The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang (Part 2)

Kumar and Liu Hung ChiehHere I continue my commentary on The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang, by Frank Allen and Tina Chunna.
The first section of the book is called "The Origins of Ba Gua Zhang: A Blend of History and Legend." It is the most complete collection of stories about baguazhang that I've seen. It follows all the various lineages down from Dong Haichuan. Wow, how do I put this? Writing should be like fighting a war. I fell asleep six times reading this section.

Still I found lots of material that was new to me. I didn't know that Wang Shujin spent a year studying with Wang Xiangzai, the founder of Yiquan. Hong Yixinag and Wang Shujin Yi were both members of the Yi Guan Dao religious society. "The outer teaching of the sect revolved around the belief that Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity are all different expressions of the same universal and unwavering Dao, while the esoteric teaching of the sect involved various qi gong and other energy practices. " Wang was a Yi Guan Dao leader and thus fled with the Nationalists to Taiwan in 1948.

This section has lots of interesting material I didn't know before. I think my frustration with it stems from that fact it wavers between the encyclopedic tracking of all the various bagua masters, and stories about them. Should I memorize these stories? Is there some teaching point behind them? Does this history mean anything?

I know a reason these histories are important. If you go into any park in the morning, anywhere in the world where there are people practicing Chinese martial arts, and do your baguazhang, people will come up to you and ask where you learned. They will probably trace you back to a common gongfu ancestor with someone else in the park. Chances are good that they will ask you to perform and that if you have been taught correctly you will refuse twice, saying each time that you really are not good enough, that you would only embarrass your teacher, and that only your teacher's teacher was really great. But the third time they ask you, it becomes your duty to perform. The benefit of this is that after you perform you can point to anyone who was watching and they will obligated to show their stuff. It's kind of like a drinking game with your "new family."
There is also another reason. Many of us want to know how our individual style got its characteristics. The authors do a good job of tracing this "progress" or "decline" (which ever you prefer) from Dong Haichuan. However; where Dong Haichuan learned his Baguazhang is at this point, just a bunch of ledgends and unconvincing theories.

Frank Allen's main teacher is B.K. Frantzis and since I also do his style of Baguazhang, we have the same lineage through Frantzis to Liu Hengjie (Liu Hung Chieh).

In the section on forms (p. 87-88) the Authors explain why Liu Hung Chieh didn't teach a Baguazhang form and why his style is not orthodox Yinfu or Cheng Tinghua:
While still in his teens, Liu Hung Chieh became the disciple of bagua master, Liu Zhenlin. Liu Hung Chieh furst studied with Liu Zhenlin when Liu was teaching in the school of Cheng Tinghua's son Cheng Youlung and Dong Haichuan's student Liu Dekuan. Liu Zhen Lin was a famous fighter and bodyguard who first studied bagua under Yin Fu's student Liu Yongqing (who was a close friend and training partner of Yin Fu's top student, Ma Gui). The young Liu Zhenlin learned all of his basic bagua from these two masters, but his teachers brought him to bow before and become the disciple of court minister Liang Zhaiwen; in this way, Liu Zhenlin received entry into the third generation of bagua masters, which was the same generation as his foundation teachers. Liang Zhaiwen was a military man who had been the chief guard at the most important fire gate on the Great Wall before becoming a court minister. Due to Liang's position in lthe court, his association with the palace eunuch servant Dong Haichuan was not widely known until after Liang's death. Because he was the top student of Liu Zhenlin, it is same to asume that young Liu Hung Chieh also received training under his teacher's gongfu "uncles," Liu Yongqing and Ma Gui.

I am indebted to the authors for supplying this history even if my regular readers are likely to find it on the boring side. I promise to spice things up in the next couple of posts!

The authors go on to say that Liu Hung Chieh spent many years studying Daoist Circle Walking Meditation which influenced the development of his style of practice and teaching. In my opinion, someone, very possibly Liu, studied Daoist exorcism, not just circle walking. From my experience of Daoist exorcism it is a more likely source for the diverse phyiso-spirit knowledge that Liu passed on to B.K. Frantzis, (even if I'm the only one who thinks so.)
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