SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
FEBRUARY 2015 PART 1
How has Baguazhang evolved through time? It seems that the further from Dong Hai Chuan that I look, the "softer" Baguazhang seems to evolve.
Many of the modern Baguazhang demonstrators that I've seen lack much in the way of the solidness and hardness that I've seen in older styles and generations of Baguazhang.
I was wondering if Sigung could give some insight as to whether there was a natural evolution in Baguazhang towards more softness or if what I perceive as softness is really just emptiness and "missing the essence" that I have come to expect from modern wushu demonstrations.
— Frederick, USA
I am glad that you are doing much research into Baguazhang as a preparation for your specialization in it. Baguazhang is a beautiful art, and I hope you may help to promote it in future.
Your observation of the evolution of Baguazhang is sharp and accurate. This trend occurs not just in Baguazhang, but in most, if not all, kungfu styles. It is even more evident in Taijiquan, where a martial art has become a dance. It is not even a vigorous dance with vitality and agility, but a slow ballet often associated with old folks who cannot run after a bus.
On the other hand, elegant kungfu styles like Wing Choon Kungfu, which was originally meant for small-sized persons like its founder, Yim Wing Choon, and a master nick-named Wing Choon Kungfu King, Leong Chan, has evolved to become an art for bouncer-type practitioners with big muscles who lift weights and are ready to smash their opponents like breaking down a wall.
As a martial art, Baguazhang is necessarily solid. And as a martial art, it is also necessarily agile. That is what Baguazhang or any good martial art should be -- solid and agile at the same time, manifesting yin-yang harmony.
Many modern Baguazhang demonstrators, while preserving agility, lack the solidness of past Baguazhang masters. This is not a natural evolution of Baguazhang, but is understandable and quite inevitable due to the development of lawful and more comfortable society in China and the emergence of wushu as a sport. And what you perceive as softness is really emptiness and missing the essence that are rightly associated with modern wushu demonstrations.
Society at the time when Baguazhang and other kungfu practitioners were both solid and agile depended on the fist rather than on law. The lawlessness of the time created the need for kungfu to be real. The society of modern wushu is different. There is no urgent need for real kungfu because the government of the time has maintained law and order well. So real kungfu has evolved into modern wushu as a hobby for demonstration, instead of a need for self-preservation.
Given a choice, most people would prefer a law-abiding society to a lawless one. Elite people, i.e. those who have the opportunity and resources for further choice after being in a law-abiding society, would prefer real kungfu for seff-enhancement, like having vibrant health and vitality, to modern wushu for demonstration to please spectators.
We in Shaolin Wahnam choose to be in the elite group. Although we already live in a law-abiding society where practicing real kungfu for the purpose of self-preservation is no longer necessary, we still choose real kungfu for self-enhancement, to choosing modern wushu for demonstration.
Some people, rather unreasonably, may complain why we choose to be elite, as if being elite, like earning a high income or living a comfortable life, were a sin. It is our choice, and it is none of their business. We are grateful that we can be elite, that we have the opportunity and resources to make the choice. On the other hand, if they choose not to be elite, like choosing to practice an art where they routinely punch and kick one another, or for demonstration to please spectators, that is their choice, and also that is none of our business.
To be elite means to be different from common people. To be a doctor or a millionaire is to be elite. Common people are not doctors or millionaires. To practice a martial art that gives good health, peak performance in daily life and spiritual cultivation is elite. Common martial arts do not give such benefits.
What English-language sources I have been able to find state that Dong Hai Chuan and his first Baguazhang student, Yin Fu, were masters, or at least competent, in Lohanquan before beginning Baguazhang. The videos I watched of Yin Fu style of Baguazhang look comparatively "hard."
One group of Yin style Baguazhang practitioners state that the key words of their style are "cold" and "crisp" force. This introductory video which has the current Yin style lineage holder, master He Jinbao, shows a lot of qualities that I would have originally associated with Shaolin Kungfu.
This is an illuminating observation. Many people viewing our Baguazhang may also comment that our Baguazhang is "hard", compared to the type of "soft" Baguazhang they commonly see.
When we know the historical background of these Baguazhang masters, it is no surprise that much of their Baguazhang resembles Shaolin Kungfu.
The founder of Baguazhang, Dong Hai Chuan, mentioned that he learned Baguazahgn from two Taoist saints he met on Hua Mountain. But he was already an accomplished Lohanquan expert, having beaten many masters of other styles. Lohanquan is a main style from the northern Shaolin Temple.
Ma Weiqi, who I've read was Dong Hai Chuan's second Baguazhang student, also seems to have a "hard" type of Baguazhang. I was only able to find one group that practices Ma Weiqi's Baguazhang, a group in Guangzhou headed by a master Guo Shilei. His Circle Walking and performance also look much "harder" than what I originally expected Baguazhang to be. One video that I saw of this master showed Circle Walking that was quite solid.
While they were solid, they were also agile. This was a mark of good kungfu.
Our Baguazhang Circle Walking is also solid and agile. But most people, I believe, may complain that our Circle Walking is too hard, and some may say that ours is not Baguazhang. They are used to soft, flowing Baguazhang movements which are beautiful to watch.
I had a long conversation with one of his senior students about their training. Interestingly, they also emphasize combat sequences after laying their foundation, though their foundation emphasizes much development of "peng jing", which they said was something like "a springy forcefield" that protected their bodies and joints as well as powered their internal strikes.
Their Baguazhang training is similar to our Baguazhang training. Practicing combat sequences is a very important part of combat training. What they call "peng jing" is similar to our dragon force.
Our Baguazhang resemble a dragon's movements, whereas much of Baguazhang practiced today resembles the movements of a snake. It is worthwhile to know that full description of Baguazhang is "Dragon From Circulating Body Baguazhang".
The first style of Baguazhang that I heard about was Cheng style Baguazhang, and many of the modern demonstrations I saw of it were very flowing. To me, it looked like masters of the previous generations flowed like snakes or like silk. A master of the previous generation (whose name I do not know) demonstrated his Cheng style Baguazhang and I was surprised to see how "hard" it also seemed.
The master in that video used foot stomping, a very coiled stance, and he looked, to me, like a coiled snake full of energy and ready to strike. A modern master of Nine Palaces Baguazhang, which is a sub-style of Chen Baguazhang, is similarly "hard" in his demonstrations, but I feel his footwork shows a great level of solidness and "differentiating solid and empty."
It looks like many Baguazhang practitioners are changing, or have changed, the dragon form of Baguazhang to the snake form. If you view videos of old Baguazhang masters, you will see their forms "hard" and flowing, whereas the forms of modern masters are "soft" and flowing.
I would describe the movements of Master Hai Yucai as those of a swerving dragon rather than those of a coiled snake.
Editorial Note: Frederick questions will be continued at February 2015 Part 2 issue of the Question-Answer Series.
What should I do to overcome my health problem?
— Nicolas, Switzerland
Practice your chi kung daily, once in the morning and once in the evening or afternoon for about 15 minutes a session, and your health problems, no matter what they are, will be overcome! Like many people, you may find this too good to be true, but it is true. This truth has been confirmed by many people with health problems worse than yours.
You can practice any one or more exercises from what you have learnt in the course, Generating Energy Flow. The factor that will overcome your health problems is not the exercises but the chi flow as a result of performing the exercises. If you perform more than one exercise, you can have a chi flow after you have performed all the exercises, or after each exercise.. Each session should not last more than 15 minutes. But at times when you are so absolved in the practice that without your conscious knowing, you extend beyond 15 minutes, it is alright.
If your health problems are serious, you should seek chi kung healing at the Holistic Health Cultivation Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or from any of our certified chi kung healers where your daily practice is supervised. Your recovery is guaranteed, otherwise you can have your money back.
What special exercises should I do? Can I do Nourishing Kidneys as my problem is in the kidneys? Can I do the exercise for one hour?
You can do any chi kung exercise. The onus is on energy flow. It is the energy flow that overcome your health problems, not the exercise itself. It is just like your cash flow that satisfies your economic needs; it is not the job you do. But you need to do the job to generate a cash flow. Similarly, you need to perform a chi kung exercise to generate an energy flow.
If there is no energy flow, you are not practicing chi kung; you are only practicing gentle physical exercise though the exercises you perform are chi kung techniques. More than 80% of chi kung practitioners today all over the world, including instructors, are in this situation, and they are unaware of it. This is the reason why they do not derive chi kung benefits, including overcoming health problems.
Any chi kung technique performed as genuine chi kung will generate an energy flow. But some chi kung techniques are more suitable for certain tasks than other chi kung techniques. If you wish to overcome health problems, practicing exercises taught in courses like "Self-Manifested Chi Movement" and "Generating Energy Flow", are more cost-effective. If you wish to develop internal force, practicing exercises taught in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan will produce better results.
This applies if all other factors were equal, which is not true in real life. A master performing an exercise from a course on Generating Energy Flow, for example, can generate more internal force than a student perform an exercise from a Shaolin or Taijiquan course because the master is more skillful.
"Nourishing Kidneys" is an excellent chi kung exercise for you if your health problems are at your kidneys. However, the cause of the problem may not be at your kidneys though the symptoms are manifested there. It may be a gland not producing the required chemicals for your kidneys, or your transportation system failing to bring the chemicals to the right place. Nevertheless, the energy flow generated by "Nourishing Kidneys" can still overcome the problems even when the cause is not located at the kidneys. Practicing for an hour, which is the usual time required by most other chi kung schools, is far too long for you. You will over-train even when you practice correctly. Your fragile body at present is not able to accommodate the large increase of energy.
Practice just for about 15 minutes a session, and the subsequent session should be a few hours away. Use the remaining 45 minutes to take your girlfriend out, or find a girlfriend if you haven't one already.
I have been practicing a form of sitting meditation for many years. I sit on a sofa and concentrate on a point in my abdomen. I feel relaxed after the meditation. How do I combine my meditation practice with the chi practice?
Obviously, your practice of sitting meditation has not overcome your health problems. The main aim of sitting meditation, if practiced correctly, is to see God, or any term you call the Supreme. You must be healthy in all your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects, before you attempt to see God, or else God will ask you to go back.
Not only you must overcome your health problems first before seeing God, you must also be healthy first before going to work, or enjoying your hobbies, otherwise you will be irresponsible to God and to yourself. God does not like irresponsible people.
You should stop your sitting meditation, at least for the time being, and focus on practicing the chi kung you have learnt from me to get well. You have the good karma to learn this wonderful form of chi kung that will give you good health, vitality and longevity. Practice it responsibly, then have the good health, energy and time to do your work well, enjoy your hobbies, and see God.
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