Supplemental Exercises

Earth Method

The River Steps

The River Steps (a.k.a. Ladder Stepping) provide a method to study the transition of your weight between the insubstantial and substantial legs.
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Crunches

Here is another traditional exercise to strengthen your torso, and one of the most hated words in the English language, Crunches.
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The Frog

Related to the butterfly, the Frog posture opens your hips for internal martial art practice.
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Floor Twist

The internal martial arts require a supple torso. The Floor Twist is an exercise to improve torso mobility.
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Back Kick

Sitting disassociates the connection between the legs and the torso. The Back Kick is a powerful reminder that our legs need the torso to function well.
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The Turtle

Walking heel-to-toe seems natural enough, but that old enemy of sitting too much, can really interfere with your ability to put one foot in front of the other. The Turtle is a supplemental exercise for your taijiquan practice. It focuses on the feet and reminds you that the body generates internal power from the ground up.

Foot Circles

Walking heel-to-toe seems natural enough, but that old enemy of sitting too much can really interfere with your ability to put one foot in front of the other. What usually happens, is that one foot kicks out to the side and lands slightly on one side of the foot or the other. You will recognize this when one shoe wears excessively on one side. There are many exercise programs that will improve your gait, and I encourage you to explore those.
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Forward Bend

This one may make your hips pop; it is great after sitting too long, and essential before you start any physical activity.
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Hurdler’s Stretch

This is one of my favorite stretches. Start on your hands and knees as in the Bridge, but put the left foot in front of the right knee, with the heel touching the knee.

Bridge

The Bridge is from a classic pose in Yoga. As you perform the Bridge Posture, pay attention to the connection of the body from the wrist to the ankles. The Bridge both opens the chest and stretches the hamstrings.
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Finger Exercise

You use our hands all day, yet pay little attention to what they are doing. Studies that map parts of the human body to brain function draw pictures of the body that represent the relative size of each body part to brain function. These pictures show the hands huge compared to the rest of the body, with one hand being larger than the other. Bringing your hands into your conscious awareness is the point of this exercise.
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The Bellows

Breathing in is Yin, breathing out is Yang. When performing the martial forms, we associate breathing in with defensive movements, while we associate breathing out with offensive movements. In The Bellows, we coordinate breathing with movement while exercising the spine, shoulders, and hips.
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Deep Breathing

Until you can breathe deeply and slowly, it will be impossible for you to coordinate the internal and external harmonies into a unified practice. A good way to start breath practice is in the Bear Posture. Instead of holding your hands out to your sides, put the left hand on your lower abdomen and the right hand on your chest.
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Hip Lift

When I learned my left leg was one centimeter shorter than my right, the physical therapist recommended this exercise as one way to reengage the hip joint. In mindfulness martial arts, it reminds us that power is generated from the feet and transferred to to the torso, before it can be expressed in the hands. Lie on your back in proper Wuji Posture alignment, but extend your arms to the sides with your palms facing up. Pull the left foot up so it is opposite the right knee. Keep the sole of the left foot flat on the floor.
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Butterfly

There are some crazy exercises to open the hips and regain flexibility in the pelvic girdle. Some of them involve a partner pushing or pulling legs to ever wider angles. Those just seem painful to me, and I should know, because I have tried some of them in the past. Here is an exercise that you can do lying on your stomach that will open and relax the hip joints without having to become a contortionist.
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Push Ups

No exercise engages the scapula, quite like the push up. For strengthening the arms, shoulders, and body core, nothing beats this traditional exercise. The push up also engages the serratus anterior muscle along your rib cage, the same muscle targeted in traditional standing postures with extended arms.

Arm Circles

One exercise that helps to strengthen and improve the shoulder range of motion is the traditional Arm Circle exercise.

Horse Posture

Traditional martial art teaching includes a low and wide stance known as Ma Bu, or Horse Stance. This stance develops leg strength, or rootedness. I the Earth Dragon Canon method, we abandon wide and deep stances for proper alignment and function. This does not mean, however, that we can abandon leg strength. We need a posture that can engage our leg muscles in a functional manner without dedicating hours to just standing around. My version of the Horse Posture is similar to the Bear Posture, but against a wall and standing up.

Lying Bear Posture

This posture is designed to let the stress of the day go, and I refer to it often. My grandfather was the first to introduce me to this posture. His doctor recommended it to alleviate his back pain. I found it many books promising pain relief since then. The idea is to release the tension in your lower back.

Internal Power Set

In classical internal martial art practice, there are several Qigong sets designed to teach internal power. They are composed of stretching, massage, and breathing exercises designed to develop or transport Qi throughout the body.

Recommended Practice

The supplemental exercises presented in the Earth component of the Earth Dragon Canon method gives you all tools you need for a lifetime of healthy practice. Taking advantage of these tools and using them regularly is a responsibility you must take seriously.

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