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The Revolving Wheel of Water and Fire
The internal body of Mantis Boxing from Eighteen Luohan Gung.

Long before my 1989 arrival to Taiwan, Master Luan Xingfu would come over to my Shifu's wu guan at six each morning. Each class of his started off with the training of Three Turns Nine Rotations qi gung. This article is about an essential posture of that set and how it brings equilibrium to the internal body. The title of this essential posture in Eighteen Luohan Gung is The Revolving Wheel of Water and Fire.

The practice of qi gung helps move ourselves towards a state of physical and mental harmony. It requires a dedicated training and the application of our conscious will. In order to harmonize the body we must make the breathing steady. In order to make the breathing steady we must quiet the mind.

The Revolving Wheel of Water and Fire                  

Both feet stand erect as if bound by rope.
The nostrils raise the qi to the heart.
Intersect the fingers and overturn the palms.
Keep the hands in front as you continuously pump the lungs.
Stabilize the breath and vitality is refreshed.
When water and fire mutually aid to make the minor cosmic round,
Then yin and yang exchange and collect at the axis of the turning wheel.
The only fear of later generations is that their will lacks dedication.

Immortal Raises Hands

xian ren gung shouThis drawing from the Eighteen Luohan Gung manuscript shows an essential posture of Shiye Luan's Three Turns Nine Rotations method.

Shiye Luan's class started with all the students keeping their body perfectly straight and all the muscles tensed. To properly perform this posture you fill the body with maximum qi/air. Keep the fingers interlaced and pushed forward with palms facing outward. Forcefully expel air from the mouth with an audible 'sss' sound.             The first four lines describe the movement very clearly.
 

Both feet stand erect as if bound by rope.
The nostrils raise the qi to the heart.
Intersect the fingers and overturn the palms.
Keep the hands in front as you continuously pump the lungs.


These first four lines are a straightforward explanation of the physical posture. The picture that accompanies helps to explain the hand position.
To 'pump the lungs' is to continuously exhale. Master Luan would make the students exhale for over half an hour with short inhalations between exhalations. The entire body was tensed and held tight during the exhalation. The tensing of the body is described by this line, 'Both feet stand erect as if bound by rope.'

Refreshed Vitality

The sensation the student can expect to feel from this training is described next. It is a feeling of refreshed vitality. 

Stabilize the breath and vitality is refreshed.

To get a 'refreshed vitality' the practitioner must 'stabilize the breath.' Stabilizing the breath is nothing more than bringing the breath back to normal.

Balancing Water and Fire

ji-ji'The mutual aiding of water and fire makes the minor cosmic round.'
In its simplest definition this line refers to the healthy physiological function between the heart and kidney. Mutual aiding expresses balance between these two organs and thus, through association, throughout the organs of the entire body.

A Hot Kettle of Water

Mutual aiding expresses a state of perfect balance. An ancient book from the dawn of Chinese history titled The Book of Changes contains 64 hexagrams with detailed explanations of their meanings. The hexagram which concerns us, Mutual aiding / jiji, is the 63rd of these 64 hexagrams. Within this Book of Changes jiji is aptly translated 'after completion.'

ji-ji hexagram

The jiji hexagram, pictured at the right, is composed of two trigrams. The li trigram on bottom which represents the qualities of fire and the kan trigram on top which represents the qualities of water. In other words, jiji is a visual representation of water over fire.

Water in a kettle suspended above the fire is a useful visualization to keep in mind.
The kan trigram of water strives downward while the li trigram of fire strives upward. This arrangement of water on top and fire on bottom creates an unstable yet perfect equilibrium and shows that the transition from chaos to order is complete, hence the translation, 'after completion' in the Book of Changes. It is written,

'It is just when perfect equilibrium has been reached that any movement may cause order to return to disorder.'

Heart and Kidney

So far we have spoken of the interrelation of water and fire within the jiji hexagram, but how do the words water and fire relate to our bodies?
Water and fire is a phrase of Taoist alchemy and a classification of yin and yang. Water can be said to represent the kidneys while fire represents the heart. So mutual aiding of water and fire is also known as interacting of heart and kidney.

Interacting of heart and kidney describes two simultaneous actions.
1. Heart fire descending to warm kidney water. This prevents it from becoming overly cold.
2. Kidney water ascending to control and aid heart fire. This prevents it from becoming overly vigorous.
When heart fire and kidney water lose their balance illness will result. In this case a small cosmic round refers to the perpetual interacting of water and fire to maintain balance.

Yin and yang exchange and collect at the axis of the turning wheel.

The rotation of yin and yang can be said to represent continuous balanced breathing, The essential requirement of proper breathing is a calm mind, while without balanced breathing the mind can not be calm. This type of balanced health is not attained through sporadic practice, but through a dedicated training. So in the end we are reminded that,

The only fear of later generations is that their will lacks dedication.

In Chinese the melodious rhyming verse of this sonnet is a useful mnemonic aid to keep the students focused on proper breathing and a calm mind. Through a consistent practice we too can attain the revolving wheel of water and fire just as our previous generations[

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