Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bruce's Bagua

Here is the great Bruce (B.K.) Frantzis showing some Bagua applications.
While this particulear video is not the best quality, it will give the viewer an idea of movement and application. This is an example of how similar Aikido is to Bagua, and one reason Uyeshiba may have been inspired to create Aikido after viewing Bagua in China. Here's what Frantzis has to say:
"Everything changes. Every moment in time is unique unto itself. Every moment in time carries a shadow of the past and in many ways the future is nothing more than a projection of the past. What happened before is going to happen again, although in exactly what way is hard to predict.
The nature of change is that you have to have the capacity for it. Whether you're trying to go from one chi gung movement to the next, from walking the ba gua circle to changing directions, going from one meditative state to another or going from one event in life to another, you must be able to change".


BSM said...

Added to my short list of "next" martial arts. It looks like a rougher version of aikido. I really like the fact that he's dealing with an almost-full-speed attacker who's throwing punches and kicks.

Dojo Rat said...

By the way B, spoons evolved from hands

BSM said...


j said...

I've trained with Bruce and learned quite a bit of his Ba Gua. He doesn't train it any more himself due to injury, but what he's taught me has been quite useful.
His approach is heavy on the energy and meditative aspects, which have actually be quite useful in sparring and full contact exercises. The mental ability to stay awake and aware while doing full speed two-person stuff makes a tremendous difference. His method is a bit on the mystical side, but the work on dissolving tension, finding gaps in awareness and deeply connecting upper and lower body is really awesome for fighting.
His skill at Rou Shou is something to behold. Very few others have his speed, fluidity and softness, nor his bone rattling close range striking power. That's one of the best things about his system and it's been a tremendously fun thing to work on over time. I've gone at him full speed on many occasions and it's always ended with an unexpected and deeply felt series of blows that come close to but short of serious damage. I wish more people could work with him, but he isn't cheap to learn from, and has been drifting away from martial arts for a long time.

Take care,

Jess O'Brien

Savage Baptist said...

The techniques were interesting, but--just call me a nitpicker--I wondered the same thing about this that I do about every aikido demo I see: where do they see attacks that come from that sort of range? I certainly never have. Every fight or confrontation that I have ever seen has involved two or more people at very close range, usually nose-to-nose, and shouting at each other. Nobody attacks from yards away.

I am sure aikido and bagua both have effective means of dealing with the sorts of altercations that actually take place in, say, Oklahoma. Why doesn't anyone ever do a demo involving them?

Dojo Rat said...

Hi Jess, thanks for telling us about your personal experiance with B.K. Frantzis. I would love to train with the guy sometime.

Savage B-man-
Still working on that truck?
You make a good point. But from what I have gleaned from both Aikido and Bagua, Bagua is far less structured and more unpredictable. More use of striking but lots of grappling/takedowns. It does operate more at the distance just before the clinch generally. A good Judo guy or wrestler might gain the advantage in the clinch, but not outside the clinch.
Maybe Jess would like to add an opinion.

j said...

For sure, this is another absurd demo, just like any Aikido one. The reason being, you need to slow things down and make them obvious for a good demo. If they started at a real fighting range and came to blows, it would look like a scramble of blows and someone would fall over. You'd be unlikely to see even who hit who, just some flying limbs and a KO.

Whereas with a fake demo you can see some of the signature moves of Ba Gua in action. Sam is obviously being a compliant partner, and letting Bruce do the techniques on him. It's the only way to make it obvious what is happening.

For instance, Single Palm Change has a million applications, but usually it involves one hand contacting the opponent, feeling their resistance and using the second hand to hit them and enter on an opposite angle from that resistance. But at full speed all you see is someone getting smashed in the face. The angles change so fast and so small that there is no external visibility. You would think, oh just another street brawl.

All full resistance fighting ends up looking the same because the techniques scale down to minute size. All of the Ba Gua moves are the same at any speed and size, but it's a matter of communicating it to an audience. You have to do a fake demo in order to communicate the flavor to people who may not be familiar with what you are doing.

Something similar goes on in sparring I believe.

When I spar with a friend that I know, and am bigger than, I use bigger, loopier, softer, swinging movements. Since I have an advantage I try to use as soft and as intuitive movements as I can, because I can get away with it. Particularly with gloves on, I don't have to worry about hurting him.

However, with a bigger, meaner, tougher guy I don't know, I scale things down much smaller, tighter, closer-in, because I need to be much more defensive and cautious. The techniques are the same, but the same angle I can use in a big palm strike has to be made much smaller for an inside, short range hit. Same technique, but from the outside they are hugely different in appearance.

I have many clips of my friends and myself sparring at various degrees of intensity. The ones where I'm sparring a guy I'm better than, I look like a mystical master soaring the clouds effortlessly knocking him down. Against the guys at my level it looks like a sweaty, grabby, slappy, couple of bar room brawlers scrambling for an advantage. I'd be ashamed to post either type of clip! The only clips that are actually useful in any way are the fake demos where you can be inspired by how a strange movement can become a very useful and utilitarian move.

Ba Gua has a lot going on, and can be a very complex, deep study. On the other hand, it was designed to take an experienced guy, and quickly add some spin and spiral to his movements. The same Karate punch now has a little extra twist, and a little extra fluidity and a little extra intuitive stepping. It's no more or less than that. I draw the analogy of taking an old black powder bullet and firing it down a rifled barrel. Adding spin to it completely changes the impact, but the bullet is pretty much the same.

Just a few thoughts! Take care.

-Jess O

Dojo Rat said...

Thanks for your excellent concepts Jess,
Would you consider contacting me at dojorat@gmail.com

-You may be able to answer a few questions for me.
Thanks, John @ D.R.

K T said...

I found Jess' comments to be interesting and useful - I agree with much of what was written regarding sparring at various levels of intensity.

DR, in a previous post I said I would get back to you (via e-mail) - I've not forgotten but have been extremely busy - in the meantime keep up the excellent blog.

Martial Development said...

Aikido inspired by Bagua? ORLY? :)

I'll believe that when I hear a more convincing argument than "they both have spirals".

j said...

As for the Aikido/Ba Gua connection, that's a topic that deserves a much deeper examination, by people who understand the issue much more than myself.

I think what's more relevant is that Ba Gua, and Xing Yi to some degree, can offer a few training methods that would be quite valuable for the open minded Aikidoka.

Aikido's strengths are in it's emphasis on two person training and tactile awareness. You learn so much about how to engage and respond within the fluid, smooth rhythms of Aikido's throwing practice. The structure, connection and footwork all share so much with Ba Gua.

What Ba Gua can offer is the integration of slapping, striking and smashing palms that flow in and out of the throwing techniques very naturally. Aikido's atemi is often an afterthought, whereas in good Ba Gua training, striking integrates instantly and usefully in the throwing.

Ba Gua's full body approach to striking would suit Aikidoists quite well, it's based on turning the core of the body to create power and that fits perfectly with Aikido's body movement and footwork. The constant stepping of Ba Gua is very similar to Aikido's way of moving, in contrast to the block, plant and strike of harder arts.

This allows for extremely powerful strikes that are used to open up the opponent to throws, sweeps, trips and reaps. One central tenant of Ba Gua striking is that it's intuitive, based on unconscious openings that the other person has for you to exploit. Their "ki" has gaps for you to enter, if you will.

Aikidoists would love the two person training of Rou Shou which Ba Gua uses to create an intuitive understanding of these gaps, and the slight angle changes needed to enter in on them. The standing grappling and pummeling of Rou Shou is a perfect adjunct to the bigger, run at 'em and chop training that Aikido is more commonly known for.

There's a lot more usefulness in Ba Gua for Aikidoists. Not really to change what they do but to help open their eyes to some new ways of using what they already do. The Tai No Hen Ko stepping of Aikido is identical to the Ko Bu/Bai Bu stepping of Ba Gua. The unbendable arm body structure is the same as Ba Gua's Zhuan Zhang extended arm. The only difference is that Ba Gua's striking techniques flow very naturally from this shape, whereas Aikido doesn't focus on that much.

Another interesting thing for Aikidoists would be looking into the sister art of Ba Gua, called Xing Yi Quan. In many Ba Gua schools Xing Yi is trained also, they have been connected for over 100 years.

Aikido's main striking techniques called Shomen Uchi and Tsuki are identical to the prime Xing Yi striking techniques of Pi Quan and Beng Quan. Xing Yi fighters ahve been famous for a long time for hurting people real bad with these two techniques. It's what Xing Yi's fierce reputation is built on. Contrary to the stereotype, Aikido's striking is meant to be extremely powerful and utilitarian, not a fake gimme for the thrower to get an easier throw. Shomen Uchi and Tsuki are plenty to win a freestyle fight with, forget the throwing. They are the main techniques because they WORK not because they don't. 6 months of work on Xing Yi would utterly transform the Aikidoist's striking techniques, not because they'd need new strikes, but because they would make a few mental shifts that change Shomen Uchi from a big fake over hand chop to something much more utilitarian. It's hard to explain in type, because the Shomen Uchi and Pi Quan look exactly the same, but perhaps it's the intent that shifts slightly to make them feel so different in practice.

This is one of my favorite topics, because I've seen how a short course in Chinese internal martial arts can unlock the potential power of Aikido into something vastly more useful for freestyle, full contact training. The only hurdle to overcome is that you gotta put on gloves and get punched in the face a few times. It doesn't hurt as bad as it looks though.

Just a few thoughts!!

Jess O