Thursday, October 25, 2012

Baguazhang / Pa Kua Chang / Po Kwa Zen, Old School Ideas and Movement

The higher levels of Kuntao Silat contain internal forms of movement and training methods for use in combat. It does utilize the acquisition, storage and movement of qi or chi at the higher levels once the external methods of movement and structure of the forms have been appropriately mastered.  Prior to studying with Uncle I studied a Cheng system of Baguazhang, spelled out Pa Kua Chang at the time.  I had six years of intense study and practice with Sifu Cheng. Yes, virtually every day of practice as I and he wished me to learn the system asap due to his very advanced age; therefore, many of the old Chinese ways of holding back were dispensed with once he was satisfied with my character and mental acumen.  Understand, this did involve me  agreeing to only show the movements "appropriately" to students who have displayed a certain loyalty and ability.  Yes, still the old ways attached.  Hey, I agreed to it, and while the old strategies seem anachronistic in today's world, there is certainly wisdom to be gained from the ideas involved.  In fact, for much of my past, while being a student or an instructor I would simply move or show something exactly at, or just below, the ability of my training partner.  Why?  As a student, I'm there to learn, not show what I know.  Blank slates and empty cups retain more information, and without interference from previously learned material it's learned more completely.  I'm also not there to compete with my training partner.  I'm there to learn, and help my partner learn.  Consistently whacking my partner with something just because I can, or know something else, is flatly not helping either one of us learn anything except that I'm a selfish ass.  As an instructor, showing proper internal structure and flow while breaking down external movement distracts the student from what you're actually teaching and is far beyond what they are trying to understand.  They have no framework in which to operate or comprehend. As an instructor at a seminar I would frequently show movement just above the person I was teaching.  That way, they would actually learn and be able to incorporate the movement instead of mimic the movement poorly and not be able to recall what I was trying to teach only to remember the movement(s) improperly and propagate a falsehood. Would you teach Calculus I to someone who hasn't learned Algebra I?  No, because you couldn't. You could try, but all that would happen is frustration and misunderstanding leading to improperly understood movements, principles and concepts coupled with a student that thinks "I have it!" and nothing could be further from the truth.  Moreover, using a Taoist concept, humbling oneself by not displaying knowledge especially if learned somewhere else, allows another person to understand you have nothing to prove, and is a show of respect.  Tactically, if you don't really know another person's intentions why let them know you are much further along in real ability than you actually are?  Yes, it has actually worked out well for me in the past allowing people think I know, and can perform, far less than I do.  Besides, I have nothing to prove to them and don't really care what they think.  Truly.  I've had many think that and wish to "spar" (not drill but actually trade spontaneous, free-for-all strikes and throws), but suddenly realize much of what they assumed was incorrect, and I'm not moving like they observed in the past, and goddamnit he hits much harder than I thought he did, why doesn't anything work like it's supposed to...?  (Note: the pretense of sparring was often a reason to actually fight me due to their own insecurities.  Another thing they didn't know was that I genuinely loved to fight in the past.  Call it a psychological flaw that has been overcome.)

That said, old school methods spawn the idea of "secrets", but there really are none.  It is merely knowledge and understanding at different levels.  The analogy of mathematics is appropriate here. Overall circumstances dictate what may be performed or revealed for a myriad of reasons.

The reason I typed the previous is simply to state that the embedded video contains Cheng style Baguazhang demonstrated at a level not typically learned until the practitioner reaches a certain level of ability.  It makes me smile that a Chinese group has decided to demonstrate it to the public.  Baguazhang rarely displays jings within the form except to advanced practitioners, and not because it's a secret, but because someone who hasn't mastered the movements without jings can't possibly perform them properly, and will only cause injury or improper movement in an attempt to duplicate what they think is happening.  Most of the Baguazhang practitioners I've met aren't even aware that the type of movement shown is even possible within Baguazhang.  Yep, it is.  Worked on diligently in fact.  Of course, they could've simply been avoiding  the totality of their knowledge and ability because I'm just a white guy that isn't showing anything special.  That's cool, too.  No reason they should.  You will notice that there are no applications in the video.

Baguazhang is often known as Po Kwa Zen within Indonesia. Be certain that the Indonesians utilize internal energy in their forms and transmit the knowledge and practice.  The methods are there.  It's just that most folks never reach the level where they are able to learn it.  Notice the skeletal structure of the person in the video as compared to Hakka Kun Tao practitioners and the huge similarities despite the difference in the styles.

Keep at it, don't stop training, and you will learn that secrets are merely something you haven't learned yet because a proper foundation must be laid.  I tell all of my students from the very first day, "You have to change everything you understand about the way you move to learn this properly."

I wish to sincerely thank Uncle and Sifu Cheng for allowing me to learn and practice their arts.