Sunday, 26 August 2012

TaiJi & BaGuaZhang

"an alert, open, fluid mind ... allows you to flow from experience to experience without getting fixated or stuck." Meditation for Dummies

"The entire body is so light that a feather will be felt and so pliable that a fly cannot alight on it without setting it in motion." TaiJi Classics

I came across TaiJi (or TaiChi) through my interest in martial arts. I joined my university's TaiJi Society in 1998, later becoming part of the team who ran the Yang Style classes, and enjoyed the relaxing, poetically named and martially mysterious movements. I had practiced TaeKwonDo up to 'red tag' level in my late teens, and TaiJi seemed to be the direct opposite, even though I had heard that it had the potential to be a highly effective martial art.

After finishing university in 2002 and remaining in Bristol, UK, I could no longer continue to attend the classes, so I looked elsewhere in the city for competent teachers. Along with another Taiji fan, I helped to do the administration work for a new TaiJi class we set up with a Yang Style Taiji teacher called Karen. Those classes ran for around 6 months, but then Karen decided to leave the country. Adrift once again, I arrived at Mark Leonard's Chen Style classes - now the Bristol TaiChi Association.

Mark Leonard, Karel Koscuba and Master Chen XiaoWang
Mark Leonard's focus on 'testing' one's progress with push-hands and related activities was new to me. I saw and felt in his movements, as well as in his character, something a lot deeper than I had in previous teachers. The Chen Style masters from Chen Village in China regularly visit Bristol and Mark organises seminars so that his students can have access to the best teachers.

Chen YingJun TaiJi Teacher from Chen Village, China.
Although I had wonderful teachers, I often became frustrated with my lack of progress, joint flexibility, and discipline. One of Mark's classes had a different 'flavour', and that was the YiQuan class - in which we stood for up to 15 minutes in a 'standing post' posture before practicing the TaiJi forms and trying various drills. The YiQuan class gave me a taste of a potentially deeper side to the 'mysterious' internal arts, but the other students in the class were not apparently as interested in practicing YiQuan as they were in practicing TaiJi.

For years I 'flirted' with my TaiJi practice until I arrived at the YiQuan Academy in the countryside north of Beijing. See me YiQuan post for more about that.

I still practice a Chen Style short form and a short staff weapon form for flow and flexibility, and presently rely on YiQuan to give me internal power and conditioning.

The author practicing the TaiJi move'snake creeps down' in a park in China.
Upon arriving in Beijing last year, we were lucky enough to meet the daughter of Cheng BaguaZhang Master Sun ZhiJun. Sun ZhiJun was a student of the late Cheng You Sheng, son of Chen Dian Hua. Chen Dian Hua was brother of Cheng TingHua, who was student of the BaguaZhang founder Dong Haichuan

Sun ZhiJun in BaguaZhang signature posture.
In 1964 Sun ZhiJun became a double Weapon and Empty Handed forms champion in the Beijing Wushu Championships. In1983 at the All China Traditional Wushu Conference Sun won a gold medal and was assessed as All China's outstanding wushu athlete. He now lives in America where he continues to teach.

Sun ZhiJun and student.

Sun ZhiJun's daughter became a China National Wushu Champion at the age of 16 after competing in the BaguaZhang forms section. She has studied WuShu since she was 6 years old under her father and continues to practice TaiJi. She taught my partner and myself the old 8 Mother Palms Cheng BaguaZhang form in private classes for one afternoon every week during the Spring and Summer last year (2011). We were her first ever BaguaZhang students.

The fluidity of Cheng BaguaZhang is amazing to watch and try to emulate, and is something I would really like to devote more training time to in the future. YiQuan derived some of it's exercises from BaguaZhang, and so as my YiQuan competence deepens I am excited about what doors this may open into the deeper side of Bagua.

The joint 'open-ness' and flexibility required for good BaguaZhang and TaiJi is something which can often restrict Westerners, as I mentioned before in my YiQuan post, and it seems the lack of emphasis on static posture yoga exercises in most formally taught serious TaiJi and BaguaZhang can easily lead to physical problems. A BaguaZhang teacher admitted to me that they had a knee problem due to forced flexibility over the years.

A Daoist priest practicing BaguaZhang circle walking at White Cloud Temple (HQ of Daoism), Beijing, China.
Along with TaiJi, BaguaZhang remains more of a 'dynamic yoga' discipline for me at the moment, and yet I love them both for the fluidity and relaxation they bring to my body and mind. Here is a video of myself (and my partner in the final clip) practicing various TaiJi weapons forms and the Cheng BaguaZhang Old 8 Mother Palms form:

1 comment:

  1. How can I connect to Sun ZhenZhen to invite in Europe to teach?