by Glen Gurman
The large saber is a beautiful and unique weapon to the Ba Gua system and is used and practiced in true Ba Gua fashion. The practice and development of this weapon conforms to the intrinsic nature of this system. We will explore the essence of this core, and its relationship to this elegant and effective saber.
The Ba Gua Zhang system in its original transmission is elegantly simple. It has a common thread of principles that are explored and developed in a systematic and clear manner. This is evident from the first level of basic movements through to the higher levels. One could say that the trade mark of the Ba Gua Zhang system exemplifies itself as a seamless overlay of continual flow and whole body dynamics. It is rich in the components of health, rootedness, light body, smoothness of energy, as well as practical martial content. The system has a core essence of internal dynamics that overlaps continually and expresses the essence of flow, and interestingly the teaching method also follows this very same construct.
One of my teachers expressed this well: Shaolin's essence is like my two hands pointing at each other with the fingertips touching (flat on a table, palms down). Ba Gua's flavor is like the same hands touching, yet one hand overlapping the other, joining on top (each hand representing a motion sequence). Each movement begins yet has no definitive end, the motion is recycled into the next. The dynamic forces of the motions are mixed and expressed in the center of the body, without any apparent discharge or externalization. In the very same light the teaching progression also conforms to this principle.
This theme does not change during weapon training, each milestone overlaps the prior progression while introducing the subsequent technique, furthering the student along the way without any discontinuity. The essence and usage of the big saber does not depart from the inherent principles of this realistic and beautiful system.
Just like the flavor of the system itself, each move seamlessly enhances and builds upon the previous one, as do the progressions which blend into each other; developing and deepening the essence. The paradox or conundrum that presents itself to the serious practitioner, is that while Ba Gua Zhang is inherently simple, the ability to embody the true flavor or essence is very challenging. It takes years to become the seamless quality of Ba Gua Zhang.
Ba Gua Zhang is called a graduate art and one of the more difficult systems to embody, for a true practitioner becomes their art, and becoming Ba Gua is not easy. The old masters ensured that the weapons' training deepened the characteristics and flavor of the Ba Gua system, Yet simultaneously taught the practical martial usage of the specific weapon. Thus the milestones (the major forms taught progressively) teach Ba Gua's unique flavor throughout the developmental process.
In the system handed down by Liu Yun Chiao to his two top disciples: Leung Kay Chi in Boston and Adam Hsu in California, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the foundation and structure. This is done prior to the learning of the palm changes (see past Pa Kua Chang Journal Vol. 1 # 4 May /June for insight to this system).
Liu Yun Chiao ( who was a student of
Gong Bao TianCt* ff who in turn was a student of Yin Fu (f^S), passed down a learning sequence with very progressive motion characteristics. This system was designed to lead the student up to and through the use of weapons.
Ba Gua Zhang instructor Fu Zhen Song's Large Ba Gua Saber was as long as he was tall
The relationship of the foundation to the weapons is much the same as that a river bed to its river. The weapon system relies upon the foundation or milestones of Ba Gua, and the weapons due to their weight and dynamics deepen the foundation. This in turn causes the Ba Gua system to become deeper and stronger as well as more energy laden. To give an example, the Deer horn knives, also known as the Crescent Moon Swords follow the content and quality of the "Ying Shu" form. This form is taught before the famous Palm Changes and prior to the Deerhorn Knives, thus in the same light, the large saber follows the flavor and application of the Palm Changes.
The large saber relies both upon the stepping patterns that are developed in the early training such as Kou bu [i* i^), Bai bu [M and the coil and release of that dynamic "tension without tension." It also follows the general motion characteristics of the Palm Changes. Synergistically in the development of the Ba Gua Saber, the weight and size inherently forces the practitioner to redefine and strengthen the root and function of the very basics it is rooted in. The martial advantages of length and weight are not the only benefits that are obtained from this interactive relationship. Like a river and the rivers channel they both shape each other.
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