Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I think one of the trickiest parts of learning Bagua is a matter of time management. This style traditionally has been passed through the hands of individuals who didn't have an additional obligation like a job. Kung fu used to be an occupation for those who had devoted their life to their art. Their missions were related to fighting, teaching, passing knowledge or even research for the purposes of their style. In the process of my own training, I must also make sure that I not only practice the movements, but improve upon them to the best of my ability. The question is, where do I find the time?
One thing that I have learned to be true is that because Bagua is a collection of limitless angles and equations of combat, making literally an endless amount of ways you can train and project energy. I have found it best to take advantage of a mundane task such as chores and make it into a way to train, killing two birds with one stone.
When I take the dishes out to put them in the cabinet I can gain about 10 minutes of training time with my inward and outward stepping （Kou Bu, Bai Bu扣步擺步）. When the dishwasher door is down I have to take a dish out while pivoting around it and place it quickly (yet carefully) into the cabinet. I put pans into the lower cabinet making me hold a much deeper stance with the heavier objects, while practicing lifting power placing items in the higher cabinet. Make sure you never sacrifice technique and structure and you'll be sure to clean up a few techniques.
When sweeping there are a lot of options you can use, but currently I have been doing cross step (Tou Bu 透步） training. This is a step we often use in Bagua. First we step behind the leg and follow through with the energy forward. Meaning we start with the right leg in front, step through behind the leg, and end up with the right leg in front again. Of course we can change to start with the left leg in front. We can also practice the stance deep, or take short dashing steps. While sweeping the floor you have to adjust the step to the room. Holding the broom in a closed structure in the center of your body. You shouldn't be moving you arms aways from your body but only using your hips to swing the broom in position. The deeper the stance, the deeper the train. You can get about 20 minutes of training with a medium sized floor. A good way to get at some of those footwork cobwebs.
In Taiwan sometimes hanging clothes up won't dry them off quick enough, so putting a little kung fu into your hang dry will do the trick. Ringing out clothing (preferable clothes your not worried about stretching out i.e. work out clothes.) By pinching it between your finger tips and dropping your weight, making sure to ring the water out with your stance, not your arms. Do it only once and afterwards use whip chain techniques until it airs out. If you don't know any chain techniques you can also use double stick exercises or butterfly swords. You'll find your arms will get a hell of a work out in only a few minutes. Careful, unlike boards, socks do hit back!
When driving a long distance you may have never noticed that by locking your arms into a structure you can control the wheel even easier. This lets you develop your circle power. It may take a little getting used to so take your time. I would suggest doing it for a few minutes at a time, but when you get sleepy it's great to recharge you.
This has an endless amount of possibilities that you can explore. A master once told me he didn't like anyone to see him cooking because he uses kung fu to cook. Basically everything you reach for, grab, scrub, dice, or anything can be used to train. At the very least while your standing you can keep all your weight on the back leg. When it gets tired you switch legs.
I saw that master do a move where he used one hand to throw up an onion, then used the same hand to grab a knife and cut it into two halves. He then told me his goal was after he had cut the two halves, he wanted to put the knife down and grab the two halves with the same hand before they separated. Your kung fu can always get better!
These are just a few simple things that I can explain with words. The point is to use your mind to see things in a way that they become opportunities, not burdens. I could take any of these tasks and use them to improve my other skills as well. I can scrub the floor while I practice music, fold clothes while listening to a language CD, look at flash cards in my bathroom mirror. Design your life in a way that you are forced to see the skills you wish to acquire on the daily basis. Stop saying I will practice this when I have time. Take some of those times that you aren't using your brain and stimulate it.