I always find watching students of the internal arts develop, grow and eventually graduate to becoming instructors as a source of encouragement in my own practice. It’s particularly rewarding when those new instructors are your students albeit humbling since however much you may give of yourself as a teacher, ultimately a student’s accomplishments are a product of their own efforts—hundreds of practice hours and effectively using the tried and true methods of the nei gong system.
My friend and long-term student, Mir Ali of Bedfordshire, has recently started offering bagua classes for beginners. He has trained the Energy Arts System since 2001 and became certified as a bagua instructor of our teacher, Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis, in 2009. Mir discusses his personal odyssey through neigong training and why he finds bagua to be a special art worthy of sharing in his article that follows. —Paul Cavel
Odyssey into Bagua Training
By Bagua Zhang Instructor Mir Ali
My journey towards Bagua started in 2001 when I reached a major crossroads in my life and my martial arts training in Shaolin Kung Fu, which I had been training intensively for 10 years. At my acupuncturist graduation ceremony, somebody mentioned a master I had never heard of before, Bruce Frantzis, who was holding a seminar on the topic of “Pulsing”. I booked on and was amazed at how many people turned up. As the day unfolded, I came to realise the depth and breadth of what was being presented—it was exactly what I was searching for. I wanted to find out more, a lot more.
Eventually, I came to train with Paul Cavel, knowing him only as a senior instructor of Bruce’s. As before, the weekend seminar went well, even better than I could have hoped. He was able to ‘separate and combine’ better than anyone I had trained with before and it was obvious he knew his topic well. What Paul considered a starting point, some schools consider their advanced practices. I found it astonishing that he was so clearly able to teach subjects that I had considered beyond reach—whether it was biomechanics or qi energetics, he would openly share and teach these with ease.
After the weekend, I realised that the Energy Arts School was where I needed to be if I was going to make any reasonable progress in my own practice. Training with Master Bruce was special, however having access to someone of Paul’s level, who was willing to spend time with you on a one-to-one basis in class, really insured that we were not only introduced to the work in a seminar setting, but receiving corrections, upgrades and given new material to learn.
When the first opportunity to book onto a weekend of Bagua with Paul came, I made sure I didn’t miss it and as expected it blew me away! I found Bagua had a unique and challenging way of working into the body, which I had not experienced in 10 years of previous martial arts training. I was particularly amazed by the techniques for twisting and lengthening the soft tissues, and Bagua’s ability to work through the lower back, pelvis, spine and upper body. Incredibly, just stepping one foot forward can work deep through the organs of the abdomen and through the spine to even affect the skull. Arm postures and movements twist and loosen the shoulder cuffs, into the neck and through the upper torso. However challenging though, bagua is also great fun!
Bagua training has taught me how much power is stored in the ligaments and tendons of the body, and how fusing correct alignments with the twisting of the tendons and lengthening of the ligaments can generate enormous power releases through the structure of the body. This power is present at every moment in every movement of Bagua. In Kung Fu training, I had become used to the concept of becoming relaxed before generating power (for martial purposes); however, in Bagua the movements are very different. The power remains constant through all motion while the practitioner remains relaxed at the same time. This allows the practitioner to work several layers into the body, relaxing the mind, deepening the breath and opening the body simultaneously.
Although the practice of Bagua is a powerful art form in itself, I have also found that it has upgraded everything I previously practised, and given me a new view into the world of being healthy in mind, body and spirit. For example, a simple Bagua stretch can open my physical body while broadening my spiritual growth, as well as my intellectual understanding of modern science and ancient metaphysics.
In my classes, I aim to offer a solid grounding and appreciation of the art of Bagua by passing on to beginners the intricacies of correct alignments, static postures and motion through walking practices. We will particularly focus on how to walk in straight lines, Walk the Circle, turn and hold arm postures. When people are ready, I hope to eventually teach the Single Palm Change—the ultimate vehicle for mind-body development.
Mir Ali became a Certified Bagua Instructor of Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis in 2009, and has learned all Eight Mother Palms from Master Frantzis’ Senior Bagua Student Paul Cavel. Mir is also a practising acupuncturist and member of The British Acupuncture Council. He teaches bagua on the first Tuesday evening of the month. To learn more about Mir and his classes, visit www.orientaltreatment.com.