Ch'i Shou — The Adhering Hand
Never be mistaken about Feng Shou kung fu: it is a dynamic and very devastating art, exceedingly fast with great dexterity and suppleness, and that is one of the reasons why we do not allow sparring sessions to take place amongst the student grades. In such a specialized art as this, where women can strike as hard as ten men when they use the power of Ch'i, it takes time to gain sufficient experience with the thousands of techniques that are involved.
Training in the sparring aspects only starts with the Masters or Teachers who have sufficient number of years in the practice of this art to have mastered the many techniques that are required for proficiency. Even so they are taken through this section in very easy training sessions, paying particular attention to every section, such as speed, distance, high and low blows, footwork, evasion techniques, and maximum body control of yourself and also of your opponent. However, this policy does not entirely exclude you from the enjoyment of matching your skill against an opponent, in a friendly form of combat and a battle of wits, technique and experience.
Ch'i Shou is, in a wide sense, an exercise in complete submission, in a multitude of ways, and yet, in giving way to force, you win. There must be no resistance whatsoever, either in mind, body or energy, and you must learn to give way to every grain of pressure that your opponent may exert against you. The ultimate aim is to turn his power, strength and weight back against himself.
For instance, if you are in a wrist-to-wrist contact with an opponent who leads at you with his right arm, yield completely and at the same time turn your body to your right, so that his arm goes past your right shoulder. He is now pushing, not at you personally, but pushing nothing but the air. At the maximum point of his reach, his balance will begin to feel a bit shaky, and the weight of his body will have moved onto his toes. If you can continue to keep him going in the same direction, by pushing gently with your left hand as well, then he will fall over, no matter how big he might be.
That is simply the whole essence of Ch'i Shou, and the very soft art of Feng Shou: completely utilizing your opponent's force, aggression, and balance against himself, thereby assisting him to create his own downfall. This will apply at all times, and under all circumstances and in every situation, no matter how tall or how heavy or even how strong he might be, for the foundation of good balance must rest entirely on the feet and the legs.
If you happen to push your partner from behind, you will notice his weight will automatically move forward, and to try to maintain adequate balance he will grip with his toes to try and stay upright. If you push him from the front, he has nothing on his heels to grip with, and so he cannot maintain or recover his equilibrium, for there is nothing there to help provide the leverage necessary for him to retain an upright stature. Through your influence and technique, therefore, he will either have to step back or fall backwards. If he should step back to regain his balance, or if you can so arrange or manipulate the situation so that he has to step back, you can still apply that light and gentle pushing action that will hold his balance over his heels. You can therefore topple him over, even with the pressure of one of your fingers.
Always remember, no matter how you stand, and whatever stance you may adopt, there is a minimum of fifty per cent weakness. In fact, no matter what stance you may acquire, you will always have six points of weakness: to your left, to your right, backward, forward, downwards and upwards. This will always apply to any posture or stance that may be used by your opponent. Therefore, knowing which way to push or to coax your opponent to move into, will take time and experience, and there is no better way of learning to do this than through the constant practice of Ch'i Shou.
But before you begin to practise this art, you must be completely relaxed in mind, body and spirit, and at all times be one with yourself. To achieve this, you may find it helpful to do a short session of the breathing exercises that we mention in this book.
The real point about Ch'i Shou is that you have to be in a peaceful state of mind so that you are aware of the feel of the slightest movement, and sensitive enough to register the most minute shift in emphasis. You must be conscious of the delicate balance that exists within everything, together with the understanding of the amount of force that is being applied against you, and also have a deep appreciation of the skill of your opponent.
You must learn to yield to every type of force that your opponent may exert against you, whether it is physical, energy, mental or weight, although all this may only come through constant practice and a lot of practical experience. So initially both of you should try to move very slowly using only the barest minimum of pressure.
At first, giving way with no resistance whatsoever may seem to be against your whole concept of fighting, and therefore you may find this quite difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, you should try and persevere, because no matter how strong you are, there is always someone stronger, taller, and heavier than you, whose force you cannot oppose. So you must learn to channel your opponent's strength, power, weight and balance and to turn them all against himself. These are the basic principles behind Ch'i Shou, for if you try to use physical force and very fast movements, in the end you will have achieved nothing, learnt nothing, felt nothing, and you will find that you have also attained nothing from all of your work.
You already understand that one of the greatest values in practising Ch'i Shou is that it will help you to appreciate and be more conscious of the balance of the body, not only your opponent's, but also your own. But another equally important aspect of Ch'i Shou is being able to counter any of your opponent's intended moves, before he actually can make them. This is not mind reading or clairvoyance, it is the intuition and understanding that you acquire through your experience in this art.
If you practise enough, you will be able to do this as well, just like any other Feng Shou expert. In a way it might be referred to as a sixth sense, but it is more than this really, for through your diligent practise you do become hyper-sensitive, and very much aware of the meaning of all of your opponent's movements, no matter how little or how gentle they might be.
Over a period of time, this hyper-sensitivity develops to such a degree that you will eventually 'feel' an opponent, even though you may not see him or hear him, and this feeling is so precise that you will be able to tell which arm or leg will be used if he tries to attack you.
In order to make yourself more receptive to this kind of inner development you must start adhering to the natural order of the universe, commence eating the Ch'ang Ming (Taoist Long Life Therapy) way, then work diligently so that you can build up within yourself the channels of receptivity, and then through the training of Ch'i Shou you will slowly attain a state of super-sensitivity. If you don't live this way then you can so easily miss the tiny revealing signs that can tell you so much. In addition, your own touch must be as delicate as possible or it can blur the sensation of what your opponent is doing, or what he is intending to do.
This lightness of touch cannot be over-emphasized. It must be so fine that if a feather fell on your arm, it would slowly yield beneath the weight of it. In the same way, you and your partner ought to yield to each other's technique and pressure.
At all times you must be in an arm or hand contact with your opponent and then you will find that, after a while, even if you close your eyes, you will be able to tell whether his weight is on the rear leg or the front foot, if he leans slightly too much in one direction or even if he should move the other hand or arm. You will pick up these changes not only through your sensitivity and very strong concentration, but also through those infinitesimal variations that exist in the angles of approach, the levels of pressure and those minute muscular movements which will give him and his intentions away, and reveal to you the complete story. When you have conquered the basics of the techniques, and have understood the principles involved, you will find yourself advancing very quickly, for there are so many variations of movements within movements that you will be able to ad lib many sequences that may suit your build, your attitude at the time, even your own favourite side, plus the depth of your sensitivity. But don't try and run before you can walk! Start with the following short sequence, and build on it as you slowly progress.
Both you and your partner stand facing one another in right Snake Stance, with both knees slightly bent and your back nice and straight. Raise your right hand so that the back of your right wrist lightly touches the back of your partner's right wrist: this is the contact that you want to maintain throughout this exercise. Now your partner starts to move his arm gently forward as if to press you back. Immediately you feel that extra pressure, give way to his force, by transferring your weight on to your rear leg. Then, when you consider that he has reached the limit of his balance, turn to one side, thus leaving him in a very unstable position, for he is leaning forward against nothing, pushing only the thin air.
Now that the forward pressure has been diverted away, by the action of your arm and body, you can utilize his own force and power against himself. Without breaking contact, float his arm in front of your chest, and then take it out to your right, and circle it back to a point where you can lightly touch his chest or his left shoulder with the back of his own arm. At this point you will be able to topple him or, as we call it in our arts, you have uprooted his balance. However, if his reaction is good, or his balance is fundamentally stable, or your timing is not perfect, then it is quite possible that he will manage to stay upright and maintain his balance. Then he too can lean slightly back and transfer his weight correctly, and ride your slight pressure on his arm by turning his body to his right. Then he will be able to exploit the same advantage against your own movement and your weight distribution.
What a simple movement this is, that you have worked out with your partner! When you have mastered the feel of it, then carry on a little further. Learning to utilize both arms so that they can absorb a slight pressure from any angle that your opponent may move your arms into, whether it be high or low. Remember that your feet, at this particular stage, should remain firm and stationary on the floor. If you have to move them at all, even by the slightest movement, then your balance has been upset, and that is one up to your partner.
It is important to be able to use both sides of the body with equal dexterity, and with as near equal skill as is possible. So both you and your partner change your stance, and practise this movement also in the left style. Once you have mastered the movements through the use of one hand and arm, then try using both hands. When you do this you will find that the possibilities of variation, angles, pressure and changes in style and balance which are open to you are infinite, for not only can you uproot your partner forwards, backwards, left, right, downwards (which is pretty hard to do), and also upwards whereby your partner's feet actually leave the floor, which is the hardest or most difficult technique to accomplish, of all.
These last two movements will be learnt much later. For the time being, stick to the basic principles, and take note of the following rules and guidelines which you will find extremely useful through the early stages of your progression.
Make sure that if you change hands at any time one hand or arm is always in contact with your partner's arm. Whilst you can have both hands touching him simultaneously, only one hand should actually be doing the work. If both hands work at the same time, we call this 'double weighting', and you can very easily be uprooted. So if at any time you have two hands touching, make the period of contact as short as possible. Utilize the full scope of your hands, arms and body to cover every conceivable angle of defence and countering movements. If you want to move forward, then you will find it easier if you move your body back first. Similarly, if you want to move to your right, then go to the left first, and so on. In other words, before you move towards any direction move a little first in the opposite direction. Try it, and you will slowly understand why, for it not only increases your leverage by giving additional space for your arms and hands, and eventually with your footwork, but it also takes advantage of your opponent's normal physical reactions.
Never 'double weight' because this is a pointless expenditure of your energy, and creates weaknesses within yourself. It is far better to have your energy flowing out of only one hand at a time, while the other rests lightly on your opponent.
For much the same reason, avoid putting your weight on both legs at the same time. This 'double weighting' of your balance also has the tendency to weaken your stance, and if your partner is sensitive enough he will be able to feel it, and so he will find comparatively simple to uproot you.
Ch'i Shou may seem a very passive form of combat to you, and, at this stage in your training, may seem to hold no meaning whatsoever, and you may even think that as a form of fighting it is virtually useless. That is where you would be wrong, and very wrong indeed. Hidden within its depth is the development of your potential inner self. These sensitive internal areas are so subtle that only through a medium as delicate as Ch'i Shou can you hope to grasp their fundamental meanings, practicalities, and gentle indescribable changes. In addition, it is the nearest thing to close quarter fighting that you will ever come across, and therefore it is invaluable to you in your training.
So don't neglect this part of your training, for the whole of the Chinese arts was born around it.