Compilation: Row the Boat - ShiBaShi

This is movement six following on from Repulse the Monkey. Rowing the boat or row the boat as the name suggests is very similar in action to that of rowing a boat.

The Movement

When finishing the last repulse the monkey the left hand doesn’t cross the right palm, but instead is extended forward. You will then have the right palm facing up and left one facing down, simply turn the right palm over to face toward the ground. Both arms are then lowered to the the side of the body with the palms facing the outer thigh. The knees should still be bent from the previous movement. The palms are then turned to face forward, the arms are extended upward to shoulder height and inline with the shoulders. As this is done the knees are straightened to the unlocked position. The elbows are then bent moving the forearm into a vertical position. From here we row the boat by bringing the arms down; pressing down until the arms return to the side of the body. As the arms are pressed down we again sink down with our knees. This entire movement is again repeated five more times to complete a set of six movements of row the boat.

You may see a more advanced form of Row the Boat on YouTube in which the torso is bent down as the arms are pressed down to the ground. We tend not to teach this more advanced movement as it can place considerable strain on the low back and knees if not done properly. It is also very easy to extend the knees beyond the toes thus stressing the knee joints.


The in breath is done as the arms are raised and the elbows bent. The exhalation is done as the arms are lowered. Remember the movement is done in sync and at the pace of your breath. Most Qigong routines are done in this manner. The breath usually controls the movement. The breathing should be relaxed abdominal breathing.

If you are new to Qigong, initially it may be better to breathe as you need too, even if not in sync with the movement. That is, allow your breathing to be natural. Once the physical movements are perfected you can then focus on the breath. I will just mention, there are other ways of breathing in Qigong, and for more advanced techniques like reverse diaphragmatic, this breathing can also be employed with the ShiBaShi. Not something that I do routinely.


In this movement (once perfected) the focus can be placed on the Laogong Acupoint point on the palm of the hand. For its location you can refer to the picture in the blog post on the last movement – Repulse Monkey. It is simply a case of light focus on this point on each hand as you do the movement. This however is not essential to get benefit from this movement. Some practitioners like to focus on this point and imagine Qi -energy being deposited in the Gall Bladder meridian on the side of the thigh as the hands are lowered to that position. Raising the arms with the in breath is seen as gathering the Qi, and lowering the arms and hands on the out breath is seen as depositing the Qi.

Benefits of this movement

Most references indicate that the benefits of this movement are for digestion and mental clarity. There are obvious benefits for the shoulder girdle in strengthening and mobilizing the joint itself. The deltoid muscle is activated and strengthened, as well as some of the important rotator cuff muscles.

As mentioned above, Qi is deposited into the Gall Bladder meridian which assists digestion and calming the nervous system and mind.

The more advanced version of this movement, that we do not teach, more directly affects the Kidney and Bladder meridians.

Some Key Points

Ensure that the back is kept straight but relaxed. The shoulders should be also kept relaxed, especially when the arms are brought up inline with the shoulders. Make sure you do not hunch the shoulders up. The entire movement should be smooth. The arms and legs should be in sync; the knees should complete their bending downward as the hands reach the sides of the thigh, and the legs straightened (but off lock) gradually as the arms reach the horizontal position, finishing together.

As with all the movements good knee mechanics needs to be observed. You should always be able to see the tip of your toes, and the center-line of the foot should be inline with the center of your knee. This means not letting the knees sink inward as this will ultimately lead to soreness. Keep the knees off lock when they are straightened.

The breathing should also be relaxed and in sync once the routine is learned. If you find yourself chest breathing, simply correct this to deeper abdominal breathing. If your mind wanders off onto something that happened yesterday, or your worries, gently bring it back to focus on the breath as you do the movements.

Your in Qigong and health

Sifu Peter

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