Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: "Bagua Linked Palms"

It was with pleasure that I read Kent Howard's short (86 pages) yet concise translation and commentary on Wang Shujin's "Bagua Linked Palms". Martial journalist and writer Dan Miller has written that Kent Howard became one of his most reliable and trusted resources on Bagua Zhang, Chinese Culture, and Chinese language. Howard's treatment of "Bagua Linked Palms" reflects his experiance in all these aspects.

Above: Author Robert W. Smith punches Wang Shujin
Wang Shujin is one of the most interesting old-school masters I have read about lately. Recent enough to have living students and first-hand accounts, Wang still cloaked himself in a mysterious private life. Like many martial artists of the time, Wang fled to Taiwan ahead of Communist advances in mainland China. Kent Howard first unravels some of the myths surrounding Bagua founder Dong Hiquan, and then those that follow the life of Wang Shujin. The primary element of these mysteries appear to be Wang's involvement in a quasi-secret sect called "Yi Guan Dao" or "Way Of One Unity". His membership in this sect may have been the main reason for his fleeing the Communists, as well as his introduction to influential individuals in Taiwan.

Wang Shujin's Bagua Zhang is as authentic as it gets; His master Zhang Zhaodong was a direct student of Dong Haiquan. While I have studied Bagua Sun Xikun lineage, Sun Lu Tang lineage and a little Yin Bagua, Wang's presentation is slightly different but ultimately familiar. Kent Howard provides excellent commentary on Wang's original writing, and unlike some Bagua photo essays, the form is readable and the changes are evident.
Perhaps the most exciting development in Howard's treatment of the system is his upcoming instructional DVD that serves as a companion to the Book. Many of Kent's videos are available on YouTube, and I look foward to the release of his video.
Here's a sample:

Kent Howard has several websites dedicated to the Bagua of Wang Shujin, the first is found HERE , and a website that offers DVD sales and seminar information HERE.
Kent has yet another site that is dedicated to "Nonviolent Self Defense".

"Bagua Linked Palms" offers a historical view of Master Wang Shujin, and an overview of the form. Combined with his upcoming DVD and applications, this book will help inform both seasoned Bagua practitioners and students new to Bagua Zhang.
An interview with Kent Howard can be found HERE.

This book was provided to me for review, is available at the website for "Blue Snake Books", along with many other martial arts titles.


Zacky Chan said...

I remember watching videos of this guy! I'm really impressed with his interview, and inspired by the videos. Bagua writings and videos have always been my favorite, so this is great to see. From my tiny perspective, Bagua seems performed in a smaller radius than aikido, though with similar principles and techniques. But I don't know. Maybe someday.

Dojo Rat said...

Now that you are learning Aikido, you will see the similarities...

Dan Djurdjevic said...

I'm going to have to buy this book. It looks good. Thanks for reviewing.