The next secret I want to share with you is subtle and can be confusing. In this video you can see people starting with the Wedge. Some are smooth and powerful, others are confused and hesitant. It is what you don’t see that comprises this secret. Namely, the desire to get past the Wedge and onto what seems like the more interesting defence move. You can watch Shifu Painter giving instructions for the exercise of starting the Wedge. Then you see students working on it. But what is not seen inside many of the students is an urge to get beyond this seemingly simply move and onto the “cool” martial arts technique, especially a beautiful flowing Baguazhang move.
This is another natural tendency, especially with the view of martial arts techniques shown in movies and television. The exotic looking move that defeats an opponent must be better than something simple and straightforward, according to Hollywood. Not only is this untrue, it contributes to a desire for “looking for that move” in the student who has digested this idea. So one of the things we did in the workshop was to focus on the actual effect of the first move, namely the Wedge, and really start to understand its effectiveness, rather than seeking the followup as if it is the purpose of our movement. Thus was revealed a third secret: “Keeping to the simplicity of the first application of Wedge is more important than finding a complex self-defence move”.
It helps to remember the purpose of learning our art as a combat system. It is to survive and go home. Often, this simply means neutralizing an attack enough to escape. While an exotic Bagua move might indeed accomplish this, the most important moment in defence is what happens when contact is first made. What makes the Wedge so potent is its ability to stop an attack at that first touch. No fancy move is required in that moment since a correctly applied Wedge will deflect the attack long enough for the defender to get away, or follow up with a second move if needed.
So the confusing part comes from having to reign in that urge to do something complex when the simpler application of the Wedge can be sufficient. Keeping things simple and direct often means having to adjust one’s assumptions. Assuming complexity to be more effective than a simple Wedge is a confusing state of mind at first. This is one of reasons we work on Basics so much in classes. It is necessary to provide a format in which the simpler can be internalized. There is no short cut to this, since it is a matter of recreating habitual movements. The only way to create new habits is to……create new habits. So we spend time in class working with each other in these seemingly simple exercises in order to imprint the new habits correctly. This requires the presence of a partner with whom to work so that the angles and direction of momentum are accurate.
The final article and video in this series shows the lesson Shifu presented in Nine Dragon Baguazhang’s most prominent feature – its use against multiple opponents.