Phase 1- Toast the Moon- He Xian Gu

8/9/2014

 

He Xian Gu's Wiki page.  

(Updated Aug. 22, 2015)

 

In these sections, members who wish to receive feedback can choose to submit videos, comments and questions.  Posting videos to sites such as YouTube is a valuable way to receive immediate feedback on your training, and is highly recommended to avoid critical errors.  

 

>>  drunkenyoga@gmail.com

 

He Xian Gu Montage (both small and large phases, plus fighting):

 

Phase 1: SMALL Drunkard Toasts the Moon

 

Watching how students intuitively transition from one posture to the next can be a big "tell" for other areas that need attention (for example, structural gaps, speed changes, arc pathways), so this initial set is used as an indicator or "litmus test" for giving immediate feedback to correct critical errors.  

 

In other words, allowing students to try postural transitions from the first small set on their own, rather than giving explicit visual instruction, is actually a tool to assist the learner, provided objective feedback is given in a timely manner.  

 

TRY these movements, transitioning from each of the postures shown in the book to the next, using your intuition and current understanding of drunken body mechanics.  Submit your training, and we'll offer feedback.  We want drunken boxers, we want dilligence, and we want your success!!!  

 

If done completely correct according to Drunken Fist principles, this first set is actually one of the hardest to execute correctly and master, as many core concepts are at play simultaneously.  Don't get frustrated, because you'll see that as you progress with your training and come back to revisit this set, improvements will be apparent and tangible.  

 

That having been said, below are some student videos and associated feedback to assist your studies.  

 

STUDENT VIDEO 1.1 

 Below is some of the feedback given to this member, who was generous enough to share his training:

 

Practices like (Chinese) yoga, Taiji, and other “internal” arts have the external form which beginners must learn the gross motor movements for.  Once these become a bit more natural, the goal is refinement and deeper understanding.  It’s why practitioners of Chen style Taijiquan spend so much time, effort and concentration on Yilu, and this Eight Immortals practice is no different really. 

 

At this early point in your Eight Immortals practice, it’s expected that movements are at this initial stage.  

 

  • Connection.  Movement in both hands (all body connected).  There should never be a point when an arm, leg or other body part is moving/stationary independent from the rest of the body.  (For example, your right arm from 0:01 to 0:07, while in a cup fist, mostly remains in space, unmoving). 

 

  • Reset.  This point (and the next one) should be your major focus.  Between movements, “reset” hands in front of lower dantian, cup fists bent inwards.  From this position, hands separate as you move to toast the moon, pulling apart in front of the body, opening the heart (thoracic) region, where most of the movement originates.  The upper “toasting” hand is on the center line of the body, moving along this centerline vertically as it toasts upwards.  The lower hand strikes downwards from dantian into its position.

 

  • Inhale.  Upon finishing the toast, both hands move down at the sides, cup fists bent backwards, arms lowering your sides as you inhale.  At the same time you step down, moving into the “reset” position.  As such, wrists are both in flexion (exhalation) and extension (inhalation) at different points of the exercise. 

 

  • Flow:  There are natural pauses at the apex of the movement (the height of the toast) and the “reset” position, where the breathing changes from inhale to exhale (yinyang transitions: the “dots” in the taijitu symbol), but besides these two points, movements should be continuous and flowing, more elastic.  Remember the “yoga” aspect: keep it strong yet supple. 

 

  • Balance.  Work on slow balance, avoid “falling” out of this position (sudden movement) as you step down (0:22, 0:29).  Try to smooth out motions so an even tempo is used throughout all breathing and motions. 

 

Keep in mind that this is one of the hardest sets to do correctly, which is one of the reasons it’s used as the starting point.  As you continue with the training, you’ll constantly revisit the first set (ideally doing them in order), so improvements should be apparent (as well as areas a player needs to work on).  

 

COMBAT PREVIEW:

View from 0:18-2:47 for some excellent He Xian Gu methods:

 

 

 

Phase 1: LARGE Toast to the Moon

 

Focus on body LENGTH!  Open the hips, sinking into them without losing structural integrity.  

 

STUDENT VIDEO 1.2

 

For the large toast to the moon set (and in fact, all of the sets), the spine is our main feedback mechanism, so constantly pay attention to what your lower back (lumbar), mid back (thoracic) and neck (cervical) are doing in relation to each other and body movement. 

 

The first thing to notice is that at the apex of your toast on either side your eyes look at the horizon, and therefore your neck is not being lengthened through the crown of the head.  The goal is lengthening your spine, so try to focus on keeping your chin tucked in (“packed neck”) throughout the exercise. This keeps the spine elongated and engaged.  

 

This is one of the key sets to train well, so time spent on training this should yield good results. 

 

As you train more, you’ll naturally sink further into your hips which will loosen up and create better spinal/hip movement ratio in the long term. 

 

Minor detail at this stage of your training, but try to have less bend in the elbows right before you extend to “toast” on either side.  Keep the soft springiness in them, but focus less on contracting (bending the elbow to “load” the strike) and more on extension/reach. 

 

Also, as your hips open, the arc of your arms and body in the front should naturally sink lower, and your arms will pass closer to the ground. 

 

Rather than pausing in the middle in the barrel shape, you can start to smooth out your movements and make the transitions from side to side as one continuous arc, coordinated with your exhalations.  

 

 

 

 

OTHER RESOURCES:

 

SMALL: (Interesting Note: Shifu Ripski from Canada has a similar position to our "Drunkard Toasts the Moon" set in his Ba Ying Zui Quan Er Lu, seen in this clip at 1:58 (The yogic nature of our sets has slightly different dynamics and strives for further range of motion in the body))

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAuvm7Lhlus&t=1m57s

 

 

 

LARGE: This is not our set nor our practice, but the hip/kua concept is sound.  

 

Notice how the practitioner in this clip stresses the importance of level hips moving on a horizontal plane.  He also demonstrates what incorrect movement looks like, which is hips moving up and down.  

 

(Modified silk reeling from bagua) low hips, open kua.  View from 0:00-0:23.   

 

 

 

 

One-legged strength balance drills:

 

 

 

 

ARTICLE: The skin of a drum

 

While training the first set of “Drunkard Toasts the Moon”, it’s absolutely vital to have proper tension throughout the body, expansive and balanced.  Tension doesn’t equate to constriction, as in the tightening of a bicep muscle making it firm, engaged and tense, rather, it’s  similar to the skin of a drum pulled evenly across a drum shell.  If even one of the tensile components (lugs or tension rods, or traditionally sinew or rope) of a drum is too tight or loose, it affects the entire function of the drum skin, at best resulting in a warped or uneven sound, at worst ending up split and useless.  Our aim is longevity via balance, so let’s avoid breaking ourselves. 

 

(From Wikipedia) Fasciae are connective tissue fibers, primarily collagen, that form sheets or bands beneath the skin to attach, stabilize, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs.

 

The fascial tissue connecting one’s body need to be in proper tensile balance in order to reap the proper benefits from the training.  Closing following the “checklist” of the set should help ensure proper expansive force (taiji players refer to it as “peng” jin). 

 

From submitted footage, here have been some common errors to watch out for:

 

  • Hip sway: (this has been the biggest) it’s natural to want a broader range of motion when trying unusual drunken boxing positions, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of spinal integrity.  The lumbar spine (and therefore hips) should not move while training the small set.  Turn at the WAIST, not the HIPS. 

 

  • Cup fists are not just for drunken aesthetic.  They are used to make sure your “yi” or intent is always engaged all the way to the ends of your limbs, right into your fingertips.  Keep them engaged, not rigid.

 

  • Foot of the raised leg needs to be engaged, with the heel protruding beyond the toes.  As above, it helps to keep one’s intent “on” throughout the body, and also leads to balanced tension as discussed above. 

 

  • Balance comes with repetition and practice. 

 

  • Breathe.  Holding your breath creates undue rigidity.  Don’t force the process, observe it.       

 

He Xian Gu's wikipedia page.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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