Part Three of our re-translation and commentary of the Ba Gua Zhang’s 36 Songs covers Songs 13-24. The commentaries for each song are excerpted from Writings on Ba Gua Zhang Skills (八卦掌术集成) by Guo Gu Min (郭古民).
The 36 Songs give critical advice about the body alignments and training methods of Ba Gua Zhang.
For Part 1 – Songs 1-12: CLICK HERE
For Part 2 – Songs 13-24: CLICK HERE
When the eyes arrive, the hands arrive and the Yao and legs arrive,
Then the heart, Shen, and power (Li) can be true.
When three trues and four arrivals combine into one,
Enough to defend yourself and defeat others.
The eyes watches the six directions, the Yao and leg must follow when the hand arrives, and the Heart-Mind must be united and integrated with the Spirit (Shen). In addition interior and exterior combine and assist the true power. Watching the six directions, it is possible to know the strength and weakness of the opponent. Once strength and weakness are understood, the Heart-Mind can identify the interior, and true power can attack the exterior. Then there is more than enough to spare to defend yourself and gain victory.
眼到手到腰腿到，Gen Dao Shou Dao Yao Tui Dao,
心真神真力又真。Xin Zhen Shen Zhen Li You Zhen.
三真四到合一处，San Zhen Si Dao He Yi Chu,
防己有余能制人。Ji You Yu Neng Zhi Ren
The power must be both firm, but more importantly yielding,
Difficult to achieve skill if firmness or gentleness is over-emphasized.
It is natural that the overly hard can be broken.
While too much yielding is useless.
If great power is used, great force can suppress it. Both require power. All living things, big or small contain power within. No matter the amount of power, it is necessary to distinguish between hard, firm force and yielding, pliant force. Being too firm is not good, and being too pliant and yielding is also not good. Firm and hard objects easily break and objects that are too pliant and yielding easily wilt. Therefore, firmness and yielding must be appropriate and must mutually assist each other. Firmness can be used to smash and break, and yielding changes and dissolves to dissolve things. Only using both can there be success.
力要刚兮更要柔，Li Yao Gang Xi Geng Yao Rou,
刚柔偏重功难收。Gang Rou Pian Zhong Gong Nan Shou.
过刚必折真物理，Guo Gang Bi Zhe Zhen Wu Li,
优柔太盛等于休。You Rou Tai Cheng Deng Yu Xiu.
What is said about how firmness and suppleness compliment each other?
There is nothing difficult in the inter-coordination of firmness and suppleness.
Firmness and suppleness should be used with the Qian and Kun hands,
Open heaven and uncover earth like surging sea waves.
The mutual assistance of firmness and supple pliancy means there is an integration of hard and firm and soft ad supple. Firmness corrects excessive supple pliancy, thereby avoiding avoid weakness. Suppleness dissolves and transforms excess firmness, preventing defeat form a stronger force. This is called mutual assistance and inter-coordination.
When the theory of the firmness and gentleness is clear, it is possible to talk about t methods of applications, i.e. “Qian-Heaven and Kun-Earth Hands”. Qian is attributed to the Heaven, Yang and firmness. Kun is attributed to the Earth, Yin and suppleness. In relation to two palms, one palm up and one palm down is Qian-Kun hand. In application, with one hand above the other hand, they can go upward and downward like surging waves.
刚柔相济是何言，Gang Rou Xing Ji Shi He Yan,
刚柔相辅总无难。Gang Rou Xing Fu Zong Wu Nan.
刚柔当用乾坤手，Gang Rou Dang Yong Qian Kun Shou,
掀天揭地海波澜。Xian Tian Jie Die Hai Bo Lan.
It is the correct method that I am supple when the opponent is firm.
It is also a good that I am supple when the opponent is firm.
When firm and supple meet, seek victory through the Yao,
The issue is resolved through strong footwork.
When the opponent is firm and I am supple, use the walking method to change and transform. This is the superior principle. When am firm and the opponent dissolves my firmness with suppleness, this also a good way to achieve victory – I must also use the walking method, extending the Yao and dissolving with the legs in order to be victorious.
When the opponent is both firm and supple my solution is to walk. All depends on walking forward, walking backward, using following steps and striding in order to control the opponent according to the situation. In general, when firm and gentle meet, victory and defeat will be decided by the Yao and the footwork.
人刚我柔是正方, Ren Gang Wo Rou Shi Zheng Fang,
我刚人柔法亦良。Wo Gang Ren Rou FaYi Liang.
刚柔相遇腰求胜，Fang Rou Xiang You Yao Qiu Sheng,
解此纠纷步法强。Jie Ci Jiu Fen Bu Fa Qiang.
When employing footwork, first lift the Yao,
Gathering and contracting appropriately appears miraculous.
If the foot needs to move and the Yao does not move,
The steps will be unsteady and the opportune moment will be lost.
In the body, the Yao dominates. The movements of the body, hand, foot, every action and movement all emanate from the Yao. Therefore, when stepping one must first engage the Yao, then the steps can change and transform and become light, circular and lively. If gathering and withdrawing are well combined, offense and defense are easy and skillful. If the foot desires to move, but the Yao does not move, everything will be stiff and stagnant. Furthermore, if the footwork is not properly controlled, movement will be faulty fault and even if an opportunity appears, it would be lost.
步法动时腰先提，Bu Fa Dong Shi Yao Xian Ti,
收缩合宜显神奇。Shou Suo He Yi Xian Shen Qi.
足欲动兮腰不动，Zu Yu Dong Xi Yao Bu Dong,
踉跄迈去误时机。Liang Qiang Mai Qu Wu Shi Ji.
When turning the body and changing the step should not be long,
Rub the ground and do not become flustered.
Observe the line of attack and then extend the hand,
Like a skillful woman threading a needle be steady, yielding, and firm.
When changing postures and rotating; in every movement, the steps must be small. Avoid big and long steps. Small steps are fast and sudden, going out rapidly, so that it is difficult for the opponent to escape. Therefore, one must walk by rubbing the ground with stable without haste and without missing the opportunity. In order to ensure there is no mistake, one must clearly the opponent’s gestures and line of attack before the hand goes out to respond. Remember this is like a skillful woman threading a needle. The inner intention is stable, precise firm and pliable. Then one can issue speed and power.
转身变法步莫长，Zhuan Shen Bian Fa Bu Mo Chang,
擦地而行莫要慌。Ca Di Er Xing Mo Yao Haung.
看准来路方伸手，Kan Zhun Lai Lu Fang Shen Shou,
巧女穿针稳柔刚。Qiao Nu Chuan Zhen Wen Rou Gang.
When the opponent has a sharp weapon do not rush,
Even if a flying sword comes toward my body from a distance,
I observe its approach as use “Hun” and “Ha” to avoid.
Like the excellent phrase, “evil cannot triumph over righteousness.”
When fighting with an opponent, even if he has a sharp weapon, don’t panic. With focused Jing Shen watch the weapon of the enemy. Even if he has a “Flying Sword” (Fei Jian) that can attack form far away, there are still methods of defense. If you are seized with panic, the opponent will seize the opportunity.
When the opponent’s sharp weapon comes to the side of the body, you must carefully discern its route of attack. Although empty-handed you can rely Hun and Ha to intimidate and surprise the opponent so that he can be defeated. Use Zheng Qi to suppresses the opponent’s evil intention.
Translators Note: Fei Jian is a legendary sword that can kill from miles away.
人持利器我不忙，Ren Chi Li Qi Wo Bu Mang,
飞剑遥遥到身旁。Fei Jian Yao Yao Dao Shen Pang.
看他来路哼哈避，Kan Ta Lai Lu Heng Ha Bi,
邪不胜正语颇良。Xie Bu Sheng Zheng Yu Po Liang.
It seems difficult to defend in fighting with short weapons,
No need to fear even if there is a sharp fish intestine knife.
Simply extend the hand to take it like reaching into a bag,
The secret is concealed in point at the mountain to strike the millstone.
When fighting at close quarters has an urgency that is like the spark of a fire, however defense is difficult if one hurries too much. Better to be calm and composed waiting for the opponent to move so you can take him.
Although the opponent’s weapon is very sharp and dangerous like a fish knife, just extend the hand and it is like taking something out of a bag (or “stealing candy from a baby”). How is this possible? By using the method of “pointing at the mountain to strike the millstone.” Feint to the east to strike the west to confuses the opponent, giving you an opportunity to enter and defeat him. This method of leading the opponent into a trap is marvelous beyond words
- A fish intestine knife may refer to a small, thin and very sharp blade for gutting and boning fish
- The expression, 犹如探囊取物 (Yu Rou Tan Nang Qu Wu) – “like taking something from a bag,” can also mean “like stealing candy from a baby.”
短兵相接似难防，Duan Bing Xiang Jie Si Nan Fang,
哪怕锋利似鱼肠。Na Pa Feng Li Si Yu Chang.
伸手来取探囊物，Shen Shou Lai Qu Nang Zhong Wu,
指山打磨妙中藏。Zhi Shan Da Mo Miao Zhong Zang.
When it is difficult to stop many attackers by force alone,
Cleverly offset a thousand kilo force without rushing
One hand’s labor is not needed, just rely on finger force,
Even a plough ox fears the bending of the bow.
When I am hopelessly outnumbered, it is impossible to achieve victory by force alone. I must win by strategy – cleverly off-setting thousand kilos. Piercing through the flowers to strike the willow, or pointing to the east to strike the west. This is the method of drawing the opponent into an ambush. I can win victory just through finger-force alone. Even if the opponent is as strong as an ox, he still fears the whip.
人众我寡力难挡，Ren Zhong Wo Gua Li Nan Dang,
巧破千钧莫要忙。Qiao Po Qian Jun Mo Yao Mang.
一手不劳凭指力，Yi Shou Bu Lao Ping Zhi Li,
犁牛犹怕反弓张。Li Niu You Pa Fan Gong Zhang.
When you cannot see the hand extended in front of you,
And there is no oil lamp to illuminate the opponent’s body,
Narrow your eyes and look attentively.
Using the lower palm position is quite miraculous.
In the daytime, it is easy to contend with the enemy. At night, in the dark, you cannot see your own finger or even the opponent who is right in front of you. What can you do? You must stick to the body method and extend the palm directly forward. If there are no torches, lamps or candles for illumination, what can you do? Contract the eyelids and look carefully and hard with the eyes. It is easy to be victorious using the lower basin posture.
伸手不见前掌伸，Shen Shou Bu Jian Qian Zhang Shen,
又无油松照彼身。You Wu You Song Zhao Bi Shen.
收缩眼皮努睛看，Shou Sou Yan Pi Nu Jing Kan,
底盘掌使显神奇. Di Pan Zhang Shi Xian Shen Qi.
On icy, snowy, or rainy days when the ground is muddy and slippery,
Do not hesitate to step the front foot horizontal.
When turning the body, do not turn like a screw,
Carefully avoid high and low and all will be fine.
If it is difficult to deal with the enemy when the ground is frozen and covered with snow, or slippery and muddy as on a cloudy or rainy day. You must place the front foot transversely, in a T-shaped step, in order to stabilize the body and avoid leaning or tilting. In advancing ad retreating remember to move the foot directly forward, and follow with the rear foot, otherwise, it is easy to fall forward or backward. When turning the body to change postures, regardless of the height of the posture, do not rotate the foot like a screw. Any carelessness will bring about disaster and you will fall down.
冰天雪地雨泞滑，Bing Tian Xue Di Yu Ning Hua,
前叫横使切莫差。Qian Jiao Heng Shi Qie Mo Cha.
翻身切忌螺丝转，Fan Shen Qie Ji Luo Si Zhuan,
高低紧避乃为佳。Gao Di Jin Bi Nai Wei Jia.
In fighting the most vital factor is Jing Shen,
With brilliant Jing Shen ears and eyes are true.
No matter that the opponent’s hands flies quickly like a swallow,
I can perceive ants murmuring like the roars of dragons and tigers.
When applying techniques the most important thing is vigorously promote and arouse the Jing Shen. If Jing Shen is full and vigorous one is capable of handling any situation. When Shen and Qi are ample and full, hearing and vision become clear and distinct. Even if the opponent is fast and quick, like a flying swallow, I handle his movements by adhering to the principle of stillness governing movement in order to be victorious. I hear the cry of an ant like a dragon howling or a tiger roaring – implying a concentrated and focused Shen and Yi
用时最要是精神，Yong Shi Zui Yao Shi Jing Shen,
精神焕发耳目真。Jing Shen Huan Fa Er Mu Zhen.
任凭他人飞燕手，Ren Ping Ta Ren Fei Yan Shou,
蚁鸣我听虎龙吟。Yi Ming Wo Ting Hu Long Yin