question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

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question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Thu Jan 23, 2020 12:50 pm

This is a question about one characteristic of training strikes in Yin Style Baguazhang (YSB) as taught by He Jinbao. I had the good fortune to attend a seminar in 2017 with He Jinbao and his disciple Matt Bild in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a set of fighting skills and as a martial art, YSB is a deep system with a small but dedicated group of practitioners, which made the seminar experience great (I could only attend for a couple of days, though). However, the fact that it is a small group with only intermittent exposure (in the US) to HJB and Matt puts the responsibility (and the risk) of solo training without regular correction on the student, if not close to a regular training group.

My question is straightforward: during strike/stepping training, how does a YSB practitioner prevent (or at least minimize) the effect of the force moving through the spine and skull which inevitably means the brain is sloshing up against the skull?

HJB demonstrates what I'm referring to in this clip of Chopping strikes from the Dragon system:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU_zKZ08xQ0

With each strike, the cocking of the hips/waist followed by the pulse of momentum moving up through the spine and mostly, but not entirely, through the shoulders and out the arms leaves enough momentum moving through the skull to send HJB's thick mop of hair flying up. Given that a student may train hundreds of strikes in a training session in this manner, both stationary and with the stepping, the cumulative impact on the brain in the skull seems significant.

Matt Bild seemed to think that a sufficiently strong neck would "absorb" the shock of issuing power, but the momentum still moves through the skull.

Since he is a TCM health professional, I asked Andrew Nugent-Head, who first hosted HJB and his teacher, the late Xie Peiqi, in the US, and produced the video footage above. He said that they were advised in the early days to train strikes with enough force until they felt a slight headache, then ease back just a bit. It was difficult to discern from this e-mail exchange whether Andrew was being sardonic, but in any event the recommendation did not seem like sound advice.

As more becomes known about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, I am motivated to become more prudent in my choice of training methods.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby everything on Thu Jan 23, 2020 9:04 pm

training the amount of force til everyone's heads hurt then backing off seems incredibly stupid. an "old school" kind of "toughness" that is actually sheer stupidity. maybe it would have been smart enough when life expectancy was 35 and physical life-and-death danger from hand to hand fighting was a potentially more frequent reason for such low life expectancy.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Thu Jan 23, 2020 9:54 pm

There’s 3 different ways to practice striking drills and forms:
The 1st is called “Hua Dao Lian (Training while Tracing or drawing the paths/ routes of the strikes). Which is moving with slow and methodical movements. This can be practiced by moving as slow as molasses or generally just at the speed where you can just barely have hand and foot harmony without falling down. But slow enough where you’re increasing the time where you’re able to be equally weighted but with one foot off the ground, (like CJW and others were discussing in another thread.) This type of training is for focusing on developing the turning power of the waist/Dantian, called the horizontal aspect of the TVA (Transverse Abdominal) muscles.

The 2nd way to practice (called Fa Li Lian “Issuing Power Training”) is learning and developing the vertical power of the TVA muscles and their power to quickly move your lumbar. The lumbar can become like a springloaded catapult that can jolt the flesh of the abdomen upward, which sends a vertical wave of flesh moving upward and out through the shoulders and to the hand. Learning to harmonize the movement of flesh to arrive at the hand right at the same time as the strike is ending is learning how to have waist and hand harmony. Once you learn how to do this. You don’t have to practice it. You only train it in order to learn it, or learn how to get waist to hand harmony in a new strike you’re learning. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. Where the first method’s skills and TVA development is something you need to keep practicing in order to maintain it.

The 3rd way to practice presumes that you’ve learned how to use the vertical power of the lumbar to Fali (issue power), and it’s called “Hunyuan Li Lian” (Training whilst Containing/ Holding Back or Smoothing out the power.) Where you move quickly and are approximating the Horizontal Power of the TVA Muscles at the speed you would be using it in an actual fight. All the while you’re holding back the springloaded lumbar or vertical power. You can feel the power that is isometrically being contained in your lumbar area just keep building up. Which adds even a greater feeling of torque to the horizontal.
So the bulk of ones practice should be spent on the first and third methods. While the second is only practiced in order to learn it. Or for people who weren’t taught the mechanics of a FaLi, then you would only practice the first and third method but the third wouldn’t be called ‘Hunyuan Li’ because you don’t have any vertical power to hold back.
Both the first and third methods should not have any head shaking because that only happens if you’re using the lumbar to issue vertical power. The lumbar cannot be moved in isolation. The whole of one’s own spinal column has to also be moved as the lumbar is sprung. The sacrum and tailbone move, and the cervical vertebrae and head move counter to it. It should be one cohesive serpentine movement that’s called the “Dragon’s Back” in Xingyiquan. You are not intentionally or purposely trying to shake or rattle your own head. It’s a natural byproduct of the movement of the lumbar releasing its isometric tension. It should be natural. It’s a primal or animalistic movement. It should not be a humanly contrived movement.

(The horizontal power of the TVA muscles moving is described as being like a Tiger twisting its waist as it strikes. The Dragon’s back and the Tiger’s Waist.)
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Thu Jan 23, 2020 10:15 pm

That said. The issue of a Fa Li motivating the movement of flesh upward is naturally said to move more qi upward. So the cadence of the strike and the breathing should be carefully monitored and it’s a rule that one should always adhere to. On the windup be really slow while slowly inhaling deeply into the abdomen and then extremely fast as you’re striking outward with a quick expulsion of breath. Then slow again. You want more qi returning to your abdomen then is going up into your head. But with more practice you will naturally learn to block off the movement of qi at Dazhui (big hammer) point. Which is not an esoteric thing but a physical tangible thing that represents learning the harmonious movement of the cervical vertebrae and the tailbone (dubbed Xiao Zhui Small Hammer). The movement of the head may look erratic but it’s a fluid movement that is coinciding with a movement of the entire spinal column.

When learning how to Fali there likely will be some qi and shen getting stuck in your head but that’s why it’s crucial to do the Qigong aspect of Baguazhang which is the Circle Walking. (Which in the Western paradigm is activating the glymphatic system of the brain to cleanse itself of c-reactive proteins and such). DHC, or maybe Yin Fu had said something like “Daoist priests use Circle Walking to reach enlightenment. We use Circle Walking so that we can practice fighting.”

.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:39 am

When learning the mechanical movements of the spine, one should be more concerned about the lumbar and sacral area because that’s the source of the strength and the most prone to self injury if you practice carelessly.
It takes a lot of practice. It’s not the amount of repetitions during the course of a day that counts. (When I was learning I was doing about 50-100 strikes a day while attempting it. The rest of the time just spent doing other things.) Because the problem or difficulty in doing it is only in your mind. Because it is using a set of muscles that you’ve never had to use somatic control over. And there’s a lot of different bones that need to be moving in a sequential and ordered manner. So the time it takes to learn it is not measured in repetitions, but in the number of nights of sleep and thought about how to do it better the next day. At first zero of the repetitions are correct. A couple of weeks later and maybe 1 out of 100 is correct. Eventually 10 out of 100. Two to three years later 99 out of 100.
Generally they say it’s a young man’s game. Although they know some guys in their mid fifties who have successfully learned how to do it. They just had to be careful. It’s funny though, Because the young man has the physical body and flexibility but their rashness and hastily practicing it gets in the way. While the older man has the mental wherewithal but may be lacking in the flexibility of the young spine.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:36 am

Thanks for the detailed information on YSB practice, Devlin.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby fuels on Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:58 am

I can't provide complex detailed anatomical info., I'll just say if strikes are practiced correctly a substantial jolt of the skull can be prevented from occurring. If you can generate enough force for the unwanted jolt to happen, you likely have good development, and can continue to refine your strikes while sort of capping the exertion of raw force. Structural requirements of YSB are well specified and accessible to anyone interested.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:18 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, Richard. Wish you were still in Washington state, but we were fortunate to have you for awhile in any event.

In the video in the original post showing a young(er) He Jinbao doing chopping strikes from the Dragon system, I think he shows substantial development of the kind you are talking about. But the movement of his brain inside his skull is an inevitable aspect of that method of issuing force. HJB is a beast, and the forceful momentum through his head is perhaps more apparent with him than with practitioners of smaller stature, but it's still overt even in HJB's teacher, Xie Pei Qi.

It may not be anything to worry about. You've been training YSB consistently for more than 20 years and you're in sound health.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:27 am

One of the unspoken benefits of being able to FaLi is that the wave-like movement of your flesh traveling with the outgoing hand also brings along the ligaments of joints and prevents hyperextension that occurs when striking out into air. I’ve never given myself a headache or had any problems from practicing while doing the Fali in strikes. So not feeling any hyperextension in my joints is my primary reason for doing it. Plus it’s fun to try and learn new strikes and figure out the subtle timings and changes that you need to make to get the wave to make it all the way out to my hand. Also I’m slowly learning how to do it while standing on one leg and getting the wave to travel into my kicks. Which is a whole other challenge that’s fun to practice. The next goal after that is sitting in a chair or on a stool and being able to Fali. (I actually cane across a XYLH video that shows the special type of stool that is used for this practice.)

Point being that this brings up the question of how then to avoid hyperextension in the 3rd method of practice where you’re moving and striking with speed but without the movement of flesh that comes from a properly executed Fali. In Baguazhang this is a part of its ‘changing’ skill that it’s imparting. You do not want to feel hyperextension which is achieved by binding everything back in. It builds a quality of strength where you’re moving against your own isometric tension. This develops and mimics the situation where you would be having to immediately adapt and change if you encounter a strong resistance in an actual fight. It feels sort of like where at the finish of one strike you’re being bounced into the next strike, and so on. Bouncing like a hard rubber ball from one strike to the next. Constantly feeling that change and each strike requiring different isometric or ‘holding-bound’ tensions.

On another note, I had went to a Taijiquan seminar with Chen Xiao Wang. The terminology they use, for the horizontal turning power of the TVA muscles is ‘Zhuanhuan’ (turn-change, I sometimes translate to torque). The term they use for the vertical or moving upwards power coming from the lumbar is ‘Zhedie’ (fold or pleating, where the discs in between our vertebrae can fold open or closed like the pleats of a fan.) CXW had divided the 1st form into shorter sections so that people could really focus on one small section for months at a time. The divisions of the form is based around where the traditional FaLi and usage of ‘Zhedie’ is. Every section has one FaLi. So some sections are as small as 7 movements long, some are even 11 or 12 movements. But each one has one traditional FaLi. But he said that you shouldn’t be limiting yourself to using it in just that one move. Learn it in every movement. He said people scoff at his advice. “Wah! You should only FaLi in every move of the 3rd form!”, he says that’s just a whole other set of movements that you would have to learn. Why wait until after you learn the 1st and 2nd forms. He said there’s a short 18 elbow form that he practices where he’s just trying to string together the FaLi movements as fast as he can. But it’s short. Doing FaLi in every movement of the 1st form is a pace or cadence similar to our 2nd method of practice: more time spent drawing in then is spent expelling.

This manner of practice is not just in our branch of YSB. Jinbao is just the only one with the cajones to actually teach it to Westerners. Most of his martial acquaintances in Beijing are Xingyiquan guys because they also like to fight. He said that when the first YSB vhs tapes came out and they saw him showing the FaLi in every movement and from multiple camera angles that they called him up with death threats and such. He would often just reply, “Bring it! I already fought you and you lost. Maybe you’ve gotten better since then.” :) He said nothing ever came of it though. Some of them even lamented that they were envious of him since they don’t have students who will learn it, but that they swore blood oaths to never teach foreigners, so they were stuck. JB said that he gets away with it because of the reputation that he had made for himself. But everyone else still gets the same litany of death threats. So he doesn’t expect anyone else to really show anything on film, nor does he blame them. I’ve only found a few examples. Most are only on the web for a short time and then removed. CXW has a small portion of his 18 elbows practice. There’s a 15 minute long Xingyiquan video where you can watch one guy doing it for about 15 seconds.

.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby G. Matthew Webb on Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:38 am

Based on my memory, I think that the bagua zhang teacher Bok Nam Park openly demonstrated fa li movements in the books written for him and in the accompanying videos--and that was in the early 1990's. He also taught it openly in classes. I think that there can be a problem in forcing the power issuing movements. Be supple and use control.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:59 pm

D_Glenn wrote:One of the unspoken benefits of being able to FaLi is that the wave-like movement of your flesh traveling with the outgoing hand also brings along the ligaments of joints and prevents hyperextension that occurs when striking out into air. I’ve never given myself a headache or had any problems from practicing while doing the Fali in strikes. So not feeling any hyperextension in my joints is my primary reason for doing it. . . .

This manner of practice is not just in our branch of YSB. Jinbao is just the only one with the cajones to actually teach it to Westerners. Most of his martial acquaintances in Beijing are Xingyiquan guys because they also like to fight. He said that when the first YSB vhs tapes came out and they saw him showing the FaLi in every movement and from multiple camera angles that they called him up with death threats and such. He would often just reply, “Bring it! I already fought you and you lost. Maybe you’ve gotten better since then.” :) He said nothing ever came of it though. Some of them even lamented that they were envious of him since they don’t have students who will learn it, but that they swore blood oaths to never teach foreigners, so they were stuck. JB said that he gets away with it because of the reputation that he had made for himself. But everyone else still gets the same litany of death threats. So he doesn’t expect anyone else to really show anything on film, nor does he blame them. I’ve only found a few examples. Most are only on the web for a short time and then removed. CXW has a small portion of his 18 elbows practice. There’s a 15 minute long Xingyiquan video where you can watch one guy doing it for about 15 seconds.

.



Devlin--


There is nothing in the structure or physiology of the spine, skull or brain to prevent the collision between brain tissue and skull which is an inevitable result of sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head, which can be plainly seen in the video clip in the original post of He Jinbao doing "chopping" strikes as well as in a multitude of other videos of Xie Peiqi and current YSB practitioners. The brain does not "hyperextend," so I'm not sure what your statement above about hyperextension of joints has to do with the specific practice method of YSB fali I'm concerned about.

I've trained occasionally with YSB practitioners since 2010, and I observe the same tendency mimicking HJB in many of them. Involving the head in the power train, even inadvertently, does not seem conducive to good brain health in the long run. The medical and health professionals who have trained YSB are conspicuously silent when asked about this concern. Non-YSB medical and health professionals I've asked uniformly question the desirability of training fajin in that manner.

You say you've never experienced headaches, which I'm glad to hear, but in light of your own medical history of brain trauma I'm a little surprised you haven't looked into this specific practice with medical professionals.

I don't know anything about HJB's stories. Although you've accomplished a lot of autodidactic work with written Chinese through resources of character dictionaries and translation software, I wasn't aware you spoke Chinese with anywhere near sufficient fluency to confirm these stories directly with HJB or verify the involved philosophical, TCM and historical assertions attributed to HJB. I haven't heard Matt Bild in person or in his excellent writings in curriculum summaries and descriptions of applications relate anything close to the details you provide. But I haven't trained as much nor had as much exposure to HJB as you have, so freely defer to your accounts and the occasional corrections/clarifications from your YSB seniors that I see.

Unlike a lot of Chinese and Western baguazhang teachers that I've trained with and spoken to, I have a lot of respect for the way Xie Peiqi and He Jinbao developed, organized and elaborated on Men Baozhen's much simpler set of teachings. I think Western YSB practitioners have a great resource in the collaboration between HJB and Matt Bild, a highly-skilled translator, martial artist/fighter and teacher in his own right. I only raise a concern about the long-term effects of the strike training demonstrated in the video clip in the original post.


The head doesn't have to rock 'n roll to express smooth, powerful, connected fajin at will.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJQoP6iYJwE
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:41 pm

G. Matthew Webb wrote:Based on my memory, I think that the bagua zhang teacher Bok Nam Park openly demonstrated fa li movements in the books written for him and in the accompanying videos--and that was in the early 1990's. He also taught it openly in classes. I think that there can be a problem in forcing the power issuing movements. Be supple and use control.



Thanks Doc. I remember those Park Bok Nam tapes from the 1990s, and there was open demonstration of fa li. The reason we may not see more of that kind of fa li as focused training is that actual practice experience may disfavor it for many teachers and arts.

I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of being supple and using control. This clip from YSB--which otherwise I think is organized really nicely as a "trailer" of the emptyhand practice of YSB--intersperses He Jinbao in solo strike/step training showing the head movement I am concerned about with demonstrations of usage where he is visibly more supple and in control of the power.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk3WipJCwHQ

I am not a YSB practitioner of this line. There is some excellent fight-oriented training in this system and there are some really fine people that have been training YSB for many years. Matt Bild is one of the most skilled exponents/translators/teachers of Chinese internal arts that I've met; he's been training YSB for 20 years and is in excellent physical health. He Jinbao has been training YSB of this line for nearly half a century and remains an affable beast in his mid-60s. This one specific practice method of He Jinbao concerned me and that's why I asked about it. I'm not seeking to change anyone's practice.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Wed Jan 29, 2020 10:04 am

Only mimicking Jinbao’s Head movements is not good. Don’t do that.

The head is moved as a result of the lumbar springing and tailbone tucking.

Some branches of XYLH use a FaLi method called “The head leads the tail.”, in which they are really trying to jolt the head and neck to start a wave like movement. Jinbao said it’s a way to generate a good power but it’s not a sustainable practice when compared to our method, which you could say is “the Tail leads the Head.”, for comparison sake. (I don’t think that’s a real term that’s used.) Jinbao said that some of the XYLH guys can no longer turn their heads to the side because of the practice. Their heads are frozen in a forward position and they have to turn their whole body around to see who’s coming up behind them.

As I said, he emphasizes that Circle Turning is crucial to practice if one is also practicing Fali. This particular health aspect of Turning is only one part of so there’s a lot of other reasons to practice it even if you aren’t doing FaLi. I personally try to do more Circle Turning than I do FaLi Training.

Again, FaLi Training is only needed to learn it. I actually took an, almost to the day, 3 year hiatus from doing any FaLi at all. Not one single time. Since I was recovering from my surgery. But then when I did do it, it was like I hadn’t missed a day. If anything I had more power. You don’t have to practice it in order to keep it relevant. It’s like learning how to balance on a bicycle. Once you learn it, you never have to learn it again.

The ‘Zhuanhuan’ and turning strength of the TVA muscles, now that starts to go away within a few days without practice.

The hyperextension thing is why I continue to practice FaLi. I think the juice is worth the squeeze. So onto the squeeze part of it: my personal data is highly skewed because of a genetic predisposition for cancers. I don’t have a proper baseline or control group to say whether it’s good or bad. In my case it could be doubly bad. So I factor that in.

JB and Dr. Xie are some of the mentally sharpest people I’ve ever met. An enlightened Zen Buddhist was another one. Maybe without the FaLi practice they could have been that much sharper.

So, again, I can’t say whether it’s bad. Practicing incorrectly is bad.

So instead I’m just pointing out that you don’t have to practice, or learn how to FaLi. Some of Dr. Xie’s students never learned it. It’s sort of called using the system in a ‘Chuanzhuan’ manner. Where 3 fast strikes replace the 1 powerful strike using FaLi. If you remove the FaLi practice from YSB, then you have Chuanzhuan. Or you could even just only focus on doing the smooth movements of the Snake system which effectively binds up an opponent, and the FaLi is then used to totally destroy a joint, which is just over the top unnecessary. :o

.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby D_Glenn on Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:05 am

Tom, when I was in China in 2000, JB and Dr. Xie gave me a lot of leeway since they had previously saw me the year before and knew I was only my second year of practicing FaLi. Jinbao said, translated through his friend and student of Dr. Xie, a Michael Yuen, that I was at the point in the process where he couldn’t offer up much advice other than to not let my head move around so much and try to hold that DaZhui (C7 area) steady. To think of the requirements of lifting the crown of the head and tucking the chin to control and essentially close off and control the head. The only other advice was to just keep practicing. And that he knew my constant frustration since he went through the same process himself. That was much needed advice.

(I got to talk with Jinbao and Michael Yuen a lot after dinner on several evenings. Good times. Good demonstrations of applications and lots of information that I continue to draw upon year after year.)

I think I filmed this around 2003/4 and this is the fruit of that advice. As you can see, I have very little head movement or shaking, per JB’s direct instructions. He specifically told me to not imitate his head shaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd7SbYVtRu4




.
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Re: question about Yin Style Baguazhang training

Postby Tom on Thu Jan 30, 2020 9:15 am

D_Glenn wrote:Tom, when I was in China in 2000, JB and Dr. Xie gave me a lot of leeway since they had previously saw me the year before and knew I was only my second year of practicing FaLi. Jinbao said, translated through his friend and student of Dr. Xie, a Michael Yuen, that I was at the point in the process where he couldn’t offer up much advice other than to not let my head move around so much and try to hold that DaZhui (C7 area) steady. To think of the requirements of lifting the crown of the head and tucking the chin to control and essentially close off and control the head. The only other advice was to just keep practicing. And that he knew my constant frustration since he went through the same process himself. That was much needed advice.

(I got to talk with Jinbao and Michael Yuen a lot after dinner on several evenings. Good times. Good demonstrations of applications and lots of information that I continue to draw upon year after year.)

I think I filmed this around 2003/4 and this is the fruit of that advice. As you can see, I have very little head movement or shaking, per JB’s direct instructions. He specifically told me to not imitate his head shaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd7SbYVtRu4




.


Thanks D. Nice clip--you've shown this one before. But the contrast between HJB's own demonstration and yours with respect to the head shaking still puzzles me--why the "do as I say, not as I do" contrast?

No worries. It's just curiosity on my part.

Cheers.
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