Ba Duan Jin: Second Four

Continuing with the instructional video, which Pan Huai is interpreting from the Chinese. The second four exercises are described in an earlier post. We are adding details and corrections.


Yao Tou Bai Wei (#5): Having just finished Wu Lau Qi Shang, he has both hands down at the sides, palms parallel to the ground, fingers pointing forward. Swing the arms up and step out to ma-bu-width, as shown in the picture above. He then presses down and braces the hands on the thighs.


We notice that he does not lunge right and left; that is, he does not straighten the leg he is leaning away from. Instead he (mostly) leaves his hips in place to bend over, as shown above. When bending over, he is looking at the toe of the foot he’s leaning over. As he swings to the side, he looks at the heel of that same foot. See what that does to his head below.


Looking from above you can see how he rolls his head at the end to come back up:


Liang Shou Pan Jiao (#6): At the end of Yao Tou Bai Wei, he raises up to the starting position and closes the feet. He begins #6 by pressing down with the hand. At chest height, he turns them palm-up. Notice how high up he does this; he will draw the hands around to the back as high under the arms as he can:


Then, starting as high up on the back as possible, he presses the fingers along the spine and firmly massages downward. He remains upright until the hand have traveled all the way down to the tail bone, pressing firmly on either side of the spine.


Bending over he massages down the backs of the legs down to the feet. This part is a stretch for the backs of the legs. He then reaches forward and stretches the upper body upon rising.


Wo Quan Nu Mu (#7): Sit in horse stance and extend the fist, turning at the waist. Look at the fist. You can see below that his shoulders are well turned aside, which means he is twisting both at the waist and at the neck.


The hand movement is a little complicated. First open the fist, so the palm faces in (in the grab below, I was a bit late; he starts with the palm perpendicular to the ground):


Rotate, so the palm faces all the way out:


Circle the hand as if flat on a wall in front of you, until the fingers point down and the palm faces out.


Then close the fingers over the thumb. This is quite a stretch in the forearm, wrist and fingers.

Bei Hou Qi Dian Bai Bing Xiao (#8): I have nothing special to add to this one except that you stand up as high on the toes as you can.


Long Feng is satisfied that I know both Wudang Tai Chi Sword and Yi Jian Mei, and has started teaching me 56-sword. I think I need a lot of practice before I will be able to do either of those two forms as well as I’d like, but I am excited to start learning the sequence for 56–wo shi liu shi. That was my goal for the coming year.

Excellent video of 56-sword; Qi Shi.

Excellent video of 56-sword; Qi Shi.

To start with, here’s an excellent video, which I think will turn out to be the same thing Long Feng is doing. So many of the movements are also found in the other two forms and 32-sword as well! Other movements are reminiscent of the traditional long form, with which I have only a small acquaintance.

Looking at the opening, the first thing she does (in the picture above) is turn to her right and, as in lan que wei, does press and push. Then she continues with Three Rigs Around the Moon. So Qi Shi is like 32-sword, except for that press and push. What I see so far is:

  1. Qi Shi
  2. Ding Bu Dian Jian
  3. Du Li Fan Ci
  4. Pu Bu Heng Sao
  5. You Zuo Ping Dai

Then she transitions as if to do Fen Jiao Ling Jian (Wudang) but instead of kicking, she does this:


Looks like Xu Bu Liao. Then she turns to face the back and continues with a series just like Wudang Taiji Jian:

7. Pu Bu Chuan Jian

8. Deng Jiao Qian Ci

9. Tiao Bu Ping Ci

10. Zhuan Shen Ping Ci

She then does what looks like Phoenix Spreads Wings, or what in 32-sword is called Che Bu Fan Liao and then again Zuo Xu Bu Liao. The move after that is unrecognizable to me (except it somewhat resembles the last move in Yi Jian Mei!). This is enough to get me started. I need to find a real list of names.

Clearly, knowing the forms I’ve already learned, this will go a lot faster. That’s already the first minute and a half. To be continued!

Ba Duan Jin: first four

Continuing our study of the Chinese official instruction video (Pan Huai interpreting): here are some of the important points and details for the first four movements. I gave an overall description and illustration of all the movements in earlier posts, and those are generally correct. So this information is a refinement.

Qi Shi

Qi Shi: opening position.

Qi Shi: Preparing form. Feet together, toes facing forward. Arms are at the sides, with a little space between the arms and sides of the body, palms facing back. Step left (first releasing the right heel). Open the arms out to about a 45-degree angle*, then sink and hold the hands in front of the dantian (lower belly) with palms facing in, fingertips about 3 inches apart.

Open arms to sides before assuming Qi Shi position.

Open arms to sides before assuming Qi Shi position.

This posture resembles what we call Embracing Horse in Nei Kung, but the arms are much lower. The knees are not bent very much, either. From the side:


Shuang Shou Tuo Tian (#1): The hands travel straight up; there is no outward-pushing. Eyes follow the hands, so when the hands are fully extended, the head hangs back.  Then look forward, which allows an even longer stretch straight upwards. Also, when the hands are released, the wrist is flexed so the fingers point up, until the arms are about level, when the hands can scoop down to starting position.

Hands are flexed when lowered. Lead with the base of the hand, continuing the stretch.

Hands are flexed when lowered. Lead with the base of the hand, continuing the stretch.

Speaking of starting position, each movement ends in position to start the next movement. Qi Shi ends by rotating the hands to a palms-up circle with the arms extended below, ready to interlace fingers and begin Shuang Shou. That movement in turn ends with in cross-hands (a little lower and more level, actually), ready for Kai Gong.

Kai Gong Si She Diao (#2): Lift and separate the crossed hands at chest height, weight centered on the right. Then step out to ma-bu width (this is more than shoulder width). Feet should face front, and not be turned out (which means the tailbone is somewhat tucked).


Extend the left hand and right elbow to stretch at shoulder height. The extended hand is not pointing! It is flexed so the index finger points up. The other hand is not a fist; the fingers are bent at the middle joint (including the thumb), more like a tiger claw.


Look at the extended hand. Then turn to look at the other hand while extending it and shift the weight back to that side. Return to starting position.bingbu

Tiao Li Pi Wei Dan Ju Shou (#3): As described before. The only reminders would be that the high hand is flexed so the fingers are point in (palm up and flat), while the low hand is palm-down, flat with fingers pointing forward.

This is left hand high, fingers pointing to the head.

This is left hand high, fingers pointing to the head.


Sink when bringing down the high hand and straighten the legs while lifting. Finish in sunken position with both hands as shown above, ready for the next exercise.

Wu Lao Qi Shang Xiang Hou Qiao (#4): The key point on this one is not to twist the body or bend the back. The head turns to the side without tipping (very much like Owl turns His Head in Nei Kung), chin remaining tucked, so head is suspended. The head turns, but the shoulders do not, although the chest opens. It is not a twist from the waist.

Not twisted at the waist, back straight.

Not twisted at the waist, back straight.

The arms rotate outward, but are not flung back. The hand turns palm-out, thumbs toward the back.


The instructional video is an hour long. Where all the exercises are shown together, background changes, changing camera positions, even clouds! Obscure the movements somewhat. To watch a demonstration of all the movements in real time (with the same music), try Master Faye Yip’s video, which (unsurprisingly) looks correct in every respect–except for one note…

*Faye Yip does not make a point of opening the arms this way during Qi Shi.

Principles of Qigong

This continues the translation and interpretation of the official Chinese instructional video on Ba Duan Jin (the Eight Brocades). My friend Pan Huai is translating for me as we both study this qigong form.

The following are key concepts for understanding the content of this part of the video and for understanding the practice of Qigong:

  • Yinian—the mind or will that commands Qi.
  • Qi—energy, sometimes also called life force. Vitality.
  • Hu xi—breathing (hu = exhale, xi = inhale).
  • Shen—facial expression, through which inner mood or emotion is visible.
  • Qing—mood or emotion.
  • Xing—outward appearance of the body as a whole; posture, carriage.
  • Jing—spirit; the essence or center of being from which energy flows.

How these concepts relate: Qing, the inner state (mood, emotion), is readable from outside through both Shen (facial expression) and Xing (posture, carriage). Qi (energy) flows from the Jing (spirit) and is directed by Yinian (the mind or will).

Qigong could be described as the practice of directing, at will, energy from the jing (spirit) to the shen and xing (outward expression and posture). The video provides three principles for how to practice Qigong.

principle3Reading the right column first, from the top down:

Rou He Huan Man

Rou means soft or gentle. He (pronounced like “her” without the R) means coming together, combining or coordinating. Rou he can be translated to mean that body movements are soft, gentle and coordinated. Huan means slow. Man is grounded; in Tai Chi, this relates to knowing where the body’s weight is centered. Huan man means standing steadily and moving smoothely, knowing where the weight is centered.

The left column from the top down reads:

Yuan Huo Lian Guan

Yuan means rounded; curved or circular. Huo is relaxed, loose, or nimble. Lian means connected. Guan means in sequence, or strung together. In the practice of Qigong, movements are soft and rounded, and connected in sequence.

principle2The second principle reads (again, starting at the right, top to bottom):

Song Jin Jie He

Song means loose or relaxed. Jin means tight or tense. There is a point of stillness in a movement, like the fullest extension of a stretch, the point where one movement ends and another begins. Or where one repetition of a movement ends and the next begins. Jie He means coordinate, in the sense that the loose, relaxed movement and the moment of tension flow from one to the other in a deliberate way.

The left column reads:

Dong Jing Xiang Jian

Dong is move, or movement. Jing is stillness. Xiang jian means both are present, by turns.

In the video, the looseness and relaxation is described as involving all the layers and aspects of the mind and body. The body relaxes on four levels, from the outside in: skin, muscles, bones, organs. Four aspects of the mind, from the visible outward expression to the deepest layer, are expression (Shen), posture (Xing), breathing, and mood or emotion.

So the practice of Qigong a deep state of physical relaxation together with a calm internal state that is reflected in relaxed breathing, expression and overall body posture.

principle1The third principle reads from the top right down:

Shen Yu Xing He

Shen and Xing are defined above as facial expression and overall body posture, or the carriage. Yu means and; He is come together or coordinate. So the expression and posture should be commensurate; in harmony.

In the left column:

Qi Yu Qi Zhong

I am not typing in accents. Qi occurs twice in this sentence, but it’s two different words here (they have different intonations). The first Qi is the familiar term for energy or vitality. The second is a pronoun referring back to the first part of this principle; it refers to Shen and Xing (expression and posture). Yu means contained in, and zhong means in the middle. Energy is contained within them (Shen and Xing). In the practice of Qigong, facial expression and overall body posture are suffused with Qi.

These principles can be compared  to Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Important Points for the practice of Tai Chi. The last five points are the most relevant here (eg, stillness in motion, use mind not force, internal and external coordinate, upper follows lower), but as we move closer to the actual descriptions of the Ba Duan Jin forms, we’ll find that some of the first five important points apply as well. That’s next.