Be Like Steam

It could be a repost but I lost some posts in a great computer SNAFU this summer so hee it is again

When I asked Master to look over my Xinyiliuhe and Baguazhang he agreed and stepped back for me to perform. As I settled my stance and my nerves he sat down at the tea table and picked up his cup, his eyes never leaving me. I started carefully going through the Lao San Zhang, the three old palms of Cheng Baguazhang first. After walking a couple of circles and running the palm changes I stopped and switched to Xinyiliuhe “Bear Exits the Cave” posture.


Master sipped his tea and although his posture seemed casual his eyes were like a tigers never leaving its chosen prey. I started to do the “Bear and Eagle fight for survival” form from Xinyiliuhe and as always enjoyed the explosive, relaxed movements. Turn and chop in Dragon Body felt really good and the crack of it tearing through Chicken Head Shape was very satisfying. After “Iron Bar” and “Suicide on a Tombstone” I stopped and waited to hear what he had to say, doing my best to control my breathing.


“Three levels to trained body in Bagua” he remarked, “First body like snake, connected and strong. Second body like water, heavy and relaxed. Your body is like water.” I was fairly pleased that I was not at the lowest level in his eyes as he continued “ Third body is like a Tornado. Like steam rising from a pot, like a snowstorm. Bagua is like trying to fight a snowstorm, you will always be surrounded.”


He gave me some exercises and advice on my Bagua, getting up from his chair and demonstrating, fixing my postures and letting my touch and feel him move. Doing applications and getting me to touch his feet to feel the spirals originating there. It was not long after that lesson I started tearing my shoes during practice. “To the opponent you are like a storm, everywhere at once. To you he is like snow falling while you are talking to a pretty girl. You are never distracted from the girl, you do not even feel the snow. They are nothing, cannot distract you.”


When I first challenged him years earlier he told me my body was intelligent and like water. When I asked how he beat me so easily he replied “I am like steam!” Well even though it has been a half decade since that Bagua lesson it seems like I am starting to understand what he meant by ”steam”. Having no other distractions in my life while I am traveling in Nepal and India is allowing me a lot of focus on my morning training and while I have so far to go it seems like Bagua is revealing itself more and more to me lately. My mistake at first was thinking that the steam reference was like heat or fiery, flowing movement. But instead it is about removing more and more of the self from the equation. The question of “Who is doing Bagua?” is becoming more and more in the forefront of my mind and the answer keeps leading me to release more and more.


Water, even hot water is heavy and dangerous but it can be contained in the vessel it is heated in. Steam is free of even the vessel itself.


Man, Bagua is amazing and difficult.


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