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Weituo offers his Vajra

In 1356 a mass of roving bandits pillaging the countryside attacked the Shaolin Temple. The residing monks were unable to protect their temple or their lives and escaped to the forests. The temple was stripped of gold and other valuables, Not until the beginning of the Ming (1368-1644) was it restored.

No doubt one of the important reasons martial arts were practiced at temples was to protect the temple and its inhabitants from outside forces. Wars, revolts and famines could all give rise to hordes of peasants or soldiers roaming the countryside of medieval China giving temple life a very real if occasional danger and a practical reason for warrior monks to train martial techniques.

Besides the protection of warrior monks, temples also have martial deities. One of the most important is Weituo, one of the powerful guardians of Buddhist law. He can often be seen holding his vajra club across his arms with palms pressed together. Minus the vajra club this is the posture for building inner strength in both The Sinews Transformation Classic (Yi Jin Jing) and Eighteen Luohan Gung. This posture is called 'Weituo offers his vajra.'

New and old statues of Weituo holding his vajra club.

 

The Sinews Transformation Classic

A book of exercises for internal strength. Published in the early 17th century it describes how to build internal strength and details body striking.

The original Sinews Classic didn't include 'Weituo offers the vajra.' A later version that included the posture 'Weituo offers his vajra' appeared sometime in the mid 19th century.

The book falsely labels the author as Damo, Indian Missionary who arrived in China in the early 6th century. It is said that Damo faced a mountain wall in deep meditation for 9 years.

The Vajra

Vajra is originally a Sanskrit word meaning thunderbolt or diamond. In fact, the manuscripts of The Sinews Transformation Classic and Eighteen Luohan Gung don’t call it Vajra but instead call it a pestle (gan), A tool we would use to pound herbs in a bowl. A fitting name since in India the Vajra is sometimes matched with a bell as its female counterpart. The Chinese bowl for pounding herbs  looks just like a bell.

As a diamond the vajra represents a weapon of unbreakable strength. As a thunderbolt it is an unstoppable force.

A Tiger Subduing Strength

'Weituo offers his vajra' is described as an exercise to build a tiger like strength. Eighteen Luohan Gung tells us,

'When devoted to obtaining a tiger subduing strength, the diligent work of your four limbs must persevere in defiance of hardship.'

More importantly it develops internal strength (nei li) that is able to protect the body from strikes and blows,

“Why worry about staves and clubs striking all over the body?”

From these two descriptions alone it is obvious that uncommonly  serious work makes up this warrior training method.

Pulling Silk

Masters of old looked at the training of gung as a vigorous and physically tiring activity. After the completion of each training session we must relax the body to calm the nerves and stabilize the breath. This stabilizing of heart and respiration is done with the ‘finishing the gung (shou gung)’ exercise.

The Gung

In Chinese martial arts ‘gung’ means a type of work we do to attain great skill or strength. Some examples are standing in a horse stance for an hour, spearing fleas to walls, lifting great weights with our fingertips, developing the ability to smash through rocks, to withstand tremendous blows and other such difficult feats.

'gung' written by April Brazier

'Finishing the gung’ is the post workout exercise we do to return the body to normalcy. It is essential for keeping the yin and yang of the body in balance. Throughout Luohan Gung are references and analogies to the subtlety of breathing and the pulling of silk.

‘Respiration is stabilized with a qi like finely pulled silk.’

‘The respiration stabilizes the breath and nourishes the spirit and qi.’

‘The nostril fills the mouth with qi like pulling silk.’

The following quote describes our eyes when performing the 'finishing gung.'

‘Close your eyes preserve your spirit and stabilize your breath.’

The Postures of ‘Finishing the gung’ for balancing the body and stabilizing respiration as taught by my shifu, Shi Zhengzhong, uses the same postures as ‘Weituo Offers the Vajra.’ The name comes from a common posture of Weituo as seen in Buddhist temples where Weituo holds his hands together with a vajra club across his arms.

 

1st Posture

Our 1st movement of ‘finishing the gung’ begins with the hands above the head. All the following postures require eyes closed and deep respiration through the nose. It is important that all muscles are relaxed. The breath is described as gently pulling silk.

Shifu calls this move, 'Both hands support the sky regulate the triple warmer.'

From The Sinews Transformation Classic From Eight Section Brocade. 'Both hands support the sky regulate the triple warmer.'

 

The 2nd posture lowers the hands to shoulder level with the palms facing upwards.

Shifu calls this move, 'Great roc spreads its wings gather in the qi.'

Roc is a great mythological bird.

From The Sinews Transformation Classic  

The 3rd posture is where the name ‘Weituo offers his Vajra’ comes from. Hold the base of the thumbs and the fingertips together while the palms are apart. This posture should be held for eight breathes or longer. Shifu calls this move, 'Weituo offers his vajra and chases away demons of the heart.'

 
From The Sinews Transformation Classic From Luohan Gung  

Through the hard work of training and the proper cultivation of your mind. body and spirit the end result of exercises such as Luohan Gung promise,

'When your gung is finally successful you can prolong you life and become an earthly immortal.'

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