Red Jade Martial Arts
Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

Sifu's Blog

From the Master's Tea Table

Earth Above, Heaven Below

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Normally this type of thing will come to me in meditation or a dream and I will ponder why I saw such a strange diagram for days. After meditating and working to draw what I saw in my mind’s eye it all came together as a diagram of why Dantien does not move first, something I began working with many years ago and was teaching at my advanced class last month. My own practice has been working a great deal on how to perform various movements and methods from this order of events for a while now and I have luckily been able to make sense of it. Normally this is the kind of thing I would draw and write about in my training journal to solidify it in my mind and place it somewhere it may do some good for someone else someday. I am somewhat hesitant to post it as a publicly available thing as when it comes to my own practice and work I tend to be quite reserved and quiet about it. But, to hell with it. If someone gets something out of it, I am happy for them. If it makes no sense right now it may in the future. Martial Arts is like tending a garden, seeds must be planted, tended and cared for. The right amount of light and soil, rain and warmth cultivate those seeds into things one day. I find that seeds from decades ago still sprout in my training when I have been tending the garden properly with training time, research, meditation and rest.

Earth Above, Heaven Below Diagram.

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Upper Dantien is the mind, the intention, and moves first by creating the impulse to move. It in the beginning instructs the lower Dantien to move within the hips and ripple its force outwards through the six harmonies of the body the hips and shoulders, elbows and knee, ankles and wrists.

Here we can see the mind moves and awakens Dantien innervating it, making it ready to move but not as the first in the chain of movements. The mind travels down to the feet instead where the three nails reside anchoring and balancing the bodies weight on the earth. The first movement of the physical here is the bottoms of the feet pressing in an order to create downward force in a spiral on the earth.  Rolling the weight through the balls or nails of the feet is known as swaying the body in drunken boxing. The three nails, as they are known in Taiji, then press one at a time into the earth and create a spiraling upwards force into the legs.

Pressure equally drives into the earth and creates grounding force like a magnet stuck to a surface with force. It is not rooted and immovable but connected in a way that allows for stability and movement at the same time. This pressure continues as the power travels and turns up the legs towards the Kua (pelvic joint/inguinal crease joint) where it reaches lower Dantien and is unified from the two legs and amplified by the Dantien and muscular chain of events within the legs and pelvis.

Dantien turns in response to the ascending spiral and amplifies its force upwards through the spine and through the Yao or waist. This spiral travels upwards in the spine and reaches middle Dantien or Tan Zhong (centre of the chest) which acts as a spherical joint or ball in amplifying the movements speed and power again through the muscular chain of events. This travels upwards towards Tian Tu the notch at the base of the throat (Celestial pivot or chimney). The spiraling force splits and travels down through the shoulder joints which turn and accelerate the movement, then the elbows, wrists and then transmit that force out of the body.

At the centre of the diagram is the waist (yao) and the body is split into two parts, upper and lower shown by the trigrams for heaven and earth.  To the sides of the trigrams are two other trigrams and reversed TaiJi (yin/yang) symbols these show the necessity for yin yang transformation within the body during movement. The upper body must become yin and sink, relax and lower while the lower body must be the rising active force of the body. The pressing of the ground with the legs causes the entire body structure to rise through pressing down which is a yin yang pairing and reversal. The upper body must sink and relax with the chest lowering, Tian Tu moving downwards towards the navel while the power from the legs rises through the spine and reaches out the extremities, this is a yin yang paring as well in the upper body and is the reverse to the way humanity moves normally.

In most cases the first issue with players uprooting themselves has to do with rising in both places, upper and lower. The legs press the ground and lift the body and the player then allows this rising force to lift the chest as though they were standing from a chair and brings their chest upwards “raising the qi”. This overrides any downward force in the legs and makes the person light to “stand up”. Therefore, the method of An Jin (Downwards harmonizing power sometimes translated as “push”) is effective. The loading of the opponent’s legs with force and weight instinctually makes them lift themselves up against the pressure with the legs and then when let go they rise and uproot themselves. Four ounces overcoming a thousand pounds could be used to describe this as very little downwards force, followed by no force at all can uproot an enemy.

The Dang or archway of the legs remains round with the mind exerting outward force on the leg structure as though the perineum while descending is pressing on a large ball under the stance which as it is compressed presses outwards on the knees. The downwards pressure and motion of the lower Dantien can be referred to as the first CenterPoint in Taijiquan, the balance point of the bodies weight that is directed at the earth apart from either foot. This looking at C1 (centre point #1) gives the player a tripod or three-legged stance with each foot and the C1 point working together to distribute the weight into the archway of the Dang and the earth. Pressure from an opponent is broken into three pieces in way and divided amongst the three legs.

Pressure is also brought into the body from an opponent and broken in two between the upper and lower parts of the body some being directed downwards into the lower apparatus and three legs stance and some directed upwards from there into the sinking posture of the upper body. The opponents power should be split into manageable parts with proper connection so no one part of the body must deal with all the force at any one time.

Each joint in the body must be treated as a sphere. In the diagram only the joints of the arms, are drawn this way to keep things clear. Exercises like Bagua’s Six Balls, One Pillar, Rocking and Swaying in Drunken Fist and Taiji’s Silk Reeling all work on the idea of each joint remaining fully mobile and treated as spheres.

If the body can remain Sung (relaxed is the normal translation used but tends to give English speakers the idea that the body remains limp like a noodle. Sung is relaxed in the same way a Pine tree holds it branches outwards without effort or compromise. The snow make fall on the branches of the tree but when it becomes heavy enough the pine branch will bend and return to its original position, it is natural. Another metaphor is like a strung bow. A bow and arrows string contains all the potential energy of the bent bow yet remains relaxed and yet taut. Sung Jin in martial arts is like this, natural, relaxed and pregnant with potential all the same.)

When the body is Sung and the fascia and connective tissue is being relied upon to maintain structure along with many groups of small muscles it allows for the joints to remain pliable. With the pliability of Sung the opponents incoming force can be spun, redirected and transferred throughout the musculoskeletal structure of the body allowing for each muscle group to work together to do the work against them. Thinking of the joints as ball bearing like, oiled or greased balls make it most important for alignment to be the key to transferring force through the body rather than muscular resistance. This also allows for each of the joints to turn and spiral and augment force as it moves outwards from the torso into the limbs. Each small muscle group working as a part of the cascade and transferring more and more force towards the opponent.

Maybe this makes sense, maybe it is helpful. Maybe it comes across as gibberish. Either way this is the stuff my journals are filled with, each weird drawing or poem or scribbled set of notes another drop pf rain or ray of sun on the garden of my training. I hope it is the same for yours.

Neil 2017