I am currently working on a video project currently that will result in an instructional DVD for joint opening and loosening exercises as taught in my qìgōng (氣功) and tàijí (t’ai chi -太極) classes. I have finished all of the filming, almost 2 hours of footage, but still need to do much editing. The target price is set at $20. I want it to keep it inexpensive so that it is accessible to more people.
The joint opening and loosening exercise set makes for an excellent daily qìgōng routine. It is relatively simple to perform and only takes between 10 to 15 minutes to complete depending on pace. By opening and loosening the joints, you are also helping to open the acupuncture channels in the body, thereby aiding in the circulation of your qì and blood. There is a saying in China that roughly translates to “a used door hinge never rots.” Regular practice of this set while working on becoming more correct in how you do the set will bring you many worthwhile benefits.
It is also Jīběngōng (基本功).
Jīběngōng translates roughly as basic exercises. This set of joint opening and loosening exercises serves as a set of basic training exercises for developing foundational skills in tàijí. Having open and loose joints is a requirement in tàijí, and in my opinion is an important part of the “sinking” that is also part of tàijí. Doing this set regularly and correctly will help build part of your martial arts foundation.
The DVD consists of 4 parts, not counting opening and closing remarks.
Part 1 of the DVD is a demonstration of the set of exercises for the purpose of following along in order to memorize the sequence or to serve as a reference. I have uploaded part 1 to YouTube as a freebie, and it can be found here:
Part 2 of the DVD consists of a breakdown of how to do the individual movements. There is much more to it than meets the eye. Based on appearances, this is a simple set of range of motion exercises for the major joints of the body. If done conventionally, this set has value in that is keeps you moving and able to maintain range of motion into your old age if practiced carefully and daily. However, I do these movements in a specific manner driven by awareness. Done this way, this set is a vehicle for discovery of what it means for a joint to be open and how to maintain that openness. Having open joints, in my opinion, is not only a basic requirement for internal martial arts and for allowing forces to pass through the body, but it is also an important part of good qìgōng, allowing for better circulation of the qì and blood. I feel that if physical forces can get stuck in your body at certain points, then the qì and blood flow can be negatively affected at those points as well.
Learning the material in this part of the DVD is very important, otherwise you will not get beyond the conventional, and you will miss out on all the additional benefits to be had. It is difficult to explain in writing about the “how to,” but there are two general things to keep in mind while doing the set. 1) You must relaxedly extend outwards so it is as if the body is expanded in a non-forced manner. The wording is a bit weird when you consider that there are certain angles involved with some of the movements, but I hope you get the drift of that idea. It is much clearer in the video instruction. 2) Care must be taken to not involve any muscles / parts of the body that are not actually necessary for the movements. Use only enough to allow the movements to happen. You would be surprised at how much unnecessary movement you do all day long without even realizing it, much of which makes you very non efficient.
It is also important to note that you will be able to learn much of what I explain by watching, thoroughly contemplating, and practicing the movements as indicated in part 2. However, hands-on instruction is the best method for learning this type of material. If you do decide to practice this on your own, you can always schedule a private lesson with me for corrections and pointers for improvement.
Part 3 of the DVD is also very important for learning this set correctly. It contains methods for testing whether or not you are doing the movements correctly. This requires another person to administer light physical challenges for you to overcome while performing the movements of the set. If you become impeded by your tester, then you have become “stuck,” which indicates that the joint(s) being tested are not really open and loose. Having physical force get stuck in your body like this indicates that your qì flow has also stagnated. There are degrees of being stuck, and it is typical for beginners to be very stuck. As you improve, you may be partially stuck, but the goal is to not be stuck at all. Therefore, this testing is a very important part of gauging your progress. People can easily fool themselves with practices like this, so a testing method like this adds accountability to the process. The tests that I show in the DVD are not the only tests. You can come up with your own tests once you get the idea of the function of the tests and how they are done.
Part 4 of the DVD has me demonstrating what having open and loose joints could possibly do in self-defense situations. When a person comes at you using force, and you have trained yourself so those forces do not get stuck within you, then your movements are much freer than they would be without that training. This section is not meant to teach self-defense or to be comprehensive. It is only demonstrations of a few scenarios so you get the idea of the potential uses.
Overall, this will be a good DVD for beginners or for those who want to take a look at these practices of qìgōng and tàijí beyond the superficial and conventionally apparent. Also, you will be able to learn a good amount of what I am trying to teach just by your diligence. I know many think that learning internal practices from video is not possible, and I have kept that in mind. The basics that I show are within your grasp. A release date has not been set yet, but I will keep you updated with posts here about it. After the initial round of editing, I will soon be posting a sample trailer of the DVD so that you can get a sense of its content.