Ji had mainly learned the Sun Lu-T'ang style of Pa Kua. What I had encountered before had been different, and when we came to the first palm change I was surprised at the difference. It consists of two attacking movements. The first is a double palm strike, held horizontally, followed by a strike with the edge of the right palm whilst the left palm parries at face height. Then you spin to the right, as if holding a
British T'ai Chi Ch'uan instructor and author Paul Crompton practicing Sun Style Pa Kua Chang large ball and walk back in the opposite direction. Ji's way of doing this was powerful, with focus of ch'i, as if engaged in a real fight. I had expected something emphasizing grace, but changed my tune. The second change involved five attacking movements; two double palm strikes and a single in one direction, then a 180 degree turn with a hip level single palm and a movement similar to "Fan Penetrates Back" of T'ai Chi but accompanied by a backward leap.
All the time I was learning I could not help comparing Pa Ku in a direct way with T'ai Chi. The four directional "Fair Lady Works the Shuttles" T'ai Chi movement seemed clearly comparable with Pa Kua; the big turns, the arm threading and wrapping and so forth. Even "Single Whip Squatting Down" echoed Pa Kua's "Swallow Skims the Water." Then, the slow turning in of the feet into a "V" step of "Single Whip" could be seen in the omnipresent "V" step and "T" step of Pa Kua. I quickly realized that it would take a lifetime to become "good" at Pa Kua, and secondly that it required a degree of physical fitness which is beyond the reach of most people, certainly of part time students, which included me. This said, it did not and does not prevent me or anyone else from enjoying training and study. We can taste the wine, even if we cannot drink the whole bottle.
The third change was a long one, and here I came across movements which reminded me of Hsing-I, understandably, bearing in mind what we know of the development of both arts. In fact, when with my limited knowledge it was plain that Sun's Swimming Dragon form had much more Hsing-I in it than any other form of Pa Kua which I had seen or read about. In the third change I especially enjoyed being introduced to the snake like movement of the hand as it turns, palm up and threads backwards under the arm pit. It is fascinating to see how in different Pa Kua styles this arm/hand movement is interpreted differently. For instance, Chang Ch'ing-Lun's use of it in his Snake form (Pa Kua Chang Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 5) is softer, appears to use less force, and yet broadly speaking the movement is the same. Watching this form on video tape drove home to me that I did not really know which movements were original Pa Kua and which were borrowed from Hsing-I or elsewhere, though from reading PKCJ it is clear that there are people who do.
I learned the Chinese names of each of the movements, with their English translations, but have not included them in this article as the same names seem to be applied to different movements in different styles of Pa Kua. For instance in the latest Pa Kua book by Robert Smith, the Hawk posture is different form the one I am familiar with. Ji explained to me the self-defense uses of the snake-like arm movements and it reminded me of Aikido moves, but the latter in my experience are more angular, less rounded. Having read Uyeshiba's biography by John Stevens I have always felt that when the founder of Aikido was in China it was possible that he was inspired by Pa Kua techniques, though I have not evidence to prove it. Theofanis Andrews, a Greek Aikido teacher in London, was a pupil of Kazuo Chiba, founder of the British Aikikai. Theofanis is a knowledgeable aikidoka and when I showed him some of the Pa Kua movements he at once commented on certain similarities.
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