Female Martial Arts Instructor Emily McCarten demonstrating the repeated movement, “Two Pillars Piercing The Earth” in the Sum Chien.
As I mentioned earlier, when we adopt the straight Sum Chien posture we connect our crown point (Pei Hue) with the Yang Chi of the Heavens and our root point (Hue Yin) with the yin chi of the Earth. Sum Chien training also typically begins with a sequence of movements which include one which thrusts the hands down towards the Earth, often called ‘Two Pillars Piercing The Earth’ one which points the palms to the Heavens, often called ‘The Fairy Displaying Her Flowers’, (it probably sounds better in Chinese than in English). These techniques form powerful connections with the Chi of Heaven and Earth at the beginning of the practice.
Sum Chien almost always concludes with a repetition of ‘Two Pillars Piercing The Earth’. As I mentioned above, it is vital not to let Chi accumulate in your head but to return it to your lower Tan Tien. Thrusting the hands downwards at the end of the routine helps to achieve this, especially when followed by a powerful exhalation from the Tan Tien.
This takes us right back to the start, to where it all began with Boddhidharma teaching the monks. Why? Why teach fighting arts to monks? Because monks are seeking enlightenment and to find it requires a massive raising and expanding of consciousness and the most proven way to achieve that is through certain types of martial arts training, notably the type which Boddhidharma introduced to Shaolin! This training is the essence of real kung fu.
I have already described how we train our bodies to adopt precisely the right posture, alignment and mechanics. To do this requires us to be aware of exactly how each joint is positioned and to hold it in exactly the correct way. We have to hold the right tension in our tendon and the right pressure in our internal organs. We even have to be aware of what all of our senses are telling us, of our emotions and our intention. For beginners this is completely impossible! It takes very many years to develop the brain to a level where it can be aware of so many things at once. In fact to master Sum Chien we have to completely rewire and upgrade our nervous systems and our brains. Here lies one of the greatest advantages of our training. By developing our minds like this we pave the way to raising our consciousness. We are able to see the world more clearly, make realisations about its true nature and easily work out the answers that had always eluded us.
This, perhaps, is the ultimate in our training – discovery of the truth!
When we take up training Chinese Kung Fu we embark on a journey which has no end. As the Buddha said ‘to travel well is better than to arrive’. As we continue to train we continue to grow, continue to gain new insights and new experience. Not all of us will develop in the same way but the only ones who fail are those who give up.
If I had not encountered Master Tan and taken up training Sum Chien and Chinese martial arts who knows where I would be now. But as I sit looking out at the mountains as the clouds blow slowly across them, smell the rain on the grass and listen to the chanting from the local temples I feel that all the hard work has been worth it.
I believe that Sum Chien still has a lot to teach me and am looking forward to continuing the journey. The hard work never stops, the learning continues, the wonders never cease!