BAJIQUAN : EIGHT EXTREMES BOXING The meaning of bajiquan can be interpreted at a number of different levels. The most literal translation suggests the fist going in eight infinite directions. But the flavor of the system is best conveyed as the use of the whole body exploding from inside out, radiating power in all directions. The "Baji Sixteen Word Verse" describes its range of power and techniques as: entangling, pulling, poking, kneading, crushing, pressing, bursting, shaking, leaning, striking, etc. Modern categorizations often cite bajiquan as an "external" system or, in more generous moments, as an "external/internal" system. In both public and private instruction, Liu seldom, if ever, broke down the training of the system into such categories.
Bajiquan conceptually incorporates wuxing (five elements) and also employs energies (jing, or internal strengths) similar to those found in Chen taijiquan's older forms. In fact, baji, like Chen taiji, utilizes similar breathing and "standing post" exercises. Interestingly, Liu and the great taijiquan master, Chen Fake, were introduced to each other during their public demonstrations in 1928 at a Beijing military academy. Both were so impressed by the similar power of their respective systems that they met privately the following day and exchanged material and techniques. No one is certain as to the details of this exchange during the day, but Liu always held Chen taiji in very high esteem. When Liu opened his Wu Tang Martial Arts Development Center in Taiwan, he created routines on three levels which were abstracted from the original Chen style. His concern was that mainland China and Taiwan would never be united and few people, other than formal students would be willing to learn and practice the long forms. Thus, the abstracted versions were seen as a way of preserving the essentials of the style while simultaneously providing a means by which the general public could learn it. He considered Chen style taiji to be one of the most effective fighting arts and sent many of his disciples directly to master Du Yuze for instruction in the longer, more traditional forms. Master Du had learned his system of Chen taiji from Chen Fake's father, Chen Yenxi, and was held in high respect by Liu.
PIGUAZHANG : SPLITTING / HANGING PALM Bodily power development in some traditional wushu systems is often said to be derived from observing various animals in their natural habitat. In bajiquan, the bear and tiger are imitated. In piguazhang, the eagle and monkey are imitated. Mystical states aside, the primary purpose of the animal imitation is to acquire the same type of body movements so that the fighting techniques utilize the entire power of the body in a similar manner. For example, when a bear attacks and strikes with its paws, the waist and shoulders generate the power expressed in the outer extremities. From observing such body movements, the wushu practitioner attempts to distill training techniques which can be employed to similarly generate such power with their own body. PiguaZhang uses the whiping power of the arms combing with the turning of the waist. It is generally used at a long range distance to be effective. Combined with Baji Quan both provide for a formidable system of martial arts. Using PiguaZhang from a long range and moving into a medium or close range one can then use Baji Quan.
TAI CHI TRAINING AND PHILOSOPHY
Taking a Tai Chi Chuan class is unlike taking any Western exercise class. Loose, casual clothing and flat, soft bottomed shoes are typically worn. Most classes begin with a basic warmup routine that consists of mild stretches and deep breathing. Working up a heavy "sweat" is discouraged, as the emphasis is turned towards "body awareness" and visualizations of energy crisscrossing the meridians and pathways of the body.
The main part of the class is learning a "routine", which is a carefully choreographed set of fluid movements. In most classes, every part of the body is carefully scrutinized and each muscle and joint must follow a set pattern as prescribed by the instructor, who was guided by their instructor, who was guided by their instructor, etc., etc.
Depending on the style being taught and the instructor's methods, these movements (and the slowness in which they are performed) can be quite physically demanding despite their simple appearance. Each student can control the level of difficulty by varying the depth of their stance if the style allows such variation. Students not familiar with learning choreography may find that remembering the sequence of movements quite challenging, and should be prepared to practice between classes (also known as "homework").
Emphasis is placed at first on the balance and correctness of each movement. More advanced classes place more emphasis on the visualization and actual movement of "Qi" or "energy" within the body during the routines. This "Qi" manifests itself in various ways...sometimes with a tingling sensation, a wave-like sensation, warming of various body parts, an electric shock sensation, light pressure on the skin, spontaneous shaking, etc. An experienced instructor will help the student recognize and control such manifestations. Martial applications are sometimes introduced and practiced to help the students visualize the "purpose" and direction of the energy that is being directed.
Tai Chi Chuan routines, sets, or "forms" range from a couple of postures to more than 150 postures, depending on the style. Even dedicated life-long Chinese players have difficulty performing the longer sets, which is the reason for the enormous popularity of the "simplified" routines introduced in the mid 1950s. Some traditional teachers think these simplified forms are blasphemy to the "true" art however and that they fail to develop the skills necessary to learn "real" Tai Chi Chuan. Other instructors believe that one single posture done correctly is more valuable than 150 movements performed without understanding.
Push-hands, a controlled contest between two players is often introduced into the training to help the student understand the application and redirection of energy that accompanies the higher levels of the art. Most Western teachers introduce basic Chinese philosophy such as "yin-yang theory" and sometimes "Qigong breathing" into their Tai Chi Chuan class to help Western students understand the movements. In China, are typically not taught in beginning classes because the students already understand much of this basic theory.
BAGUA ZHANG TRAING AND PHILOSOPHY
Bagua is an advanced form of martial art that uses palm techniques for combat purposes. This style was developed by Master Dong Hai Chuan1, who was already a master of kung fu. He observed the Taoist Monks meditation techniques that incorporated circle walking. The principle gained from this practice is that the adversary is in the middle of the circle and the defender is on the outside. This allows for quick changes in direction forcing the adversary to react to sudden attacks. This gives the defender the offensive advantage. The attacks are not “head on” but from angles at points of vulnerability. Most kung fu styles are just the opposite – the defender is in the center of a circle defending front, back, sides and all points in between. And, most styles employ direct “head on” offensive attacks.
Palm techniques in Bagua do not just use the hand but the entire arm. The spiraling techniques resemble a snake coiling around an object. Attacks do not discriminate – they are employed at high, mid, and low sections of the body - any “open door” is a target. Quick twists and turns are employed and the entire body is used as a weapon including the back, hips and shoulders.
* Baji Quan
* Pigua Zhang
* Bagua Zhang
* Praying Mantis
* Tai Chi (Yang's and Chen's)
* Chi Gung (QiGong)