JIANWU - VERTICAL CIRCLE METHODS 1-2
JIANWU VERTICAL CIRCLE METHODS 1-2
METHOD 1 - MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE ‘BALL’
Method 1 starts with the ‘Holding-the Ball’ arm posture then traces a circle going up and out (away from the body) followed in an unbroken manner by going downward and inward (toward the body.) In this method it is paramount to maintain the relative integrity of the arm posture. To that end it is useful to focus and hold one’s feeling-awareness in the area of the wrist joint throughout the circling, especially at first. Later we become aware that the shoulders and shoulder blades are also tracing their own circles as is the elbow joint. Eventually the circling evolves to include the chest and abdomen as well as the muscles of the back and legs. At this point it is said to become more ‘Internal’ and the weight-shifts that are first trained in a clearly visible pattern become generated more and more through our intention and relaxation which motivate the muscles and trigger the feeling of (the backward) weight-shift dropping out into the bottoms of our feet.
Start from an approximately 50/50 weighted stance. Slightly shift your centerline forward and trace the ‘in and up’ portion of the circle while simultaneously drawing all the tissue of the abdomen and chest (from the pubic bone to the Throat Notch) ‘up and in’ toward your centerline and then later, toward your Central Channel. As the arms, wrists and hands reach the vicinity of the collar bones on both sides, an instant before we start the outward part of the circle (‘up and out’) we release all the muscles of the back from the base of skull, down through the bottoms of the feet. The speed of this release can vary from ‘like a slow-moving elevator’ going down through the feet, to an instantaneous and sudden drop. Each will impel the arms through the upward and outward part of the circle accordingly. The slower speeds are used for health and to develop the basis of Vertical Circle internal power, while the faster speeds engender a rolling snap release often used in the martial aspects of the Jianwu.
MICRO & MACROCOSMIC ORBITS AND THE ROLE OF THE CENTRAL CHANNEL
Since some may equate elements of the lifting and dropping out of the tissue along with the concomitant, spring-like ‘bounce’ that motivates the arms in the upward and outward finish of the circle, with the direction of the flows of Taoist Micro and Macrocosmic meditation, some clarification may be useful.
Normally the Micro circulation begins in the low Dan Tien, goes down through Hui Yin point CV-1, up the 3 gates of the back, over the top of the head, then down the chest and abdomen and back to the low Dan Tien. Here it should be noted that this a relatively preliminary stage in Taoist meditation and as such, is fairly ‘external’ relative to the Central Channel deep within our core. The big secret with this type of circulation, at least it was for me, was that in order to fully manifest it in the moving meditation forms, it is necessary to motivate the tissue to move along with the energy flow. I remember many years ago witnessing William Chen demonstrate this on his own body. Once this ability is accomplished, one will naturally delve deeper and begin to draw the tissue and the energy into the Central Channel where it can be lifted (and condensed) and then dropped down and out as desired - multi-directional expansion. This allows for the development of Spherical or multi-sided power.
At the basic level of both Methods 1 and 2, we are asked to draw the Yin Tissue of the abdomen and chest, upward and inward (both vertically and horizontally from the pubic bone up to the Throat Notch) as our weight shifts slightly forward. From there we release the lifted tissue down our back through our feet. When done correctly, this ‘dropping out’ actually begins and leads our backward weight-shift and precipitates the spring-like ‘bounce’ that motivates the arms in the completion of their final up and out expansion portion of the circle. In terms of the more external Micro and Macrocosmic orbits this appears to be a contraflow (moving in the opposite direction of ‘normal.’) But when we include the Central Channel a whole new pattern of possibilities develops.
Imagine the energy of the body as an ‘egg’ or sphere-like shape with a big rubber band all around it. When we tighten the rubber band (as we shift forward) the lion’s share of our energy and tissue moves inward and upward in the direction of the Central Channel. This is sometimes called whole-body-condensing or inward stretching from all directions. Then, as we release the rubber band and shift slightly to the rear, our energy and tissue drops down and out through the bottoms of our feet, triggering a simultaneous downward and upward ‘bounce’ or spring-like expansion up the back and out the hands. This is whole-body expansion or outward stretching in all directions. Here the idea of energy rising up our back and out our hands is similar to the flow of the Taoist Macrocosmic circulation. I say similar because the actual pathways we wish to manifest are through the Central Channel and center of the spinal column, through the center of the bones, and out the palms or fingertips.
Finally, if one wishes to add the element of breath to all this, it will be found that this method works perfectly with both the Natural and Reverse Breathing models.
Eventually with enough hardwiring, all this up and down and in and out can be reduced to a simplicity: the spherical condensation and expansion to and from our centerpoint - our physical power center and center of gravity. This is very much like the ideal of Tai Chi Chuan where everything comes from and returns to the low Dan Tien, creating a multidimensional, spherical type movement and power. This method is most beneficial to our health as well as for the development of martial Jin.
METHOD 2 - RELEASING THE WRISTS
The Releasing Wrists method follows the exact same pattern as with the first method until just before the apex of the ‘up and out’ portion of the circle. As with Method 1, the speed of the downward release of our back and torso muscles at the critical moment just prior to the ‘up and out’ (with the accompanying weight-shift) will dictate not only the speed of the ‘up and out’ portion of the circle but also the speed of the release of the wrists and hands. Again the slower speeds are for health and training Vertical Circle power, while the more abrupt or sudden types of ‘dropout,’ generate various types of snap or Jin. With Method 2 it is also important to be aware of the various ‘independent’ circles generated by the shoulder-blades, shoulders, elbows, wrists and especially the hands which make tight circles of their own coming out of the wrist (circles.) Each of these ‘independent’ circles are comprised of varying circumferences or ‘Frequencies’ which need to be synchronized to begin and end at the same time. This creates the appearance of one unified upper-body movement.
At this point it is important to take a closer look at the ‘hand’ circles. This concerns the middle and ending of the ‘up and out’ portion of the circle. As the forearms become roughly parallel with the elbow and begin to rise toward their finish, the wrist, and hand circles begin and move to their nadir; at which point the speed of our ‘dropout‘ will generate the speed of our palms rising and turning over. This hand motion should actually be like a reflection or echo of our dropout/release speed. Slow equals slow. Fast equals fast.
THE STAGGERED ALIGNMENT METHOD - BLENDING INTO THE JIANWU
With this method, instead of maintaining the equality of both arms in their mirror positions (Holding the Ball posture) we allow the arm positions to mimic or reflect the front and rear foot placements. This means that in the slightly back-weighted bow-like stance often used in the Jianwu, the front arm (and leg) are more forward than the rear arm (and leg) although both arms are still aligned on the same horizontal plane. Now, with that in place, we simply utilize all the principals of Methods 1 or 2 as desired.
For further refinement, once both methodologies have become hardwired in the staggered alignment, it then becomes possible to emphasize or accent different portions of both arm circles such that the rear arm and hand may generate a tight, circular trapping motion or ‘heavy-hand’ defense, while the front arm simultaneously attacks with Peng Jin, for example. This then can be further refined by adding the forward and backward stepping combinations, after which it is ready to be added to the quiver of our Jianwu techniques.