Mr. Reynolds has been studying martial and health arts for most of his adult life. He began meditation and mindbody practices at age 18 and studied a variety of systems and teachings. He was very curious about the methods coming from India, Tibet, and China while constantly filtering these teachings through his western rational upbringing. It was a constant process of questioning, experimenting and learning. These included a variety of yoga and meditation practices. In 1989 he came to the martial arts.
Starting in Martial Arts
He was 33 years old at the time which is older than many who begin down the martial arts road. His experience and experiments with mindbody methods, especially meditation, contributed to his interest in practical application of the methods he was learning. One evening he received a call from his brother, explaining that he had been mugged at gunpoint. His brother was not injured and only lost his money. But Eric was struck by the reality of the event and the fact that he personally would have no idea what to do in that situation. In addtion, this had happened to a family member so the fact that this can happen to anyone was driven home. Within days, Eric was searching for a martial arts school, and settled on a local karate dojo as it included some meditation practice (Zen) which was his focus at that time.
Part of Eric’s karate study involved a form of Baguazhang which was said to form part of the overall system. Some of the karate stances and circular movements were coming from the older Chinese art called Pa Kua. Eric learned that “Pa Kua” was also spelled “Ba Gua” and was the shortened version of the full name, “Baguazhang”. Of particular interest were the occasional comments the sensei would make about Bagua. First was the remark “Bagua fighters are the deadliest martial artists.” This was obviously intriguing although there was no elaboration. So exactly what made Bagua fighters deadly was not revealed. However, it was another comment that grabbed Eric’s attention. “Bagua fighters are the longest living martial artists.” The reason given was the health benefit of the way Bagua artists moved. It was related to the subtle way the immune system is stimulated during Bagua practice and the peaceful mind that was a result of the same practice. This latter resulted in reduced stress levels. So combined with improved muscle tone, this was thought to be why Bagua people lived longer and healthier lives. But it was never revealed exactly what the practice entailed since the school was a karate school. So Eric, having heard these claims of increased health and skill found himself with the obvious question, “if Bagua is all that sensei is saying, what am I learning karate?” And thus, after only 2 years in karate, Eric left to find a school teaching Baguazhang.
Learning Internal Arts
In 1991 he began training in Baguazhang, Taijiquan, and Qigong under Shifu Andy James. Eric made friends there and learned a lot about these internal arts. Shifu James was generous about bringing in teachers from other systems so students would have a broader experience of the variety of internal methods. One of the teachers he brought in was Dr. John Painter. This was in 1993 and Shifu Painter came to Toronto to present a workshop in Heaven Palm, the first palm energy in Jiulong Baguazhang. Eric was instantly aware that this man had information about Bagua that few, if anyone, had. Not only that, Dr. Painter had been a professional bodyguard using the methods he was teaching. This was a man with real-world experience with a deep knowledge of Baguazhang. Remember, this was the art that was said to create “the longest living martial artists”. Eric was now in his 40s and this healthy longevity held great appeal.
Joining Nine Dragon Baguazhang
Over the next several years, Eric continued his internal arts studies. These were fruitful years, but the nagging sense that Shifu Painter had something no one else had was Eric’s inner companion. Finally in 1996, he attended his first “Gathering of the Circle” at the Tai Chi Farm in upstate New York. This week long immersion in Nine Dragon Baguazhang was the tipping point in Eric’s decision to train this art exclusively. With 5 years of experience in the essentials of Bagua movement, (circle walking etc.) he made the switch.
The lessons already learned allowed him to enter the Jiulong world a bit faster than would have been the case had he been a beginner. He started a study group with some friends so they could practice Jiulong together and this formed the nucleus of what eventually became the Toronto Baguazhang school.
Today, Eric is in his mid-50s and continues to plumb the depths of Jiulong Baguazhang. It has been over 20 years since he set foot inside his first martial arts class and therehave been many twists and turns along the way. His number one goal in all this is to live a long, healthy and happy life. He sees Baguazhang as integral to that quest because it offers a unique combination of meditation, philosophy, mindbody health practices (qigong) and real-world combat skills. He has not seen anything else that offers this particular combination and is now sharing these discoveries. He continues to learn with Shifu Painter and hopes many others will come and undertake this inner adventure.