Li Guo Rui (李国瑞) is a disciple of Master Li Gui Chang. I met Li Guo Rui in 1994 in Beijing. Years later, I visited with him at his office at the Jinci temple on the outskirts of Taiyuan, in Shanxi province. Li was a security guard at the temple. His office opened onto a beautiful courtyard that also served as a training area. Li had some of the Shaolin Soft Style training devices there: a braided rope to practice grabbing and hooking, as well as striking boards to develop power. Aside from being very skilled at Xing Yi, Li had incredibly strong and flexible legs and could drop into low stances effortlessly.
Although I never really trained with Li Guo Rui, he did show me this exercise which develops leg strength and is a also a developmental exercise for the Xing Yi Dragon form (Long Xing). Here is a picture of Li in the twisted Dragon Stance. Notice how both feet are flat on the floor and the incredible flexibility of left ankle.
– Tom Bisio
The Twisting Dragon Exercise:
- Start with the feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Inhale and bring the hands up under the chin in the White Ape Offers The Fruit Position, which is common to various styles of Ba Gua Zhang – the elbows come toward each other as the arms move in and up, to the position under the chin (Fig. 1).
- Exhale as the hands twist and turn palm-down. Simultaneously, the legs and body also twist to the left. The left kua, leg and foot turn outward and the right kua, leg and foot turn inward as the weight starts to come off the right foot and the right knee begins to move behind the left knee (Fig. 2). The body begins to sink.
- Continue to exhale as you sink downward. Keep the body erect. The right knee continues moving behind the left leg and brushes down the calf of the left leg, as the palms press downward so that they are parallel to the floor. The knee stops just an inch off the floor and you are held up by the erect posture and the twisting of the legs. It should feel as though you could easily set the knee on the floor if you wanted to. The right foot rests on the ball of the foot and the left foot is flat on the floor (Fig. 3). Figure 4 shows the proper angle of the left knee.
- From the position shown in Figs. 3 and 4, begin to lift up by driving the sacrum under the body. Inhale. The body begins to untwist to the right as the legs squeeze inward – lift upward as though being drawn up form the crown of the head. Use the breath to help you by imagining it filling your legs and the Dantian. As you rise, the hands move inward and upward to reach the White Ape Offer’s Fruit Position. This action of the arms combines with the movement of the sacrum, the twisting unwinding action of the legs and the filling of Dantian to raise the body smoothly and without strain. This action returns you to the position in Figure 1.
- Continue turning to the right and repeat the exercise on the other side.
- Go back and forth – twisting and sinking, unwinding and rising, coordinating the rising action with inhalation, and the sinking action with exhalation. The movements should be even and smooth, without acceleration. Ten to twenty repetitions is recommended.
- Strengthens the legs, back and torso.
- Builds power in Dantian.
- Aligns and strengthens the knees – particularly strengthening the intrinsic muscles that work with internal torsion of the knee joint.
- Balances the musculature on the inside and outside of the legs.
- Coordinates the actions of the ankles, knees and hips to generate a unified power.
- Improves leg flexibility.
- Develops functional body strength.