Red Jade Martial Arts
Traditional Martial Arts for All Ages
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Sifu's Tea Table

Sifu's Tea Table

Heaven Below / Earth Above 地球不在天堂之下


Heaven Below / Earth Above 地球不在天堂之下Since I posted this picture from my journal the other day I have gotten a lot of questions about what it is. Normally I would just explain what’s up in the diagram but I think I should explain where it is from as well.

My journaling has been the Best thing I have ever done for my martial arts. Forget ranks or titles as markers of success, there is nothing as powerful as looking back on your martial and personal thoughts from years past and seeing how far you have progressed. Only you can know your own thoughts and remember them vividly through reading them again, I have a foot locker of journals from training filled with weird diagrams and paragraphs and poems trying to explain what I was learning or trying to figure out at the time. That being said this diagram is a fairly recent entry into my journals and is the result of my mind churning on something I learned on Xu Guoming’s roof top.

After I fought him, and the old man kindly let me get up and spit out my teeth and begin being a student. He not only began inundating me with information and corrections but let me fight him again and again in different systems, push hands and ask any questions and feel anything I wanted. I got to feel his bear palm, which almost knocked me off the roof, fight against his Xinyi, his Bagua and his Taiji and even feel some of his Lan Shou.

Among the hours of discussion and correction something very powerful was told to me.

“Everyone is average at best. See what they do and do the opposite.” (I’m paraphrasing since his words were a bit more…. Harsh.)

One of the things he worked on with me was this:

When people stand up they begin standing up with their chests, lifting their weight upwards with the torso before engaging the lower body to rise. The normal mode of movement and thinking is Yang is above (chest) and Yin is below (legs) and because that is how people think, that is how they move. We rise with the entire body and sink with the entire body, oscillating between yin and yang but this is not correct. This is normal movement and normal thinking and it is a deeply foundational part of who we are and how we think. That’s what Master Xu was talking about “See what everyone else does and do the opposite.” It’s finding the foundation of how we think and move and looking at it from an observer’s mind, not labelling things are right or wrong just seeing them for what they are before working to train and change them.

Everyone moves this way naturally, rising from the chest, moving between yin and yang. So, don’t do that otherwise you will remain like everyone else.

Heaven Below / Earth Above

earth over heaven seal calligraphy
earth over heaven seal calligraphy

To recap, if you watch people stand up they will generally rise with the chest and press down with the feet. Sometimes the chest moves first, sometimes the feet do but either way the thinking is the Heaven rises above and Earth is pressed below. The mind also tends to have a very “up” or “down” intention when standing or sitting and the body acts accordingly, either rising or lowering itself as a whole unit – this is being either Yang or Yin.

Changing this so the Yang energy or lifting power (Heaven) is below – the legs pressing the ground to rise while the torso releases and lowers (Earth / Yin) reverses the whole norm. This gives us things to work with:

We are doing the opposite of what is natural which makes sense since this is martial arts training / internal training – the key word being “training” teaching ourselves to do something that does not already occur naturally.

We are no longer oscillating back and forth between yin and yang but instead allowing them both to happen simultaneously in the body. This obeys the principle of the Taiji diagram (Yin/Yang) that both must exist at once and mutually follow and interchange into one another.

By changing they way we think we change the way our body moves and acts, this is the base of all physical training and so is where we must search for our own changes to be made. If we cannot stand up or sit down like a Master would, what makes us think we will push hands or fight like one? In simplicity the way is obvious to train. But most of us want more and more, complex things to learn and practice and forget about the very basics, the very foundations of movement let alone martial arts or qigong.

Another example:

When people “throw” a punch, their chest rises to the occasion and they move with Heaven above and Earth below. Reverse that.

When people “throw” a kick, their chest rises as they lift their leg and the whole-body lifts rather than having both up and down at the same time.

*Don’t rise to the occasion, sink to their level*


So, I flew back home and began working on all the things Master Xu had dropped on me. Ended up flying him up to Canada as well for my Deep Water Martial Arts Convention as the keynote speaker (and more private training for me!). More and more I churned this stuff over in my mind and worked on the exercises daily. A few years have passed since the convention and through email I have been able to ask questions of him freely, which you would think would be nice, save the answers being constantly frustrating.  Every day I work on the different exercises and follow his advice as well as I can.

Then there I was.

I was standing in a large drawing room, like an art studio with a large table in front of me covered in huge sheets of paper. The sun was going down through the many windows on the west side of the building and I began studying the table and what it held. The paper was not white, more like brown parcel paper or paper stained in tea for an art project and the huge piece of paper held a diagram.

The diagram was almost life sized and each part of it was drawn by hand with short quick lines, the Chinese characters very hastily put in to explain it. Heaven was below, and Earth was above and as I studied it from top to bottom it made sense. From the three circles where the feet should be (the three nails that distribute weight in the foot) to the spirals that pointed up the legs (rising force from below).

The splitting of the force was shown with two arrows at the shoulder splitting at the celestial pivot at the base of the neck and the body cut in half with a line solidly defining the separation and integration of yin/yang.

I went through the diagram and spoke out loud to myself, explain the details and then when I looked up the sun was nearly set….

Then I woke up.

So, I grabbed my journal and drew the diagram and looked at it. My mind had done this before, churning away at things in my sleep or in meditation and then presenting me with an answer of some form. I took a photo of it and showed it to some of my colleagues for input knowing my own madness may not be correct in every way. All in all, is seemed to work, my training improved and some of the skills Master Xu was trying to get through my thick head were starting to bloom. I have been lucky.

That’s where the diagram came from. Hopefully it makes sense what it means. Ideally it will be of some use to other people even if it is just a result of mind churning on things in my own training. Hope it helps.

©Neil Ripski 2018

More of my Rambling in Circles : HERE