The basics of training in baji can be divided into four basic level exercises: exercises in standing, the practice of single techniques, the so-called “small form” and finally exercises in pairs. Each of these categories consists of different forms of training, which will elaborated on more as the trainee progresses. The baji training of master Lü can be summarized in the phrase “less is more”. Our way of training concentrates on developing a solid foundation and the honing of single techniques after which they are made a part of the small form and practical combat. The purpose of this article is to give a small glimpse at what the training of baji consists of.
Standing exercises (Chinese: 站桩, Pīnyīn: Zhàn Zhuāng)
Training in baji usually starts with a static physical exercise called “standing exercises”. Among the first, and most important, of these exercises is the “horse riding pose” (Chinese: 馬步, Pīnyīn: Mă bù).
At first the purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the lower body and the legs as well as to teach the beginner to better recognize their own body posture. In later stages this knowledge of one’s own body becomes even more vital, as techniques are being performed where the important thing is to maintain the correct structure. As the trainee progresses the Mă bù, as well as other exercises in standing are an important part of training the muscles to cooperate and in achieving an unwavering combat posture.
Standing exercises are a part of basic training and are emphasized especially early on in training, but the principles of these exercises are continuously present as the trainee progresses to the higher levels.
The practice of single techniques (Chinese: 单式, Pīnyīn: Dān Shì)
Practicing single techniques, firstly Chēng Chui.
Along with standing exercises, the early training consists of single combat techniques, in order to develop power production, the use of one’s own body and basic level combat ideas. The moves are classical techniques within baji, and many of them are a part of, among others, the very first form in baji (“the small form”, Xiăo Jià).
One of the first techniques taught is the Chēng Chui (Chinese: 撑捶), roughly translated as “the fist of the ferryman”. The form develops for example the unity of the body and the hand while striking, and teaches to find a spot where the whole strength of the body is used explosively. The Chēng Chui is a part of the training of both the beginners and the masters.
Later on the trainee learns several more single techniques, their variations and combining them into series of attacks.
Training forms (Chinese: 套路, Pīnyīn: Tàolù)
The small form, Xiăo Jià, done at various intensities.
The next step in the basics is the so-called training in forms. In baji this starts with one of its two core forms, the so-called small form (Chinese: 小架, Pīnyīn: Xiăo Jià).
A broadly similar style of the small form is seen in the different branches of the bajiquan family, although there are small variations. The exercise teaches firstly the combining of the baji style of stepping to the proper control of the body and techniques. After this the exercise incorporates the training of the production of power so typical of baji in various regular combat situations favored by baji.
Pair training (Chinese: 对练, Pīnyīn: Duì Liàn)
Going through the pairs exercises of the small form.
As in all martial arts the training in baji is finally culminated in practical applications and training in combat itself. In baji the training in combat is begun with agreed upon basic exercises, where the trainee learns to apply the use of the body and techniques trained singly to their proper context, that is, measuring them to the movements of another person.
Once the trainee has learned the form and can apply them to the choreographed movements of another person, the trainee is further challenged by changing the exercises to be more lifelike. At this point distractions of various kinds are added to the situation, that is the opponent is allowed to be more unpredictable. Thus the trainee need to learn application, situational awareness, ability to react and other skills needed in a true combat situation. The trainee learns to understand the differences and similarities between formal training and the chaotic real thing. One technique must often be applied to different situations, but in all applications certain key things remain the same. Training in combat is necessary for going through the correct procedure in formal training, as only through combat experience can the trainee understand the meaning of formal exercises and and the parts of the form that are necessary.
In baji the aim is to relatively quickly move on to training in free sparring. In sparring the MMA-style grappling-gloves are used, and there are combinations of takedowns and bare fist techniques. Contact is measured through experience and the aims of the trainee.
Sparring itself isn’t really a part of the basic level course (although some of the basics of exercises in pairs are), but it becomes a part of the advanced courses after several exercises that form a foundation for it. There is always a leader present in the exercises, whose job it is to make sure that the exercises are safe, comfortable and efficient in terms of learning.
The strong use of the whole body, a simple approach
Come test a Chinese martial art that has been honed to the extreme through the generations all the way from the battlefields of ancient China to the modern day.