I have mentioned many times that the Baguazhang Linear or "Fighting Form" is the supreme ultimate of all Bagua movement. The reason is that this form imparts everything that one is trying to achieve from a form of movement. Depending upon the way that this form is performed, you will gain great health and spiritual benefits when done as a Baguazhang Qigong method and great fighting or self defence ability when it is done as a real fa-jing or 'explosive energy' form.
I have been experimenting with this form for over 25 years and it continues to amaze me every time I practice as to the complexity and different areas that just happen when one 'gets it right'. And the similarities to Tai Chi are uncanny but only when Tai Chi is performed at its highest levels; those of 'Rolling Thunder' 'Stone Hands', 'Waving Form' and 'Activation and Manifestation of the Yin and Yang' ways of doing Tai Chi. It's not so much the movement, but rather what it does to you and how you feel while doing those movements that have a close similarity.
Baguazhang Qigong Linear Form
The Baguazhang Qigong way of performing the Bagua Linear form is for me the most amazing set of movements ever invented. However, the more explosive form of fa-jing is also quite an amazing way to do Bagua, but more on that one later. The intricacies of the Qigong Bagua method are quite intricate and can only really be taught by watching and allowing your sub-conscious mind to pick up the subtleties in each movement. This is the main learning tool for this form done in this manner and also in the Fa-Jing way. However, it is also quite important to have someone teach you the movements and be able to explain each intricacy after you have seen the instructor doing the movement at its highest level. In order for the advanced student to pick it up quicker, those tiny internal movements that can only be seen by the trained eye must be explained by the instructor as to where they are, and how to perform them. The ideal way is for the instructor to do the movement of each posture and feel it himself, what is happening inside, how his mind feels, how his body feels. He must do each posture in sequence with at least one or two of the movements either side of the movement that you are learning in order for his body and mind to weld into one. Then he must try to explain and communicate those feelings to the student so that they will at least have half a chance of gaining it for themselves.
The masters of old were people of great genius and more importantly of great internal power and they knew how movement affected the body and mind so that the Qi or 'energy' would circulate at a balanced and constant rate, thus bathing each internal organ in life-giving Qi and also storing and releasing Qi for the external healing side as well as for the fighting side. They knew that what one, for instance, did with the arms in conjunction with the legs and rest of the body did was very important so they invented movement that gently stretched and twisted the arms in particular in order to work each of the 6 main meridians in the arms. So there is much rolling of the arms during this form practice. As well as this, they also knew that it was important to have special points during the form where the Qi would be stored, gathered, purified and then circulated and these postures are known as static Baguazhang Qigong Postures in this form. They are spread out at particular intervals and it's quite amazing that when you come to one of these postures, it just feels right at that point in the form and the feeling during these postures, even I find difficult to express using physical language. This is why it is important for the student to actually see the teacher doing these postures in particular so that he or she can perhaps pick up a little of what is going on inside.
The whole Baguazhang Qigong Form is, for the most part done as slowly as a slow Tai Chi form, with the exception of the static Baguazhang Qigong stances and a few other movements where the Qi seems to want to flow freely into the next movement in the 'Clouds Following' tradition of Baguazhang. So this very long and usually tiring form when done at full pace, takes some time to finish. The difference however, is that at the end, one feels fully refreshed and alive and is able to and want to, go and do other tasks with a clear and balanced mind. The fa-jing form gives you the opposite balance in that you feel like you have gone of a 4 mile run and have been carrying weight all the way! So both ways are essential for a proper balance. Unlike Tai Chi, it is my hope that people never forget about the explosive way of performing Bagua as it imparts a completely balanced set of movement. Tai Chi does as well, however, as we all know, with most Tai Chi schools, the explosive self defence part has been forgotten over the years because the slow form was relatively easier to do and was 'nicer' to do.
Each of the static Baguazhang Qigong stances imparts something different in one's training. So you might be performing the first of these static postures called "Embrace The Sun" Photo No. 1 which will work upon the ground Qi or Stomach Qi to give great grounding skills. The next of the Baguazhang Qigong postures is called "Holds The Heaven/Sky" which works upon the Life Force Qi. Photo No. 2. Or you might be performing the next in the Static Qigong stances called "Play The Instrument", Photo No. 3 which will work upon the Heart and Lungs which are the power house of the body's energy system. This posture is normally followed directly by the first Static Posture called "Embrace The Sun" which grounds the Qi that is stored and gathered during this posture.
Baguazhang Qigong Photos One, Two and Three:
This form also has what is called in Tai Chi, "Qi Activation and Manifestation of Yin and Yang" as I have already discussed in a recent article on our Summer Camp 2007. Each hand works in perfect harmony when one palm will activate the Qi for healing or self defence while the other palm will release the Qi for those reasons. This area is quite difficult to teach physically as it just seems to happen when one's body is in harmony with the internal Qi flow. So once again, it is a matter of watching and learning with a little help from some well placed verbal and physical help.
The Fa-Jing Explosive Method.
Fa-jing is small, so small, that when you see it performed correctly, you no longer see a set of movements but rather a set of explosions! The mind is fooled in to thinking that we are doing much more physical work as so much Qi is used and stored during this process. So energy is sent out to each muscle group at a great rate thus causing each muscle to be worked. And although this type of method might only take several minutes, it feels like you have run 4 miles while pumping iron! The whole body gets a huge work out, arms, shoulders, chest, legs etc., are all exercised and balanced perfectly. After some time of this practice you will notice that your correct muscle groups for fighting have all increased in size but not like a body builder. You will have a well balanced body with each set of muscles working in harmony to gain the maximum amount of power for your body size. And it is said that if one is able to perform the Circular Classical Bagua form, then go straight into the fa-jing linear form and not drop dead, then your fitness is really getting up there to supreme athlete status. Even if you begin with good intentions and only wish to perform the Qigong method of Linear practice, you will notice that your body wants to get faster and faster as you progress, until without knowing, you will be at full speed and power. This is because as the Qi becomes more centred and begins to build up because of the Qigong method, the body wants to release this energy. And it is OK to do it this way and it is natural for the body to want to do this. So in effect there are actually 3 ways to do the Linear form. Qigong method, Fa-Jing method and half and half method.
Camp 2007 was the best ever WTBA gathering. And it was partly because I taught the basic Bagua Linear form as the main movement for that camp. It just seems to impart a feeling of wellbeing and balance within. There was more friendship at this camp than any other and I hope that this will continue into future Summer camps. Come along and see.