Training Tips for Yin Style Bagua Martial Arts

I received the following question via email this morning, and I felt it was best to make the answer available to all:

I’m just trying to get some training tips, I have all of your Animal DVDs, and it’s very daunting to try to learn all of the forms for each Animal. Is it recommended to memorize them all? Also, are those the original training sets from Yin Fu? Any Tips/Advise would be much appreciate, as I really want do do this the correct way.
PS – Do you have any other Martial DVDs in the works?

There are no set or static forms that are traditional in this line of Yin Style Bagua. Working with me to create a syllabus for the ATS seminars I was running at the time, the forms on the videos were created by He Jinbao in the mid-late 1990’s in order to highlight the full aspects of each attacking method of each strike. They are learning tools which should be learned from but not imprisoned within. If you are using those forms as your primary learning tool, then looking at any series of seven strikes within any form, you would want to start changing it up, practicing combining strike 1 with strike 5, strike 4 with strike 2… from there, you could mix up different attacking method ‘palms’ (a fist here, a hooking arm there, a chopping forearm here) into one patterned form so you break the thinking that you would only ever attack with Chopping strikes or Smashing Strikes or Removing Strikes. The moves in the forms are just to show you the possibilities and then the intelligence of moving one way from a move and not the other. You would do much better learning several forms deeply, focusing on taking apart each move in the form so that you can understand its application in three ways:

1. you are dominating, your weight and strength are pushing through the oopponent so they are unbalanced;
2. they are are stronger or have the momentum advantage, thus you have to dissolve or remove their force to successfully attack;
3. applying these two concepts when attacking on the left side of the opponent, the right side of the opponent, and through the opponent.

Memorizing is a path to success if you are interested in being able to tick off forms but a path to failure if you are interested in actually being able to use the moves in partnered training or an actual fighting situation. The hardest thing is to learn the common sense of strength, weight, momentum and positioning, then successfully using any given move you have learned via a form with these concepts. The forms are not Yin Style Bagua, they are simply memory devices for a large variety of moves, like a mnemonic poem to help you hold information in the brain. If you can break through this barrier and actually learn Yin Style Bagua, then you can pick a form or two from any animal and any strike method, and understand its use very quickly. To Understand Upon Seeing is the Chinese phrase for this skill. Yin Style Bagua is not what you do, but how you do it. So many people out there have spent years doing moves and practicing training drills taken from Yin Style Bagua and yet have never actually yet practiced Yin Style Bagua in a Yin Style Bagua way.

Finally, as to your question on DVDs: He Jinbao has been releasing DVDs via his website I released the 64 Attack Methods Applications on our youtube channel, though unfortunately the footage of the form and the live blade weapons was damaged and will need to be refilmed one day. I plan to return a good amount of my focus to the martial side of this art in 2015, so look for more releases from ATS then.

Andrew Nugent-Head
January 18, 2014

Where should I go to Chinese Medicine school?

Questions I receive with a great deal of frequency are “Where should I go to Chinese medicine school?”, “What is the best Chinese Medicine School?” and “Can you recommend a Chinese medicine school?”

I personally believe that the education required and subsequent license earned are cover charges that must be paid before one can go more deeply into the medicine. Becoming licensed is absolutely imperative, and the foundation knowledge gained in even the least inspired program is critical when finally finding an opportunity for real learning. Contrary to popular belief, no experienced practitioner wants to take on a student who is a blank slate. A blank slate means there is no proof of commitment and no guarantee the student will remain in this medicine. Experienced practitioners simply do not have the time to gamble on someone who claims they want to practice this medicine but disdains the current paradigm. However, if someone has gone through the effort of obtaining a degree; made great efforts to educate themselves during their program and through all of this remained positive and not cynical despite what everyone who has gone through the system is aware of is worth considering as a student. This is known as 孺子可教 ‘Ru Zi Ke Jiao’ in Chinese, which refers to a story of a young man who remains helpful despite repeated attempts to bring out his frustration or anger.

School in the current paradigm of Chinese medicine in the United States, Europe or China is often a frustrating and anger creating experience. The quality of the education of Chinese medicine in the United States is greatly affected by those who came to the profession thirty years ago and the priorities of those people over these past thirty years. Some have made great attempts to create a unique educational experience but are hampered by the course requirements they are forced to include to be a licensed institution; others are focused on the very lucrative income a school which offers student financial aid can make. The former also often have difficulty finding gifted teachers at the prices they can afford to pay; the latter actively seek to hire faculty who are only too happy for wages due to the lack of patients in their own clinical practice. Both of these situations have been shaped by governing bodies and regulatory commissions more concerned with how the outside public views and accepts Chinese medicine and safety concerns more than the actual training given inside the field.

Studying in China is a more and more common choice for dedicated students. Having lived in China my entire adult life and watched westerners come and go, I cannot say that an education had here is any better than an education in the west. A student who continues actively striving to immerse themselves in the medicine here despite the physical and emotional trials life in China bring will certainly be further ahead than their contemporaries back home; but most either do not show that initiative or have it ground out of them by the difficulties in China, leaving with less than they may have found at home despite having a better resume on paper. But if a student can remain positive, sidestep the western medical brainwashing that is part of the medicine, avoid being arrogant for having been in China, and made a concerted effort to learn to read, write and speak Chinese fluently, the higher cover charge this country requires does equate to a better learning platform down the road. But a degree earned still only represents the right to begin learning, not proof of skill already obtained. East or West, the sooner this is realized and accepted, the closer one is to孺子可教 ‘Ru Zi Ke Jiao’ when the time does come or the opportunity presents itself.

With that said, I would first weigh whether any school I was considering was for profit or not for profit, and then weigh that with the following: does the college have well respected faculty members on permanent staff? Do they go to efforts to bring in and host a variety of influential practitioners of our time? Are the staff & lecturers licensed practitioners with significant clinical experience? How busy is the student clinic? To enroll in a school without having gone to many treatments in their clinic to see the style of practice while chatting up the students on how they like the program shows little commitment by the individual in question. Should none of these turn up an obvious location, then I would paradoxically choose the least rigorous or least expensive college, using the extra-curricular time and extra income afforded to create a self education outside of the school. As I first said, there is no perfect school, so it is up to the individual to weigh the pros and cons, think out of the box and create the best initial possible learning experience during those 3-4 student years while remaining positive about what they are learning in class. Sadly, many students seem passive about their learning, thinking they deserve to be fed knowledge sitting in a classroom instead of actively striving to immerse themselves in the medicine through all means possible. School and licensing is only the beginning. It is a cover charge paid to actually begin learning medicine.

All of this is of course just my personal opinion. It is not based on any research done, nor do I care to do that research and learn about every institution. But as a life long student of this medicine, I have experienced a bit of everything I have just mentioned–I learned in mentor relationships with old practitioners, spending years proving I was worth teaching before actually being taught anything substance. I flew back and forth between China and a college in the United States for 3 years to obtain my MSOM and licensure and created an irreplaceable educational experience for myself despite having been in the field longer than every faculty member at the college except for one. I have interned in the most famous hospitals in Beijing for years, seeing the course this medicine has officially taken that is so different from the education I obtained in the very same city. I am currently finishing a doctoral program in Hangzhou, creating a wonderful experience while those around me complain of the quality of the education offered. As a seminar organizer and presenter, I have visited no small amount of schools over the past 20 years, interfacing with their administrations, teachers, graduates and students. So while it is only opinion, it is based on quite a bit of exposure. Alas, there is no one college I can recommend.

This is not a vocation to be chosen at a Career Fair, but a calling to help the sick and care for the suffering. The vocation requires dedication to study, dedication to personal cultivation and dedication to the patients we treat. A path like that can only begin with dedicated study, a choice that should not be taken lightly.

Andrew Nugent-Head
November 12th, 2013

Untangling a System: An Honest Answer to a Common Question I Receive on Martial Side of Yin Style Bagua

I recently received a post on a martial video on our youtube channel ( that was worded in such a funny way, I thought it finally time to give a long and thorough answer to a question I receive fairly often: how come my organization of the trigrams is different from He Jinbao’s? Specifically, why are our listing of the Kan and Kun trigrams opposite of each other? The posting, however, was not in the form of a question but phrased as an assumption, so I thought it best to finally come forward on this as we begin to post so much material online for free. It also sheds honest light on how traditions are documented and the ways in which things are changed from one thing to another in the blink of an eye for any lineage. The longer the lineage, the more blinks of the eye happen, and to believe they do not happen is to miss the human element within every tradition.

Yes, the organization of the strike names to the trigrams used by He Jinbao is opposite from my organization and thus presentation on our site. I am of course aware of this, but have publicly never addressed this out of deference to He Jinbao. For some reason, He Jinbao has always remained convinced that the strikes of those two animals are reversed. This is based on a notebook he has kept all these years of notes he made in 1985ish after the passing of Liu Fang when Dr. Xie called in his students to attempt to spread the system. Aware of this, some 10 years ago I set out to clarify the issue knowing it would one day come up and be a potential problem for the documentation of this system. He Jinbao showed us the notebook and talked about how certain he was that Dr. Xie stated which strikes go with which animal. I certainly do not doubt him, but the information is incorrect. Liu Shichang, who was also present on the day He Jinbao took his notes and that brief period when Dr. Xie was shocked by the passing of his best student and trying to teach the remaining disciples, has a different memory of the strikes from that period, adding further confusion.

As the person who began documenting Yin Style Bagua, is responsible for shifting it from a secretive tradition to the open system it is today and was the primary person involved in every aspect of its recording until Dr. Xie passed away, I have a large archive of hand written documents, written by Dr. Xie himself, on the art of Yin Style Bagua. Among these are several written in 1984 and 1985 in which he lays out Kan and Kun as featured here and not as He Jinbao recorded it or as Liu Shichang remembered it. Furthermore, while Men Baozhen’s book, published in 1935, does not directly map the strike names to the trigrams, he clearly lists the trigram descriptions first by the four yang trigrams, then the four yin trigrams. The strike names (what we call Attack Methods) are also listed in that order, the four yang trigram strike names together followed by the four yin trigram strike names grouped together. Because of this, I respect both He Jinbao’s and Liu Shichang’s organizations of the attack methods and trigrams, but personally practice according to how Dr. Xie taught me directly, what his writings from the 1980’s state, and believe Men Baozhen’s book to be the final say in the matter.

So how could this have come about? Dr. Xie was a brilliant practitioner, father, mentor and friend to me. Though I came along last, by simple math of number of hours spent together, no other student of his spent nearly as much one on one time with him as I did. And none of them ever became his confidente as I did due to the nature of our relationship, my being a foreigner and the approaching end of his life. I loved him and miss him dearly every day, as every day I run into questions that I know he would have been able to help answer. As a documentor, I am also a realist. Dr. Xie was a heavy drinker, and several of the students who were part of that 1980’s window of teaching would have sought to get him as drunk as possible in order to see if he would slip out more ‘secrets’. This is a common phenomenon in China, Dr. Xie would have been aware as it was happening, and he certainly would not have shied away from it while it was happening. Thus, the key players (He Jinbao was considered too young to do more than be there and listen and hope for important bits of information to fall) would have all been quite drunk and great knowledge as well as confusion would have insued. When I began working with Dr. Xie in earnest, those ‘key players’ resurfaced and I watched ridiculous drunken sessions happen in front of me as they hoped more ‘secrets’ would fall. Fortunately, this did not last, they disappeared after a time and we were able to really document the system in a serious and sober fashion. I mean no disrespect to all involved, this is simply how it was, and while I was not there in the 1980’s teaching window, I was physically present every step of the way for the 1990’s window which I personally created, and that is what happened when those early students came back out of the woodwork.

A final comment from the heart: it doesn’t matter which strike goes with which trigram. He Jinbao is such a gifted martial artist that whatever he does and however he chooses to do it is worth studying. The same goes for Liu Shichang and his arrangement. I always have viewed it as a lucky chance to see something more, a different interpretation done 100% correctly even if the mapping might be ‘incorrect’. Most importantly, at the level of Chuan Zhang, one should be able to practice any strike from the perspective of force of any trigram, making boundaries meaningless. While the seeking of a ‘correct’ answer to any aspect of this system may seem important for arm chair practitioners and bulletin board posters, it has always been a moot point for those of us who are still practicing the art after all these years. The hours logged in training eventually wear away any notion of right and wrong. Instead, we are left with more useful and less useful, but always useful.

Andrew Nugent-Head
Meijawu, China

60 Free Videos on Our New Youtube Channel!

ATS received so much positive feedback from our free videos that we have decided to post every video we have for free on our new Youtube channel ‘traditionalstudies’. It will take the rest of 2013, but everything will be moving up to our channel–all of our Yin Style Bagua martial arts videos currently only available as DVDs, all of our Chinese medicine videos as we edit through them, internal cultivation practices such as the Luohan Patting Method and Eight Healing Sounds, and our newest releases in Chinese Culture: the Lao Zi/Dao De Jing Translation videos. We have already posted over 60 videos on our new Youtube channel, and they are also available directly on our website in a more easily navigated format. So please visit, check out the playlists, and be sure to subscribe to show your support for this incredible amount of free information on the internet! Look for the Yin Style Bagua Lion System and the just taught Introduction to Classical Herbalism seminar to go up before the end of the month, with the rest making its way up in November and December.

ATS is also now focusing on more in-depth training programs for Chinese medicine practitioners. Along with weekend introductory courses like Tangible Acupuncture this December in NYC, we are running 36 and 72 hour training programs in classical acupuncture and classical herbalism for 2014 in New York, London and on the internet via live broadcast. We are translating the Shanghan Lun in a live seminar format, and we teaching the skills necessary at the depth necessary to build the clinical efficacy of acupuncture and herbs. Watch the free videos online to see what kind of clinical knowledge we are teaching, and whether it is right for you. And if it is, visit our site and register for the upcoming programs to take your practice to the next level. All of our programs, distance learning and live broadcasts are CEU approved!

Our new website, built from the ground up, has all of the information you need to learn more about who we are: a not for profit dedicated to documenting China’s traditional knowledge and sharing it with you. Come visit, spend some time with us, watch the hundreds of hours of free video on China’s arts being posted, and learn about our mission. Because our mission is bringing you the best of over 20 years of documenting knowledge in China.
Andrew Nugent-Head, President

Thank you hackers!

Our new website is up and running two months before schedule courtesy of Indonesian hackers who showed us how old our software was on our site. So please bear with us, send us a note if you find glitches or errors and let us know what you think of our new design!

Thank you Jordan Barber for saving the day and getting this going! JulieAnn

New design in progress

Welcome to our new website!