Thursday, November 26, 2009

Less Mystery, More Power: The New Nine Dragon Curriculum

Shifu Robert Castaldo tells the Jiulong Journal about recent changes to the Nine Dragon Baguazhang curriculum.

The modern “Rolling the Pearl” curriculum removes some of the mystery and the trial-and-error, to make this esoteric art more down-to-earth so students can grasp it more quickly and apply it sooner. Same ancient principles, same techniques, same power; but hey, this is the twenty-first century. We’ve learned a thing or two.


The whole purpose of changing the curriculum is to make it more easily understood by everybody ... There’s less mystery involved ... a more direct approach to our goal of being able to apply these principles in practical application.


From my standpoint, the most complicated thing for students to grasp—not merely to understand intellectually and feed back to you in a question and answer session, but to understand in their daily practice—is the way that the process builds from the simplest skill, which is the Quiet Sitting—quieting the mind—through the standing, which has very specific skill sets and engrams that it begins to develop, and how to carry those into moving. Students were not making all those connections all the way. They were looking at each of these modules, these skill-sets as separate entities. Eventually, somewhere farther down the line than we would like, the light bulb would go off, the epiphany would happen, and the pieces would come together. So, now we’re trying to make it as clear and simple and easy as possible for body and mind to come to understand how the standing translates into the walking and the walking translates into the circling.

... you have to continually look to your standing and incorporate what you learn there into everything else. That’s a key element. When you can do it in standing, take it into shifting. When you can do it shifting, take into walking. ... All the movements are merely physical shells if you don’t have that undifferentiated, whole-body feeling attached to them. So, when I wedge through you with my arm, if I have any feeling that it’s my arm pushing through you, I’m not doing it correctly. I should feel like my whole body’s moving through you. If I do it correctly, it’s effortless. If I feel stress in my deltoids or my back, I’m not doing it correctly. If I’ve engaged all the muscles of my body, if my shifting has provided power and my waist turn has transmitted up through my torso, then where my arm makes contact is irrelevant. I am just easily moving my 200 lb. mass through you, and that’s a key element for the basic program.

But there’s more! So much more. Go ahead, read the whole thing.

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