Jiang Rong Jiao on Ba Gua Zhang Training Methods
The advice Jiang Rong Jiao offers for training Ba Gua Zhang is profound. Jiang’s seventeen points on training Ba Gua Zhang offer students one of the most succinct and to-the-point guides in learning correct Ba Gua practice. This is Part 2 of a 2-part article on Jiang Rong Jiao Ba Gua Zhang Training Methods.
Jiang Rong-Jiao details seventeen important points for students training in Ba Gua Zhang. As presented here,
Part I – summarizes the seventeen points, presenting them as a kind of mnemonic for memorization. Read Part 1 HERE.
Part II – offers a more detailed discussion of each point.
The below translation is an excerpt from Jiang’s book, BA GUA ZHANG. Translated by Huang Guo-Qi and edited by Tom Bisio.
Ba Gua Zhang Training Methods – Part II
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.