Underneath my yellow skin

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.

I bought a practice set off Amazon and was ready to go. My teacher taught me some drills over Zoom in my private lessons (every other Thursday), and I practice diligently. Then, that summer (I think?) we started meeting in person and she taught me the form outside. Or maybe that part happened before the pandemic. Hm. Lunar New Year was January 25th that year, so I’m guessing it was the latter. Knowing me, I would have immediately bought the practice set the day of the demo and then started bugging my teacher to teach the Double Saber Form to me.

Yes! That’s what happened. My teacher started teaching me drills before the pandemic in my private lessons. We learend the Cane Form in class. That would have given us a month before the pandemic hit. We probably carried on with the drills over Zoom, but my memory is hazy. I do rember her teaching me parts of the form outside, but  Ican’t remember exactly when. At any rate, at some point, she did not feel comfortable teaching me the rest of the form so I taught myself the second half by watching her teacher’s videos of him doing it, front and back.

It’s my favorite form by a country mile. When I watched my teacher’s classmate do the form, I was instantly smitten. I told my teacher that I wanted to be a human blender and the human Cuisinart. She laughed, but she understood my passion for weapons.

I. Love. The. Double. Saber. Form. It’s so different than the Saber Form and the Sword Form. It’s different from all the other forms. This is a form to slice people up. The saber is a weapon for blunt damage, and the sword is for finesse.

It’s so wild how every weapon has its own feel to it. And I feel so different depending on which weapon I’m holding. After the Double Saber Form, I ended up in the hospital from my medical crisis.

After I got out, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the weapon forms any longer. Three days after I returned home, I tried the Sword Form with my wooden sword. I was able to do three movements from memory before I had to stop. Not because I couldn’t remember what came next, but because I was exhausted.

When I returned to the forms, I remembered them all, to my relief. And, I can’t remember when, but maybe six months after, I taught myself the Fan Form from the videos of my teacher’s teacher’s (other) student. The Fan Form is the one I wanted to learn from the start, and I really like it. I’m very proud of myself that I was able to learn a new form post-medical crisis. And that I taught the whole thing to myself! It’s not that long, but still.

The DeerHorn Knives from Bagua are something that I liked from the moment I held them in my hands. Two of them–one in each hand. As it is not Taiji, empyt stepping doesn’t matter. That’s been one of the hardest things in learning Bagua, by the way. In Taiji, you need to empty out your foot before taking a step. You never want to be double-weighted, and usually, you have 70% of your weight forward.

With Bagua, you need to get used to having 60% of your weight on the back foot. It’s in the first movement of the Swimming Dragon Form, and my teacher had to give me drills to do to get used to it. I love that Bagua has similar theories and basics in many ways, but then in drastically different in others. It’s truly complementary to Taiji, which is exactly what I need.

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