An Introduction To Sun Style Ba Gua Swordplay

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by Tim Cartmell

Following is an introduction to the concepts and practice of the Sun Lu Tang 0 # fT) style Ba Gua straight sword. Although Sun Lu Tang himself claims the Ba Gua straight sword method was passed down through Ba Gua Zhang's founder, Dong Hai Chuan (Jt^M'l), this particular method of swordplay is unique to the Sun style. Its theory of use and the flavor of it's movements closely parallels Sun style Ba Gua Zhang (the empty hand art) and truly serves as an armed counterpart to the original weaponless system.

The following text was translated from the first six chapters of Sun Lu Tang's book, Ba Gua Jian Xue-(A Study of the Ba Gua Straight Sword), originally published in 1925. I've translated the text in "outline" form, while attempting to relate the most important concepts of Sun style Ba Gua swordplay. (Any comments I have added for purposes of clarification are in parenthesis).

INTRODUCTION

Passed down from antiquity, the name of the originator of the Ba Gua sword art is lost. When Dong Hai Chuan arrived in Beijing, he passed on this method to his student Cheng Ting Hua Cheng Ting Hua modified the method somewhat before passing the art on to me. The essence of the method is found in the changes between Yin and Yang (1%), changes without end. Its original nature springs from the pre-heaven stillness ("pre-heaven" refers to the a-priori or innate condition which precedes conscious intention). Its use is made manifest in the post-heaven motions of rising/falling and opening/closing ("post -heaven" refers to the utilization of a things innate nature through conscious intention). Its original nature creates the Tai Ji Jian - the sword of ultimate extremes); its application creates the Ba Gua Jian ( f^iYM - the sword of the Eight Trigrams).

The method is divided into eight sections. From the combination of these eight are formed the sixty-four methods (sixty-four represents the sum total of all possible changes). The source of all changes is in the undifferentiated completeness of the Tai Ji. The most important requirement for success is to realize that our bodies repose in the center of the Tai Ji, and all begins from this point.

EIGHT CHARACTERS OF THE ESSENTIAL METHOD

The eight characters which represent the basic energies of the art are as follows: Zou (^L- to walk), Zhuan (# - to turn), Guo - to wrap), Fan [M - to overturn), Chuan - to pierce), Liao - to scoop), Ti - to lift), and An - to press). "Zou" refers to walking in a circular pattern. "Zhuan" refers to turning left and right. "Guo" refers to the energy of twisting the wrist inward. "Fan" refers to the energy of twisting the wrist outward. "Chuan" refers to piercing (stabbing) forward and backward, left and right and up and down. "Liao" refers to cutting with the palm up or down in arcing or circular motions. "Ti" refers to lifting the hilt of the sword upward. "An" refers to pressing the sword downward with the palm down.

THE STUDY OF THE WU JI SWORD

The essence of the Wu Ji fe) sword is to hold the sword and stand without moving (Wu Ji refers to the state of undifferentiated chaos which precedes the Tai Ji, the separation of the undifferentiated energy into Yin and Yang, positive and negative). The heart (mind) is empty and the Qi (vital energy) is homogeneous and complete. This is the pre-heaven Way. Motion is born of stillness and unity.

Stand up straight with the heels together and the toes open to a 90 degree angle (the toes of the right foot point toward the center of the circle). The arms hang down by the sides with the right hand holding the sword, the right palm facing the right leg. The sword is held vertically (the edge of the sword is vertical) and level with the earth. The left hand hangs by the left leg with the fingers straight. There must be no movement whatsoever.

Empty the heart and calm the mind. Look straight ahead; the eyes must not wander. The position and intent are identical to the Wu Ji posture of Ba Gua Zhang. The theory of Ba Gua Zhang encompasses and may be applied to all weapons (see Figure 1).

THE STUDY OF TAI JI SWORD

From the Wu Ji comes the Tai Ji. Here the Tai Ji is represented by the Qian Trigram ^b) and the Kun Trigram iY - the Qian trigram is pure Yang while the Kun trigram is pure Yin). When the posture and intent are correct, the sword becomes "the sword of wisdom which purifies the body and dispels negative energy in the environment."

Relax the waist downward and press the head upward. The shoulders sink. The tongue touches the roof of the mouth. The mouth is lightly closed. Breathe naturally through the nose, without using force. The feet feel as if they are pressing your body up off the ground. All is under conscious control, one must not over exert mentally or use brute force.

Form the sword hand with your left hand. Your index and middle fingers are extend. Your little and ring fingers curl downward until the tips of the fingers touch the base. The thumb is held outward and is stretched straight. Fold the fingers without undue force, this is different from other styles (the position of the left hand in Sun style swordplay is different from that of other styles. Most styles curl the thumb down to press the little and ring fingers toward the palm. In the Sun style, the thumb is extended and the "tiger's mouth" or space between the index finger and thumb is kept rounded). The hand position may change as circumstances demand (the left hand's position changes in response to the position and movement of the sword). Turn the right foot in until the feet form a 45 degree angle (the tip of the sword turns to point toward your left front). The arms still hang by the sides. Now slowly bend the legs until they are gently curved. As you squat, raise the arms out to the sides to shoulder height, palms down. Cross your arms piercing with the tip of the sword toward your left front as your left arm moves under your right, the fingers pointing toward your front right. Keeping the arms close to the body, pierce across until your left hand is below your right elbow (your arms are crossed in an "x" shape). The sword blade forms a right angle with the direction your left toes are pointing (see Figure 2).

Look at the tip of the sword and concentrate your spirit. Press upward with the head and keep the shoulders relaxed and sinking downward. Move naturally and without undue force. This will allow the Qi to flow smoothly and fill the Dan Tian (-fl* ® - the center of gravity).

THE STUDY OF THE QIAN GUA SWORD

The Qian Gua sword is born of the Tai Ji sword. Because the intent is to circle to the left, this section is named the Qian sword.

The First Movement - The Sleeping Dragon Turns Over: Separate the hands moving the sword upward until the back of the right hand is close to the right side of the forehead, the blade vertical. The sword angles downward with the tip at the height of the heart. This movement uses the principal of "moving the root (handle) without moving the tip (swordpoint)." The left hand simultaneously moves down in front of the lower abdomen with the palm turning outward so that the index and middle fingers point downward. The back of the forearm presses the waist. As the arm extends downward, sit in the waist and bend the legs a little deeper. The head continues to press upward with the shoulders sinking downward. Lift the left heel a little with the ball of the foot remaining on the ground. The bodyweight shifts to the right foot. The above movements are executed simultaneously. Lead the movements with the intent, moving naturally and smoothly (see Figure 3 on the next page).

Immortal Dragon Katana
Figure 3 - The Sleeping Dragon Turns Over

Figure 4 - Sweeping the Moon out of the Sky

Figure 5 - Sweeping the Floor Looking for the Root

Figure 4 - Sweeping the Moon out of the Sky

Figure 5 - Sweeping the Floor Looking for the Root

Figure 6 - The White Ape Holds Up the Peach

The Second Movement - Sweeping the Moon out of the Sky: Separate the arms with the right hand moving out to the right side to shoulder height, the sword sweeping upward and to the right in an arc. The tip of the sword is slightly higher than the handle and is level with the top of the head. The blade is horizontal. The left hand simultaneously moves out to the left and up a little wiping in an arc toward the rear until it is above the left knee, palm down. As the hands move, the left leg steps out to the left, with the toes turning in slightly (the legs are wider than shoulder width). The head presses upward, the shoulders relax and open and the waist presses downward. The legs feel as if they are contracting inward. The movement is controlled by the intent, you must not use force. The right side of your belly is above your right leg (turn your waist to the right a little). The eyes look at the center of the sword (see Figure 4 on the next page).

The Third Movement - Sweeping the Floor Looking for the Root: Cut down to the left with the sword turning your right palm up. Your right hand stops in front of your lower abdomen with the tip of the sword angled down toward the ground. Your right elbow is against your right ribs with the hand lower than the elbow. As you cut down with the sword, your right foot simultaneously toes in to form a "reverse character eight step" (a pigeon-toed stance with the toes an inch or two apart and the heels turned outward to about a 90 degree angle). As you step and cut lift the left hand directly upward until the palm faces upward (at a 45 degree angle) and the thumb is two or three inches away from the left side of your forehead. The left arm is curved. Look at the tip of the sword. Sink the waist, contract the legs inward, press the head upward and relax and open the shoulders. The belly should be relaxed and "empty" (see Figure 5).

The Fourth Movement - The White Ape Holds Up the Peach: Sweep the sword upward until your right hand is level with the mouth. The sword moves in an arc until the handle is level with the mouth and then continues moving forward, piercing toward the center of the circle. The right arm is curved. The tip of the sword, the right hand and the right elbow form a triangle. As you lift the sword, turn your hips and waist to the right. Pull in the right hip so that it is curved. As you cut and pierce with the sword, your left hand simultaneously pushes forward and upward. The tiger's mouth of your left hand points toward the tip of the sword. The left shoulder is one or two inches away from the left ear (be sure to keep the shoulder relaxed). As the arms move, the right foot toes out a little and takes a step forward. The space between the left and right foot forms a rectangle. Your weight remains over the left leg and the body should not move as the right leg steps forward. Look at the tip of the sword. Although you pause between the four movements of the form, the intent does not stop. From beginning to end the Qi is united (see Figure 6). (From this position, you walk the circle keeping the tip of the sword aimed at the center of the circle and your eyes focused on the tip of the sword. This is the first of the eight changes in Sun's Ba Gua sword system).

THE TEN CHARACTER METHOD OF SUN STYLE BA GUA SWORD APPLICATION

The Ten Characters which describe the method of applying the Sun style Ba Gua sword to combat are as follows:

Tiao (to support), Tuo (to uplift), Mo (to rub), m Gua (to hang),

Shun (to follow) and M

Jie (to intercept). He

1) "Supporting" refers to cutting up under an enemy's wrist from inside his blade (see Figures 7, 8 & 9).

2) "Uplifting" refers to cutting forward under an enemy's wrist from outside his blade (see figures 10, 11 & 12).

3) "Rubbing" refers to walking and cutting an enemy after I have applied either supporting or uplifting (see Figure 13).

4) "Hanging" refers to withdrawing my body and leading an enemy's sword in when he chops at me from the right, then looking for an opportunity to attack (see Figures 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18).

5) "Slicing" refers to cutting across toward the shoulder as I insert my left hand under my right (see Figures 19, 20 & 21).

6) "Searching" refers to shaving across an enemy's wrist from the left or right, my blade moving out and back as fast as lightning. I apply this method when the enemy cuts at me above or below, my intent arriving before his attack (see Figures 22, 23 & 24).

7) "Closing" refers to striking an enemy's hand and preempting his attack just as he is about to strike (see Figures 25, 26 & 27).

8) "Sweeping" refers to cutting above or below with arcing strokes. I support an enemy's wrist from below. He seeks to change and free himself. I quickly encircle

Character One: Tiao - Supporting: refers to cutting up under an enemy's wrist from inside his blade

Figure 9

his wrist and prevent him from changing. This is called "sweeping above." If an enemy attempts to cut my wrist from the inside or outside, I quickly contract my body and slash at his legs from the left or right as if sweeping the floor. This is called "sweeping below" (see Figures 28, 29, 30, 31 & 32 for an example of sweeping below).

9) "Following" refers to "coaxing" an enemy to attack and following the attack in. As the enemy withdraws his blade, I follow him back and enter. You must not be forceful or hard when applying this method, but rather lead the advancing and retreating with your intent (see Figures 33, 34 & 35).

10) "Intercepting" refers to blocking an enemy's blade at his wrist or on his blade with my own blade as he attacks. The enemy is prevented from taking an advantageous position. I can use this method to intercept high, middle or low attacks (see Figures 36, 37 & 38).

Although the above Ten Characters represent the essential methods of applying the sword to actual combat, the key is to unite the internal spirit and intent with the external movements of the hands, feet and sword, thereby forming a wholistic entity. Only when the internal and external unite as one can the method be used as you wish, containing changes without end.

The author wishes to thank Neil Kagan for posing as the "enemy" in the photographs.

About the Author: Tim Cartmell has studied the martial arts for over twenty years, including ten years in China.. Among his teachers were Sun Jian Yun (Sun Lu Tang's daughter) and her student Liu Yan Lung, with whom Tim studied Sun style Ba Gua Zhang and the Sun style Ba Gua Sword. Tim Cartmell was feature in the Pa Kua Chang Journal, Volume 5, Number 4.

Character Two: Tuo - Uplifting: refers to cutting forward under an enemy's wrist from outside his blade

Sun Jian Sword
Figure 10

Figure 11

Sun Jian Sword
Figure 12
1965 Minnesota Twins

Figure 13

Character Three: Mo - Rubbing: refers to walking and cutting an enemy after I have applied either "supporting" or "uplifting"

Figure 13

Character Four: Gua - Hanging: refers to withdrawing my body and leading an enemy's sword in when he chops at me from the right, then looking for an opportunity to attack

Figure 16 Figure 17
Figure 18

Character Five: Pian - Slicing: refers to cutting across toward the shoulder as I insert my left hand under my right

Figure 21
Sun Style Gua Sword Brennan

Character Six: Sou - Searching: refers to shaving across an enemy's wrist from the left or right, my blade moving out and back as fast as lightning. I apply this method when the enemy cuts at me above or below, my intent arriving before his attack

Hand Cut Swordplay
Figure 24

Character Seven: Bi - Closing: refers to striking an enemy's hand and preempting his attack just as he is about to strike

Figure 27

Character Eight: Sao - Sweeping: refers to cutting above or below with arcing strokes. I support an enemy's wrist from below. He seeks to change and free himself. I quickly encircle his wrist and prevent him from changing. This is called "sweeping above." If an enemy attempts to cut my wrist from the inside or outside, I quickly contract my body and slash at his legs from the left or right as if sweeping the floor. This is called "sweeping below"

Sun Style Gua Sword Brennan
Figure 32

Character Nine: Shun - Following: refers to "coaxing" an enemy to attack and following the attack in. As the enemy withdraws his blade, I follow him back and enter. You must not be forceful or hard when applying this method, but rather lead the advancing and retreating with your intent

Figure 33

Figure 34

Figure 35

Character Ten: Jie -Intercepting: refers to blocking an enemy's blade at his wrist or on his blade with my own blade as he attacks. The enemy is prevented from taking an advantageous position. I can use this method to intercept high, middle or low attacks

Figure 35
Wuji Sword Form Sun

Ba Gua "Eight Immortal" Sword by Park Bok Nam and Glen Moore

Through many dynasties in China tales and legends have been told about Daoism; balance in nature, mysticism, immortality. Among some of the most popular are stories about the Ba Shen or "Eight

Immortals." Stories about them have affected China's philosophy, religion, and martial arts for centuries. Many such tales or stories are still as popular today as they were hundreds of years ago. Many gift shops in Chinatown areas of the United States sell paintings, ink drawings, carvings, statues, and figures carved in jade, ivory, or exotic woods that portray the Eight Immortals.

Poem About Daoism

Ba Gua Zhang instructor Lu Shui Tian (1894-1978) of Ching Dao City, Shandong Province, China, posses in the beginning posture of the Ba Gua Eight Immortal Sword Form

The immortals were often portrayed in stories as mystics who interceded themselves into the everyday lives of mortals to teach and/or demonstrate the ways of Daoism. This was sometimes done with great humor or mischief, but generally always with compassion for the suffering of the oppressed. In this article we are going to present a poem about the Eight Immortals which was written in relation to the Ba Gua Jian - straight sword) and its use in Ba Gua Zhang. This poem was handed down to me by me teacher, Lu Shui Tian (Jt^Ktf?). Please do not judge my translation of the poem too harshly as it was very difficult to render a good representation of the true meaning into English and still capture what the author was trying to convey.

The author of the poem is unknown, but when Lu Shui Tian passed this poem to me, he explained that it had been given to him by one of his Ba Gua Zhang teachers. Lu was also taught an eight section Ba Gua sword form which corresponds to the words and meaning of the poem. He gave me this poem when I was taught the form and he used the words of the poem to help transmit the important principles of eight sections of the form. I regret to say that I did not ask which one of his teacher's gave him this poem.

This poem is titled "Ode to a Ba Gua Swordsman," and it implies that a sword form called Ba Gua Ba Shen Jian (Ba Gua Eight Immortals Sword) was created in recognition of the Eight Immortals utilizing each immortal's special skills, traits, and characteristics. Each line of the poem addresses something about one of the individual Eight Immortals and their contribution to the form. The poem, in Chinese (on the following page) and English, is as follows:

Iron Cane Li (Li Tie Guai) possessed supreme swordsmanship,

Guo Lao (Zhang Guo Lao) not only can split sawgrass flowerettes, but can slice the

Phoenix's feather with his sword,

Dong Bin (Lu Dong Bin) carries his sword on his back and chooses to live a life of moderation,

Zhong Li (Zhong Li Chuan) demonstrates the best martial arts stance and form.

Guo Jiu (Cao Guo Jiu) is feared greatly by both ghost and goddess wherever he goes.

Cai Ho (Lan Cai Ho) spreads four gates and her sword shines through,

Xian Gu (Ho Xian Gu) is the best at setting the Ba Gua pattern,

No one can survive Xiang Zi's (Xiao Xiang Zi) soul chasing sword.

Phoenix Feather Sword

What follows is a loose translation, given line by line, and a small attempt to provide some of the explanation given to me by Lu Shui Tian.

Iron Can Li (Li Tai Guai) Possessed the supreme swordsmanship

This immortal was named Li Tie Guai and referred to as "Iron Cane" Li because of the iron crutch that he carried. Li is depicted as a beggar with a crutch for the following reason. The story is told that Li had attained high level magic skill and thus was often called from Earth to the Celestial Heavens to preform his magic. When Li traveled to the celestial regions, he traveled only in spirit, leaving his body on Earth in the charge of one of his disciples. On one occasion, Li was gone longer than usual thought that Li had actually died and subsequently burnt his body. When Li returned to Earth, he found his body was gone and thus looked for another body of a recently deceased individual to enter. The only body he could find was the body of a lame beggar. Li entered this body and thus is always depicted as a beggar with an iron crutch. He also carries a pilgrim's gourd and he is sometimes shown standing with a deer or standing on a crab.

It was said that Li Tie Guai possessed the supreme swordsmanship but most often appeared poor, down trodden, and acted like a clown, not having a care

Li Tie Guai

and the disciple in the world. Lu Shui Tian said that his contribution to the Eight Immortal Sword form was strategy because he appeared as a clown and beggar, but possessed the highest sword skill of all the Eight Immortals.

The Eight Immortal sword form is simple, yet elegant in its movement. You will find no gymnastics in this form, but movements that are very efficient and effective. Just like the old Daoist saying, "The sage is always quietest before he strikes." Lu Shui Tian also said that since Iron Cane Li acted like a clown, carefree and uninhibited, that he exhibited the Daoist characteristic of living without stress. Stress that we create by being too serious about mundane everyday life can disrupt our qi.

Guo Lao (Zhang Guo Lao) not only can split sawgrass flowerettes, but can slice the Phoenix feather with his sword.

Zhang Guo Lao was a recluse who had supernatural powers. He could turn himself invisible and when summoned to serve in the Emperor's court replied that he preferred the wondering life of a hermit. It is said that he traveled backwards on a white mule and thus he is often depicted riding a mule in this manner. His emblem is a bamboo instrument that is struck with two rods.

This line of the poem describes the extreme precision with which the sword is wielded. Although the form has many different motions, most are accomplished with articulations of the wrist or small, precise movements of the arm that emanate from the body. These small motions add great speed and precision to the movements of the sword. This degree of precision depicted in this line of the poem can be easily perceived if you were to observe saw grass flowerettes, which are tiny delicate flowers on the saw grass. It would take a deft hand indeed to cleave such a tiny delicate thing. Lu Shui Tian always emphasized precision in movement when he demonstrated sword skills and he had me practice

Valery Tattoo Plantilla
Zhang Guo Lao

many hours of repetitive exercises which involved hitting small balls, bamboo reeds, or string, in order to improve my precision with the sword.

Dong Bin (Lu Dong Bin) carries his sword on his back and chooses to live a life of moderation.

Lu Dong Bin was a scholar who studied Daoism with Zhong Li Chuan, the Chief of the Eight Immortals. Lu is usually depicted holding a Daoist fly-brush in his right hand and has a sword slung over his back. It is said that he was given a series of ten temptations to overcome in order to demonstrate his purity and virtue. Having overcome all ten temptations, Lu was given a supernatural sword. He used to sword to sly dragons and demons, riding the world of evil.

Lu Dong Bin's sword's name was Chan-yao Kuai which, when loosely translated, means "Devil Slayer." Carrying the sword on his back and living in moderation meant that he was always vigilant in not straying from the middle path. Always using the sword to cleave away any temptations to stray, Lu Dong Bin stayed true to his path, even when presented with the ten most difficult temptations. In the Eight Immortal Sword form, this means that there are no excesses or insufficiencies and that every technique adheres to the middle, or balanced, path.

Riding Fat Dong
Lu Dong Bin

Zhong Li (Zhong Li Chuan) demonstrated the best martial art stance and form

Zhong Li Chuan was the Chief of the Eight Immortals. He is usually depicted as a fat man holding a fan. Sometimes he also holds a peach.

Lu Shui Tian said that this line of the poem illustrated that any form, no matter whether it was an empty hand or weapons form, had to have good footwork. This was especially true in Ba Gua Zhang as the same footwork is applied for both empty hand and weapons. Lu went on to explain how the correct footwork placed the practitioner in a position of advantage and protected him from counter techniques. In order for this to happen, all of the footwork must meet the required principles and theories of the Ba Gua trinity: the Ba Gua (from the Yi Jing), Yin-Yang, and the WuXing ( five elements). Lu Shui Tian also said that even though the footwork was extremely important, it must be in balance with the body and the mind so that no extreme existed and everything could then be in balance or moderation.

Zhong Statue
Zhong Li Chuan
Cao Guo JiuCao Guo JiuCao Guo Jiu

Cao Guo Jiu

Guo Jiu (Cao Guo Jiu) is feared greatly by both ghost and goddess wherever he goes.

Cao Guo Jiu was not a popular immortal because he was so fierce. It was said that he was a member of the imperial court and a very dangerous person to tangle with. He was the son of a military commander and brother of the Empress Cao Hou of the Sung Dynasty. His symbol is a pair of wooden castanets which were made from the court tablet.

Many people believed that he was elevated to the level of immortal only because the other seven thought he may prove useful. Lu Shui Tian brought out two things from this implication. First, don't waste time with things that are not useful. He felt that this illustrated that none of the movements in the form were put there just for the beauty or elegance, everything there was useful in combat. Second, he felt that Cao's fierceness showed that the form wasn't just performed without intent as many forms are executed today. He felt that without intent, the qi would not flow properly nor would the form look correct. Without proper intent the form would appear dead or lifeless. He always referred to a form that was done with the proper rhythm and intent as "bright" or "living" and a form that did not exhibit these traits as "dark" or "dead." This is also how he referred to the eyes in most instances when he was referring to intent.

Cao Guo Jiu

Cai Ho (Lan Cai Ho) spreads four gates and her sword shines through.

Lan Cai Ho's emblem is a flower basket. This particular immortal is sometimes depicted as a female and sometimes as a male. As such, he or she as you may choose, represents change and is the representation of yin and yang within the Eight Immortal Sword form.

In this character we also find a representation of unpredictability that is always present with a lunatic, or one who may be referred to as "touched by the Gods." The poetry line reference to the "four gates" points to a particular type of sword entry into the space of an opponent and, with quick wrist maneuvers, rendering damage, or as the line states, "shining through."

Xian Gu (Ho Xian Gu) is the best at setting the Ba Gua pattern

Ho Xian Gu is the only true woman of the group

Lan Cai Ho

Ho Xian Gu is the only true woman of the group

Spongebob Drawing
Ho Xian Gu

is perceived as being very wise and a good organizer. Having eaten a supernatural peach, she became a fairy wondering the hills. It is said that once she was in danger of being overcome by a demon, but Lu Dong Bin saved her using his magic sword.

It is thought that she is the one who pulled the other immortals together to create the form and that she herself was chosen to set the pattern for the form. Every form has a particular pattern and a rhythm within the pattern. As Lu Shui Tian said many times, without rhythm, the form is "dead." The organization skills of Ho Xian Gu remind us to adhere to natural patterns and rhythms in martial art practice.

No one can survive Xiang Zi's (Xaio Xiang Zi) soul chasing sword.

Xiao Xiang Zi was the son of a famous scholar and it is believed that he could make flowers grow and blossom instantly. He was a student of Lu Dong Bin, who took him to the supernatural peach tree to become immortal. His emblem is the flute and he is the patron saint of musicians. It is said that whenever he was given money, he scattered it about on the ground because he had no need for it.

It is believed that Han Xiang Zi was depicted as very young and that he did not like to utilize his sword, but when he did, no one could escape. It is also said that Han traveled the country side playing his flute and attracting birds and beasts of prey with the beautiful sound. This sets the tone for the mortality of the use of the weapon. It should only be used in extreme cases but when it becomes necessary it should be wielded with authority. Han Xiang Zi is depicted many times carrying a flute and one of the techniques in the form resembles someone playing a flute. Lu Shui Tian also said that this meant that we should try to live in balance and harmony but when things are interfering with that harmony, we should not hesitate to cut them out, or balance them. Given the right discipline, we should never fail to set things just as Han Xiang Zi did and metaphorically cut them out.

Lu Shui Tian explained to me that the use of the Jian (straight sword) is not for a beginner in the

Xiao Xiang Zi
Sun Jian Sword

internal martial arts. He said that of all the Ba Gua weapons, the Jian, in particular, required a meticulous foundation of the body, footwork, and mind before one could hope to master this weapon. The Jian is considered a very high level weapon, meaning that it requires a great deal of skill to wield it properly. It requires wrist, shoulder, and waist training along with proper utilization of whipping body principles to make the weapon effective. Many times today I go to tournaments and watch people perform with the Jian. It is extremely rare that I am rewarded with a pleasant sight. People are attempting to perform the Jian that are really beginners and the forms are not bright, but are lifeless. I use the term lifeless figuratively, but it could be taken literally, as I see these practitioners cutting themselves to ribbons, forgetting that the Jian is a double sided weapon. I hope that in the future we will see people utilizing this weapon with the proper techniques, proper intent, and with a properly prepared body.

The Jian is a wonderful weapon and the Eight Immortal Sword is a wonderful form. In my style of Ba Gua Zhang, the training is long and rigorous and there are many basic sword techniques to practice before the form will be taught. After students complete the form, they will not just know a form, but will understand numerous uses and applications of the movements within the form. I know that today no one will walk down the street carrying a Jian in preparation for a confrontation, but it is necessary to understand intent and use in order for the qi to flow properly. This should allow the form to be bright and have the proper rhythm.

This has been a very brief introduction to the Jian as a Ba Gua weapon and I hope it has been entertaining. It is my intent to present you with another article in the future detailing some of the basic exercises for the use of the Jian as a combat weapon. We should all share as much knowledge as possible so that Ba Gua does not become a watered down, or lost art. I fully believe that the internal arts offer a better life for all who practice them and it is my hope to be a part of the new and exciting future that we have before us.

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