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“Tendon Strength”: Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 4

The connection between traditional Chinese ideas about the Sinew channels and tendon strength and power, and recent discoveries about fascia and its relation to health and fitness are fascinating. This is the fourth installment in series of articles that explores some of these connections.

Read Part 1 of this article here

Read Part 2 of this article here

Read Part 3 of this article here

Principles of Training the Fascia

Tom Myers, the author of Anatomy Trains, elucidates three key principles that need to be taken into account when attempting to improve the strength and resiliency of fascial tissue.

Principle 1: Enhancing Systemic Elasticity is Essential to Systemic Resilience.

Principle 2: The Fascial system needs variation rather than repetition.

Principle 3: Proprioception and Kinesthesia are primarily fascial not muscular. [1]

Based on these principles, Myers advocates the following:

  1. Whole body stretching and whole body movements that use long myofascial chains.
  2. Avoiding exercises that use isolated muscle orientation.
  3. Do movements that utilize an elastic stretch of tissues – movements that contain a stretch and release component within a single action, and use elasticity rather than muscle power.
  4. Focusing on elasticity, rather than muscle power.
  5. Variation of tempo in the angle of the load – for example, walking on uneven surfaces rather than on flat ground.
  6. Sufficient rest to let the fascia respond. [2]

Whole body stretching and movement is not a new idea. The body is designed to be used as a whole. The more we use the whole body in a smooth, coordinated way, the more efficiently it can function. Kinesiologists have known for a long time that joints and muscles act in three-dimensional connected chains that wrap the body, crossing from leg and hip to the opposite shoulder and arm. This connection has been likened to a serape, the Mexican shawl, worn over one shoulder and crossing to the opposite hip. In pushing or throwing movements, we tend to generate power from the foot to the opposite hand. As the foot pushes off the ground, extending the hip and knee, the waist rotates and the muscles of the torso accelerate the outward extension of the arm muscles. When we pull or hold something we reverse this process, pulling from the periphery back through the body to the opposite foot. This “serape effect” is present in most sports activities, such as running, biking, tennis, and golf.

Movements requiring strength that are common to sports activities and exercise routines probably derive from the primal actions that we perform as infants, pulling things we want towards us and pushing things we don’t want away from us. An infant engages its entire body and spirit in these actions. Efficient employment of strength and power derives from cultivating coordinated, whole body action in these primal movements. Each muscle must contract and relax at the right time. This process can be likened to a series of inter-meshed gears. As one turns, the others must also turn.  In internal martial arts these full body movements emanate from the Dantian/Mingmen.

Movement in general, and whole body movement in particular, consists of rotations and spirals rather than straight lines. Even so-called “hinge joints” are not really hinge joints – much of their ability to work properly depends on internal torsion. The whole body then becomes a mini-universe, each part revolving in synchrony with the other parts, like planets in the heavens. Even blood and the Qi move in spirals through the blood vessels, and the channels and collaterals. Spiral movement creates balance of forces and counter-forces, operating at all times. These spiral and rotational forces are like waves moving through the body. When the muscles and joints are open and relaxed, the waves can move freely and send their reverberations unobstructed throughout the entire body. In martial arts and sports, this lack of obstruction is what allows the body to have a unified power, to be efficient, fluid and coordinated.

Training the Fascia In Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang

Xing Yi Master Liu Wen Hua, the son of Liu Qi Lan, gives a very clear description of how fascial chains and whole-body engagement of the fascia is employed in Xing Yi Quan and specifically in San Ti Shi. His remarks are reproduced in their entirety below, because they so comprehensively illustrate how the theories of modern fascial experts have been expressed for centuries in the internal martial arts.

The exercises of Xing Yi boxing are different from the ordinary exercises. The efforts employed in ordinary exercise consist of actions on a single plane or are merely isolated actions of particular muscles. Therefore, the exercises are simple and easy to understand. In Xing Yi boxing, the joints of the whole body move with different axes of rotation, and the contraction of the muscles and tendons are neither tense nor loose, so as to guarantee simultaneous contraction of the muscles on every side without slackening, a comprehensive result. Then in advancing one can attack, and in retreating one can defend, without any gaps that can be exploited. The body has many muscles. Detailed explanations can only be given by individual sections of the body.

 Head

The eyes should be contracted by the anterior cephalic muscle to dilate the pupil and then contracted by the orbicular muscle of the eye to contract the eyelids, so as to be able to stare without any trembling motion. The mouth should be contracted inward by the orbicular muscle of the mouth, so as to clench the teeth tightly and touch the roof with the tongue backward. If so, the skin in the mandibular region, facial region and low chin becomes tight. The neck is contracted by the broad muscle of the neck to dilate the skin of the neck. Further, by the functions of the greater and minor broad muscles of the neck in the deep layer and coordination of the above-mentioned functions of the mouth, the head can be erected upward and the anterior and posterior parts of galea aponeurotica contract and extend to the neck through the down-bearing strength of the two shoulders.

Trunk

The shoulder should drop downward as much as possible to control the ribs further by the contraction of the anterior sartorius muscle, so as to open the thoracic cavity. Simultaneously, by anterior and posterior traction of the greater pectorial muscle and galea aponeurotica, the shoulder becomes more fixed. The buttocks are also requested to drop downward forcefully, and the muscles in the lower abdomen are also requested to control the pelvic bone anteriorly and forward. The gluteal muscles are also contracted forcefully, to create outward rotation of the thigh. The sphincter muscle of the anus should also be contracted inward and upward. The waist should use contraction of the lumbar muscles and the diaphragm to stretch the lower part of the spine, so as to center the weight of the upper body on the midline of the pelvic bone.

 Limbs

The upper limb should be rotated inward, and the biceps muscle and triceps muscle are contracted equally to resist the anterior and posterior force. The elbow should be rotated to the midline of the body, to form an angle of from ninety to one hundred seventy degrees between the forearm and upper arm, so as to enable the wrist to stand laterally, with the contraction of the anterior circular muscle. The hand closes the fingers sequentially, becoming a semi-circle through contraction of the deep and shallow flexor muscles of the hand, with the base of the thumb and base of the small finger to move toward each other in order to achieve the equal force in the small finger and other fingers.

The internal rotation muscle in the medial aspect of the thigh in the lower limb, the sartorius muscle, is rotated inward to control the knee joint. Various big, medium and small gluteal muscles are also contracted to form an outward posture of the thigh. The quadriceps muscle and biceps muscle are also contracted to form an angle of one hundred fifty degrees between the calf and thigh, so as to maintain a stable posture. The gastrocnemius muscle of the leg and the soleus muscle, in the deep layer, should be contracted, so as to enable the heel to be close with the back of the leg. For the leg in the back, the knee should be flexed forward and inward by the forceful contraction of the biceps muscle and the function of the flexor muscle of the toe, and both feet should grab the ground forcefully, in order to maintain the body weight in the center of two feet. In this posture, the two feet are always in an angle of forty-five degrees. [3]

The famous Xing Yi and Ba Gua practitioner Sun Lu Tang also discusses in detail whole-body body alignments that engage the body’s global fascial web. In relation to walking the circle in Ba Gua Zhang, Sun says that the bend in your legs should have a rounded fullness, and that both heels both have an energy of twisting outward, and your legs are as if in a horse-riding posture, with an intention of closing inward. In addition, in the photo below, the right hip twists until it is aligned with the roundness of the forefinger of your front hand. Sun adds that the shoulders must loosen, and the elbows should have an energy of wrapping inward, so that the tips of your elbows point downward. The hands and fingers spread, with the wrists putting all their energy into twisting outward, until the forefingers stand straight, the thumbs, forefingers, and tiger’s mouths propped open to make semicircle shapes. The shoulders have an energy of drawing in, and the elbows drop down, as the hands push forward. The palms go along with your shoulders, with an energy of “shrinking in”, and the waist follows the wrists as they twist outward. The waist (Yao) turns as far as it can, like a rope being twisted, twisting until the forward forefinger and the gaze are directed to the center of the circle. [4]

 

Many martial arts incorporate exercises to develop supple dynamic strength. Hindu Squats known as bathaks and Hindu Push Ups (dands), are staple conditioning exercises used by Indian wrestlers wrestlers for centuries. The Great Gama, a legendary wrestler who was undefeated in over 5,000 matches, was said to have performed over 4,000 Hindu squats each day. Unlike regular squats and pushups, these exercises have an elastic rebound quality that develops explosive functional power. Indian wrestlers also perform dynamic exercises with various maces and clubs that involve elastic, functional, whole body actions.

The “Ninja Principle”

The work of Robert Schleip and Divo Gitta Mueller has shown that one of the goals of fascial training is therefore to stimulate fascial fibroblasts to lay down more youthful fiber architecture with a gazelle-like elastic storage capacity. This is done through movements that load the fascial tissues over multiple extension ranges while utilizing their elastic springiness. Indeed, when practiced regularly, static as well as dynamic stretching have shown to yield long term improvements in force, jump height, and speed. Different stretching styles seem to reach different fascial tissue components. In addition, variation among different stretching styles is recommended, including slow passive stretches at different angles as well as more dynamic stretches, in order to foster easy shearing ability between physiologically distinct fascial layers and to prevent the tendency for limited movement range that usually goes along with aging. [5]

Schleip and Mueller use the popular idea of the Ninja, the legendary Japanese assassins, to illustrate efficient training of the fascia. They particularly focus on the smoothness and elegance of movement, and performing movements a softly as possible, without any extraneous or jerky movements. Changes in direction are preceded by gradual deceleration of the movement before the turn and a gradual acceleration afterwards, each movement flowing from the last. This is much like the way a cat moves, jumping and landing softly and with precision. This kind of movement creates fascial spring, and is akin to the precision of dance. [6]

Many writers on fascia have extolled the virtues of running as means of training fascia due to the elastic recoil that goes through the body as force is compressed into the ground and released with each stride. However, based on the “Ninja Principle”, it is obvious that this elastic recoil will only occur if one runs well – with an light, springy, open, even and smooth stride that propels the body forward. This kind of running exhibits oppositional full-body movements of the arms and legs that create movement through the torso. However, utilizing this kind of light, springy movement unfortunately most joggers do not do. In observing most joggers, one sees an emphasis on heavy compression into the ground, with minimal elastic forward moving force, uneven and jerky strides and minimal movement of the upper body. It seems that correct running needs to be trained, so for those without training, perhaps walking might be a better approach for many people.

Fascia as a Sensory Organ

It was mentioned earlier that fascia has a rich supply of sensory nerves, and that internal awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body (proprioception and kinesthesia) are primarily fascial, not muscular. The sensory systems of some fascial tissues detect slight angular direction changes. Recent findings indicate that the superficial fascial layers of the body are, in fact, much more densely populated with sensory nerve endings than connective tissues situated more internally. Many proprioceptive nerve endings are located in the more superficial layers where stretch and shearing motions of the fascia are more easily detected. [7] Studies have also indicated that limb and low back pain are decreased by increased local proprioception. [8]

These findings illustrate the importance of skin sensation in receiving proprioceptive feedback. The idea of the “Integrating” or “Bringing Together” the Four Tips (Si Shao) in Nei Jia Quan seems to stress the importance of proprioception at the periphery in connecting and unifying the fascia of the whole body. The four tips are:

  1. The Hair Pores are the Tip of the Blood
  2. The Nails are the Tip of the Sinews
  3. The Tongue is the Tip of the Flesh
  4. The Teeth are the Tip of the Bones

Xing Yi Master Liu Wen Hua had this to say about the Four Tips:

It is necessary to touch (prop up) the roof of the mouth with the tongue, knock the teeth, hold the fingers and toes inwards, and tighten the hair pores. When the tongue touches the palate, body fluid (saliva) can concentrate ensuring the smooth circulation of Qi and blood. When the teeth are knocked tightly, Qi is able to flow into bone marrow. When the fingers and toes are drawn inward, Qi is able to pour into the sinews. When the hair pores are tightened, Qi in the whole body can gather and be solid. To be “integrated” means that in every posture, there is unity in touching the roof with the tongue, knocking the teeth, drawing the fingers and toes inward and tightening the hair pores. If one of the four is absent, the Qi will be scattered and power weakened, so there is little purpose in discussing martial skills. [9]

One of my own observations about the importance of sensory feedback at the level of the skin in fascial training is that the sensation of one’s clothing against the skin, or moving across the skin, when performing martial practices and Zhan Zhuang (“stake standing”), gives feedback to the fascial networks. I have also noticed that loose flowing clothing, like the kind used in Chinese martial arts, gives useful proprioceptive feedback, both of the clothing moving across the skin, and also the soft tissue of the body, flowing, twisting, and gliding smoothly through space, whereas the tight, restrictive clothing so popular in sports today actually gives one the opposite feedback. In the past, many yoga practitioners and martial artists wore loose, flowing clothing which might be said to allow “free movement of the Qi” through the superficial layers of the body, thereby aiding proprioceptive feedback in the fascia. In contrast, tight-fitting clothing seems to block the smooth movement of the Qi in those same superficial layers of the body, thereby increasing the sense of tension and solidity (rather than elasticity) in the superficial musculature.

 

Notes:

[1] Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web. Thomas Myers

[2] Ibid.

[3] Detailed Collection of the Art of Xing Yi Quan. Liu Dian Chen (Liu Wen Hua). Translation by Huang Guo Qi and Tom Bisio 2013.

[4] A Study of Ba Gua Boxing. Sun Lu Tang (April 1917). Translated by Paul Brenna

[5] Training Principles for Fascial Connective Tissues: Scientific Foundation and Suggested Practical Applications. Robert Schleip, PhD, MA and Divo Gitta Mueller, HP (Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2012) xx, p1-13.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Tactile discrimination, but not tactile stimulation alone. reduces chronic limb pain. G. Lorimer Moseley, Nadia M. Zalucki , and Katja Wiech (008 Jul 31;137(3):600-8. Epub 2007 Dec 3) https://www.bodyinmind.org/wp-content/uploads/Moseley-et-al-2008-tdt-for-crps-Pain-137.pdf

[9] Detailed Collection of the Art of Xing Yi Quan. Liu Dian Chen (Liu Wen Hua). Translation by Huang Guo Qi and Tom Bisio 2013.

 

“Tendon Strength”: Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 3

The connection between traditional Chinese ideas about the Sinew Channels and tendon strength and power and recent discoveries about fascia and its relation to health and fitness are fascinating. This is the third in a series of four articles that explores some of these connections.

Read Part 1 of this article

Read Part 2 of this article

Fluids & Fascia

In embryology, the movement of interstitial fluid precedes the development of the cardiovascular system. Water molecules are a very convenient medium to transport biomolecules and to carry out various cellular functions. Research has identified the five parts of what appears to be an integrated fluid system in mammals:

  1. The Primo Vasculature Fluid (PVF) with protein precursors and micro cells held in the Primo Vasculature System (PVS).
    Blood and its constituents in the cardiovascular system.
  2. Extracranial Interstitial Fluid (ISF) whose vehicle had a very irregular structure―the interstitium all over the body.
  3. The Cerebrospinal Fluid within the brain ventricles and spinal canal.
  4. The Extra-Cranial Lymphatic System, which drains interstitial fluid and joins the subclavian vein. [1]
  5. In the fetus, Primo Vasculature Fluid may be the first fluid system to develop and join to the not yet well-defined cardio-vascular system.

Distinctive tube-like structures, forming a water carrying system, have been found in different parts of the body in animals. The fluid contents (water plus the solutes and insoluble peptides/proteins) in different parts of the body are different. Moreover, the ratios of the amounts of bound and free water in organs such as skin, Achilles tendon, tracheal cartilage, muscle and others vary from site to site. [2]

Bound water is now considered to be a 4th state of water (liquid, solid and gas being the familiar three). Dr. Gerald Pollack researched muscles and how they contract. It struck him as odd that the most common ideas about muscle contraction did not involve water, despite the fact muscle tissue consists of 99 percent water molecules. [3] Pollack explored how water in its “bound “ state affects the flow of fluids through fascial tissue. He found that in healthy fascia, a large percentage of the extracellular water is in a state of “bound water”, as opposed to “bulk water” (water in its liquid form), where its behavior can be characterized as that of a liquid crystal. [4]

Interstitial fluids move rhythmically through the body and the fascia, driven by the respiration, which effectively creates fluid waves within the body. Cells in areas where there is resistance or restriction to this interstitial fluid movement are not getting sufficient nutrients and are not effectively disposing of cellular wastes. These areas become “dead spots”, places where the hydrodynamic fluctuation is not penetrating. [5]

The movement of fluids through connective tissue can be seen in the amazing anatomical work of Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau. Guimberteau graphically describes the fractal-like alignment of the fibers of the fascial matrix, which creates a web in which all parts of the matrix distribute loads and forces. In Guimberteau’s videos of living tissue, one can see small pearls of liquid move through the tiny individual fascial fibers. [6]

Fascial System Model from the video: Strolling Under the Skin by Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau.

 

These ideas are not unlike Chinese Medicine’s view of the Triple Heater (San Jiao) as a passageway for fluids, and speculation that the fascia and the San Jiao may have congruence. They also tie into Senior Acupuncturist Wang Ju Yi’s analogy of the channels and collaterals to those of a river (mentioned in Part 1 of this series of articles).

Laboratory studies on inflammation have indicated that the principal cause of inflammation seems to be due to mechanical pressure, including blunt trauma, foreign bodies, vibrations, and chronic pressure of low intensity. The basic mechanism of inflammation by pressure is most probably through tissue hypoxia. Exposed to pressure, hydrophobic matter (“water hating” – matter that cannot bond with water) is compressed, and oxygen is squeezed out. After pressure is released, the elasticity of the tissue does not rebound immediately and the tissue remains shrunk with diminished oxygen for a period of time afterward. Hypoxia may then generate inflammatory changes through the direct impairment of mitochondrially mediated anabolic (cell building) processes and consequent metabolic shift towards catabolism (cell tearing down). [7]

Fascial movement, compression and release, stretching and relaxing, in conjunction with deep abdominal breathing, are mechanisms for restoring fluid movement to areas of the fascia experiencing a reduced flow of fluids.

During application of mechanical load – whether in a stretching manner or via local compression – a significant amount of water is pushed out of the more stressed zones, similar to squeezing a sponge. With the release that follows, this area is again filled with new fluid, which comes from surrounding tissue as well as the local vascular network. The sponge-like connective tissue can lack adequate hydration at neglected places. Application of external loading to fascial tissues can result in a refreshed hydration of such places in the body.

In healthy fascia, a large percentage of the extracellular water is in a state of bound water as opposed to bulk water. Much pathology – such as inflammatory conditions, edema or the increased accumulation of free radicals and other waste products, tends to go along with a shift towards a higher percentage of bulk water within the ground substance. Recent indications suggest that when local connective tissue gets squeezed like a sponge, and subsequently rehydrated, some of the previous bulk water zones may then be replaced by bound water molecules, which could lead to a more healthy water constitution within the ground substance. [8]

Hydration?

Some trainers, yoga teachers and body-workers suggest to their patients and students that it is necessary to “hydrate” the fascia by drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily can, according to “experts”, boost concentration, improve one’s complexion, make the brain work better, aid concentration, and help detoxification. So increasingly one sees people carrying around bottles of water and sipping water constantly.

Unfortunately, these benefits have not been substantiated, and there is much evidence that excessive consumption of liquids does more harm than good. In Chinese medicine, excessive consumption of fluids is thought to overload the kidneys, and over time, can weaken them. Daoist Physician Stephen Chang cautions that the excess liquids tend to be stored in the tissues. This water retention allows wastes to collect, which can affect the nervous system. Dr. Chang explains that this is why people with chronic water retention often appear “nervous and edgy.” [9] Professor Mark Whiteley, a vascular surgeon, feels that drinking excessive amounts of liquid over an extended period of time resets the brain’s chemistry to expect excessive amounts of water. People then feel they can’t go without constant sips of water and “feel panicky if they have to go without for even short lengths of time.” Professor Whiteley, is also convinced that over-hydration is linked to excessive sweating. [10]

In the case of fascia, if the ground substance is dehydrated, shrunken, and solidified, it cannot uptake water and oxygen, so consuming more fluids will not necessarily change the situation. If we believe Dr. Pollack’s theories about “bound water”, it is obvious that drinking more “bulk water” will not necessarily aid one’s fascia.

How much water should one drink? The general consensus is that you should drink when you are thirsty, and if you are sweating a lot and exercising, particularly in a dry climate, you will need to drink more. In other words, use common sense. On a daily basis, most experts agree with the ancient Chinese idea, drink no more than 6-8 cups a day, a number which includes the liquids contained in the foods you are eating.

Fascial Receptivity and Plasticity

Fascial plasticity cannot be understood by mechanical properties alone. Recent research has indicated that Fascia is densely innervated by mechanoreceptors. Myofascial tissue receptors respond not only to pressure and mechanical tension, but also may tie in with the perception of pain and proprioception. These “mechanoreceptors” are found in dense connective tissue (muscle fascia, tendons, ligaments). These receptors are likely responsible for the ability of fascia to change and adapt by softening and elongation of the collagen fibers. [11]

Connective tissue is able to adapt and adjust its matrix in accordance with the demands made upon it. Healthy connective tissue has undulations of an elastic quality, while less healthy tissue is flatter and less elastic. Fascial researchers have noted the ability of a gazelle or a kangaroo to jump much farther than can be explained by the force of contraction of their leg muscles. This seems to be due to the elastic storage capacity of their fascia. High-resolution ultrasound examination has shown that human fascia has a similar kinetic storage ability that comes into play not only when we run and jump, but also when we walk. In these kinds of movements, the length of the muscle fibers changes very little – it is the lengthening and shortening of the fascial elements that produces most of the actual movement. [12]

In younger people there tend to stronger undulations, like elastic springs. within their collagen fibres, In older people, these fibers appear more flattened and inelastic.

It is of interest that the elastic movement quality in young people is associated with a typical two-directional lattice arrangement of their fasciae, similar to a woman’s stocking, In contrast, as we age and usually lose the springiness in our gait, the fascial architecture takes on a more haphazard and multi-directional fibre arrangement. Animal experiments have also shown that lack of movement quickly fosters the development of additional cross-links in fascial tissues. The fibres lose their elasticity and do not glide against one another as they once did; instead, they become stuck together and form tissue adhesions, and in the worst cases they actually become matted together. [13]

Pandiculation

Although inactivity appears to negatively impact fascial health, it has been noted that animals do not exercise to maintain their physical capabilities. Dr, Luiz Fernano Bertolucci notes, for example, that long striding movements will remain possible only to the extent that they are fully expressed. Yet most of the time animals are not expressing their optimal movement capabilities – in fact they only do this rarely, when they need to.

Many animals also sleep or nap a fair amount of the time. Sleep imposes regular periods of immobilization, which allows the development of fibrous adhesions, what Gil Hedely PhD calls “the Fuzz.” These adhesions interfere with the sliding surfaces between connective tissue. Each morning when you wake up yawn and stretch, you “melt” the Fuzz and free up the tissue. Each day that you don’t stretch, move and exercise, there is more buildup of Fuzz. [14]

How do animals in the wild maintain musculoskeletal health? They perform no stretching routines and yet still maintain their capabilities. Dr. Bertolucci and others have noticed that animals perform spontaneous pandiculation – shivering, shaking and stretching movements that are largely involuntary, and do not involve cortical stimulation. [15] Pandiculation is often defined as ”a stretching and stiffening of the trunk and extremities, as when fatigued and drowsy or on waking, often accompanied by yawning.” This is what most of us do when we arise in the morning to shake off any stiffness acquired during sleep.

Pandiculation in animals involves involuntary deep muscle co-contractions, in which the soft tissue actively elongates against the bony structures as the joints are stiffened. The contractions and movements form a sequential pattern from a mosaic of reflexes, the sequence of which can neither be anticipated nor purposely performed, in the same way that a spontaneous yawn is different from a purposeful one. This is interesting particularly when we recall that Wei Qi, as it moves through the Sinew Channels, allows the individual to respond in a reflexive and spontaneous manner without volition or cognition, and that Wei Qi and the Sinew Channels generate an immediate ability to respond to changes in an individual’s environment.

Dr. Bertolucci goes onto say that Eastern martial arts appear to have a connection with pandiculation:

Qi Gong, for instance, requires the body to be fortified with automatic (involuntary) tonus in the deep postural muscles at the same time the superficial muscles associated with voluntary activity are relaxed. Under these conditions, the body is integrated as a whole and all its parts relate with one another in movement. These conditions cannot be produced by voluntary motor action, but emerge spontaneously with appropriate states of attention in which mechano-sensing is enhanced. A person in such state could take advantage of elastic potential energy stored in the body when performing a blow. This characteristic of Qi Gong suggests a tensegrity-based mode of action with a high pre-stress level. In fact, potentiation of performance has already been shown in pre-stretched muscles, due to their ability to store potential elastic energy. [16]

These ideas are interesting especially in relation to Qi Gong exercises and martial arts movements, in which one holds postures while internally sensing spontaneous movement. This is part of the power=releasing dynamic found in holding Zhan Zhuang postures, like Xing Yi Quan’s San Ti Shi (Trinity Posture), for extended periods of time, and in Shanxi Xing Yi’s Tu Na Si Ba (Four Method Breathing Exercises). This kind of spontaneous movement can also be found in Qi Gong exercises derived from Daoist meditation practices, like those taught by Hu Yao Zhen, where one observes the spontaneous breath that moves between Dantian and Mingmen (a breath that is outside of the normal respiratory rhythm). Hu Yao Zhen describes this practice as follows: When you are able to observe like this for a certain amount of time, your body begins to move unconsciously. After the body is set in motion, your intention must always observe the Dantian. If the body wants to move in such a way, then it will move in such a way. [17]

Notes:

[1] The Integrative Five-Fluid Circulation System in the Human Body. Peter Chin Wan Fung, Regina Kit Chee Kong, in Open Journal of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Vol. 06, No.04 (2016), Article ID:72100 http://file.scirp.org/Html/1-1360097_72100.htm#txtF2

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dr. Gerald Pollack and Structured Water Science.
https://www.structuredwaterunit.com/articles/structuredwater/dr-gerald-pollack-and-structured-water-science

[4] Training Principles for Fascial Connective Tissues: Scientific Foundation and Suggested Practical Applications. Robert Schleip, PhD, MA and Divo Gitta Mueller, HP (Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2012) xx, p1-13.

[5] Ligamentous Articular Strain: Osteopathic Manipulative Techniques for the Body. Conrad A. Spence D.O. and William Thomas Crow, D.O. (Seattle: Eastland Press, 2001) p. 27-28.

[6] Strolling Under the Skin. Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau. SFRS: service du Film de Recherche Scientifique 2005. http://www.guimberteau-jc-md.com/en/videos.php

[7] Definition of Inflammation, Causes of Inflammation and Possible Anti-inflammatory Strategies, Srdan V. Stankov* The Open Inflammation Journal, 2012, 5, 1-9

[8] Ibid.

[9] The Tao of Balanced Diet: Secrets of a Thin and Healthy Body. Dr. Stephen T. Chang (San Francisco: Tao Publishing, 1987) p.112.

[10] Are you an Aquaholic? Doctors are always advising us to drink more water but in fact drinking too much can be even worse. Mandy Francis. Daily Mail (Published: 15 February 2015 Updated: 17 February 2015)

[11] Fascial Plasticity – A New Neurobiological Explanation – Part 1. Robert Schleip. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, January 2003.

[12] Robert Schleip, PhD, MA and Divo Gitta Mueller, HP (Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2012) xx, p1-13.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gil Hedley Fascia and stretching The Fuzz Speech YouTube.

[15] Pandiculation: An organic way to maintain myofascial health. Luiz Fernando Bertolucci, MD (January 7, 2016) http://www.fascialfitness.net.au/articles/pandiculation-an-organic-way-to-maintain-myofascial-health/

[16] Ibid.

[17] Les Jeu Des Cinq Animaux (Five Animal Play) by Jiao Guo Rui, De Ye Tao and Hu Yao Zhen, translated by Grégory Mardaga..

 

“Tendon Strength”, Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 2

Image for “Tendon Strength”, Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 2

The connection between traditional Chinese ideas about the Sinew channels and tendon strength and power and recent discoveries about fascia and its relation to health and fitness are fascinating. This series of four articles explores some of these connections.

Read Part 1 of this article HERE. Read More…

“Tendon Strength”, Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 1

Image for “Tendon Strength”, Fascia, the Sinew Channels & Internal Martial Arts – Part 1

The connection between traditional Chinese ideas about the Sinew channels and tendon strength and power, and recent discoveries about fascia and its relation to health and fitness are fascinating. This series of four articles  explores some of these connections. Read More…

The Eight Ba Gua Rolling Hands Exercises: Part 2

Image for The Eight Ba Gua Rolling Hands Exercises: Part 2

Ba Gua Rolling Hands Exercises (Rou Shou) are the Ba Gua Zhang equivalent of Tai Ji Quan’s Pushing Hands. The second of the Liang Style Ba Gua Eight Rolling Hands Exercises: Double Joining Palm.

Excerpted from Compendium of Ba Gua Zhang Art by Guo Gu Min, Edited by Zang Xue Fan. Jilin Science and Technology Publishers.
Read More…

Rehabilitative Knee Exercise

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This exercise is attributed to the famous Qi Gong and Xing Yi practitioner Dr. Ma Li Tang. It can be used to preserve the health of the knees or as a rehabilitative exercise for injured or arthritic knees.
Read More…

Bone Injury Soak

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An interesting Chinese medicine herbal soak for complications occurring after a bone fracture.
Read More…

Daoism and the Immortal Lü Dong Bin: Part 1

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Lü Dong Bin 呂洞賓(Lü Tung-Pin) is the most famous of the Eight Daoist Immortals. A person both real and legendary, he influenced many Daoist traditions that come down to us today, particularly the Nei Dan (Inner Alchemy) traditions.

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Sun Xi Kun on Daoism Part 6: Women’s Aperture Closing Gong – Practice Method for Women

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Following Part 1 (Authentic Cultivation of Daoism), Part 2 (True Formula of the Dao Elixir Secret Treasure), Part 3 (The Method of Quiet Sitting), Part 4 (General Discussion of the Medicine-Collecting Method) and Part 5 (Sun Xi Kun on Daoism Part V: Woman’s Seated Meditation Method for Cultivating the Daowe continue with Sun Xi Kun on Daoism with the General Discussion of the Medicine Collecting Method

These articles on Daoism are excerpted from The True Transmission of Ba Gua Zhang (八卦拳真传 Ba Gua Zhang Zhen Chuan), by Sun Xi Kun 孙锡 堃

In front of the two eyebrows and behind Feng Fu (acu-point DU 16), on the left and right, 0.3 cun above the tips of the  two ears, in the center (with the hands crossed), there is a “Qi sack” (Qi Bao) that links with the Yan Sui Guan (“long marrow tube”). [1] This is called Yu Ding (Jade Tripod). [2] There is an acu-point 1.3 cun below and behind the navel, in front of the kidneys (in front 70% and behind 30%) and above the two hips, that is suspended in the center of the body.
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Regulatory Tui Na Treatment for Children Under Age Six

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Pediatric medicine in China follows a few basic principles, based on children’s constitutions.

  • The digestion is weak so it is easy for food to become stagnant. Improper diet can easily affect their health.
  • Because children are very yang they get fevers easily and their spirit is not stable – it is easily disturbed.
  • They are susceptible to disease which can transform rapidly.
  • They can recover quickly from disease because their visceral Qi is clear relative to the visceral Qi of adults.
  • Their Essence and Qi are not yet developed so they do not have reserves of Jing (Essence) to draw on – so they easily become hungry and full and can easily have their spleen and digestion damaged.

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