Sunday, December 6, 2009


On the last blog entry on the Single Palm Change, I accidentally reversed the pictures. So the top one is proper form, while the bottom is the weaker of the two.

Some further thoughts on the Single Palm Change, and Ba Gua Zhang as a whole, are that it took me months until I finally started understanding how one can have constant power throughout the movements. There is no stop and go, or stoccatto-like movements, but one continuously powerful form. I think that is a big part of this realization in the Single Palm Change. All the wisdom of Ba Gua Zhang is found in the Single Palm Change. This is certainly one of my favorite arts to practice and read about.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ba Gua Zhang Single Palm Change

Of the many minutiae invloved in the act of the Single Palm Change, an integral part of every Ba Gua Zhang style, there is one easy mistake to make that I stumbled upon during this morning's session. After stepping into the first "T-Step" involved in the form, one's more outstretched arm needs to maintain a "bridge" in order to maintain the integrity of the form. If one is to bend the arm and thus compromise the strength of the form as seen in the top picture, all strength and Ba Gua Zhang technique is lost. However, if one can maintain a proper bridge through the movement as seen in the bottom picture, one's form may act as a constant and flowing waterfall of invincible strength!

Are you compromising your form with sloppy technique?

Among the wide variety of meditations practiced in the World today, “Standing Meditation”, most often attributed to the Taoist tradition, is arguable the best way to practice the “the Middle Way” for quite a few reasons.

“The Middle Way” may be one of the most important ideals of the Buddhist tradition. After many years of studying with Hindu ascetics, Siddhartha Gautama eventually came upon his own realization that enlightenment comes not from complete abstention or excess, but from practicing “the Middle Way”, and thus began formulating his teachings upon this principle.

Though not solely a Buddhist or Taoist follower, Master Masahisa Goi, founder of The World Peace Prayer Society in Japan in 1955, has many interesting concepts familiar to the ideologies of Buddhism and Taoism that are relevant to this discussion. In his book, “God and Man”, Goi’s discussion primarily focus upon his belief in karma; more specifically, how to diffuse negative karma. Here I will quote Goi, and present my own interpretations:

In the mental or spiritual realm, every thought is immediately materialized. A resident in the mental or spiritual realms therefore instantly learns the implications of his thoughts. Even so, it is very difficult for him to eliminate his karmic habits. (Masahisa, 28)

What I gleaned from this passage was that, in our lives we may have certain realizations and life-changing thoughts, however, this does not necessarily mean that our lives will begin following those ideals. It is easy to have such magnanimous thoughts, and yet, putting them to practice can be a completely different matter.

Each person’s fate forms in the following order: First his thoughts are recorded in his soul. The substances needed for the materialization of his thoughts are collected and prepared in the physical realm. At the same time, the pattern for the materialization takes shape in the mental realm. In due time the materialization starts when, in the physical realm, the person remembers these thoughts. (Masahisa, 31)

Much of Goi’s belief relies upon the concept of our own karma, which resides in what we may call our subconscious, and here he is explaining the process of how our thoughts and actions manifest from our karma. Our thoughts are the first intelligible signs of our karma, and are truly manifested in our actions. Perhaps a person “remembering” their thoughts, is that interplay between thoughts and actions stemming from their karmic unconscious.

Now, what does this have to do with standing meditation?! Well, with standing meditation, we have a still-form of meditation practiced while training the body. Mental meditation in tandem with physical training. In this practice, we have a direct relationship between the experience of the body and mind together in one practice; each acting as a timer of sorts to the other. While standing, as our mind attaches to a certain thought, perhaps our patience for remaining still wanes, and one’s knees begin to ache or shoulders begin to shake. However, if one’s body is acclimatized to the training, or one’s mind is able to maintain an empty state, standing for long periods of time becomes easy, or even, effortless. I believe this practice to be a healthy and substantial training for both the body and the mind. At worst, boredom or unsteady legs end the practice.

Though one may soar the cosmos in sitting meditation, sometimes such realizations do not reach the physical realm so efficiently, as well as those straining physically for the majority of the day without a thought to its spiritual or psychological bearing. In all practices that one devotes one’s whole self to, I believe there can be substantial experience gained; and I will not argue that an adept in the field of sitting meditation or amazing physical feats cannot reach their full potential of growth. But, I will argue, that standing meditation is the most appropriate practice for the Middle Way as both the mind and body are able to check and legitimize each other every non-step of the the way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Beginning of Gaijin Explorer!

Well, here we go...the first blog entry for Gaijin Explorer. After a long painful wait to get internet set up at my apartment, I can now access the internet in a place other than my school where my teachers are looking over my shoulder wondering why I am not grading papers, designing life changing lesson plans, or at least looking like I am working. In this blog I hope to share my experience here in Kurobe, Toyama-ken, Japan as an assistant language teacher. With new adventures and realizations, blogs will be posted to be enjoyed and critique. I have been here for six weeks tomorrow, and may be posting experiences from that timespan, so forgive the chronological incongruity. OK, that's it for the introduction. Stay tuned!