Jiulong Baguazhang is a practical martial art for the real world. We take a hardheaded approach to training that is based on a rational view of developing mental and physical skills needed for self-defense. My teachers have little patience with the idea of mystical, mysterious skills and supernatural powers that are sometimes associated with internal Chinese arts.
Numinous is a word that describes something as having a religious or spiritual quality. With all its practical, rational, hardheadedness, how is it that Jiulong practice so often leads me to numinous and transcendent feelings? I’ve thought through a few explanations but none seemed satisfactory to me so I’ll try describing an example (one of many) instead.
On Saturday mornings I usually arrive at our school an hour before class begins. My co-instructor, Eric is usually there, too and any student is welcome to join us although there is no formal instruction. We bow and the room is very quiet. Light streams into it through the blinds on the bank of windows. The high clear tone of the tingsha feels like an awakening as I ring it in each corner and from the room’s centre. I stretch gently. My muscles loosen.
We sit together around the bagua in front of the ancestor place, under the watchful, silent eyes of dragon statues and the figure of Kuan Yin, the avatar of compassion. I sound the gong 8 times and we begin our meditation. All becomes still as the gong’s deep tone fades. Stillness reigns with its attendants, companionship and peace.
After meditation, there may be small talk or quiet pursuit of practice. A feeling of joyful tranquility fills me during this pre-class hour that I can best describe as numinous. I’m always in a good mood when it’s time to start our class, feeling relaxed and focused.
I don’t think one has to believe in the supernatural or a particular religion to experience the numinous and transcendent as profoundly as anyone who does have such beliefs. I believe those feelings are natural to us all and only have to be awakened. Jiulong may be practical but it has also awakened me to something that goes far beyond simply learning to knock someone down. I might not be able to explain it clearly but I certainly feel it. Come and join us one Saturday morning and you may feel it too.