Locking Hands / Flowing Hands
In the Taoist System of Living Arts, our primary focus is on health maintenance and overall wellness with martial adeptness as a secondary but very important concern. Some students may see things the other way around and place martial achievements as their primary goal and health as secondary. We believe that only a healthy body can produce a really strong body and a really strong body can then produce a truly great martial artist. A healthy body is not one with just strong bones and great looking muscles but a body with strong organs, circulatory system, and nervous system all working together harmoniously .
The great thing about our system is that our exercises not only strengthen the whole body but every exercise either has a martial application or it can be used to amplify martial power. We believe martial arts knowledge is also a part of health maintenance because if our body is threatened with physical violence you had better be able to handle the situation swiftly and effectively or it could mean death or some sort of crippling debilitation. Also, the training involved in achieving a high degree of martial power and fluidity produces awesome health and tremendous energy. One of the greatest exercises that we have that not only builds a strong and sound body but also develops a great many of the necessary skills needed for combat, is the exercise we call “Locking Hands”.
Locking Hands is a partner exercise that teaches distancing, timing, observing, flowing, spontaneous technique, etc… Our Locking Hands exercise is a natural progression of our “Push Hands” exercise. Instead of both of our hands and arms continuously touching as they do in our Push Hands practice we continuously engage and disengage our partner’s arms and body; striking and blocking while establishing a continuous rhythm. We move at various speeds and heights to develop different tools but we are always trying to maintain a constant flow.
Throughout the exercise we are maintaining all the laws and principals of body functioning as prescribed by our system. If we move slowly enough in practice we will increase the accuracy, speed, and efficiency of our movement to the point where we will start to flow correctly. We must utilize all the tools we have developed from practicing the Four Pillars exercises. Standing, Joint Manipulation, Flexing, and Circle walking all contribute invaluable body knowledge and abilities that we express when we are doing Lock Hands. When we move we must maintain “inner stillness” so we manifest stillness in motion (standing); we will have a light flex and not be afraid to hit or be hit (flexing); we will move the whole body simultaneously, twisting, turning, folding, and unfolding releasing and absorbing the inner and outer spiraling energy of the universe(circle walking/joint manipulation).
When we are flowing properly we will develop what we call “Flowing Palms”. Flowing Palms is not just the arms and hands but the whole body. Students must remember that when we say “palms” we are not just speaking about the hands we are speaking of the whole body. Sifu has often said “When one part moves, all the parts move” this is full body movement and power. Many martial artists localize their attention to one or several body parts when they are practicing their art. This is a bad practice and will limit one’s body awareness and can also cost someone their life when they are in a life or death combat situation.
The Locking Hands exercise simulates combat and engages the whole body, spirit, and mind in a healthy and fun way. Remember your partner is not your enemy and one must keep this in mind during practice. Don’t forget to have an inner smile and in time you will move like the wind.