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Archives: Mindfulness Practices

The mindfulness practices as taught from the internal martial arts.

Internal Power Set

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

On my personal journey, I discovered that there was not enough movement in those exercises to prevent my hip pain. From that pain, however, a pearl developed. My pain forced me to explore outside traditional internal martial art routines to improve my physical fitness. From that exploration, I developed the following Internal Power Set.

I developed this set from a line in a Taijiquan classic text that says:

“Power is generated by the feet, transferred through the legs, directed by the waist, and transmitted through the arms to the hands.”

Internal Power Set Exercises

Perform these exercises in this order.

  1. Arm Circles
  2. Butterfly
  3. The Turtle
  4. Back Kick
  5. Push Up
  6. The Bellows
  7. Bridge
  8. Hurdlers Stretch
  9. Forward Bend
  10. Floor Twist
  11. Frog
  12. Foot Circles
  13. Hip Lift
  14. Crunches
  15. Horse Posture

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Recommended Baguazhang 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.

Baguazhang, taijiquan, xingyiquan, and even yiquan allows you to practice the most basic and beneficial of exercises; walking. The internal martial arts require a limited amount of space and have a limitless potential for variety. If you find that your practice is becoming stale, you can learn alternative forms, or change the ones you already know.

The American Heart Association recommends using a pedometer to count the steps you take in a day. From this measurement, you can determine how active or sedentary your lifestyle is. Armed with this information, you can develop a plan to improve your general health.

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The River Steps

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

Stand in Wuji Posture. Keep your arms at your sides and bend the knees slightly. Maintain this height throughout the exercise.

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Phoenix Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

The Phoenix is associated with the Sun trigram. Sun represents the wind, the single Yin line below the double Yang line representing movement under heaven. Sun is associated with wood. It represents the limbs and lower back in the body, and the Windmill, or Hurricane Palm, in the martial arts.

Sun is the wind trigram

The Phoenix is Rolling the Ball Palm with a unique rolling the ball palm change.

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Bear Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

The Bear is associated with the Gen trigram. Gen represents a Mountain, the two Yin lines below the single Yang line represent a mountain reaching into the clouds. Gen is bound and represents stillness. In the body it is the hands. In the martial arts, it is represented by the upper back and Behind the Body palm.

Gen trigram is Mountain

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Sparrow Hawk Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

The Sparrow Hawk is associated with the Li trigram. Li represents Fire, the single Yin line between the two Yang lines represents the radiance of a fire burning. Li is visualizing and represents the eyes on the outside of the body and the heart on the inside. In the martial arts, it is the Lying Palm.

Li trigram is fire

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Snake Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

The Snake is associated with the Kan trigram. Kan represents water, the single Yang line between the two Yin lines represents a river running through a gorge. Inside the body, it is the kidneys and the ears on the outside. In the martial arts, it is the Flowing Palm.

Kan is the River trigram.

The Flowing Palm Change turns to the outside of the circle. Because of this, you will not change direction after completing this sequence of movements and will have to add a Single or Double Palm Change to practice Snake in the other direction.

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The Lion Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

The Lion is associated with the Qian trigram. Qian is spirit force, or Heaven, and the father of the trigrams. Qian is pure Yang and represents strength and creativity. In the body, it represents the head, and the Interlocking Palm in the martial arts.

Sun Lutang said, “the Lion is strict, dignified, ardent, fiery, virtuous, and heroic.” He emphasized the Lion palm in his practice saying that “it compromised the first of 10,000 methods.”

Qian is the Heaven trigram

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Horse Posture

Traditional internal martial art teaching includes a low and wide stance known as Ma Bu, or Horse Stance. This stance develops leg strength, or rootedness. In the Earth Dragon Canon method, we abandon wide and deep stances for proper alignment and function. This does not mean we can abandon leg strength.

We need a posture that can engage our leg muscles functionally without dedicating hours to just standing around. My version of the Horse Posture is like the Bear Posture, but against a wall and standing up.

Find a sturdy wall and stand with your heels, buttocks, back, and head against it.

Preparation for Horse Posture.
Preparation for Horse Posture.

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Double Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

Si Xiang is the transformation (or doubling) of Yin and Yang into Old Yin, Young Yin, Young Yang, and Old Yang. Sun Lu Tang associated Si Xiang with the Double Palm Change.

Si Xiang is the dividing of Yin and Yang into four.

From the left Pushing Millstone Palm toe-in with the right foot to begin the change. The torso posture does not change.

Green Dragon Contracts its Tail posture for the Double Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang.
Beginning the Double Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang.

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Single Palm Change of Sun Style Baguazhang

Liang Yi is the two poles of Yin and Yang. In Baguazhang, walking to the left (counterclockwise) is Yang, walking to the right (clockwise) is Yin. Sun Lu Tang associated the Single Palm Change to Liang Yi.

Liang Yi. The division of Yin and Yang.

From the left Pushing Millstone Palm, toe-in with the right foot to begin the change. The torso posture does not change.

Green Dragon Contracts its Tail of Sun Style Baguazhang
Green Dragon Contracts its Tail of Sun Style Baguazhang.

Toe-out with the right foot and turn the palms over so they are pushing in the direction of the change. This movement can look as if you are pushing with the arms but do not; maintain the torso and arm alignments and let the toe-out movement create the push. The eyes remain focused on the left hand.

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Eight Trigram Palm

If you have been following the lesson plan, you have learned the fundamentals of internal martial art practice. Along the way, you have supplemented the traditional training with floor exercises that reinforced traditional concepts. With this information in hand, you are ready to practice the classical Baguazhang forms described in Sun Lu Tang’s book. Sun Lu Tang named this Baguazhang practice method as Swimming Body Eight Trigrams Connected Palms. Swimming Body implies we perform the postures in a continuous manner, while Connected Palms means we link the postures with the changes in direction.

Do not think of the forms in this section as a routine that you must practice one after another, rather as characters of an alphabet that you can connect to create your own routines.

Before you can achieve the free form practice of Swimming Body Connected Palms, however, you must work on the basics of learning the postures. First, practice slowly, performing each change of direction with care. Pause at each step to check your body alignment, much as you did in Standing Meditation and Mother Palms practice. When you feel comfortable with your body alignments, you can move through the changes with slight pauses at the extremes of each posture. Sun Lu Tang reinforced this pause in his book by saying that the “posture stops, but it does not stop.” Think of water moving inside a bag as you shake it. When you stop shaking the bag, the water continues to move about, causing the bag to move. After much practice, you will change directions without thinking and move from one change to another continuously.

Once you have attained the highest level of practice, you cannot abandon the basics. Recommended Practice has hints on staying in touch with the basics as you progress in skill.

Martial Applications of Eight Trigram Palm

I shared some information about meditation in the Attention section. By practicing attention with the physical exercises of this book, you have a tool to achieve a higher state of mind than most people around you. The biggest side effect of this attention is that you will be more aware of the present moment, your surroundings, and the current situation than those around you. You will notice people with bad posture, or people who are not breathing. You will recognize situations that seem like a major crisis to others as imagined obstacles that do not exist in the now.

This attention to the present moment is the single most important teaching of any pugilistic skill. Without presence, you cannot win a fight. Someone that is not present in a fight will think about all the past harms their opponent has done them and use those memories to fuel their rage. Others may focus on how cool they will be after they have kicked their opponent’s ass, and what a great story their victory will make.

The trained boxer defeats himself first. He recognizes that fighting will benefit no one. Someone will get hurt, and there can be no awareness at the moment of doing harm. Attention recognizes that all the perceived hurts or imagined victories do not exist, NOW. The practiced martial artist does not seek to harm, but to return safely from the encounter. Ultimately, that is the genuine struggle of life: to return safely from the encounter.

Circle walking is the method used in applying Baguazhang for martial purposes. There is an old saying:

“The hands defend; the feet win.”

Circle walking in Baguazhang practice is the continuous training of footwork skills. The ability to change hand positions and defend or attack while moving is a skill few have.

Books describing martial arts often show martial applications with the description of the posture. Understanding the form’s purpose in a fight will help in you study the posture and improve your practice of it. Usually, this is useful, since many martial forms have clear and direct applications. Baguazhang, however, is about change, and the applications are less clear.

Martial art instructors have devised many ways to preserve and transmit the martial applications of an art. The most popular method is the practice of Pushing Hands. Pushing Hands is a two-person training routine that teaches leverage, sensitivity, positioning, and coordination. Another method is the use of keywords describing the fighting essence of the art.

Instead of looking for specific applications in the Baguazhang postures, consider these keywords and how each of them could be applied at any instant in your circle walking practice.

The Eight Abilities of Baguazhang Practice


Ward off the opponent’s hand, foot, shoulder or hip with a countermove. Similar to Block, but you do not rub the opponent.


Hinder or stop the opponent’s movement or action by rubbing against the hand or foot of the opponent with your hand, shoulder, hip, or foot.


Prevent an opponent’s strike from landing by deflecting it with a hand, elbow, shoulder, or hip. Parry is round, Intercept is straight.


Collide with the opponent’s breast or abdomen with your elbow, shoulder, hip, or knee.


Use one or both hands to hold or exert force against the opponent. Also called a strike.


Lift the opponent’s hands away from the intended strike.


When grabbed by the opponent, support the grab and move to break the hold. This may be done by Knocking, Upholding, or Lifting.


Raise or lower the opponent’s body, causing their balance to be lost.

Eight Trigram Palm Practice Method

When practicing the postures, use the Natural Step to walk around the circle. Walk slowly, pausing with each step to check your body alignment. Pictures and descriptions are for the left turning (walking in the counterclockwise direction with the left hand in the center of the circle) changes only. Reverse the descriptions to perform the change on the right side. Perform each change an equal number of times for both the left and right postures.

Sun Lu Tang connected each of the twelve postures in his book to a concept from Daoist cosmology. You are familiar with the first two postures.


Before you begin practice, stand in Wuji posture.


Before you move, there is the intention of moving, and then there is the separation of Yin and Yang. Before you walk the circle, stand in the Pushing Millstone posture on the edge of the circle. This announces your intention to move and creates Yin and Yang.

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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.

Foot circles are a staple of many exercise programs. I do mine lying on the floor.

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The Frog

The Frog is like the Butterfly, but on your back. The principle is the same; to open your hips without extreme stretching or pain.

Lie on your back in Wuji Posture, extending your arms to the sides. Raise the legs so the feet are about where your knees were. Push the soles of the feet together and let your knees open up like butterfly wings. Look at the ceiling and old for one to three minutes before straightening the legs.

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Floor Twist

Turning at the torso is not something we do every day. As your attention improves through your martial art practice, you will notice most people are as stiff as board in their torso area. Most of this is angst, some of it is disfunction. The internal martial arts require a supple torso. As you progress through baguazhang or taijiquan postures, you will notice a difference in your overall agility and balance as your torso loosens. The Floor Twist is your first step to softening the torso and is one of my favorite exercises. It has made a significant difference in my overall health.

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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. You can perform it simply by using a chair or bench to supplement the exercise, or you can extend the stretch by engaging the legs individually.

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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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The Bellows

Breathing in is Yin, breathing out is Yang. When performing internal martial art 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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