Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Brief Introduction to Master Dong Haiquan

(from Wang Shujin's, Bagua Zhang Connected Palms, translated by Kent Howard)

It is said that Master Dong was a born in Wen An County in present day Hebei Province. As a young man, he loved to gamble and often got himself into trouble. Finally he had to flee his home to live in the capitol, Beijing. But being very poor, and having no one to turn to, he soon decided to travel to the south and hide in the mountains. After a journey long and fraught with difficulties, he finally reached Mount Ermei in Szechuan Province. There he happened upon two old Daoist masters named Gu Jizi and Shang Daoyuan. They asked young Master Dong his reasons for coming to the mountains, and, liking his character and bearing, decided to accept him as a disciple and teach him martial arts and transmit the He Lo Classic (an ancient Taoist text).

The two venerable priests taught Master Dong a form of walking meditation that traversed a ba gua circle. They corrected his posture and movements and instructed him saying, "Practice this technique while circling this tree until the tree begins to pursue you, then come report to us. You can feed yourself with food from the granaries and water from the stream." Master Dong was confused by their commands but did not dare to question them. He set about practicing as he was instructed and soon fell into a routine, thus setting his mind at ease. He trained long and hard for seven years until he had worn a path three-feet deep around the tree. Then one day, while circling the tree, Master Dong suddenly observed the tree begin to tremble and lean in toward him, and he achieved sudden enlightenment. This was the fulfillment of the masters' prediction that the tree would "pursue” him.

He reported his breakthrough to his teachers who congratulated him on his progress and praised him as a worthy student. They then instructed him in a method of circling two trees by walking in a figure eight. This young Master Dong did for another two years until, as before, the trees "pursued" him. His teachers again lauded him for his steadfast progress and asked if he were homesick. Dong admitted that he was. Upon hearing this, his masters praised him for not losing his human nature. They then taught him "palm" changes and weapons forms for the next two years. After which, they pronounced his skills complete.

The two old Daoist sages then bid their student farewell and bade him to leave the mountain and return to his village. But they instructed him that, as he passed through cities and towns on his journey, he was to call on the local martial art schools and accept any challenges that came his way. Being a dutiful student, he did as he was told and competed with many boxers during his travels home and was victorious over all comers. With each successful match, the fame of his skills and technique spread throughout the martial arts world.

When Master Dong finally returned to his village, he found his ancestral home abandoned and his parents long dead. It is indeed true that, "The tree wishes to rest but the wind is unceasing; the child longs to support his parents but they are gone." He mourned his parents, paid his last respects to his ancestors, and left his home for the capitol, Beijing, in hopes of establishing himself there.

Having no place to stay in Beijing, and very little money, Master Dong spent his days wandering about the Heaven's Bridge amusement district. In the evenings he slept in the open near Heaven's Altar, where the Emperor performed his annual rites on Lunar New Year. One day the martial arts teacher of a Manchu prince, Hou Zhenyuan, came to Heaven's Altar and happened to notice Master Dong. Despite his somewhat disheveled appearance, Hou observed the young man had a rugged countenance and flashing eyes. He could see that Dong was no ordinary person. After engaging him in conversation, and learning that he, too, was a martial artist, Hou asked him politely for a match of skills.

The two decided on using a straw mat, 6 x 8 feet in diameter, as their ring. Whoever stepped off the mat would be the loser. After Dong won three successive matches, Hou respectfully admitted defeat. But he was so impressed with Master Dong, that he subsequently found him a position as a servant in the palace, in hopes of him someday instructing the prince.

The prince had no knowledge of Master Dong's skills. In fact, the prince was quite proficient in martial arts, practicing daily with great fervor, and had a very high opinion of his own skill. One day while the prince was working out, Master Dong made a small comment about his technique. When the prince heard this, he was quite surprised and ordered Master Dong to demonstrate his own skills before the assembled court. Master Dong's performance so amazed the prince, he realized at once that he was in the company of a true master. Without hesitation, he asked Dong to take him on as a student. From that time forward, Master Dong's fame spread throughout the capitol.

Alas it is said, "A tall tree catches too much wind, and fame attracts envy." Master Dong soon became a magnet for every boxer within a thousand miles who wanted to test his skills against the prince's new teacher. But they all went away with their feathers plucked. Many of these braggadocios exited the palace with stolen treasures and antiques, leaving behind messages daring Master Dong to come and get them. Dong traveled far and wide to retrieve the items in martial contests. Still the challenges and thievery continued over the course of many years, and Master Dong found little rest. Finally, Dong himself was implicated in some sort of criminal activity, and, as punishment, was castrated. From that time forward, the other servants in the palace referred to him as "Old Eunich" instead of by his name.

As Master Dong grew older, he began to feel the art taught to him by his venerable masters should be passed on to the next generation. He became acquainted with an eyeglass seller who often came to the palace to repair spectacles. His name was Cheng Tinghua. Master Dong was so impressed by Cheng's sincerity that he allowed him to became his first pupil from outside the palace gates. As the years passed, he took on more and more students from Beijing's common society. Thus, over the years, the fame of Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigrams Style) has spread until it has come to rival that of Taiji Quan (Tai Chi) and Xingyi Quan (Form-Mind Boxing) as one of the three great schools of "Internal" martial arts.

When Master Tong passed away at age ninety, his students erected a mausoleum
in his memory outside the West Gate of the capitol. Each year succeeding generations of his students still "sweep his tomb" (perform memorial rites) in his honor. Though this grandmaster of a generation is gone, along with other great masters who followed in his footsteps, his art endures. However, the great social changes of our times have placed his great art in jeopardy of someday fading away from neglect. How sad!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Author's Preface

(from Bagua Zhang Connected Palms, translated by Kent Howard)

Bagua Zhang, Xingyi Quan, and Taiji Quan have always been considered as internal martial arts in China. When Bagua began and who created it is the subject of debate. But it is inarguable that previous sages have passed it on, crystallized from their heart and blood for generations. It was not until the waning years of the Manchu Dynasty, and the efforts of Master Dong Haiquan, that Bagua became well-known to the common people.

In the beginning Master Dong taught only in the Imperial Palace; it was only in later years that be began accepting students from outside. From that time, however, his door was crowded with disciples "like a noisy market." Among his more famous students were Cheng Tinghua, Yin Fu, Liang Zhenpu, Sung Yungxiang, Shr Baoshan, Liu Fengchun, Li Cunyi, and my teacher, Zhang Zhaodong. Each in turn had their own disciples who in succession helped Bagua Zhang to flourish.

In the spring of 1923, at the age of 18, I began studying Bagua and Xingyi under the guidance of Master Zhang. In 1934 I also studied Post Standing (Zhan Zhuang) with Master Zhang's martial arts brother, Wong Xiangzhai. They were two of the best known teachers of their era—highly skilled, morally irreproachable, and strict disciplinarians. In 1939 I also studied Bagua Zhang for over a year with Ciao Haibo. Master Ciao had previously studied at Lo Jin Mountain, about 50 miles from Mt. Er Mei. When I learned from him, he was already over 90 years of age. As a teacher, he was a gentle, scholarly, and patient—truly a model for our generation! I originally studied a form of Sz Lianquan (4 connected fists). The hand movements were very similar to Chen Style Taiji Quan.

In 1951, three years after arriving in Taiwan, I happened to meet my former martial arts senior, Chen Banling. We shared a great deal of martial knowledge with each other. We examined techniques already mastered, for their good and bad points, and transformed our combined experience into a new style of Chen Taiji Quan. Master Chen has since passed on and is greatly missed.

There is a saying: Establish virtue and honor as our guiding principle; and our will and purpose will be bound as metal to stone. Thus I took the name of Shu-Jin (establish-metal “establish virtue like metal”) which has often been an inspiration to strengthen my resolve. I have practiced my art for these many years, avoiding social entanglements, following a strict vegetarian regime, meditating daily, practicing Buddhism, and, after my daily labors, practicing martial arts as my sole entertainment.

In the summer of 1948, in an effort to escape social upheaval, I traveled through Shanghai and on to Taiwan, where I established the Cheng-Ming Martial Arts School. There, in the city of Taichung, I taught Bagua Zhang, Xingyi Quan, and Taiji Quan. Over the years, I have taught hundreds of students from all over Taiwan. Many of them have remained faithful to their art and their teacher for these long years.

In 1959 I traveled to Japan where an old acquaintance of mine Wu Botang gave me an introduction to Toyama Izumi, head of the Jodo Association of Japan , who invited me to teach Taiji Quan in his dojo. I later taught Xingyi Quan and Bagua Zhang, also for eight years. In 1963 I traveled to Japan upon accepting an invitation from the Japanese Goju-ryu Karate Association’s Central Karate Dojo. I brought along a disciple and taught for there for over two years. In 1966 I made a another trip to Japan to teach at Korin Temple in Minatoku, Tokyo for over one year.
By 1976 I had made a total of eight visits to Japan. In total, I have taught over twelve hundred students in Japan. Among these were overseas Chinese, Japanese, and foreign tourists. Many of those students were themselves masters and brought with them high-level skills in Judo, Karate, and Aikido. Altogether in Taiwan and Japan my students reached eighteen hundred.
I have had no other desire but to work hard to disseminate and perpetuate my branch of boxing. I am now 74 years old. What more can I ask than to have this stream of my art flow on forever to benefit our people. Be not selfish but ever virtuous and at ease with people. Nourish your own spirit but consider well the views of others. Hold to the middle path and find joy and contentment in your later years.

At the behest of my students, I have written this reference manual for training. My fervent hope, in setting these teachings down in writing, is to avoid contending interpretations and allow all to follow the correct method. When I was young, I learned from famous teachers, and for decades I have been following this great moral and physical Way. Chinese Martial Arts are varied and profound, and their teachings are highly sophisticated. I was a slow and clumsy learner and caught but one-tenth of my master's teachings. How dare I show my ineptitude to all and be ridiculed! And, yet, my students have been so enthusiastic that it is difficult to disappoint them.

Chinese Martial Arts are such an integral part of our cultural heritage. As a member of the Taiwan National Committee on Martial Arts, I feel I have the duty to promote them. I submit this book in order to organize my teachings and present them to the world. I cast forth this brick that others may respond with jade, and together our martial brothers throughout the world will unite in the propagation of our great national art for the benefit of all.

This text is written in a plain style with separate discussions; all movements are analyzed and explained to provide utmost clarity and clear instruction. Individual sections may be practiced separately until you are familiar, and then they may be practiced as a whole. When the upper and lower are balanced and adjusted, the inner and outer united, the right and left harmonized then it is possible to understand the mysteries. This book was rushed into publication and may contain errors and omissions within. If any are found, please correct me.

Wang Shujin of Tianjin
Taichung, Taiwan
August 1978

An Explanation of Bagua Zhang and the Eight Trigrams of the I Ching

(from Wang Shujin's, Bagua Zhang Connected Palms, translated by Kent Howard)

The illustration on this page appears to be pedestrian but is actually profound. In its largest sense it embraces the universe; in its smallest it can encompass a person's body. Cultivating Dao (Tao) and enriching humanity is the essence of Bagua Zhang practice. If you do not grasp the true meaning of the elements within the illustration, even if you follow the instructions step by step and practice hard, your movements will be mechanical and you will not obtain true spiritual growth. Because of this, our teachers valued their art highly and did not transmit it lightly.

The inner circle of the illustration represents the beginning of the concept of duality, commonly called the tai ji form [yin-yang symbol]. The diagram uses the form of two fish swimming to represent tai ji—yin and yang. The taiji symbol is characterized in linear form by the liang yi, or two intentions (— --) From liang yi arises the sz hsiang, or the four directions. From the sz hsiang arises the ba gua, or the eight trigrams. The ba gua represent the basic forms of the natural world from which arises the myriad manifestations of our universe. The ba gua can also be used to express the nature of the divisions within the human body. In Bagua Zhang the head is represented by qian, the abdomen by kun, kidneys by kan, heart by li, sacrum by cun, neck by gen, stomach by zhen, and spleen by dui. It is said that Fu Hsi created ba gua to teach people to harmonize with the flow of yin and yang and to sort out the natural essence of all things in the world.

On the outer circle of the illustration there are eight terms: twei, tuo, dai, ling, ban, kou, pi, and jin. These are the eight major forms of Bagua Zhang. Each form matches with one of the eight trigrams or bagua. The practice of each form should match with the essential character of each trigram. To relate the symbols correctly we must undertand the six rules or methods of creating Chinese calligraphy. In ancient times, before written language, people recorded events by using knotted chords. The markings of ba gua were a more advanced method of recording things. Until Zhang Jie created writing, people collected all manner of marks and forms to create the six methods of creating words. The methods are:

1) xiang xin: using the shapes of things

2) huei yi: using the meaning of things

3) xing shen: imitating the sound of things

4) zhi shi: pointing to symbols

5) zhuan chu: using the definition of things

6) jia jie: borrowing categories

These are the six categories under which Chinese characters are grouped. How Bagua Zhang matches with each trigram is by imitating a portion of the six methods of language creation by using shape, meaning, and borrowing of forms as in the following section.
[editor's note: since the trigrams could not be recreated in this word document, they are laid out in linear form. The first is the top line, the second the middle, and the third the bottom line. ]

(— — —) Qian: The trigram is composed of three unbroken lines, and thus is very yang in nature. The ancient interpretation is that good people should constantly improve themselves like nature. The palm form is twei, or push. Your practice should be like the lines of the trigram—top to bottom, inside and out, with strong and unbroken breath. Qian is the first trigram of the eight. It represents a new beginning. That is why the first form in Bagua Zhang (Single Palm Change) utilizes Qian and the application of twei. If you practice the movements evenly from beginning to end, your blood flow will be smooth; if not, your heart will not open properly and the flow of blood will be blocked.

(-- — --) Kan: According to the trigram shape, the center is full which means sinking inward. It also has the connotation of being dangerous. If you want to avoid danger you need to have a strong will to survive. The palm form is called tuo, to hold up. When you practice tuo you should be like the trigram and be outwardly soft but strong within. Strengthen your heart by collecting your chi. The hand form is smooth and flexible. In this book the fifth form (White Snake Spits Out Tongue) uses both the shape and energy of tuo. If you practice the form smoothly it will elevate the fire in the heart and you will not become dizzy.

(— -- --) Gen: The trigram shape appears like an overturned bowl; the bottom is facing upward and the interior is concealed. The principle of movement is turning back and cutting off. The palm form is dai, to carry. The way to practice dai is to take on the form of Gen itself, and be firm on the top and pliant beneath. Project the energy of stillness and repose. In this book the sixth form (Mighty Peng Spreads Wings) utilizes dai in structure and intention. If practiced well the heart's chi will descend and spread to the four limbs.

(-- -- —) Zhen: The trigram shape is symbolized by a basin standing upright. The principle is one of vibrating or quaking. Powerful actions bring fearful reactions that will lead to order and control. The awe of power opens the way. The palm form is ling, to lead. In practice ling emulates the form of Zhen—yielding above but firm below. Seeking movement within stillness. This is the birth of yang. The intention is one of searching deeply and unpredictable change. The third form (The Hawk Swoops Upward) utilizes the technique of ling as its theme. If practiced correctly the liver's chi will be harmonized; if not you will become easily angered.

(— — --) Cun: The trigram is broken on the bottom. Cun means to enter like the wind. There is no opening so small the wind cannot penetrate. The palm form is ban, to move about. The way to practice Cun is to have firm intent in the middle and upper body while keeping your footwork mobile. The technique is one of carrying. The eighth form (Whirlwind Palms) employs ban as its main action. If practiced smoothly your chi will spread to the four limbs and your body will move like a windmill in a gale.

(— -- —) Li: The composition of the trigram is empty in the center. Li means to adhere to. The palm form is kou, to button or hook. The way to practice kou is to be pliant within and resolute without. Remain flexible in the center like a snake wriggling through a small opening. The second form (Double Palm Change) employs the use of kou to penetrate. If practiced smoothly your mind will melt into emptiness.

(-- -- --) Kun: The trigram is composed of three lines broken into six parts. The ancient meaning of Kun arises from the purity of a female horse. A mare is very mild and composed yet capable to swift and sudden flight. The palm form is pi, to split. The way to perform pi is to have both top and bottom and interior and exterior in harmony. The fourth and sixth forms use pi as their major actions. If practiced smoothly your movements will be light and quick.

(-- — —) Dwei: The trigram is broken on top. Dwei is symbolized by a swamp where water gathers. Here it represents something more like a pond. The palm form is jin, to enter. In practice jin is soft and supple on top and firm and strong below. The form is contracted like a crouching tiger ready to spring forward. The seventh form (White Ape Offers a Peach) employs jin. If the movements are practiced smoothly, your lung chi will be pure and fluid; if not, your chi will not be harmonized and it may lead to asthmatic wheezing.

The definitions above are just rough explanations of a much larger picture. As for the details, it depends upon the learner himself to study, question, consider, analyze, and practice in order to find deeper meaning. The eight forms should also be examined and practiced individually. In conclusion, the more diligently you study the greater your return. Bagua Zhang forms imitate the nature of heaven and earth. Follow the principles of yin-yang and harmonize with the seasons, and you will benefit humanity by developing a more universal view of life. Embracing the yin-yang fish and treading the ba gua diagram you will walk the circle as though striding through the cosmos.