Sun Style Bagua Characteristics

Sun Shi Ba Gua was created by Sun Lu Tang on the basis of what he learned with Master Cheng Ting Hua. Compared with the other schools of Ba Gua, the characteristics of Sun Shi Ba Gua are as follows:

1. The form is very simple, but contains infinite possibilities of change.
Sun Shi Ba Gua comprises only eight Zhang ((lion, large male deer, snake, kite, dragon, bear, phoenix, monkey), as well as the Dan Huan Zhang (single palm change) and Shuang Huan Zhang (double palm change), the two movements of transition, is on the whole ten Zhang. Each Zhang comprises only some simple movements. It avoids the too complicated movements and the long transitions to the image that exists in many other Ba Gua schools. The principle is that the more the formulated and fixed movements are simple, the more one leaves the expert practitioner the freedom to explore the possibilities of changes and uses, and not be blocked by too established forms. For example, the movement “Qing Long Fan Shou” in the Dan Huan Zhang can be transformed into at least five different movements of attacks. Thus, Sun Shi Ba Gua is very simple seemingly, but contains an immense space that allows the change and the variation which are the essence of the spirit of Ba Gua.

2. The movement of step is specific.
In many other Ba Gua schools, the front foot slips forwards parallel to the ground while the back foot presses on the ground and pushes the body forwards. In Sun Shi Ba Gua, it is initially the back foot which pushes whereas the front foot gradually lowers to the ground (the heel initially, then toes), then it is the front foot which draws and tears the back foot off the ground. The advantage of this step is that there is no interruption in the translation forwards: the centre of gravity advances while preserving a constant stability. For this reason Sun Shi Ba Gua requires to develop the capacity of the feet to seize the ground firmly as roots which plunge whereas the axis head, back and foot that supports must remain perfectly right and stable. It is necessary to begin the practice with steps slow, solid, and heavy. The feeling must be like turning a mill with the hands. It is only after this base has been established that the search can begin for speed and lightness.

3. The body must be moved back to the maximum. The shoulders and the hips must be moved back to the maximum so that all the weight of the body rests on the heels. Only the full and slackened retreat is capable to prepare for the sudden deployment of attack.

4. The body adapts to the situation, and the hands follow the body.
The principle is that any change must have a reason. The purpose of the change is to create opportunities facing the enemy. The attack of the hands must be fast and direct, the steps and the movement of the body must guarantee that the hands achieve their goal instantaneously. The hands, as well as Jian (sword) or Dao (sabre) must seek the objective, and the body and the steps must enable them to achieve this goal. The arms and the hands or the sword should not turn around the body with an aim which would be only aesthetic or demonstrative. The body is at the service of the sword, of the objective, not the sword at the service of the body.

Characteristics of Sun Style Taiji

Sun Shi Tai Ji was created by Master Sun Lu Tang. Sun Lu Tang is, of the general opinion, one of the greatest Masters in martial arts of recent times. In his youth, Mr. Sun mastered Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Quan. It was only when he was 53 years old that he began the practice of Tai Ji. His basic idea was that Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Tai Ji have the same theoretical base: that of the “Internal” martial arts (nei jia quan) in opposition to “external” martial arts (wai jia quan) which is founded on harnessing maximum muscle strength and striking force. According to a different way, the “Internal” martial arts aim at reaching effectiveness in combat by the harmony of the body and the optimal circulation of vital energy (nei gong). It is while being based on this idea of coherence between Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Tai Ji, that Sun Lu Tang created Sun Shi Tai Ji, synthesizing these three preexistent arts. Many of the postures from Sun Shi Tai Ji, have the same names as the postures of other Tai Ji, but are actually radically different from the latter, owing to the fact that they come from Xing Yi or of Ba Gua. It is the case of San Tong Bei, Lan Zha Yi, Ti Shou Shang Shi, Lou QI Ao Bu, Cad Nian Hou, Ye My Fen Zong, Yu Nu Chuan Suo, Yun Shou Xia Shi, Jin Bu Lan Chui, Jin Bu Zhi Dang Chui, etc.

The first characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: The natural position of the body. The position of the body is more natural than in other forms of Tai Ji. The basic position – San Ti Shi – comes from Xing Yi. It differs from the traditional basic position – Hun Yuan Zhuang. The position of the body is higher (angle with the knees of 135°), the axis head – centre of gravity falls on only one foot and not with equal distance of the two feet, the feet are positioned one compared to the other according to an angle of 45° and not in parallel or are aligned like usually used in other schools of Tai Ji. All these characteristics respect the natural positioning of the body with two consequences. Initially a practice more favorable to health, without excessive wear (of the knees in particular). Then, a good balance between stability and flexibility.

Second characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: Flexible and fast movement. The movement of the feet is flexible and fast: as soon as a leg advances or moves back, the other leg follows immediately. One does not find in Sun Shi Tai a horse riding stance with feet equal distance apart or the bow and arrow posture of traditional Tai Ji. In Sun Shi, one uses the free steps coming from Xing Yi and of Bagua. The centre of gravity always falls on one leg; a foot supports all the weight of the body, the other follows, free. The steps forwards are the steps of Beng Quan, and backwards the steps of Pi Quan. The steps of rotation correspond to the steps of Ba Gua. Sun Shi is light, fluid and fast. It is compared with the water which runs and with the clouds which slip into a windy sky.

Third characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: The specific figure of Kai He. Sun Shi Tai Ji has a very specific figure; Kai He (to open – to close) which is found neither in other forms of Tai Ji, nor in Ba Gua or Xing Yi. This Kai He appears with each connection and transition. It makes it possible to control and adjust breathing and to accumulate the Shi (energy potential) in order to prepare for the next change.

Fourth characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: It is an art which aims at effectiveness in combat. Sun Shi Tai Ji is truly an art of combat. The amplitude of the gestures is limited, the course of the hands are direct, natural and aims to be effective. . It is not the force of the arms which strike, but the sum total of the elastic force of each movement carried out on a correct and uniform axis of gravity.

Sun Style Free Style Push Hands

Once you have practiced the single, double and stepping push hands you can begin to learn how to use Sun Style Taiji, Xing Yi and Bagua using the freestyle method.

When I first when to Teacher Lei Shi Tai in 2005, this is how he taught me by using the freestyle push hands as a base. Then trying to use techniques from the form or the 5 Element Fist at first, then introduce other techniques getting progressively more difficult and potentially dangerous for your partner. As the Bagua has a lot of trips and throws as Lei Laoshi demonstrated many times introducing me to trees and bushes as well as the floor on many occasions, but it was always done in a good way with no anger or outward showing of force and it was a very enjoyable experience.

Training the push hands with Chen Laoshi is completely different he can make his energy disappear so you feel nothing. Then he gives it back to you with your own and his energy combined, truly inspiring and an honour to have him teach me.

Double Push Hands Sun Style Taiji

This is a little more complicated as you are engaging two hands but once mastered you can start to add elbow and shoulder strikes once your partner is off balance.

One partner has his right arm extended and left hand touching his wrist, the other partner has one hand on the wrist and one on the elbow of his partner and is in roll back.

Making an anti clockwise circle reverse the position and continue, be careful not to over extend on the press and try not to use force but just relax and feel through the movement.

As in all Sun Style Tui Shou (Push Hands) it is non competitive so you work with your partner for mutual benefit. It is good if you can work with someone more advanced than you as you will learn more in touch and the advice they give.

To add footwork we just step forward three steps on each circle, then three steps back when your partner makes the techniques.

To add elbow and shoulder strikes you need to seek tuition from a teacher as these are potentially dangerous techniques and need supervision.

Diary 2008

The following is excerpts from my trip to Beijing in 2008, as usual it was a great trip and my thanks to Mr and Mrs Lei Shi Tai for making it a truly memorable one.

Day 1
Arrived Beijing and was met by Lei Laoshi, went for dinner with Mr and Mrs Lei.

Day 2
Practicedwith Mr Lei and Students, learned Hu Xing and Ma Xing, as well as practicing Tui Shou and the 5 elements from Xing Yi.
Laoshi said Taiji is like putting you hand in a stream to catch fish you cant see them but as soon as you feel one you grab it.
Xing Yi is like catching shrimp which jump so you have to explode quickly to catch them.
Bagua is like turning a mill stone.

In Taiji the backbone should be like a bow and you should not lead from the waist, you should move altogether, try to keep the tailbone tucked in and facing the floor.

Day 3
Reviewed Hu Xing and Ma Xing, then learned Lien Wan Quan and practiced pushing hands.

Day 4
Reviewed Hu Xing, Ma Xing and Lien Wan Quan, learned Toh Xing and Tai Xing

Day 5
Reviewed Tuo Xing and Tai Xing got corrections, learned Ji Xing and looked at Pi Quan in more detail

Day 6
Reviewed five elements and did push hands, Mr Lei showed me Huo Xing but not learned it yet.

Day 7
Reviewed Ji Xing, Hu Xing, Ma Xing, Tuo Xing and Tai Xing, then learned Yen Xing.

Day 8
Visited Mr Lei’s club practised Taiji and all the Xing Yi I had learned so far, did some push hands with his students.

Day 9
Visited Mr Lei’s club practised Taiji learned different ending, then practise push hands and Xing Yi, learned Bagua circle and straight walking and single palm change.

Day 10
PracticedJi Xing then push hands with Lei Laoshi 1.45 min. tough day!!

Day 11
Learned She Xing, then did push hands, Mr lei explained how Pi Quan makes all the other fists and that it does not matter which one defeats or makes the other, they just develop different power and so when appropriate you can use it, the 12 animals give you the ability to move freely in any direction and coupled with the techniques in them make them useful.

Day 12
Reviewed She Xing, then push hands

Day 13
Learned Xong/Ying Xing eagle and bear, plus push hands got connection in my back and must remember it!!

Day 14
Reviewed Xong/Ying Xing then push hands.

Day 15
No practice

Day 16
Went to Laoshi’s house, practiced push hands and learned theory, he said for visualisations we should use water for Taiji, a mountain for Xing Yi and a Typhoon for Bagua.

Day 17
Practised push hands as raining very heavy

Day 18
Learned Yau Xing and Long Xing, reviewed Xong and Ying plus Lien Wan Quan and push hands.

Day 19
Last day learned Huo Xing, five directions and jumping glad I learned this last!!

Also I visited the Bai Yun Guan ( white cloud temple) and Mr and Mrs Lei took me to Tan Zhe Si temple and to Sun Jian Yun’s grave site, these were great experiences for me and meeting and practicing with Lei Laoshi’s students was also a fantastic experience as there was no ego just people wanting to practice.

Sunstyle Tui Shou (Push Hands)

Within Sun Shi Taiji we have five main areas of training Tui Shou (Push Hands). The first is Single hand push where the two trainers try to feel and understand to each other. Then there is Da Lun (which means “make cycle”) this is double hands to push, practice the concepts of Peng (Ward Off), Lu (Rollback), Ji (Press) and An (Push). The four main concepts and further to understand and introduce them to elbow stroke, shoulder stroke, pluck and rend. The third method is free-step (moving-step), forward three steps and back three steps in one turn. The fourth is Da Lu, (just like Ba Gua), walk freely, to train the moving energy. The end is San Shou (as you like), freestyle push hands where the opponents try to uproot or push the other using any of the methods from Sun Shi Taiji, Xing Yi or Bagua.

We have other methods that involve listening to the sensitivity of your opponent by feeling the stomach area and trying to disrupt their root, and we also have a method that involves using Tui Shou as a stepping stone to sparring.

Sun Lu Tang created what we now practice as Tui Shou from his knowledge and understanding of the three Internal Arts of Taiji, Xing Yi and Bagua, and Sun Shi Tui Shou involves utilising techniques from these arts.

Relaxing and the ability to follow are the first requirements, then the student can start to use basic techniques from the Internal styles that make up Sun Shi.

Alongside training in San Ti Shi and the Taiji form, Tui Shou makes up a lot of ground in enabling the student to understand the usage of Taiji as a martial art and also teaches us humility and respect for all.

First Trip To Beijing Part 2

The Great Wall

This was a bit of a disappointment to me, as it has become a three-ring circus in some parts of this magnificent monument. Stallholders who are in your face trying to sell anything and everything that relates to the great wall hound you. It is mainly tourist crap anyway and you can get better souvenirs in Beijing. If you are staying at the Downtown backpackers they do a great tour to the wall but be prepared for a hard day’s walking.

Out and about

The best way to get about Beijing is by underground or bus as these two transport systems are cheap and very reliable. The stations on the underground are in pin yin as well as Chinese so us foreigners can get to most of the local attractions and parks using this system. The cost on the underground is 3 Yuan about 20p in our money and the buses are even cheaper at 1 Yuan about 7p. You can travel a long way for your money and on the underground as long as you don’t come up from the station you only pay 3 Yuan and can travel on the red line and the loop line. Taxis are also very cheap compared to England but beware as Beijing is a huge city the taxi drivers will not always know where you want to go, it helps to have a map and also a Chinese speaker if possible.

We also traveled by taxi to the International wushu association in Beijing where they have a large selection of books and DVD’s on all different styles of Chinese martial arts. I also visited Beijing Physical Education University where there are shops that specialise in weapons and managed to pick up a couple of chain whips for my Gung Fu brother John Farrell at 70 Yuan for both, less than £6!!

Yunhe Gong Temple

This is a must visit when in Beijing as the temple grounds are magnificent. On the outside of the temple are shops selling incense and beads, these shops are cheaper than buying stuff in the temple itself. Once you enter the temple grounds all sounds of the city have disappeared and it is peaceful and tranquil. There are large pagodas housing the different Buddhist deities and Buddha’s, as it was a festival day when I visited it would bring me good fortune if I lit incense at every altar, so armed with two bags full of incense I honoured this tradition which took about two hours. This temple is near to Ditan Park and after visiting it I walked the 20 minutes or so to Ditan Park to visit my friend Phil and his teacher Wen Da Sheng.

I can’t wait to return to Beijing and continue my journey in Sun Style!!

I would like to thank the following people who made this trip possible
My son Dav, David and Siu Ying Martin, Phil Morrell, Jenny, Peter Farrell and all my students from Salford and Blackpool.

A special thank you to Lei Laoshi for sharing such a wonderful gift and for Dave in opening up the door so that I could step through.