Ba Duan Jin 3

The fifth exercise is yáo tóu bǎi wěi qù xīn huǒ. Yao here is shake or rock; tou is head; bai is move; wei is tail; qu is go away; xin is heart; huo is fire. Once again, the first part of the name describes the movement, while the second half describes the benefit. Rock the head and move the tail to get rid of “heart fire” — is this about heartburn???

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Cloud Hands gives the name of this one as Big Bear Turns from Side to Side. Master Faye Yip, in her video, rocks from one side to the other and rolls the head. Repeat left and right four times.

Number six is liǎng shǒu pān jiǎo gù shèn yāo. Liang is two or both (hands) and pan is climb; jiao is foot or leg. Two hands climb (down) the legs. And the benefit: gu is strong; shen is kidney; this yao is waist. The two yaos have different accents.

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Do eight repetitions of this nice gravity stretch. Doing this exercise just twice a week for the last six months has noticeably improved my flexibility. If you lay your hands along your feet, you can get a nice pull through the heels of the hands.

Ba Duan Jin 2

The third exercise is Separate Heaven and Earth in English, a pretty far cry from the Chinese: tiáo lǐ pí wèi dān jǔ shǒu.  Tiao is harmonize or reconcile; li is put in order; pi is spleen; wei is stomach; dan is single or sole; ju is yet another word for lift or hold up. Hold up one hand to harmonize spleen and stomach, in other words.

In this one, one hand is raised, palm up, and the other extends down, palm-down. Then the upper hand is spirals down and the lower hand spirals up along the centerline of the body. At about stomach level, the hands pass, the rising hand palm-up, lowering hand palm-down as in the video by Faye Yip, at about the four-minute mark.

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Exercise four has a charming English name: the Wise Owl Gazes Backwards. The Chinese is wǔ láo qī shāng xiàng hòu qiáo, which when I look up each word comes out to something like “five work seven upwards towards behind look.” Rashka translates as “Look backward to eliminate five fatigues and seven illnesses.”

Sink down with both arms lowered, both hands facing back. Then open the arms to the left rotating the hands and arms all the way outward, so palms face up as shown.

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Also turn the head all the way to the side. Notice that Master Yip does not turn at the waist. This is a stretch of the neck. Keep the head upright and suspended. Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do both sides four times, alternating.

Ba Duan Jin 1

According to legend, the twelfth century Chinese general and folk-hero Yue Fei, also known as Pengju, created the Eight Brocades and required his soldiers to do the exercises every morning to stay fit for battle.

yuefei

Exercise 1: The short way to say this (from Wiki) is Shuang Shou Tuo Tian–two (both) hands support heaven (tian). Rashka uses Qing (raise) instead of Tuo. Li means put in order. San jiao is the “triple warmer,” a term in Chinese medicine that refers (according to Michael Garofalo) to the heart, lungs and stomach.

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There are quite a few variations of this exercise (and of all the others). I am using the one where you sink down, join the hands palm up in front of the dantien, then lift the hands slowly while straightening up. In front of the face, the hands invert to palm-up, then extend overhead.

Faye Yip follows the hands up with the eye, then looks down before releasing the hands and allowing them to float down. In any case, inhale while the hands rise and exhale as they come down. We’re doing eight of these (the number of reps also varies with different versions).

It’s a matter of choice (and fitness and desired level of exertion) whether to remain standing straight the whole time, or whether to squat, possibly all the way to horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground. I am doing the Yang-y modified squat you see in the two videos, one by Faye Yip the other by Peter Chen:

The Mandarin word for inhale is xiru. Exhale is hu. Breathe is huxi and breath is qixi.

Exercise 2: Kai Gong Si She Diao means open the bow to shoot the eagle/hawk/vulture; diao means bird of prey. This exercise is supposed to benefit the kidney and spleen.

Step left, sinking to horse stance in crosshands position. Look left and point left with the left hand while drawing back the right hand to the shoulder (elbow back). Then look right, extend the right arm, lower the arms, and straighten up.

We do this four times on each side, starting with the left side and alternating. Matoko Rashka describes a rather different version in which you shift from left bow stance to right bow stance. In either case, inhale while “drawing the bow” and exhale while switching sides.

Eight Pieces of Brocade

Ba Duan Jin is a Qigong routine that consists of eight exercises and takes about twelve minutes. The routine is “medical” rather than martial–practiced for its health benefits, and it is at least a thousand years old, mentioned and illustrated in Song Dynasty encyclopedias (the illustration below is not that old).

baduanjin-qigong

Sources of information:

Many videos are available on YouTube. I like the one by Master Faye Li Yip. The one by Peter Chen is good, too.

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The names of the eight exercises vary, especially in English, but even in Chinese to some extent. Below, I am following Matoko Rashka:

  1. Shuāng shǒu qíng tiān lǐ sān jiāo – Support the Heavens to Condition San Jiao
  2. Zuǒ yòu kāi gōng sì shè diāo – Draw the Bow to Shoot the Eagle
  3. Tiáo lǐ pí wèi dān jǔ shǒu – Raise the Hand to Condition the Spleen and Stomach
  4. Wǔ láo qī shāng xiàng hòu qiáo – Look Backward to Elimnate Five Fatigues and Seven Illnesses
  5. Yáo tóu bǎi wěi qù xīn huǒ – Swing the Head and Tail to Eliminate Xin Huo
  6. Liǎng shǒu pān jiǎo gù shèn yāo – Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidney and Lower Back
  7. Wò quán nù mù zēng lì qi – Punch with Fierce Glower to Build Strength
  8. Bèi hòu qī diān bǎi bìng xiāo – Shake the Back Seven Times to Prevent Illness

Additional Ba Duan Jin pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4