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Martial Arts Basics

Martial arts basics include a general review of study and practice. That includes physical development and practice of the forms, naturally. But too often, time spent reading and reflecting is overlooked. Both are important in the development of skills. Without practice, study (observing or reading) is never tested. Without study, what is there to practice. There are many, many, different forms of martial arts study and practice.

We teach the arts from two main schools: Wudang and Shaolin.

Including in our teachings are the philosophies and history of these systems, their connections to other related arts, and the principles that are shared. We emphasize the special characteristics of the movements to distinguish Wudang and Shaolin and help our students understand the dynamics. Similarly, Yang style taiji (which Terri teaches) and Wudang Taiji (which both Terri and Prof. Liu teach) have many common principles because they are both taiji systems. However, the character of the movements and their execution is quite different.

Similarly, the approach to martial arts study and practice can be different for someone who wants to learn bagua compared to someone who wishes to learn qigong. For each art, the basics will be different since there are different requirements for each of the arts. Martial arts basics for taiji footwork and legwork are not the same as those for xingyi or bagua. We encourage everyone to try different arts until they find something they like and want to practice. That’s the key to practice: wanting to do it.

Wudang Martial Arts

The Wudang martial arts are an orthodox school of Chinese Gongfu. The main component of the Wudang martial arts is Wudang taijiquan. Wudang taijiquan has developed from its simple beginnings of five elements, eight methods, and thirteen postures into many different schools. Wudang taiji is named after the Wudang Mountains.

Shi Deyu At Shaolin Temple 1988

Shaolin Martial Arts

The martial arts from the Shaolin Temple in Henan are among the most famous in the world. The variety of the arts and the skills required for their practice are equally extensive. Martial arts basics include stance and resistance training. The “Lohan” school of Shaolin is said to be the oldest. In the history, it is said that Bohidarma brought Buddhism to China on a white horse. The White Horse Temple near Luoyang commemorates his journey. He was the first of many generations of Shaolin monks and began their long tradition of martial arts by teaching what is now called Lohan boxing.

Taiji, Bagua, Xingyi

Traditionally, taiji, xingyi, and bagua (t’ai chi, hsing yi, pa kua) are called internal arts since they place great emphasis on internal workmanship and circulation of the qi (breath/energy). Bagua is distinct in it’s circle walking practice. Literally, bagua means “eight gua.” This is a reference to the eight trigrams which represent the four cardinal and four angular directions. In bagua practice, each of the palm changes corresponds to one of the eight directions. In contrast, Xingyi tends to take a more linear approach. Literally, xingyi means “form mind.”It’s practice methods include forms corresponding to the five elements and the twelve animals.

Prof. Liu At Wudangshan, Qigong Practice, 1999


Qigong (chi kung) practices are varied. They include hard and soft qigong, healing qigong, and general toning qigong. Wudang Qigong is an “earlier heaven” method based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles and teachings. Shaolin Lohan Qigong is designed to focus the breath and strengthen the body in preparation for other practices. It is one of the oldest qigong systems.

Push Hands Class, Zhengzhou 1995

Push Hands, Fighting, and Trapping Methods

Push hands (tui shou) follows taiji principles in the interactions with opponents. Trapping methods (qin’na) and fighting techniques (san da) are somewhat independent of systemic definitions yet informed by whichever system the person practices. All of the systems we teach include interactive methods. Still, there are some arts which cannot be properly labeled as coming from one or another system. All styles of taiji have push hands methods; push hands is considered a fundamental practice. While a certain style may have it’s own special characteristics, all styles share certain fundamentals. Similarly, qin’na is a generic term. There are Shaolin qin’na methods; there are other qin’na methods as well. Prof. Liu is a specialist in Shaolin Qin’na.

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