Learning to be Adaptable

"The more things change, the more they remain the same," a trite, yet accurate saying that certainly describes the human reluctance to change even when we know it is in our best interest. And, with time, this can help us to understand that change is not necessarily our enemy—just another aspect of both our bagua practice and daily life.

While it is all too easy to move mechanically through the movements of form when doing solo practice, it is much harder to ignore the imperatives of changing your tactics when working with a partner. For example, if you don't modify a tactic that normally works on someone at your own level of competence when practising with the instructor or a senior student, you quickly learn that the ability to adapt spontaneously to changing circumstances is as difficult as it is essential.

Similarly, on a personal level, to quote the late musician and cultural icon John Lennon: "Life is what happens while you are making plans." Trying to prepare for the future is, in some ways, as futile as trying to master techniques that cover every possible martial situation. What seems beneficial at first can prove to have been a curse, and vice versa.

Consider the old Chinese parable of the peasant whose only son wanted a young spirited horse to ride, not just the placid old mare that his family used to pull their plough. The mare ran away one night, which seemed a disaster for the family until she came back with a stallion that had followed it home. This seemed a blessing, until the spirited new animal promptly threw its inexperienced young rider, who was left with a permanently lame leg. This was seen as a curse until the government officials conscripted all the able-bodied young men and sent them off to war. The son was the only one allowed to remain at home while the other young men were marched away, most never to be seen again!

Learning to deal with change is a complex process, and even without trying to make it happen, becoming relaxed, centred, and spontaneous on a physical level is bound to have similar ramifications for your emotional state, and vice versa.

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