Using the following eight additional palms while walking the circle is designed to help the intermediate level student to develop the movement of internal energy: beginning with bringing the energy to the lower tan-tien and legs, then to the middle tan-tien and arms, then to the upper tan-tien and crown of the head, then opening the back while hollowing the chest, then the chest is rounded and the sternum closed, then splitting between backward and forward, then splitting between high and low, then, finally, tying them all together in the eighth posture.
Some systems identify the eight energies with corresponding animals, real and mythic. As with most aspects of this internal discipline, there is very little consistency between the various styles. Walking the circle and changing smoothly from one to the other at equal intervals are an excellent supplements to form practice or holding the Eight Mother Palms while circling.
As with other forms of martial qigong, these walking methods teach subtle martial skills, and I will add that the changes done when changing direction and/or method contain the essence of these martial energies and directions. However, they are equally designed to strengthen and heal the practitioner. (N.B. Erle does not teach this particular set; I learned it elsewhere in recent years.)
Downward Sinking Palms/Tiger: Both hands push downwards, just below the navel, with the mental image of holding the Qi in the lower tan-tien. The basic martial skill is deflecting a straight kick downwards.
Double Lifting Palms/Crane: The arms are extended to the sides, palms up, at about shoulder heigh. This posture helps to connect the the lower tan-tien to the middle tan-tien in the solar plexus and to spread the energy out to both palms in a balanced manner. The wrists are slightly Yang. Focus on the palms as if you were holding something small and round in the hollow of each palm. The basic martial skill is cutting with the edge of the hand to deflect, and thrusting forward to counter-attack with the same hand.
Heaven and Earth Palms/Lion: One hand is extended into the circle, palm up; the other arcs above the head, palm up. This posture takes the energy that has been brought to the middle tan-tien and allows it to flow up to the upper tan-tien located behind the Third Eye Point (Yintang). The practitioner imagines that the Qi is flowing through the arms in a circular loop, as well as rising through the ground, and descending from the Heavens through the spine. The basic martial skill is deflecting with the back hand and breaking an arm at the elbow with a striking lock.
Embracing Palm/Ape: The forearms are held together with both palms upwards; the hands are being held as if they are cradling a bowling ball. This posture opens up the energy in the back, closes the front of the chest, and allows the Qi to flow into the hands. The basic martial action is deflecting downwards to strike forward and slightly upwards into the throat or jawline with both hands.
Double Crushing Palms/Bear: This posture expands the energy in the chest by pushing the palms outwards, makes the shoulders very rounded. The image is of pushing the arms out, down, and away from the body, as if crashing/crushing through any obstacles. The basic martial action deflects downwards and crushes both palms forward and downwards through the attacker's chest.
Turning Palms/Hawk: One hand spirals diagonally forward and up, while the other spirals diagonally downwards and back. This posture will help you to understand splitting/ folding energy. The basic martial action is to strike down while striking upwards.
Upper & Lower Standing Palms/Snake: One hand is held high and the other low. In holding this posture, you learn to separate the energy between high and low, front and back, while still remaining full and complete. The basic martial action teaches the cutting aspect of the edge of the hands for both offensive and defensive purposes.
Twisting-Turning Palm/Dragon: One hand is held over the centre of the circle while the other is open near the elbow. This on guard position is the "signature palm" of our style and combines all the other energies and lines of attack and defence.
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