Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peace is balance

The process of trying to master one's self is a journey that first requires us to know ourselves. A step that is so easily over looked when trying to find a mate, teacher, job or other "needs". We tend to focus much more on what we want, than who we are. The truth is we can not know what we want until we first find who we are. If you find the perfect job and later discover more about yourself, that same job may turn into a nightmare. As we so often hear but forget daily, "the journey starts within."

That means that you are going to have to first draw a line between who you are and who you want to become. Then we have to shed our true self from society's perception of our self. This takes a long deep look into the flowing river in your mind. What is it you have done up to this point? Are you proud of who you are? Is there anything you have wanted that you have ignored?

Life gets us so busy often times we completely forget to ask ourselves the most important question, "Am I happy?" Most of us spend time feeling anxiety for things that have yet to happen. In our mind running through all of our fears of the possibilities of things going wrong, Even at moments we should be enjoying ourselves our joy can be stolen by dark thoughts. How can we ever be happy if we torture ourselves with negative possibilities? Before we can begin to see ourselves clearly, we have to take out all the trash.

Then, see the three parts that sum you up: physical, mental and artistic. In these three parts we can find a balance within ourselves and they must be attended to daily. It is easy to neglect one or even two of these factors when we are focused on our job. I hear "I don't have time to exercise" about 10 times a day. We all have as much time as we allow for ourselves, the sad fact is for your boss you will bend over backwards and for your own health you will do nothing. To choose not to do any exercise is to waste one's true wealth.

Mentally you must continue to learn. We generally think of learning as a period of time that should end when we graduate, but we should never graduate from betterment of mind. Take the time to learn about everything you have ever wanted to know. Indulge into learning with out having the hassle of a deadline or a test. I'm not talking about learning so you can get paid more, I'm talking about learning so you can feel more. While learning new information your mind stays sharp and your wit will always be your best weapon.

Lastly is the artistic part of you that you may or may not know about. In a sense learning to play an instrument or draw up a vision you can only see in your mind is a way to express yourself beyond words. Do not forget that anything can be art through the right looking glass. Math is art if you know the right equation. Art is a skill that can be used to resolve problems and easy pain. Artists usually don't get paid much, but they control every atmosphere that we live in.

These three parts of yourself must always been continually growing and developing. Write out a plan to make sure that within a week all of these things can be cultivated. Maybe it's been a long time since you have even thought about some of these old "hobbies". Maybe that's why your slowly becoming someone you don't recognize. It's never too late to come back to you.

The real secret to maintaining energy in all of your developments is to not hurry. There is no rush to becoming a master, or becoming fluent in another language. Anything that makes you feel rushed is not going to be enjoyable. Anything that you don't enjoy will ultimately be temporary.

When these parts of you continue to grow from within, you will have true riches that will weather through a rotten economy. After all this you can look in the mirror and see a much clearer reflection of you. Now that you know who you are, go find out what it is you want.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bagua Masters Unlimited

Sometimes a workout can stimulate a thought of something we can not fully understand until days or even months after the fact. Three days ago in the midst of my flow training I made a connection. A deep connection that exposed the cores of movement centralized between myself and the earth. I gazed into an endless sea of techniques that had previously overwhelmed me and for the first time I was filled with great confidence.

I wasn't sure what it meant but as I set at my desk and looked around at passing individuals I was able to see the truth of the nature of Bagua and Dong Hai Chuan's earlier intentions. It was something that Bruce Lee also tried to explain but was unable to put into place before he passed. Energy it seems will keep being reborn until a container can finally hold it's presence. The problem with Bagua being, there is what would seem to be too much energy to contain.

My master and I both sacrificed a great deal of time, as he used every method possible both pleasant and unpleasant to deliver the mountain of information. Even with my experience in the arts it took the better part of a decade for me to obtain the "bulk" of techniques that he had. Of course like most arts it is a life time commitment that will slowly open itself to you over the years. The problem being as you teach, it continues to grow into more.

As I sat at my office and saw coworkers and students passing back and forth, I began to see the different types of Bagua masters they would become. Bagua is like a computer, a new technology that can enhance each individual in a unique way. I found a way to personalize each training regime so that every student will eventually become his own master. Mastering techniques that no one in the world will be able to do as well. For the first time ever, a martial arts class that is designed to show you your own super power.

These techniques will act as the seed of your development, giving you strong roots if you choose to add the waters of motivation. The goal is to have thousands of masters each with their own personalized style. The program contains training, reviewing and researching, meaning at the end of each program you will be assigned a technique to "find" or "rediscover".

If you are interested, make a plan to contact me and work out a schedule. It may not happen right away but there is nothing more important to me than getting this information out. If I can teach everything that I have learned it is not enough, I must teach until you know more than me.

As I travel the globe it is unrealistic that I will be able to teach any individual all of the movements (unless he so chooses). But I can teach you to maximize your potential through your talent, interests and experience. The universe of Bagua is so big that no matter where you are, you are at the center of it. In a sense, I will teach you how to develop your own style. Then it will be up to you to pass it along, leaving the traditional movements intact as your own personal map to your future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Simple Step Practice

Well walking the circle is crucial for helping you develop the necessary power for utilizing your attacks. However it is not directly related to the system of reaction regarding combat. There are other steps that can be used leading to thousands of modifications, but the beginning step is easy enough to explain. Stand so that most of your weight is on the back leg. The front leg should be about a shoulders length apart (roughly) and light, ready to move in either direction. It shouldn't be too light however because you may have to use it to move backwards. Remember when moving forwards, the lead leg should raise while pushing from the rear. When moving backwards the back leg should raise first while the front leg pushes to the rear. Whether moving forward or backward the legs should adjust to their original spacing, not allowing them to come to close or to far apart. The weight should still remain mostly in the back and the body should not elevate in mid step. If you elevate yourself as your opponent moves in, you will fall to the ground. This is why it is crucial to develop leg strength to maintain a low stance even while moving swiftly in order to place him off-balance if there is an un-forseen collision. Hence lots of circle training.

This would be the way of the legs motion training. Of course the step can be practiced in a half step, full step, Inward step (Kou Bo), outward step (Bai Bu), turning step, crossing step, leaping step, sinking step, angular step and so forth. But before moving to other steps make sure that you can use this single half step effectively. So when you push off from the back leg, make sure it doesn't come to the front, that would be a full step. Practice this step both forward and backward and get an idea of the rhythm of your feet. Once it gets easy begin thinking about attacking and defending.

All of the energy must be drawn from the back leg and then taken through the hips. The hips regenerate the energy through out the rest of the body with a flowing motion. The body holds the structure of the attack through the muscles in the back allowing the hands to relax while firing the attack. Much like a circuit, if there is any problem with the connection to the ground there will be no power. Also if you tighten up and put a clamp in the connection, you will lose all of your force. So only by remaining in a structured position while staying relaxed can one begin to draw internal energy.

While doing this step it's easiest to use the single palm strike. When you step forward allow the hand to fly straight fired off the hips. The legs pull the body and the body pulls the hands, meaning the last thing to move is your hand. If your hand moves before your step takes place, you will lack power. Take your time learning your timing. Even the masters have been working the same step for decades so it can always get better. You can also use the same attack while stepping back, full step, turning step, leaping step and....I'm sure you get it by now. The lower you remain to the ground, the more power you can attain. However it is essential to remain swift from a deeper stance. So have a friend try to punch you in the face.....careful though. Thanks for the question Kyle, you gave me a good blog.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

As one

In a previous article, "Master Wu Guo Zheng's talk on the history of the Bagua", I translated a brief history explaining the reason that there are so many different styles of Bagua. In short we can say that the style itself was so young in exposure that the earliest successors of the art had to add their own "finishing touches" giving the different arts of Bagua different personalities according to the individual masters' traits.

Cheng Style, Gao Style or Yin style were characterized from the masters that inherited them. Of course we know this leads into many political debates of what the art should be like. With all of the different variations how can we tell the true principles of Bagua?

My dad used to tell me, "If you go outside and start practicing how to punch thousands of times, you will eventually learn how to punch. But having a master will save you at least half the time. "

Meaning that it is the nature of our human body to eventually evolve into the most proper way to do a technique if we practice. At one point every style had to go through the tedious trial and error development process. Yet if we are instructed in the rules of the craft we might be able to understand part of it in one life time. In my training with the master there were many variations between himself and even his kung fu brothers. Though every tree may grow in a completely different way, the fruit must be the same.

-The energy must be drawn from the ground transferring energy through the legs, waist, body and eventually the hands. Most of these movements power is generated through a system of coiling or collecting energy.

-Bagua is unique because of the step. Every movement whether it be attack or defense, should start with a step (this includes a stationary step or sinking step). If the hands move first, it may be an effective attack, but it's not Bagua.

-There must be a circle training of some kind in order to get the power needed for Bagua.

If your style contains these three elements, then you will eventually be able to unlock the rest of the art.
The movements that are used in order to reach the goal are only secondary to the truth. It is only the study of one's energy and how it interacts in the world. The moves themselves are much like a combination lock that over time will show you the meaning. Many masters have had there epiphany only walking the circle for hours before Bagua was unlocked to them. Others have claimed that only when they were practicing thousands of moves at the same time were they able to understand.

The way we choose to enter into our understanding is almost as personal as our own fingerprints. In fact the only thing that will stop you from reaching truth is negative energy. Your fear, frustrations and bad attitude can cause you to poison your own path before you have arrived. It doesn't matter what style of martial arts you do. If you are easily upset, you are no master.

There is also another concern that many of you martial artists may or may not know. The truth is the true arts are dying off. Masters who have chosen to be closed to students have regrettably passed away being the last link in their art. Technology has taken away the idea that martial arts is necessary for defense, leaving most young people even in Asia to ignore the traditional ways. Bad martial arts media has destroyed the identity of any recognizable style and turned it into circus tricks. To top it off the sports world would have you believe that WWE is the ultimate style of defense.

We are existing at a critical point in time where many arts will die off completely in less than 10 years. Will we be like our masters and continue to fight over politics? Or will we come together to show the world something they've never been able to see?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Xing Yi Basics

This is a small explanation of some of the XIng Yi basics. This is a personal note that my master gave to me that I decided to translate into English for all those who may be interested. Keep in mind this is my own translation meaning some of the terms may be different than the ones they use traditionally for Xing Yi English.

Written by Wu Guo Zheng
Translated by Robert Jay Arnold

Xing yi is composed in three major parts. Namely the Fist of Five Elements , the Twelve Shapes of the Fist, and Connecting or Linking Forms. The Fist of Five Elements being the most basic and most important of the fundamentals of Xing Yi. If these five elements are practiced thoroughly then all the other movements will come together in success.

The five elements refers to Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. In terms of fists it refers to dividing fist, drilling fist, collapsing fist, exploding fist and horizontal fist. It is most important to pay attention to the order of the elements and techniques. Mutually the five elements both birth and repel each other. For example Metal births Water, Water births Wood, Wood births Fire, Fire births Earth and Earth births Metal. In terms of fist this means dividing strikes birth drilling attacks, drilling attacks birth collapsing hits, collapsing hits birth exploding punches, and exploding punches birth horizontal fist. So the horizontal fist is the mother of the Five Elements just the same way the Earth is the mother of all plant life. All life including the elements comes from the earth which illustrates the principles of Xing Yi.

From a martial artist's stand point it is also important to mention defense. So we need to know that Metal conquers wood as the dividing strike conquers the collapsing hit. Water conquers fire as the drilling attack dominates the exploding punch. Wood conquers Earth as the collapsing hit manipulates the horizontal fist. Fire conquers Metal as the exploding punch destroys the dividing strike. Earth conquers water as the horizontal fist breaks the drilling attack.

These are the general rules and concepts of the martial offense and defense. Xing Yi utilizes these principles into the foundation of their combat life style. This is merely a very basic explanation of Xing Yi's five element system.

But the root of Xing Yi involves training the "San Ti Shi" (A type of Fa jin or power exercise. Translates in to the three bodies method 三體式) It is also known as the Eagle Claw or the Three Principles concept. From nothingness comes a single breath. Then this breath develops into the Yin and Yang energy. The Yin and Yang form together into the The Three Principles (San Ti Shi). And from the Three Principles all things are born. Xing Yi uses this principle of life for the development and root of the style. So in order to practice Xing yi well one must first undergo serious training of the Three Principles.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Bagua Journey

The first time I saw Bagua dates back to when I was 19 years old and already entering my second year in university. I had already studied martial arts for 15 years and had been teaching officially for 4 years. Most of my training consisted of Taekwondo, Boxing, Jeet Kun Do, Hapkido, Ninjitsu, Kung fu Sansoo, Jujitsu and many various hard styles. Because martial arts has saved my life so many times, I never slacked off in any of my training routines. My students also underwent extreme training in order to push ourselves to a new level. It was there we formed the Tianwudao.

My two brothers also continued there training in their styles (Hapkido and Wingchun) and my brother Aaron came to me with a video from his Wingchun teacher that had many different Chinese styles that I had never even heard of. The video seemed to be so secretive and everything spoken was in Chinese leaving us doing our best to decipher the movements. When I heard the word "Bagua" my mouth opened as it was followed with the most amazing techniques I had ever seen. It was so fluid, calculated and precise that I looked to my brother Aaron and said, "I am practicing the wrong style."

I continued my training as usual with no Bagua being anywhere in site and prayed to one day come in contact with my hearts desire. I felt the frustration of not being able to better myself because of the limited knowledge about the arts that was in America. I had only begun teaching because it became too difficult to find a teacher that could take me to another level.
"If you really want to learn the depth of the arts, you will probably have to learn Chinese." Hanzo said to me one day as we trained together. I took his advice to heart and changed my major to Chinese language. If I was ever going to learn Bagua, I was going to have to understand the language of the master.

I heard so many scary stories about how difficult the language was and it was impossible to learn for Westerners. I ignored the negative thoughts that would try to haunt me and spent 4 hours a day watching Chinese movies while continually writing Chinese characters. I really wanted to be fluent immediately. Of course it didn't happen immediately but after three years I was able to hold a conversation with out using any English. Still there was no sign of Bagua.

When I went to China as an exchange student my fourth year I was determine to find a Bagua master that could teach me. It was discouraging that most of the locals had never even heard of Bagua before. I saw a lot of other different kung fu styles and Taichi but I had already seen my destiny and it was Bagua. After a month of rushing around I decided I had just better start learning something before going home to America. That day in my dorm I saw a man wearing all white moving on the ceiling of the building across from my balcony. I thought he was a ghost because it was so fluid and smooth. I ran right over and asked if he could teach me what it was he was doing. He said, "You really want to learn Bagua?"

He did his best to teach me all of the 64 palms with the limited time that I had while in Kunming. It was a dream come true to have touched upon what I had been waiting for for so long. Yet when I came back to the states and began fighting with my brothers (As always) I found loop holes in many of my movements. Many flaws that I hoped that I would be able to work out through time. I trained every day but after I graduated I knew I would have to return to China in order to complete my training. My plans were crushed by SARS and I was forced to stay in America and find a job. I hustled with the Tianwudao doing everything to keep each others skills sharp while trying to make enough for rent.

It was a miserable time for me because I had touched with some many of the things that I dreamed of but was still working as a dishwasher on a graveyard shift. While I was in China I was a dance and TV star and America quickly took me out of the clouds. I often refer to this point of my life as the chapter of "training with tears". I had to completely let go of my plans and ask God to guide me to the place he desired me to be.

A year later I received a call not from China but Taiwan which I gladly accepted. I had just found a great job in the bank which I had only done for one week. Most people would have said I was crazy to leave an ideal job for some thing that isn't stable. I knew what I needed wasn't something financial but spiritual. I quit my job, sold my stuff and 3 days later I was in Taiwan.

I landed in Taiwan with a hundred dollars in my pocket and faith in my heart. It was like everything was designed to help me out. The landlord said I didn't need to pay him till I got my pay check, my boss loaned my some money, it was meant to be.

I began looking for martial arts teachers immediately and through the grapevine I found a Bagua fist teacher. This teacher was good and understood his information well. I took a few movements that I still use to cover possible dangerous areas. The only problem was it wasn't the style I was looking for. It was very different in movement and philosophy which is why it was called Bagua fist, not Bagua palm.

After a few months I found another Bagua teacher that seemed decent but there was something that wasn't right. After training for 20 years I was able to see that though this teacher was good, he wouldn't be the one who could take me to the next level. I left after a few months of training and continued to follow my heart while training what I knew.

Two years passed and I had almost given up on the search for Bagua. Luckily I hadn't given up on my search for women because I saw a beautiful fitness instructor that was teaching martial arts to her client through a big glass window. I got in contact with her and though we didn't date we spent a great deal of time training, fighting and learning together. At one point she hit me with a palm strike that I had seen before.

"You know Bagua." I asked her.

"Sure I do. You want to meet the master?" She asked me right away.

When I met my master, Wu Guo Zheng, I knew immediately he was the one. While demonstrating a small technique I felt his power almost pull my arm out of my socket. He knew the details of every detail and reasons for ever reason. Every question I asked him became a 3 hour training lesson.

"I will teach you as diligently as you practice." He told me the first day of class. Every day after that class I made sure to put aside at least 2 hours for Bagua training. The master loved my eagerness and determination and began taking me to demonstrations all over Asia. I just wanted to learn everything and he just wanted to teach it. The perfect relationship.

In this new society children in Taiwan have no time to spend such grueling hours training kung fu. They were trying to get into big universities and buy homes like everyone in America.

Thanks to all the time that I had put into studying Chinese, not only was I able to learn much from talking to the master directly, I also learned from the scrolls his father had handed him and my kung fu uncles. An endless amount of Bagua information was revealed to me because of my initial language investment.

"You know that you are successor of Bagua for the 6th generation don't you?" The master said to me casually one day as we ate.

"Are you sure that's ok? Do I need to do something special before I can accomplish that?" I asked him uncertain.

"You already have." He said while smiling.

I didn't really think he was serious at the time but over the years it became more and more apparent that I was his only student to retain everything. I had only wanted to learn Bagua and suddenly I had become Bagua. God gave me ten times more than what I originally desired.

After training in temples and garages learning secrets from kung fu uncles and masters of other styles I saw the true infiniteness of martial arts and that I had only begun my journey. I saw things that I will not tell of because people would only say I was lying. Nearing a decade in Taiwan I decided that it was finally time to come home to America to spread the gift that I had received.

"If you forget what you have learned, you will lose the family fortune." The master said to me before I left.

"I will make sure everything is better the next time you see it." I promised.