Cao Guo Jiu's Wiki page.
(Updated Dec. 3, 2015)
Practicing this set works on stabilizer muscles along the spine and isolation of the thoracic region, which is crucial for further development in other areas. Avoid rigidity, but avoid collapsing of the "jar" throughout the motions. Maintain expansiveness in the fluid structures and smooth movements, and bring awareness on the different spinal regions. This set trains stability in both horizontal and vertical planes, bringing functionality to extreme ranges of motion.
Cao Guo Jiu Montage (both small and large phases, plus fighting):
Phase 2: SMALL Shifting the Barrel
Focus is on stabilizers in lateral movement, proper spinal/neck alignment, as well as rotation in the thoracic spine rather than in the lower back/lumbar region.
STUDENT VIDEO 2.1
Some areas to pay attention to:
Play around with the range of motion in your hips when you’re standing in the crane stance. More repetitions of the large toast the moon set should open your hips up, which should create “rounder” motions when you hug the barrel at the top of the motion. Try standing in the crane stance and turning only your hips from left to right, while keeping your arms and raised leg unmoving in space. Subtle trajectory shifts like this will come into play when you get into using drunken boxing further, such as hiding your centerline, using hips as attacks/throws, etc. For now, keep your spine vertical, and explore more movement in your hips, all the while keeping your spine elongated.
A somewhat similar movement is shown in the following clip from 2:00 to 2:30 (Differences are that they don't integrate an arm/"barrel" structure into their movements, and only move to one side, rather than back and forth).
For a view of Cao Guo Jiu's Bridging, Entering and Clinch work, watch from 2:58-3:23 :
Conditioning exercise, good for forearms and the "barrel/jar" (Bak Mei practitioner):
Phase 2: LARGE Drink (from the Jar)
STUDENT VIDEO 2.2
One of the more “evil” of the sets, and hard to do correctly with higher repetitions, as it really requires attention to details to reap the benefits and avoid injury.
Some areas to pay attention to:
Even while leaning back to “drink”, keep your chin tucked in so your head isn’t looking backwards. It feels unnatural at first, but is important for learning to isolate movement in the middle spine. Don’t expect the barrel shape to go back very far: if anything, the hands may just rise above the head. However, KEEP THE CHIN IN, and the cervical spine lengthened/engaged.
When you lean back to drink, your hips shouldn’t rise up. Basically, when you lean forward, the height that your butt is at should remain level for the duration of the sets. It challenges leg strength, but more importantly helps with isolating the thoracic (mid) spine. Before you lean back to “drink”, think of your stabilizer muscles around your lumbar spine as wrapping around it to protect its structural integrity. Also, draw up your perineum slightly (tighten your anus), thereby providing a protective “wrapping” around your lower spine, preventing injury to it via proper support and avoiding shear stress on the lower vertebrae. Some of our students have said that it helps to imagine a chain connecting the navel/bellybutton with the perineum. It’s very important to protect your lower spine by engaging the muscles there before leaning back, and it’s also important to keep the hips from moving up and down.
Lots of subtleties, but that’s where the gold is.
The following are resources for understanding the thoracic region of the spine, which is a vital component to training this nei gong set correctly. Be sure to go slowly and progress intelligently in order to avoid injury.
Neuromuscular Therapist discussing issues of the thoracic region, and its importance in posture, breathing, etc.:
A series of exercises which can be used as warmup or introduction to the concept of isolating thoracic movement:
(Not vital, but another exploration of thoracic movement) A modern crossfit take on achieving mobility in the thoracic spine (*watch from 3:00 to 4:00):
>>In contrast to our nei gong set is the standard "Lift the Barrel" move found in many drunken boxing styles. While completely valid for drunken boxing, it stresses a different dynamic than what we aim for in our "Large Drink from the Jar" set. Shifu Ripski demonstrates the former in the following clip from 2:52-4:23:
Cao Guo Jiu's wikipedia page.