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The Taiji Classics

By Paul Brecher
This article was first published in Combat and Healing Magazine in January 2005
The Tai Chi Classics are the historical writings of the old masters. They are the technical manuals which let us know what we should have within our art so that we can practice it correctly.

What the classics say about Chi Kung:The elixir of life lies in the body, regulate the qi and the body will be well. Develop the body and mind, cultivate ones essence, chi and spirit. Train the martial and the spiritual, for self cultivation in tai chi balance yin and yang to rejuvenate. The whole body is filled with chi, the changes of yin and yang move the chi. The chi spirals in the body like the coils of a snake. The hips, waist and belly are like a dragon twisting its body. Be like a swimmimg dragon. Inhale the chi to the tan tien, exhale to fa jin.

What the classics say about sensitivity training:Remain internally reserved, contain hardness without expressing it, meet the opponent with softness causing him to know nothing of you. With the opponent rise and drop, speed up and slow down, evade and return, provoke and cease. Use adhering, connecting and following to attain this skill. Learn to interpret chi, use the eyes correctly, listen with the skin and remain balanced at all times. Increase your chi and keep your mind strong, drain the opponents chi and drain his strength. We are victorious, the opponent fails. You must understand the life and death hand techniques, you must understand the life and death acupuncture points. Attack the points so life is no more.

What the classics say about fighting:Stick, connect and adhere to the opponent, draw the opponent in, attack with great force. Use spiral movements attack the opponents neck. Always maintain close contact but never grapple, use fa jin.

Be like a speeding horse destroying all in its path. Attack the opponents acupuncture points with the hand techniques of break, bend, beat and pound, press down, rub, push and grab, open and close, rise and fall. Applications for palm are strike down and forwards, applications for fingers are seek and stab the acupuncture points, applications for whole hand are break and drain opponents chi, applications for fist is to punch. Among punches there are, down and parry punch, below elbow punch, turn the body punch, upside down punch, open mountain punch, under leaf punch, reverse punch, power portion punch and rolling break punch. Remember the footwork follows the body. Every move is an attack, destroy all in your path. Use elbow to take his life. Leave your opponent no room to escape, strike without mercy. The hand like a swift sword, slicing across the forehead or throat, send the opponent straight to hell. Use an attack no opponent can withstand making sure not to give the opponent an opportunity. Like a tiger pouncing on sheep, like a speeding horse destroying all in its path.

What the classics say about moving with the opponent:Strike the opponent when his attack is imminent but has not yet issued forth. The whole body must fa jin when attacked, this is an internal skill. To defeat the opponent one must be able to interpret his chi. Relate to the opponent with turn and exchange, advance and retreat. Know his hands forwards and backwards intention by gaze left but look right. Attacking the opponents blood vessels and acupuncture points and he will faint, forceful attacks on the death points terminate the opponents life.

What the classics say about ones own body movement:
Spine straight and vertical, sink the chi to the tan tien. Raise ones spirit and turn the waist/hips/belly continuously. Be like a swiming dragon twisting its body be flexible and soft,

The Pau Chui.
A video made by Paul Brecher It can also be found on his website and on Utube    

An article by Paul Brecher  reprinted by kind permission from his website
Introduction to Wutang Shan Nei Jia Chuan and The Old Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan By Paul Brecher
First published in 'Combat and Healing Magazine' June 1999
About 700 years ago Chang San Fen created a martial art system for fighting that contained special chi kung exercises which would increase ones chi and invigorate its circulation around the body to improve health. The forms were also a type of moving meditation which had a spiritually transforming effect upon the people who practised them. This system created by Chang san feng is called Wutang Nei Jia Chuan, its movements where incorporated into many other styles and eventualy those other styles merged with each other and became what we today call Tai Chi Chuan.(I teach both Chang san fengs Wutang Nei Jia Chuan as well as Tai Chi Chuan and Pa Kua Chang,)

These are short single person empty hand forms

Here is a very brief description of The Twelve Hand Weapons, in all these training methods the hands reflect the shape and activity of the weapon that the sequence is named after. These are two person training methods which teach fa jin dim mak continuous attack as well as sensitivity and awareness and are a way of practising applying the movements learnt in the 12 forms listed above. They also teach us how to know the intention of the attacker and as a result be in a position to attack him whilst avoiding his attacks.

The Hammer Hand
We have the active hand in the shape of a fist known as the Hammer Hand and its attacking movements are like delivering hammer blows. We first hammer his arms and then his throat and temple and then his neck.

The Spear Hand
The hands are cut across the opponents eyes like a slicing spear tip and then they attack the neck. All Chinese spears have a loose flexibility so that the spear tip slashes back and forth, if this Spear Hand method is trained correctly we get the same effect with the fingertips.

The Sword Hand
The hands like the blade of a sword slice across his neck and we do a palm strike to his temple as if pounding the flat of the blade across the side of his head and then stab him in the neck with our fingertips as if they were the point of the sword.

The Plough Hand
Like digging up the ground we cut into the attackers arms and turn them away and then plough into the opponents neck.

The Axe Hand
The hands are like axe blades which slice into the enemy, chopping him down with strikes to his neck and torso, felling him like a tree.

The Three Section Staff Hand
We use our hands and forearms like the Chinese implement for thrashing wheat or rice, the three section staff. We thrash the opponents arms and neck.

The Combination Weapon Hand
We use a combination of the previous methods, first we attack with the staff, then we use the hinge arm from the hammer and then the back of the hand like the flat of a sword blade and then a chop like an axe.

The Dart Hand
The dart is like a spear tip on a piece of string that is shot out at great speed, the hands duplicate this movement in their attacks.

The Drill Hand
We literally drill our way through the opponents defences as we counterattack.

The Spade Hand
We use our hands like a flat spade to slam the enemy with great force.

The Double Blade Hand
Both hands slice, cut and chop at the opponent.

The Tree Stump Puller Hand
We pull out the opponents joints like pulling out the stump of a plant. His wrist, elbow and shoulder are all dislocated.

(A much more detailed explanation of Chang san fengs Wutang Nei Jia Chuan is contained within The Training Manual of The College of Chinese Martial Arts, this 400 page book is available here)

Yang Lu chan spent ten years learning this style from Chen Chang Xing's and then further developed it into what we today call The Old Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan.
Yang Lu chan 1799-1872, who originally came from Yong Nian travelled around China with a bag over his shoulder and a spear in his hand. When ever he heard of a martial artist in the area he was passing through he would challenge them, often he fought with several people at once but always won. It is said that with every blow he drew blood and whenever he fought he took a life.
This may sound extreme to us today but in the troubled times that Yang lu chan lived martial artist worked as bodyguards for individuals and as protectors for the delivery of valuable goods for merchants and money for government tax collectors. Work was dependent on ones reputation as an unbeaten fighter and martial artists lived in a world of violence were no mercy was expected and non given.
It is also worth mentioning that one story about Yang Lu chan also implies that he was a very accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine. So he was able to heal as well as fight which is the balanced approach all martial artists should have.
After his many triumphs all across China Yang lu chan arrived in the capitol, Peking. Here he was challenged by the countries top fighters, on one occasion a champion fighter said to him, "Your style looks to soft to defeat anyone". Yang Lu chan replied "Men are not made of wood or iron, they can all be defeated." when they fought Yang attacked instantly with the overwhelming force of fa jin dim mak and knocked the challenger unconscious with such severity that he dropped straight down where he stood and hit the ground hard as if he had fallen from a great height. Yang Lu chan defeated all those who challenged him and his reputation was so great that he was in great demand as a martial arts instructor and he became known as 'Yang of No Equal'.

To really understand why the martial art of Yang Lu Chan was so aggressive and violent we need to look at his life in its historical context. He lived in a time of discord and anarchy when many people carried knives and other weapons because they feared for their lives every day. In 1839 there was the Opium War against Britain and in1860 the European troops attacked Beijing and the Emperor fled the city. And the Nien Rebellion of1852 raged on for many years and Yang lu chans descendants were affected by the Boxer Rebellion of1898.
The greatest event that caused the most upheaval and violence began when Yang lu chan was fifty years old. A man called Hong Xiuquan had just finished spending ten years assembling his massive 'Taiping Heavenly Army of God'. Hong was convinced that he was the brother of Jesus and wanted to create a Christian state in China that he would call The New Jerusalem.
He seized control of Nanjing city on the banks of the Yangzi river and used this as his base to fight the Imperial army of China. For fifteen years China was ripped apart by this civil war, twenty million people were killed in this conflict. So when Yang Lu Chan was sixty five years old he would have seen a lot of bloodshed and violence. In this time of such great suffering and turmoil it is understandable that he would have created a system that would enable him to survive. That he had many lethal and extreme methods to call upon would be a necessary in a country gripped by so much warfare.

Here is a brief description of the main components of Yang Lu chan's martial art system.
The Old Yang Style Long Form
The first thing one learns is The Old Yang Style Long Form, it contains all of the principles of the system, it is like a tree trunk and all the other forms and training methods are like branches that come from it. Beginners practice slowly to learn correct movement, balance and coordination and to get the body to learn the moves. After that almost everything is fast and furious with explosive movements of great power.

The Large San Sau
Next in the syllabus is The Large San Sau (Free Hands) Two Person Fighting Form, this prearranged fight sequence has an A and B side which fit together and enables the practitioners to get used to the close quarters ferocity and pressure of real combat. All possible combinations of strikes are used, punches and palm strikes, kicks and foot stomps, elbows, knees and shoulders. It also teaches the very important principle of attacking the attacker as he attacks you but getting your strike to hit him first.

The Pauchui
The Pauchui (Cannon Fist) Form is when we practice the A and B sides of the Large San sau by ourselves as a single person form.

The Small San Sau
The Small San Sau Two Person Fighting Form, again its all fa jin dim mak in a short pre arranged fight sequence. This form teaches how to simultaneously counterattack the most common types of street attacks of straight punches, hook punches and uppercuts. It has connected to it twelve movements called ' The Mother Applications' , these are extra subconscious reflex attacking methods designed to encourage continuous attack. The reason for this overkill approach is that should you have to fight two opponents you want to be sure that the first one you hit will stay down. Because when you turn to take on the next one you don't want the first opponent to be able to get up and reattack you.

Lung Har Chuan
The Lung Har Chuan ( Dragon Prawn Fist ) are four separate fa jin dim mak abstract fighting methods which all eventually start to overlap with one another in a wide variety of combinations. This, like all tai chi, is about learning a Way of moving that could have any number of applications, rather than training specific techniques.

he Twelve Circular Dim Mak Palms
The Twelve Circular Dim Mak Palms are to train us to intercept and apply multiple strikes from one fa jin movement.

The Da Lu
The Da Lu 'Four Corners ' teaches two people how to strike using continuous rebound with body checks and shoulder strikes, palm strikes, knees and forearm bars.

Single Pushing Hands and Double Pushing Hands
And last of all the glue which sticks the whole of the system together is Single Pushing Hands and Double Pushing Hands. Every type of attack and counter, every training method and principle that is in the system is within the Pushing Hands. It gives us the sensitivity and connectivity that we need to know the opponent without him knowing us and the ability to not be where he is attacking whilst we attack him.

The Old Yang Style has a Short Staff Form and a Short Staff San Sau (a two person fight sequence) and a Broadsword Form and a Spear Form. All the weapons forms like the empty hand forms contain fa jin dim mak.
(A much more detailed explanation of Yang Lu chan Old Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan is contained within The Training Manual of The College of Chinese Martial Arts, this 400 page book is available here)
Yang Lu chan was exceptionally harsh when he taught his sons, both his first son Yang Pan Hou 1837-1892 and his second son Yang Jian hou 1839-1917 tried to run away on many occasions but were always caught and brought back.

Yang Lu chan insisted on incredibly high standards, on one occasion when Yang Pan Hou was attacked by a renowned wrestler and defeated him, his father would give him no praise. Yang Pan Hou describer how as the wrestler attacked he had leaped forwards with an explosive fa jin movement and unleashed a deadly series of dim mak strikes on the opponent, defeating him in an instant. Yang Lu chan shook his head in a dismissive and disappointed way and drew Yang Pan Hou's attention to a small tear in his sleeve caused by the wrestler. He should not have been able to even grab you, you must train harder, he said.When Yang Pan Hou grew older he also trained his students with brutal force often beating them severely and occasionally breaking their bones. These extreme training methods and his insistence on heavy contact and realism in the training to achieve fighting ability resulted in him having very, very few students.
An incident is recorded about Yang Pan Hou which clearly conveys his ruthless and powerful martial ability and why he was so widely respected. Yang Pan Hou was walking with his son when they were attacked by a martial artist of a different style, Yang Pan Hou counter attacked with a furious combination of fa jin dim mak attacks to the opponents head and neck and throat. The opponent dropped dead on the spot. Yang Pan Hou carried on walking with his son and in an even manner as if nothing had happened he just said , 'The last sound he made was like a swallow singing.'
Yang Jian Hou had three sons, Shao Yuang, who died at an early age, his second son Yang Shao Hou (1862-1930) who kept the family style and taught it as it was originally intended, as a martial art. And last of all Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1936) the third son who only taught a very simplified version of the style for health. Yang Shao hu 1862-1930 learnt not only from his father Yang Jian Hou but also from his uncle Yang Pan Hou and of course up until the age of ten with his grandfather Yang Lu chan.
Here is a description of how Yang Shao hu performed The Old Yang Style of Taiji.
Yang Shao hu was swift and powerful in delivering his blows and, with eyes blazing like torches, a grim smile on his face and roaring and howling as he darted back and forth, he was held in awe by others. The technical features of this kind of taiji were: overcoming strong attacks with movements that appeared to be soft, adapting oneself to others movements and following up with quick attacks, using the motion of Sudden Connection Fa jin to defeat the opponent with surprise attacks. The hand movements included, catching, striking and capturing, injuring the attackers muscles and harming his bones, attacking the opponents acupuncture points and controlling his arteries and veins, using Continuous Fa jin and Sudden Connection Fa jin to strike the attacker down with lightning speed

Introduction to Pa Kua Chang

The Eight Trigram Palm System
By Paul Brecher

The practice of circle walking in Pa Kua Chang comes from Taoist chi kung circle walking which can trace its roots back to circle walking shamanic traditions of the Mongolian-Siberian shamans.

All shamans had round drums and spun around and around in their healing rituals. The relevance of the round drum and the spinning around whilst walking around a circle is all to do with the circular nature of life and death and rebirth, the changing of the seasons in nature and the changing of the seasons in man from the first footsteps of the spring of our youth through the blossoming summer of our lives and into the autumb years of our old age we are walking around the round earth that is spinning around the round sun. Eventualy in the winter of our dieing days our sun sets and the energy stops circulating around in the microcosmic orbits of the governing and conception meridians of our physical bodies and our journey continues on in our spirit bodies to another land. A far away place that the circle walking shamans used to visit.

Photo of Siberian Shaman taken in 1928

The history of the shamans goes back to the stone age and even before that into prehistory, today there are very few true shamans left, I was fortunate to see a Tibetan shaman spinning in the Himalayas in 1989. The names of the Eight diffrent Palms in Bagua are a reflection of its ancient oragins from a time when man was part of nature.

Heaven Palm
Earth Palm
Fire Palm
Thunder Palm
Wind Palm
Water Palm
Mountain Palm
Cloud Palm

The Shamans went travelling in their spirit bodies in the spirit world and also moved in such a way that their spirits became one with spirits of the animals whose movements they imatated. The Taoists were the inheritors of this system and they also circle walked for all these reasons and also because they were interested in its chi kung benifits as well. The Taoists were interested in chi for spiritual development and for health. The martial artists were interested in chi for health but also for increasing their martial arts internal power.

Tung Hau Chuan 1797-1882 combined martial arts with the Taoist circle walking meditation he had learnt and created the martial and healing art of Pa Kua Chang.

So today you can practice the art to achieve any one or combination of these following possibilities.

Spiritual development
Self development
Chi Kung development
Martial arts techniques development
Internal Power development
Way of Moving develpment
Understanding the spirit of the Animals and the Way of Nature
Understanding the Spirit of Nature and our own True Nature

Pa kua looks beautiful and mysterious and is a deadly martial art like Tai Chi and The Wutang System it contains fa jin explosive strikes and dim mak acupuncture point strikes. Pa kua also has great healing benefits, most of the old Pa Kua Masters all lived to grand old ages, apart from the ones who died fighting !

The twisting of the body in Pa kua activates the acupuncture meridians healing the internal organ they connect to. The constant spiral movements and twisting, turning and bending of the hips, waist, belly and body strengthens and heals the joints, sinews, muscles and internal organs so it is a great healing art as well as a martial art.

The Combined Animals Circular Form of the Eight Palm Changes is performed around the circumference of a circle, the idea being that your attackers are infront and behind you, so we constantly turn and twist to counterattack against these multiple opponents.

When we are training we look at the palm that is doing the main application and sometimes have a low stances this is only for training purposes to build up the chi, when fighting we are more upright.

In the circle form we learn to relate our own centre to the centre of the circle that we are walking around, the opponent is in the centre of this circle. We learn to know where our own centre is and where the opponent's centre is, we move our centre to avoid the attacker and attack his centre.

From a movement perspective we are like the dragon, spiraling and twisting and turning and using flexible flowing movements.

Counter attacks are always done in a circular manner to reduce the attacker's power and at the same time always be on the move in to their centre.

We gain a great martial art and a great healing art, the body and mind are made strong and we develop a powerful feeling in our centre. We cannot be unbalanced physically and are not unbalanced by the stresses of everyday life.

Whilst training the form, part of our concentration is in our Lower Tan tien energy centre and training over time enables us to become stronger and healthier and live longer.

Important points when practising Baguazhang.

Tongue touches the hard palate.

Relax the shoulders and elbows.

Forearms have a slight flex in them.

Every move is connected without breaks.

Use the strength derived from the sinews and tendons.

Movement is completely circular.

Beginners level - walk a big circle, advanced level - walk a small circle.

The centre of the circle is a single point that is always touched by the middle finger tip.

Stepping is flowing, circular with out a break like water flowing.

Look like the wandering dragon.

Front Palm Chi Emit Feeling, Rear Palm Chi Receive Feeling.

Eyes are alive manifesting ones inner spirit, sprightly like the monkey.

Be low like a tiger ready to pounce, in your sinking is strength.

When you turn the body, have the swift attitude of the eagle as it circles and spirals through the void as it overturns and gracefully descends to attack.

Hips point along the circumference of the circle, ribcage should turn slightly in towards the centre making the shoulders twist in to the centre.

Torque from all of the twisting gives one spiralling energy.

The Spiraling forces of Heaven and Earth flow and meet within you,
They spiral and move you.

Front foot should advance slightly just before the next step as if slipping on the mud or ice.

Hips turn first, then the hands.

The fingers are separated.

The palm is concave, the forearm is fixed forward towards the centre, the shoulders are level.

Be firm and stable like a mountain.
Stepping is lively and quick like flowing water.

Fire above, water below.

Fire is light, water is heavy. The heart belongs to fire. The kidneys belong to water.

Mind guides the movements.

Chi from the belly creates the movement of the body.
The movement of the body strengthens the chi in the belly and spine.

Spirit, breath and intention and force are harmoniously coordinated.
Inner self and outer self are in harmony.

Move like the dragon, turn like the monkey, change forms like the eagle.

The postures are like snowflakes. In the beginning make the postures empty, the mind empty and tranquil, walk a large circle at first with small accurate steps. After a while you will naturally move faster. The eyes look over the index finger, hands in tiger mouth form.

Pa Kua Chang gives fighting skill in a short time and cultivates internal power it has excellent techniques and strategy.

Chi like mercury - once you strike with the hand chi - immediately flows from out the tan
tian and reaches the hand. The hand will be felt by the opponent as very heavy.

Without Internal Power Pa Kua Chang techniques will not work, to gain Pa Kua Chang Internal Power practice the Eight Palm Changes Circle Walking Form every day.

Be Soft like Cotton and Clever, be like a spring, that can be released at any time, but only upon contact with the opponent, never before. Trying to use power on distance is not effective.

When you have Internal Power, if you want to hurt the opponent, you can hurt him..

Once you strike the chi is there, once you withdraw - it returns as well. It's flexible, alive.

Practice to achieve harmony of hands, eyes, body and footwork they combine into one. Once we strike they all arrive at the same time, body becomes one.

Never lose control over your gravity center, because the power of the body will be dispersed.

Body should be like a spinning top, with center of gravity well controlled.

Open the joints and dynamically stretch the tendons.

Hands have to move fast, footwork has to be fast as well

To make progress in Pa Kua Chang one has to have strong Power of Understanding.

One has to be clever, modest, able to practice hard, with high moral standards. If somebody is very clever but sly and cunning, such a person will never achieve much in martial arts. One has to be steadfast in practice, honest, with interest in learning martial arts, true "Martial Virtue" (Wu De). Do not teach clever people who are not honest.

Pa Kua Chang practitioner when they get older can hardly lift heavy objects, but are still able to fight because the strength of the whole body has been transformed and developed in the process of Pa Kua Chang martial arts practice, they have internal power.

While walking in a circle, the most basic and important of all Pa Kua Chang exercises, one should not be stiff, because then chi cannot sink down to develope Jin -Internal Power.

Begginners develop jin and then this becomes at the advanced level, fa jin - expolsive power.

Eyes and spine have spirit and intention.

Arms close inward, should be relaxed and dropped down, then power reaches hand.

Shoulders Arch, Backs of Palms Arch, Backs of Feet Arch.

Back Round, Chest Round, Tiger's Mouth Round.

Mind Quick, Eyes Quick, Palms Quick.

Change movement depend as circumstances demand

There are no secrets in Pa Kua Chang, your level depends only on how diligent and how hard you practice.

The essentials for Pa Kua Chang are sincerity during practice, Intention guides all the movements, being natural. Length of practice depends on the skill of practitioner and his power of understanding.

Breath naturally and relax - breathing should be natural through nose, tongue should touch upper palate, breathing should be co-ordinated with Rising and Falling, Opening and Closing, Expanding and Contracting.

To practice Pa Kua Chang one needs timing, coordination and balance. The practice of Pa Kua Chang gives one timing, coordination and balance.

In Pa Kua Chang the power comes from the whole body and not from only the arm or palm. This is how we are able to strike from very short distances causing great damage.

In Pa Kua Chang like a tree rooted to the ground, its branches sway with the breeze but physically it is solid. And it is the same with us, the only difference being that our roots are internal.

In the beginning walk the circle very slowly to gain internal stillness while moving.

Transformations Of A Spiritual Dragon

A dragon, as a spiritual luminosity, can be large or small, can rise or descend, can disappear or appear, can penetrate rocks and mountains, can leap in the clouds and travel with the rain. How can it do all this? It is done by the activity of the spirit.

What I realise as I observe this is the Tao of inconceivable spiritual transmutation. The reason humans can be humans is because of the spirit. As long as the spirit is there, they live. When the spirit leaves, they die.

The spirit penetrates heaven and earth, knows the past and present, enters into every subtltey, exists in every place. It enters water without drowning, enters fire without burning, penetrates metal and rock without hinderance. It is so large that it fills the universe, so small that it fits into a hairtip. It is imperceptable, ungraspable, inexplicable, indescribable.

One who can use the spirit skillfully changes in accordance with the time, and therefore can share the qualities of heaven and earth, share the light of the sun and the moon, share the order of the four seasons, command nature in the primordial state and serve nature in the temporal state. This is like the transformations of a spiritual dragon, which cannot be seen in the traces of form.

© 2012 paul brecher

The Pa Kua Chang
Wooden Man Form

Wooden Man Sample

First Published in Combat and Healing Magazine April 2008
By Paul Brecher

I have been training and teaching for decades and accumulated many different forms and training methods and they all come together in The Pa Kua (Bagua) Chang Wooden Man Form.The Pa Kua Chang Wooden Man Form is how to apply all the different components of the martial art of Pa Kua Chang for fighting.

I now train in the martial arts because I train in the martial arts, I used to train in the martial arts because I gravitated towards fighting and conflict. But now it is all about the training however the training has to still be based around fighting......even though its not about fighting !

So in my training I have empty hand forms that contain all the movements and techniques and tactics and strategies and fa jin and dim mak also I have two person full contact pre arranged fight sequences that are the application of the moves on the person however I cannot land the blows with full power on my students because it would cause serious injury to them. I also practice iron palm and iron body training as separate individual skills. Now all these different and essential components are brought together in The Pa Kua Chang Wooden Man Form.

When I practice
The Pa Kua Chang Wooden Man Form I am using the movements of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts with their most extreme applications with full power fa jin dim mak whilst also training iron body and iron palm using all the techniques and tactics and strategies of Chinese Internal Martial Arts, it really is the ultimate form.

So now to go into some details.

Here is a picture of
my Pa Kua Chang wooden man as you can see it has four arms at right angles.

The Pa Kua Chang Wooden Man Form has eight parts.

Each part is practised
in each of the four quadrants both clockwise and anti clockwise, so each part is practised eight times and there are eight parts
8 x 8 = 64.

So we get the eight trigrams and sixty four hexagrams of the I Ching Book of Changes which is the Taoist philosophical framework that the martial arts system of Pa kua Chang is built upon.

Each of the eight parts is a series of pre arranged movements that are a response to being attacked. The arms of the wooden man represent the arms of the attacker, so we begin by striking the arms, we then strike the body/neck/head which is the tree trunk central section.

Each of the eight parts has a variation on this basic idea, for example.......

a different way of attacking the arms, striking them or breaking them or dislocating them etc

a different way to attack to the opponents body, a type of kick, all eight Pa Kua Chang kicks are used, or a body check or a leg sweep or a low elbow or palm strike etc

a different way of attacking the neck, striking, chop, palm striking, breaking, elbowing etc

a different way of attacking the head,
striking, chopping, fire palm striking, elbowing, cobra strike, earth palm strike, dragon claw etc

Also each of the eight parts has a variation on the strategy used to defeat the opponent, some times it is a direct attack, other times an emphasis on evasion using the coiling and uncoiling unexpected manoverings of the Pa Kua Chang dragon.

The many different angles that can be employed for a counterattack are also explored. Pa kua being famous for its skilful and fast footwork takes this idea further than any other martial art. It is a clever, brilliant and beautiful form.
All the moves are done with both the right and left side of the body in both the clockwise and anti clockwise directions so we are getting perfect balance and coordination for both sides of the body and both halves of the brain. We are training ourselves to fight equally as effectively with any part of our body in any direction....a very comprehensive approach to practical combat.

This form also has the most amazing and suprising benefit of creating vast amounts of chi energy in the body. It is very strange, you hit the wooden man with great force but instead of becoming drained by this experience you become charged up, the whole body feels powerful and robust, sturdy and  positive, you feel as if you are filled with confidence and optimism, quite wonderful !

I only teach this form to students of mine who I think are at a high enough level to be able to actually do it. If a student does not have the ability to fa jin and does not know how to strike with the loose heavy power of the whole body whilst maintaining the internal connectivity of the body structure then they will just severely injure themselves and not get any benefit.

So I teach this form but am very selective as to who I will teach it to:

The student has to be at a level where they are able to actually do the form,
this is only possible if they have already covered the basics.

This form gives the practitioner immense martial arts power, the power to break bones and defeat the opponent with one crushing blow, so I must be sure that the student has a good moral and ethical character.

You can buy your Pa Kua Chang Wooden Man from the site Wooden When ordering use code: TAI1815 to get a 5% discount.

Editors Note: DIY ones can be made which I have made with some help. Not as good as made by the above but does the job.

New article by Paul Brecher.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Food

In TCM rather than saying a food is healthy it is described by what it does:

Food properties – hot – warm – neutral – cool – cold
Food tastes – pungent – sweet – bitter – salty – sour
Food directions – up – down – in – out
Sour flavor affects the Liver and Gall Bladder
Bitter flavor affects the Pericardium Tripple Warmer, Heart and Small Intestine
Sweet flavor affects the Spleen and Stomach
Pungent flavor affects the Lung and Large Intestine
Salty flavor affects the Kidney and Bladder
So instead of saying a food is healthy we say it is either appropriate or inappropriate. For example in winter we would choose to eat more foods with warm and hot properties however in summer we would choose to eat more foods with cool and cold properties. Or at anytime of year if a person had a temperature (internal heat) we would advise to eat cool and cold property foods and to avoid food with a warm or hot property.
When the winter weather is bitingly cold we should have more animal protein which is generally warm/hot in nature. During the hot summer months we should have more fruit and vegetables which are generally cool/cold in nature.
Whatever the time of year people with cold conditions should avoid cold foods and have warm foods and those with hot diseases should avoid hot spicy food and have food with a cool nature.
In mainland China there are restaurants where you are diagnosed and prescribed various dishes depending on your health.
One very common idea is ginger and spring onion soup for the onset of a common cold. Ginger is warming and onions are diaphoretic so together they can clear out the invasion of wind, cold and damp. However if these pathogens have caused the creation of internal heat/temperature then this treatment is no longer appropriate.
If you have a virus causing a temperature then having Pu Gong Ying (dandelion) tea or Jin Yin Hua (honeysuckle) tea will be helpful because these herbs are both cooling and so will reduce the temperature.
The temperature is caused by the body’s response to the presence of a virus in the system so it is necessary to have Da Huang (dried rhubarb root) tea which is a purgative to clear the viral pathogen from the system.
Whatever the season or health condition all food and drinks should be consumed when they are hot, warm or at room temperature. This is because things that are cold in temperature will weaken the digestion absorption system and therefore impair body immunity.
The digestion absorption system is a warm process, the food is heated up to be broken down, so cold temperature things will weaken the functional power of this process.
In general it is best to eat mostly cooked foods. They have the benefit of being partially broken down and so are easier to digest and also like a healthy body they are warm.
The process of digestion reduces the food to a soup-like consistency from which nutrients are extracted and used to nourish the body, warm soup, is thus also very healthy because we are giving the body exactly what it needs.
The preferred type of foods to have are boiled, braised, stewed, steamed and casseroled these are all hydrated cooked foods that are eaten warm.
raw cooling
steamed cool – neutral
boiled neutral
stewed warming
braised warming
casseroled warming
stir fried warming
Having light stir fried food occasionally is OK. Light stir frying as opposed to deep frying is a healthy way of frying. Though you must make sure that the food is thoroughly cooked. Whilst light stir frying the food, instead of adding more oil, add water and steam fry the food.
It is best to avoid having to much deep fried food, roasted, grilled and barbecued food and spicy food because they are all non beneficial for a variety of reasons.
baked warming – hot
deep fried hot
roasted hot
grilled hot
barbecued hot
spicy hot
Deep fried food is hard to digest and can cause intestinal illness and damage the liver. Also deep frying food causes the loss of 40-50 % of the vitamins in the food.
Roasted, grilled and barbecued food (including toasted) are all dehydrated and will make them harder to digest. Spicy food will irritate skin conditions and also causing intestinal discomfort. It also has an irritating effect on the nervous system, which will enhance feelings of pain and cause mental irritability and damage the liver and blood.
Garlic is warm and excess consumption could cause blood heat. For those people who love the taste of garlic, one way to get around the problem is to cook the food with the whole clove then take the cloves out and dispose of them after cooking. The food will be nicely flavored with the garlic but its non beneficial affects will be reduced.
Another factor to consider in respect of food and drink is the various undesirable additives in our food today , tinned and packaged foods contain artificial flavoring, coloring and preservatives so it is best to eat fresh organic food. Also it is best to eat organically raised animals rather than factory farmed animals which are fed questionable things. For example sheep and cows are fed on sheep and cows, this goes against nature and is thought to be the cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (a fatal brain wasting disease) developing in humans.
Also non organic animals are regularly dosed with antibiotics, this has caused antibiotics to be less effective when used by humans.
Pasta, spaghetti and noodles and rice are good sources of carbohydrates, they are already partly processed and so easier to digest and are also hydrated. If you feel tired after eating carbohydrates reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the meal.
The best source of animal protein is white fleshed fish like cod, plaice, sole, halibut and seabass. They are very nutritious and nourish the body’s organs, muscles and glands. Fish bone is a good source of calcium, so suck and chew the bones.
People with skin conditions should avoid shellfish because they live in and feed on all the pollutants that sink to the sea bed and they absorb and concentrate these toxic properties in there flesh.
Also avoid smoked and salted fish because the aromatic substances used in the smoking process can cause the fish to become carcinogenic. Salted fish deteriorates the stomach lining and could cause stomach ulcers.
Raw fish is more likely to contain parasites which would otherwise have been killed by cooking. Raw fish is also harder to digest, since it has not been processed by cooking and so should be avoided.
Apart from white fleshed fish another source of good animal protein is organically raised free range beef. Beef is neutral and sweet it is an energy and blood tonic for the spleen and stomach.
Special Beef Broth is made from organic shin beef (beef from the shin of the animal), fresh ginger and water. Place one pound of shin beef in a ceramic or glass bowl and fill with water until the beef is covered to a depth of about one inch. Add several slices of fresh ginger and cover. Place this bowl into a pan of water and double boil for about two hours, keeping the outer water topped up.
Dispose of the beef (which will be white) and the ginger. The nutrients from the beef are retained in the water that surrounded it and may be digested more easily rather than having to eat a pound of beef. Drink this broth before and after a meal. It replenishes, nourishes and tonifies the whole body, strengthens the general health constitution and increased body resistance to disease.
Coffee will aggravate the nerves causing an increase in any pain sensations in the body and will also contribute to nervous tension and blood heat and so should be avoided.
Excess consumption of alcohol will impair the mind and damage the liver and the eyesight and cause stomach heat, however in winter an occasional glass of red wine can invigorate the circulation and boost the defensive energy to increase resistance to common colds. A food cure for symptoms of excess alcohol is banana because it cools the stomach heat created by the alcohol.
Our diet should include carbohydrates, vegetables, animal protein, animal fat and fruit. This insures that our body gets all the different types of carbohydrates, minerals, proteins and vitamins that it needs to nourish and maintain us so that we can lead active and healthy lives.
The best drink is hot water, in summer weak black tea (you can see the bottom of the mug) with no sugar, sweeteners or milk. Tea is best because it is cooling. In general avoid herb teas like rosehip, chamomile and jasmine because they have cold natures. Also avoid Erle Grey tea because it contains bergamot oil.
If you want to have a sweetener or are a diabetic the only safe one is a product called Stevita made from the Stevia plant. The chemical used in other sweeteners is called aspartame and has been proven to cause brain tumors in mice.
The dietary recommendations above are for both men and women so that they can be supplied with all the necessary nutrients they need to lead active and health lives.
These dietary recommendations are for good overall general health, in the case of specific health problems different dietary recommendations are made.
For example cinnamon should usually be avoided because it is to hot however if a person has poor heart energy, a cold feeling in their stomach and cold extremities then to include cinnamon in their food would be of great benefit. It invigorates the heart, warms the stomach and carries the circulation to the extremities. So in winter time a person in poor health and suffering from the cold would positively benefit from having cinnamon in their food. This is why mulled wine which contains cinnamon is enjoyable in winter.
If a person has chronic constipation they should eat vast amounts of soft fruit, plumbs, peaches, pears, apples grapes etc. and put honey in their tea because it moistens the bowels.
If a person has heart and lung heat with a dry mouth and nose and throat (smokers for example) they should eat at least one pear and one apple every day. These fruits moisten and cool the lungs and they should put honey in their tea because it moistens the lungs.
Alcoholics (or people with hangovers) should eat bananas because they are anti toxin and clear heat due to their cold property and also replenishes the depleted yin. They also have a descending nature which will help counter the adverse rising stomach chi (nausiouseness) caused by the alcohol.
Ginger is warming and slices of fresh ginger in ones cooking or with boiling water to make ginger tea will help a weak digestive system that is affected by a cold climate.
People with cold conditions should avoid food that is both cold in temperature and nature and have special beef broth. People with heat conditions should avoid spicy food and animal protein and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. People suffering from damp should avoid greasy food and people with a weak digestion or food stagnation should avoid heavy and hard to digest food.
Recommended ways of preparing of food
Light stir fried
Non beneficial ways of preparing of food
Deep fried
Greasy food
Recommended types of food
Organically raised animals
Fruit and Vegetables
Fresh organic food
White fleshed fish like Cod,
Plaice, Sole, Halibut, Seabass
and Poached Salmon is ok
Fish bone is a good source of calcium
so suck and chew the bones.
Special Beef Broth
Stevita sweetener rather than sugar
Food to avoid
Fast food
Factory farmed animals
Artificial Additives, Flavoring, Coloring and Preservatives
Salted fish, Dolphin, Shark, Tuna and Marlin
Tinned food and Fizzy Drinks
Garlic and Hot Spices like Chili etc
Coffee and Alcohol and Sugar
Pastry and bread
All types of smoking and all tobacco products
Sweets crisps biscuits and MSG
People with skin conditions should avoid nuts and shellfish and citrus fruit
Lifestyle Advice
Be asleep before 10.30 or latest 11.00.
Every hour before midnight is worth two after.
Go for a walk every day.
Train to the point of exhilaration not exhaustion.