Che Lun Bu (Wheel Step)
Shi Zi Zhang (Lion Palm)
Kou Bu (Hooking Step)
Fan Shen Zhang (Retreating Body Palm)
Bai Bu (Swinging Step)
Ping Tou Zhang (Flat Lifting Palm)
He Ti Bu (Crane Step)
Feng Lun Zhang (Wind Wheel Palm)
Chou Che Bu (Withdraw Step)
Bei Shen Zhang (Back and Body Palm)
Wo Bu (Lying Down Step)
Wo Zhang (Lying Down Palm)
Tang Shui Bu (Water Dripping Step)
Shun Shi Zhang (Smooth Palm)
Lian Huan Bu (Interlinking Step)
Bao Shi Zhang (Embracing Palm)
lower posture builds tremendous leg strength and the emphasis is on teaching the short practitioner to utilize his height to his advantage by coming in lower and taking away the opponent's root. The smaller practitioner learns to use footwork to obtain advantageous striking angles. Xie likes to teach small people how to move in low and strike up, "like cutting a fish's belly." Thus when walking, the arms are held down.
In teaching students, Xie might have the student study only one of these postures before proceeding to learn the "eight animal" holding postures or he may have the student practice all three of these postures. What the student learns depends on how their qi is developing during practice. Xie firmly believes that the form and the posture move the qi. He states that if the form is correct, the qi and power will develop, if the form is not correct, the practitioner will have no power.
The Eight Animal System of Ba Gua Zhang
The eight animals of Xie Pei Qi's Ba Gua Zhang system are as follows: Lion, Snake, Bear, Dragon, Phoenix, Chicken, Unicorn, and Monkey (see page 19). He teaches each of these animal forms as complete systems of Ba Gua. Typically a student will only study one or two of these styles. Xie picks which system will be best suited to the student based on the student's physical build, strengths, and attributes. Each of the animals corresponds to one of the eight diagrams. Each animal form is composed of a complete 8 section, 8 movement form totaling 64 postures.
Each animal form has a characteristic way of using force and applying technique. For each animal there are eight words which describe the animal's fighting characteristics. Each of the eight words has eight uses associated with it. Each animal form has three levels: high, medium, and low. The three levels do not simply represent the height of the walking position. The techniques applied at all three of the levels are different as they are designed to be techniques appropriate for that height. Each animal form has unique palm methods and unique stepping methods. Each stepping method has three variations.
Each animal has a total of 168 practice movements which utilize the eight words and their eight uses in relation with the stepping techniques and the three basins. When the student first starts learning one of the specific animal methods, they start by learning the 168 simple practice movements. Xie states that these movements are very simple, yet extremely useful. Xie believes that practicing elaborate forms is not very useful for a beginner. He prefers to give the beginner something they can understand and use right away.
Although Xie decides what animal style a student will start learning based on the student's physical strengths and characteristics, he will sometimes allow the student to pick which style they would like to study. He feels that students will develop faster if they are practicing something that suits their interest 20
and their nature. In general females will practice unicorn first, however he starts younger girls with the phoenix style.
Each of the eight animals has unique fighting characteristics which help to define the style. The phoenix uses the arms to strike by hitting with the forearms in large sweeping motions. The monkey goes down low, pulls down and squats. The snake uses low movement and low footwork, always moves side-to-side and utilizes the "cutting palm" and point striking. The dragon likes moving and coiling and uses the uplifting palm in striking. The chicken is very evasive, quick and agile. The unicorn favors turning and circling. He moves in close and strikes with the head and shoulders. His arms strike with upward and downward chopping strokes. The bear's movements are big. He utilizes strength in the chest and waist. Practicing the bear form develops the back and waist. The bear's attack is very strong and fast, he rushes straight forward and uses his body.
Nimble and lively stepping and changeability are trademarks of Ba Gua Zhang. The Yin Fu style of Ba Gua highlights the stepping and legwork in their approach to Ba Gua application. In Xie Pei Qi's system there are eight different circle walking steps and each of these eight steps has three variations. Additionally, he teaches a set of 72 leg techniques. When first learning how to walk the circle, Xie will have his students utilize the che lun bu or "wheel stepping" method of the lion style. Other Yin Fu schools simply refer to this as the "lion step." The first exposure to this stepping method is in practicing the basic walking postures outlined above, or when holding the static posture of the lion style (see photograph on page 19).
The next stepping method a student in Xie's school will learn is the bai bu i^), or swinging step. First the student practices "standing bai bu" in one of several standing postures in order to open up the hips and inner thighs in preparation for proper bai bu stepping. The first posture is practiced with the feet in line with each other facing in opposite directions as shown in photograph number 1 on the previous page. The next posture is a bit more difficult, the feet are together but facing in opposite directions as shown in photograph number 2. The next static posture is similar, however, the feet are spread apart as shown in the photograph number 3. These three postures help the student progressively open up and stretch the hips and inner thigh muscles so that when the student begins utilizing the bai bu steps, there is sufficient flexibility in the hips and inner thighs to insure that there is not too much stress placed on the knees.
After practicing the bai bu standing postures, Xie will have his students practice kicking with bai bu to learn how to utilize this step in keeping an opponent from stepping in. The kick is short and is executed with a downward motion. The inside of the stepping foot strikes the opponent's shin and then scrapes down the shin and stomps the opponent's foot. Xie also teaches his students how to use the bai bu step in wrapping or hooking the opponent's leg to trap and lock the opponent's lower body. After these specific bai bu uses are practiced and understood by the student, Xie has his students walk the circle using only the bai bu steps. He feels that practicing bai bu helps to make the inside of the leg strong, closes the lower back and helps to keep the back strong and kidneys full of jing (W) and therefore the qi will naturally collect in the dan tian £7).
After the student learns bai bu, they will then learn to practice the kou bu (l0^), or hooking step. Xie states that while the bai bu footwork opens the dan tian and closes the ming men f^H), the kou bu footwork opens the ming men and closes the dan tian. Like the bai bu footwork, the kou bu footwork is used in kicking (by cutting the opponent's lower leg with a cutting action) and in hooking, locking, and trapping the opponent's legs. After the student has practiced the wheel step, bai bu and kou bu, Xie will have the student practice the specific steps associated with the animal style the student is learning. Each animal style has a different stepping method and each of these methods has three variations.
Xie Pei Qi works on patients in a Beijing hospital
Xie Pei Qi believes that Qi Gong practice is an integral part of Ba Gua Zhang training. He states that "Ba Gua Zhang is practiced for both health and fighting. If one is not executed, development will not be complete." Xie's system includes both Daoist and Buddhist Qi Gong as it was taught by Dong Hai Chuan. All of his qi gong practices are designed to prevent illness, cure illness, and strengthen the organs through body posturing.
In addition to Xie's specific qi gong practices, he says that each of the eight animal forms of Ba Gua also have specific health benefits. The movements associated with each animal effect the flow of energy in the meridians and the movement of the organs such that each of the animals has beneficial effects on specific organs. If a student's lungs are not good, Xie will have them practice monkey style. He encourages students with liver problems to practice the dragon style. If a student's stomach or spleen is weak, that student will practice the unicorn style. Kidney problems are aided by practicing the snake style. When Xie introduces a student to the eight animal Ba Gua system, he will encourage the student to practice an animal style which will help build the student's health as well as suit the practitioner's strengths in using Ba Gua as a fighting art.
Another of the qi gong practices Xie Pei Qi feels benefits the practitioners health as well as their ability to apply Ba Gua in fighting is the use of eight "healing sounds." The first of these sounds is the "Ha" sound. Xie says that the first noise a baby releases when it is born is the "Ha" sound and therefore it is the most natural sound. The "Ha" sound, when combined with the slow exhalation of air, clears stagnation in the heart and helps to move the qi. He believes that this is why it is the first sound made when a baby is born, it helps get the qi pumping. He states that utilization of this sound in health practice will also release pressure and stress from the body. Small children make this sound when they know something is wrong with them.
All of Xie's eight sounds have specific health maintenance effects on the body. He says that using sound also helps expel impure qi and clears the body. In addition to the healing benefits of the sounds, the sounds also have martial usage. Xie states that when the practitioner releases the "heng" sound when striking, the force of the strike cuts straight in and penetrates deep. When the practitioner releases the "hong" sound while striking, the force will feel like an explosion, and there is a round quality to the force. When the practitioner strikes an opponent while emitting the "ha" sound, the opponent will be thrown far away.
Xie has developed a series of exercises which use sounds in coordination with body movements to improve the body's health and increase power in fighting. When fighting the sound is coordinated with the body strength and technique application. The type of sound emitted will depend on the position, movement, and type of application. For best result, the power of the sound should be issued when the body is relaxed. Xie's system includes the use of light sounds, strong sounds, and medium sounds. He states that a different sound quality is used if the intention is to harm the surface versus penetrating the energy deep inside the opponent.
When discussing Ba Gua Zhang's employment as a fighting art, Xie Pei Qi says that the skill in fighting is in the exactness of the application. Where you hit and how you hit makes a big difference in the outcome of a confrontation. He says that this skill is developed through repetition of correct movements. When fighting, these movements must be a natural reflex. The movements are naturally quick and exact when the student trains the basics in repetition. He thinks one of the problems today in developing Ba Gua Zhang fighters is that the students today do not want to spend a sufficient amount of time and effort on the basics.
When fighting against one opponent, Xie prefers to use point grabbing in order to control the opponent. He said that the old masters could fight an opponent and win the fight without hurting the opponent. He believes that use of the grabbing skills is not as violent as striking and thus he prefers to use this method against a single opponent. When dealing with multiple opponents it is a different story. Xie says that when fighting multiple opponents he would not use grabbing or qin na, he prefers to use evasiveness and fast point striking.
When teaching students how to fight using Ba Gua, Xie not only emphasizes the exactness in technique execution but stresses the appropriate use of space and time. He wants his students to develop the ability to utilize and occupy space appropriately and at the right instant in time. Even if the student learns to execute a technique flawlessly in form, if the student cannot apply that technique at the proper instant in time and from the proper position in relation to the opponent, the student will not be an effective fighter.
The Ethical Foundation of Chinese Martial Arts
The history of China, it's culture, language and philosophy all converge in establishing an ethical foundation for Chinese unarmed combat. As an agrarian culture rooted in the earth and dependent upon family trust one of the mainstays of Chinese culture was and is family loyalty. Confucious reinforced this with his emphasis on filial piety. Ideally the respect accorded to social position and age from the rulers of state down to farmers and peasants. Elders ruled over their younger charges and were given respect for their experience. This tradition, though changing with modernization, continues particularly in the traditional expressions of culture including the martial arts. The relationship between teacher and student is much like that of a father and son. The students regard themselves as brothers (seniority according to age and experience) and naturally are willing to run errands and do odd jobs assisting their teacher as needed.
Because fighting arts are uniquely human - animals have no need of them and maintain their own codes of behavior - their transmission relies on the relationship between the teacher and student. The intention of the teacher and the intention of the student must eventually agree for the whole teaching to be imparted. This takes time and mutual trust. But respect must be demonstrated to warrant trust. Respect shows itself first in etiquette; the bringing of a gift, a restrained tongue - - self-restraint.
If these are foregone a rift forms between the teacher and the student. Teaching is then withheld. Hence transmission of the art requires not only respect but perseverance while respect is being worked out. The respect of the teacher for the student is seen in his pacing the teaching to the student's learning rate, making no false claims and demanding no more than the student is capable of. The student's respect is demonstrated by a respectful courtesy; caring for the teacher - - taking not of the teacher's guidance. This earns the teaching. The technique however must be worked out through long and consistent training.
The teacher retains the right to observe, evaluate and discipline the student's behavior and in doing so prevent the right means from working in the wrong way - - that is through the wrong person.
Ideally the relational aspects of the martial art are eventually integrated in the student into respect for other people. As the student learns with his teacher he (the student) begins to realize other people can be his teacher; with this awareness of ignorance humility becomes present.
With the relational aspect of the teaching communication becomes increasingly important. Language takes on greater value as a relationship is deepened. Because language is the crystallization of thought it is useful to look at the main features of the Chinese language which has a role in the shaping of their martial arts.
With five thousand years of continuous development Chinese have a massive vocabulary. The absence of an alphabet, monosyllabic words, pronunciation by tone all make the language not coducive to rapid assimilation. The lack of a concise theoretical terminology further augments the problems of teaching and learning. As a result great emphasis was placed on daily repetition and the careful use of memory. The concentration on repetition till a movement was instinctive produced great boxers many of which were not particularly interested or able to explain their skill from a scientific point of view. Although this kept the art in the hands of those who practiced it the most it prevented the art from passing to others who didn't have the physical talent to mimic til they understood. Concepts were and continue to be explained poetically or as parables. This combination of emphasis due to language and found in the teaching method (repetition, parables, poetry) cause the focus of the art to be on experience rather than theory, action as opposed to thought. The concentration on the moment clarifies the perceptions making them clearer and deeper; one's capacity to feel is enhanced. This makes one a better boxer but more importantly it can make one a better person.
In this respect Bertrand Russel said the Chinese prefer happiness to power. This could well be why they (like their Indian neighbors) developed a technology for mind while we in the West a technology for matter.
With teacher-student relationship and the linguistic emphasis on experience two major philosophical schools sprouted forth; Confucious with it's emphasis on filial piety, social custom and social hierarchy and Daoism which pointed to a natural receptiveness and spontaneity with great respect for the universe both natural and supernatural. Both schools of thought saw correct living as submission to a hierarchy of powers or wills.
Where Confucious showed insight in social manners and practical psychology necessary for daily living, Daoism described a universe much larger than man consisting of a hierarchy of wills; ghosts, gods, principalities and powers. It was, according to the Daoists, man's purpose to cooperate with these wills thereby assisting the processes of the universe and developing his own nature.
Society, language and philosophy blended with the existential elements of survival particularly warfare (both Confucianism and Daoism came out of the Warring States period) constructing systems of fighting that encompassed not only the practical necessities of war but also technological facts and even esoteric-metaphysical truths.
Down through time came these arts; partaking of the conditions of time but maintaining practical effectiveness. Absorbing current theories yet maintaining a sound foundation of basic ideas. The arts became an integral part of the culture that bred them and were absorbed into the literature. Folk tales and adventure stories abound with descriptions of famous boxers and swordsman. The tales, because of their archetypal simplicity and rustic style, remain popular and provide parables where formulas can never suffice. The lessons of these parables are familiar but in Chinese garb there is a fresh appeal. The wise old man leading the loyal student through tedious hours of rigor, a mysterious stranger defending himself with nonchalance and dignity, comrades-in-arms drinking and laughing over a practical joke . . . an all-truest living the life of Robin Hood . . . The Spirit of the Knight-Errant; independent, brave with a heart of the common folk. And with these things a sense of wonder unjaded by media manipulation.
The ethics of old China centering on family and teacher loyalty, the continuous effort of farmers, scholars, sages and boxers over the years; their experiences remembered in fighting forms and exercises. Their strong interest and respect for the universe as seen in boxing theory all form a remnant, ancient and worn but still true and beautiful. This remnant is Chinese martial arts; Yoga, boxing and a view of the universe integrated into a system of training designed to promote life, not end it.
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