To most westerners, the term Kung Fu means Chinese Martial Arts. The original meaning, however, is different. It can refer to any skill attained through hard work over a long period of time. To say someone has Kung Fu of a particular skill implies that they themselves have changed as the result of practicing that skill.
Most people know that practicing something for long enough changes them. The obvious example is going to the gym. People go to the gym to get fit which most equate with getting healthy.
It follows that someone can choose a skill to practice in order to change themselves. Kung Fu has become synonymous with Chinese Martial Arts because these arts are known to develop a person further than any other practice. Reaching the highest level in these arts requires the full realization of human potential; physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Physically this means having a body in which you are comfortable. The body becomes relaxed, well-coordinated, flexible, and strong. Reaction speed is improved. The touch becomes more sensitive. The body becomes better at fighting off disease. It ages slower. Practitioners of Ba Gua Zhang stay active and able into very old age.
Mental benefits include improved concentration. A more powerful supply of energy is available to your mind which allows a deeper level of observation of one’s surroundings and one’s self. Improved control over your mind means you can turn off the calculator in your head when it is not required and just enjoy the awareness of your experience.
The primary spiritual benefit that can be achieved is a mind that is at peace. A mind that is not disturbed by negative emotions. It is known in the west that such a mind indicates the highest level of emotional intelligence; what is less understood is how to get there.
Not all styles of Martial Arts and not all schools of a particular style can provide these benefits. Here Ba Gua Zhang shines. It is known to be the most advanced Martial Art in China. If you need to be convinced, watch a recent film called “The Grandmaster”. It is a story of Ip Man, a legendary Master of a very popular style called Wing Chun. He is humbled when he meets a Ba Gua Zhang expert.
Anyone can benefit from practicing Ba Gua Zhang. It should be obvious, however, that to gain enough knowledge of such an advanced art so that it can be passed on to the next generation requires serious commitment. This has always meant that these arts tend to be diluted over time as individuals start teaching without completing their training. Today it is very difficult to find a school that continues to develop the ‘state of the art’ and I feel very lucky to have been able to graduate from such a school.
It is likely there is a Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or even a Ba Gua Zhang school near you. If you are not able to practice with one of our family of schools, go to your local class and start there. After all, that is how I started.