Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Abstract Step Training

In bagua it is most important to understand how to use steps to manipulate your opponent. By stepping toward the attack we can jam it before it reaches its most powerful position. We can step back to let him waste energy by missing. We can also step in an angular trajectory allowing us to gain a favorable distance while the attack glances past us. This makes it so crucial for us to practice Kou and Bai bu which is almost like the steering wheel in a car.

The problem with learning to think with our feet is that initially it is unnatural. When we flinch, our hands come up and cover our face instinctively. Bagua means that you have to retrain mind so that we flinch with our feet instead. The next problem is that the step must be rooted and weight sunken in order to prevent stepping into a trap. If we are in mid step as the opponent attacks our weight must be lowered so that we are able to better roll off the projected energy. It is only arrogance to assume that we will always be ahead of our opponent and we must prepare to react and protect ourselves in more unexpected situations. There are countless ways to practice foot work from the 9 palaces, to the mud step. One recent discovery I have fallen in love with is step training on black ice.

Blue ice, white ice, snow and sleet all offer different advantages for stepping and balance. However nothing is quite as merciless as black ice. Only when your weight is properly placed in the back are you able to maintain a solid stance. Every movement will undoubtedly make you take a slip or an adjustment step. This slipping is good because the first part of this training is not only to maintain balance, but keeping focus of your attack while you are off balance. Learning to stay focused on the attack while you are about to fall will make all the difference when you get into a real live combat situation. It is the motion in between motions that will be the deciding factor while in a scrap.

In addition to understanding your balance you must also be aware of the subtle quickness necessary to avoid danger while practicing stepping. Once your legs are stopped, then all of your plans will go out the window. A good exercise for this is to have a partner (grappler) lay on his back while reaching for and sometimes holding on to your legs. Continue stepping through Kou and Bai bu, using the power in the hips to free yourself from his grasp. As you get loose it is crucial for your partner to continually grab for the other leg. This is great practice for both sides learning how to adapt to difficult circumstances. (This idea was developed by Hanzo, a great training partner.)

Sometimes a mistaken step can be recovered from, while other times the wrong step will end your fray. This is why I enjoy practicing thorn stepping. By creating barriers of loose thorns or just practicing in an area naturally covered in thorns, we force ourselves to become cautious of our every movement. Continue moving without stopping and always thinking about your hand attacks. If you make a mistake you will know immediately.

Another style of stepping training that is similar to thorns, is creek stepping. This is much more tranquil and by far the most relaxing of all of the stepping training. (If you don't fall in the creek) Stepping atop the rocks that occasionally move and sway in the water will force you to continually concentrate on your foot positioning. Try to think light thoughts and make sure that you are only focused on your hand techniques. After all if you must look at your feet to know your position, then you are no where near ready for combat. Stepping has to be just as natural as flinching.

Evasive stepping is illustrated in my video "Bagua vs the world 101 ways to train. You can find it on youtube. Yet a more effective way to train this exercise is to have someone continually stab at you with a staff or even spear. Binding the hands behind the back gets us used to not relying on our hands to free us from danger and makes it much easier for us to move when our hands our finally free.

Ok I think that is good for now. Train safely. Always start slowly until it is too easy. Then slowly add the heat of intent with every step.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gao Bagua's Eight Sides

These are notes for my the spring semester class I'm teaching at WSU. Just some more information on our basic principles.

The eight sides of the Bagua in our lineage (Gao style Bagua or Soft Body Repeating Hands Bagua) are represented by 8 different energies: heaven, water, mountain, wind, thunder, fire, earth and lake.  Each of the sections contain eight movements with at least 6 variations. Each section also contains counter attacks, two person practice and a strengthening technique from the circle.  These strengthening techniques are often known as Preheaven. The 64 applications of the techniques are called Post heaven. Gao Bagua is unique because it contains Preheaven and Post heaven practice.

Here are a few bits of information about each section. In this semester you will learn the complete Heaven section. I will still write out the philosophies of each section in order to give you a sense of direction for your training.

Heaven-  The heaven section is the most honest and straight forward. It is the opposite of the Earth Section. It is also known as the way of striking. It teaches how to generate power and overthrow the opponent from all eight possible trajectories of danger. This section is the first section because in many ways it is the most important section. Before there was anything, there was heaven. One could spend their whole life only knowing these 8 motions and would easily be able to defeat their adversary.  These eight techniques also unlock the understanding of power of the following energies. The strengthening technique is the Creeping Snake.

Water- The water section indicates flowing motion and adaptation. It is the opposite of the fire section. It is also referred to as the way of the hands. This section is focused on de-fanging the opponent by disabling the limbs. Once the limbs are disabled, the opponent is then used as a shield against other possible attackers. By manipulating the hands we are able to punish our attacker many times before releasing him, much like a yo-yo effect. This section requires more dexterity of the hands and sensitivity than the heaven section in order to effectively utilize the grabs and takedowns. This strengthening technique is the Piercing Dragon.

Mountain- The mountain section resembles both silence and unmovable power. It is the opposite of the Thunder Section. It is also called the way of diverting energy. These 8 movements are specialized counters that focus on trapping or binding the opponent. A trap is a movement that your opponent must be lured into and not “forced”. By relaxing and reacting to movements while in a strong base, you can tie your opponent into knots. This strengthening technique is the Striking Tiger.

Thunder- The thunder section refers to untraceable loud noise. Hence it is the opposite of the Mountain Section. This section is also known as the way of the body. This section teaches how to use the entire body as an evasive weapon. It is important to have agile and assertive steps in order to master these 8 techniques. This section is also very effective for fighting crowds while using the crescent moon swords for it shows us how to both chase and retreat while attacking. This strengthening movement is the Turning Sparrow.

Wind- The wind section refers to invisible  danger which can not be contained. Hence it is the opposite of the Lake Section. It is also known as the way of the elbow. The elbow is used for striking, blocking and wrapping opponents.  Because the elbow transitions so easily from many attacks, it can be used to resolved any situation with the proper timing. The elbow requires excellent footwork because of its limited range. This strengthening technique is the Spinning Back Palm.

Fire- The fire section refers to unrelenting power. This section is also known as the way of the legs. Hence it is the opposite of the Water section. These kicking and tripping techniques snap the vulnerable parts of the body. It is essential that while using hand attacks the legs continually burn away at the opponents defense and balance. With the right footwork practice, kicking attacks can be especially effective with multiple opponents. This strengthening technique is called The Twisting Searching Horse.

Earth- The earth section refers to complexity and craft. Hence it is the opposite of the Heaven section. This section is also known as the way of entry. Every movement takes precise hand movements and key timing in order to peel open the opponents defense.  Any attempt to block these techniques only opens our opponent's defenses more rapidly.  This section takes mastery of Footwork, Body work and Hand work in order to be effective. This strengthening technique is the turning piercing palm.

Lake- The lake section represents flowing motion that is in a contained area. It is the opposite of the Wind section. It is also called the way of footwork. Every one of these techniques requires footwork mastery in order to manipulate the balance of the opponent. In a sense your attacks should drown the opponent in the depth of these 8 movements.

*By practicing the sections that are opposite to each other we are able to maximize different energies and find hidden movements. After a movement is done 10,0000 times it will change in its nature. Choose one move and practice it until it changes 10,000 times and you shall become a master.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bagua Count

 This is not really a post, but a list of numbers that can me accessed by students curious of our Xin Zhu Bagua Association. Keep in mind that I have only written out the movements that I have learned. I know there is still much more Bagua gooey goodness to learn.

Pre Heaven ( Circle) 10
Second Circle 10
9 Palaces 1
Post heaven 64
Post heaven Counters 64
Post heaven two person practice 64
Unlimited (Formless) Fist 28
Seven Stars 42 
Seven Stars (Set 2) 33
Footwork Steps 25
Qing Ping Sword 60
Qin Ping Sword (Set 2) 60
Baji 68
6 Connecting Kicks 27
Guan Dao 40
Tai Chi 96
Strange Spear 26
Bagua Staff 128
Bagua Spear 126
Stealth Tiger Saber 40
6 Harmony Saber 40
Push Hands 9
Wudang Fist 56
Hooks 12
Three Principle Fist 30
12 Steps of Power 12
Five Elements (5)  (12) 

Sometimes you have to lay it all out so you can see it. 
 Thank you Master Wu Guo Zheng for 10 lifetimes of kung fu. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Art of Knowing without Knowing

Winter training is never as enjoyable as the spring or even scorching hot summer time, but it offers many advantages. As I bundle myself into extra layers of clothing, I add weight to every movement. There is also additional weight in my mind as I look out into my now frosted natural dojo of trees. Daily I spend hours with the same trees and watch as they change clothing for the increasingly brisk winter days. In the night time they appear to be a rustic, metallic color. Yet in the morning the fog passes through its bark that shines like smooth glass.

My art also changes as I move between the trees, never daring to slow down for fear that the cold will catch up to me. I can feel my movements ever so gradually improving as I attempt to see beyond the white of my breath. After a few hours pass, my Qi reaches its limits and my fingers and toes are fully aware of the brutal cold. I sit in a lotus position on top of the sleeping grass and the earth greets me with a sharp chill.

The chill immediately activates a part of my brain that is usually dormant, and it comes with a message that I am unable to interpret. I open my eyes feeling disappointed that I had lost what seemed to be a very important signal.

When I get home my wife can see from my expression that my workout has been one that has brought more questions than answers. Before I am able to explain to her my frustration, she answers the question in my mind.

"If you believe it was a bad workout, then it was."

Her answer plants a rapidly growing seed, that quickly develops branches and then fruit into my every thought. The ultimate level of kung fu is knowing. By knowing that everything that awaits you is good, we create the most desired outcome for ourselves. But when we feel that bad things  will happen or have happened, we create the possibility of much darker outcomes. You must continually think on all of the great things that await you every second in order to block out the possibility of doubt. Your doubt in God, yourself and in your peers will eventually lead you in to a cavern of impossibilities. You must know how great you are at all times. You must also know that each day will only get better from here. Your every dream is just waiting for you to contemplate it into existence.

Of course we live in a world designed by nightmares. If you sit and watch the news long enough you will actually start to be affected by things that have nothing to do with your life. Yes they use convincing arguments to explain why it is important for you to be afraid of a billion things this year. Maybe if they make enough people believe the world will end, it will. After all we are made in the image of the creator and his thoughts brought us life. Will your thoughts bring you death?

I know this year is going to be the best year we have ever had. A time that we will each as individuals evolve into something more meaningful. A world that will no longer be distracted by games and obsessed with meaningless values. I know that our efforts create the paradise that we all deserve. But what I have come to know and understand in my training will mean nothing to you. Now it's time for you to answer the question,

"What do you know is waiting for you?"