Ba Gua as transformational art

What the intellectuals of Ba Gua and other internal martial arts sought most was to become nei chia, internalists. The internalist, through yogic practice, played upon inherently opposite forces of yin and yang in the body to bring human potential to fruition. Through yogic art he transformed himself and enhanced physical and mental functions. Through disciplined practice, in the words of Master Liu Bin, the adept "discovered himselfand saw the phenomenon of sky, earth, sun, moon, wind and clouds in new ways." This path of training is available to the martial artist today. According to instructions handed down from past masters, with patience, hard work and a little luck the student "penetrates the veil and directlyperceives the yin and yang of the etheric world." It is said that "to understand Ba Gua Zhang is to understand the principles oflife... one becomes in tune with nature, spirit and man." With self-actualization as a by-product of training, a person is imbued with increased insight and sensitivity to the flow and energy of life.

Through yogic practice the internal martial art master transformed and linked mind and internal energy to the "higher" or "natural" self to become a chun tzu, a sage, what the Taoists called a chen ren, a "true man" of Tao. The natural order was perceived to be perfect. Taoist yogis and mystics, seeking to identify themselves with this perfect order, first had to disidentify from their own ego. Only through the complete abandonment of self could a man become a sage, take away the artificial and unnatural trappings of man, and possibly conquer death. The power over death, of "rhinoceroses having no place to thrust their horn" and "no place for death to enter" could only be accomplished when the ego was abandoned and the man physically, mentally, and spiritually identified with natural order.45 In 300 B.C., the preeminent Taoist writer, Chuang Tzu, discussed the "true man" in this way:

What do I mean by the True Man? The True Man of ancient time did not rebel against want, did not grow proud in plenty, and did not plan his affairs. A man like this could commit an error and not regret it, could meet with success and not make a show. A man like this could climb the high places and not be frightened, could enter the water and not get wet, could enter the fire and not get burned. His knowledge was able to climb all the way up to the Way like this.

The True Man of ancient time slept without dreaming and woke without care; he ate without savoring and his breath came from deep inside. The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throat. Crushed and bound down they gasp out their words as though they were retching. Deep in their passions and desires, they are shallow in the workings of Heaven.46

The yogic-practitioner, through the practice of nei tan yogic internal Ba Gua, sought to become a true man through the process of becoming a model in miniature (microcosm) of the larger model (macrocosm). This is the basic premise of applied Taoistic proto-science, a paradigm that sees man as mirroring the power and flow of creation. Physical exercise, actions of thought, and the way one breathes all affected one's relationship with creation. One's actions either brought one away from the natural flow of life and toward death or toward natural order and life. This was the design of Ba Gua, to mirror the harmonious flow of creation's forces and reflect this vital ebb and flow in the movement of Ba Gua: the turning, twisting, and "change" of the art. To some the art became mystical practice, illustrated by the way they described their art: "the true Ba Gua turn is more than only a turn, it is the movementof creation within creation.'"

The merging of mysticism with physical practice created experiences that were difficult to describe. Enigmatic, paradoxical expressions were adopted to describe the experience of the martial-yogi. For example, the art was said to be "still when moving and "in movement still." Like the discipline of the Sufi dancers, the movement of the art is said to change the consciousness of the practitioner.

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