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Xian Tian Palm Methods

Xian Tian Palm Methods

The emphasis on the Xian Tian/Tien, or the pre-heaven palm set, is to learn to move properly, cultivate chi and build up the body. It this way it resembles Tai Chi practice, but it is more physically dynamic and demanding. Once you integrate the correct principals of movement you can see how your opponent moves and the gaps in their movement. The Art of War states that if you know youself and know your opponent you need not fear 100 battles, the circle walking in our school is to know yourself.

The circle walking practice is great for developing footwork and balance, it moves at different heights and directions turning in and out of the circle. Sometimes this set is called the swimming dragon palms, some of the palms have animal skills, tiger, dragon, snake, swallow and horse. The Xian Tian palms are best learned in a gradual progression starting from zhang zhaung.




Tui Shou / Push Hands Training

Tui Shou / Push Hands Training

The Obstacle is the Path

Shifu Chao believes that many of the classic texts about technique have been mistranslated and misunderstood. For instance many people who practice push hands believe that they should avoid the opponents force and always trying to redirect it. The saying 4 ounces deflects 1,000 pound is especially misunderstood. Chao Shifu teaches that dodging around the incoming force  is incorrect. Sooner or later a skillful opponent is going to catch you. Also when you move around like this you are following a cycle, and a skillful opponent might anticipate your movement. Instead he teaches a principal that he calls catching, where you “catch” the incoming force directly while slowly letting it coil down to the ground like loading a spring. Although you are required to applying a lot of force it is not coming from the larger muscles and shoulders, but instead from the smaller muscles, tendons and correct alignment and the ground.


Testing what you’ve learned by pushing with others

Getting beaten in push hands is a great learning experience. Maybe you’ve reached a really deep understanding of the art and that doesn’t happen to you anymore, must be nice. Otherwise once you get the fundamentals down try pushing with different people from different martial arts schools, when we face someone that can easily control us l it is great training motivation and forces us to look at our skill humbly.

The South East Michigan Push Hands Meet Up 

The SEMI Push hands meet up is a great place to see how the training that you’ve been working on holds up in the light of day. It is also a great place to meet other CMA enthusiasts. The group usually meets the first Sunday of every month in Veterans park in Ann Arbor. It is run by our friend Shifu Greg at the Spiral Chi Center. Visit his page to learn more and sign up for the event notice board.

Xin Yi Quan, Xing Yi Quan & Yi Chuan

Xin Yi Quan, Xing Yi Quan & Yi Chuan

A quick look at three close relatives in internal Chinese martial arts.

This is a rough outline, I’ll add more to it later:

Eldest brother: XinYi Quan

  • Shanxi
  • Heart and willpower are at the basis of training
  • Difficult – Requires a high level of control/manipulation of the emotional, heart or Xin.


Middle Brother: Xing Yi Quan

  • Hebei
  • Create physical postures or “shapes” that align with attack, defense or health outcomes.
  • Slightly more accessible for most people than it’s siblings, with a deceptively subtle depth.


Youngest brother: Yi Chuan

  • Wang Zhanzhai
  • Fewer forms but very thorough Zhuang Fa, or standing training methods.
  • In one way this art simplifies and streamlines it’s two elder brothers.
  • However it requires a direct and faster than normal connection between one’s intent and the physical reflexes. Difficult to learn. Easy to over do hard muscular force and loose progress.




Zhuang Fa (Standing Methods) Practice

Zhuang Fa (Standing Methods) Practice

Standing Meditation composes 70% to 90% of our Training Method

Zhan Zhuang, or standing meditation, is the foundation of all training taught by Shifu Victor Chao. Zhan Zhuang translates as “standing like a post” but there is a lot going on inside. The body rises and falls with a natural breathing process and the joints are constantly checked and aligned. In the beginning, this is the students main training until the joints begin work with each other.

Six Harmonies Theory

The 6 harmonies is a framework for coordinating the body, mind and energy together for maximum leverage. In one form or another, the 6 harmonies underly most internal Chinese martial arts. Without the 6 harmonies, you are either going to rely more on muscular strength as in the shoalin, karate and boxing type arts or you are practicing an internal martial art without any power and it won’t work against a well trained fighter from another style.

The Three External Harmonies in Zhan Zhang Practice

Shifu Chao’s method emphasizes training the three harmonies first. The are sometimes called the three external harmonies which are are; hands coordinate with feet, knees  coordinate with elbows, hips coordinate with shoulders.

Even this process is complex and Shifu Chao breaks it down into the following samller steps:

  1. Start in whatever posture you are working on and nail your foot to the ground at the big toe.
  2. Next, you learn to connect this weighted point with your knee.
  3. The weight path then goes up the inside leg from the knee then works with the kua, (hips / pelvis / Tan Tien)  and sacrum.
  4. After that, you can begin up the back to the shoulders, elbows, head, chest and hands.

The lower body usually requires a few months until the calf and other leg muscles get strong enough to support everything on top. This training is strenuous and uncomfortable, especially at first. It doesn’t really get much easier even when your leg muscles start to develop, you can just hold it for longer and go lower/higher/wider with more power.

If a student sticks with standing practice they will experience various benefits come at different stages. As mentioned it will first improve your leg strength and balance, after that it begins to release stuck areas, where we habitually hold tension. This is great for building health, correcting old posture habits, even those caused by injuries. Stacked with the pre heaven palm training, Zhan Zhaung it makes a great general health practice.

Xing Yi Hands, Bagua Feet

Xing Yi Hands, Bagua Feet

The internal martial arts of Xing Yi Chuan (Hsing I) and Ba Gua Zhang (Pakua) compliment each other in many ways. In fact these arts are so compatible that some people think they share a common neijia origin art. First generation Ba Gua masters like Chen Ting Hua down to 3rd generation masters like Gao Yi Sheng, studied Xing Yi before, during and/or after they began training in bagua and this tradition carried on to later generations. The same think went for  several prominent Xing Yi masters, who practiced palm changes. Many of us have heard of the bagua and xing yi master who fought each other to a stand still and agreed to teach the arts side by side from then on. Whatever the reasons these arts have been trained side by side for generations in the neijia schools of mainland China and later on in Taiwan.

Li Cun Yi’s text, Xingyi Lianhu Quan states:

“For generations the inner family fists (neijia quan) have been transmitted together with Daoism as a whole piece. Only recently has it been separated into branches, e.g. Xingyi and Bagua…”

The tradition of training these two arts together was kept at the Yi Zong school where Gao style bagua was trained with Hebei, Li Cun Yi style, Xing Yi. In the combined curriculum of these two arts there is enough material to accommodate any training goal; including push hands, health improvement of fighting ability.

Here is an interesting excerpt from Lu Shengli’s excellent book that sheds a bit of light on the origins of cross training these arts;

“One interesting story relates a fight between Dong (Haichuan) and Guo Yunshan, the Xingyi master. The fight went on for three days, at which point Guo decided that Dong was the better fighter. After discussing their respective techniques, they decided that Xingyi and Bagua should be taught concomitantly; everyone who studied Xingyi would have to study Bagua, and vice versa.  As a result, Xingyi and Bagua are said to be one family.”

This story points to the original reasoning for the combining or cross training of these two styles. The motivation was clearly to create the most effective martial art possible. Also in the above book the author states that a student can train in Xing Yi first to achieve a good foundation that can be built on later.

Some of the famous masters who trained in both styles:

  1. Chen Ting Hua
  2. Sun Lu Tang
  3. Li Cun Yi
  4. Gao Yi Sheng
  5. Liang Ke Quan
  6. Wang Pei Sheng


So while it is true that Xing Yi is linear and Bagua circular, both of these arts begin in stillness with Zhuang Fa practice.