At the very heart of the martial practice of hsing-i and its Five Elements is Santi,
or the “trinity posture.” Santi is done holding a static standing
posture, with your arms extended. In the classic schools of hsing-i, the
posture is held in Pi Chuan, which is the first of the Five Elements.

There
is a common story about the best people in hsing-i that says they were
made to do santi for between one and three years before being allowed to
learn anything else. Many interpret this type of demand as a useless
hazing process.

However,
this process of standing is the most foundational power training in
hsing-i, and without it ithe training of the Five Elements and the
animal forms could easily become nothing more than movements with
minimal internal power.

Aside
from the martial aspects, santi teaches how to make the mind calm and
how to free it of accumulated stress. The process that santi sets in
motion for balance, health and healing is expanded and fulfilled in the
Five Element practices.

Santi focuses on cultivating five critical processes:

  • Breath
  • Legs and waist
  • Arms
  • Unifying external connections within yourself
  • Unifying internal connections within yourself.

Hsing-i Santi and Breath

Santi
uses a wide variety of breathing techniques. Breathing begins with
regular Taoist breath training, which emphasizes breathing from the
lower belly, sides, kidneys, upper back and spine. Each level of breath
practice must be stabilized before moving onto the next. Moving on to
each new type of breathing requires the guidance of an experienced
teacher who has been through the process, experienced its results and
can recognize the nuances of how internal energy is developing in your
body.

The
next state in santi involves learning the various levels of reverse
breathing and spinal breathing. The final stage of the santi breath
practices include the feeling of losing all sense of physical breath,
even though your breathing processes are very strong.

Hsing-i Santi and the Legs/Waist

Santi
develops your ability to root your energy and create and/or strengthen
balance in your legs. As the methods for dropping your chi (qi) to your
lower tantien are learned, your body (regardless of shape or weight)
will seem to feel heavier and heavier to someone’s touch. When the
sinking of the chi and all the other grounding techniques are
accomplished, your body progressively becomes exceedingly stable whether
hit from the front, side or back.

In
Santi, as your leg an hip flexibiity grow, you become able to raise and
lower your stance effortlessly. The internal methods for developing
power in the legs come next. Then, Santi techniques are learned for
joining your leg, waist and spine into one inseparable whole, with no
energetic gaps or physical weakness in their unified power.

Finally,
in Santi as your legs and waist are trained to turn horizontally and
rotate like a smoothly oiled wheel, where the power of each amplifies
the other. When the “oiling” is complete in Santi, your waist is able to
turn extremely rapidly, to both the left and right, whether you are
front or back weighted.

Hsing-i Santi and the Arms

The
next phase in Santi is infusing both attack-oriented and defensive
power into your arms, from the shoulders to the fingertips with the
initial focus being on the elbows, forearms and hands. To train for this
power, you first learn to relax your arms and lengthen all the soft
tissues in your body from your spine to your arms.

Next
in Santi, the chi flow from your spine to your fingertips must become
continuous and without gaps. This flow must become powerful until the
chi in your palms and fingertips becomes full and extremely tangible,
bringing with it a strong blood flow. Then  stronger the blood flow to
your fingers, the softer and more full your hand should feel.

The
next stage of Santi and the arms focuses on bringing downward vertical
power into the elbows. After elbow strength increases and your arms
become heavy, the focus shifts to developing the ability of your hand to
absorb energy back to your spine. After all the above are accomplished,
the intent shift to making the skin on your arms become extremely
sensitive to the subtleties of air pressure.

Finally,
in Santi and the arms, through various forms of mind intent, you learn
to absorb and to project power from your hands using various internal
techniques, such as openings and closings and twisting.

Hsing-i Santi and Unifying External Connections

Another
major goal of santi is to connect your physical body into a unified
whole. Such unification allows the movement of any small part of your
arms or legs to be fully backed up by the whole of your body, thereby
amplifying the power of the small parts significantly. Hsing-i focuses
on the six external combinations (called liu he in Chinese). These six are the shoulder and the hip, the elbow and the knee, and the hand and the foot.

Along
with the internal alignments and the six combinations, hsing-i lifts,
sinks and rounds the body in ways that are similar to bagua and tai chi.

Hsing-i Santi and Unifying Internal Connections

The
next stage of Santi involves unifying your mind with the gaze of your
eyes and your awareness. The object here is to fuse your physical power,
chi, mind and perceptions into one unified entity. This training is
done by fixing your gaze on the index or middle finger of your lead
hand.

This
gazing technique sensitizes the mind, making it alive and calm with a
relaxed concentration, the same state that comes from doing the “tradak”
candle-staring exercises in yoga. When practiced sufficiently, this
technique leads to an expansion of the mind so that it can link directly
to the central nervous system, allowing you to feel the chi of your
body with great clarity.

Read more about Hsing-i and the Five Elements

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