Tag: Introduction

Origin of Baguazhang

Line drawing of many colorful books

There is little doubt that Dong Haichuan (1797 - 1882) created and formalized the martial art of baguazhang. When discussing the creation of a formalized martial art, identifying the actual events that contributed to its development is difficult. Fanciful stories cast the art as the creation of a legendary figure, or as the secret teachings of a reclusive master. In the case of Dong Haichuan, he was both legendary and historical.

The widely accepted historical account of baguazhang’s development says that Dong was a member of the Quanzhen (Complete Truth) sect of Daoism. The Complete Truth Daoist walked in a circle while chanting as a method of meditation.

Dong Haichuan loved to practice martial arts, and he was skilled in bafanquan (Eight Rotating Boxing). He synthesized bafanquan’s straight line techniques with circle walking to form his own art called Turning Palm.

Introduction

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The Making of Legends

The Daoist Temple at Wudang Mountain

Zhang Sanfeng (1247 - 1370) is a legendary figure of Daoism, and the mythical creator of taijiquan. Some stories about Zhang Sanfeng place him as early as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 - 960 CE) when China was undergoing a period of disunion. Others place him in the Song dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) which saw many achievements in science, philosophy, and arts, including the first use of printing (700 years before Europe), and the use of gunpowder in grenades.

If Zhang Sanfeng existed, he was probably born in 1247 and lived during the years of Marco Polo’s (1254 - 1324 CE) visit to China. He studied Buddhism and martial arts at the Shaolin temple before leaving and establishing the Daoist temples at Wudang Mountain.

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Knowing Yourself

Mindfulness Martial Arts Student Self-Evolution Blog

In the late summer of 1993, I was working for a convenience store chain in Wichita, Kansas. During a shift change, I kneeled to open the safe and there was a loud pop from somewhere below my waist. It was so loud that both the manager I was relieving, and the customer he was serving asked, “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “but tell you one thing, I really need to start exercising.”

“Exercise. Don’t you guys get enough exercise around here,” the customer said, “You’re going a hundred miles an hour, day and night in this place.”

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A line drawing graphic of the Earth

Before you start physical exercise, take a moment to consider if you can engage in the motion requirements of that activity.

You never consider your physical condition when you bend down to pick up a dropped piece of paper or grab a suitcase from the baggage carousel at the airport. During these innocent movements you will hear the back crack, or the hip pop, and you find yourself in the doctor’s office seeking relief.

It was not the innocent movement at the office or airport that caused the pain or injury. It was the lack of motion, or the repetition of thousands of other motions that created the conditions for the innocent movement to become a life changing experience. Picking up your luggage or bending to tie your shoe is a motion that your body can perform. It is a wonderfully designed machine with levers and pulleys all cooperating to perform the most wonderful feat in the natural world—walking upright.

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Vocabulary

A page from the dictionary defining definition

Vocabulary is the foundation to understanding a subject. Martial art practice is filled with words that have similar meaning or are used interchangeably. When forced to put my practice into writing I discovered that in a single paragraph I would skip between form and posture in the same description. Is the Taijiquan a sequence or a routine? Is a static position a posture or a form? The interchange of the words forms, posture, and stance creates confusion. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, sequence, or routine? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?

To avoid confusion, I promise to try and use the following the terms when presenting the physical practices in these lessons.

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Earth Dragon Canon Method of Practice

The Earth Dragon Canon Method of mindfulness martial art practice teaches the functional practices for the internal martial arts of baguazhang, taijiquan, xingyiquan, and yiquan. You will learn about the history of these arts and the cosmological concepts that give them their names.

Mindfulness martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It is an exploration of the mind through the body, and conversely the body through the mind. The Earth Dragon Canon Method stresses that connection to fulfill practical and spiritual growth.

There are two types of students that will find this method of practice useful: Those seeking a fitness program that is more than just running and jumping about, and those seeking to improve their martial art practice.

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Pinyin

The Pinyin system is the accepted standard for the romanization of Chinese characters. Pinyin means spell sound and is used to teach the standard pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese. It is also the standard system for entering Chinese characters on computers. Because of this standardization, it is the method used in this book.

You can be confident that if you pronounce the words as I present them in these lessons, you are close to the actual Chinese pronunciation. I am not a Chinese language speaker, and I do not get these pronunciations correct each time either. The following chart helps me with some tricky characters:

LetterPronunciation
afather
aieye
anggang
bbay or spit
chats
chchurch or nuture
dstay
eher
eieight or hey
engsung
erare
jjeep or ajar
isee
iaasia or yard
ieyes
osaw
ppay
qcheer
rleisure
shshirt
tturn
urude
xshe
yflee or yea
zreads or suds
zhjunk

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Martial Arts in Anger

Signpost to practice and learning

In my software development career, in anger was a phrase that meant you were developing a program or a process out of frustration with what was available. I share my mindfulness martial art practice out of a similar frustration.

The trend in martial art practice is to stress combat effectiveness. Publications, videos, and teachers stress the art’s brutal nature, claiming that it was born in combat and violence. For certain, martial arts are combat training, but unless you are preparing for war, there is no need for that training to be brutal, or even violent. This is not the twelfth or even the nineteenth century when personal disputes were decided with duels to the death.

So, it is in anger that I approach the definition of martial arts and the reasons to practice them.

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