Saturday, July 30, 2011

Devolution


The real meaning of martial arts may begin with learning and understanding techniques but at a deeper level it teaches us focus. Giving us the ability to notice what is power and where it stems from while also being able to avoid hidden danger. As it continues to seep into my being I am able to see more and know more about myself and what it is I desire and need. The practice of the art must continually be applied in the decisions of my life in order to protect myself.

My latest revelation has brought me to ponder about the people of the past and the people of present. We are taught that the primitive ways of the past generations were obsoleted with the birth of technology developing into a more "advanced" society. From guns, cars, computers and cell phones we are just plain smarter than the people before us.

This is the energy I draw from many individuals who are blinded by the arrogance of the ignorance. Yes it is true that we are in many was better off because of the convenience of our modern society. Still in many ways we have become completely cripple in ceasing to do things that might make us stronger. Isn't it in inconvenience that we are called to bring more out of ourselves? The "lesser" people were able to grow food, catch food, heal their own wounds, purify their own water, tell stories, make shelter and on and on. These are only basic skills that are needed for our survival yet how many of us can do two of the skills that I have listed here?

In my years of training I often hear those say that they do not practice martial arts because they can just buy a gun. Sure a gun gives you the ability to kill someone if you need. I can also kill using martial arts, more importantly I can choose not to kill. I can control the situation before it occurs by using the strengthening of my mind that I have learned through martial arts. I also never have to worry about bringing martial arts with me. I may not have all of the advantages of a gun, but I am more powerful in many ways.

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy a gun, but I am saying that you should make sure you truly have strength in your being. Every technology that comes out makes us more reliant on people who may not trustworthy. As technology grows our strength in body and mind lessen. How many phone numbers do you have memorized? Do you know how to sew an open wound if you have to? We can not let ourselves continue to devolve because of convenience. From a martial arts stand point, it is the most dangerous position to be in.

The answer is to learn the art of self preservation. Begin to train yourself slowly to be self sufficient. If you are a martial artist already you do not need to dwell too much on self defense. But even the mightiest warrior is useless if he can not eat. Learn to grow or store food incase the unexpected actually happens. Be aware of the natural disasters in your area (natural and man made) so that you can have escape routes in place. Do not pretend you don't know what's going on just because it's easier. Take responsibility for your life...or you might lose it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seasonal Gifts


Through all of the types of weather, training, and environment we find countless ways to develop our technique further. When we add seasonal challenges to our training we are awarded with a bonus technique. It's a little tricky to explain my meaning of an invisible growth, but I will share with you notes of my training which may help you visualize.

Frozen Steps

By practicing the circle and pre-heaven techniques on the ice I found it much more difficult to have a stepping root. Every transition must be completely balanced before an effective defense or offense can be executed. Sinking the hips and keeping weight in the right area intensifies the pain in the legs. Gaining more strength, speed and balance through lower stances. The end result being the ability to be moving while completely sticking to the ground. Overpowering opponents from any position.

Dark Wood Counters

At night in a forested area with medium sized trees we can develop sensitivity and awareness. Using only starlight to navigate our steps while using the nine palace footwork is an advanced technique. Without first mastering the stepping techniques kou bu扣步 and bai bu 擺步 there is no way to navigate through the roots of the tree safely. Starting slow is best but the real kung fu in this technique is released at a faster pace. Allowing you to do automatic counter attacks without seeing.

Sun Saber

In the hot sun it is great to practice the saber and foot work to find the right angles to reflect light while attacking. Emphasizing a sword swing with out a beginning or an ending. This will unlock the combination of speed and timing using the flash of the sword between your attacking rhythm. In combat this is a very effective technique. Step so that angle of the sword pushes the light in the desired angle. Then step the other way while attacking, creating the illusion of coming from two directions at once.

Wind Sword

This can only be practiced on days of heavy wind. Practice through the sword movements at the same rhythm of the wind. Wind the wind picks up the sword is fast in continuous if the wind stops, you stop. Sometimes you can chase the wind while others the wind will chase you. This will line your breathing with the earth giving you more nature awareness. It will also let you have complete control over the cutting angle of the sword if mastered. With this ability you are able to change course of action without pause.

Stomping Snow Punch

There are many stomping techniques in Bagua just as in Baji or Xing Yi. The problem being that an improper stomp with incorrect weight distribution can cause injury. When the snow is up to your knees, by stepping precisely you learn more correct weight. This ultimately will give you a more connected stomp and a more powerful punch. When stomping correctly on the snow an explosion of powder will flow from beneath in a small ring. Long warm up required!

Dew Spear

On the chilly moist mornings the spear is great to practice Fa jin direction training. Using the hips to fling the dew in a spiral off of the spear takes great relaxation. Make targets from an outward circle and continue striking before the target flinging the dew or light rain making a small splash. This is actually training your open hand techniques to relax into the correct structure delivering more damage to your opponent. Holding the staff with the hands closer together, will allow you to develop power for breaking joints.

Rain Sticks

Using the motions from section 2 which refers to the "Way of the hands" and stationary stepping in the rain is focus training. By standing under something that is dripping from over head you can practice piercing thicker droplets of rain with chopsticks. Keeping in mind that you are not just poking with your hands but using the entire body to make the attack. This will give you precise power to one point allowing you to increase your internal damage. Under leaves or lights has worked best. The heavier the rain the faster the train.

Fog Force

By practicing movements at a painfully slow rate in the Fog I find an extra sensation that I am still uncertain of. I do know that only on the foggiest days do I run into this mysterious connection. An extra denseness, perhaps my Qi reflecting against the mist. Still researching.

Hot Shovel

Use internal stances to shovel the snow with out wearing gloves. Through focusing on the stances your hands should remain heated and warm. If your stance is unconnected at any point you can immediately find the missing circuit before your hands cool down. This develops weapon Qi training. Learning to hold the weapon while always channeling your energy.


These are just a few of my training notes. Hopefully it will give you a few ideas. The truth is you need bad weather to have good workouts.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bagua, Taichi and Xing Yi revisited


In an earlier blog I had mentioned the idea that knowing the three internal arts to their completeness wasn't a realistic goal. I didn't mention that my master and myself have learned all three of the styles. After all, the movements themselves are so similar that some of the movements are almost mirrors of each other. So what makes it so difficult to know all three styles?

I wouldn't dare to tell the masters who claim to know all three styles that they are not legitimate in their teachings. Information wise if given enough time all of the techniques of every style can be learned. But there is a difference between learning a technique and knowing a technique. What my master mentioned before was no one could ever fully know the three arts. It would be the same as someone claiming they have three wives and know them all the same level of depth. Or a doctor who is a heart surgeon performing a surgery on the brain.

The reason being that even the three styles are very similar in mechanics, they are very different in application. Bagua uses the step to initiate every movement be it attack, defense or even a stationary step. You can stay in the same place to reflect or divert energy just as in Taichi, but many of the Bagua methods of dealing with a problem would seem to be "risky" maneuvers as far as Taichi is concerned. Also using Bagua with a Taichi mentality will cripple the possibilities of your Bagua's growth in development. Though in the beginning the arts may all seem the same, to go deeper in any of the arts you must make a choice. A tree can have many branches, but it can only have one trunk.

In a time of actual combat you will see that the masters who "know" all three of the arts actually favor one philosophy over the other. Combat in a sense is the only way to know how much an individual truly knows. Usually a master will feel comfortable with just a few movements when it comes time to battle.

That being said it doesn't mean that someone isn't able to teach you the seeds of the three arts. Just as an olympic coach can teach an athlete to far exceed his own ability because he is able to give the seeds and training necessary for growth. However no olympic athlete would be able to exceed in gymnastics and swimming on a professional level.

My master being the successor of the 5th generation of Gao Bagua has a responsibility of knowing all of the movements in the lineage. His father began training at 8 years old and taught for 40 years before passing away and leaving the art to his son. The earlier generations of martial arts masters didn't have a job in addition to their training. Meaning that they had an entire 24 hours to perfect and truly know the movements of the style. With thousands of movements to be practiced millions of times is there really time to know more styles? Only if you live to be 500 years old.

Friday, July 15, 2011

One Movement for One mile


Today was one of those rare beautiful days that I could bask in the soothing sun while training my techniques. I'm still in a season of working flow and figuring out the changing secrets of the fourth section. There is still a long way to go before I am satisfied with my spear, sword or saber skills. Yet as I walked along the bike path that moved along the highway I could only think of one movement that I needed to do. It was a movement that I had already done pretty well, but I wanted it to be better today. No I didn't just want it to be better, I needed it to be my best technique. I looked along side of the bike trail to see that every mile was marked making it easy to keep track of my distance. I put all training ideas aside for the day and ventured into what I know would be a painful accomplishment.

I began my movement slowly and thoroughly knowing that it was most important to practice this technique as perfectly as possible for the entire mile. I would make sure that my stance was as low as possible not cutting any corners as I slowly began to speed up my technique. My legs began to ache after only a hundred yards and thoughts began to come into my mind,

"That's good enough for today." or "You don't want to over do it."

I blocked these distracting thoughts by focusing more on my body flow. My hands relaxed and I was able to feel a new level of power come into my strikes after a quarter mile. I began to see the circle motions within the circle motions. Like a clock with the most complicated gear system I continued to tick across the asphalt. I hear screams from the highway of a car passing by. I am unable to tell if they are mocking me or if they are cheering for me. It doesn't matter, what matters is that I am still not using enough push from the ground. My feet dig even deeper and I can feel the balls of my feet begin to blister. I hear the thoughts again,

"That was an excellent workout...I should stop for some water."

I remind myself that there is no pain, there is no water, there is only this technique. At the half mile marker I feel my body wanting to slow down, so I do the opposite, I accelerate. I move into an impossible pace and I can hear my heart beat in my ears. It drowns out the sound of the occasional biker that passes me. I try to form some kind of smile so that they don't think I'm crazy. The smile seems to take more energy than the technique, I have to save my energy, I have to be crazy today.

I can feel the holes completely burn through my shoes. It's only minutes before there holes also grow through my socks and then through my feet. It will hurt tomorrow, but today it is freedom. I will not be a slave to my negative thoughts today. I will be as impressive as I've always wanted to be. All of the things that are out of my reach that could create frustration don't matter now. I don't have money, a car, or a house, but I have this technique. I have become this technique.

Before I know it I have come to the end of my mile. What I have attained in the end is priceless. This technique will never be the same again. It has become alive with energy in places that I hadn't known about. I have changed my technique and in doing so my technique has changed me. Overcoming an impossible goal really gives you some understanding of your worth. I lay down in the parking lot filled with a peace and bliss that only a warrior could understand. If one mile felt that good, I better do two miles next week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learning from the Saber


Weapons wise I am technically still in Spear season. The Bagua spear is considered the most important in regards of training to unlock more power. Being able to whip the spear in small tight circles teaches your body the root behind coiling. When practicing with my master Wu Guo Zheng I have to use all of my might to hold onto the spear when he's blocked my attack with his inner power. It is clear that I will have to practice my spear for at least ten additional years before I am even able to grasp the complete idea around the spear's concepts.

However I find that in order to compliment my body flow training it is vital to spend more time with the Saber. The saber from a Western point of view is a one-sided broad sword. The saber is more of a soldiers weapon while the Chinese sword is much more precise and technical. I eventually will have to make a season for the sword too, but let's take one step at a time. In our lineage we use the Stealth Tiger Sword and 6 Harmony sword styles.

I used to believe that my saber skills were at least ok until I met with a real saber master who made me feel like a clumsy 6 year old. It was my encounter with this master that allowed me to understand the connection between the flow of the body and the saber.

'The saber is like an airplane flying through the sky." My master said to me at one practice. "Though it looks like it is flying freely, there is actually an exact route that it must follow." He finished.

The route of the Saber is designed to maximize cutting power. I have found that the route is usually tighter to the body and when flung out with a precise yet relaxed motion it creates an energy that maximizes the cut. Like many other techniques we must first tighten and then release in order to find the perfect amount of speed and precision.

The heat on my neck continually taunted me to go indoors as I flung sweat from my sword. I could hear the sweat droplets sizzle as it hit the dark pavement. Sweat eventually flowed into my eyes and I was blinded, only able to hear the sound of my sword cutting the air and the buzzing of droplets that surrounded me through every movement. The stinging in my eyes tried to distract me from what I would soon discover.

"Tighten then release." I thought to myself continually as I swung my sword blindly in the empty parking lot. I eventually came to the end of my techniques as I wiped the sweat from my eyes things seemingly more clear than before I shut them. Tighten then release was the secret that Bruce Lee was trying to teach his students as he came into his level of mastery. "Be like the nature of water." The ability to flow from technique to technique without any thought of any technique. What he continually taught about was the "release."

What he did not touch on enough was the "tightening". The part where you must follow the rules of the movements continually until it becomes second nature. After all it is his Wing Chun that made him have the defenses to use his release. The release is a mirror of you, it is the nature of your personality and all of the things that you want. The tighten is the law or route, what needs to be done in order to be effective. Every art, career and craft follow under these two rules. The yin and the yang of life.

This means that if you are having problems with your creativity, or writers block that you must go back into doing something with guidelines in order to become free. Or if you are bound by rules to the point that you are under immense pressure, you must release yourself into the things that you desire.

Of course the tightening must come before the release if you wish to have any form of power. Continually doing what you want to do without first plugging yourself into a system makes you a slave to meaninglessness. Staying plugged into a system so long that you can't find yourself will eventually rot you at your core. Just as the saber you must release at the right time for the most effective attack.

Wow got all that from the Saber and some sun. Wonder what I'll learn tomorrow.



The Way Of the Body


Sorry for the absence, I have been writing out a new training program while taking a nice tour around the northwest (Thanks Orion). After finishing my trapping season it is time to move on into thorough practice of section four which is the "way of the body." Though I have practiced all of these movements countless times already, a season indicates a time of not only training the movements but really digging into the understanding of how the movement came to be.

While re-reading the scrolls given to me by my master I began to look at the reasoning behind the development of each technique. It was written by my grand master Wu Jin Yuan after he learned from Gao. Not only is it written in Chinese, but it is also an ancient encoded text that only those within the Bagua Association are able to understand. I have read it about a hundred times and finally I am seeing past the words and understanding the root meaning. Many masters would disagree with me publishing my findings for the public, but I believe that as the successor of my lineage if I do not pass this information on, the style will fade.

Thunder Section (West) 身法 Way of the Body
燕翻蓋手掌 Swallow's Reversing Covering Palm (Pre Heaven)
1.推掌 Pushing Palm (forcing palm)
2.托掌 Supporting Palm
3.帶掌 Taking Palm
4.領掌 Leading Palm (Guiding Palm)
5.沾掌 Staining Palm
6.連掌 Repeating Palm
7.隨掌 Allowing Palm (Following Palm)
8. 黏掌 Sticky Palm

What I missed the first 99 times reading through the manual is that within the fourth section lies the key to unlocking the mastery of changing movements. It explains that there are 5 different types of Bagua masters within our lineage. A master of changing motions, Yin and Yang master, a master of silent motions and two others that I have not yet discovered. (Don't worry I will keep you informed.)

I had to take the information that I learned from reading and draw out a new diagram that looks like a times table sheet. Every section represents one of the 8 elements of the gua:
Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. Each of the eight movements within the section also represent one of these elements. Making a diagram I was able to pin point the personality of each movement responsible for becoming a master of change. In this section only four of the eight movements are indicated for this type of training. They fall under the axis of Thunder and Wind (Storm), Thunder and Fire (Rage), Thunder and Earth(Quake) and Thunder and Lake (Echo). I gave them all names so that I could keep from confusing them together. While training all of my other movements I have decided to lengthen my workout by an extra hour just to work on these techniques.

The first thing you may notice is that the four movements related to change are only categorized under thunder. Thunder is loud percussive like energy that is invisible to the eye. This means that every technique must be power focused but hidden within the structure of the body. These lead into four other motions from a separate section where the change takes place. Out of respect of my Grand Master I will not list the last four motions.

Of course I have only been doing this training for less than a month which means I am only scratching the surface, however through training these techniques I have grasped a deeper meaning of what section 4 represents. The "way of the body" here is not only related to the flow of energy within oneself, it also means the flow of the opponents body energy. In short, these are all grappling reversal techniques. By mastering these 8 techniques you can control the head from any possible angle of entry. I still have to run a few more tests to see if any of the techniques are safe enough to use in sport like competition. Unfortunately I think that the power generated through these motions create serious trauma on the neck and spine. More than likely many of these techniques will snap the neck with very little effort. Remember while practicing and researching lethal techniques with your friends, safety first.


Gao Bagua Staff Complete 8 movements