We all expend energy; at home, at work, and at play in the daily activities that make up most of our lives. As Martial Arts and Qigong Practitioners, we understand the inherent need to conserve strength, and replenish energy as well. One answer to the question "How do we replenish energy?" is found in the ancient practice of Tai Ji Ruler (The Chinese term for ruler is Chr).
Ruler is an excellent exercise of Taoist origin, and has been shown to have a healing effect on diseases relating to the digestive system, among others. The exact history of the origin of the Ruler system, a 7 stage system of qigong, is clouded in myth and legend, as are many of the stories concerning things Chinese. Suffice it to say that during the Sung Dynasty (960-1278c.e.), a famous Taoist hermit by the name of Chen Hsi Yi (also known as Fu Yao Tzu and Chen Tu Nan), was asked by his long time friend, the Emperor Chao Kang Yan, to teach him esoteric methods to develop his inner powers, so that he could be a better and wiser ruler of his subjects. The exercises that were taught to the Emperor were passed down as a family treasure, a secret, for many centuries. One of the descendants of Emperor Chou was called Chao Chung Tao, and he brought the Ruler method into the public during the last years of his life.
Master Chao was born in 1844 and died in 1962. He attributed his long life to the practice of the Ruler System.
In the 1860's, the grandmother of Chao began teaching him the Ruler system, she herself was well over 100 years of age at that time. How he came to study was an interesting tale in and of itself. It seems that Chao came from a well to do family, and as a youth, he was very fond of all manner of martial arts. After studying various forms and styles from a young age, his Grand mother called in the teachers, and asked one of them to attack her. The teachers were incredulous at the offer, until the grandmother started to insult their methods and skill levels. One of them got up and dashed towards her, intent on giving her that which she requested. To the astonishment of young Chao, and the other teachers present, the old lady repelled the attacker, knocking him to the ground in one move.
After seeing this, young Chao inquired of his grandmother as to what marvelous technique she had used. She replied that if he was to find out, that he must practice, and discover the secrets himself. And ever after, that is the method to which Chao Chung Tao devoted himself to.
STAGES OF TAIJI RULER
The practice of Taiji Ruler comes in 7 stages, with 6 months per stage being the minimum.
The First Stage is the Sitting Set. This set is done while either sitting on the floor, or if you have a weak back, you may sit in a chair. This practice allows the energy pathways to open up, remove any restrictions, and enhance the flow of Qi along the meridians and channels of the body. The key focal point of the practice for this stage and the one that follows, is the "Ruler". The Ruler is a piece of wood, cut to a length of about 10.5 inches. The shape of the ruler is one that appears to be like old Chinese sword handles that have been abutted together. A calm focus is directed towards the center of the Ruler at all times.
The Second Stage is the Standing Set. This set is done while in a standing position. It teaches balance and hand & eye coordination in both static and dynamic conditions. You learn to move with the energy that was built up and refined in the previous method.
The Third Stage is the Ball Set. This set is done with a large wooden ball, made of Poplar or Pine. The ball is a representation of your internal qi, brought outwards. You train to keep the ball filled with energy, and to manipulate the energy as you go through the exercises. This set will develop strength in the arms, back, and legs.
The Fourth Stage is the Shen Kung Set. This stage dispenses with the use of the Ruler and is designed to train your Shen, or super-conscious aspect of the mind. The practice of this set helps to fortify the "Yi", or Intent of the practitioner because a strong Yi is required for the correct expression of Jing.
The Fifth Stage is the Two Person Ruler Set. Two Person Ruler is a set that uses a 3 foot long Ruler that is manipulated between two people acting in concerted effort with one another. The goal of the training is to develop various types of Jing, such as adhering, sticking connecting, and following, among others. It also helps you to become sensitive to the energy field of others from a distance.
The Sixth Stage is the Kao Ban Set. Kao Ban, or leaning on board, is a training method wherein a plank of pliable wood is buried in the ground. The practitioner, in various postures, uses his fingers to press on the board, and cause it to flex slightly. The goal is to focus on the fingers, and fill them with abundant qi and jing. This training is an advanced method for martial and medical purposes. Such aspects include striking the blood, and also external qi healing, as well as for tuina and an mo massage methods.
The Seventh Stage is the Kong Jing Set. Taiji Ruler Kong Jing practice uses 2 standing meditation postures (Zhan Zhuang), and 2 supplementary exercises. This training allows the practitioner to express Jing over a distance, and the skill gained may be used for healing or for martial arts. A weapon used by the adept of this method becomes almost a physical extension of the practitioner's body.
The Taiji Ruler system is an excellent choice for those seeking to enhance their health, build their qi, or get into higher realms of mind control.
This Section of the article is concerns the Standing Set of Taiji Ruler Qigong, the second of the 7 stages of the system.
Preparations for practice: A taiji ruler can easily be made at home, or ordered from various suppliers. The traditional ruler reminds on of the handles of ancient Chinese swords, that are butted together. In lieu of that cut a simple closet dowel to 10.5 inches, and sand the edges to avoid splinters.
The next requirement for practice is in the preparation and addressing of the Lower Dan Tien. The Lower Dan Tien is an area, not a point, it is that area which is about three finger widths below the navel. the preparations are as follows:
1. Click the teeth together 49 times. this helps to strengthen the roots and gums, it also sends calming vibrations into the brain, and helps one to get rid of distracting thoughts.
2. Rotate the tongue 18 times left and 18 times right on the roof of the mouth.. The rotations will foster the generation of saliva. do not swallow the saliva, but instead allow it to pool in the lower jaw area. The benefits are that the Ren and Du (Conception and Governing vessels) are stimulated at the area where the tongue will rest while doing the exercises. This helps to make an energetic connection at that area.
3. Rinse saliva 36x. this helps to clean the teeth, and rinse out the mouth, and also agitates the qi that is contained within the saliva. Additionally, the saliva contains enzymes that are beneficial to the immune and digestive system.
4. Swallow in 3 Gulps. this helps to draw the qi down to the lower dan tien, from which point it will heat up, ascend up the governing vessel, and then condensing at the top, to flow back down the Conception Vessel.
Remember that from this point onwards, the tip of the tongue will gently rest on the upper palate behind the teeth. It is to be held there gently, with as little pressure as possible.
Your chosen number of reps in the set will remain constant. If you are going to do the minimum number of reps for benefit (3x) then you will do 3 of each of the addressing exercises, if you do 6 reps, then you will do 6 of each of the opening exercises. At the end of the set, you will do the same opening exercises, but in reverse order. The opening addressing exercises are like knocking on a door, and the closing exercises, are like closing a door after leaving a room.
1. Baby's Breath: In a relaxed posture, standing with the back straight, and the knees slightly bent, feet straight, place your hands at a few inches in front of the lower dan tien. Gently breathe in through the lower abdomen (Called Buddhist or diaphragmatic breathing). as you inhale the hands will move forwards as if being pushed by an invisible pillow between the hands and the abs. In time you will feel the presence of the qi, it will be a magnetic feeling, and it will also become more tangible and palpable as time goes on and your practice matures. In time let the energy move the hands, and use as little physical effort as possible. as you begin your exhale, allowing the abdomen to gently deflate, the hands will retreat a few inches, back to their starting position. This exercise helps to stabilize the qi at the lower dan tien.
2. Swimming Breaths: Immediately following the above, you will maintain your standing position, and places the hands along your centerline, at the level of the navel, backs of the palms facing each other. Inhale, and slowly separate the two hands from each other, maintaining equal distance away from each other, until you are at the distance where the hips and the pelvis end. then turn the hands around so that they are facing each other, and begin to exhale, the exhale will end when the hands have reached the place from where they began their journey. you will feel a resistance between the palms when doing this exercise. It is OK to stop when you feel that the compression and magnetic feeling has reached its greatest amplitude and frequency. repeat the process for the desired number of reps.
3. Gather Heavens: This is the last of the opening exercises, and gather the qi from the area and environment about you, and brings it into the lower dan tien. The hands will be placed at your sides, palms facing the thighs. inhale and slowly raise the hands up from, and along the sides of the body, describing an arc, until the hands are raised, and above your head. The inhale is then completed, and the exhale begins. the exhale will follow a path down your centerline, that the thumbs and index fingers of the hand will be in line with each other, forming a kind of triangle. the exhale is done slowly, as if you were pushing two balloons down into a stream, and the exhale will end as the hands reach the area of the lower dan tien.. Do as many reps as required.
At the end of the ruler exercise set you will do these same exercises, but in reverse order.
Now that you have prepared and addressed the lower dantien, it is time to move on to the exercises:
1. Bow Stepping. from a neutral, steady, and relaxed posture, you will raise up the right foot and roll the ruler up towards your upper dan tien area ( the area called the third eye, or Yin Tang Point), inhale as you do so. As the foot comes down, you will exhale, and pivot to your left. then the left foot will step, and the movements will be repeatedly. Each foot fall counts as one repetition.