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Studying Liang-style baguazhang


Intermediate-Level-18 Palms











What can I say? I’m delighted with Liang-style bagua. As a system, it’s got everything I’ve been looking for. In fact… twelve years after I arrived in Singapore with a rudimentary knowledge of Cheng Man Ching’s taijiquan, a period in which I’ve always felt that I’ve been searching for something which nothing I studied quite gave me… this is it. This is what I’ve been looking for, the whole time. Wow.

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Twelve (years between) monkeys



I’ve just realized that twelve years have passed by since my first ever visit to Beijing, while it’s nearly six years since I left to return to Wales, not knowing at that time if I would ever come back to China. These are significant numbers: 12 years is the time to complete one full cycle of the Chinese zodiac, so six years is also a half-cycle. It’s also a year since I did, eventually, make it back to China, in April 2015, after being head-hunted out of the blue. A  number of signs and portents are suggesting I should take these signs seriously.


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Bagua updates


When I was a student at Tsinghua University, the cafe-bar Lush overlooking Wudaokou train station was one of my favourite hangouts. Later on, when I first moved to my current job, it effectively became my office – it was where I would do a lot of my lesson prep and marking. I also used to go there a lot for breakfast after the early-morning bagua training sessions with Sun Lao Shi. I don’t go there so often these days, since my life and working patterns have shifted somewhat, but I popped in yesterday after dropping my suit off at a dry-cleaner’s.

By chance, sitting at one of the tables was taichibum, whom I haven’t seen for a year or more. We trained together for a while with teacher Zhang, in the Blade-Runneresque environment of a freezing, condemned warehouse. Shortly after that, I decided to focus exclusively on yiquan for a while, and we lost contact. Taichibum is looking well, I have to say; he’s obviously training hard! It seems that teacher Zhang has migrated to the US, where he hopes to open a school. The group is now training at the Language University (the warehouse having been demolished), and are being led by one of teacher Zhang’s friends, who is a shuijiao expert. Funny how things turn…. Anyway, taichibum and I will hopefully catch up again, though the academic year is coming to a close and both of us will be travelling over the summer.

Anyhow, I mentioned recently that I’d been picking up the bagua again. Not strictly accurate, that, but I have joined a bagua school: Small Steps Neijia. They run two tracks of classes – one in qigong, and the other in bagua applications. I’ve been going to the qigong sessions, as I felt I needed that more at the moment. There’s been some attention paid to bagua stepping in this strand as well, which I’ve found valuable as we worked on the issue of raising the heel that I’d encountered with Kong Cheng.

The bagua tradition is in the line of Liu Feng Chun, and – as I understand it so far – is influenced by xingyi. It’s also, if I understand correctly, fairly ‘minimalist’, without the longer and more complicated forms of other lineages.

There are informal classes on the weekend as well, in a different Beijing park each week. I’ve only made one, having had other things to do, but the applications and pad work are a part of these classes as well.

The students are a mix of Chinese and foreigners (majority foreign), and of male and female (majority female). Most don’t have a deep background in martial arts. At least one is also a student of Zhang Sheng Li’s Milun School, which was my first bagua school back in 2004, and later during my time at Tsinghua. As an aside, it seems that Zhang is no longer teaching so much; that’s being done by his senior disciple, while Zhang himself is more involved in getting a Buddhist Temple built….

Anyhow, back to Small Steps; I really like it. It’s very friendly, and there’s kind of a family atmosphere that I find valuable. Apart from the qigong and the bagua, the teacher, Liu Xuyang, is also a tui na practitioner, which is a field I want to learn more about. So, it’s very definitely right for me at this stage.

Also: a little bird tells me that, in the wake of the Yip Man movies, filming has started on a movie about the life of Dong Hai Chuan! I can’t say more about it, but the little I’ve been told makes it sound intriguing; I’m looking forward to this one…

Looking back


Just remembered one thing that came up in conversation with taijibum last night…. We were talking about body rotation in the bagua dragon/millstone stance. He mentioned that traditionally, in Cheng style, your torso should be twisted around so that you can look down onto your back foot. In his view, this is hardly ever taught these days and, even when it is taught, it takes a long time to be able to do.

In fact, I was taught this by my first bagua teacher, Zhang Sheng Li. It didn’t take long for me to be able to do it, either – I know for sure that it was only a couple of months. He’s right, though, that no-one else has ever taught this; one of my teachers actively told me that I should not be doing it. Still, I remember how, when I was training with Zhang, I really felt power developing in the waist and dantian. I’ve never had that feeling since then.

Hmmm. Maybe I should try training with Zhang again. I forget whether I mentioned, but I ran into his senior student by chance in Ritan Park a couple of weeks ago. I was going to meet Dragoncache for a beer, and apparently Zhang was teaching someone in a private lesson. I went to find him, but he must have left by another way in the meantime.

Anyway, what do you think about this? Should we train bagua by twisting around until we can look down on the back foot?

My next obscure form…

What to do in Beijing? There’s no shortage of options, in terms of teachers, forms, and so on! On the other hand, I have a massive list of things that I need to get done while I’m in China – and most of them are career-related, rather than martial arts…

So, right now I’m starting to work out what I want to get done. Here’s a few thoughts:

  • I’ve trained with Master Liu Jing Ru before, and would like to do so again. He’s very well spoken-of as being traditional in his styles. However, he lives far away from where I will be based, and his styles are different to what I’ve learned. Do I want to start a whole new set?
  • Master Sun Zhi Jun is Madam Ge’s main teacher; he’s the one to go to if I want to maintain my current knowledge – namely, the ba mu zhang, the sword, and the needles. I’m hearing different things, though: some say he’s one of bagua’s best fighters, others say that his styles have too much xin pai (performance style) in them. He does live much closer to my base in Haidian than Master Liu, but it’s still quite far.
  • Professor Huang Zhen Huan lives very close to where I’ll be, and I have his phone number. He was a student of Wu Tu Nan for twenty years, so I’m guessing he practices Wu style, rather than the Yang-based forms I know. On the other hand, I may well ask him to help me work on developing softness, and push hands…
  • I am very tempted to learn another obscure form – bagua fan 🙂 I know that Zhang Sheng Li of the Beijing Milun School knows at least one fan form, and in any case I want to contact him to review the Long Xing form he taught me…

Here’s two examples from YouTube:

[youtube RXs47Kqmag4]

[youtube s9NjRv1Ww_w]