Yang Style Turning Body Palm by Ted W. Knecht
The Turning Body Palm or Fan Ti Zhang as it is known in Chinese is an indespensible training tool in Yang style Tai Ji Quan. The Fan Ti Zhang is used in postures such as Brush Knee with Twist Step (Lou Xi Ao Bu), Repulse Monkey (Dao Nian Hou), Jade Lady Weaves Shuttle (Yu Nu Chuan Suo), and Wild Horse Parts Mane (Ye Ma Fen Zong). The Fan Ti Zhang is used 28 times within the traditional 108 posture routine as standardized by the Late Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu. The palm technique is also commonly used in the Tai Ji Broadsword (Dao) and Big Knife (Da Dao). According to Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, a disciple of Master Fu Zhong Wen, the Fan Ti Zhang and the Tai Ji Cat Walk (Mao Xing Bu) is essential for the development of muscle suppleness and the circulation of Qi within the body. This palm technique will improve the overall range of motion in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Every muscle in the arm will be massaged and toned similar to twisting a wet towel. Not only will the Fan Ti Zhang develop suppleness in the upper limbs, it will also develop a whip-like action in the arms for devestating attacks.
This article will introduce the step by step practice of the palm technique, the health benefits, and the martial application.
Method of Practice
For the proper execution of the Fan Ti Zhang, the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and hands must be totally relaxed. Relaxation of the muscles can be acheived through the continuous and proper practice of this exercise. This will eventually loosen and stretch the muscles and ligaments found in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Over time, the muscles will become as supple as cotton and as strong as iron.
The Fan Ti Zhang can be practiced as a single exercise or combined with the legs to perform such techniques as Brush Knee with Twist Step, Wild Horse Parts Mane, and Repulse Monkey. The following explaination will only describe the single exercise using the left side of the body; however, it is important that both sides be exercised to maintain balance.
The Fan Ti Zhang exercise should begin with the feet shoulder width apart and pointing forward with knees slightly bent. The movement of the palm will pass five points along an elongated circle.
The left hand forms the Lotus-leaf Palm (He Ye Zhang) as was described in the June 1993 isssue of Tai Chi Magazine and is pressed to the front at shoulder height (Point 1). The upper body faces directly to the front. The palm and forearm spiral in a clockwise manner as the arm withdraws downward. The waist and upper body begin turning to the left as the palm turns to face up beside the left waist (Point 2). Without pausing, the elbow leads the motion to the rear until it can go no further; the thumb then leads the motion until the fingers point directly to the rear at waist height (Point 3). At the same time, the upper body turns to face directly to the left and the eyes look to the rear. The palm remains facing up from Point 2 to Point 3. Next, relax the shoulders and allow the waist and upper body to turn to the right as the palm begins to move up and to the front. The wrist is straight and the fingers point up at an angle to the rear. The palm continues moving up to the ear (Point 4). The fingers point up, the palm faces to the front, and the elbow points to the left. The elbow leads the motion to the front followed by the wrist and then the palm. The palm presses to the front until reaching maximum extention without locking the elbow (Point 5). The palm is at shoulder height and the upper body is facing to the front. Points to Remember:
1) Maintain a relaxed shoulder and bent elbow at all times.
2) The movement must be slow, continuous, and even.
3) Fingers should not curl up when moving from Point 2 to Point 3. The fingers remain on a horizontal plane.
4) The waist leads the motion of the arm; therefore, when the palm moves to the rear, the waist will turn in the direction of movement followed by the shoulder, elbow and finally the palm. The overall motion is similar to throwing a frisbee.
5) The shoulders, hips, and ears should be aligned on a single vertical plane at Point 1 and Point 5. The shoulder should not be over extended to the front at these points.
The internal circulation of Qi in Tai Ji is under the control of the mind and the correct posture. When performing Tai Ji movements, the circulation of Qi will produce the sensation of swelling, heat, and/or numbness in the hands and arms. This phenomena is produced because among the twelve major merdians within the body, six pass into the fingers of both hands. The Lung Meridian passes into the thumb; the Large Intestine Meridian passes into the index finger; the Pericardium Meridian passes into the middle finger; the Triple Heater passes into the ring finger; and the Heart and Small Intestine Meridians pass into the little finger.
By exercising the Fan Ti Zhang in a correct and relaxed manner, the six meridians will be massaged and over time will become cleared of blockages. The massaging action is similar to twisting a wet towel in that every muscle, ligament, joint and blood vessel in the arm and hand is exercised in a complete fashion. Consequently, practice of the Fan Ti Zhang may prevent the hardening of arteries in the arms and the on-set of certain types of arthritis in the joints of the arms and hands.
A physical after-effect of training with this palm technique will lead to the visible appearance of indented lines running up the center of the fingers as was illustrated in Tai Chi Magazine (June 1993) of Dr. Mei Ying Sheng's Lotus-leaf Palm. When the lines have completely formed, the meridians are said to be cleared of internal blockages and the body is completely healthy.
The mind can be concentrated on a single finger/meridian relating to a specific illness during the practice of Tai Ji. Consequently, people who have a specific problem such as heart disease should concentrate their energy into the associated little fingers of both hands; thereby allowing the body to naturally help heal itself. When Tai Ji can be practiced in such a way, there is no wonder as to why the style is called the "Grand Ultimate." For the healthy person, the practice of the Fan Ti Zhang will help maintain optimal health and will aid in the prevention of certain chronic diseases.
The training of the Fan Ti Zhang technique will produce a whip-like action in the arms and hands. This action is created through total body relaxation and proper body mechanics. The movement/energy is generated at the feet, moves up the legs into the waist, travels up the back and then out through the shoulder into the arm, hand, and fingers. When the body can generate power (Jin) in such a way and then concentrate it in the fingers at the end of the motion, a very devestating strike can be achieved. The side of the hands or fingers is most commonly used as the striking surface. Most attacks are concentrated on relatively soft vital points such as the eyes, throat, ears, and neck. More resistant areas on the body can be struck once the internal energy is sufficient to protect the hands and fingers from damage. The elbow is also an important area of the arm for conducting strikes. The elbow is most often the first part of the arm used for attacks. If by chance the elbow attack is evaded, the next attack (without pausing) will come from the palm or fingers. The elbow to finger attack should be simualtaneous whereby the arm outwardly unfolds. This unfolding action can be best seen in postures such as Repulse Monkey and Wild Horse Parts Mane. In Repulse Monkey, the Fan Ti Zhang attack is aimed at an opponent to the rear. The attack can utilize both an elbow attack and a palm/finger strike. The application of Wild Horse Parts Mane can utilize a shoulder, elbow, and hand attack as the arm unfolds against the opponents body. There are additional martial applications to the Fan Ti Zhang, but are too complex to describe in this context; therefore, only this brief introduction to the palm technique can be discussed here.
The author was taught this technique by his Yang style Tai Ji
teacher, Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, who currently teaches in the City of
Shen Zhen, China. It is our hope that more people learn about the
art of Tai Ji Quan and that the so-called "secrets" are
revealed for the survival of this great martial art. Only through
the mutual exchange of information and open minds will the art
prosper and the world reap the benefits from the art of Tai Ji
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