Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: internal martial arts

More about Bagua–and Taiji

After a few posts in which I went down several side paths, I finally began to talk about Bagua in the last post I wrote. I don’t know much about the history, but what I do know is that the founder, Dong Haichuan/Hai Chuan, used DeerHorn Knives (real ones, not steel ones) in his own practice. The reason for that particular weapon is because they can defeat any other kind of weapon. It’s because the ‘horns’ can hook, pull, block, deflect, etc.

They’re also really fucking cool.

When my teacher gave me her practice DeerHorn Knives, I was hooked immediately. Despite my love for weapons, I have not gelled with them all. And I have only immediately loved a few. The sword is the first and most infamous of the lot. Then, I tried the saber next, which I hated. I was expecting it to be like the sword, which it was not in the least.

It took me several years, a minor car accident, and more learning/practice to come around to the saber. I still don’t love it, but I can appreciate it–which is much better than hating it!

Next was the karambit form (I think). That’s not Taiji or Bagua. It’s a small, two-sided knife/dagger, and it’s wicked. I love this form and need to teach myself the last row (fifth, I think). My teacher knew that I liked weapons and taught this one to me just for funsy. Then, it was the Cane Form.

I have to confess that I don’t like the Cane Form. It’s…fine. But I have no affiinity with it. I am not sure why as it’s very Broadway-ish, which is my jam. I think it’s because we were learning it in class right before the pandemic hit (and that was after a long hiatus), so the world was very weird at the time. At any rate, it’s my least-favorite of the forms I know.

Next was–let me say that  my teacher taught me staff/spear drills at some point. There really isn’t a spear/staff form, per se, but there is a two-person form. Which we will get to later. I like the staff/spear well enough, but it’s not my favorite, either. It’s the highest-level weapon, though. The one that is the most difficult to learn. The second is the sword, and it’s funny that it’s the first weapon we are taught.

The beginning of the pandemic was a wild and woolly time, weapons-wise. Right before the soft lockdown, my teacher’s studio had their annual demo. They usually do it around the lunar new year. In that demo, one of her classmates did the Double Saber Form. I instantly fell in love and vowed that would be my next weapon form.

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Internal martial arts are life

I love my weapons. I will just come out an d say it. They are my life, and the one hobby I would give up the last. Writing as a very close second, but something about the weapons just sing to me. When I’m practicing the forms, I am as light as air. Or as heavy as the earth. As hot as fire? Not particularly. But floating on air? Yes! Wait. The fire one is not necessarily true. As fierce as fire? Yes, there’s that, too.

One reason I was committed to my teacher was because she was very honest about what she knew and didn’t know. I asked a million questions and was a recalcitrant student. I had been burned by my first teacher (he was terrible), and I was not someone who trusted easily in the first place. She was very patient with me. If she did not know the answer, she would say that and tell me she would find out. Either by reading or by asking her teacher.

In addition, she never took what I said about Taiji personally. The complaints I made, I mean. I said that one posture/movement was the W. (George W. Bush) of postures, which tickled my teacher. I also said at one point, “Fuck Taiji!”, which also made her laugh. She repeated it delightedly, which showed that she had a healthy attitude towards her craft. Many people can’t laugh at something they love, which is not a good way to bring people in. Being defensive, I mean.

She was so patient with me. I told her at our last private lesson that I really appreciated how she took each student as they were and knew that every student learned differently. She did not try to impose her way of teaching on any student, and she was able to keep the impatience from her voice–most of the time.

I have told her several times that I was thankful for her graciousness to my surly attitude. I fought back against everything and made things much harder than I needed to make them. I’m better at it now. If she says something about Taiji (or Bagua), I accept it. She has earned that, and it’s much easier on me.

I will say that I really enjoy learning a new martial art. As I’ve said in the past, I felt as if I was in a bit of a rut with Taiji. Here’s my last post which was about how I find the way Westerners think about exercise to be toxic. It’s one reason I chose Taiji as the martial art to study, but I do like learning new things. I had put my weapon forms on hold because my teacher cautioned about learning them too quickly.

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Everybody (well, me) was Kung fu fighting

I’ve been in a rut with my Taiji, I’ll admit. I had a discussion with my teacher about this. How to have a routine that didn’t become stale. With my morning routine, I would do some warm-ups and then my weapons. One section of the Solo (Long) Form was in there as well. More stretches at the end, roughly 45 minutes later, and call it a day. I’ve been doing that for ssome time, adding more and more weapons to the formula. It’s been good for me, but it’s gotten a bit stale. Even with adding the new weapon forms, it’s become a little rote.

The thing with Taiji is that you want to be in the moment. You don’t want to do anything solely by habit, but that’s hard to cultivate. We are creatures of habit and there is some benefit to it. Such as typing, for example. If I had to think about where the letters were every time I typed, I would not be as proficient as I am. It’s funny because a common office prank, apparently, is switching around the letters on the keyboard. That would do nothing to me beacuse I use the Dvorak system with a QWERTY keyboard and am a touch-typer, anyway.

In Taiji, I am at the level where I am teaching myself weapons. It’s not my teacher’s bailwick, and I enjoy teaching them to myself. It started with the pandemic. My teacher taught me the first half of the Double Saber Form, and then we dropped off because she was unsure of the second half. She sent me videos of her teacher doing the Double Saber Form, so I decided to teach it to myself.

I also taught myself the fan form. It was after I recovered from my medical crisis, and it’s a beautiful form. Then, I decided to take a break from new forms because I wanted to tweak and fine-tune the weapon forms I already knew.

To date, I know the Sword Form, left side and right side. Oh, and in Taiji, the teacher teaches you the right side, and then you teach yourself the left side. It’s a good way to see where you’ve gotten a bit, ah, forgetful with the form. It’s easy to glide over the bits that you’re not sure of–and this is the way to put your flaws front and center.

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