I-Bagua movement theory

While life is and always will be richer and more complex than any theories about it, theory and conceptual frameworks are useful to provide suggestions for further investigation and development, as an exercise in verbal communication, to reassure the intellect, and to prevent run away theorization.

So with these in mind I present an overview of the theory and ideas that underpin the physical practice of I-Bagua.

In this article I touch on many ideas, often too briefly to do them justice, however the end result is fairly long.

I-Bagua is movement

I-Bagua is a specific set of movement practices, a subset of the total possible movements available to the human body. What follows are a series of movement principles and ideas based in human physiology that are applicable to all movement in which I will endeavor to present why vital for health, and have benefits far beyond the zone of practice.

The human body has evolved to move

Evolutionary medicine is an approach that uses long term biological perspectives as a basis to investigate human health. It assumes that as a species we are optimally adapted to the conditions for which we evolved, and have spent the majority of our existence as a species.

These conditions involved a great deal of movement, whether hunting, gathering, fetching water, traveling over rough terrain, ritual activities such as dancing and sport. The human body has evolved to adapt to the demands placed upon it, and in evolutionary terms these were considerably greater than in typical modern urban life.

The body is conservative

The human body is also adapted to be conservative. If a movement capacity is not used over time it is lost, or at least misplaced. This happens through a combination of connective tissue that stiffens joints to stabilize them in place of active muscles, and the loss of motor patterns in the brain that control the movements.

The result over time is that the body loses a full range of motion. Certain compensations happen in movement patterns that lead to wear on joints, and leaves the body more prone to injury. A simple slip on a wet pavement or a miscalculation putting on a tight piece of clothing results in strains, tears or falls that can damage bones (which themselves have become more fragile through inactivity). The loss of movement ability is a considerable source of suffering, and results in the inability to live independently.

Fortunately these ‘adaptations’ to inactivity can be reversed. It takes a conscious decision and intelligent programming so that the process does happens at a rate to which the body can adapt. This adaptation can happen at any age. You are never too old to train.

The body is not a machine

While the metaphor of the body as a machine is common enough, and has merits it is not strictly true. Machines wear out, whereas the body adapts. This is clear with respect to the muscles, that grow stronger and larger with the right stimulation. It also applies to bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage surfaces though these tissues adapt more slowly than the muscles.

Also unlike most machines, intelligence is distributed through the body. There are complex feedback loops between various parts of the body and the brain which are used to control not just immediate movement, but the endocrine system and also strongly influence ‘rational’ decision making.

Our ‘higher’ functions are dependent on movement

It is obvious that easy locomotion is dependent on our ability to move. It is less obvious but clear that the function of our internal organs is also aided by movement.

The digestive and circulatory systems are a series of tubes and valves that push their contents partly through the contraction of smooth muscles, which are not usually under conscious control or awareness. The circulation and digestion are also helped by the changes of pressure in the body brought about by postural changes – movement.

So much for ‘lower’ functions.

Communication is also dependent on movement. Posture and gesture convey more information in face to face communication than words. Facial expression and voice tone are also dependent on movement. I could not even type these words without some form of physical movement.

The first step in the interpretation of the communications of others happens through a modeling process. Essentially if I take on the posture and gesture of the person communicating to me what would that mean to me? This process happens with minimal physical movement, or conscious involvement but depends on a working model of body language that can be enriched through conscious movement practice.

The nervous system evolved to control movement

Organisms that do not move, do not need a nervous system. Our sensory organs developed so we could navigate between where to go, and where to avoid, the muscular and skeletal system evolved to move us.

Tunicates, a class of animals with a notochord, a basic spinal chord, spend the early part of their life cycle swimming in the ocean in a fish like form, and the later part fixed to rocks as filter feeders. Once they stop swimming and become static organisms one of the first changes in their bodies is the loss of the notochord. It is no longer needed.

The level of sophistication of the nervous system increases with the level of sophistication of the movements needed.

As human beings, a branch of the great apes, we do not simply swim. We use our bodies in complex social interactions with the aim of finding mates and establishing ourselves in social structures. Whether we demonstrate our value to society as a whole, or to individual members by oratory, painting, sculpture, debate, dance, violence or music we are required to move to do so. As such all learning is the learning of new moves.

How to optimize movement

To optimize these process requires a specific kind of movement practice. It is not something that will happen in a standard gym.

Treadmills, weight machines, and aerobics classes are the movement equivalent of fast food. Given no other nutrition they will prevent starvation, however they lack vitamins, minerals, do not contain good ratios of macro-nutrients and will lead to health problems if consumed in excess.

This is essentially the problem with the fitness industry, it takes a simplistic consumer approach to movement. Movement is not consumption though, it is creation!

Consumer fitness aims to take the complexity out of movement, just as bodybuilders aim to ‘isolate’ muscles. However muscles never work in isolation, and life demands sophistication, not oversimplification.

The fitness industry oversimplifies so it can pay minimum wages to barely qualified young instructors, who use protocols that minimize legal liability while also minimizing results.

Minimizing results is important, because results encourage clients to continue and health clubs use a business model of clients paying for a contract and not attending.

Enough of how not to train….

First let’s summarize.

The body requires movement to be healthy, it adapts to activity and inactivity. The original purpose of the nervous system was to control movement, and movement remains the only channel by which we can express the higher functions of the brain/mind.

For training to be optimal it should not simply be for the physical demands of everyday life for two reasons.

  1. The physical demands of everyday life for most people are not enough to ensure healthy function of the body, which results in joint pain, stiffness, weakness, weight issues and a host of other problems.

  2. Training should prepare the body for needs outside of normal. By definition the body is already adapted to ‘normal’ because it lives normal each day. Training should prepare the body for exceptions and emergencies.

For people whose daily life is physically demanding this last principle still applies, however there also needs to be a balancing aspect to training. Over emphasis in specific movements leads to the loss of others if care is not taken. The resultant problems are not so much due to over training as over specialization.

Movements not muscles

The body is a unity, it needs to be trained that way. The body does not ‘think’ in terms of muscles, it ‘thinks’ in terms of movements.

To develop movement it is best to be conscious and aware of how the movement is performed. It requires attention, and with attention the possibility of choice and refinement happens.

Good movement improves intelligence

Since the nervous system evolved for movement, and movement is the basis of all expression conscious movement training goes to the root of all learning. Good movement makes you a better learner, or if you like, more intelligent.

Movement and habit

If we limit ourselves to the movements that we ‘like’ we risk becoming specialized in those movements, which makes us weak and vulnerable outside of them.

Good training needs methods that force, trick, or lure us out of our habits.

This is where partner practice is invaluable. One role of a partner is to force us to adapt to another’s movement.

The aim of this is not just to broaden the repertoire of movements currently available, but to instil going beyond habit as a habit, to make the sensation of entering the unfamiliar familiar, of stepping out into new realms of incompetence not something to dread but as the renewal of life.

If all you are is habits you are not awake in any real sense, if you are not learning you are dying, and all learning is new moves.

Limits to movement

The ability to move is limited by a number of factors. This is an oversimple model, but it allows us to analyze and develop training in a useful way.

  1. The ability to bear force

  2. The ability to coordinate movement

  3. The ability to manage change

1. The ability to bear force

First let’s look at the ability to bear force. Force is the domain of the musculo-skeletal system.

Force is actively exerted through muscle contraction, and channeled by the skeleton to the point of application – in the case of a jump this is the feet and the ground. Force is also applied on the body from the outside – for example when landing after a jump.

If the muscles are not strong enough you will not be able to do a movement. If your bones or joints are not strong enough to perform a movement without damage then your nervous system will inhibit your muscles from exerting the force necessary for the movement.

The ability to bear force is also affected by the angle at which the force is applied or received. We can bear the most force when the body is optimally aligned in relation to that force. This is a key idea in martial arts, to use your strongest lines of force on a partner’s weakest lines of force.

2. The ability to coordinate movement

Movement is coordinated through the motor cortex and the nervous system. Movements are learned.

Babies are so helpless partly because they have so little ability to move. Over time they learn to move their hands and head, to roll over, crawl, sit then eventually stand and walk. Once upon a time you could not write, you spent many hours learning to move your hand so that a pen could form the shape of letters upon a page.

This also applies to larger movements. Very specific coordinations are required for efficient movement, and efficient can mean for the efficient application of force or for the expression of emotion (for example in dance).

There are parts of your body that you have probably never learned to move independently of other parts. There are certainly combinations of movements and different timings of coordinations that you have not yet learned. The possibilities of movement are infinite, you will never develop all of them. It is therefore wise to choose the ones that give you the greatest choice.

3. The ability to manage change

This category is really a mix of the two above.

Let us say due to the strength of my muscles, bones and joints I can exert force X when optimally aligned. My nervous system is familiar with the how to coordinate the movement with this optimal alignment.

Now let us say that due to an unexpected factor, a slippery surface, a resisting opponent, a distraction to my concentration the movement pattern is disrupted in some way.

The best result is that I can adapt to the new situation and still generate X (actually the best result would be to adapt to the situation and generate more than X).

A reasonable result would be that the force generated would be less than X.

A possible result is that the change in alignment meant the force would pass through my body in a way that the joints/muscles/bones would be unable to handle the force, resulting in injury.

So the ability to manage change is affected by the strength and stability of musculo-skeletal system at all angles, not just optimal ones and also the ability of the nervous system to change the body position to a either optimal or safe angles.

When strength and stability at different angles is limited the ability to manage change is severely compromised. When coordination and the pool of movements easily available to the nervous system is narrow then the ability to adapt will also be limited.

Movements for Martial arts

Before looking at the specifics of Bagua let’s consider martial arts in the wider field of movement.

In combat, whether sport or survival, there are constraints – positions you do not want to get into. These positions are determined by weapons and targets. The body’s weapons are those parts that can apply force effectively – the hands/fists, elbows, knees and feet for example. The targets are those parts of the body that are easily damaged or controlled. The face stands out as the prime target, though there are plenty of others.

A good part of martial arts training is learning how to apply force through the body’s weapons, how to recognize targets and how to protect vulnerability.

One of the most obvious constraints of movement, and a common error of beginners (and experienced practitioners of martial arts in which striking is not practiced with contact) is to move a target into an opponents striking range without protective cover. A beginner moves close to throw a strike, steps then strikes. The step brings them into their opponents range. This is the equivalent of ‘opening a door with your head’. The more sensible method is to lead with the hand, strike and step simultaneously – ‘open the door with your hand’.

So within martial arts there is an understandable focus on the movements and positions that do not expose your vulnerable areas to attack.

However this is only half the story, the ‘ideal’ half.

The opponent will attempt to put your body into these vulnerable positions whether by force, skill or guile. You may well find yourself in such position by chance, due to a slippery surface, obstructions in the environment.

This means that movement training for martial arts should not just familiarize the body with the ideal situations, or ‘fair’ and ‘even’ situations, but also how to move from disadvantageous positions.

This passage from Zhuangzi illustrates the idea.

A disciple of Confucius met the boatman who displayed supernatural skills. Curiously he asked, “Can a person learn how to handle a boat like you?”

“Certainly,” said the boatman. “If you want to be a good boatman, do not worry about rowing.”

“Learn to swim,” says the boatman. “A good swimmer will in no time get the knack of handling the boat. If a man can swim under water, he may never have seen a boat before and still he’ll know how to handle it!’

The disciple did not fully comprehend what the boatman mean, and besought Confucius to spell it out.

“A good swimmer will in no time get the knack of boating, that means he’s forgotten the water,” said the sage. “If a man can swim under water, he may never have seen a boat before and still he’ll know how to handle it. This is because he sees the water as so much dry land, and regards the capsizing of a boat as he would the overturning of a cart.”

“The ten thousand things may all be capsizing and backsliding at the same time right in front of him and it can’t get at him and affect what’s inside. So where could he go and not be at ease?” added the sage.

So whether for martial arts or general life movement training has as it’s base not just familiarity with the desired situation, but capacity to be at deal with your plans, or position being turned upside down – perhaps literally.

I-Bagua movement training

As we can see from the preceding sections I-Bagua movement training is set in the larger context of martial arts movement, which in turn sits in the larger context of movement.

To be a skilled in Bagua it is helpful to be generally skilled in movement. However now we will look more carefully at the specifics of Bagua movement.

Bagua movement has the following characteristics

1. It is strategic and tactical

2. It generates force in a specific way which supports the strategy and tactics

The strategy of Bagua is continuous and unpredictable change. The force generation is relaxed and uses the whole body as a unit. The body is trained to recognize angles at which an opponent has the least ability to apply force, to remain balanced and capable of movement.

Bagua explores the body’s natural patterns of movement and equilibrium and walks a line between stability as the basis for the application of force, and instability as the basis for movement.

The natural movement pattern at the heart of Bagua is walking. It gives mobility and the ability to supply force through the transfer of weight. For movement the natural pattern is augmented through long and deep stepping with exaggerated twisting of the feet.

For stability the natural pattern is augmented by the development of balance in awkward positions – twisted and on one leg.

This exaggerated walking is also used as the basis for tripping, trampling, throwing and kicking methods.

The whole body generation of force allows the body to stay relatively relaxed and capable of sudden changes of direction.

Through relaxation the body has greater tactile sensitivity and the ability to read or respond to the movements of an opponent. This feeds into Bagua’s strategy which is not to oppose the force of the other, but to blend with it and use it.

The use of the opponent’s force is trained at a variety of scales. It can be applied while moving without contact over distances of metres, and it can be applied in small circles around individual joints at scales of centimetres.

I-Bagua and yijing

Bagua is associated with the Yijing, the Chinese classic of change. The eight trigrams(bagua) which are the core of the Yijing underpin much of Chinese thought and culture.

The trigrams themselves are binary symbols, yin (broken lines) and yang (unbroken lines) replacing the 0 and 1 of modern binary. While different combinations of yin and yang as Trigrams have come to be associated with specific imagery in the Yijing, it is the underlying ideas of the yin and yang that are most interesting to us as martial artists.

A fundamental idea is that yin and yang are always relative and complementary. A pair of complementary opposites are big and small. They are relative and complementary because for something to be considered big it needs to be in comparison to something else, which must be smaller.

Within martial arts the complementary pairs that are relevant are mostly to do with position in space of the human body, or human bodies, and with movement

As such we have

  • Left-right
  • High-low
  • Forwards-backwards
  • Inside-outside
  • Extended-contracted
  • Straight-curved
  • Away-towards
  • Above -below

It can also easily be applied to qualities of the body and of movement

  • Soft-hard
  • Slow-fast
  • Changing-constant
  • Direct-indirect
  • Aggressive-defensive
  • Heavy-light

When considering the formal movements of Bagua, the standard of comparison is single palm change, a key pattern which can be shown to create the other forms through such yin-yang changes.

From a cognitive perspective this allows a great deal of adaptability from a single movement which can be applied in many situations. There is no need to search through a huge set of techniques to respond to a situation, the mind and body can go straight to single palm change (see my book on single palmchange).

Pre and post heaven

Within the Yijing there are two arrangements of the eight trigrams, Xiantien and Hotien, these are usually translated as pre-heaven and post-heaven. Pre-heaven refers to an ideal state of balance, static and eternal. The post-heaven arrangement shows a situation that evolves and changes.

Pre heaven and post heaven are also complementary yin and yang qualities, they refer to theory and practice, ideal and actual.

Within the movements of Bagua pre-heaven refers to those training methods which are meant to build qualities of movement, body and mind. Post-heaven refers to exercises that apply the qualities of movement developed through pre-heaven practice, they include patterns of tactical movement and ways to express the body’s power clearly in specific directions.

I-Bagua pedagogy

We can divide I-Bagua into different sections for convenience of training.

  • General movement

  • Formal movement

  • Attention and focus

  • Partner exercises

All of these four sections support each other, and the divisions between them are in many ways artificial.

The emphasis is on direct experience and exploration, rather than theory.

Another important concept is that classes are more playful than formal.

We have already seen that our (primate) bodies are healthiest when they move widely and frequently. Play is the modality through which young mammals explore and develop their movement skills. It is equally suitable for older mammals, including the species of primate to which we belong.

That does not mean there are not periods of silent focus or intensity, or that there are not standards to work towards. It simply means that ‘failure’ is something to be welcomed, along with laughter joy and creativity.

Imitation is an important part of physical education. A teacher has the responsibility of choosing and presenting information in ways that students can follow, which allows progress and development.

Equally the student has the responsibility to explore and develop those movements within his or her own body. If this is a dry process it is easy to lose motivation, if it is too loose the student will be distracted by whatever is more interesting or pressing in the moment.

Ideally the student becomes fascinated by the movements, passionate about exploration. However given the lives of most urban professionals, movement and body awareness are territories that instead of seeming natural, welcoming seem alien.

The polarities of learning

One theme that we have already visited in different way is that of complementary polar opposites. In one polarity is theory-practice.

Another important pair are passion and focus. Passion is similar to falling in love, it is a sudden explosion of dreams, glimpsed possibilities, tantalizing connections that fuel action and enthusiasm. The subjective experience is echoed in the brain, which lays down new neurons and connects existing ones.

The passion then needs to refined by disciplined practice. In practice the sweeping storm of possibility is examined, and sorted. What does no work is discarded, what works is reinforced. In the nervous system unused connections die back, used connections grow stronger. What fires together wires together.

To optimize learning it is important to cycle through both phases of this process. To rest solely in passion leads to dissipation, endless distraction and no progress. To rest entirely in focused practice leads to specialism, narrowness of vision, loss of motivation and overuse injuries.

Within the context of I-Bagua these cycles can happen at different levels. Passion can light up at the discovery of a new way to move, or of a principle, on starting a new form, on learning a new set of techniques. Attention leaps up and draws in disparate aspects of experience.

Focus happens when attention is limited to specific activities. Forms and movements are drilled with awareness. Techniques are repeated, and repeated, analysed for where they break down and where they function best.

Clearly this cycle of learning applies to more than I-Bagua. It leads us to another important idea.

Movement, metaphor and life

One important and often overlooked aspect of the human experience is metaphor.

Our brains or minds work so seamlessly that it is easy to forget that what we experience as reality is in fact a set of transformations that occur between our sensory organs and our brains. The result is a sense of ‘I’ who navigates a fixed world. The reason for this experience of ‘I’ness is a mystery, as is the full process for it’s creation.

However seamless the sense of ‘I’ is, there are gaps in the act of representing the world internally. Magicians study and make use of these as a way of performing illusions. Changed states of awareness as found in meditation and the focused attention of movement practice can reveal these gaps, and enrich the experience of being alive.

Built into the way humans experience the world is metaphor. Language is filled with metaphor. A charming person may be described as smooth, and intelligent one as bright, ideas are food for thought and we can be in harmony with colleagues.

What is common in these metaphors is that they are based on sensory experience – our prime way of making sense of the world. Even when we take a not obviously sensory word or concept such as mathematics, to make sense of it we use collections of images, feelings, sounds and other words, which are themselves represented sensorily. This happens extremely fast with familiar concepts, and in many ways academic learning is the creation of new collections of sensory representation to fit new terms and concepts.

The important thing here is that we use internal representations based on the physical senses to understand concepts, situations and life. One of the ways that we order these representations is spatially. The significance of an image can vary greatly depending on its position in our field of experience. For example it is common for people to put the past ‘behind’ them, or to keep their loved ones ‘close to their hearts’.

The body in this way becomes a field of reference. We can be upset, crushed, enlightened, tickled, pulled, blinded or deafened by events.

Movements themselves also contain meaning. Movement, gesture, posture and expression are the original language. Our primate cousins manage sophisticated social hierarchies based on the language of bodies.

It follows that any practice of movement with awareness that expands our vocabulary of possible movement will also expand our vocabulary of being.

It is also possible to use such a process of conscious exploration of the body to elucidate the metaphors that we use to understand our lives, metaphors that may be helpful in a specific context but prevent progress in another.

As such we can see movement not just as functional set of tools to navigate external space, but a screen and control panel by which we monitor and change meaning.

Bagua itself is rich in metaphor, as are martial arts which model human interaction, our attitudes to force and how the ‘I’ deals with the ‘other’. In I-Bagua the metaphors we aim to integrate include:

  • You can adapt and change to circumstance, mentally and physically

  • You can use circumstances rather than resist them

  • You cannot control life, or your partners, you can only control your choices

  • Grace, elegance and beauty are linked with efficacy, efficiency and power

Our experience is a tissue woven from the threads of sensory experience, physical state, internal representations and guiding metaphors. We can use any single thread to change the nature of the entire tissue. Imagery can change movement, movement can change state, movement over time changes physical form, attitude and character.

Formality, play and loss

On the surface martial arts are associated with words like ‘discipline’, ‘tradition’ and ‘ritual’. They are less often associated with the word ‘play’.

However when you look below the surface of martial arts you find immense variety across history, culture and individuals. Martial arts are driven by personalities as much as by institutions. As such martial arts are no different than any other field of human endeavor, and as we have already noted human beings are primates and mammals.

Mammals play both as part of learning and for its own sake. Play allows us to explore, win, lose and go outside the boundaries of normally permitted behaviour. Play expands our behavioural possibilities.

It is important to lose in play. If you are never beaten then it means you are not playing at the appropriate level. Never beaten leads to the desire to protect a ‘perfect’ record, an illusory sense of ‘mastery’.

Martial arts are full of stories of unbeatable masters – these stories are popular because they appeal to a sense of insecurity and the desire to control life and avoid all forms of unpleasantness – humiliation, defeat and death. However life has other plans, even great masters die eventually.

Success is great and to be celebrated, but loss and failure where we learn the greatest lessons. It is good practice to learn to embrace and enjoy loss.

On the other side from the point of view of progress it is better not to always lose. The games we play are often not symmetric – the players do not always have the same roles or tasks.

Usually one or more person pose a problem to be solved, the problem can come in the form of some kind of physical attack-  a demand for movement and awareness. The attacker can gauge the level of intensity so that the ‘solver’ plays at the limits of his or her ability. In general we aim for about an 80% success rate on the part of the solver.

Solo practice can be then used to supplement the lessons learned in play, to hone specific movements and strengthen observed weaknesses.

If you are not focused, failing and laughing you are probably not learning as well as you could.

Play and the paradox of martial arts

Ultimately martial arts are unpleasant. They involve movements that are designed to maim and kill others, designed to be used in situations where others aim to maim or kill us. This is not something that can be practised ‘realistically’ without severe injury to classmates.

This is what I call the paradox of martial arts. We need to practice what is deadly safely.

The solution to this paradox which takes many forms is to divide deadly conflict into separate sections each of which can be practised with relative security, with the aim that the individual sections can be recombined effectively when needed.

The practice of solo forms, fixed techniques with a partner, striking pads and bags, the use of safety equipment and restricted sparring are all examples of such divisions.

We use all of these in I-Bagua and also a large variety of games. One problem with many martial arts is that they focus on a specific kind of game or competition. In Judo and wrestling it is throwing and grappling, in Taekwondo it is kicking, in Shotokan Karate it is striking without heavy contact, in Taiji it is unbalancing.

There is considerable skill and capacity to be gained through engagement in such games. However the rules are fixed and symmetric. Both participants have the same goals, and over time the culture of the martial art can become fixated on success within those rules.

Many of the games we play are not symmetric, not just to aid learning, but also because life is rarely symmetric. In situations of conflict we rarely have identical goals to those of the people with whom we are in conflict.

If we are mugged our goal and priority is probably not the same as the mugger. The mugger may desire our financial resources, and though we may desire to retain them, our prime goal will probably be to get home safely. We may also share some goals – to maintain some sense of pride and avoid humiliation.

Recognizing and working with the goals of others is probably more useful to personal safety than any number of deadly martial arts skills.

So we use games as a way to separate the skills and qualities needed to survive deadly conflict into digestible chunks, to develop flexibility and also as a meta-lesson in human interactions.

Body use, unusual states and abilities

A discussion or explanation of martial arts would not be complete if it did not touch upon extraordinary powers and abilities. Martial arts are full of stories of masters who demonstrate extraordinary powers and abilities some of which include: unusual strength, toughness and striking power, unusual agility, the ability to read minds or control others at a distance, unusual health, vitality or physical energy .

For many participants these abilities are part of the attraction to martial arts.

Many of these stories have some basis in actual events, many are entirely fictional or meant as metaphorically.

The attraction of ‘special powers’ is usually due to the understandable desire to control life to avoid the unpleasantness of age, defeat and death. Since these desires are almost universal it is natural that unusual exceptions to the rules of how we are vulnerable to these factors are the focus of interest.

As a long term practitioner of ‘internal’ martial arts I have often been asked if I can fly by both Western and Chinese people. To set the record straight, yes I can fly, but I use Easyjet and prefer overland travel.

Most extraordinary powers are explainable in relatively simple ways.

  • The first is practice – the body can develop unusual strength, toughness and agility. It requires an immense amount of work, practice and physical research. There are no shortcuts, but there are dead ends.

  • The second is showmanship. Extraordinary powers can be faked, and genuine skill can be set up to appear more amazing than they actually are. This happens for purposes of entertainment all the time. It is what stage magicians do – they train for hours, have refined skills, but set up their demonstrations so that the skill they use is not evident and a satisfying mystery is created. Something like this can happen across culture: a word like qi is exotic to westerners and seems to denote something beyond the physical, while within its culture of origin it points to set of more clearly defined phenomenon and skills.

  • The third is luck. When people live at the edge of their abilities sometimes things go spectacularly wrong and sometimes they go spectacularly right. When the latter happens and there are witnesses a legend is born.

  • The fourth is delusion. Meditative practices can lead to unusual states of mind, the experience of boundaries dissolving, awareness expanding, visions and strong physical sensations. These are largely confined to the subjective awareness of the person experiencing them, and given the proper context can be extremely valuable. However given a group culture in which members desire to believe in the existence of these powers leads to cooperation within the group to show that they are real.

In my opinion the greatest power is to realize that life is extraordinary already, you are already a miracle, as are the people and the world around you. This is easy to forget and wonderful to remember!

For all the skills, physical, cognitive and emotional benefits of I-Bagua ultimately is a reminder and an expression of the above truth.

To summarize and conclude

  • The nervous system evolved to control movement
  • The senses tell us where to move to (and how)
  • The body adapts, learns new abilities – or gets rid of them
  • The human body evolved to move, health problems do not come from over activity, but from inactivity/ unbalanced activity
  • Movement is fundamental to all aspects of human life, to communication, to the function of the brain and the maintenance of health. Learning through the body is the first, most basic learning – it stimulates the capacity for all other learning.
  • All human communication is based on the body and movement as a means of expression. A smile, a wink, a spoken word, a typed one. Understanding is mediated through the body too. Body awareness is the basis for wisdom and compassion as well as strength and power.
  • The mind responds to metaphor, the body and movement are a rich source of metaphor. Movement can be used to explore and modify the metaphors used to understand life and make decisions.
  • Movement is infinite, un-masterable, but learnable! No system can have it all, just as life cannot be contained in a system, but it is possible to explore systematically. I-Bagua is a limited subset of movement, and still infinitely explorable.
  • Functional movement does not mean anything unless you know what the function is. Dysfunctional movement DOES mean something.  Dysfunctional movement hurts the body physically or makes it dumber or both. Any movement can become dysfunctional if abused, overused, under felt!
  • I-Bagua offers both the development of basic human movement patterns, and a number of more specialized ones related to combative skills. These patterns and skills are developed in accord with the structure of the body and acknowledge the vital role of play in human learning.
  • There are rules of movement that are specific to martial arts. There are do’s and lot’s of don’ts. Do the don’ts and you’ll get hurt or worse. Opponents will force the don’ts on you, you cannot choose what they will do (though you can lead, set up) so you need to adapt, to learn in the moment with your body.

Life is movement  and life is not controlled. Not to learn is to start to die. To learn is to live. Your partner must push you out of your patterns even if you cannot. Your partner is life!

Alors que la vie est et sera toujours plus riche et plus complexe que les théories qui la concernent, la théorie et les cadres conceptuels sont utiles afin de fournir des suggestions pour une recherche et un développement plus poussés, en tant qu’exercice de communication verbale, pour rassurer l’intellect et pour empêcher la fuite de la théorisation.

C’est donc en gardant ceci en tête que je présente un aperçu de la théorie et des idées qui étayent la pratique physique de l’I-Bagua.

Dans cet article, j’aborde de nombreuses idées, souvent trop brièvement pour leur rendre justice, néanmoins le résultat final est assez long.