How to practice Liu Zi Jue – The six healing sounds

Practice Tips

Liu Zi Jue is a set of Qigong exercises for health and fitness. During the exercise breath work, pronunciation and movement are combined. The following provides beginners and advanced practitioners with tips for perfecting the exercise.

Adjusting the mouth forms and feeling the air flow

Mouth forms should be done correctly with particular attention given to pronunciation and air flow. Beginners should find the right mouth form and then exhale with gently making the sound.

Combining the mind with breathing and movements

Renmai
Renmai
Dumai meridian
Dumai meridian

During practice the mind should be relaxed and in tune with the movements and the accompanying prolonged breathing and pronunciation. Excessive effort in the mind and body should be avoided. Focus should be on the breath work in a way that it is combined with physical movements that assists and compliment and enhance the practice.

It helps to relax the body and calm the mind, and dredge such meridians as Renmai (or conception vessel extending along the anterior midline of the body) to improve the circulation of the blood and vital energy.

Breathing with slight control

Liu Zi Jue should be done naturally using regress breathing.

Regress breathing occurs when inhalation is done through the nose and the chest is expanded while pulling in the abdomen. On the out breath this should be reversed through the mouth, increasing upward and downward movements diaphragm. This process both massages the organs and improves the circulation of blood and vital energy. Excessive efforts should be avoided.

Coordinating breathing with slow, realised and gentle movements

During practice even, prolonged and relaxed breathing and pronunciation will achieve the best results.

Step by step for consistency

Find a quiet place to practice in peace, be consistent in your practice. An environment that relaxes and allows the mind to be at peace is essential as is confidence in the exercises health benefits.

This article is based on studies and guidance compiled by the Chinese Health Qigong Association. 

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Learn Liu Zi Jue, the Six Healing Sounds

Introduction

Liu Zi Jue is a traditional Chinese health practice. Liu Zi Jue or Six Healing Sounds is an exercise that regulates and controls the rise and fall of Qi inside the body and related in halation and exhalation through different mouth forms.

The six healing sounds are “XU, HE, HU,SI, CHUI and XI” and their aim is the strengthening of the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys and sanjiao (the three portions of the body cavities housing the internal organs). The exercises are designed to be completed slowly, gently, with extended and graceful movements.

Practitioners of these exercises report not only that they have experienced a general improvement in their quality of life but also that they have experienced an improvement in their social relationships. With decreased family frictions ranking among the top benefits of this practice. This is likely due to the calmness brought about by the gentile breathing movements. Other medical tests have shown positive improvements and curing of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and high blood sugar.

This article is based on the work of the Chinese Health Qigong Association.

Origins and Development of Liu Zi Jue

The term Liu Zi Jue first appears in ‘Caring for the Health of the Mind and Prolonging the Life Span’, – Tao Hongjing of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589).

According to Tao Hongjing a leading figure from the Maoshan School of Taoism. “One has only one way for inhalation, but six for exhalation – CHUI, HU, XI, HE, XU and SI. CHUI gets rid of heat; HU sweeps away wind; XI eliminates worries; HE promotes the circulation of energy; XU drives away cold; and SI reduces stress. Those with heart disease should practice CHUI and HU, to drive away cold and heat. Those with lung disease should practice XU, to relieve swelling. Those who have spleen trouble should practice XI, to eliminate stress. As for those who suffer from liver disease, HE will help to cure it.”

Zou Pu’an of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) in his book ‘The Supreme Knack for Health Preservations’ recommends.

“Don’t listen to anything when pronouncing the sounds. Close your mouth, lower your head after finishing, breath in fresh air from the universe slowly through the nose. Don’t listen to anything when inhaling.”

In terms of the practice it was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that body movements where introduced.

“Open the eyes wide when doing the XU Exercise for the liver. Raise the arms when doing the SI Exercise for the lungs. Stick head up and cross the hands when doing the HE Exercise for the heart. Keep the knees level when doing the CHUI Exercise for the kidneys. Thrust and round the lips when doing the HU Exercise for the spleen, and lie down when doing the XI Exercise to drive heat from Sanjiao”

There are a number of exercises which use elements of Liu Zi Jue. These include Yi Jin Jing (Tendon-Muscle Strengthening Exercises), Emei Zhuang (Emei Stake Exercises), Xing Yi Quan (12-Animal Shadow Boxing), Bagua Zhang (Eight-Diagram Palm), and Da Yan Gong (Wild Goose Exercises). For these exercises the sounds are used to aid these dynamic physical exercises.

Theory

The theoretical basis of the Liu Zi Jue is Traditional Chinese Medicine‘s (TCM) Five Elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), and Five Solid Viscera (heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys).

Characteristic

Mouth forms required for pronunciation

Liu Zi Jue features six special mouth forms and methods of pronunciation to regulate and control the rise and fall of qi in the body and related to inhalation and exhalation.

Combining breathing and movements with cultivation of energy

Through combined use of breath work, pronunciation, and physical movement practitioners can benefit from “proper internal circulation of energy vital for the health, and those who know the ways to apply strength and the ways to relax can expect a long life’ – Ge Hong of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420).

Dynamics infused in calmness and flowing grace

During practice pronunciation should be even and extended and the movements relaxed and slow. Regulated breathing should be even during the postures cultivating a calm and dynamic state.

Simple, reliable and effective

The six sounds are pronounced during exhalations and accompany nice movements as well as the preparatory and concluding postures. The exercise is easy to learn and practice making it practical.

Tips for practicing Yi Jin Jing

Integration of mind and body with a relaxed spirit

Yi Jin Jing is a qigong set and like most other qigong sets it should be practiced with a relaxed spirit and peaceful mind. The mind should thus follow the movements and should be coordinated with the circulation of qi with the body’s movements. Meanwhile concentration is required to accompany individual movements.

For Example:

  • The mind should concentrate on the palms during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine
  • The mind should be focused on the Mingmen point at the back of the waist while fixing the eyes on the upper palm during the routine 4 of Plucking a Star and Exchanging a Star Cluster.
  • The mind should be focused on the palms during the Black Dragon Displaying Its Claws routine.

Other movements require imagination, not consciousness to accompany them. Among them are:

  • Three Plates Falling on the Floor
  • Displaying Paw Style Palms like a White Crane Spreading Its Wings
  • Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails
  • Bowing Down in Salutation

Natural Breathing

  • Breathing throughout the exercise should be relaxed and easy. This is particularly important when:
  • lifting the hands during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine
  • when expanding the arms and chest during the Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails routine,
  • and when expanding the arms and chest and relaxing the shoulders during the Nine Ghosts Drawing Swords routine.

This is because the chest cavity expands and contracts during these movements, and should be allowed to do so freely and to the full.

Free and unrestrained inhalation is particularly required when:

  • lifting the hands during the Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3 routine,
  • and when expanding the arms and chest during the Nine Ghosts Drawing the Swords routine,
  • while natural exhalation is required when relaxing the shoulders in this routine,
  • when withdrawing the arms in Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails routine,
  • and when pushing out the palms in Displaying Paw-style Palms like a White Crane Spreading Its Wings routine

The reason for this is because the chest cavity expands and contracts during these movements, and should be allowed to do so freely and to the full.

YiJinJing

Softness in toughness with the interplay of the substantial and insubstantial

“The softness and toughness of the exercise movements interchange throughout the practice. When stretched or relaxed, they display a dialectical relationship of a unity of opposites, in the same way as the reactions of Yin and Yang, the two opposing and interactive aspects of the body according to traditional Chinese medicine. Various movements require the practitioners to relax for a while after strength is applied, and suitable force is required after softness or relaxation. In this way, the movements will not be stiff and restrained or slack and fatigued.” – Chinese Health Qigong Association

Movements should be appropriately firm and gentile instead of going to extremes. Whether with too much force or with too much slackness.

Flexibility in performance and articulation of “HAI”

The range of movements and extension of postures in Yi Jin Jing are adaptable for all ages working from easier to more difficult.

When squatting and pressing the hands down during the Three Plates Falling on the Floor routine, the sound “HAI” is made. By doing this the practitioner helps move the breath and vital energy to the Dantian. It also has the advantage of avoiding restraint of the lower limbs caused by the squatting motion and upward flow of air back to the head. It also helps to strengthen the Dantian and the kidneys. The sound should be produced from the throat and concentrated at the Yinjiao point of the upper gum.

Full video teaching the Yi Jin Jing from the Chinese Health Qigong Association.

This article has been based on the information provided from the Chinese Health Qigong Association. If you would like to learn Yi Jin Jing there are a number of special qigong retreats where this is possible.

Learn the Yi Jin Jing

Introduction

Yi Jin Jing is an exercise from ancient China. The features of this classical traditional Chinese health practice include extended, soft and even movements that flex the spine invigorate the limbs and internal organs. As an exercise it should be performed in a way that integrates the mind, body and spirit, during the practice practitioners must remain relaxed. If you would like to learn Yi Jin Jing there are a number of special qigong retreats where this is possible.

This article details guidance from the Chinese Health Qigong Association on how to best perform the exercise.

The origins

According to some historians the Yi Jin Jing has its origins in primitive shamanistic rituals. Prototypes of these basic movements where found in a 2000 year old text called Illustration of Qi Conduction. Others however, credit Bodhidharma the Indian Buddhist monk and originator of Shaolin Kung Fu with the creation of the Yi Jin Jing. Whether this is true or not it is undisputed that the monks of the Shaolin Temple played a significant role in the evolution of the Yi Jin Jing exercises.

Learn Yi Jin Jing
Learn Yi Jin Jing

“The earliest account of the modern 12 movement exercises is included in the Illustrations of Internal Exercise compiled by Pan Wei in 1858 in the Qing Dynasty. As traditional Yi Jin Jing relies heavily on traditional Chinese medicine theory of the Five Elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth – different schools of the exercise have sprung up emphasising this aspect in many works.” – Chinese Qigong Association.

Characteristics

Smooth and extended movements to stretch the bones and tendons

A full range of motion is required related to the bones and joints. Bones are flexed and muscle groups along with tendons and ligaments are stretched. The result leads to improved blood circulation and nutrition supersession in the soft tissues. Thus enhancing mobility and strength in all directions.

Soft and even movements for coordinated grace

The modern version of the Yi Jin Jing links the 12 movements making the exercise both easier to understand as well as graceful. Limbs are flexed in curved natural range with the joints axis. When strength is required it is applied gradually combined with a tenderness of movement.

Focus on spine turning and flexing

The Yi Jin Jing movements focus on the spines, vertebrae, ligaments and the spinal cord through twisting and stretching movements. The movements must be done with a relaxed body and mind in order to gain the most health benefits. These benefits include improved fitness, prevention of disease, longevity and improved intellect.

Practice tips for performing Ba Duan Jin Correctly

Practice Tips

Be Relaxed, Calm and Natural

A relaxed state of mind better eliminates psychological and physiological stresses. A relaxed body better tones muscles joints and organs. Calmness without distraction is the key. The correct mood and environment play a big part in effective practice.

Be Accurate but Flexible

Follow the set practice, the body positions and stances. Using a mirror will be very helpful in the beginning to ensure the directions and angles of the movements are adhered too.

Combine Practice and Conservation

The rigor of the postures and movements, and the application of strength used should be adjusted in accordance with the physical conditions of the practitioner so correct performance is achieved gradually. This will also apply to the adjustment of the breath. Maintaining balance in practice is the key. Balance of mind, body and spirit.

Graduated Progress

Beginners should take it step by step, adjusting practice gradually. Begin with natural breathing and work gradually up to deep breathing through constant and consistent practice.

This article has been based on the detailed works provided by the Chinese Health Qigong Association. Step by step descriptions of the routines can be ordered for free. The only cost will be in the ordering and delivery. Each book ordered includes a DVD allowing proper practice in real time.

For those interested in qigong courses and retreats. Click the following link.

An Introduction to Wuji Quan

Wujiquan (Chinese (無極拳): Pinyin: Wujiquan; Wade-Giles: Wu Chi Chuan): ‘Ultimate Void Boxing’: Is a rare and Secret Ultimate Void Boxing Skill, and is said to be the Mother Art of Taijiquan; from Wuji comes Tai-ji. The Wujiquan System is composed of 36 ‘Characters’: 18 kinds of natural climatic phenomena, and 18 of Qi applications.

One of the rarest of traditional Shaolin Boxing systems, Wujiquan is also one of the purest of traditional Chinese soft-internal boxing systems(Neijia): being taught to very few in its entirety and only after years of rigorous training and testing for aptitude; it never became widely known, which meant that unlike the better known, Taijiquan, there was no opportunity for the system to undergo the experimentation and mixing with other systems and arts which during recent centuries led to the variety of styles which characterize Taijiquan.

wujiheader3

Wu Ji boxing comes from the “Yi Jing” or ”Book of Changes”. Taiji is born from the state of Wu Ji (complete nothingness, or complete harmony with the universe). Yin Yang, or a single continuous line running from one point across to another, is born from the state of Taiji (Taiji gives rise to Yin Yang). A single line stretching between 2 points gives rise to a surface area or square (Yin Yang gives rise to 4 directions or surface area). A surface area or square gives rise to 8 trigrams or a 3 dimensional cube (4 directions give rise to 8 trigrams or 8 directions).

“Wuji quan” is the martial applications and techniques handed down from Wu’s ancestors.

The Wuji quan curriculum

After students are trained in the elementary level of Wu Ji, two disciplines become the focus, one of which is called Hun Yuan and the other is called Ba Gua Zhang.

The training system incorporates: 

Wu Ji Health Exercise System.

Wu Ji Standing Postures

Wu Ji 12 single movement training

Wu Ji leg and root training

Hun Yuan Discipline ↙       ↓      ↘ Ba Gua Discipline

      Wu Ji’s 18 rules

Hun Yuan Palm (1)    Wu Ji internal strength secret  Ba Gua Palm’s Upper body work/ upper body energy

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (2)    Wu Ji medical knowledge skills   Ba Gua Palm’s Root and leg work/ root and leg energy

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (3)   Wu Ji Dim Mak or acupoint striking Ba Gua Palm’s 9 cross- pattern footwork

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (4)    Ba Gua Palm’s Spirit and energy training

Wu Ji’s methods of diet and nutrition

  ↘          ↓        ↙

      Soft silk palm technique

   Cloud hands palm

   Silk pulling palm technique

   Explosive palm technique

Wu Ji elementary level

The middle-aged and the elderly can also practice the Wu Ji’s Health Exercise System and Wu Ji’s 6 essential guiding principles.

Wu Ji’s five-animal boxing forms (Wu Qin Xi) including:

Head rotations, Crane drinking, Wolf observes all directions, Hen sleeps and Ape reflexes.

Wu Ji’s 32 body building boxing: in addition to the 5 aforementioned animal forms, it also includes: Opening the trunk energy and internal splitting energy.

Wu Ji Standing Postures (for juveniles)

Leg and root training and energy/power training (for juveniles)

Wu Ji intermediate levelwuji-becomes-taiji

According to one’s body condition, there are two disciplines. The Ba Gua discipline is for those who don’t have high blood pressure, and includes:

Upper body work/ upper body energy work

Root and leg work/ root and leg energy work, 9 cross-pattern footwork and Spirit and energy training (more information can be found in the form treatise).

The Hun Yuan discipline’s foundations are based on internal energy. The first set of Hun Yuan Palm, the second set, the third and the fourth can be found in the form treatise.

Internal applications and techniques

  1. Internal secrets: internal elementary training methods.
  2. Dim Mak or acupoint striking (please refer to the Form treatise).
  3. Medical knowledge skills:

Martial artists should be aware of proper diet and nutrition and watch what they eat and what their meals are composed of. Internal applications and techniques are practiced by both schools – Hun Yuan and Ba Gua.

  1. Wu Ji’s 18 rules are the main applications and techniques of Wu Ji’s internal skills. Internal skills can also improve the practitioners’ external skills.

In the beginning, people can work on their internal power by means of external exercises. When they get to a certain stage with their internal energy work, they should then focus on working on their internal skills and energy to improve their external skills.

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无极拳简介

无极拳来源于易经,(无极生太极,太极生两仪,两仪生四象,四象生八卦),它是吴家的祖传拳法。祖先吴岐仙所传,到我这辈已有6代。我爷爷不会拳法,是我太爷传给我父亲的。再往上推称吴岐仙是谁传的无法考证。

无极拳分为初级阶段拳法、中级阶段拳法和高级阶段拳法,还有共同学习的内路拳法。

无极拳的图解

无极拳初级练完后,可分为两大派,一派是浑混元派,另一派是八卦派。

无极健身拳

无极架子拳

无极十二单式

无极腿工

              混元派↙       ↓      ↘八卦派

                无极十八则

 

            混元掌(一)    无极内功秘诀  天门八卦掌

              

            混元掌(二)    无极医道术    地门八卦掌

               

            混元掌(三)    无极点穴术    九宫八卦掌

               

            混元掌(四)    无极武德学说  神门八卦掌

                           

                 无极善饮术

              ↘        ↓       ↙

               棉丝掌

云盘掌

丝旋掌

幻影掌

1      无极初级拳

1     中老年人可学习无极健身拳

1         无极健身六崇诀

2         无极小五禽戏:匀首、鹤饮、狼顾、雉睡、猿伸

3         无极三十二健身术:以上五种外、干疏、内搓等(见健身篇)。

2  无极架子拳  适合青少年

3  腿法、功法  适合青少年

2      无极中级拳

根据个人的身体情况,分为两大派系。走八卦派的,适合没有高血压的人。天门、地门、九宫、神门详见拳谱。

混元派是在内功基础上进行的。第一套混元掌,第二套、第三套、第四套详见拳谱。

3      内路拳法

1、内功秘诀:内功初级练法,内功层次划分,九言真经之一、之二、之三,最后为九阳真经。

2、点穴术(见拳谱)

3、医道术:摔打受伤的拿法、药法

4、善饮术:练功人吃什么、配餐等

内路拳法是两大派共同学习的。

5、无极十八则是无极内功拳术的主要拳法,用内带外。练拳人开始都以外功代内功。放拳练到一定阶段,内功大增,就要以内功代外功。

The Shaolin Mountain Run

The infamous Shaolin mountain run is fundamental part of Shaolin Kung Fu training. Whether you’re studying at one of the many kung fu schools in and around the Songshan Shaolin Temple or somewhere else, the run normally begins each morning before breakfast, or at minimum takes place once a week. This type of mid-distance hill climb not only pushes the body but the will power of students as they charge up and down the mountain, often descending steep steps on all fours.  This type of traditional training places emphasis on strength and stamina. It separates the weak from the chaff.

In order to properly prepare yourself before you arrive in China as well as improve your strength, stamina and potential running times I’ve put together these three core running workouts that you can do throughout the week.

cen-21. Aerobic Workouts and Preparation:

The mountain run is all about running at a consistent and comfortable speed with the right cadence to reduce effort and build fat-burning exnzymes, cardiovascular endurance, and time on your feet.  Alternating between long runs and short sprint training is a good tactic as a training method. As is making sure you start your hill climb in the knowledge that a power hike on the upward climb might be more efficient than running until you’ve built up your endurance and stamina. Power hiking is something that can also be trained for and is an excellent way to keep your heart rate in check. Another highly recommended tip is to swap your kung fu shoes for running shoes. Kung Fu shoes are super cool and excellent for form practice, but for the sake of injury prevention do the mountain run in your running shoes. You’ll thank me later.

2. Threshold Workouts:

The threshold is where your body begins to use more glycogen for energy and less fat, and when you train at and slightly above it, you can “raise the roof,” so to speak, so you can run faster at easier efforts (pretty cool). There are several workouts that you can fit in this slot, below are three.

How to find “threshold effort”: You know you’re at this effort when things start to feel uncomfortable, and it’s hard to talk. If you can get out one word responses, you’re there. If you can tell me what you did last night, you need to pick things up. If you’re gasping for air, slow it down. Because this is a physiologically based run, it works best when running by your effort rather than a pace; as you gain fitness, your pace will improve or you may slow down when the elements are challenging (heat and humidity). At the kung fu school its relatively easy to bond with other students. Finding a running partner is not going to be difficult. Doing the mountain run together and talking to each other supporting and driving each other you are able to find your threshold effort. With your partner you can select a combination of the three workouts or choose the most appropriate one that fits with your training schedule.

Five-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat four to five times: Run five minutes at or slightly above your threshold. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

2 or 3 x 10-Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeat two to three times: Run 10 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Recover by jogging easy for two minutes in between. Start with two repeats and build to three over time (maybe even next season). Cool down running five minutes easy and walking three minutes slowly.

20-30 Minute Tempo Workout:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Run 20-30 minutes at or slightly above your threshold effort. Cool down running 10 minutes at an easy effort and walking 3 minutes slowly.

Mountain Run

3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts):

These workouts may be the hardest effort-wise, but they also make the most dramatic changes in aerobic fitness, speed, metabolism and caloric burn, and overall fitness. My favourite HIIT Workout is:

1-2-3 Intervals:
Warm up three minutes walking. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort (conversational).
Repeats two to three times: Run one minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone. Recover with one minute easy walk or jog. Run two minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and one minute jogging easy to catch your breath and recover. Run three minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and two minutes jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Another option for your third workout is to alternate HIIT speed intervals one week with hill repeats the next. In both cases, you are working at a high intensity–in one, focusing on speed; in the other, building strength.

Workouts 4-5: Training on three running days is an effective strategy, but it also works well when you fill in the gaps with strength training and a low-impact cardio activity like deep stance training or static holds. Since your three running days all lie on the harder end of the effort scale, keep the stance training and strength workouts to an easy to moderate effort. That way, you won’t miss recovery along the way and get into a chronically fatigued state by training too hard.

As you put these workouts together, it will look a little something like this (this is a sample training plan):

Monday: Easy-effort stance and strength training
Tuesday: Interval workout (1-2-3s)
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 14 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, light moving qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong, taichi 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training, qigong 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Mountain run (repeats or hilly road)
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, stance training, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 16 miles
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga (light stretching)

Monday: Easy-effort stance training 30 min. and strength training
Tuesday: Easy aerobic run — 45-60 min.
Wednesday: Easy-effort qigong, taichi 45-60 min.
Thursday: Tempo workout (5 x 5 min.)
Friday: Easy-effort stance training, static holds 30 min. and strength training
Saturday: Long run — 10 miles (race effort: five easy miles, four at moderate effort, one mile hard)
Sunday: Rest or restorative yoga, qigong, taichi (light stretching)

The Mountain run schedule might look something like this:
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run 4x; race-effort run, easy, moderate, one hard
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountian Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; conversational, happy effort
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; race-effort run
Mountain Run; 4x race effort

This is a fun, effective way to improve your mountain run times with less overall impact on your body; however, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not a beginner’s plan–so ease yourself into it.

3 Reasons to Track Your Fitness

Today there are so many fitness trackers available for you to choose from various bands, watches and apps. All these gadgets are equipped with accelerometers and sensors to track you all day (and night) long. But do they really work or are they just a gimmick? Here are 3 reasons why if used correctly they can help you become fitter and healthier.

1. You can see your fitness goals: It’s one thing to have a sense of how healthy you are, but it’s another thing to see the numbers. Many fitness trackers can record your steps, calories burned, and sleep, so if you’re not meeting your goals in one or more of those categories, you’ll be able to see it in no time. Fitness trackers force you to be aware of your fitness shortcomings so you can modify habits as necessary.

2. You can track your progress: Investing in a fitness tracker forces you to think about what you’d like to get out of your workout routine. Many trackers allow you to add goals — like steps per day or calories burned — so you can keep tabs on whether or not you are progressing. It’s nice to have numbers backing up just how much more fit and active you’ve been feeling and to use as a basis for future goals.

3. You can push yourself safely: Listening to your body is the best way to know your limits, but having extra help doesn’t hurt. Many fitness trackers compile the data they collect from your daily habits to show you trends over time. That means that if you find that you’re being too sedentary on your non-workout days or that you aren’t burning as many calories as you thought in yoga class, you’ll be armed with the information you need to modify your workout routine or your daily activity habits.
Source: Instagram User supertall007

Here’s few of the best on the market

Fitbit Surge ($153+)455645-fitbit-surge

The Fitbit Surge is a sophisticated touch-screen wristwatch. It not only tracks your steps and sleep, but also alerts you to incoming phone calls and text messages, keeps tabs on your heart rate with a built-in optical heart rate monitor, uses GPS to track outdoor activity, and has much more functionality especially for runners.

PROS

Continuous heart rate monitoring. Built-in GPS. Comfortable, secure fit. Tracks new activities like hiking, yoga, and weight-lifting workouts. Excellent app and easy syncing. Supports incoming texts and call notifications. Accurate.

CONS

Limited push notifications. Moderately large. Not waterproof for swimming. Below average battery life with GPS enabled. Charger not interchangeable with other Fitbits.

BOTTOM LINE

With continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS, and broad appeal, the Fitbit Surge is the best all-day fitness tracker to date.

 

Garmin Forerunner 735XT ($307+)505861-garmin-forerunner-735xt

The Garmin Forerunner series blends the best fitness trackers with all the features you expect from running watches. Additionally it offers a 24/7 activity and sleep tracker with continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS, push notifications, and special features for triathletes. It’s not cheap but it manages to be both lightweight and excellent battery life. If you’re a hardcore martial artist who love to compete in triathlons this is the one for you.

PROS

Excellent for triathletes. GPS. Optical heart rate monitor. Tracks steps, sleep, heart rate, and an array of activities. Supports push notifications. Waterproof. Lightweight. Top-notch battery life.

CONS

Expensive. Not comfortable to wear while sleeping. More sporty than elegant.

BOTTOM LINE

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT fitness tracker gives pertinent information to triathletes about their sports, including advice you don’t often see, like recovery time. It’s comprehensive and easy to use but will set you back a pretty penny.

 

xiaomi-mi-band-1411724768-y3l7-column-width-inline-1421248072-Zgnt-column-width-inlineXiaomi Mi Band Pulse ($19+)

Best for those on a budget and now available outside of China, the Mi Band Pulse is cheap and cheerful, yet somehow manages to pack heart rate monitoring onto the wrist for an astonishing price. Xiaomi has shifted over a million of its bands in China alone, possibly making this the ultimate fitness tracker. On a down side the main body of the tracker does of a tendency to fall out if you are too rough with it. So don’t keep it on when doing pad work. Another down side is that it will does have a tendency to over estimate your steps in most cases.

Feature check: HR tracking, steps, sleep, smart alarms, incoming call alerts.

PROS
Ridiculously cheap, Easy to wear, easy to use, HRM works for resting rates, Works with Google Fit/Apple Health

CONS

Can overestimate steps, Heart rate goes haywire during exercise, Basic app, Sleep tracking is hit and miss

 

Moov Now ($45+)moov-now-1438020833-ll2s-column-width-inline-1438619840-t0qI-column-width-inline

Is one of the best for getting fit. Geared towards helping you be better at the sports you love, rather than reporting how you did. It’s an easy and compelling sell, and for our money, is what wearable tech should be about. Some of the misgivings remain: the need to carry your smartphone being the biggest downside to the device.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, advanced sports coaching, run/bike tracking.

PROS

Coaches and track, Displays progress, Great for all abilities, 6 months battery life

CONS

Need to take your phone running, Coach’s voice is robotic and annoying, Daily activity         tracking is basic, Strap comes undone now and then.

 

Charity Miles ($4.99+)467513-charitymiles

Earn money for charities every time you run, walk, or bicycle by using the free Charity Miles app. Corporate sponsors (whose information you’ll see as a backdrop image in the app) agree to donate a few cents for every mile you complete. Browse the app’s list of charities, find the one that you support, and then hit the road. When a lot of people use Charity Miles, those little bits of money add up.

Using this app you can rack up some serious miles. With this app you can get fit while donating to some excellent charities. The new UI is very clean and visually appealing. Both the GPS and indoor tracking are for the most part reliable. On the downside view the history can be annoying. The activity log looks nice and is easy to navigate but needs to also have the ability to see the length of time each run was.

 

FitStarr ($7.99 per month or $39.99 per year)467529-358828-fitstar

FitStar creates custom workouts for you based on your fitness level. You start by doing a few workouts with the app and you give it feedback as you go about which exercises were too tough, too easy, or just right. The app uses that information to create a routine that challenges you in all the right ways. FitStar was purchased by Fitbit in 2015 and now works with some Fitbit devices. The in-app coach is former NFL player Tony Gonzalez, a beefy workout buddy who is nothing but a bundle of positive, cheery feedback, and absolutely no excuses.

It is customize to you and after each workout you should feel like you’ve accomplished something. The great thing is it sync with your Fitbit (Fitbit actually recommend this app). You get free sessions but for premium its a steal instead of going to the gym and probably having to pay twice as much. With this app and eating right you will lose weight in no time.

If you make a purchase use our links and help support the www.StudyMartialArts.Org project.

 

Kung Fu in Thailand: Back to Centre

It’s Saturday, my last rest day at Nam Yang this trip as I depart for Chiang Mai on Wednesday for a few days R & R before returning to Canada. Life is good here. I’ve made gains in strength, flexibility and sleeping patterns, learning so many new martial arts principles and practices of Shaolin Kung Fu while generally centring myself. I’d like to devote this entry mainly to the theme of centring, which relates directly to my back injury and overall goal for coming here.

IMG_0868
I had concluded my previous entry with a discussion of how the intensive training, about 8 hours a day, had re-stimulated my back injury. A disc herniation on the right hand side of my lower lumbar spine was exasperated by the large number of flexion activities performed many times a day, often held for periods of a time. I was trying to be positive about it but feeling pretty down. I got up the next day at about 5:30 am and went down for our morning Chi Kung session at 6. I’d not woken up with that much back pain in years. By the time we got into the Chi Kung practice I was in a downward spiral and going through a lot emotions. As we moved into the stepping meditation I began to calm my mind and bring focus to the practice. Master Iain passed by and reminded me to drop my tailbone; this helps root one’s stance and sink the Chi, accompanied by engaging muscles around the lower Dantien. Doing this automatically brings me back to centre, of which a major benefit seemed to be an immediate relieving of pressure on my back.

I practiced this process of dropping the tailbone, grounding the stance and coming back to my centre many times. I did this not just in our Kung Fu practice but continuously throughout the day. Not only was it improving my Kung Fu stance and helping relieve back pain, it brought a general awareness to my posture and state of mind. This process of coming back to my centre has become a mindfulness practice for me and is something I shall carry forward into my life. I used to do a lot of this at one time. In my twenties I became certified as a fitness instructor integrating Yoga and meditation with some Chi Kung into what I called the “Whole Fitness Workout”, which I taught into my thirties. I often used to tuck under my tailbone and pull in my lower Dantien. It developed a keen awareness of my physical movement centre building good muscle tone in my lower abdomen. I pretty much let that go after injuring my back; it was all I could do just to keep standing and walking for a couple years. Going through this back injury re-stimulation and healing process at Nam Yang I’ve become aware of some unhealthy postural habits on which I will have to work. I think I unconsciously started getting more of a curve back in my lumbar spine to protect my back against flexion, which seems to have been accompanied by a loosening of the musculature and loss of tone in my lower abdomen. I had started noticing this recently at the gym (too much mirror gazing?) when checking form and was wondering about it; with my centring mindfulness practice the awareness has come together. It took years to create this situation but hopefully not so long to correct and maintain it. Even sitting here now I must be reminding myself self to lower the tailbone and maintain my centre.

IMG_0887
Me doing a slash and block with my favorite Tan Tao (broadsword) flanked by the two great Nagas (Dragons) in front of Nam Yang’s Buddha House.

Maintaining one’s centre, like many of the principle lessons in our Kung Fu practice has numerous applications for life. Indeed, coming into and maintaining my centre was an overarching goal I had shared with Sifu Iain in my initial contact email inquiring about the possibility of training at Nam Yang. “As a goal at Nam Yang I would love to leave with a set of basic fundamentals to carry forward in my personal practice…(and) am especially interested in cultivating a state of mind conducive to maintaining my centre and living graciously amidst the challenges of this beautiful, troubled world.” It’s amazing how things can come together and somewhat blows my mind just reading this. I think the trick for me will be to keep up with this mindfulness practice even when I’m not in pain. I recall Master Iain’s teaching that with this work you can change your life, “You can change who you are.” The word “Kung Fu” is made up of two characters. I understand that the first character for “Kung” means something like “hard work” or “skillful training”; the second character for “Fu” refers to “time spent”. So “Kung Fu” might be translated as “time spent in hard work or skillful training”. Master Iain often quotes his Sifu, Master Tan. One of his most repeated aphorisms is that the secret to learning Kung Fu involves two things: first start, then don’t stop.

Master Iain mentioned at tea that while many other martial arts teach mechanics and techniques, Shaolin Kung Fu teaches principles. The lesson of maintaining my centre fits very well with this philosophy. Like with any other Kung Fu skill, I know mastering the lesson of maintaining my centre will take time and effort to change my life, but it will be time well spent. I’m already feeling the benefits, both in terms of my Kung Fu and my back. Of course along with maintaining my centre I have been modifying activities that involve flexion; yet I have been able to perform most of the others with vigour. It’s been two days since the flare up of my herniated disc and I’m feeling so much better; in the past that much pain would have taken a lot longer to settle down. Another factor to which I attribute this quick turn around is the strength and flexibility I have built up from the waist down since starting the training. These are also principles and practices that I will take with me.

the other is doing the broadsword salute with Moon behind.
Doing the broadsword salute with Moon behind.

I had checked the weather for Canmore back home and was -30; meanwhile I’ve training here in +35. A 65 degree difference, wow! I got a ride into town on one of the scooters which is the standard means of transport and finally got to amble down “Walking Street” on my own in Pai. Walking Street is a Thai phenomenon and a must see for tourists. Starting around 6 p.m. the street is lit up and packed with a cacophony of street vendors and performers, bars and taverns, discos, restaurants, tea shops and a myriad of nightlife in a carnivalesque atmosphere, replete with red light district in some of the larger cities. This happens pretty much every night, but one of the most famous is the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai. I was there but couldn’t get up the juice to go when I first arrived. The one in Pai is no where near as big, but wonderful, even magical. There are so many brilliant artists and artisans selling their wares it can be a little overwhelming: a genius every block. Moreover, the Thai people are so wonderful, beautiful and patient, it really is very touching, and oh boy can they cook! I must have had fresh banana or banana-coconut shake at every vendor. Another special aspect in Pai is its proximity to the local hill tribes. You see a lot of tribal culture and crafts for different peoples like the Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Hmong, each with a distinct language and culture, many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution in the surrounding region. They are agriculturalists and hunters; I was hunting for gifts to bring home and scored big time! I won’t go into the details and spoil a surprise but I did pick up a gorgeous Hmong shoulder bag for 250 Baht, which is about 8 and a half dollars Canadian. It was made from the recycled clothes of a high ranking family, the likes of which are not being made so much anymore.

Anyhow, we train early in the morning and I shall have to try and sleep through the throbbing music echoing off the hills. I have three days of training left and really want to make the most of it! More to say, but for now it’s good night.

Much Love and warmth from Thailand!

by David Lertzman

David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount  Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.

Training At Kunyu Mountain Shaolin Kung Fu School

‘The following is a short diary from a student who studied at Kunyu Mountain Shaolin Kung Fu Academy during the October holidays. In this short blog he breaks down each days training. ‘

At Kunyu Shan you have a choice of doing one of the Shaolin martial arts styles, Wing Chun or Bagua. I chose Shaolin with Shifu Gao.

Kunyu Mountain
Monday:

Tai Chi starting at 6.00am, this is optional but highly recommended. Afterwards you do Qi Gong for 20 minutes followed by breakfast.

Breakfast consists of rice / sweet rice porridge, rice bread, bread, and eggs. You can take your pick of everything. I recommend bringing (or buying once you’ve arrived) some honey / jam / peanut butter to put on the bread. As this bread is served with every meal so you can always eat this.

After breakfast you have about hour to relax, then “Line up”. You meet with your master, then go on the morning run with your group, around 1km at a pretty decent pace. You loop back to the compound and begin training immediately.

You’ll warm up, then start learning shaolin basics for 1.5 hours (kicks, punches, stances, flying elbows, the lot). This is reasonably intense.

30 minutes break.

After the break you’ll go straight into learning “forms” for 1.5 hours. This is reasonably relaxed.

Lunch – this consists of a buffet of 2 vegetable based dishes, and one meat based dish. You can take the amount you want of each. The food isn’t too great, but it’s not too bad either. Some days are better than other, for example one day you get steamed meat dumplings, and another chicken on a stick and potato wedges.

I normally took a nap after lunch until 14.00. Second line up is at 14.30.

Finally, run the same 1km, then straight into Sanda training for 1.5 hours. This generally involves reasonably high intensity drills, basics, and pad work. There is very little practise sparring, so if you’re into competitive fighting, I recommend Muay Thai or somewhere else.

Finally you’ll have dinner, which is extremely similar to the lunch. Again, I recommend bringing something to put on bread for afterwards.

After this you can do what you like, some extra training, table tennis, watch a movie, take a shower, etc. (There is no time to shower in the morning, and hot water is only turned on in the evening for 3-4 hours.)

The structure of the rest of the week is the same, the only difference being what you studying during the three lesson periods of the day.

Tuesday:

Tai Chi

Conditioning – Partner up and get punched in the stomach, pectorals, shoulders, lats, floating ribs, kicks to the inside and outside of the thighs. Then high intensity punch bag work without gloves, which absolutely shredded my knuckles and they’re only just starting to heal now 1.5 weeks later.

Power training – Reasonably standard anaerobic training, sprints, bear crawls, bunny hops, hopping, planking, v-sits, etc.

Wednesday:

Tai Chi

Acrobatics – Jumping kicks, forward rolls, backward rolls, forward break-falls, backward break-falls, side break-falls, etc. Some of the backward break-falls are very difficult at first, and if you mess them up you will end up hitting your head / winding yourself. But once you get them, they’re relatively painless. This whole lesson is conducted on top of large reasonably firm padded matts. (The same matts used in the Sanda ring).

Forms.

Sanda.

Thursday:10599536_1557778751112613_2335631134442809634_n

Tai Chi

Shaolin Basics.

Rest

Power Stretching – some risk of getting injured during this, but it seems that the Shifu’s are starting to understand this now, and they were reasonably nice about it. Apparently they used to push people way too far during power stretching, but I found this to be okay. But I’m also reasonably flexible to start with from years of Tae Kwon Do training. The worst part was holding a specific shoulder stretch for 3 minutes, for two sets, with threats if anyone failed of whole group punishment.

Friday:

Tai Chi

Shaolin Basics

Ring Sparring – During this period everyone gets together to watch people sparring in the Sanda ring. If your Shifu has given you permission you may seek someone to spar against and get into the ring. Generally, with the exception of a couple individuals who have cleared sparred before, the level of sparring was quite poor. I believe this is because as I previously stated, there is a lack of any practise sparring. You learn all the techniques, but this is not enough in my opinion.

Mountain Stair Climb – This involves a leisurely walk up one of the mountains to a temple. You then have to run up and down it as many times as you can in 1.5 hours. Make sure you don’t overdo it on this, running down 300 odd stairs will literally destroy your knees – so at the very least take it very slow on the way down, then power on the way up.

Conclusion

The training was very physically intensive, from what I’ve written it may not sound it, but even lessons like “Shaolin basic’s” is relentless – constant jumping, shouting, powerful techniques, etc. My main advice is that the fitter you are before you come to Kunyu the more you’ll be able to enjoy it!

P.s. The Shifu’s dish out punishment with large 5-6 foot staffs. I didn’t see it happen whilst I was there, but if you break the rules you will get staffed. And they don’t hold back.

by Steve Hoult

Steve Hoult was a StudyMartialArts.Org student who went to Kunyu Shan for a week during October. For a full and more independent reviews of the school visit the StudyMartialArts.Org website. When you book your training do it through the StudyMartialArts.Org for discounts, extra service and a welcome pack full of language learning materials and martial arts information.