Monday, November 3, 2008

More On The Fusion Of Aikido And Bagua

The October 28th post on Bruce Frantzis demonstrating Bagua has brought some interesting discussion in the comments section. I had claimed that Master Uyeshiba of Aikido was likely influenced by martial arts he witnessed in China.
Martial Development stated:
"Aikido inspired by Bagua? ORLY? :)
I'll believe that when I hear a more convincing argument than "they both have spirals".
As I wrote in THIS POST in 2007, there is first-hand knowledge from people who hosted Uyeshiba's visits to Chinese martial training in 1936. Take a look at it for further background.

We also recieved a series of fascinating comments from author and practitioner Jess O'Brien, one of which I would like to include here for those who might have missed it:
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

(D.R.) Now that's some great stuff...


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