on his left radius, near the wrist-to release the grip. Another function is to turn your right palm up and then carve down on his left forearm to release his grip. The same technique is used by the practitioner on his own arms, to massage linament or massage oil into the arm muscles to prevent bruising after severe impact.
20: Neck Turning
Begin in the Horse Stance. Place your hands in the classic position of Buddhist meditation, open right hand resting in your open left palm, below your naval . Your thumbs are touching and the space is open between the thumbs and fingers, as though holding an egg. Turn your head directly to the right, looking over your right shoulder. Bring your gaze and head back to the center and hold a few moments, letting the muscles of the neck re-set. Then turn your head to the left, looking over your left shoulder. Return your head as before, to the center. Repeat this about twelve times. Then look straight up, gazing into the sky as far as you can. Hold this a few moments and stretch your wind pipe. Bring your head down and look at the horizon. Hold this a few seconds while the muscles readjust. Then look straight down at the feet, stretching the back of the neck. Hold this a few moments- try to touch the chin to the chest. Repeat this about twelve times at varying speeds. After these, roll the head around in circles of varying sizes. You may hear mineral deposits grinding in the neck. As your muscles heat and get stronger this will disappear. Do the slow head rolls a few times in each direction.
21: Hip Rotation
Begin in the Horse Stance. Your hands are in the Buddhist meditation position. Rotate your hips 360 degrees in as large a circle as you can, emphasizing the movement of your low back. Do this about a dozen or so times in one direction then the other. Try it with your belly out and pulled in to get familiar with which muscles do what.
22: The “Taoist Arch” and breath.
Begin in the Horse Stance. Your hands are in meditation. Shift your weight to your left foot. Toe out your right foot forty five degrees and shift your weight to it. Then toe-out your left foot forty five degrees and shift back into the Horse Stance, but this time, with your toes out. This is also called the “Taoist Arch”. Bend your knees, extending your arms out to the sides, palms out and slightly up. Try to squat fully. Begin to stand up and inhale deeply as you raise your hands directly overhead, til the palms touch, as in prayer. As you pull your “praying hands” down to your heart, squat again, and touch your heart with your palms. Look straight up into the sky and roll your eyes four times either way, in order to stretch the muscles and clean the eyes. This eye movement also assists the processing and release of trauma in the brain.
23: The Prayer Posture
From the above, Taoist Arch, look straight ahead on the horizon, fix your eyes on a point, shift your weight to your right leg and stand up bringing your left heel to touch your right heel, both feet forming a “v” shape (the “v” depends on your knees and how they are shaped). While the eyes are fixed, the palms and heels touching state-in your mind- a positive resolve to yourself a few times. It can be a mantra, a visualization or sub-vocal statement, depending on your belief system (in Tradition it would be a Buddhist or Taoist concept).
24: The Infinity Posture
After the above Prayer Posture, lower your hands to your sides, relax your resolve and stand quietly letting rest and peace pervade your body. It is taught in this tradition that all development, physical, mental and spiritual, comes from this point of rest and neutrality.
This ends the forms for training the “Gao 24 Celestial Stems”. Please remember form practice alone will not give skill. You must have a training partner to work the functions of the forms at varying speeds. This will teach you timing and ideally should reinforce good form. If you are interested in developing more strength, heavy bag work or weight training can be used. Mixing the three kinds of training-form, function practice with a partner and bag work and strength training will give you a well rounded ability.