At the midpoint in the workshop we broke for a short rest. It was time to bring down the intensity a bit and get ready for some focused practice. The intensity is related to the Willow Bends game. While we really try to keep the competitive edge out of the game, it starts to creep back in after a while. The shear fun of the game lends itself to people getting too “pushy” when the real point is to become sensitive to the partner’s movements. So we took a break before we started defeating our own purpose. It was time to walk the circle.
Ah, Circle Walking. It is the one method that is definitive of all Baguazhang. As done in Jiulong, it contains all the principles learned in the early stages of the art and adds that unmistakeable component – constant circular motion. Circle Walking can be practiced in a variety of ways. It can be a physical exercise in which one strengthens specific muscles (especially the legs!); it can be a coordination exercise in which one works on the timing of the movements such as raising and lowering the arms in exact harmony with the rotation of the body; it can be used to focus on generating the feeling of the 4 Animals we use as imagery for power generation. The 4 animals are the Crouching Tiger, Hawk, Phoenix and Dragon. These each have attitudes that empower one to move the body in unique ways. Circle Walking is also used in the health system called Flying Dragon Qigong. This is a very different feeling from that used for martial purposes. Yet the same essential movement is involved, namely Circle Walking.
We started this section of the workshop by setting the tone for all Circle Walking practice sessions. We have a simple way of starting called the “Salute to the 3 Powers”. These are Heaven (sky); Humanity, and Earth. This is a reflection of the Daoist roots of Nine Dragon Bagua. It acknowledges the ancient idea of everything coming from a mystery, our own participation in its existence, and the fact of everything being around us. Then we step out of the centre of our circle and begin to walk.
On this day we focused on the main ways of changing direction that are used later in the study of the Palms. The methods we worked on were inside and outside turns, Circling the Circle, Big Dragon turns around, Circling the Moon, and Dragon Whirling in Flight. Each of these involves a different coordination of the upper and lower body and each one created a new way for each student to be confused!!
This was a lot of information in a very short period of time. So when I say they were confused, I mean it in a good way. When one is learning Jiulong Baguazhang, there is a time for confusion as the mind starts to imprint these new patterns on itself and the body. The feeling of confusion is the experience of learning a new mindbody movement. So tried to encourage everyone to embrace their new found feeling of “what the hell am I doing?!” and try to enjoy it. Ok, maybe ‘enjoy’ is pushing things a bit, but I can tell you that there was lots of laughing amongst the moments of “what the……?!”
These workshops are always in-house only. They are opportunities for students to dive deeper into the components that make this art function. There may be a public workshop offered at some point so new people can come and get a taste of Jiulong. There really is nothing else like it and those who have started this path are finding out exactly what this means.
So stay tuned……or better yet, join our mailing list……or best of all, come and try a free session.