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8 Exercises for Fitness, Healing, and Longevity - Part 2

Today we will concentrate on the second exercise in the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung set.

Pull the Bow is the most complex of the 8 brocades. It is a Qigong course all in itself, with many useful lessons in posture, movement, breath, focus, and Qi flow. There are many bow and arrow exercises found in Qigong. My imagined provenance of this exercise is that ancient folks observed in bowmen a certain quality of vigor and vitality. Bow-pulling exercises arose to recreate such health for others.

Many Chinese healers believe that this exercise helps regulate and improve the kidney meridians. 

Exercise 2 - Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly

Research by Michael P. Garofalo

  

Movement Name:  Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly, Drawing the Bow, Pulling the Bow and Releasing the Arrow, Shooting the Serpent, Pull-Aim-Release   

Lift and step to the left with your left foot. Step out with your left foot into a horse stance.

Point both feet forward and keep them flat on the floor.
The feet should be wider than shoulder width apart.  

Bend the knees.      
Keep your back straight and head up.

Gently raise your hands to your chest.
Cross your hands, right hand in front of left hand, hands relaxed and open, with your palms facing inward. 
Extend your left arm out level with your chest.  Hold your fingers slightly bent as if your fingers and hand are curled around a bow, holding he bow in your left hand.
At the same time your left arm is extending outward, you lift your right arm up to chest height, your right arm bends at the elbow, your index and middle finger bend, and then your right arm moves out to the right keeping your elbow bent.  Imagine that you are holding the string of a bow, fingers on the string and above and below the arrow, and then pulling on the bow string with your right arm.  

Look to the left.

As you draw the bow and string apart breathe in deeply.



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Aim the bow and arrow, and then release the fingers of the right hand to let the arrow fly.

As you release the arrow, begin to slowly breathe out. 
 

Relax.  
             
The movement of the two arms should mimic the drawing of a bow string and arrow, aiming the arrow, and releasing the arrow.  Coordinate the movement of the arms to match this image.  Feel the tension in the bow and string as your draw them apart to fire the arrow.  Aim the arrow at a target.  Watch the arrow fly to its target.  Concentrate on the target.  

Breathe in while drawing the bow, and breathe out when releasing the arrow and repositioning the hands for the next shot.  

You have now completed the left side part of the Drawing the Bow Movement #2.  
Return arms downward in an arc and then back up the center of your body.
Cross your arms in front of your chest, right hand in front of the left hand.
Relax.
Your head should be facing forward.
Horse stance.
Root into the earth below, sink, feel the earth power.  

Now you will begin the right side part of Drawing the Bow Movement #2. 

Extend your right arm out level with your chest.  Hold your fingers slightly bent as if your fingers and hand are curled around a bow, holding he bow in your right hand.
At the same time your right arm is moving outward, you lift your left arm up to chest height, your left arm bends at the elbow, your index and middle finger bend, and then your left arm moves out to the left keeping your elbow bent.  Imagine that you       are holding the string of a bow, left fingers on the string and around the arrow, and then pulling on the bow string with your left arm.
Look to the right.
As you draw the bow and string apart breathe in deeply.
Aim the bow and arrow, and release the fingers of the left hand to let the arrow fly.
As you release the arrow, begin to slowly breathe out.  
Repeat the movements to both the left and right sides, eight times to each side, so that you draw and fire eight arrows to the left side and eight arrows to the right side.   

                

Return you left foot back into the Wu Ji position to rest and realign the body-mind. 
Wu Ji signals the end of one movement and the beginning of the next movement. 
Wu Ji is called "Mountain Pose" Tadasana in Hatha Yoga.
Bring your feet closer together or have heels touching.
Keep the knees slightly bent.
Enjoy some cleansing breaths.  Opening/Closing.
Stand up straight and tall.  Lift the head.  Tuck the chin inward a little.
Loosen Up, Soften, Merge and Relax.
Feel yourself sinking and rooting into the Earth.
Free up the mind, reduce thinking, forget, become outside more. 

There is a variety of YouTube videos, you can watch to learn the movement. Here is one of them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9hQ2onGXXk












Variations of Movement #2:   Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly 

a)  The fingers of the hand are held slightly open and in-line the entire exercise.  The more you bend your knees and the lower you drop into the horse stance, the greater the demands on the thighs and the greater the difficulty of the exercise.  Sink lower in the horse stance after firing every 4 arrows.

b)  The drawing of the bow can be done very slowly or deliberately, or faster and with more force.  Always pause, concentrate, and aim before firing.  Follow the arrow through the sky as it flies out from the bow.  Some circle the arms upward after each shot of the arrow.    
c) Some hold the hand in a position with the index pointing out, the thumb up, and all the other fingers curled inward and touching the palm.  The hand sort of looks like a play handgun.  The index finger is pointed at the target.  
d) Generally, the arms are level with the shoulder and at a right angle to the hips.  However, if your are imagining shooting an arrow a great distance, then the forward bow arm should be at a angle greater than 90º relative to the hips.  The arrow must be aimed higher than the target when the target is at a great distance from the archer.

e) The number of arrows fired can vary: 2, 3, 5, 8, 16, 24, 36, etc.

f)  The arm movements of this exercise may be done while seated or while walking.  Refer to my notes in the Thirteen Treasures Walking Qigong.
            
Although most references for this exercise are to the act of shooting eagles, hawks, or other types of birds, this is not required.  One could imagine aiming at and letting an arrow fly to many types of targets.  A Buddhist might imagine targeting and striking at one's individual faults, shortcomings, and evil behaviors; or hitting the targets of wisdom or enlightenment. A Taoist might imagine targeting and striking at tension, interfering behaviors, and gluttony; or hitting the targets of health, energy, vitality, and longevity.  A Confucian might imagine targeting and striking at selfishness, sloth, disrespect, greed and ignorance; or hitting the targets of social harmony, cooperation, civility, and propriety.  In a similar manner, a Christian might want to aim at love and forgiveness, or a Moslem aim at universal brotherhood and charity.  A hunter might imagine shooting all types of game animals; or, a soldier imagine shooting at an enemy in battle.  What are the negative behaviors, attitudes, and ideas that you wish to eliminate?  What are the positive goals, aims, or objectives that you wish to target and hit on the bull's-eye?
             
          
Health Benefits of Movement #2: Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly of The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung

Horse stances condition and strengthen the legs, knees, waist and back muscles.

Squatting down works the following muscle groups: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, long outside muscle, calves.  Squatting down and coming back up will improve some balancing skills and increase cardiovascular intensity. 


Shoulders, biceps and forearms are conditioned and strengthened. 


Many Chinese healers believe that this exercise helps regulate and improve the Kidney meridians.      

     
Balance and brain functions are improved by coordinated movements.


Stretching helps contribute to the relaxation of stiff and tense muscles.


Standing up straight in a horse stance helps realign the back muscles and the spine.


A clear and peaceful mind reduces negative stress on the body.


Squatting down exercises the leg muscles including the thighs (quadriceps), hamstrings (biceps femoris), buttocks (glutes), calves (gastrocnemius), iliopsoas, and increases demands on the cardio-vascular system. 


Increased heart rate and breathing rate provide some cardiovascular benefit.


Useful imagery can have positive effects on mental functioning and performance.


Using both sides of the body (mirroring in a movement form) can have positive effects on the structural alignment of the body and enhance coordination.   


Slow, deep and regular breathing positively effects mood, energy levels, and alertness; as well as improving the mechanical functioning of the lungs. 


Exercises the eye muscles. 



Disclaimer   
Sat Chuen Hon, in his book Taoist Qigong, includes a movement sequence similar to "Drawing the Bow" and using the healing sound "Xi", and considers these actions to be of great benefit to the health of the Lungs.  
Ba Duan Jin Exercise Set 2,  "Drawing a bow to each side resembles shooting and eagle.  Places the emphasis on your thorax - the home of your heart and lungs - thus greatly improving the circulation of blood and oxygen.  It also improves the flow of energy in your small intestine. heart and lungs - thus greatly improving the circulation of blood and oxygen. It also improves the flow of energy in your small intestine."

References for the Names of the Movement 2 (Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly)
Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung
(See below for reference sources.)
Drawing the Bow to Kill a Vulture.   (Zong Wu and Li Mao, R1)
Drawing a Bow to Each Side Resembles Shooting an Eagle.   (Lam Kam Chuen, R2)
Open the Bow like Shooting a Hawk, Two Arms Strong and Firm to Strengthen Kidneys and Waist.   (Yang Jwing-ming, R3)
The Shaolin Archer.   (Geoff and Phyllis Pike, R4)
Drawing the Bow to the Left and Right as though Shooting a Bird.   (PRC Publication, R5)
Open the Bow as Thought Shooting the Buzzard.   (Kenneth Cohen, R6)
Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly.   (Michael Garofalo, R7)
Drawing the Bow with Each Hand.   (Stanley Wilson, R8)
Drawing the Bow to the Left and the Right as Though Shooting at a Hawk.  (Daniel reid, R9)
Drawing the Bow to Shoot Vultures (Jiao Guorui, R10)   Shooting Arrows.   (Wong Kiew Kit, R11)
Drawing the Bow with Both Hands to Aim at a Distant Target  (Maoshing Ni, R12)
Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left and Right Handed  (Chinese Health Qigong Association, R13)
Bow and Arrow, Kai Gong Shi  (Shifu Yan Lei, R14) 

Names of the movements of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung in languages other than English. 
                   

Comments about Movement 2: Opening the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly

Observations, Notes, Quotations, Reflections, Questions and Answers

"This section can expand the chest, relieve functional disturbances of the lung-qi, and limber up arms and shoulders; prevent and treat diseases in the neck and shoulder, and reduce pain in lower back and leg."
-  Baduanjin

Can anyone learn the Eight Section Brocade without the benefit of direct instruction from a Ch'i Kung instructor or master? 

I believe you can make very good progress on your own.  This form is not very complex in terms of length, sequence or postures.  In addition to the instructions found on this webpage, there are many fine books with detailed descriptions and illustrations and there are a few instructional DVSs or videotapes on this subject produced by recognized experts with decades of experience in Qigong or Taijiquan internal arts.  Workshops on the Eight Treasures are widely available.  Group practice of this form brings a unique positive and healthy synergy, new insights, the opportunity for useful corrections to your movements from a qualified instructor, and the beauty of the coordinated movement of a group.  Take advantage of some group practice if you can.  Always be open to ideas on the topic and be ready and willing to learn from others.  Cheng Man-ch'ing speaks about how a few persons used only books to learn T'ai Chi Ch'uan (a very difficult task), and his remarks could equally or more so apply to learning less complex Qigong forms on your own from books, videotapes or DVDs; he says,
"Some have asked me if it is really possible to master T'ai-chi ch'uan relying solely on a book and having no teacher.  My answer is that this is a very good question.  Self study in T'ai-chi ch'uan is indeed very difficult.  Former masters stressed oral transmission and personal instruction.  But when there is no alternative, and in order to benefit the greatest number, one must not shrink from the difficulties, but seek every possible means."
-  Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing, Advanced T'ai Chi Form Instructions, Wile 1985 p.9.  

No matter how you came to learn to do this form, in the end, your own practice in the form is all that really matters.  You must personally experience the movements and the benefits of the Eight Treasures Chi Kung, and have your own body-mind grasp their essence - this is how you will really "learn" the Eight Treasures.  Your solo practice is the primary and essential element of your progress.  Without your daily practice and effort (Kung) at the Eight Treasures, on your own, true learning will never occur.  This is an experiential, existential, inner movement art; and your real experiences, healthy attitude, and increased energy and vitality are the only real criteria of accomplishment.  

Every beginner should stay within their comfort zone, don't over stretch, and be gentle with your body and mind.  Don't try to "exactly" imitate a fellow student who is an intermediate or advanced Chi Kung player or the teacher.   Know and respect your own body and mental state.  Don't go beyond your own personal bodily conditioning, skills, abilities and limits.  Some advise reducing your exertion levels and doing 30% to 40% less than you can do.   Be reasonable and kind to yourself.  Take your time, advance slowly, be careful, be patient, and remain injury free.  Sometimes, an old or new injury, or joint disease, will limit your range of motion.  Know your own strength and limitations - the practice of Chi Kung and Tai Chi forms will reveal to you your strengths and limitations.  Resolve to make two positive contributions today.  Stay within your comfort zone, explore with the body-mind, and renew-recreate both self-awareness and awareness of Self, and come to experience your comfort zone.  Float on the Wu-wei raft on the Tao River; when standing on Earth then rootsoften,move.   

Some days you will only have the energy to imagine pulling on the string of a child's bow - a five pound bow.  On other days you will have the internal power and strong desire to imagine pulling on a 30 pound bow.  Go with the flow!  Recognize your energy levels, and use them in a practical and flexible manner.  

"When condensing the internal power, it should be like the pulling of a bow; when projecting the internal power, it should be like the shooting of an arrow."
-   Master Wu Yu-hsiang (1812 - 1880), Translation by Waysun Liao

I enjoy doing this exercise while walking.  Be sure to AIM, look carefully at the target, and imagine watching the arrow fly to its target.  While walking, you can aim at a variety of targets, near or far, to the side or to the front.  Experiment!  I do the standing version of the Eight Treasures outdoors in my garden or by the small pond.  Many Chinese enjoy doing qigong in parks or other beautiful natural settings.  

List of Movements in the Eight Section Brocade in English.  1 page, PDF file.  By Mike Garofalo. 
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