What can you expect when you start to learn Bagua?
Well while there are always individual variations according to previous experience, there are ou are certain steps and stages that you are likely to pass through as you start to study Bagua. I cannot speak for other schools here, only my own.
During your introduction you will be presented a lot of information. There is the theoretical base of Bagua, an outline of the syllabus, basic exercises to relax the body, basic exercises to align the body, basic exercises to condition the body, basic exercises to coordinate the body as well as a number of partner exercises and techniques which are chosen to show the key ideas of relative body position, angles to disrupt partners/opponents balance and remain in a secure position.
Different students will have different challenges with these. For some it is a question of coordination, balance and body control. For others there are issues of physical flexibility, chronic tension, poor posture, lack of physical fitness or mental focus.
I just saw a comment on facebook ‘saying you are not flexible enough for Yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a bath.’ This applies to any of the challenges for beginning students. It is possible and most likely desirable to get stronger, calmer, more relaxed, flexible coordinated, focused and the practice provides methods to do this.
Overall there can be a sense of being overwhelmed. It is not instantly evident how all these pieces fit together. Intellectually perhaps the student understand that there is a process, a syllabus but it takes time to understand how a more meditative exercise applies to physical conditioning, or how to use the alignments trained in circle walking to a technique.
During this phase of introduction the same sets of exercises are repeated with a few variations. In time the coordination gets more natural, the body gets stronger, the key angles of application become clearer.
There is a steep learning curve. Sometimes things work like magic, sometimes they do not . It is not instantly clear what the difference is. Sometimes practice results in extremely pleasant, calm focused states of mind, and sometimes not. This requires practice too!
Much of the essence of Bagua is presented during the introduction. Basics are also fundamentals. You do not learn them then move on to ‘advanced stuff’. You return to them constantly. Something advanced not working? The problem is probably in the basics.
There are certain aha moments which tend to come at different intervals depending on how often the student practices in class or outside of it.
How long does this phase take? That all depends on the how much you are willing to put in to the process. If you train a couple of times a week in class, and a little (each day) at home, think and ask questions it can be as fast as a couple of months, though it often takes longer.
As the student becomes familiar with the basics of the introduction it starts to make sense to add more variations on these exercises.
Bagua is all about exploring possibilities of movement and direction. If a movement can be done to the inside why not also to the outside? If it can done high, what happens if it also practiced low and what are the implications? If you can control the balance of someone through contact with the elbow, can you also control balance through contact with the shoulder? What other possibilities does this create?
During this phase new solo movements are introduced, new partner drills and techniques. Changes in speed, intensity and freedom of application become tools for learning.
The familiarity with the basics of the introduction gives a frame for exploring and integrating the new territory. There is a lot to be explored! As the teacher I will guide the student or set up situations into the areas that will be most fruitful.
The student will feel increasingly confident to explore on their own. They start to understand how to put together their own training regimens, how to use different exercises to develop desired qualities and how to test for what is needed in partner practice.
During this phase it’s also natural to begin to apply Bagua in daily life. I do not only mean fancy footwork on crowded streets, or being a polite but solid moving wall to the fools who try and get onto the metro before the others have got off.
What I’m referring to is how the you can find parallels between the principles of Bagua and the analysis of certain situations. Also the practise of attention, focus, awareness and relaxation will be applicable whenever calm or physical sensitivity are needed.
Over time students also get familiar with each other – there is more understanding of the individuals in the class – personalities, strengths, weaknesses. Trust builds which allows for more intense practice.
This phase can go on for a long time. In fact it never really ends!
During the exploration phase the student builds a large pool of movements and techniques to practice. It is no longer possible to practice it all in a single session, or in several sessions.
At this point the student can really begin to focus on what links the different techniques with the idea of condensing more qualities into fewer practices which require less time. This is where the disparate elements of Bagua for health, Bagua for meditation and Bagua for combat begin to really converge.
Single palm change is no longer a basic exercise but the expression of a deep exploration rich in possibility. This is not an intellectual understanding, it is a recognition and awareness on a physical level. Here the enthusiasm for exploring all the cool movements, cunning techniques, and refreshing meditations is replaced or at least accompanied by a deep appreciation for the elegance and simplicity which is the essence of Bagua.
It’s a great destination and the journey is pretty good too! A journey of a thousand miles start with a single CLICK here 😉