The Essence of Baguazhang
By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang, and Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang, and Master Wen-Ching Wu
Many of the Baguazhang practitioners of the past were illiterate. When the masters wanted to pass on their wisdom, they would put their experiences into songs and poems, since these were easier to remember than prose. Such poems contained the key points of the art, and were secretly passed down to only the most trusted students. Only in the last century have most of these poems been revealed to the general public. In the next two chapters, we will translate and comment upon many of these secret songs and poems.
Although these songs and poems have played a major role in the preservation of the knowledge andwisdom of the masters, in many cases the identity of the authors and the dates of origin have been lost. These songs and poems, which contain the theory, training methods, key points, and above all the experiences accumulated over the past few centuries, provide Baguazhang practitioners with excellent guidelines for their training. They are the essence and root of the Baguazhang style. If your practice diverges from these guidelines, then it should not be classified as Baguazhang.
Because of cultural differences, it can be very difficult to translate these ancient Chinese writings. Many expressions would not make sense to the Westerner if translated literally. Often, knowledge of the historical background is necessary. Furthermore, since many sounds have several possible meanings, anyone trying to understand a poem or write it down has had to choose from among these meanings. For this reason, some of the poems have several variations. The same problem can occur when the poems are read. Many Chinese characters have several possible meanings, so reading involves interpretation of the text even for the Chinese. Also, the meaning of many words has changed over time. When you add to this the grammatical differences (generally no tenses, articles, singular or plural, or differentiation between parts of speech) you can find it almost impossible to translate Chinese literally into English. In addition to all of this, it helps if the translator has had much of the same experiences and understandings, as well as similar intuitive feelings, as the original author, in order to convey the same meaning.
Bearing these difficulties in mind, Baguazhang - Emei Baguazhang's authors have attempted to convey as much of the original meaning of the Chinese as possible, based on their own experience and understanding of the Chinese internal martial arts. Although it is impossible to totally translate the original meaning, the authors feel that they have managed to express the majority of the important points. These translations have been written as close to the original Chinese text as possible, including such' things as double negatives and, sometimes, idiomatic sentence structure. Words which are understood but not actually written in the Chinese text have been included in parentheses. Also, some Chinese words are followed by the English in parentheses, e.g., Shen (Spirit). To further assist the reader, the authors have included commentary with each poem and song. For reference, the original Chinese of each song has been included with its translation.
To become proficient in Baguazhang, you must study these ancient documents carefully, ponder them deeply, and apply them to your practice. Through comprehension and constant practice, you will soon grasp the key essence of the art. Only when you have reached this stage will you be able to blend your own concepts into what you have learned. Without this foundation, you will only lead yourself down the wrong path, away from true Baguazhang. You should always remember: Appreciate and value the past, study and practice intelligently now, and in the future learn humbly from other talented masters.