We envision 8 sections in the website as follows:
1. Front Page
2. Master Liu (his bio)
7. Practice with us
Please find specific text for four of the sections as follows:
Section 1: Front Page
Authentic Ba Gua Zhang, as taught in nineteenth century Beijing.
The hidden combat techniques of Xing Yi Quan.
Ancient Shaolin neigong.
Chinese medicine bodywork.
Section 4: Xing Yi
Only after the death of his master, Dong, in 1882, did Liu then learn Xing Yi from his friend, the noted master Liu Qilan. This exchange of knowledge between friends was not unusual at the time and was a practice continued by later generations of martial artists in Beijing also. Liu did not change his Ba Gua or add to it, but maintained it as he had been taught. (When Sheng Zhi'an learned Shaolin neigong and skills from the Wang Wenchang this was also an exchange of knowledge, with him teaching Wang Ba Gua in return).
Standing practice, particularly San Ti posture, is a fundamental element of the Xing Yi practice. This is followed by the Five Elements Fists. These condition the body and mind of the practitioner, as well as working the qi.
Rarely taught or seen, the Eight Methods are a continuation of the Five Elements Fists. Incorporating the Five Element Fists, these Eight Methods contain some of the most effective combat techniques found within the Chinese martial arts. As is typical with the ethos of Xing Yi, they are direct, effective and potentially lethal.
Also taught are partner drills, so that students can get a feel for applying the art with another person. The Zashichui form and weapons, notably the spear, are taught once students have developed a level of proficency in the fundamental practices.
Very importantly, special 'mind instructions' are taught. These ensure that the practitioner developes the special qualities that made Xing Yi famous, such as rooting, the cultivation of qi and explosive power.
Section 5: Ba Gua
"The most famous of his (Dong Haichuan) disciples were six men: Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Ma Weiqi, Song Changrong, Liu Fengchun and Fan Zhiyong."
Lu Jinggui 'Complete Manual of Cao's Ba Gua Zhang'
Dong Haichuan, the founder of Ba Gua Zhang, was a martial arts master of legendary abilities and skills from mid to late 19th century China. An instructor to the Imperial court, he taught several disciples who later went on to become famous in their own rights as martial arts masters. Most famous of these were Yin Fu and Cheng Tinghua and because of their students in the major metropolis' of Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, these branches have become well known and fairly widespread now.
However, Dong also had other students who were lauded for their abilities by contemporary masters, but are now hardly known. In recent years some of these other branches have come out into the open and are now starting to attract the interest of serious students.
“Cui Hua Liu, his two arms were like lightning. His strikes came like bullets.”
Liu Fengchun Baguazhang By Zhang Yongchun Translated by Joseph Crandall
One such branch is that of Dong's disciple, Liu Fengchun. Also known as Cui Hua ('Jewelry') Liu, because of his work in jewelry manufacturing, he was a renowned master of the time. Through the introduction of his friend, Cheng Tinghua, Liu was accepted as a disciple of Dong.
Coming from a very poor farming family in Hebei, Liu came to Peking looking for work, like many others before and since. While known for his work in jewelry, for a period of time he also worked as the head security guard at the Summer Palace during building work ordered by the Empress Dowager Ci Xi. During the several years he was employed in this job he was able practice largely undisturbed and without any concern about having to earn a living. While now part of the sprawling modern city of Beijing, then the Summer Palace was outside of the city, so this provided an environment free from distractions (Ma Weiqi, otherwise known as 'Coal Ma', while initially learning from Dong moved into his business premises to live, away from his family, so that he could practice intensely without distraction for three years).
It has been widely reported that Dong Haichuan only took on disciples that were already skilled in martial arts, teaching them his Ba Gua, which they then applied to their existing arts. Yin Fu was known for his knowledge of Shaolin arts, and Cheng Tinghua for his shuai chao skills. Later generations compared notes and cross trained with each other, so that what originally consisted of core neigong training and fighting applications has expanded into sixty four palms, seventy two kicks and a myriad of forms (including Wu Shu performance routines in recent years to cater for the demand of the parents of children, who want to see their children winning medals and trophies in competitions.)
"Originally there was nothing like Eight Animals Palms and this is one of the typical inventions of later generations not only within Cheng Tinghua's branch, but also others, including Yin Fu's."
The original art, taught by Dong, and learned and practiced by Liu Fengchun, was known as 'Turning Palm'. This practice of circle walking deeply transforms the practitioner's body, mind and spirit. The physical body becomes immensely strong, the dantien developed, and the energy channels strengthened. The central channel is opened up, connecting the practitioner to 'Heaven and Earth'. Awareness of 'the Dao' becomes a real experience, rather than a philosophical concept read about in books.
"Liu Fengchun and I were good friends, his skill was very deep…. He never practiced the 64 palms or 72 legs. None could match him.”
Liu Fengchun Baguazhang By Zhang Yongchun Translated by Joseph Crandall
Liu and the later generations within his line have maintained this essential approach to practice as it has served them without fail both as a spiritual practice, but also fundamentally as a combat art. Liu accepted challenges from all comers, as did his son. His son's disciple Sheng Zhi'an, served as the chief martial arts instructor for the Hebei police in Tangshan city.
Liu is often cited as being primarily a student of Cheng Tinghua and the families stayed in friendly contact into the following generation. While there are similarities to the Ba Gua practiced by both, there are notable differences, not least in how much a lot of contemporary Cheng style Ba Gua has added extra elements into their practice. It should be noted that Liu was introduced to Dong Haichuan by Cheng Tinghua because Cheng recognised Liu's obvious talent and skill was at a level that he should receive instruction directly from Dong himself.
As well as the circle walking practice, there are also various practices to develop the body and the fighting skills of the art. These range through standing postures, stepping drills and movement drills that condition the whole body as well as the dantian.
The famous weapons of Ba Gua, including the large sabre and the Deer Horn knives, are taught to those students that have gained some proficiency in the empty hand methods. As is typical with classical combat arts from around the world, the empty hand and weapons movements are interchangeable. This means that a practitioner is able to use any weapon that comes to hand, an essential skill in a life or death encounter.
Section 7: Practice with us
Practice within the school is carefully structured, with elements of neigong, Xing Yi and Ba Gua introduced in a manner that is complimentary to the whole development of the practitioner. Students are also able to choose areas in which they personally wish to focus on, but always with the understanding that a correct foundation is developed first.
Initially standing practice and jibengong exerises are taught, so that the body and mind can be prepared for training and also strengthened and made healthier. Exercises from the Twelve Linking Hands neigong are also taught at this early stage. The wellbeing of the practitioner has to be paramount: there is no logic in learning a method of self defence that actually damages the person doing it!
Xing Yi fundamentals, the San Ti posture and Five Elements Fists follow. Also at this stage basic Ba Gua practices are introduced. Like the Five Elements Fists of Xing Yi, these incorporate fundamental steps, hand movements and techniques within the art, while also developing all aspects of the practitioner-the physical, energetic, mental and spiritual.
Typically, once a student has developed a good enough foundation with the above practices, they then move onto the Ba Gua standing practice and circle walking. While the circle walking within the school is not spectacular or flashy, it requires considerable attention to detail and effort in its practice. On all levels it is very demanding; the flip side of that being that it is also very rewarding on all levels. Because of its difficulty, it is generally expected that a student develops a good foundation in neigong and jibengong before starting the circle walking.
More advanced drills, forms, practices, weapons training and details are added as the student is able to assimilate them into their practice. However, the ultimate goal is not the collection of numerous methods, techniques and forms, but the physical, mental, energetic and spiritual growth of the practitioner.