Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Channels of Acupuncture and Their Functional Movement Patterns

Note: This post is adapted from a post that originally appeared on the Sports Medicine Acupuncture Blog site which can be found here.

Jingjin Movement Training presentation at the Pacific Sports & Orthopedic Acupuncture Symposium

One of the features of the Sports Medicine Acupuncture program, where I am a faculty member, is the emphasis on the channel sinews or jingjin. These are highlighted in dissection classes, but also in the assessment and treatment classes and in the corrective exercise classes. The jingjin are an important part of the channel system and I have been exploring movement patterns of these channels since 1998; I am currently developing qigong and calisthenics patterns to strengthen the channel, improve body awareness and control, and improve the channel health. This is something that I will be presenting on at the upcoming Pacific Sports and Orthopedic Acupuncture Symposium from March 30th to April 3rd.

Grundy Erector Spinae Schematic

While you can look at the movement patterns of a particular channel, it is actually better to look at more comprehensive functional movement patterns that involve multiple related channels. For instance, there are movements that lift you into an upright and expansive posture. These movements involve an engagement of the back muscles which pull down on the pelvis and spine and lift the front channels, as seen in this excellent illustration to the left from an anatomy atlas by John Hull Grundy. The full, expansive and upright posture that is the result of the back engagement occurs with a stabilization from a balanced, aligned and strong core where the respiratory diaphragm is aligned with the pelvic floor as seen in the illustration below.

This overall pattern involves the Taiyang-Shaoyin channels. The video below from my Youtube channel and featuring something I refer to as a Hanging Squat highlights these channels well. This exercise is a simpler version of an exercise called a front lever. The position on the upright portion of the movement calls on muscles of the UB and SI jingjin such as the gluteus maximus, the erector spinae, the lats, and the shoulder external rotators, but also the transverse abdominis and multifidi from the KID jingjin are engaged and the pelvic and respiratory diaphragms are aligned. The exercise can be modified and made easier or harder by decreasing or increasing the angle the body makes with the ground when in the up position. This would be a great exercise for many shoulder and back conditions especially if these muscles are underutilized. Of course, care should be taken and it is not appropriate for everyone. Understanding the mechanisms helps find modification or related exercises which work the same channels.

The Shaoyang-Jueyin channel network is involved with side bending, stabilization of the sides and rotation. If you look at the muscles that cause movement (or prevent too much of it) along the sides, and also the ones that rotate the major segments of the body, these are generally the same muscles. The abdominal obliques are a great example of this.

The interplay between these movements is seen in the video below, which is a standing version of an exercise called the Human Flag. Notice the innominate bone movement in particular that makes this movement shine. This could be used as a great sacroiliac joint exercise for patients and It can be scaled back and made achievable for most patients.

Planche on Gymnastics Rings
The final movement pattern is controlled by the Yangming-Taiyin channel network. This involves flexion of the major joints and pulls you down. It also helps move the shoulder blades.  I don’t have a good video that highlights these channels and will have to expand on them at the symposium. Here is an extraordinary gymnastic maneuver, however, that exemplified this channel network. This is beyond most patients, unless they are a gymnast. It is beyond what I can do, though there are many ways to modified this and/or train elements of this to simulate these channels. Another characteristic movement would be a handstand using proper abdominal support (no banana back) or even a V sit as demonstrate below by Gabo Saturno from

I hope you can make it! If you are there, I will also be leading the morning qigong sessions from 7-7:30am out by Mission Bay. Many of these themes will be presented, but I will not be explaining everything in these morning sessions. So, there will be simple instruction and this will be expanded on during the Thursday, March 30th lectures. So, the morning sessions are a time to play. Practice and explore our own movement potentials.

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Friday, January 27, 2023

Support Hold on Gymnastic Rings

Supporting yourself on gymnastic rings is difficult due to the instability of the rings

Transitioning from parallel bars to gymnastic rings is a large step in bodyweight calisthenics. Actually, it is a much bigger leap than many people realize until they try it. This is because of the instability that rings offer. In bodyweight training, instability is a good thing as it calls on many of the smaller stabilizing muscles to become active to help make up for the loss of stability that occurs when transitioning from the solid structure of metal parallel bars cemented into the ground.

For me, this is a far more functional way of training. Consider activities that would require us to support our weight and something like climbing a tree might come to mind. These branches would move and sway and we would need to adapt to this movement so that we would not fall. Something like gymnastic rings is a safe way to include instability into your training but, while it is safer than hanging out in a tree, there is still some risk involved due to the increase in demands.

When transitioning to rings, the starting place is to be able to support yourself in the top of a dip position. When transitioning from parallel bars, many people are surprised, and frequently very humbled, by how much more difficult this is. You might be very use to cranking out a set of dips on parallel bars, but find yourself shaking uncontrollably and find that you can barely hold yourself up on the gymnastic rings.

Fortunately, this phase ends with a little practice and you can support yourself without quite as much shaking. The challenge then is to hold yourself in this support position for some time. I recommend starting with 15-30 seconds with good form. Work towards locking your elbows and turning the rings out.  It is a good idea to get strong in this position before working on other calisthenics skills on the rings.

Gymnastic rings with straps anchored to a high ceiling

Once you are strong in this top position, you can play with having control in all positions of the dips. And, you can start to increase the instability by introducing a swing which more demands on your body to return to stability. Just make sure that you have taken the time to build strength in the support hold before increasing instability by adding more movement. Rushing the process increases the potential for injury. Having said that, you will need to be able to support your weight on parallel bars before moving on to rings for the same reason.

Something else to consider is that the degree of difficulty is increase as the length of the straps is increased. For instance, I take my rings out to a calisthenic park and strap them onto a bar that is about 9 feet from the ground. Other times I have access to rings at a local recreation center with a gymnasium (image on left) and these rings are anchored to a very high ceiling. It is far more difficult to do any skill on the rings at the rec center as the instability is increase significantly. 

Here is a short I filmed where I am playing around with the ring instability.

A great bodyweight exercise for chest

The gymnastic rings support hold is a fantastic bodyweight exercise for the chest. Locking the elbows and turning the rings out calls heavily on the pectoralis major. This muscle group has a number of functions and adduction is a major one that is challenged with this position. This is especially the case with rings since they have the capacity to move and you need to really use the pectoralis major to prevent the rings from moving away from the body (into abduction).

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Monday, January 2, 2023

Monkey Bar Swings to Train Torso Rotation

Swinging from Monkey Bars Links the Muscles Involved with Side Bending and Rotation

Gallbladder Sinew Channel Pelvis and Shoulder

The myofascial planes along the left and right sides of the body help support and stabilize the lateral aspect of the pelvis and torso, but these planes also are involved with rotation. In Chinese medicine, this myofascial plane is the Gallbladder sinew channel. It involves muscles such as the abdominal obliques, the gluteus medius and minimus, and the latissimus dorsi; all muscles active in swinging from monkey bars. 

Monkey Bar Swings
To be specific, there are many ways you can move from bar to bar and I want to describe a particular training method that emphasizes this channel by emphasizing the shortening and lengthening along the side along with rotation, It involves switching from arm to arm with each swing. This requires all of the weight to be supported by one arm with each swing while fully hanging from that side. For most instances of monkey bars I see at calisthenics parks I recommend skipping a bar with each swing to highlight this lengthening. 

You can see this on the image to the left. As I am directly below the bar, the myofascia (muscles and fascia) along the right side of my torso is lengthening and supporting. This builds energy in the channel as the tissue builds elastic length. First off, this can be somewhat stressful for this tissue if you have not prepared the body with proper warm ups, joint preparation and if you do not have a baseline of pulling strength. Be careful and take you time building strength and resilience! 

Once these conditions are met, you want the energy that is built from the lengthened myofascia to recoil and propel you through the rest of the move. This is a theme we see though much of the Gallbladder sinew channel and it is also active in the similar movement of walking and running as the IT Band stretches and recoils, propelling the body into the next phase of gait and conserving energy in the process.

The other thing to notice is that as I am reaching my left arm out, I am bringing my right hip and thigh forward. This opposite arm and thigh means that I am rotating the torso or ribcage on the pelvis. The right internal obliques and the left external obliques are shortening to drive this motion. As I continue through with the swing, the entire right side (both obliques and lats) will shorten. All of this drives me forward to the next bar.

Swinging Progressions

Monkey Bar Swings Resistance Bands
There are many progression to build strength and elasticity of the myofascial plane of the Gallbladder sinew channel which will prevent injury. I recommend starting with resistance bands. This progression requires working with one side at a time and then you will switch and perform the same progression on the next side. You attach the band to the bar you are skipping and loop the band secure into the groin. This might be obvious, but you want to be careful that the band is secure between the genitals and the adductor tendons since you definitely would not want to support your weight into a band that is pressing into the genitals. Once the bands is in place, however, it will not cause any problems.

You will them bring the thigh back into extension on the same side as the arm that is holding the bar. As you swing and reach, the band will be fully lengthened when you are directly under it and it will therefore be supports some of your body weight. You need to pick a band thickness that is appropriate for your level. 

The band then assists you as you contract the muscles of the Gallbladder sinew channel which shorten the side and counter-rotate the ribcage and pelvis. The band matches the elasticity of the Gallbladder sinew channel. It is maximally stretched as you are directly under your hand and then it recoils and propels you through the move.

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Liuhebafa (Lok Hup Ba Fa) Qigong Patterns

Qigong patterns from Liuhebafa

I am creating a series of qigong patterns derived from liuhebafa (lok hup ba fa), based on movements from the bare hand form of the tradition taught by Liang Zipeng and passed on by Sun Di and Moy Linshin.

There are six patterns for Part I of this form. Part II of this form is quite different from most versions of liuhebafa, and Liang Zipeng mostly created this second half as a unique form. I will post more about patterns for Part II separately.

Liuhebafa movement patterns

The following movements are the basis for the Part I qigong patterns. The video below shows one of these patterns.

  1. Commencement of Liuhebafa
  2. Stop Cart and Ask Directions. (See Video Below)
  3. Wild Horse Chases Wind
  4. Nine Circulations of the Golden Pill
  5. Part Clouds and See Sun
  6. Gentle Wind Sweeps Leaves

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