Two of Fred Wus students practice the postheaven Ba Gua twoperson exercise

FuXiBa Gua /v'ilj, whereby the practitioner holds static postures while walking the circle. Wu explains that the Fu Xi Ba Gua practice is mainly for Qi (A) development. Wu also refers to the circular Ba Gua method as Ba Da Fan Shen (^^ifl t), or "Eight Big Body Turning" Ba Gua.

Wu says that when teaching beginning students the circular Ba Gua, the first stage is to perform the movements soft and slow so that the mind can learn to dictate what the body is doing and the body will learn to be soft. He states that performing the movements slowly helps train the body to listen to the mind. Additionally, the body can effect the mind. Wu says that when the body is moving slowly, the slow movement creates a calm mind. He emphasizes that this level of training brings the mind and body into balance. Wu also tells his students that although the body becomes soft, it must still have power. The classic saying in the internal arts is that "soft wins over hard," however, the "soft" has to have energy behind it. Wu gives his students the analogy of still air becoming a tornado to demonstrate how something soft can have power.

When walking in the standard Ba Gua Zhang posture, Wu tells his students to concentrate on the "tiger's mouth," located between the index finger and the thumb. He says that the index finger is the leader of the Qi. The shape of the palm is such that the little finger and the ring finger are held together. Wu says that the connection of the little finger and ring finger join the heart and pericardium meridians, strengthens the power of the palm, and forms a very stable striking surface. He says in order to prove this to yourself, go ahead and chop something with the fingers apart and then chop with the fingers together, you will immediately feel the difference. Wu also says that when hitting, one should strike with the bones just at the base of the palm. When the little finger and ring finger are together, it is easier to focus on this point.

When practicing the circular Ba Gua, Wu teaches

two methods of stepping. One is the familiar tang ni bu (if step. In this step the foot slides out flat when the practitioner walks forward. Wu says that his teacher Li Zhuang Fei told him that after the Ba Gua practitioner has practiced the tang ni bu step for several years, the power in the step is such that the practitioner can walk into a rope which has been stretched out at shin level and break it. Li also told Wu that there was an old saying in the Ba Gua community about the circle walk practice which said that when the student first started walking the circle he was to plant a small tree and begin walking around it everyday. When the student had practiced long enough that the tree was taller than the student, he or she would then have skill at circle walking. The other circle walking step Wu teaches is the deng step This is a natural walking step and is used for speed. In this step the heel digs into the ground when stepping.

Wu teaches that in the pre-heaven Ba Gua circular footwork and changing postures, the student learns how to continually change his center so no opponent can touch it. Wu states that if your center is touched, you are in trouble. He says that Sun Lu Tang wrote that Tai Ji Quan empties the center, Ba Gua Zhang changes the center, and Xing Yi Quan ffi ^ J^) fortifies the center. Wu explains that all three techniques convey the same general principle which is that one should protect the center and not let it be controlled by the opponent. He teaches his Ba Gua students how to perform all three skills - empty the center, move the center, and fortify the center.

Wu tells his students that although the body becomes soft, it must still have power.

When teaching the post-heaven Ba Gua, Wu emphasizes that Guang Hua Mountain Ba Gua makes full use of kicking, fists, elbows, hips, shoulders, back, knees, and forehead as well as the palms. He says that some practitioners mistakenly think that Ba Gua Zhang only utilizes the palms in application. All of Wu's students are required to go through hand-finger-fist hardening training similar to Tie Sha Zhang's Mung bean thrusting. His students also undergo "body abuse training" or Pei Da Gong. When his students are ready to learn the post-heaven set, he teaches them one new set per week and thus it takes them sixty-four weeks to learn the entire set. But this is only the beginning. Wu states that just as the hexagrams of the Yi Jing ( % M. - Book of Changes) have six changing lines, each of the sixty-four sets of the post-heaven Ba Gua has six variations. He explains that each of the six variations associated with each of the sixty-four post-heaven sets are very effective when used in fighting, they are actually referred to as "poison techniques" in Chinese. Wu states that variation is the most important aspect in learning how to fight. He says that the basic linear form movements are practiced so that the student can understand the main points of the practice such as structure, coordination, and timing. Learning how to really apply the techniques in fighting comes from studying the six variations.

In training his students, Wu will show them three of the variations of each of the sixty-four sets and then require the students to figure out the other three on their own through research of the principles associated with each set. Wu says that requiring the students to conduct their own research to figure out the variations teaches them to think for themselves. He states that this part of the training comes from Han Mu Xia. Han taught six variations to each of his straight line Guang Hua Ba Gua sets in his system.

After Wu's students learn and practice the 64 fighting techniques of the post-heaven Guang Hua Ba Gua, he shows them the two-person sets in order to teach them to develop proper distance, timing, power and speed in applying their techniques. Subsequent to the two-person sets, Wu's students are required to go through many weeks of free sparring practice amongst themselves and with students from other schools. Later, they advance to learn Ba Gua weaponry.

Beyond Simple Form Practice

Fred Wu's teaching philosophy, which comes from his teacher Li Zhuang Fei, is to teach his students so that they become better than he is. He emphasizes that they should take what he has given them and go forward to research and improve the art. Wu often tells his students that their have been a good number of researchers and scholars in every field of endeavor who have invented new ideas, new methods, new developments, and went on to win Nobel prizes while their colleagues simply teach the old methods without exploring the boundaries of their work. Wu states that in order to improve our arts, we want progress, advances, and new developments, not teachers who are always better than their students because they hold them back. He encourages his students to look beyond what they have been taught.

Wu says that the best part of the practice is to learn how to transcend the "practice." When performing the pre-heaven form movements, it is not simply a matter of walking around in circles and changing the postures - it becomes a meditation. The concentration is focused on the lower dan tian the energy power house of the body. When the power house becomes full, the energy moves up to the other two dan tians (middle and upper) and then the Bai Hui point at the crown of the head opens. When this happens the practitioner can receive messages from nature and sharpen the intuition. This is moving beyond the realm of normal physical exercise.

Wu also encourages his students to study the philosophical principles which form the theory of Ba Gua practice. He says that if a practitioner does not know the theory and philosophy, they cannot research the art beyond what their teacher has taught them. The philosophy is worth pursuing in order to develop as an artist and an individual. Wu feels that learning the history of a style and its philosophy will help the student understand all aspects of the art.

Fred Wu now teaches students at his home in Worthington, Ohio. He currently teaches Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, and other various forms of gong fu.

Footnote:

1) The existence of the Daoist Bi Cheng Xia and his students is a popular topic of debate among Ba Gua Zhang practitioners. See Pa Kua Chang Journal Vol. 3, No. 2

Footnote:

1) The existence of the Daoist Bi Cheng Xia and his students is a popular topic of debate among Ba Gua Zhang practitioners. See Pa Kua Chang Journal Vol. 3, No. 2

Cheng Gong Wus

Fred Wu's teacher, Li Zhuang Fei, studied with both Gao Yi Sheng and Han Mu Xia. Han Mu Xia was one of Zhang Zhou Dong's top Xing Yi and Ba Gua students. Han Mu Xia is shown above (seventh from the left - tall man in center to the right of the small child). Han Mu Xia also taught Ba Gua and Xing Yi to Zhou En Lai. Zhou is standing ninth from the left. One of Zhang Zhou Dong's other top students, Liu Pu Qing is standing third from left. Liu Hai Tao is standing fifth from left (on the left side of the small child). The group is standing in front of Han Mu Xia's school.

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