Understanding Yin Style Bagua

In truth, this should be titled Understanding Yin Style Bagua from the Yin Fu-Men Baozhen-Xie Peiqi Line. While there are similarities among the different schools of Yin Style Bagua, this is the only line I can comment on.

This particular line of Bagua has a large amount of material within it. That is not to say it is better than any other. If a system regularly produces powerful fighters, then it is a good system. Even if one is studying a good system but doesn’t work hard or isn’t taught well, then one won’t be a good fighter. It is important to remember that martial arts literally means the art of fighting. As the oldest of Dr. Xie’s disciples is fond of saying, Don’t tell me how great your teacher or style is, because if I beat you, I am better than you. I wont tell you how long I have studied, because if you only have practiced for a day and beat me, you are better than me. Judging skill is that simple. As a not for profit organization dedicated to documenting traditional knowledge around the world, the Association is not biased or beholden to this line of Yin Style Bagua. We have simply found a line that represents a very honest and tangible knowledge base in martial arts, medicine, and Qi cultivation. Because of that, we have worked hard to document it.

History

Within almost all of the lines of Bagua, there is no argument that the art was first publicly taught by Dong Haichuan. While there are differing stories as to how and where Dong Haichuan synthesized his martial art experiences into Bagua, he is credited as its founder. There is also little argument that his first and longest student was a man named Yin Fu. Yin Fu and Dong Haichuan spent many years together, some of them in what is now Inner Mongolia collecting taxes for the Imperial court. It was only in his later years that Dong Haichuan taught other students, the most famous being Cheng Tinghua. There are many stories about these early practitioners, and a fair amount of them have been reported in the Pa Kua Journal. How true are they? After fifteen years of living among martial artists in China, I take all of them with a grain of salt. Stories change with time and the teller, so to believe truths from oral history is to believe what the teller wants to be true. We will never know what really happened. According to the history of this line, Dong Haichuan passed on martial, medical, and Qi cultivation systems to Yin Fu. The martial aspect is composed of eight animal systems. They are: Lion, Snake, Bear, Dragon, Phoenix, Rooster, Unicorn (Qilin in Chinese, Kirin in Japanese), Monkey. Each animal system is its own complete system based on the personality of the Trigram it represents.

•Lion – Qian trigram•Snake – Kan trigram
•Bear – Gen trigram•Dragon – Zhen trigram
•Phoenix – Xun trigram•Rooster – Li trigram
•Unicorn – Kun trigram•Monkey – Dui trigram

Within this line of Bagua, the official story is that a students body type and personality were matched with the system that best suited them, and that’s what the student was taught. This is not actually what happened. If it had, there would be groups of people out there within Yin Style Bagua practicing the different animals. The truth is, there aren’t. While the different systems are designed to maximize different bodies and temperaments, they were never openly taught. Of Men Baozhen’s students, we can only identify a few who practiced different animal styles, and none seemed to have learned in a coherent fashion. Of those students, even fewer taught what they had learned to the next generation. The only exception is Dr. Xie Peiqi. To understand how and why this happened, it is important to look at a timeline of ages and history within China. When Men Baozhen finally published a book on Yin Style Bagua in 1935, he was sixty-five years old. He was considered a fearsome fighter and had dealt with challenges from other martial artists throughout his career. Teaching openly was a dangerous practice, as the more the opponent knew of your style, the less chance of victory you had. This was true of many of the famous martial artists in that time. Some were honored by the Nationalist government as teachers and consultants of the Hebei Martial Arts Academy, but few did more than visit the actual school. Their disciples and students were actually the ones involved with the Academy. It was, however, a brief window when various styles were publicly taught and recorded. The few records that exist from those years do provide an excellent glimpse into what they might have looked like at the time. I do know that Joseph Crandall has translated a Bagua Saber book attributed to the Hebei Academy, and that other materials from that time period are out there, as well. The saber form Crandall translated is still practiced in this line today.

In 1935, Dr. Xie was fifteen, only a child who had spent two years learning from Men Baozhen. He is not even listed within Men’s book, too young to be considered anything more than a student. With the way hierarchy works within Chinese martial arts, even if he was recognized as a disciple, it would officially have to be as a grand-disciple because of the age difference. But being a neighbor and child, Dr. Xie also posed no threat to Men Baozhen. Many disciples of famous martial artists were highly skilled in their own right, becoming disciples because they lost a challenge match. As such, teachers had to be careful passing them knowledge. It was not unheard of that once a student had learned a teachers skills and habits, he might re-challenge the teacher to achieve fame by beating the famous practitioner. There are very few records of this ever happening, but it was an acknowledged concern then and today. As that was hardly a concern with a fifteen year old neighbor, Men Baozhen chose to teach Dr. Xie openly and directly in secret. There was no worry of creating a rival, the child viewed Men as his surrogate father, and the full art was passed on. While officially frowned upon because of the strict codes of hierarchy within martial arts, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Unfortunately, it is also a source of much of the bitterness that exists within practitioners of the same systems throughout the Chinese martial arts world. Interestingly, with the passing away of Dr. Xie’s first chosen successor in the eighties, history has repeated itself with He Jinbao becoming the lineage carrier of Yin Style Bagua martial arts. He Jinbao began studying with Dr. Xie at age sixteen. While the age difference between them would normally define their relationship as a grand teacher to grand disciple, He Jinbao received open and direct teaching that many of the older generation students never did.

The Association for Traditional Studies and Yin Style Bagua

It is simply a stroke of luck that this system is being documented the way it is. My personal interest and studies in Chinese martial arts lead me to Dr. Xie in 1993. He was angry at the lack of commitment among new Chinese students, but quite impressed with the interest and dedication westerners were showing. For that, we all owe a great debt of gratitude to John Davies of England. Only twelve years younger than Dr. Xie, John retired in 1992 and went to China to continue his interest in martial arts. The dedication and focus John showed shaped the doctors excellent view of westerners and opened the door for the work the Association was to do.

Dr. Xie was a cautious man, though, and we began by documenting what he had already openly shown in China. These were three of the Healing Without Medicines practices. As time went by and trust was established, Dr. Xie began to openly explain the true structure of the martial art system. In 1996, under the auspices of the Association, he traveled to the US and England to teach Yin Style Bagua. He was so moved by the energy, intensity and honesty of the students he met, that upon returning he vowed to document the entire system in book and video format. In 1998, his student He Jinbao joined the project. Since then, the Association has released over fifty videos and books, with more coming out every year. We are tremendously fortunate to have someone of his generation that was willing to openly teach; a talented disciple who is still young enough to demonstrate at full strength; and an organization with the resources to record this material and bring it to the public.

The Structure of Yin Style Bagua

The practices within this system can be separated into three broad categories: martial, medical, and Qi cultivation. While there is a great deal of crossover, the three categories should be viewed distinctly to grasp the system. The Qi cultivation practices were drawn from Daoist and Buddhist knowledge. Dr. Xie prefered the old term Daoyin, which is how many practices now labeled Qigong were called in the past. Literally meaning Guiding and Leading, Daoyin is the art of causing Qi (though not just Qi) to intentionally travel to specific parts of the body. This is done through breath, movement, sound, and other methods. All the practices within this system were designed to heal the individual, create optimal health, and achieve a dynamic state of being. They came in different formats, some active, some still. There are standing, moving, sitting, lotus, and lying down practices. The most dominant of them Dr. Xie had grouped under the title of Healing Without Medicines. They are: The Eight Healing Sounds; The Twelve Guiding Energy Sitting Meditations; The Luohan Patting Method; and the Shaking System. The first three have already been documented in book and companion video by the Association.

The medical side of Yin Style Bagua is traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the use of herbs, acupuncture, and bodywork to treat the patient. Its core, though, is less Confucian Chinese medicine and more Yi-Yi or Yi Jing (Book of Changes) Chinese medicine. It is unknown just how competent of a medical practitioner Dong Haichuan was. It is reasonable to assume that he was already quite skilled at bodywork, wild crafting herbs, and possibly acupuncture when he arrived in the Imperial court. From what we have been able to piece together, the knowledge he brought with him to Beijing was a combination of Daoist, Buddhist, and folk influenced Chinese medicine techniques. Once in the court, Dong Haichuan had exposure to the tremendous skill of the Imperial doctors. The doctors, in turn, had exposure to the powerful Qi cultivation skill of Dong Haichuan’s. Dong Haichuan was already in the Imperial court when Yin Fu became his student. While it would have been impossible for Yin Fu not to develop medical skill, there are no records or stories of him treating publicly. The first accounts we have of medical YSB entering the public are through Wen Peiting. Wen Peiting was a doctor in the Imperial court who became a disciple of Yin Fu’s. Already famous for his skills, he seems to be the person who refined the highly developed Qi methods of YSB with its hand manipulation techniques to create what was termed Imperial Bodywork. Its style focused on achieving powerful results for the patient with minimal touch. In the court, royalty expected miraculous results, yet would tolerate little touch (it was considered inappropriate for non royalty to touch royalty. This resulted in doctors developing the technique of reading pulses and treating through a layer of silk so as not to have directly touched the skin of the patient.), no marking of the skin, and absolutely no pain. A doctor who gave poor results could be sent away disgraced; one who hurt or displeased a royal figure could be sentenced to death.

Men Baozhen, Yin Fu’s chosen lineage carrier, learned this along with the rest of the medical knowledge in YSB. Men Baozhen became a respected doctor of Chinese medicine and passed on that knowledge to Dr. Xie Peiqi. At eighty years old, Dr. Xie was still treating patients. He relied mostly on herbs and bodywork, as he felt he was too old to accomplish the powerful needle techniques he was famous for. Many of the techniques use long needles that are run through the body cavity or beneath the skin along meridian pathways. This knowledge was carried on by Dr. Xie’s first chosen lineage carrier, Liu Fang, who died of illness in 1985. Sadly, there is no person left within this line who learned those needle techniques from Dr. Xie when he was still practicing them.The herbal knowledge within Yin Style Bagua, however, is still very active. Herbal use, both internal and external, revolves around strong combinations that most doctors would fear prescribing. Dr. Xie’s belief was that if you aren’t absolutely sure of your herbs and what your patient can tolerate, you shouldn’t be prescribing them in any quantity. He was a believer in the Sun Simiao adage that one should be meticulous in planning, but brave in application. Dr. Xie has written a tremendous compendium on herbs which will one day be edited, translated, and published.
What is truly unique within the YSB medical system, though, is its bodywork. While Dr. Xie referred to it as Imperial Bodywork, the Association has chosen to translate it into English as Energy-Bodywork. This is because aside from the minimum touch/maximum Qi techniques, the full system still encompasses many hand methods which are astounding in efficacy but never were used within the court. Some techniques are quite aggressive, reflecting how wide reaching its scope is. The Association has invested a tremendous amount of time to document this unique system of bodywork under the name, The Energy-Bodywork Healing System of Yin Style Bagua. We have already filmed and released a thirteen volume series documenting the twenty-four basic hand techniques of the system. We have already filmed and are in the production stages of a series featuring treatment protocols. When this is accomplished, a major piece of the YSB medical system will have been recorded for posterity.

The focus of this article, however, is to explain the martial system of Yin Style Bagua. Because of the amount of material we have released on this, we receive a tremendous amount of questions about what the styles are like, what are the underlying foundations, and exactly how does one learn the entire system?

The Martial System of Yin Style Bagua

As mentioned above, the martial system is actually composed of eight animal systems, each a complete system within itself. While the Western mentality likes the idea of learning the whole thing, that is not very realistic. From the origin of this system under Dong Haichuan, only three people ever learned the entire eight animal martial system. They were Yin Fu, Men Baozhen, and Dr. Xie Peiqi. Having formally chosen He Jinbao as the lineage carrier, Dr. Xie worked hard to pass on the rest of the knowledge to him before he got too much older. We are fortunate that it will survive him in the hands of a competent and talented practitioner. It is also why Dr. Xie pushed so hard on the documentation of the martial system with the Association. I will be able to write for many more years, and talk for many more after that. But how many more years do I have left as a fierce fighter? Let us document this first! Wise words from the doctor. Though even at eighty, I would pity the person who mistook him for a feeble, old man.

In the past, no YSB practitioner within this line was ever paid to teach classes. It was considered extremely poor taste to resort to teaching martial arts for a living. One practiced medicine, was a bodyguard, or made a living doing something else. YSB was secretive, and as no one relied on spreading it to survive, there was no incentive to teach it systematically. In fact, for the bodyguards and medical practitioners, there was concern with letting the skill out at all. Thus, while Men Baozhen and Dr. Xie had many students over the years, few learned any real skill. Those few who did became excellent fighters, but had little understanding of the internal framework of the system. The teachers taught when they wanted, and whatever occurred to them at that moment. Little thought was given towards the advancement of the student. Indeed, in those days it seemed students were people one could abuse through demonstration of application without concern of complaints. Many students claimed them as teachers, but rarely visited for fear of injuries. Most beginners never returned after the first few teachings. That was how Men Baozhen taught, so that was how Dr. Xie taught. Only in the last ten years did that slowly change, and only since 1996 has it stopped. Since then, I have worked to understand the underlying structure of the system, and what I have found is as follows:There are eight animals, each its own complete system. Their styles are drawn from the personality of the trigram they represent. While they are designed to maximize a practitioners body type, personality, and physical abilities, this has rarely been taken advantage of. The only animals that have been taught somewhat openly in the past were Lion, Phoenix, Bear and Dragon.

Within each animal system, there are foundation practices and attacking methods. While there are kicks which belong to each animal, the kicking techniques are viewed as a separate system. YSB practitioners see powerful stepping and leg placement as much more important than actual kicking. There are eight attacking methods per animal, making a total of sixty-four attacking methods. Some have the same name but use force differently; others have different names but make use of a similar force. However, each is used with different strategies which are defined by the trigram and thus the animal they come from.

Within each attacking method, there are seven variations from the overall strategic personality of the animal to which it belongs. We will call these variations forms for the sake of convenience. Thus we say that there are seven forms per attacking method. Each of these forms is based on a trigram. There are only seven, as the animal the attacking method belongs to occupies one trigram. This means that in Lion, which is the Qian trigram, there is a Kan variation Qian strategy, a Gen variation Qian strategy, a Zhen variation Qian strategy, a Xun variation Qian strategy, a Li variation Qian strategy, a Kun variation Qian strategy, and a Dui variation Qian strategy. There is no Qian variation Qian strategy, because it already is a reflection of the Qian trigram. Eight attacking strikes per animal, seven forms per attacking strike, making fifty-six forms per animal.
This pattern holds true for each trigram and thus each animal. This means that there is no Kan variation Kan strategy, no Gen variation Gen strategy, etc. While it is said that there are three levels (high, middle and low), with fifty-six forms per level (totaling 168 forms), the upper and lower level practices are actually concept variations of the middle level strategy for fighting much larger or smaller sized opponents. Thus, our focus has been to document the core fifty-six middle level forms of each animal.
Traditionally, there were no set moves, nor number of moves per form. Practitioners were more interested in reflecting the overall strategy and the variation they were doing over memorized strikes. The essence of YSB is being true to the trigram combination. It represents exactly what the eight trigrams represent within the Book of Changes. Fluidity within understanding. One had to understand the fighting nature of dominant trigram, understand the variation of the interacting trigram, and the results the two together produce. In colloquial terms, Dr. Xie often said, I am Lion (Qian). When I go visit the Bears (Gen) house, I have to sit on his furniture, eat his food, listen to his music, and be entertained by his tastes. I am still Lion, but I must be accepting of the personality of the place I am in or choose not to visit.
Traditionally, no one had this underlying structure explained to them. A teacher might show the student a form, but the student would not understand the thinking process behind the form. A student would be shown a three move form for a fighting technique, a seven or nine move form to remember a combination of techniques, or an eleven or thirteen move form which was used for demonstrations or exhibitions. The type of strikes and the philosophy behind their combination was clear to the teacher, but to the student it was simply a set of extremely useful attack sequences which the teacher chose to show that day. The teacher could put together any combination of strikes for that same form, and often did. Students would compare what they had been taught and realize they had seemingly completely different things. As a result, many students feared they were not being shown the real thing and moved on. That was certainly true in some cases, but for those students who remained within the system, they began to see the underlying structure as important and not the individual moves they were shown.
Among senior students, when they comment on whether someone is practicing correctly, their eyes are judging how true the person is to the trigram combination, not the combination of moves they are seeing. Thus, it is not uncommon that two people will do the exact set of moves, but one will be told: Not bad, while the other will be told, That’s not acceptable! It is not the moves, but how the moves are done. Because every trigram makes use of all the other trigrams to define how it uses its personality in fighting, it is said that each system contains all eight systems. Thus within any one animal system all the other animal systems are reflected.

Because every attack method makes use of variations drawn from the other trigrams, each attacking method is actually a complete system within a complete system, both complete systems containing all eight animal systems within it. At this point, one can clearly see why this is a system based on the Bagua (literally meaning eight trigrams) of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes). It is not a whole system which is then broken into separate pieces. Instead, each part is a reflection of the whole, each part is the whole. These whole parts are then combined to make a more interwoven whole, but the interwoven whole cannot be made of pieces. It is made up of wholes, groups of wholes, all coming together to form a vast whole we call the art of Bagua, of which Yin Style is one reflection of that whole.
This helps to clarify what He Jinbao often reminds us. That which falls within the structured part of Yin Style Bagua is but a tiny bit of what Yin Style Bagua is made up of. It is a system which is a reflection of the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams are a reflection of the Yi Jing. The Yi Jing is a reflection of the workings of the universe. It is important for someone interested in YSB to remember this. It is important to understand that this is also true for the medical and Qi cultivation parts of this system. It is a system made up of complete parts. The focus of a student should then be to become good at these complete parts so that she or he can then combine them into an interwoven whole.

The object in YSB is not to learn as many forms or strikes or Qi cultivation techniques as possible so that she or he can say she has learned the whole system. The object is to pick one part and learn it to the point of understanding it mentally and physically. It is to make its knowledge real and tangible not only for the practitioner, but for anyone the practitioner shows it to. If one part is truly understood, then all parts are within the practitioners reach. But learning them all without making one completely real and tangible means that the practitioner still does not know any YSB. In terms of YSB practitioners, there are hundreds of the latter, but less than ten of the former. I have only met four of them, including Dr. Xie and He Jinbao.

Understanding the Documenting Process

The process is ongoing as we gain better insights into the system, and a better understanding of the filming and editing process. Our goal, though, is to film it in a “how to” fashion. How is this done? What does it look like? If I were making a video for myself, what would I want and need to see on it so I could understand the material being presented? We constantly ask ourselves that question: what format would make it the most useful for us? It is now an open system, being documented by people who are committed to making it as understandable as possible. There are no secrets held back or intentional misrepresentations. Our limits are defined by the medium we use, not by its practitioners. While documenting we were limited to 150 minutes per tape, or 2.5 hours. Because of the depth we want to show it in and the amount of material presented, almost all of the videos are 2+ hours long. We tried to fit as much information as possible without having to create strange cuts. Because of time limitations, we had given ourselves strict guidelines: two videos to present the foundation practices of an animal system, and then one tape per attacking method. This makes a total of ten videos to capture the basic essence of an animal system. If they made a five hour tape, we would have provided you with five hours of information on that tape.

The filming of an animal system is actually a very long and complicated affair. Dr. Xie Peiqi first went over the entire system with He Jinbao and a few select students to make sure everyone understands the meanings of the trigram combinations. This can take anywhere from two to four months. He Jinbao then had to dedicate himself to that animal, so that his body doesn’t simply move with power, but moves with the power of that particular animal. This process can take a few months. We were then ready for filming. When filming, we shoot 3-4 hours a day, 4-5 days a week. It is an exhausting pace, particularly since the entire process of filming an animal takes three months. That is three months of filming day in and day out with minimal rest and no recovery time should someone become injured. Filming the foundation practices is the most difficult and time consuming. It can take four weeks. Once that is accomplished, we begin filming the attacking methods. Now that we follow a pattern and have a routine, it is usually one week of filming per attacking method. This makes eight weeks for the attacking methods, four for the foundation practices, totaling twelve weeks of intense work. This means that from start to finish, preparing and filming an animal system can take seven to ten months. Should anything derail that pace, be it a tour to the US or England, an intensive in China, or a broken camera, then the process is set back accordingly. I marvel at the stamina and dedication Dr. Xie and He Jinbao had in documenting this system from start to finish.

Once filmed, we move to the editing stations. We currently run two dedicated G4 systems, though most of the early videos were produced on much less glamorous computers. Capturing the footage onto the machines, editing the material, translation and dubbing, titling, proofing, rendering and cutting masters for one video, is approximately two weeks of solid work. That makes it approximately twenty weeks to produce ten videos, not counting the rest of the work our Beijing office has to do. Kudos to the filming and editing folks, for their work and sacrifice goes largely unnoticed. It is their dedication to the mission of ATS, their recognition that this important project is of tremendous value, and the race we have against time that keeps them going. The Animal Systems ATS has Documented to Date
To date, we have documented the Lion, Phoenix, Bear, and Dragon systems.

ATS Plans for Documenting Yin Style Bagua

Now that the Dragon system is finished, we will change our filming focus. At this point, four of the eight animals have been recorded. There is a small group of practitioners with four to five years of exposure to Dr. Xie, He Jinbao, and the system. Many practitioners will be looking to gain deeper understandings of what they have learned. We will then spend one to three years filming exactly that-deeper understandings of the underlying structure of the system. We will be aiming to bridge the gap between practicing and being able to use the material for combat. Two person training drills, learning about stepping against an opponent, grasping the concept of change through understanding variations on moves already learned… Everything will be geared towards making a competent practitioner into a competent YSB fighter. We will also document some weapon work. When that has reached a good stopping point, we will return to the final four animals and document them.

The Personalities of the Animals Filmed to Date

Lion

The Lion system belongs the the Qian trigram and is pure Yang, the father of the trigrams. As a result, it is very direct, ferocious, and dominant. It is ideal for people who are naturally big or naturally strong. It is also excellent as a first animal for those who wish to develop strength, as the Lion practices develop the tendons and muscles faster than any of the other animals. A generalization is that the Lion goes through an opponent, and only takes the defensive if needed.

Phoenix

The Phoenix system belongs to the Xun trigram, and is the most mature of the Yin children trigrams. It is considered the oldest sister in the trigram family, and as such has a bit of that personality. While not dominant like the Yang trigrams, it is extremely tough. The Phoenix relies on speed, redirecting the opponent to weaken their force, and following strike upon strike to win. It is ideally suited for people with long limbs who are quick. This is hardly set in stone, though, as Phoenix was Dr. Xie’s favorite animal to fight with, and he was only 5’6″. A generalization is that the Phoenix strikes the opponent after making sure it is out of the way of their attack.

Bear

The Bear system belongs to the Gen trigram, which is the youngest of the Yang trigrams and known as the youngest brother. As such, it is strong, but does not fight in a dominant manner. It is the art of snatching victory from defeat, attacking from a retreat, or fooling an opponent by being seemingly simple. It is ideally suited for people who are heavy set, large in frame and/or girth, stocky/heavy and are capable of using their body weight to advantage. A generalization is that the Bear uses a heavy, rotating force to neutralize the opponent while attacking from an unexpected direction.

Dragon

The Dragon system belongs to the Zhen trigram, which is known as the oldest brother in the trigram family. It is considered a mature adult at the peak of his development. As such, the Dragon has a strong back, dominant hands, and excellent roots. Taking advantage of this, the Dragon likes to defeat opponents by continually moving them off their feet and controlling their arms/hands. This accomplished, the Dragon then uses direct attacks to finish the opponent. It is ideal for strong, athletic, mature individuals who are confident in close quarter combat.

Choosing an Animal System

There are no set rules on what type of body is really best for an animal. There are so many variables in finding animal compatibility that there is no hard and fast answer. Some people may seem physically perfect for an animal, but they do not fit the profile psychologically. Others love and become excellent at an animal despite not fitting the physical profile because it resonates with them mentally. Some small people have incredibly strong bones, making them suitable for animals that wouldn’t seem to fit them, while some tall or large people with weak joints or thin bones might be better off with animals you would not think suited them. Most importantly, whichever animal you choose, you will be developing the attacking personalities of the others, as well. Each animal contains all of the animals, which means that you will be able to develop yourself completely.
None of the Animal Systems Documented So Far Fit Me

As every animal contains all of the animals, whichever you choose, there will be areas to focus on which will take advantage of who you are physically and mentally. In the meantime, you should pick the one that is closest to you — Phoenix if you are more yin in your fighting, Bear if you are more yang, Dragon if you are confident of your body, and Lion if you are interested in developing strength and foundation for a later animal. Both Dr. Xie and He Jinbao feel that people new to martial arts or who haven’t developed their physical selves externally and internally should consider spending time in the Lion system first.

Some people are convinced they are perfect for a certain animal. They feel nothing else will do. What they fail to see is the common ground among all the animals. A practitioner must develop incredibly strong tendons, striking power, roots, footwork, timing, and mental toughness to be successful at any animal. You will have to put in that development time somewhere, and in many ways it doesn’t matter which animal it is in. Any time studying an animal speeds your learning of another animal down the line. Again, keep in mind that every animal contains all the other animals, so whichever you choose, you will be exposed to the personalities of the others. Finally, if you are seriously committed to learning Yin Style Bagua, spending time in the Lion system is an excellent beginning step.

Exploring Yin Style Bagua in Person

There is no substitute for direct contact. Seeing, feeling, and hearing He Jinbao gives the clearest picture of this system and the personality of its practitioners. For that reason, the Association organizes workshops and training intensives both in the US and in China every year. In the next few years, we hope to see He Jinbao in the US on a more permanent basis. When that happens, contact time and opportunities will be increased dramatically. There are also study groups forming around the country. Study groups are simply people who are working together to learn YSB. Aside from He Jinbao, there are no qualified teachers of YSB, nor will be for a long time to come. The Association does not endorse or vouch for the quality of study groups, but does recognize that more heads are better than one. An interested person should consider visiting a few study groups to see in which areas each has chosen to focus on.

Yin Style Bagua in Video: Understanding What is Really Needed Exploring YSB

For a person interested in seeing what YSB looks like, or for a person who already practices Bagua and is curious about this system, buying one of the attacking methods (one video) is a good place to start. While the force and technique are different in each attacking method, the overall framework for the presentation of attacking methods is the same on all the videos. In an attacking method video, you will see seven forms done in a variety of training methods; individual strike training; and the application of each move of each form on a person. It is an excellent way to get a sense of the Yin Style Bagua system in general, and of the personality of one animal system in particular.

Understanding YSB Force and Power

For a person interested in finding out about developing the force and power of YSB, choosing two of the foundation videos from one of the animal systems is an excellent choice. Foundation videos are not glamorous or exciting, but they provide the tools for understanding what is behind a YSB practitioner. Volume I of each series contains the static strengthening postures and turning the circle in the style of that animal. Volume II features representative strikes from each of the eight attacking methods of the animal and their different training methods (please note: in the Lion Series, Volume I is called Strengthening Exercises and only features the static standing postures; Volume II is called Basic Practices and features turning, the representative strikes of the eight attacking methods, and their different training methods). For someone serious about learning or understanding a martial art, there is no avoiding studying foundation practices.

For a Person Wanting to Learn Some YSB

For a person looking to learn a bit of YSB, perhaps to compliment what they are currently doing, or to start off, the best combination is two foundation videos and any one attack method. This three video format is an excellent way to get to know YSB. The foundation practices will build the basics needed to make use of the attack method video. As each attack method video is a complete system within the complete system of the animal it comes from, a person would gain a feel for the entire system through just one tape. If the person wants to deepen their practice of YSB, then he or she can pick up another attack method later on. It is not unheard of for someone to simply stay within one attack method as their practice.

For a Person Committed to Learning a Complete Animal System

If a person is committed to learning a complete animal system, then at some point, all ten videos will have to be purchased. One could begin with the combination of three videos mentioned above, but the attack method chosen should certainly be the first one (volume 3 in any series, called Sweeping Strike Attack Method in the Lion series). This is because the first attack method is viewed as platform from which the others should be learned. There is an intentional order to the attack methods of an animal, but that really only applies to someone making a commitment to learning the whole system. After that, one can pick up the other videos of the series when needed. Should one be able to afford it, buying all ten at once allows you to watch them once through. This allows a person to see all the differences they contain and can be quite inspirational on the long road of learning ahead.

For a Person Wanting to Learn the Whole Martial System (all eight animals)

To be honest, that is an ambitious undertaking which only four people in the entire history of this line of Bagua have ever done. It will be years before ATS has the whole martial system documented, so the resources wont be available for some time to come. But if a person is that serious, then it should be accomplished one animal at a time, beginning either with whichever animal resonates for them (and is already documented!) or the Lion system. Learning a second animal helps to clarify and understand the first animal. Through comparison of their different tactics and methods of power release, one is better able define what each one really is like. Very serious students usually commit to two or three animals over a period of years. Only a handful ever progressed past four or more. This is not only because of the time commitment, but because truly understanding one or two animals gives a tremendous understanding of the whole system in general. At that point, there really isn’t a reason to work through animals that may not fit their body or personality type. Most practitioners in the past have preferred to refine what they already have learned instead of embarking on new material.

For a Person Wanting to Learn Everything in YSB
If wanting to learn the entire martial system is ambitious, then deciding on the outset to learn everything in YSB is heroic. Our advice is pick an area of interest, be it martial, medical, or Qi cultivation, and start there. If the system holds your interest, continue on, working slowly through the material. It is important to remember though, that learning everything in YSB without having developed tangible skill in any one aspect means that one still hasn’t learned YSB.

By Andrew Nugent-Head May 22, 2001
©Association for Traditional Studies. This article may not be reproduced in part or whole in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the Association for Traditional Studies.