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The Earth Dragon Canon Method of Internal Martial Arts
An Introduction to Internal Martial Arts Practice
Mindfulness and martial arts are the yin and yang practices to enlightened awareness. Finding a mindful-first approach to martial art training is difficult. The trend is to restore the martial foundation to traditional arts. I understand the desire, but making plowshares into swords is not evolutionary for the individual or humanity.
Mindfulness practice is more than meditation, it is a commitment to being present in every moment of your life. The trend toward five-minute breaks guided by a smartphone application is profitable for the silicon-valley set but does little to create real mindfulness.
The Earth Dragon Canon Method of mindfulness martial art practice teaches functional practices for the internal martial arts of baguazhang, taijiquan, xingyiquan, and yiquan. Through this method, you will learn the history of these arts, the cosmological concepts that give them their names, and how they have contributed or grown from mindfulness practices as old as human civilization.
Internal martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It is an exploration of the mind through the body, and conversely, the body through the mind. The Earth Dragon Canon Method stresses this connection to fulfill practical and spiritual growth.
There are three types of students that will find this method of practice useful:
- The first type of student is looking for a fitness program that is more than just running and jumping about.
- The second type of student is new to the internal martial arts or mindfulness practice and has honest doubts about esoteric claims and training methods.
- The third type of student is looking for a more engaged approach to mindfulness practice.
The first type of student is interested in a fitness program that encourages self-evolution. This student has tried fitness programs before and abandoned them as boring repetitions of strenuous activity. For this student, the Earth Dragon Canon method of practice presents a complete program you can apply at your own pace. It is a lifelong practice of self-evolution that will not grow stale or become trivial. Space and time will not be a factor because you can practice anywhere, anytime, and define your own development.
The second type of student is familiar with the internal martial arts and seeks improvement or a better understanding of their practice. For this student, many of the concepts are familiar, but they may be unsure of their growth, overwhelmed by material, and frustrated at violence first methods of training, or outlandish internal power claims.
Selling martial arts as a method for self-defense is popular, but the time and training needed to apply these skills in a combat situation is greater than the average student is ready to undertake. A casual scan of the day’s headlines reveals violent crime involving deadly weapons that even the legendary figures of the past could not overcome. A student looking for a “good fight” will find benefit in the Earth Dragon Canon method of practice, but only if you ready to explore beyond the physical aspects of martial arts.
And finally, the third student was me. I had engaged in mindfulness practices from various traditions, but just setting around was not enough. As you will learn in my personal training history, the internal martial arts opened a new world of experience and understanding that my naturally skeptical mind transformed into a deep and abiding practice method. My own failures with my practice taught me valuable lessons and inspired me to share what I had experienced and learned.
The Earth Dragon Canon Method
As the name implies, the Earth Dragon Canon Method has three components. Each component illustrates an aspect of internal martial art training.
Earth dragon canon (di long jing) is a popular phrase in martial art training that commonly refers to ground fighting. Dragon (long) implies fighting forms and earth (di) meaning on the ground. Canon (jing) means a general principle by which something is judged. So, earth dragon canon would be the general principle of ground fighting.
The internal martial art of xingyiquan associates earth dragon canon with a circle walking practice called the twisted root. Here, earth dragon implies balance, rooting, and fighting skill.
My method developed from both definitions but deemphasizes fighting skill for ground exercises that highlight key internal martial art training concepts.
The Earth component is a combination of isometric and traditional exercises designed to help you understand key concepts from internal martial art teaching. These exercises are more than esoteric, they will also improve your general fitness.
I combine some of these exercises into the Earth Dragon Canon Internal Power Set that I formulated from the taijiquan classics. This is not a traditional qigong sequence, but an isometric set designed to remind you how the muscles of the body work together to perform the most amazing feat in the natural world, walking upright.
The Dragon component presents the classical training of baguazhang, taijiquan, xingyiquan, or yiquan practice.
Standing practice is common to all internal martial arts. Therefore, the Earth Dragon Canon Method has four simple postures that illustrate functional alignment, hand and leg positioning, and key traditional teaching. I reference these postures in most of the lessons, so do not ignore this standing practice.
After you learn how to stand, you can proceed with learning any of the internal martial arts with confidence.
Each of the internal martial arts has unique foundational practice methods included in those course outlines. For baguazhang, this includes three stepping patterns for walking around the circle and the eight standing palms. For taijiquan this includes silk reeling and five phases stepping practice. For yiquan, this includes deep breathing practice and important mental imagery that most teachers overlook.
Canon also means a literary or artistic work considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality. The Canon component presents the history and philosophy of Daoist, Confucian, and Dharma principles that compose the moral character of both mindfulness and internal martial art practice.
These lessons are introductions for your further study. For the student looking for a good fight, I encourage you to look beyond the physical forms and develop a deeper understanding of your actions and their impact on the world around you.
Martial Art Lineage Trees
One of the most misunderstood aspects of martial art training is the question of lineage trees. Lineage trees are important to understanding the development of a martial art. Animal breeders use lineage trees to select characteristics, and monarchs use lineage trees to prove their bloodline is pure enough to assume the throne. Unfortunately, many martial art teachers and students fall into the trap of the latter use and neglect the importance of the first.
Students who are more concerned with the development of a martial art than the legitimacy of a particular teacher’s practice, can follow the lineage tree of certain teachers and see how the martial style developed. Such study provides important insight into modern practice and will help the student understand how your style’s practice methods developed.
When considering a martial lineage tree, do not fall for the myth that a particular lineage is more effective or more legitimate than another. Many martial artists use lineage trees to legitimize their practice as authentic or more combat ready than another. These teachers exaggerate or falsify their lineage. Other teachers have become so insistent that a certain lineage is the only one of worth, they will denigrate the practice methods of other styles. This makes legitimate research difficult, if not impossible. This is why my efforts centered on the work of Sun Lu Tang.
Sun Lu Tang is a constant in martial art study. First, we have his published works. Second, his daughter continued his work and openly shared facts about her father’s life, study, and practice. She was quick to criticize the ridiculous superhuman claims made about her father’s skill. Finally, three separate sources, each with a historical record, identified Sun Lu Tang as a master of three internal martial arts.
You can draw similar conclusions about many of Sun Lu Tang’s contemporaries. The end of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century saw many teachers working to legitimize boxing arts as self-evolution programs for both the scholar and ruffian.
Teaching and Learning the Internal Martial Arts
Teaching and learning are like flowing water that can nourish or destroy. Some teachers represent martial practice as a path to invulnerability through the magic power of qi. These teachers are like a raging river you should avoid.
Others are only interested in their own learning or make their practice hard to understand. Still others use flowery terms, with changing definitions, or claim the real meaning cannot be known except by a select few. These teachers are like a wide river that is hard to cross. You may gain understanding, but only with great cost and effort on your part.
There are no secrets to internal martial art practice. The internal martial arts are not a path to invulnerability or superhuman powers. Teachers that share the building blocks of proper physical and mental functioning give you the tools for self-evolution. These teachers are like a bubbling spring, nourishing all who come to drink from it.
The Earth Dragon Canon Method has recommended lesson plans, but these recommendations are not binding. I want you to develop your own rhythm of practice instead of imposing artificial limits. I encourage you to skip around the lesson plans and peak at the more advanced training, so you can determine how your practice will develop.
The internal martial arts intertwine the philosophical concepts of yin and yang, Bagua, Wuxing, and qi. Understanding a posture’s purpose and sequence of training includes the study of those concepts. The Canon method is a path to mindfulness practice, and you should not ignore it.
This is YOUR PRACTICE. Take what I give you and make it your own.
There are many books and videos detailing martial art practice. Few of them present the arts as a cohesive mental and physical practice with supplemental exercises. In that respect, I think my Earth Dragon Canon Method is unique and an evolutionary effort on my part. I humbly ask for your feedback on errors and encouragement to continue.