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Training Methods of Ba Gua Zhang – Part 2

Jiang Rong-Jiao‘s advice for training Ba Gua Zhang is profound. Jiang’s seventeen points offer students one of the most succinct and to-the-point guides to correct Ba Gua practice. This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read Part 1 HERE.

The below translation is an excerpt from Jiang’s book, BA GUA ZHANG. Translated by Huang Guo-Qi and edited by Tom Bisio. 

八卦掌的锻炼方法

1. Straighten neck, uplift vertex, Smooth buttocks, hold anus.

To straighten the neck means to keep the neck naturally straight and erect. In training, do not lift the head backward and do not lower the head. Do not tilt the head leftward or rightward. To uplift the vertex means to take in the chin and uplift the head vertically.

To smooth the buttocks means to contract the buttocks downward and inward. In training, the tailbone does not stick out as much as a hairsbreadth. To hold the anus means to contract and control the muscle of the anus, and not to have it relaxed.

顺项提顶,溜臀收肛。 顺项是使颈项自然竖直,在锻炼时不要仰头,不要低头, 也不要左右歪斜;提顶是将下颏里收,头向上直顶;溜臀是将臀部下垂向里收缩,在锻炼时不要有丝毫的向后撅臀的现象产生;收肛是将肛门的肌肉予以收缩控制,不要使它放松。

2. Slacken shoulder, sink elbow, Solid abdomen, unimpeded chest.

Slacken the shoulders to make the two shoulders sink downward. In training, do not raise the shoulders. Sink the elbow means to keep the elbows sinking downward constantly. In training, they must be kept in the shape of a half-moon. The abdomen is the place to “gather qi”.

Solid abdomen means to have respiration enter into the abdomen during training, to cause the abdomen to be fully permeated and vibrating, namely “qi sinks to Dantian” and “internally there is vibration”. If the chest sticks outward, naturally this will affect “qi sinking downward into Dantian”, and if the chest is contracted inward, it will also press and contract the heart, hindering the smooth circulation of the blood. Therefore, unimpeded chest means to be loose and open in the chest. Do not to stick out the chest and do not contract it.

松肩沉肘,实腹畅胸。 松肩是使两肩向下松沉, 在锻炼时不要向上耸肩;沉肘是使肘部经常保持着向下沉坠,在锻炼时必须屈如半月形;腹是“蓄气”的良好部位,实腹就是指在锻炼时必须将呼吸深入腹部,使腹部充实鼓荡,即所谓“气沉丹田”,“内宜鼓荡”的意思;胸部的向外挺凸,固然会影响“气沉丹田”,而胸部的向里收缩,也足以影响到心脏的压缩,阻碍了血液的流畅,因之,畅胸就是指胸部要宽松开展,既不要挺胸也不必缩。

3. Rolling, drilling, resisting, wrapping, Opposite forces mutually generating.

This refers to change and transformation of the energy-strength in training.

Rolling means the round shape of the arms in rotation. Drilling means arm-rotating movements in a forward spiraling motion. Resisting means outward pushing and opening. Wrapping means hooking and embracing inward.

These four movements require muscle contraction to generate strength. If there is only circular rotation and rolling, there is no forward force. This type of energy-strength is inward. There is no opposition of outward and forward force, so the force can not be maximized. Therefore, in training, it is necessary to drill within rolling, to let the rolling movement become spiral movement.

Resisting and wrapping are similar. The embracing movement of the two arms and elbows uses a wrapping force, but in wrapping force alone there is only an inward holding force. There is no the outward-stretching force. So, there is no opposition of inward force and outward force. If there is an outward-stretching force within the wrapping force, there will be the mutually antagonistic contracting and expanding properties, so oppositional forces will be generated.

Opposite forces represent two qualities, not alike, that are contradictory. “Opposite forces mutually generating,” means, in other words, “contradiction coming into being.” The energy-strength in Ba Gua Zhang derives from the mutual opposition of rolling, drilling, resisting and wrapping. These four mutually opposing forces, opposite forces existing in contradiction, engender the emission of energy.

滚钻争裹,奇正相生。 这是指锻炼时的劲力变化而言。滚是圆形的旋臂动作,钻是即要转又要向前的螺旋形的旋臂动作,争是向外撑开,裹是向里扣抱。这四种动作在运动时都必须使肌肉收缩产生力量。仅仅是圆形的滚转,没有向前的力量,这种劲力的里面没有向外和向前的劲力矛盾,力量不能保持最大,因之在锻炼的时候,必须要滚里带钻,使圆形的滚转动作成为螺旋形的动作。争和裹也是这个意思,两臂肘的合抱固然该使用裹力,但是裹力只有向里收的劲,而没有向外扩张的劲,这里面就没有向里和向外的劲力矛盾产生,如果是裹里带争,这里面就有了收缩和扩张的对抗性,就有了劲力的矛盾产生。奇正两字,是代表着二种不同性质的事物的矛盾。“奇正相生”换句话说,也就是“矛盾产生了”。八卦掌的一切劲力,都是由滚,钻,争,裹四力的相互对抗,在奇正的矛盾产生中所发挥出来的。

4. Dragon shape, monkey appearance, Tiger sitting, hawk overturning.

This refers to change and transformation of body form, body method and foot methods in training.

The first characteristic of Ba Gua Zhang is “walking.” The continuously flowing circular steps are performed with the “form of a swimming dragon.” Effortless and natural, [in appearance] yet within steady and stable.

The second characteristic of Ba Gua Zhang is “the gaze.” In walking the circle, turning the body and changing the palms, it is always necessary for the two eyes to attentively watch the two palms, the so-called “hand and eye should follow each other”. The eyes are the mirror of the heart, and “the gaze” manifests the inner spirit. This spirit must be nimble and alert, like a monkey guarding its food, and must be expressed by the attentiveness of the eyes.

The third characteristic movements of Ba Gua Zhang is “sitting.” In turning and walking, the two legs should not be straight, and should “sit the kua.” In rotating the body and changing the palms, there is “stake sitting.” This squatting-sitting down posture is in harmony with the leg methods and must have the appearance of a “crouching tiger,” calm and powerful.

The fourth of the characteristic movements in Ba Gua Zhang is “overturning”, the movement of turning the body. In turning the body, it is necessary to be agile and unrestrained like a hawk spiraling, wheeling, plummeting and turning over in the sky.

龙形猴相,虎坐鹰翻。 这是指锻炼时的身形,身法,步法的变化而言。八卦掌的运动特点之一就是“走”,这种滔滔不绝的圆形步,必须使之“形如游龙”,悠然之中含着稳重;八卦掌的运动特点之二是“视”,八卦掌在转行时或转身换掌时,两眼总是注视着两掌,所谓“手眼相随”,眼是心之苗,“视”能显示出运动的内在精神,这种精神必须使之象猿猴守物那样机灵之中含着警惕意味,并通过眼的注视把它表达出来;八卦掌的运动特点之三是“坐”,在转行时,它的两腿并不伸直,采用“坐胯”,在转身换掌时的一顿之间又有“坐桩”的动作,这些蹲坐的动作和腿法,必须使之象“虎距”之形,沉着有力;八卦掌的运动特点之四是“翻”,就是转身的动作,在转身时必须采取鹞鹰盘旋空中翻身降落的那种灵敏,洒脱之势。

5. Twist, Rotate, Walk and Turn, Tread foot, grind (rub) shin.

Twist, Rotate, Walk and Turn, means that in walking and turning, it is necessary to twist the waist, twist the elbow and arm, twist the palm and twist the neck, so that the head, hand, elbow and body are twisted toward the center of the circle, twisting outward with a spiral force.

To tread with the foot and grind (rub) the shin means that in walking and turning, the front foot should step lightly forward and the rear foot should have pressing [down] strength. In advancing it is necessary for the shin bones to stick closely and rub. Do not lift the foot too high or too wide.

拧旋走转,蹬脚磨胫。 拧旋走转就是说在走转时必须是腰要拧,肘臂要拧,手掌要拧,颈项要拧,使头手肘身拧向圆心的一面,拧成一股旋劲;蹬脚磨胫,是指在走转时前行之脚必须轻迈,后行之脚必须蹬劲;向前进步必须贴近前脚胫骨里侧摩擦而过,不要将脚提的过高或过宽。

6. Bend leg, mud wade [step] Foot sole held empty.

Bent legs means that in walking and turning, the two legs should be properly bent, with the body sitting downward, so as to transfer force into the two legs. Mud wading means that in walking forward, the two feet should not be lifted too high, just like wading in mud.

To hold the sole empty means that both the sole and heel should land flat on the ground, grasping the ground with the five toes. Thus, the sole can be held empty.

曲腿蹚泥,足心涵空。 曲腿就是在走转时两腿作适度之弯曲,身体往下坐,使力量贯注两腿;蹚泥是两脚前进不要过高,如蹚泥之状;足心涵空是使脚掌和脚跟同时平落地面,五趾抓地,这样脚心就涵空了。

7. Raise [foot] levelly, fall and hook, Ring-linking vertically and horizontally.

To raise levelly means that in lifting the foot, the foot should be level, with the “foot sole held empty”, and in landing on the ground, the foot should not be straight, but should be hooked inward.

Ring-linking means continuous, no interruption in intention, no interruption in energy-strength, and no interruption in movement. From a continuous linked center emanating longitudinally and transversely, up and down, left and right, four sides and eight directions, one qi ring-linked.

起平落扣,连环纵横。 起平是将脚提起时也要象“足心涵空”那样平;落扣是说落步时不要平落,还要使脚里扣;连环是不断的意思,意识不断,劲力不断,动作不断,从连环中生出纵横,上下左右四面八方一气连。

8. Waist like an axle, Hands like revolving wheels.

In practicing Ba Gua Zhang, the waist is the axis of the movements. When the hand moves, the body must move first. When the body moves, the waist must move first, so the waist can drive and lead everything.

When changing the palms in Ba Gua Zhang, the movements of the arm must be circular in shape like the movement of a wheel, because circular movement is quick and agile and contains ring-linked, continuous motion without interruption.

腰如轴立,手似轮行。 八卦掌在锻炼时必须以腰部构成运动的轴心,手动必先身动,身动必先腰动,使腰带动一切;八卦掌在换掌的时候必须使手臂的动作如车轮那样形成圆圈,因为圆形动转较为灵敏,又含着连环不断的作用。

9. Fingers separated, palm concave, Swing arms, shoulders level.

Fingers separated, means the five fingers are apart and open. Do not bring them together. Palm concave means to make the palm heart empty and hollow.

Swinging the arms means that in turning [walking the circle], the two arms must forcefully swing toward the center of the circle as much as possible. They cannot have a forward pushing motion. Shoulders level means that in turning rotating the body and changing the palms, one must maintain a upright, level and comfortable posture in the shoulders, without the appearance of one shoulder being higher and one shoulder lower.

指分掌凹,摆肱平肩。 指分是将五指分开,不要并拢,掌凹是使掌心向里涵空凹拢;摆肱是在转行时两臂必须极力向圆心的一面摆动,不可有向前推的动作;平肩是两肩在转行时或转身换掌时都必须保持端正平舒,不要一起一落的现象。

10. Stake [stand] like lofty mountains, Step like [liquid] water.

Stake (pile) means still, motionless movement. The Stake step in Ba Gua Zhang must be firm and stable like a lofty mountain, so that a powerful push cannot move it.

The stepping is alive and mobile. The “mud wading step” in Ba Gua Zhang must be stable, but light and fast like flowing water. Thus, the foot work in Ba Gua Zhang should not be clumsy and heavy, nor floating and unstable.

桩如山岳,步似水中。 桩是指静止性的动作,八卦掌的桩步必须使之象山岳那样稳固,似乎任何强大的力量都推它不动似的;步是指活动性的动作,八卦掌的“蹚泥步”必须使之在稳健之中含着象流水那样轻快,这样八卦掌的步法就不是笨重的,也不是浮漂的了。

11. Fire above, water below, Water is heavy, fire is light.

The heart is in the upper and belongs to fire. The kidney is in the lower and belongs to water, the so-called “heart fire and kidney water.” The “Solid abdomen unimpeded chest” mentioned above, means the heart needs to be empty and the abdomen needs to be full.

火上水下,水重火轻。 心在上属火,肾在下属水,所谓“心火肾水”,也就是前面所说的“实腹畅胸”的心要虚,腹要实的意义。

12. Intention like a waving flag, Also like a lighted lamp.

In ancient times, troops were trained to change battle formations and to advance and to retreat, all guided by waving a command flag and at night [guided] by a lamp. Similarly, in Ba Gua Zhang the movements must be guided by the intention, and should not be done casually or carelessly.

意如飘旗,又似点灯。 古代练兵,一切的阵形变化,前进后退都必须以飘荡的令旗和夜间灯为引导,八卦掌运动时也必须以意识引导动作,不能随随便便地运动。

13. Abdomen is root of qi, Qi is like floating clouds.

It has already been mentioned that the abdomen is the desirable place to “gather qi.” In practice, it is necessary to breathe deeply into the abdomen, but is this type of deep respiration done by inhaling a mouthful of air into the abdomen suddenly or slowly?

“Qi is like floating clouds” indicates that the deep respiration in Ba Gua Zhang must be performed slowly, like clouds moving slowly in the sky. Do not inhale or exhale suddenly.

腹乃气根,气似云行。 前面已经说过腹是“蓄气”的良好部位,在锻炼时必须将呼吸之气深入到腹部,但是这种深呼吸的运动是猛然一口就将气吸入腹内呢,还是慢慢地吸入呢?“气似云行”就说明了八卦掌的深呼吸运动必须是象空中行云那样慢慢地运行,不要猛然吸入,也不要猛然呼出。

14. Intention gives birth to wisdom, Qi moves through a hundred holes [pores].

The intention gives birth to wisdom means that if the movements of Ba Gua Zhang are performed with the “intention like a waving flag, also like a lighted lamp,” as mentioned above, then alertness and sensitivity will be fostered.

Qi moves through a hundred holes means that if the slow, deep respiration of Ba Gua Zhang is performed with the idea of “qi like floating clouds”, then oxygen-qi can be distributed throughout the body.

意动生慧,气行百孔。 意动生慧是说八卦掌的动作如果是象前面所说的“意如飘旗,又似点灯”那样有意识的运动,那么就能在运动中培养出机警,敏感的素质。气行百孔是说如果八卦掌的深呼吸是按照前面所说的“气似云行”那样的话,那么所吸入的氧气就能输送到各个需要的地方去。

15. Stretch outward and discharge, gather and contract inward , Movement and tranquility in mutual support.

Stretch outward and discharge, gather and contract inward refers to the opening (expanding) and closing (contracting) postures and movements. The opening postures should unfold by stretching out and releasing. The closing postures should gather inward, with the outside tight.

Movement and tranquility in mutual support means that stillness must be sought in the motion, and motion should exist within stillness . The end point of motion is also the starting point of tranquility, and end point of tranquility is the starting part of motion. Therefore motion and tranquility contain each other and follow each other.

展放收紧,动静圆撑。 展放收紧是指动作姿势的开合而言,开的姿势要舒展远放,合的姿势要内收外紧;动静圆撑是指动中必须求静,静中又必须有动;动的极处就是静的发源,静的极处就是动的其端,这动和静必须相互循行,有相互含蓄。

16. Spirit, qi, intention and force, All combine into one.

The methods of refining spirit, qi, intention and force, discussed previously, are not separate and must combine into one. If they are not combined, the movements cannot be integrated. If not combined, the hands and feet cannot act in concert.

To say, “combined into one” means that the hands combine with the feet, the shoulders combine with hips, the elbows combine with the knees, spirit combines with intention, qi combines with force, and interior combines with exterior. These six combinations must be unified, harmonious, cooperative and complete.

神气意力,合一集中。 前面所说的精神,气息,意识,力量等等各方面的锻炼方法,它们并不是孤立的,而是合一集中的,不集中,动作就不能完整一气,不合一手脚就不能行动一致。所谓“合一”,就是手与脚合,肩与胯合,肘与膝合,神与意合,气与力合,内与外合;所谓“集中”,就是这六合必须统一,和谐,协调,取得完整。

17. The truth of Ba Gua Zhang, exists completely within this.

The mastery of Ba Gua Zhang is in the previously mentioned training methods. Only when these methods are employed and fully mastered can the genuine skills of Ba Gua Zhang be achieved. Otherwise, you have merely assembled an empty frame.

八掌真理,俱在此中。 这是说如果完全掌握和运用了上面所说的八卦掌的锻炼方法,才算得到了八卦掌的真正的技术,不然的话,那还是只算学会了一套空架子而已。

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