I was interested in three measures: (1) the inside length of the shaft or handle protected by the individual crescent hand guards (4.5″ for the Sun Moon Spear; otherwise 4″) (2) the gap between the crescent hand guards (3/4″ for the horse blocking knife; 4″ for the butterfly wing and 5″ for the Sun Moon Spear) and (3) the distance between the two furthest connectors between the shaft and the crescents (14″ for the Horse Blocking Knife; 17.5″ otherwise).
Most lyrics to Bob Dylan’s song “Tombstone Blues” (from the album Highway 61 Revisited released August 30, 1965) have the words as ‘the geometry of innocence flesh on the bone’.
It is almost certain today that a tai chi ruler and a tai chi bang will be made of wood and turned on a lathe. Here are some of the technical wood working terms used to describe various cuts made to form a cylindrical spindle.
The body is 36″ and the handles are 3″, so 42″ inches total. Some of the students are very large physically and have commensurate wingspans. We’ll see how the length works out in practice. This is a rarity. Dare we say unique? A Tai Chi tool for two person drills. Some exercise details to follow.
Intended to be stimulated during exercises with tai chi ruler and tai chi bang:
The heart and pericardium meridians cross the palm. The small intestine meridian follows the outside (distal) edge of the hand. The triple warmer, lung and large intestine meridians cross the back of the hand. To maximize the number of points in contact with the end of either wooden tool (1) angle the two outer fingers (pinkie and ring) slightly more toward one’s heart so the outside tips of the fingers come into contact with the rounded end of the tool and (2) angle the thumb and index fingers in the opposite direction (so different on the two hands) so the points on these fingers also come into contact with the end of the tool (3) You also need the two points on the palm – heart 8 and pericardium 8 – to be in contact as well as heart 9 (4) keeping Small intestine 1 and Heart 9 both in contact with the wood involves some compromise (5) and then you have to have a relaxed grip through all of this.
Individual homework for someone with mixed type cerebral palsy, level 2, no seizures but a painful arthritis-like condition in the arms and hands. Possible cause : HSPA4 gene (chromosome 5; region q31.1) copy number variation. He has been doing extra tai chi ruler exercises in the evening, and almost always sleeps holding the ruler. Concern was expressed by martial artists and doctors in China that tai chi ruler exercises are too yang and need some yin energy to balance. A light and brief workout was devised for the individual student. For the moment, it is to be done mornings and evenings in addition to regular class. The order is some Chen Family style warmups, selected exercises from Eight Brocades (Ba Duan Jin Qigong), tai chi ruler and silk reeling. Note: the double swords were a special request by the student, and are to be done mornings only.
The videos on YouTube in order are
https://youtu.be/nSel_9Bh90A – Chen Family warmups
https://youtu.be/hzYNQf5GNfA – Eight Brocades
https://youtu.be/87JU4kQNDRA – Tai Chi ruler
https://youtu.be/-OHSJknPUY4 – Silk Reeling
https://youtu.be/9AC5pBQNeUI – Silk Reeling with double swords
The general consensus was the tai chi ruler exercises were, by intention, too yang. A well-designed tai chi chuan set like Chen family style Lao Jia or sword is supposed to be balanced as far as yin and yang go. So the advice given was to provide individual homework for each student. The to-be-done-daily assignment would focus on some qigong exercises appropriate to the special needs of the student. In the particular case of the student mentioned the advice was first a few Chen family style warmups that exercise the arms, second some of the standing exercises from Ba Duan Jin (Eight Brocades), third the ruler exercises and fourth a few silk reeling exercises.
There were two very interesting additional comments (both from multiple people): (1) at some point in the future a liniment similar to dit da jow will likely prove useful if applied to the forearms, wrists, and and fingers. Normally, dit da jow is used when doing iron palm training to prevent injuries and speed recovery. The suggestion was to dilute the normal jow 50% with water and NOT rub it in past the base of the fingernails. It was also mentioned that dit dah jow would likely be helpful for people with arthritis-like pain in the knees. (2) according to a former member of the Beijing Wushu Team, at one time most students doing serious wushu training were assigned light sessions with specific exercises to either help condition them for what they were learning (to speed learning and lessen the chance of injury) OR help them rehabilitate from injuries. The idea was a light session before breakfast, then a heavy training session in the morning, lunch and rest, a heavy training session in the afternoon, supper, and then another light session before bed. On days with only one or even no heavy sessions a third light session could be added.
Some months ago I mentioned one student who has something resembling cerebral palsy. There are at least 15 genes on 12 chromosomes implicated in syndromes that fall in the cerebral palsy spectrum. One challenge is that there are associated early onsets of different varieties of arthritis in many cases. If anyone out there has reasonably accurate epidemiology statistics I would be grateful – gene and specific arthritis type probabilities or tallies would be perfect. For the student in question when I first taught some tai chi ruler routines he was obsessed with the ruler so I let him take it home. I sent along a note to the parents giving a link to a set of web pages that showed some of the routines. I mentioned their reply in my speech at Las Vegas – clutching the ruler was the first time he had slept through the night in years. Although tai chi ruler exercises were not really designed to alleviate the pain of arthritis in the arms, wrists and hands there seems to be no point in arguing with success. There were some brief experiments with a very soft foam version and with wrapping the ruler in several different bags. The current status is back to the basic wood, but I mention the alternatives in case someone else might find them useful. The student was doing the ruler exercises after brushing teeth and right before actually getting into bed.
Under the heading of ‘do no long-term harm’ I had opened up an e-conversation with some doctors and martial artists in China. A reasonable estimate is 60,000 babies born per year in China with something Western medicine might classify in the cerebral palsy spectrum.
For a martial art obsessed with circles there is remarkably little rolling either in a gymnastic sense or with weapons. Two exceptions are the tai chi ball and the tai chi bang. I would suspect some early practitioner decided to handle a large rock as some sort of weightlifting and that’s is how the tai chi ball might have started. There are two legends about the tai chi bang: (1) the great Chen Fake (陳發科; 1887–1957) noticed his wife’s rolling pin and extended her motions into exercises. (2) she taught him. I have written to Jack Yan (translator for and disciple of Chen Zhenglei), Chen Juan, and others. In the meantime here are some photos (with bang, with ruler, two views of rolling pin)
Today, there is a fair amount of confusion about how much influence Chen Tuan’s discoveries and teaching had on Tai Chi Chuan and on Liu He Ba Fa (Six Harmonies and Eight Methods), sometimes known as Water Boxing. As two practitioners of the latter have related it to me
Chen Tuan was a native of Po-chou in Anhui. After some 20 years training at Wudang Mountain he moved to Huashan, another of the five sacred mountains of China. As well as Liu He Ba Fa (sometimes Liu Ho Pa Fa), he taught Tai Chi ruler, a 24 section method (erh shi ssu shih tao yin fa) of seated and standing exercises designed to prevent diseases that occur during seasonal change and some advanced meditation practices.
It does NOT appear that http://www.liuhebafachuan.com has been updated in several years.
http://www.liuhopafa.com/ is Master Wai Lun Choi’s school in Chicago. Not a lot of website activity in several years
Master George Xu of San Francisco record some sessions of Liu He Ba Fa with Master Yun Yi Sen at La Honda many years ago – the sessions are available from Plum Publications, which also has a reformatting of Terry Dunn’s and York Why Loo’s material.
If you want to see how to really do a video presentation watch Liu Xiao Ling’s work (also at Plum at http://plumpub.com/sales/dvd/dvdcoll_lhbf.htm)