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Hold Up the Sky and Move Your Qi

Through thought and posture you can move your life energy-qi throughout your body. Moving and manipulating your qi strengthens your internal organs and makes your body better able to withstand the beatings of martial arts training. To concentrate and manipulate the qi you must have a location to focus the mind. In our family of Mantis Boxing the three main locations are called 'lower, middle and upper yuan 下中上'.


The Origin of Life

Yuan means 'origin' and can be taken to mean our source of energy. The choice of the character yuan by Praying Mantis kung fu is unusual, normally the character yuan is used. Yuan makes up the term yuan qi , our original or primordial qi. The qi passed down to us at the creation of our essence and spirit. It is a transmission of energy from our parents and their parents before them that stretches back to the very beginning of life's creation and from that original creation it has been transmitted through the countless eons until finally filling you with your life. Developing the potential of your yuan qi develops your vitality and spirit.


Our Cauldron of Cinnabar

The character 'dan'The lower yuan is commonly known as the dan tian 丹田 'field of red.' The area under your belly is likened to a field, the character tian shows the arrangement of the plots of earth. Cinnabar is colored red, the character dan is a picture of a cauldron with a dot for the cinnabar. The idea is that here is your field of cinnabar. Figuratively, dan tian means that our cauldron is filled with cinnabar.

Literally speaking, when cinnabar is smelted it produces mercury. This has been known by humankind for over 10,000 years. Mining cinnabar is extremely harmful to health producing such effects as shaking, loss of sense, and death. It has been conjectured that China went through a historical period around 2000 years ago where practitioners literally smelted and ingested cinnabar. Such a practice would quickly produce severe mercury poising.

Instead, the idea that the ancients want us to grasp about our 'field of cinnabar' is that our spirit is refined by exercising the mind on the dan tian. To explain this thought and breath process, the analogy of turning cinnabar to mercury is used, an ancient process dating back many thousands of years. Cinnabar is that precious material that we refine into mercury. Mercury represents our spirit and the dan tian is the place where we refine the vitality of our spirit. This symbology is the way the ancients have passed on to us the subtle method of developing our spirit. We develop the strength of our spirit through exercising the qi on the dan tian.

Eight Sections of Brocade

This article explains the method of moving the qi to the three yuan in the first exercise of Ba Duan Jing 八段錦 - Eight Sections of Brocade.

The middle yuan is at the xyphoid process and the upper yuan is located at the middle of the sternum. These are the first locations used in Eight Sections of Brocade.

Grand Ultimate Praying Mantis Boxing has several exercises that require an intimate knowledge of the three yuan one of these being Eight Sections of Brocade. The Praying Mantis version is named after the famous Taoist immortal Tai Yi Zhen Ren 太乙真人, popularized in the novel Fengshen Bang 封神榜 published in the 1550's. In Praying Mantis boxing the complete name of Eight Sections of Brocade is Realized Immortal Tai Yi’s Eight Sections of Brocade Body Training Method Formula 太乙真人八段錦練身法歌訣.

It has eight exercises of breathing and stretching that are built on a theory of fundamental breathing methods that matches other exercises of praying mantis kung fu.

Li Kunshan, famous praying mantis master, wrote,

This is the essential key to developing your body, training your mind and enhancing your beauty. When teaching it transmit it faithfully.

Taiyi Zhen Ren - Realized Immortal Taiyi

Moving the Hands 行手

The first exercise is called 'support the sky with a righteous qi - shuang shou tuo tian yi qi hao 雙手托天義氣浩.' This exercise develops our physical sensation of qi by moving qi through each of the three yuan. To train this move you start with a short exercise called xing shou 行手-moving hands.

To perform xing shou: First finish ping qi with the hands at the side of the legs. Raise the palms and squeeze them into fists as you pull the qi into the three yuan.

Li Kunshan wrote it likes this

As the hands make a fist and reside in the middle, simultaneously push the qi to the top, middle and bottom yuan.

The strength required to support the sky is a great effort requiring a calm mind. Likewise, in this exercise you must calm your mind and regulate your respiration-this is the so called ping qi.

The importance of ping qi: Ping qi pacifies the mind and is the psychic and spiritual root of our training. It can be performed for a multiple of three breathes such as 9, 18, 36 etc.'

Moving the Qi

Raise the qi to the lower yuan: Stand with your heels squeezed together. Pull the fists up to the height of the upper yuan then sink them to the height of the lower yuan as you push out at the lower yuan. To the left, the hands are at the height of the lower yuan.



Raise the qi to the middle yuan: Inhale and pull your fists up to the height of the middle yuan. Once here push out until you feel a force from inside your body pushing at the middle yuan.




Raise the qi to the upper yuan: Inhale and pull your fists up to the height of the upper yuan as you expand your chest with qi. This picture can be see at left.

To expel the qi: Squeeze the arms in and use the upper body to squeeze all the qi together inside the body. Force the hands up with a big exhalation.

This is the exercise called support the sky with a righteous qi. Be sure to practice it diligently with a will of firm determination.


During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the era when Eight Sections of Brocade first appears, brocade weaving became highly developed. It was applied to clothing as well as painted scrolls (some preserved to the present day). The artisans made the colors melt into each other by the process of mixing strands of colors of nearly the same hue to achieve an unusual artistic effect.

Like the value of this weaving skill, the method of developing your qi is a great treasure to be cherished and practiced

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