Our recent posts by IAI instructors Kelly McDonald and Thad Wong, “Resurrecting a Ba Gua Form from the Past” and Keith Norris, “Detailed Analysis of Guo Gu Min’s Ba Gua Ding Shi Form” were a kind of Ding Shi “homework” which involved dissecting and analyzing Ding Shi Ba Gua Zhang forms from books by Guo Gu Min and Li Gong Chen. Since these articles were posted, we have received requests from readers asking for a similar assignments to do at home.
So here is some Ding Shi “Homework” for Ba Gua students: below we present two versions of the Downward Sinking Palm for you to explore. Now you have the opportunity to find out what you think about these forms, and of course you have the previous analyses by Thad, Kelly and Keith to fall back on for help. Links for their earlier articles are above. This kind of exercise helps develop your own ability to study the movement and to analyze the subtleties and applications of the forms, and how with your body. Read the descriptions below as they were presented in their original texts (albeit in translation to English) and try to figure out the movements and make them natural and smooth. The process of doing this will give you insights into the movements.
In the coming months, we will present more Ding Shi changes from Guo Gu Min and Li Gong Chen for you to study and practice. Enjoy the Ba Gua Zhang homework!
I. Guo Gu Min’s Downward Sinking Palm
The feet are together. The fingers come together and the arms hang down naturally. The eyes look ahead (Fig. 1). The whole body is relaxed and the Qi is open, smooth and free-flowing. The right foot makes a Bai Bu, the body turns 90° to the right and the left foot steps forward as the eyes look straight ahead (Fig. 2).
Main Ponts: The whole body is relaxed. Jing Shen permeates the body and Qi is open, smooth and free-flowing.
Downward Sinking Palm (下沉掌 Xia Chen Zhang)
1) Turn and walk leftward (counterclockwise) along the circle. The arms rotate and rise upward along the sides of the body. The palms face upward with the fingers facing each other. The arms rise until they are overhead with palms supporting from underneath, and the eyes look forward (Fig. 3).
Main Points: Sink the shoulders and relax the whole body.
2) Continue to walk and turn along the line of the circle as the palms rotate outward in front of the chest and then the wrists sink and press downward to the level of the pubic bone. The palms face downward with the fingers facing each other. The eyes look forward (Fig. 4).
Main Points: The arms curve in a rounded shape and Hu Kou spreads open. The thumbs adhere closely to the pubic bone.
3) Yao, shoulder and knee turn as one toward the center of the circle, but without turning past the center of the circle. The palms push downward, but not too much. The eyes look ahead (Fig. 5).
Main Points: Twist and turn toward the middle of the circle as you walk. Relax the whole body. Do not employ stiff and sluggish force.
4) Walk around the circle. There is no limit to the number of times you turn and walk around the circle. In order to change direction, the right foot makes a kou bu (Fig. 6).
Main Points: The kou bu must coordinate with the body turn.
5) Make a left bai bu on the line of the circle The position of palms does not change as the palms follow the bai bu step, going downward and right, upward to the left and downward – making a large circular arc that ends at the level of the pubic bones. The eyes look ahead (Fig. 7).
6) Without stopping, the right foot strides forward, and one walks along the line of the circle with the palms fixed in their position. (Fig. 8).
7) Yao, shoulder and knee turn as one toward the center of the circle, but without turning past the center of the circle. The palms push downward, but not too much. Continue to walk around the circle. There is no limit to the number of times you turn and walk around the circle. The eyes look ahead (Fig. 9)
8) To change direction, turn left as the left foot makes a kou bu and the eyes look ahead (Fig. 10)
Main Points: The kou bu must coordinate with the body turn.
9) Make a left bai bu on the line of the circle. The position of palms does not change as the palms follow the bai bu step, going downward and left, upward to the right and downward – making a large circular arc that ends at the level of the pubic bones. The eyes look ahead (Fig. 11).
10) Without stopping, the left foot strides forward, along the line of the circle and the palms remain fixed in their position. Walk around the circle. There is no limit to the number of times you turn and walk around the circle (Fig.12).
II. Li Gong Chen’s Downward Sinking Palm
1. Wu Ji Posture
Qian Gua Position (South). Stand with the feet close together. The whole body is lined up and the muscles are relaxed. The lips and teeth are gently closed. The tongue props upward to connect the Magpie Bridge. Breathe naturally. The neck is straight and upright, and the head is lifted upward by the intention (Ding Jin). The upper body is upright and the root of the shoulders slacken and open, and the shoulders relax and sink. The Yao drops and the arms gather inward slightly. The lower abdomen moves naturally and the arms hang naturally by the sides. The palms centers face the GB 31 (Feng Shi) acu-points. The eyes look straight ahead (Fig. 1).
Main Points: Empty the chest and sink the Yao. The mouth is closed and the tongue presses upward. Breathe deeply through the nose.
Intention: The body is like a tree. The heart is calm and empty.
2. Preparatory Movement
Lift the left foot gently and levelly, and open it to the left, so that the legs are shoulder width apart. Slowly and levelly let the foot rest on the ground. The toes face forward and then the heel touches down. The eyes look straight ahead (Fig. 2).
3. Rising Movement
Sink the shoulders, droop the elbows, draw in the wrists, and drop the Yao. Use the Yao to drop the shoulders, the shoulders to sink the knees and the knees to sink the ankles. The toes grasp the ground and the sole of the foot (“Foot-Heart”) is empty. The head and neck are straight and the gaze is forward with the eyes open. The fingers point downward as the arms go forward and gently begin to lift. The shoulders extend and relax with intention in the fingertips. It is like lifting a heavy weight. The palms lift up and as the arms become level, and the palm centers face downward. The fingers separate and face to the front, and Hu Kou is round (Fig. 3).
4. Kou Bu, Turn the Body & Hold the Ball
In the holding form the arms sink, the legs bend, the buttocks slide, the lower abdomen turns, and Qi sinks to Dantian. The chest is empty and the back pulls upward. The back is like a bow. The head and neck are straight and the eyes look straight ahead. The toes of the left foot hook inward and the body turns to the right. The right foot is empty and “dots” becoming an empty step. The hands combine to hold a ball. The palm centers are opposite each other – face-to-face (Fig. 4). As you step the two embracing hands sink and turn.
5. Old Monk Upholds the Alms Bowl
The toes of the right foot face right, as you turn rightward to face the East. Step forward and relax and extend the shoulders. The toes grasp the ground and become a right treading step – a thee/seven (30%-70%) step. The embracing hands sink and turn inward, and the palms go forward with the right palm facing upward with the fingers facing to the front. The fingers combine together and Hu Kou is open and round. The elbow is dropped and the arm is slightly curved. The left hand is below the right elbow with the palm and fingers facing upward and Hu Kou open and round. Both arms embrace and go forward and outward with Ding Jin. The eyes look at the middle finger of the right hand (Fig. 5).
Downward Sinking Palm
1. Left Downward Sinking Palm
The left foot steps forward (Earth position) in Tang Ni Bu. The head, neck and upper body turn left toward the center of the circle. This is like twisting a rope. The eyes look toward the center of the circle or a tree (if you are circling around a tree). Simultaneously, the right palm lowers and turns inward from the elbow moving in a curve so that the palms sink downward until they are in front of the Qi Hai (Ren 6) acu-point (1.5 cun below the navel). The fingers of the two hands point at each other and the Lao Gong (P 8) acu-points (palm centers) are opposite each other. The two Hu Kou are also opposite and stretch round in a circle. The palms are separated by 2-3 inches. The palms have a quality of embracing (Fig. 6).
Main Points: Empty the chest; raise up and sink the Yao. The knees bend and follow the twisting of the Yao and feet. Qi reaches Dantian. Contract the anus and raise the elixir upward to promote Jingshen.
2. Right Hook Step and Turn the Body
Use to Tang Ni Bu to walk around the circle in the left Downward Sinking Palm until you reach the Qian Position again. The right foot makes a kou bu in front of the left foot. The two knees close and wrap towards the outside of the circle like twisting a rope. The eyes regard the Kan Position (West) – (Fig. 7).
3. Slanting Step Hidden Palm
The tip of the left foot swings outward and advances straight forward along the line of the circle in slanting step, as the Yao sits. The Jin of the left advancing step drives the left hidden (tucking in) palm forward, with the fingers pointing downward and the center of the palm facing forward. The knees are level, the upper body stretches forward, as the head presses upward. At the same time, the palm of the right hand holds up and pushes to the rear. The center of the palm is sideways and faces backward. The right Hu Kou stretches round in a circle and faces the right Huan Tiao (GB 30) acu-point). The toes grip the ground and the heels press down. The body weight slants onto the right foot becoming a 3-7 step (30%-70% step) – (Fig. 8).
4. Left Shoulder Sucking Spiraling Palm
From the previous posture, draw (suck) the left shoulder and the left foot so that the feet are even with the tips of the toes opposite and in the shape of the character “工.” Meanwhile, the left hidden hand circles to face upward with strength at the edge of the palm (thumb side of the palm). The palm is at the level of the shoulder, the arm is bent and the left side sinks. The eyes look at the middle finger of the left palm (Fig. 9).
5. Right Hook Step
From the previous posture, the body faces leftward. The right foot slides and curves to the right foot and makes a kou bu. The two knees close and embrace. The upper body turns left as the left hand moves to the height of the right shoulder, with the fingertips facing to the right and the center of the palm facing outward. Hu Kou is round and the hand takes the form of the Tile Palm. The arms have a closing embracing force. The right hand is under the left elbow, and the right palm center faces upward, with Hu Kou open and round. The palm is close to the left side and the shoulders combine toward the left and are level and even (Fig. 10).
Main Points: The chest is empty and raises/presses (Ding) upward. The buttocks and lower abdomen (Dantian) turn smoothly. The upper body is upright and straight.
6. Left Raise the Fire up to Heaven (also called “Phoenix Faces the Sun”)
From the left side the right palm spirals and penetrates upward with the palm center facing to the rear. The four fingers come together and point upward, and Hu Kou stretches into a round shape. Simultaneously, the left hand turns downward and goes to the right ribs with the palm center facing toward the outside. The four fingers come together and point upward, and Hu Kou stretches into a round shape, as the palm pierces and spirals and the left knee is raised upward to chest height. The lower leg hangs down and the tip of the toe slants to a position just inside the right knee. The weight rests on the straight right leg and the eyes look forward. Qi sinks to Dantian and the intention is in the right fingertips as though penetrating up to Heaven (Fig. 11).
7.Green Dragon Plays in the Water
From the previous posture, the right hand goes straight downward curving and hooking to the right at the level of the belt. The right hand passes by the left elbow and left side and becomes a hooking hand. The right shoulder is back. The left elbow drops down and and the left hand goes forward and outward, passing by the mouth. The left palm center faces upward and the fingers point forward, while Hu Kou stretches into a round shape. The left arm is bent, and the left elbow sticks close to the left knee. The eyes look straight ahead. The weight is on the right leg and Qi sinks to Dantian (Fig. 12)
8. Dropping Step Piercing Palm
The left foot goes forward and steps outward as the left hand penetrates forward levelly at the height of the eyes. The left arm stretches out as the right foot goes forward with a large step. As the right foot lands, the toes grasp the ground, with the sole of the foot empty. The right hooking hand follows the foot, quickly changing to a standing palm. The thumb hooks inside the palm and Hu Kou scrapes along the arm to pierce and poke, with the intention in the fingertips. The left hand is drawn back along the left ribs, with the center of the palm facing inward. The eyes look forward. (Figs. 13-14)
9. Right Downward Sinking Palm
From the previous posture, the right palm slices horizontally until it is even with the left hip and it changes to a downward facing palm. At the same, the left palm changes to a downward facing palm. The two arms sink and separate until they are level with Qi Hai. The fingertips are face-to-face and raised and the Lao Gong (P-6) points are opposite. The two Hu Kou are stretched round, and are face-to-face. The fingertips of the two palms are 2-3 inches apart, and the palms have a quality of embracing. The head, neck and upper body turn right, twisting toward the center of the circle. The Yao is like a twisted rope. The eyes look toward the center of the circle (Fig. 15).
The Form Repeats on the other side (Figs. 16 to 24)