Sunday, November 22, 2009

How To Start Training

In the wake of my article on Tibetan energy work, I have been asked how a beginner can get started with this sort of training.

Here are several things you can do:

Learn More

Visit The Gompa online.
The center of Daoqiquan training, with descriptions of the major courses of study. Also see Come To The Gompa.

Read The Jiulong Journal.
Your online portal for the martial art of Jiulong Baguazhang, also called Nine Dragon Baguazhang. Very beginner friendly, including a page on the curriculum and how to start training.

Join the Daoqiquan Yahoo Group.
Covers all aspects of the Daoqiquan system. Follow and contribute to ongoing discussions, search the archives of past discussions. Includes how-to lessons. All are welcome to join and participate.

Join the Jiulong Baguazhang Yahoo Group.
Like the Daoqiquan group, but specific to the martial art of Jiulong Baguazhang, also known as Nine Dragon Baguazhang. All are welcome to join and participate.

Buy the book Combat Baguazhang Nine Dragon System: Forms and Principles, by Dr. John Painter.
The authoritative, unabridged description of this art by its current lineage holder.

Start Quiet Sitting

To get started on your own, buy the book Combat Baguazhang Nine Dragon System: Forms and Principles mentioned above, and read pages 70–74 on Quiet Sitting practice. When you have mastered the breathing technique and posture described, join the Jiulong Baguazhang Yahoo Group and read the post called Challenge of the Nine Dragons.

If you do not own the book, you can probably find equivalent information at either of the Yahoo Groups. Unfortunately, Yahoo’s search facility is not entirely working at the moment, so you will have to hunt through the group’s archives, but full lessons on Quiet Sitting technique have been posted in the past. Once you are a member, you can even post a question asking for help locating these lessons.

Attend a Class or Workshop

If you can visit The Gompa in Arlington, TX, you will be in the heart of the Daoqiquan organization with our most experienced instructors.

For announcements of upcoming workshops at other locations in the U.S. and Canada and in London, England, join either Yahoo Group and watch for announcements.

To find a Jiulong study group near you, review the list of branch schools (see left margin). Contact a school’s leader to ask about workshops and classes.

Find Another Style in Your Area

If you cannot visit a Daoqiquan location, you can probably find other systems of internal martial arts or qigong in your area, even in the Yellow Pages. Look for the following keywords: tai chi, xing-yi, bagua, kung fu, qigong, meditation, internal power, internal martial arts, healing arts.

You will need to be clear about what you want (effective self defense? tournament sparring? relaxation and health?), and ask your prospective instructor whether he or she teaches that. It might be best to ask, “what is the goal of this class?” to get an unbiased answer, before you have said what you are looking for.

Once you start training, watch how the curriculum is presented. A solid system should include general principles that you can understand and apply in a variety of situations, rather than a grab bag of specific techniques to memorize (especially if those techniques seem to embody conflicting principles). A solid system will also pay attention to your breathing and posture. If your instructor teaches you how to sit and stand before anything else, you are definitely on the right track!

Unfortunately, it is very hard, especially for a beginner, to judge the quality of a system or teacher from the outside. There are no “industry standards,” and even words like “kung fu” or “qigong” are extremely general terms that include many, many different systems that can vary greatly. On top of that, you may not be able to clarify your goals until you have begun training and discovered what appeals to you and what doesn’t. In the end, it is simply up to you to use your own judgement and common sense.

Life is short, so if you are drawn to this sort of training, get started! Find something that looks appealing and fits your schedule. If you like it, and it improves your life, and you are not getting hurt, then ... you win!

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