Earth Dragon Canon - Walking, Martial Arts, and Self-Evolution
“This is the only book on the subject that is easy to follow.” D. Gold
Earth Dragon Canon — Walking, Martial Arts, and Self Evolution describes functional practices for the Chinese internal martial art known as Baguazhang (Eight Trigram Palm). Martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. This book introduces Bagua and Chinese medicine theories in their historical context. A series of standing and floor exercises stress good internal martial art practice before introducing the circle walking practice of Baguazhang. Three “Stepping” patterns and eight “Standing Palms” prepare you for the ten classical postures of Sun Style Baguazhang. Advance students will find my unique Internal Power exercise routine that developed from my personal journey with the internal martial arts. With so much material at your disposal, I encourage you to develop your own practice routines and remain engaged in a lifelong journey of self-evolution.
“Nice work, the most coherent I have seen in English.” J.P. Hayes
This book will teach you functional practices for the Chinese martial art known as Baguazhang (Eight Trigram Palm). You will learn about the history of the art and the cosmological concept that gives Baguazhang its name. Martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It is an exploration of the mind through the body, and conversely the body through the mind. This book stresses that connection to fulfill practical and spiritual growth. There are two types of readers that will find this book useful: Those seeking a fitness program that is more than just running and jumping about, and those seeking to improve their martial art practice. The first type of reader is interested in a fitness program that encourages self-development. This reader has tried fitness programs before and abandoned them as boring repetitions of strenuous activity. For this reader, this book presents a complete program that you can apply at your own pace. When you complete this book, you will have a lifelong program of self-development that will not grow stale or become trivial to you. Space and time will not be a factor because you can practice anywhere, anytime, and define your own development. The second type of reader is familiar with the martial arts and seeks improvement or better understanding of their practice. For this reader the concepts are familiar, but they are unsure of their growth and seek additional material. Selling martial arts as a method for self-defense has been popular in the West—especially in the United States—for the past 40 years. The time and training needed to apply the martial arts in fighting is greater than the average reader is ready to undertake. (A casual scan of the day's headlines reveals that violent crime involves deadly weapons that even the legendary figures of the past could not overcome.) Readers looking for a good fight will find benefit from this book, but only if they are ready to explore beyond the physical aspects of martial art practice.
"I'm not sure I've ever read a more clear and down-to-earth book on martial arts than this one. ... If you want a very readable, information-packed book that doesn't try to dwell on the mysticism and traditions and lore that so many books and websites I've seen succumb to, then this should be an excellent choice for you." J. Layne
As the title implies this book has three components. Each component illustrates an aspect of martial training. Earth Dragon Canon (Di Long Jing) is a popular phrase in martial art training that commonly refers to ground fighting. Dragon (Long) implies fighting forms and Earth (Di) meaning on the ground. Canon (Jing) means a general principle by which something is judged. So, Earth Dragon Canon would be the general principle of ground fighting. In the internal martial art of Xingyiquan (Form Mind Fist), Earth Dragon Canon is also associated with a circle walking practice called the twisted root. Here, Earth Dragon implies a circle walking practice that teaches balance, rooting, and fighting skill. This book borrows from both definitions, but de-emphasizes fighting skill for ground exercises that highlight key internal martial art training methods.
The Earth sections of this book are marked with the above icon. In these sections you will find isometric exercises that you can use to understand key points from the traditional internal martial art teaching, while improving your general fitness. At the end of the book, I combine these exercises into the Internal Power Set formulated around the Taijiquan (Grand Ultimate Fist) classics. This is not a traditional Qigong sequence, but an isometric set that will remind you how the muscles of the body work together to perform the most amazing feat in the natural world—walking upright.
The Dragon sections of the book are marked with the above icon. These sections present the classical training of Baguazhang that includes standing, walking in a circle, and using martial forms when changing directions on the circle. In the Standing section I introduce four postures that illustrate functional alignment, hand and leg positioning, and key traditional teachings. These postures are referenced repeatedly in the sections that follow; do not ignore them. After you learn how to stand, the remainder of the book is dedicated to circle walking. These sections include three stepping patterns for walking around the circle, eight Standing Palms, the Single Palm Change, the Double Palm Change, and the Eight Animals from traditional Baguazhang practice.
The Canon sections of the book are marked with the above icon. Canon also means a literary or artistic work considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality. Buddhism and Daoism blended into Ch’an—or Zen—Buddhism between the first and sixth centuries CE. Both philosophical systems played an important role in the development of Chinese thought, and the stories of Dong Haichuan—Baguazhang’s founder—implies that he developed the art from both lines of thought. In the Canon sections, I present a historical survey, and a brief summary of both Bagua and Dharma principles that compose the moral character of Baguazhang practice. These sections are introductions for your further study, and I encourage you to look beyond the physical forms and develop a deeper understanding of martial art practice.
“Your book is a very readable, easily understandable discussion of martial arts in general, and baguazhang in particular. What I mean by this is that you've covered the cultural [and] historical underpinnings of the arts, discussed meditation (maybe not enough), standing (wuji), and added supplemental exercises for those folks who may want something more than a Qi Gung routine to supplement their internal training. Finally, the bibliography is really nice and provides extra material for those wanting to learn more.”
Lineage trees are important to understanding the development of a martial art, but after a few generations they become irrelevant. Lineage trees are used in the breeding of animals where they act as a means of selecting characteristics, and monarchs have used them to prove that their bloodline is pure enough to assume the throne. Unfortunately, many martial art teachers fall into the trap of the latter use, and neglect the importance of the first. Students who are more concerned with the development of a martial art than the legitimacy of a particular teacher’s practice, can follow the lineage tree of certain teachers and see how the martial style developed. Unfortunately, martial artists that use lineage trees to legitimize their practice are known to exaggerate, or even falsify their lineage. Others become so insistent that a certain lineage is the only one of worth they will denigrate the practice methods of other lineages. This makes legitimate research of some martial styles difficult, if not impossible. That is why my efforts center on the work of Sun Lu Tang. Sun Lu Tang is a constant in martial art study. First, we have his published works. Second, his daughter continued his work and openly shared facts about her father’s life, study, and practice. Finally, three separate sources—each with a historical record—identified him as a master of three martial arts. You can draw similar conclusions about many of Sun Lu Tang’s contemporaries. Sun Lu Tang, however, was unique in his efforts to legitimize the boxing arts as self-development programs for both the scholar and ruffian.
Learning from a Book
Teaching and learning is like flowing water that can nourish or destroy. Some teachers, or masters, represent martial practice as a path to invulnerability through the magic power of Qi. These teachers are like a raging river that should be avoided and not crossed. Others are only interested in their own learning, or make their practice hard to understand. Others will use flowery terms, with changing definitions, or—worse—claim that the real meaning cannot be known. These teachers are like a wide river that is hard to cross. You may gain understanding, but only with great cost and effort on your part. There are no secrets in martial art practice. Martial arts are not a path to invulnerability or superhuman powers. Teachers that share the building blocks of proper physical and mental functioning give you the tools for self-exploration. These teachers are like a bubbling spring nourishing all who come to drink from it. Each section in this book has a recommended amount of practice time, but these recommendations are not binding. I want you to develop your own rhythm of practice instead of imposing artificial limits. I also encourage you to read ahead, so you can determine how your practice will develop as you move through the chapters. The Chinese martial arts intertwine the philosophical concepts of Yin and Yang, Bagua, Wu Xing, and Qi. Understanding the postures’ purpose, and the sequence of training includes the study of those concepts. Do not neglect this additional study. Use the Canon sections of this book as a stepping stone to your study. This is YOUR PRACTICE, take what I give you and make it your own. There are many books about the practice of martial arts, none—to my knowledge—present the arts as a cohesive mental and physical practice with supplemental exercises. In that respect, I think this book is unique and a first effort on my part. I humbly ask for your feedback on errors and encouragement to continue.
Troy Williams December, 2008