Led by Tom Bisio and Valerie Ghent, a small group of IAI instructors from New York City and Hamburg, Germany, traveled to Beijing this August to train with Ba Gua Zhang Master Gao Ji Wu.
Training in Beijing with Master Gao Ji Wu
Master Gao divided our training between a review of Foundational practices – Ba Gua Zhang stepping, Ding Shi Ba Gua Zhang, Ba Da Zhang (Eight Big Palms) – and the “Changing Hands” (Bian Fa or Bian Shou), which illustrate applications of the 64 Hands, Ba Gua Zhang’s linear fighting forms.
Temple of the Moon
We trained in the mornings at the beautiful Temple of the Moon in an outdoor, walled enclosure with large trees. The area was previously used by the Emperor to change his clothes in preparation for various rituals. In the afternoon, we returned to the familiar park near our hotel where Gao Ji Wu’s students train daily. Gao’s school brother, Liu Xiang ran us through the basics, and Master Gao discussed energetic differences in the Eight Ding Shi fixed palms. Then Master Liu taught us the intricacies of Ba Da Zhang (Eight Big Palms), making detailed corrections as he critiqued each person’s performance.
Beijing Summer Heat
The Beijing summer heat and humidity was impressive! We were so drenched after each training session that changing clothes two to three times each day became a necessity. Our hotel rooms were filled with drying sox, underwear and T-shirts washed in the sink. That is, until one resourceful student found a local laundromat with a one-day turnaround. Seeing our clothes drying while hanging from a tree in the hutong (small streets in Beijing are called hutong) was certainly amusing.
Changing Hands (Yi Shi Bian Liu Shi)
We also practiced the 64 Hands (Liu Shi Si Shou) with Master Gao. Here the focus was on application: how to change from one of the 64 Hands to another, or to one of the 72 Techniques, simply in response to an opponent’s counter-move. These changing methods were passed down to Gao Ji Wu from his father, Gao Zi Ying. The practice of Changing Hands is called Yi Shi Bian Liu Shi (一式变六式), literally “One Form Changing to Six Forms”. As the name indicates, by using the Changing Hands one can dissolve the attack in six different ways, according to the six directions. The opponent’s response in turn creates six counter moves, or “changes”. Master Gao stressed that the Changing Hands requires smooth and precise footwork, and seamless coordination of the feet, hands and body.
During our stay we were invited to attend a disciple ceremony for one of Master Gao’s students. For some of our group this was a unique experience, and a window into traditional martial culture. The ceremony was followed by a delicious banquet, where some of our instructors got their first taste of Bai Jiu, the strong clear alcohol beloved by the northern Chinese, as we toasted Master Gao, his disciples and school brothers.
Gratitude & Appreciation
Master Gao and Master Liu are generous teachers and we are grateful for their rigorous attention to detail and open sharing of traditional Ba Gua Zhang.
For Part 2 of Training in China 2016 Click Here