Going in circles

Starting bagua again isn’t turning out to be as straightforward as I’d hoped! There are both external and internal reasons for this…

Externally, I don’t know where my teacher is! He apparently went away somewhere a couple of months ago. I called a few times, and his wife said he’d contact me when he got back, but I haven’t heard anything. I feel a bit awkward now, and I don’t want to keep on calling… I’ve tried contacting the only other one of his students who speaks English, but his phone is constantly powered off. I’ve also tried getting in touch with Kong Cheng, who introduced us, but there’s no answer there either. I am perplexed!

I’ve decided that I can”t wait any longer, which is a pity; I really like the Liu Jingru form of bagua that Sun Lao Shi was teaching me, but I’ll carry on practising that with the help of DVDs and VCDs. So, on Monday evening, I went to check out a new wushu group that teaches bagua, xingyi and sanda. It’s very close to where I work, which is a huge plus, and has classes every evening, so I can get there easily during the week. It’s hidden away behind an apartment complex, and is basically a big prefab metal shed. It’s cold inside! There’s no electricity, so the only illumination was from camping lamps, which cast stark shadows. Overall, there was a kind of cyberpunky, ‘Fight Club’ feeling which was… heh… stimulating…

When I got there, the students were doing pad work with the teacher in rotation; when they weren’t kicking, they were stretching, doing pushups, working with scaffolding poles or staffs… some were working on xingyi forms… it was clear that in this school self-motivation and individual practice are the norm. I chatted to some of the other students and they were friendly but very focussed on what they were doing. Interesting.

My contact there is an American bagua student. He showed me some of the forms, and he’s very good! The style taught in this school is Liang Zhen Pu, and the stepping is quite different to what I’ve done before in the Cheng styles.

I’m a little hesitant to start learning yet another new style. On the other hand, it’s really convenient, the guy I know there shares my outlook on learning martial arts and raves about the teacher, they apparently do a lot of group work and applications… so it seems to make sense.

I didn’t get much chance to speak to the teacher himself. He was happy for me to observe, but focussed on working with his students – kind of a ‘if you want to join, join; if you don’t, don’t’ sort of approach, I guess. Hmm. I have a lot to do today, but I’m not working, so I’m going to try to get back there right at the beginning of the class to have a word with him.

Internally… Wow. Watching the students made me realise that I haven’t done bag or pad work for a long time! If I join this school, it’s going to be a big challenge… I’m soft compared to most of the people I saw there. Better to be sure that I’m mentally prepared and ready before I do ask if I can join…

9 Comments

  1. Hmm – lemme guess, Li Shiquan’s school? πŸ˜€ (But who knows – there is lots and lots of Liang style in Beijing. Of course, there is just a ton of any baguazhang in Beijing. Are you looking for something in particular?)

    By the way, the long, extended step that you are used to is not common to all Cheng styles – it seems to be a characteristic of Liu Jingru’s and Sun Zhijun’s styles (I guess).

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  2. Well it sounds excatly what you wanted from your Bagua…more application and not just forms forms forms :-). I think when you return to Singapore you’ll be a bit of a hard nut! he he.

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  3. @Ed – nope πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t say that I’m looking for anything specific, other than what I’ve previously discussed. It’s just that almost all of the bagua I’ve done for the last couple of years was Cheng style, with the exception of what Zhou Yue Wen taught me (and whatever that was, it wasn’t too different).

    @Carlos – true! But I don’t think I’ll ever be a hard nut, I’m way too soft and lazy!

    @Yiming – well, regular solo practice perhaps! Which I’m not doing so well at these days 😦

    BTW, I didn’t make it to the school to talk to the teacher yesterday as I felt really ill. So, it’ll have to be next week….

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  4. Ha ha – well, longshot, like I said there are lots of baguazhang guys in Beijing. Seriously – in a way, you could pick almost any bagua style, even really rare and almost-never-heard-of-ones like Fan style or Song style. There are plenty of Yin, Cheng, and Liang as well, of various lineages.

    As for what you learned already – baguazhang is baguazhang. πŸ˜€ Actually, you may know a bit of Liang style already, though Zhang Shengli! (Although he created some forms himself.) Zhou Yuewen’s style is a little-known variant of Yin style, as we talked about before… So that means you have probably already tasted Cheng, Yin, and Liang styles. πŸ™‚

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  5. @Ed – True, I know there’s so much bagua here in Beijing! But beijing’s a big place…. Some people, like Dragoncache, are prepared to dedidicate their lives to bagua; he lives where he does in order to be close to his teacher, and he works in a crappy job so he’s got the time to train intensively. I really admire that. Me, though… I’m more timid! I still have career ambitions… so I have tighter requirements – but I’ve already talked about all that.

    As for Zhang Shengli… hmmm…. It’s a long time since I looked at who he studied with, and in any case the names weren’t familiar to me. I just remember that he certainly did train with Liu Jing Ru, becuase he gave us all a copy of one of Liu’s DVDs to help our solo training (this was in the very early days of his school, when there were only a handful of us). The stepping he taught me was Cheng, I’m pretty sure…

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  6. Yeah, I can totally understand that (the career + bagua thing). That is about how I am doing it, too! In our case some luck does help – but we can still learn a lot in our situation.

    I think Zhang Shengli studied with several people, so I suppose his is a mixed style. (Can’t find any sites talking about who he studied with anymore – guess they are gone? πŸ˜€ ) As for stepping – well, Cheng, Yin, and Liang stepping isn’t that different, although it does depend on who is teaching.

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  7. @Ed I have a copy of a small limited-run bagua book that was put together by a couple of Zhang Shengli’s very first western students. It says that Zhang’s first bagua/xingyi was Xue Wenju, with whom he studied for a number of years. When Xue died, ZHang followed one of Xue’s apprentice teachers named Zhao, who had apparently also trained with Xue’s own teacher…

    The web pages for Zhang’s school were originally put together by Will Yorke; after he left the school, the next webmaster tried to move everything to a new site, and I think Will was annoyed that they didn’t give him credit for writing all the material. I don’t know what’s happened since, but now it seems they’re back on the original site (http://www.kungfuinchina.com) with new content….

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  8. The plot thickens… πŸ˜€ There is a Xue Wenju who was a disciple of Gao Ziying (Gao Ziying was Guo Gumin’s disciple, and Guo Gumin was in turn Liang Zhenpu’s disciple). Zhao is of course a common surname, and there are at least two Zhaos who were also disciples of Gao Ziying… But anyway, if this is the right Xue Wenju, then that would still link you to Liang style πŸ˜‰

    (In general, Liang style is sort of like Cheng style with less overt spiralling of the body. One characteristic is that it tends to do piercing palms (chuangzhang) with vertical palms (i.e. like Yin style) whereas Cheng style tends to do them with the palm facing the sky. Liang style also tends to have a lot of funky weapons.)

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