The weekend of July 1-2 Lu Baochun was in Paris and I managed to catch the last day of training. I had meant to go earlier but life got in the way.

How was it? Well as my friend Michael Rook said to me recently “Lu is awesome.” Now awesome is a much abused word, fortunately I know that Michael is a classically understated Englishman with scholarly precision and wide ranging martial interests, from obscure lineages to modern MMA (and how the two meet). He is not a man to use the word awesome lightly. 

So yes,  Lu is awesome.

It helps a little that he reminds me of Luo laoshi, they are the same age (which doesn’t show on either of them) similar size and a lot in common in how they move. They also both have a no bullshit approach to explaining their styles when it comes to fighting.

Lu teaches mostly Bajiquan and Chen style Taijiquan which he learned from Feng Zhiquiang (though he teaches the Laojia rather than Hunyuan form). He is based in Helsinki where he has lived for 17 years.

During the seminar he divided his time between two groups of students who each focused on one of these styles.

My morning was spent going over the Jingang bashi – eight movements that are designed to develop the basic power of Baji with Lu’s student Mika. Mika is interested in how to apply his martial arts in a free fighting context, the best ways to train and develop useful skills. What he showed reflected this – lively powerful movement with well thought out and clear instruction.

In the afternoon Lu took the Baji group. We went over some basic movements and their application, which involved putting on small gloves and trying the technique under increasing punching pressure.

Lu also talked about fighting training generally, with a memorable phrase “friends are better than a teacher, and fighting is better than friends.” It is probably worth a little explanation – it’s through fighting that you develop fighting skill, and generally you can go harder with peers than teachers, and harder with enemies/strangers/rivals than with peers.

I also liked his suggestion for power training. If you are not familiar with Bajiquan it is pretty explosive and known for power. What Lu suggested was not to use “stupid power” which he demonstrated by showing movements with maximum effort and contraction. It’s an approach that is common when people attempt to imitate the kind of balanced channeled explosion that Lu is skilled at. But trying hard and harder leads to aches. The opposite of this is to use less effort but more feeling and use the feeling as a guide to the use of power.

Lu also spent some describing how the system fits together. It is based on just a few forms, each one putting more emphasis on either power or technique in a logical progression. He encouraged questions and gave good answers.

As I said I don’t know much about Bajiquan, one thing I learned is that Lu’s Baji is a little different from most others. His Taiji practice has made it softer and more twisty. Also as a practical fighter his movement is very alive. When lineages spend more time on the formal development of power they can seem very explosive, but a little robotic. Lu’s movement is animal not mechanical.

I didn’t get a chance to do any Taiji with Lu, but I appreciated the little bits I saw. I get the impression that for Lu there is a whole world of internal experience and exploration that he approaches through Taiji. He also uses it martially and as a way to efficiently maintain his explosive power and movement. There was a marked difference between the focus of the two groups, with the Baji group being more intent on fighting skills.

To wrap up Lu is skilled, clear, enthusiastic humorous and awesome of course. This is reflected in the students who train with him, who were friendly, welcoming and skilled. Thanks to all of you who made that a great Sunday, and I’ll be happy to train with you again soon.  Here is a link to Lu’s Baji association in Finland.