Tuesday, August 9, 2011

essential training equipment (8): small sticks

The ba gua dao is a weapon unique to ba gua zhang. I translate it rather loosely as “big-ass sword” because it is just pretty dang big. People love old photos of ancient Chinese masters of smaller stature standing next to swords as tall as them.

Think of a normal dao or broadsword. There is only a single blade and it is curved (in contrast to the jian, which is straight and double-bladed). It has a nice, workable length and is used in a large number of Chinese martial arts.

Then comes the ba gua dao, with the same curved single blade but much bigger and longer. In last month’s trip to Beijing, one of my goals was to learn the ba gua dao form taught by Liu Jing Ru Laoshi.

I learned the form but have yet to practice it with a real ba gua dao. I had contacted my usual martial arts supply store in Beijing but they had none on hand (though, as usual, I walked out of there with a large stock of weapons, Fei Yue shoes, and the like).

We spent the first couple days working through all the praying mantis forms in his set (liu he tang lang quan). The next morning he showed up with a small branch from a tree, nothing more than a switch really. That was to be my ba gua dao. Maybe half the length, no curve, no distinction between the bladed and non-bladed sides….

No big deal for now. I learned the ba gua jian form from him in the same Beijing park in 2007 using foot-long folding fans. But at least later in that trip I was able to buy a ba gua jian at the supply shop.

The ba gua dao form is quite similar to the ba gua jian form (he created them both) so I already had most of the principles of motion down. The biggest challenge was finding and working through the differences in doing the form with a totally different kind of sword, thinking about which motions he had deleted / altered / added to take into account the shift from a straight, double-edged sword to a curved, single-edged sword.

The next day, some groundskeepers were cleaning up in the park and I found a longer branch with more curve to it – not the same as a real dao but much closer, anyhow. It felt much better than the small branch, but was still not satisfying. If any of you readers has a spare, unused ba gua dao available, do let me know.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

adjusting to your environment (5)

I flew out of Tokyo as a typhoon hit the main island. My plane was delayed three hours, not too bad.

Practice started early the next morning in the Tao Ran Ting park as usual. It was raining heavily in Beijing. We usually practice outdoors but not in heavy rain. If it rains, we go inside the little tea restaurant, move some tables aside, and practice in there. But it was completely full that day. We walked across the park in the rain and found a hotel with an empty room (no easy feat in Beijing).

The space was very narrow, so all plans for ba gua zhang review / ba gua dao were set aside. Liu Laoshi ran me through several of the smaller Liu He Tang Lang Quan forms -- a little cramped but workable in the small space.

Though my intention was to focus on ba gua zhang this trip, I had also polished my mantis fist forms, and that was a good thing due to the sudden change in content.

We continued working on the tang lang forms the next day and, after reviewing all the others, I finally got started on the remaining form in the set, zhao mian deng 照面灯, whose namepiece motion bears striking similarity to a fall - back - and - attack motion found in several ba gua weapons forms. More on that later, as we get to the ba gua dao later in the trip...

The remaining days were marked by excellent practice in severe heat and humidity. The moisture finally broke one hour before my scheduled flight. Beijing AIrport was hastily shut down and we hapless travelers were marched back through immigration, customs, picked up our luggage and began the hours and hours of waiting in line, fending off line-jumpers, arranging flights the next day, fighting for a hotel room, giving up and sleeping in the airport and arriving one day late in Tokyo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2011 Beijing

Just a quick mention for now - spent five days in the massive heat and humidity of Beijing last week, four days of good training with the boss, Liu Jing Ru Laoshi. More on that later - ba gua dao is nice, so is the 7th/final form in Liu He Tang Lang Quan.

And the boss is coming to Tokyo for his (final) annual seminar at the end of this month....