Monday, March 30, 2009

Ba Gua Zhang Notes #2

Yesterday morning, I enjoyed another Ba Gua Zhang (Pa Kua Chang) lesson from Shifu Kent Howard at the Kodenkan Dojo in Chico this morning. I would be willing to carpool with martial artists from Redding, Anderson, Cottonwood, Red Bluff, or Corning (California) who would like to take this excellent baguazhang class on Sunday mornings from 9-10:30 am.

In the beginner's group, of which I am a member, we worked on the First Palm Change (Crouching Tiger) and the Double Palm Change (Snake Crawls Through the Hole, 360 Turn).

My notes:

Keep moving at all times
Turn the hands to the middle at the very end
Keep the weight in the back leg more
Walk like your sneaking up on someone
Attention to keeping feet closer
Flowing, turning, collapsing, coiling/uncoiling, evading, folding, untwisting
Index finger of forward hand points directly up to the sky
Push up from below with open hand using the legs and waist, not just the arms
Practice with arms rounded in front to work on fluidity with leg movements
Be sure to turn with the waist
Practice movements in linear as well as circular manner
Walk a smaller circle of about 6" in diameter, one full step from center of circle

Ba Gua Staff

I watched the Chen Pan-Ling Baguazhang staff form performed by his son Chen Yun-Ching. Shifu Howard told me that he studied this form. HTML clipboard

Bagua Swimming Dragon Staff Form. Created by Chen Pan-Ling. Demonstration DVD by his son, Chen Yun-Ching. No. 1: Dragon Lifts His Head. No. 2: Dragon Emerges from the Sea. No. 3: Dragon Turns Its Body. No. 4: Dragon Looking Behind. No. 5: Dragon Shakes Its Tail. No. 6: Dragon Playing Roughly. No. 7: Dragon Rolls Over. No. 8: Dragon Displays Its Invincible Prowess. This a long staff set of 6:32 seconds. The staff is an eyebrow staff length.

Bagua Nine Posts Training

Professor Hermann Bohn, from the National Kaohsiung First University for Science and Technology, Taiwan, was kind enough to send me the following information about bagua training using a group of nine posts set into the ground.

"No, I don't have a research source for the 9 pole training, but I remember that I read somewhere about an American Bagua teacher, who had these posts. And of course, the Adam Hsü people should know more about.
It is the magic square of numbers (Luoshu 洛書) which looks a bit like this:
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
We start with one of the eight palms at the right side of 1, go to the left side of 2 and around, pass above 5 under 3, turn around to the right side of 4, circle it, pass again 5 at the left hand, get to the left side of 6, circle it, turn to the right side of 7, cirle there also, get to the lower side of 8, circle it, trun upward along the right side of 5 and finish at the right side of 9.
This is Shun, but there is also Ni, just the opposite direction, starting with the left side of 1. I'm sure you figure out the rest of the way.
First we do one palm on each post, then we add a 360° turn inbetween with the snake down. Then we do the second palm and so on and so on. Finally, you also could do one palm at any different post (leaving out 5 as the centre), connected with the snakes. And then the whole thing in Ni direction.
Striking is possible, but not necessarily the main point. IMO, it is all about flexible application of all palms in all directions, in such a way, that you confuse your self, letting natural reflexes emerge. A wonderful training, realy expanding the circle walk a whole lot."

Baguazhang Training Notes of Mike Garofalo

Baguazhang: Bibliography, Resources, Notes, Guides

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jade Emperor's Mind Seal Classic

The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal Classic

"The Supreme Medicine has three distinctions:
Ching [essence], Qi [vitality]. and Shen [spirit],
Which are elusive and obscure.

Keep to nonbeing, yet hold on to being.
And perfection is yours in an instant.

When the distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year you will soar as an immortal.

The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.

Fulfilling vows illumines the Heavens.

Breathing nourishes youthfulness.

Departing from the Mysterious, entering the Female,
It appears to have perished, yet appears to exist.
Unmovable, its origin is mysterious.

Each person has Ching.
The Shen unites with the Ching,
The Shen unites with the Qi,
The breath then unites with the true nature.
Before you have attained this true nature,
These terms appear to be fanciful exaggerations.

The Shen is capable of entering stone;
The Shen is capable of physical flight.
Entering water it is not drowned;
Entering fire it is not burned.

The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.

These three distinctions have one principle,
Yet so subtle it cannot be heard.

Their meeting results in existence,
Their parting results in nonexistence.

The seven apertures interpenetrate
And each emits wisdom light.

The sacred sun and sacred moon
Illuminate the Golden Court.
One attainment is eternal attainment.

The body will naturally become weightless.
When the supreme harmony is replete,
The bone fragments become like winter jade.

Acquiring the Elixir results in immortality;
Not acquiring it results in extinction.

The Elixir is within yourself,
It is not white and not green.

Recite and hold ten thousand times.
These are the subtle principles of self-illumination."

The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal Classic. The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity, and Immortality.

Translated with commentary by Stuart Alve Olson. Rochester, Vermont, Inner Traditions, 2003. Index, bibliography, 216 pages. ISBN: 0892811358. Revised Edition, 2003. Includes translations of "The Immortals" by Ko Hung, and "The Three Treasures of Immortality" by T'ien Hsin Chien. The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal was added to the Taoist Canon between 912 and 1116 CE. Reference: pp. 114-115. This book by Mr. Olson provides excellent, informed commentary on these Taoist works and the Taoist concept of immortality.

Taoist Quotations

Taoist Classics in Taijiquan and Qigong

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aging and Taijiquan

At any age, the objectives are the same:

Feeling vital and energetic

Playing with gusto and enthusiasm
Becoming delighted by creative play
Reducing stress
Sharing activities and helping others
Learning something interesting and valuable
Trying to do your best
Learning about Chinese internal martial arts
Having some fun and pleasure
Presenting a cheerful and upbeat demeanor
Adjusting performance to limitations and setbacks
Having a positive, open minded, and grateful manner
Mastering an art or practice
Respecting the achievements of older Taijiquan players
Becoming strong, flexible, and conditioned
Developing positive and uplifting habits
Remaining in good health
Preventing accidents and disease
Facing death and dying with courage, poise, dignity, and compassion

Both qigong and taijiquan books frequently show persons over 70 practicing these movement arts. Some books feature masters who lived to be 100 years of age. The enhanced vitality and athletic exuberance of these seniors is an encouragement to everyone; and if longevity is an additional benefit, then so be it.

Martial Arts and the Art of Aging
Rogue Scholarship on Aging

Fitness and Aging Well
Recommend Reading List by Mike Garofalo

"So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect and self-esteem so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization (defined as ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person's own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration or synergy within the person. ... These healthy people are there defined by describing their clinically observed characteristics. These are:
1. Superior perception of reality.
2. Increased acceptance of self, of others and of nature.
3. Increased spontaneity.
4. Increase in problem-centering.
5. Increased detachment and desire for privacy.
6. Increased autonomy, and resistance to enculturation.
7. Greater freshness of appreciation, and richness of emotional reaction.
8. Higher frequency of peak experiences.
9. Increased identification with the human species.
10. Changed and improved interpersonal relations.
11. More democratic character structure.
12. Greatly increased creativeness.
13. Certain changes in the value system."

Toward a Psychology of Being. Abraham Maslow. New Jersey, Van Nostrand, 1962. 3rd Edition, Wiley, 1998. 320 pages. ISBN: 0471293091. pp.23-24

Liang Tung-Tsai (T. T. Liang) (1900-2002)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reader Feedback


Your training place for Bagua looks nice. Did you ever consider planting an additional 8 posts in the shape of the magic square of numbers for advanced training?

- Professor Herman B, Taiwan


Yes, I do have ample room for adding the 8 posts. I've see pictures of the arrangement of such posts for bagua. However, I don't really have a good idea as to what is to be done. I will need to do some research on the subject. Any suggestions?



Hello - Michael P. Garofalo,
Let me introduce my self, my name is Jeff F. I live over here in New Hampshire with my wife and cat.....
I very much enjoy your web site and thank you for all of the research that you have done and are doing in the area of Tai Chi and the other internal martial arts. I have in the past studied Ed Parker's American Kenpo, of which made it to Black Belt; and of recently since August of this past year of 2008 was studying the Fu Style Internal Martial Arts of which I have the entire system on dvd from master Fu who know lives in Vancouver, and know I have started to train in the Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi System.

Well enough of my background, for I do have a question for you. When talking about the cane, you said that the only weapon that you now practice and teach in your Tai chi classes are the Cane; why would that be may I ask? I mean that in the Yang and Sun styles of Tai Chi they like the internal systems have the swords - staffs - spears - the deer horn knives - etc. I am only asking out of being curious and find it to be a very interesting way of thinking outside of the box lets just say!

Well I do look forward in getting your response to my question.
Hope to be talking to you soon.
Take care,
Jeff F

Dear Jeff,

Congratulations on earning a black belt in Ed Parker's American Kenpo. What an achievement!

I hope you enjoy your studies in in the Yang style of Taijiquan. You are correct in mentioning that Yang styles makes use of a number of weapons, especially the jian sword.

I enjoy using the cane the most because I can take it anywhere, anytime. Since I am a 63 year old man, my walking stick is almost invisible to folks. My practice time is limited - so it is unlikely that I will practice enough to learn many different weapons. A cane suits my Zen/Taoist/Taiji interests, more so than a saber or spear. My students, nearly all seniors, like it for many of the same reasons.
Best wishes,

**************************************************** Hello from Vlad

Hello Mike

I stumbled onto your website, and even though I have only just begun to scratch the surface, I must commend you on the wealth of information it contains. I have similar interests as you do, so I look forward to exploring the many links and articles it contains.

At a ripe old age of 51, I recently enrolled in a local Tai Chi class. The instructor is very good (represented Canada at a Tai Chi competition in the 90's), but I was searching for some background information on the moves, theory, application etc. That is how I ended up on the Cloud Hands website. The information there has been very useful, and I am eager to read more.

Once again, thanks for an awsome repository of knowledge and information.

Vladimir R, Ontario, Canada


Dear Michael,

You had asked in an article about the day of Sun Lu Tang's death if anyone knew it, it appears in his book Xing Yi Quan Xue as December 16, 1933 (pg. 37). I hope this helps and the articles were great please feel free to share them anytime, I am kind of researching and learning this art on my own through various media.


Travis S



I hope yesterday was a rich, wonderful day for you guys — and your
kids, if you're with them.

Having just reconnected with your amazing site after some time away I
congratulate you on all the added material and the fluidity and
delight which accompanies the visit. to your domain! You've created
an amazingly valuable resource for the whole planet's health and well
being. It's a stellar achievement - a gift which keeps on giving.

What kind of year has it been for you? The variety and quantity of
cultivation work you do is awesome, as the kids say. It's an
inexhaustible body of knowledge into which you've apparently plunged
wholeheartedly. What delight!

Micky D, San Francisco


I've been reading your webpages for like a year now. You do such a great service to the martial arts community! Thanks so much!
I've been recently trying to learn Sun Tai Chi. Of course I've been picking up every video I can find. I'm torn between the 73 move form and the traditional. I was curious that you didn't mention the series of videos by Lam Kam Wing teaching the traditional form? I also noticed that you included that guy from France on youtube. Wow, that guy is really awful! I've never seen Sun Tai Chi performed so badly. It is a good video for learning all the wrong ways to perform the moves! Anyway, I've collected quite a few weird videos on the 5 animal qigong in my searches as well. Anything you need or would like me to copy for you I'd be pleased to do so. Hope to hear from you, And...Thanks again!
Sincerely, Jim


Mr. Garofalo,

WOW! Thank you for the work, energy, love and dedication that you have poured into the Tai Chi and related websites. Your sites are a true treasure-trove of information.

May you walk in beauty and peace.


James W, Minnesota


Dear Mike, First off, thank you for your wonderful site and blog! It provides wonderful information and helped and inspired me more than once. A question: I am learning the Beijing form myself at the moment (after having learnt a 12-movement short-form at a teacher) from the wonderful Liang Shou-Yu book and DVD. My question which I have not found being answered in the book is how much of a training session (say 30 min and 60 min) should warm-up be, how often the form should be repeated and how long should the ending (collect and harmonize energy) take. Is there an article on your page (or elsewhere on the web) discussing this issue? Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you and with every good wish!
- Andy, Germany

Any sensible fitness workout includes a progressive warm up to satisfy individual conditioning levels, the core practices, and a cool down (stretching, calming) period. The warm up should focus on the muscle groups that will be used in the core practices, as well as the gradual elevation of heartbeat.
Taijiquan fitness theory includes many warm up practices and routines (Gong) that focus on esoteric energetic concepts of Qi. These practices of Qigong have many styles and variations between teachers, and many varied and contradictory interpretations. The time needed for warm up will vary with the conditioning levels of the player. An out of shape person in their 30's will need more warm up time than a highly conditioned (i.e., aerobic, strength, and flexibility) person in their 50's. An elderly person with joint problems will need more warm up time.
In my opinion, any well conditioned person can easily use a slow and high standing performance of the 24 form as a warm up routine, and dispense with any other warm ups or qigong sets. Considering that the core practice is the Standard 24 Taijiquan Form, this exercise is not vigorous when done at a slow pace. Therefore, the warm up and cool down demands are very low. If your purpose is to learn the Standard 24 Taijiquan Form the main focus should be on slow deliberate repetitions of sections of the form. The emphasis should be on learning the form, not getting a "workout" or "full taijiquan practice." Therefore, I think a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down are quite adequate for a moderately conditioned person learning this Taijiquan form. Warm ups should include movements that focus on the legs and waist. Do the form very slowly for the first 10 minutes after the warm up. Daily 40 minute practice sessions are quite sufficient. In 30 minutes, you can do the entire form 4 times when you know the movements.
In my practice, I walk .6 mile to warm up (at various speeds) while I swing my cane as I walk, then I do a few leg stretching exercises before I begin my practice of numerous martial arts and taijiquan forms, some of them quite vigorous. I intermix walking with taijiquan forms. I separate the learning and practice of qigong sets, from the practice of taijiquan.
People need to make up their own minds as to the value of either qigong or taijiquan for themselves. If you want to learn taijiquan then practice taijiquan 90 to 100% of the time you have available.

Best wishes, Mike Garofalo


I updated the links to Taijiquan blogs that I read. The list is now in my right sidebar. I had used Blog Roller for a while in my right sidebar; but switched to creating links to blogs I read by using the Blogger Template. Next week, I will update my links to blogs on Taoism and Zen. I use the Feed Demon blog aggregator to retrieve and organize blog postings by various topics that I am interested in reading.

Seeing this blog included in other blog lists is, of course, another form of postive feedback.

Again, I will try to post to the Cloud Hands Blog on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday each week.

Finally, I added a site meter to the bottom of this blog to gauge readership.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bagua Zhang Practice in Chico

I enjoyed another Baguazhang lesson from Shifu Kent Howard at the Kodenkan Dojo in Chico this morning.

I really liked the drill: horse stance, hands crossed in front with palms up, slowly turn to the left side as the right hand slides underneath and down the left forearm until your turned halfway to the left, then turn the palms over and left palm presses outward the the right palm presses downward, until you turn completely to the left side. Return to center. Turn to the right and reverse previous hand movements.

Doing the exercises with the stones in the hand was useful and interesting.

I really enjoy, the most, the two person drills and light sparring.

Mud stepping, mud stepping ... keep the back heel on the ground longer.

Afterwards, Mr. Howard and I chatted for awhile. He told me that Wang Shujin always had a walking stick with him wherever he went and was skilled with its use. Gun is pronounced more like "gwn." He said Wang Shujin used two walking stick forms. Mr. Howard's book will be published next month by Blue Snake Books.

Anyone want to share a ride from Red Bluff to Chico on Sundays??

I'm going to do some work on my baguazhang training area at my home this week. It needs some Spring cleaning (i.e., weeding, mowing, shoveling, leveling, and adding five bags of sand).

Here is how it looked last summer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Taijiquan for Middle School Students

Yesterday, Friday, March 20th, Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Wilson invited me to do a presentation on Taijiquan to their sixth grade social studies classes at Maywood Middle School in Corning. The students were studying ancient Chinese Civilization. I prepared an informative handout and shared some ideas about the principles and practice of Taijiquan and Qigong from China.

I believe the students enjoyed and learned something from these short presentations (15 minutes) to four 6th grade classes. The students were attentive and respectful, and asked some good questions.

I demonstrated the Standard 24 Tai Chi Chuan Form, in the Yang Style. I demonstrated a few of the movement sequences at a normal slow motion pace, and the whole form at a faster "wushu" pace.

In the above photo, we are "Pressing Heaven and Earth" from the Eight Section Brocade Qigong.

My office is located at the Maywood Middle School. I work part-time as the Technology and Media Services Supervisor.

I do have a workshop presentation for 4th to 7th grade students (a one or two periods workshop) emphasizing stress reduction and character development using the Four Gates of the Grasping the Sparrow's Tail movement sequence from Yang Style Taijiquan. I am currently certified as a Substitute Teacher in the State of California. I teach Taijiquan and Yoga in Red Bluff, California.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Walking Stick Form of Chen Pan-Ling

Walking Stick Form of Master Chen Pan-Ling

A walking stick form was taught by Chen Pan-Ling (1892-1967.) "This form was brought to the U.S. at various times by different martial artists; as such you'll find a few unique flavors of it. The form is practiced in four lines and most count it at around 25-33 postures. Interestingly, since broadsword (saber) moves influenced the form greatly, you can also perform the sequence with a broadsword rather than a stick. This version was brought to the United States at different times by Meng Shan-Fu, Kai Sung, Chen Yun-Ching (1939-), and students of Wang Fu-Lai such as Hiromi Hangai Johnson ( Each had their own technique and emphasis. As such, the flavor differs slightly with each practitioner although the moves are basically the same. Chen Yun-Ching, who is a son of Chen Pan-Ling, calls this form "Thunder Stick" and has a DVD available of it through his student James Sumarac and from Plum Publications." This webpage includes six embedded UTube videos. Demonstrations: Video 1 by Dmitry Deitch, Video 2 by Binyamin. According to Marnix Wells, Chen Pan-ling taught Wang Shu Chin the 24 movement walking stick form; but others disagree. "Just my two cents on the walking stick form - it is listed in Mr. Chen's bagua book and several of his other books as a Shaolin form. It is not in the "self invented" section of the forms listing. I assume Chen Pan-Ling learned this form from his father. I have seen Mr. Chen Yun Ching do it a couple of times. It is pretty short." Discussion. The walking stick form taught by Master Chen Pan-Ling has been called a Shaolin, Xing Yi, and Tai Chi stick form by different knowledgeable persons. Vendor: Plum Publications. "In regards to the short stick, when Chen Yun-Ching was here in the States in 2006, he said that his father developed this form (Thunder Stick) in response to villagers that were having problems with stray dogs and bandits. The villagers asked CPL if he could teach them a simple weapon defense form. CPL extracted simple movements from his Shaolin knowledge base and then taught this form so that the villagers could use canes to defend themselves. Besides using a short staff, Chen Yun-Ching actually demonstrated the form with a cane with the hook handle and was very impressive." - Tom Karls. 二十四棍(鐵) 24 stick (walking stick).

Way of the Short Staff (Walking Stick and Cane) By Mike Garofalo. 354Kb.

Does anyone have a list of the names of the 24 movements to this form???

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cloud Hands Blog Posting Schedule

Blog Posting Schedule for 2009
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

Cloud Hands Blog
Mind-Body Movement Arts
Mike Garofalo writes about Taijiquan, Qigong, Hatha Yoga, Walking, and Gardening
Posting On: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

Green Paths in the Valley Blog
Mike Garofalo writes about Gardening, Seasons, Nature, Rural Living, Lore, Wisdom and the Eight Ways
Posting On: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Cloud Hands Website

Spirit of Gardening Website

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Walking Stick and Cane Research

Cane Research Project at Valley Spirit Taijiquan

Self-Defense Arts and Fitness Exercises Using a Cane, Walking Stick, or Short Wooden Staff
All documents were created by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.
Published by Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Taijiquan, Red Bluff, California, 2009

These documents normally include a list of the movement names in the specific cane or short staff form, and the final direction to face for each named movement sequence. Some documents provide detailed descriptions for each of the movement sequences. All documents include some commentary, notes, and a bibliography of books, media, and links. Many of these documents are in Adobe PDF read/print only format. The documentation of this research is an ongoing project of mine in 2009-2011; consequently, many documents are still incomplete. Over time, I intend to provide for each movement: 1) the martial technique used, 2) direction of technique application, and 3) the final leg stance. All of these forms can be practiced with a cane or walking staff under 40" long.

Bodhidharma's Shaolin Cane (Damo Cane, Shaolin Damo Kung Fu Cane). As taught by Master Shi Deyang. 21 movements in 3 sections. List of names and directions.

Cane Research Project and Blog Notes from Michael Garofalo, Valley Spirit Taijiquan.

Cloud Hands Taijiquan Bibliographies, Instructions, Guides, and Research in Taijiquan and Qigong.

Chen Taijiquan Broadsword Form. As taught by Grandmaster Chen Zenglei. 23 Postures/Movements. Practice with cane. List of Names.

Chen Shen-Pu's Taijiquan Short Staff. Created by Grandmaster Chen Shen-Pu, and taught by Shifu Jiang Jian-ye.. 74 movements. List of Names.

Eight Immortals Taijiquan Cane, Routine One, Yang Style of Taijiquan. As taught by Master Jesse Tsao. 36 movements in 10 lessons. List of Names.

Eight Immortals Taijiquan Cane, Routine Two, Chen Style of Taijiquan. As taught by Master Jess Tsao. 36 movements in 10 lessons. List of Names.

How I Use Instructional DVD's to Learn Cane Forms

Martial Arts Techniques for the Cane and Short Staff. Lists, Notes, and Commentary.

Northern Energy Taiji Cane (Beifang Qi Taiji Zhang). As taught by Sensei James Bouchard. 24 movements. List of names and descriptions.

Shaolin Cane. As taught by Shifu Ted Mancuso. List of the names of the movements, and detailed descriptions in 16 Lessons.

Standard Simplified Yang Style Sword Form. 32 movements. Detailed descriptions. Practice with a cane.

Tchoung Ta-Tchen Cane. Created by Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-Tchen. 33 Movements. List of Names.

Thunder Stick Cane Form developed by Chen Pan-Ling and as taught by Chen Yun-Ching. 24 Movements. List of Names.

Way of the Short Staff. Comprehensive bibliography of books, media, links, and resources. Includes research on cane, short staff, walking stick, jo, etc..

Way of the Staff. Comprehensive bibliography of books, media, links, and resources. Includes research on the staff, bo, gun, quarterstaff, pole, etc..

Wudang Tiger Tail Short Staff . As taught by Shifu Jiang Jian-ye. 48 movements in this Wudang Mountain Taoist sort staff form. List of names.

Yang Family Tai Chi Short Staff by Xu Minshan. As taught by Shifu Jiang Jian-ye. 104 postures. List of names.