Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Warfox Bagua Treatise

Here is a article I wrote for Temple Underground about Bagua. If you haven't subscribed to their site yet, please do.

http://www.templeundergroundmagazinetum.com/#!peer-review/cfvg

A Treatise on Bagua























In the beginning there was Wuji or the void: nothingness. The Wuji led to the Liang Yi, which is also known as the Two Concepts or energies of yin and yang (negative and positive forces). Liang Yi led to the San Cai or the Three Principles: Heaven, Earth and Man. The Three Principles led to the Si Xiang or the Four Directions: North, South, East and West. The Four Directions led to the Wu Xing or the Five Elements: Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire and Water. The Five Elements led to the Liu He or the Six Harmonies which are the three internal energies and the three external energies. The Six Harmonies led to the Seven Stars: Alpha, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid. The Seven Stars led to the Bagua or Eight Trigrams representing the eight elemental energies of Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. (Wu 1979)

Baguazhang utilizes the eight different elemental energies as a means for both strengthening the body and combat. The main strengthening method, often referred to as Pre-heaven Training, is done through practicing Zhuang Zhang (circle walking). Combat training is commonly referred to as Post-heaven Training and utilizes sixty four different palm techniques. Each also consists of eight different palm attacks. Without training the structure of the Pre-heaven, the attacks and defenses of Baguazhang are empty and powerless. Without training the Post-heaven, the power of Baguazhang can’t be wielded effectively. Both of these forms of training are separate, while remaining dependent on each other.  This resembles the relationship of yin and yang.

The importance of practicing walking the circle (Zhuang Zhang) can never be overstated. With every movement of Baguazhang, the hand follows the body, and the body follows the legs. Every technique is first guided by a step, which is the emphasis of circle walking. All of the sixty four palms have at least six different variations that become infinite when utilizing the different geometric patterns that Baguazhang footwork provides. Even though there are thousands of different techniques within the system of Baguazhang, they are all just variations of a single movement: Zhuang Zhang. (G. Z. Wu 2000)  

There are dozens of different techniques that can be practiced during circle walking including the Single Changing Palm, the Double Changing Palm and so on. However, all of the movements teach the practitioner to find stillness within movement and movement within stillness. By learning to twist within our structure, we are able to release the power of centripetal force from the ground and through the core of our body into our opponent. Every linear attack has the power of a spiral behind it, and every spiral movement flows in a straight trajectory. Through tightening and releasing, contracting and expanding, sinking and rising, opening and closing, Baguazhang can create a great force through realizing energy like a bow and arrow, or perpetually attack its opponent like an automatic crossbow.

In order to walk the circle, we must first understand the key points of the Baguazhang stance. These are the instructions of posture written by Wu Guo Zheng:  

“Lower the weight and gather energy into the Dan Tian (energy center), tuck in the buttocks to close the anus, extend the inside leg forward, push hip flexors forward and sink your weight on them to keep pressure off the knees, squeeze the legs together, breath from the zhong jiao (middle energizer), let your breath govern physical movements, slightly lower the chin to keep the head and neck erect, curl the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, twist from the waist extending both hands to the side of the extended foot, press down on the shoulders and hollow out the chest to round the back, keep elbows centered, wrists are erected upward, the elbow of the outside hand is aligned with the center of the chest cavity, the middle finger of the outside hand points to the inside elbow, the first finger of the inside hand points upward, the middle finger of the inside hand is slightly curved, all intent is focused on the opponent opposite of the inside hand. Train to let the body relax in this posture in order to shape the structure of power into one connected movement.” (G. Z. Wu 2000) .

When this posture has been learned, we can begin walking Tang Ni Bu (mud step) to build power within the legs. Tang Ni Bu can be done in a straight line, at first, to gain control, and later it can be practiced in the circle with the aforementioned posture. When walking the circle, the inside foot moves straight forward while keeping the energy in the legs tight together. The outside foot then moves forward with a slight kou bu (inside hooking step) at a forty five degree angle. It is crucial to always keep the weight in the back to avoid putting pressure on the knees. Just as if we were walking on mud and are uncertain the depth, the foot slides carefully forward before placing the weight firmly on the ground. Once the weight has been placed, we use the toes to grab the ground for stability while alternating weight to the other foot. The waist must remain twisted as our focus stays on the inside hand.

Just like eating, this Pre-heaven practice must be done daily. Unlike other internal styles, Bagua learns to gather its energy from continual movement instead of stillness. Every movement is controlled by breath. Inhale with one part of the technique and exhale with the other. Through relaxing, we learn the secrets of coiling and whipping power throughout the limbs. This practice must be done for twenty minutes to an hour a day in order to establish the necessary power and connectivity for the Post-heaven movements.

The Combat system of Bagua is based on the strategies of each section (gua): Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. The sixty four palms also have sixty four counters with variations to deal with striking, kicking, grappling and weapon defense.  Each palm attack can be modified into a fist strike, elbow strike, shoulder strike, back strike, head butt, kick, trip, arm/leg bar or takedown. (G. Z. Wu, Soft Body Flowing Baguazhang 1985) Mathematically, the movements within the system of Baguazhang are endless because it is the art of change and unpredictability. The movements themselves are only blueprints to instruct the body to use a powerful structure while evading, controlling or dominating opposing energy.

Heaven (Qian) represents purity, straightforwardness and simplicity. It is the way of striking and not being struck. Each hand attack must contain the energy of the entire body. As you breathe, your arms are inflated with energy that strikes through the target. Smother the opponent with powerful striking combinations using every part of the body, from every trajectory. Each movement is a counter attack that is preceded with a block, but every block is also an attack and preemptive striking is often a solid defense.  

Water (Kan) represents flow and splashing energy. It is the way of using and controlling the hands. First, grab the opponent’s arm and move the limb to do more damage in the structure of the body. By raising, lowering, or stretching the opponent’s arm, the rib cage opens and can be easily fractured when struck. Dislocating and holding the limb while it is broken allows for continuous attacking by yanking the opponent into the strike. Alternate from grabbing and striking to grabbing again, hitting vital parts until your opponent collapses. Crash into your opponent’s soft spots using a waving motion like the tide.  

Mountain (Gen) represents impregnability and silence. It is the way of counter attacking and not being countered. Through careful stepping, you can trap your opponent’s arms together, guaranteeing their inability to block your strike. Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire. Use rolling energy within your core to evade while appearing to have not moved. The more your opponent attacks, the more he becomes entangled by his own limbs. When striking, always expect to be countered to take advantage of his advantage. By stopping suddenly, we are off balance and uproot our opponent.  

Thunder (Zhen) represents invisible power. It is the way of the body. The entire body is an arsenal searching for the correct opportunity. Aim with your intent and release the power of the entire frame into your enemy. Crash into your opponent or slam them to the ground suddenly when their mind is in between movements. Move in one direction while attacking or grabbing in the other. Be as fast and unpredictable as lighting. Use explosive attacks into the soft targets of your opponent.

Wind (Xun) represents sharp, cutting force. It is the way of striking with the elbow and breaking the elbow at the joint. Use the elbow rapidly from all eight angles while aiming for the soft targets of the body. The elbow is also a shield that can be used to repel any attack while simultaneously returning damage in a wheel-like motion. Use the elbow in annular movements to roll off attacks and advance on the target. Break the opponent’s arm by catching it between your elbow and body at the precise moment of his attack. Use the elbow in combination with the shoulder or palm for bursting combination speed and effective countering opportunities.  

Fire (Li) represents heat and pressure. It is the way of kicking and stopping kicks. Utilize the Baguazhang angular footwork to kick your opponent from the least expected angle. Every step is a kick, and every kick is a step. Hide your intent within the footwork and strike suddenly at the throat, nose, armpit, groin and thigh. All of the kicks are also trips and sweeps that can be combined together like a fire in a dry field. Use stopping kicks to stop your opponent’s legs from leaving the ground. Hook the legs while striking with the hands, and strike with the hands to hook the legs. Fire consumes wherever it touches.

Earth (Kun) represents deception and craftiness. It is the way of entry. Peel, dismantle, and open your opponent’s defenses. Force him to block so that you can surprise him with a hidden attack. Bait him to attack, and force him to retreat so that he will fall victim to your setup. Attack from one direction, and, immediately the next, just so you can hit him in the center. Secretly find the weak point in the defense then dissolve and disable it in order to unleash a finishing blow.

Lake (Dui) represents stationary depth. It is the way of footwork. By using tight, circular steps you are able to travel very far within the same place. Your opponent will not be able to grasp you, but you can easily grab him. When he attacks, he becomes clumsy in the depth of your evasiveness. Sink and raise your weight to expose your opponent’s vulnerabilities. Use footwork to control all ranges and you control the outcome of the fight.

The true power behind Bagua comes, not only from the footwork of Pre-heaven or the techniques of the Post-heaven, but from the understanding of opposing forces. The entire system is learning how to twist opposing energies together: Heaven vs. Earth, Fire vs. Water, Wind vs. Lake, and Mountain vs. Thunder. The wind is the opposite of the lake because it can’t be contained, whereas the lake can’t move around freely. The mountain is the opposite of thunder because it is massive and silent, yet thunder is loud and invisible. Baguazhang is the art of change, and through combining opposing forces we find the freedom of unpredictability. (J. Y. Wu 1979)

When we combine opposing forces together, we find a power within the resistance much like magnets of opposite polarities. These opposing forces not only exist between the Pre-heaven and Post-heaven Training, but also between the individual and Baguazhang itself. Baguazhang is a system of geometric patterns and concepts that utilize physics that can be challenging for the mind and body to comprehend. The individual must practice thousands of techniques ten thousand times.  He does this not to make the technique more effective, but to be molded into a living technique. Baguazhang itself is empty without the diligence of the practitioner. As it gives power to the practitioner over time then the individual also gives life to Baguazhang.

Baguazhang is the art of adaptation which comes through researching against various environments, opponents and situations. A chameleon can only adapt to what it encounters. Every theory must be tested, tried, and re-tested to ensure that the technique is of sufficient skill against any attack. Any Baguazhang technique can be used against any attack if the practitioner has trained it into completion. The movements must be blended with the nature of the man until each technique is a natural reaction.    

References: 

Wu-yuan Jin, Baguazhang, (Xinzhu, Taiwan, 1979) 
 
Guo-zheng Wu, How to Practice Bagua Well, 2000 ( http://eaglewu7.myweb.hinet.net/new_page_64.htm)

Guo-zheng Wu, Soft Body Flowing Hands Bagua, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1985)

Jin-yuan Wu, Baguazhang Training Principles, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1979)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Improve or Else...





Trying to master a technique is a journey that continues to reveal a deeper purpose for those with the will to continue their exploration of the arts. What begins as learning how to strike, quickly transforms into learning how to think. We are scientists of combat, researching for betters ways to avoid and deal damage. Although there are thousands of reasons to pursue the arts and all of the objectives may wear different skins, the goal is quite simple: progress.

Through analyzing a punch or a kick you have to utilize all of your senses. First we are focused on how it looks, then how it feels, but even how it sounds will come into play quite often. Personally I've found that every time I've practiced a technique ten thousand times, it changes in nature. Something new emerges and old flaws are revealed, humbling me while inspiring me to stay focused with hopes of eventually obtaining some sense of martial satisfaction.

For those who are clever enough to crack the code of martial arts, we realize that it's an eternal tool to teach us how to reach for perfection in all parts of our lives. What starts as a blog grows into a book and then a song. What begins as a song grows into a painting and then a blueprint. Within the study of each skill we are forced to learn more skills to continue our journey and after each challenge we are only presented with another greater challenge. In short, all of our hard work is rewarded with the chance to do more hard work.

Initially our motivation may stem from superficial ideas, just as I used to tell myself that after I learn Chinese I will be able to make more money. I also used to convince myself that if I kept rapping maybe one day I would be "discovered." Even though I have leaned close to 10,000 Chinese characters and have done over 300 musical performances, I am honestly no better off in terms of the physical world. Every one of the goals in my life have been awarded with more goals. Each project takes more skill and I am forever improving in areas that the world will never know about or appreciate. After 10,000 hours in multiple crafts, externally not much has changed. The question for many people who are on the path of improvement is WHY.

Even the people who have been awarded great fame, eventually are betrayed by the audience that once loved them. Or worse they become isolated in their world and surrounded by strangers who never see who they are. Money attracts great distractions that would only attempt to pull you away from your path of improvement into a life of self admiration, separating you from the struggle that makes you truly human. Everything you can buy will become something that you eventually tire of and any place you go, will soon be a distant memory. Any accomplishment, no matter how great, will  be forgotten by the following generations.

Knowing that all of the objectives are rewarded with temporary forms of joy and that each challenge is rewarded with a greater challenge, it is easy to become discouraged or unmotivated. While dealing with each challenge you will be met with painful personal issues of injury, betrayal, isolation, loss and more. Anyone who continues to improve in any form will eventually find themselves alone because improvement is not the nature of the world. The ones who choose to get better will never be truly understood.

Among all of my quests and life chores, I find it most important to help those with like minds and people who have yet to find their purpose. The question I hear from kung fu brothers, students, bloggers and friends is always Why do you do it? or How do you keep going?

First, I would say to anyone who finds themselves in a rut in terms of self development is that life is hard no matter which path you choose. Many of us are disillusioned into believing that somehow following your path is going to be more difficult than doing nothing. You still have to pay bills, deal with hard relationships and get yelled at by  your boss for things you didn't do. But when you are on your path, you are aware that the issues that you are faced with are not who you are. A kung fu master who is also a janitor, is still a kung fu master in his heart. The janitor that gave up on his dreams, is not a janitor, but a quitter in his heart.

Our personal reality in most cases is not entirely related to truth. We all hold certain ideas of people even if we've met them for the first time. We believe we have understandings of things that we've never personally experienced. How many people hold strong opinions about what we know about the moon? The only thing that is actually real to us is our own personal experience. Who we are and how we see ourselves will be based on how we spend our time. A man who has written 20 novels has been on more adventures than most people, even if not a single person buys his books. So you must follow and finish your ideas, for a sense of self-respect.

Next I would mention that if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. One of the easiest things to take for granted is that life is always changing. Every tree, rock and mountain are on their way somewhere. Nothing is ever still and even as you read these words, the world continues to rotate and revolve. By not accepting the challenges presented to you, you have chosen to accelerate your own decay. If you don't exercise you will get weaker, if you don't challenge your mind, you will become less intelligent. No matter what you do, death will eventually have its way with you, but why surrender before completing your mission?

Lastly and most importantly, you must know that you were designed for your dreams. The dream in your heart is God's promise that it's already been given to you. Much like watching a movie on a DVD. You may only be in the middle of the movie, but the DVD is already completed. You merely need to continue watching in order to discover the ending. Yet if you choose to stop watching the movie, then for you the film has already ended. Not because your story was a sad one, but because you did not have the faith needed to reach the good part. Every difficulty, no matter how tragic, is only an obstacle to gain strength and momentum.


And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28
  


There are somethings that will always be on your mind and what you decide to do will bring you closer or further from that reality. Because you can never stop thinking of these ideas, you are forced nourish them into fruition or attempt to quiet them and drown them in distractions, which will only leave you more confused about your purpose. Undoubtedly avoidance of your purpose is the avoidance of self and a pathway of subtle insanities.  

You can not choose to want or not want the things in your heart no more than you can choose what type of food you like or music you like to listen to. By accepting your mission and developing the necessary skills needed for your quest, you are not only improving yourself, but raising society as a whole. The world is now moving into a direction of aimless ideas and spiritual retardation, which promises chaos and destruction. If you haven't done your best to improve the quality of your being, you are partially to blame. 

You must always do everything good thing  that you are capable of. The more skills you learn, the more your life will be enriched and you will be able to solve problems that people haven't even begun to understand. Each time you reach a new objective, you unlock a secret within yourself that is directly connected to the  evolution of the universe. The truth is It will be difficult and there will be times that you won't have the strength to stand. Feel free to cry, scream and yell, but then stand up and keep going. Then you will be able to teach us how you did it. Your self improvement is a service to the world, not just a good idea.

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me". Philippians 4:13.