An Introduction to Ziranmen
In recent martial arts history, among all the dazzling martial arts styles, there is one style of martial arts that because of its unique movements and profound philosophy, stands out from all other styles and shines.  For over one hundred years, this style has enjoyed a high reputation and is widely practiced in the mainland and overseas.  It is the Natural Style of gongfu (Ziranmen).

Ziranmen has similarities to both Shaolin and Wudang.  It integrates the strengths of both the internal and external styles, but is a unique style of its own, consisting of both hardness and softness.

Within the practice of Ziranmen: Movement and stillness have no beginning or end; changes have no beginning or end.  Real attacks and fake attacks are not fixed; they are natural and spontaneous to the circumstances.

Something can be generated even from nothing, such as generating force from an empty position. The mind is used to guide the body’s “qi” (vital energy). When the intention arrives the hands arrive, when the intention stops the hands stop.  Qi is the foundation; it must be cultivated and returned to its source (Dantian).

Once one is skilled in Ziranmen, supernatural bravery will follow of its own course. Within Ziranmen practice there is long range and short range fighting, dodging and jabbing. Qi does not float up, it always stays rooted. There is swiftness and slowness, and there is hardness and softness. There are no fixed movements; by reacting naturally, any movement can be applied to dissolve even the gravest threat from the opponent. In cultivating qi, one must not be compulsive. In applying force, one must not use hard force (the force should be natural and internal). One is like a spirit, indistinct and elusive, without form or sound. The more one practices the stronger one becomes; the older one gets the healthier one becomes. Although from the outside one may look weak and emaciated, the internal strength is replete and full. (Ziranmen utilizes all the muscles in an integrated way, therefore, one does not build up large muscles but in fact the muscles are stronger and more substantial than the muscles of, say, a body builder.)

Ziranmen gongfu and Daoism come from the same source. In other words, Ziranmen is also a type of Daoist practice. It is just that in practicing Ziranmen one seeks stillness within movement, whereas in practicing the internal style one seeks stillness within stillness. In fact, Ziranmen’s qi cultivation method is in accordance with the Dao! When used to combat, Ziranmen is a natural fighting technique; when used to practice qi, it is the foundation to the cultivation of qi. Therefore, Ziranmen is a fighting technique that follows the Dao!

Laozhi said, “Man follows the order of the earth. Earth follows the order of the heaven. Heaven follows the order of Dao. Dao follows the order of nature.” In other words, naturalness (Nature) is Dao. Ziranmen qi-gong uses the Dao as its hinge, and the philosophy of “One and Zero” (i.e. positive/negative, being/non-being, yin/yang) as its principle. The central principle of Ziranmen is naturalness. Its qi practicing and qi cultivating techniques follow the order of nature, which are very natural. Ziranmen qigong is the foundation of the Dao practice. The central principle of Daoism is essentially Laozhi’s philosophy of “wuwei”, that the ultimate way to achieving the Dao is non-action, non-deliberation and unobtrusiveness, accomplished by naturalness and spontaneity.

“Dao is fundamentally wuwei (non-action) which follows the order of nature (naturalness)!” The practice of Ziranmen qigong is to eventually “cultivate qi and channel it to its source – the dantian.” This intention is spontaneous, not deliberating to forget it or to remember it. It seems to be there, and it seems not to be there.

Ziranmen emphasizes on three styles of gongfu – soft, hard and light. It teaches three character traits – wisdom, benevolence and courage, and four virtues – trustworthiness, righteousness, chivalry and bravery. Essentially, it consists of hand-eye-body-foot work and shoulder-elbow-wrist-hip-knee work and the practice of their inter-coordination. It uses “jing-qi-shen” (essence-energy-spirit) as its foundation, and hands, eyes and body as its root to nourish a fearless moral spirit, so that one will not be easily stirred by external influences and be able to use one’s gongfu to combat and win over his opponent.

Ziranmen (Natural Style), as indicated by its name, calls for the attention of naturalness during practice. One should know that in learning any skills, unnaturalness is normal in the beginning of the learning process before one attains naturalness. But if one does not observe the rules for basic training in the beginning and does not work hard, how is it possible to achieve the joy of naturalness? Hence, Ziranmen still has fixed forms of fists to follow during practice. With persistent efforts, naturalness will be achieved over time.

The preliminary training takes “Nei Quan Shou” as its fundamental practice, whereby one practices with his hands circling in an inward motion and meanwhile walking in circles with “aidang steps” (walking with the hip lowered). Afterwards, there is “Tui shou” (push hands), and then leg kicks that start with drilling practice and then kicking practice in clockwise and anticlockwise circular motions. With long practice of these techniques, the practitioner’s qi will gradually sink and become steady, and eyes will gradually become bright and clear. After this, one can start to learn the applications of tun-tu-fu-chen (contracting-extending-floating-sinking) and the different types of hand skills and leg skills. After this, basic training is nearly complete and one can start cultivating qi.

Other basic training of Ziranmen includes: shang zhuang (body stump), zou bo luo (walking around the basket rim), zi mu qiu (son and mother ball), yuan yang huan (paired rings), hu kou bang (tiger mouth cudgel), tie sha bao (iron sand bag), pian ban (kick board), dian zhu (toe kicking bamboo stems), san jiao zhuang (triangular tree stumps), dao zhuang (tree stumps of Dao), cha sha (driving hands into the sand), dang ban (blocking board), di ben zi (scurrying quickly along the ground), etc.

Every skill needs to be well trained in order to be successful. That means the palms will be able to break rocks, the kicks will be able to break planks, the leg will be able to break bamboo stems; the hands will be like metal hooks, the body like an iron rock. When hard, one is like steel, when soft like glue, when heavy like rooted in the ground, when light like skimming on ice. Hand strikes are straight and invisibly fast. When it is still, Ziranmen takes the form of “ling pai shi” (command tablet style); when it is moving, “ba fa dang” (eight strategies of hip work); when it is changing, “lang bu” (wave steps). When the hands are still, they take the form of “bao bei shou” (like embracing one’s back), when changing, “Gui Tou Shou” (ghost head hands). There are no fixed forms; forms are applied naturally. The hands are as soft as cotton when they are punched out, but as hard as iron when they land on the opponent. The force can be conspicuous or hidden, the tactics can be sticky or evading.

This basically explains what Ziranmen is like. It consists of all the essence of both the internal and external styles of our country’s martial arts. Moreover, there is the Zhang Sanfeng Taijiquan in Ziranmen, which is directly descended from the genuine original style of Taijiquan.
Written by Grandmaster Lu Yaoqin

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