Image and action are two separate things
When in earlier times I studied ‘Later stage Bagua Quan’ my master often said “Image and action are two separate things ”. For a long time I didn’t understand. Afterwards I gradually caught some of the meaning and then passed over the threshold of ‘Later stage Bagua Quan’.
What my master spoke of as ‘image’ is the visible external form of an object while ‘action’ means the inner driving force which produces this image and creates changes in the image. This is the difference between ‘shape’ and ‘substance’.
Everything in the material world is inseparable from ‘shape’ and ‘substance’. Some things have the same shape and form but differ in substance; for example although identical twins may be difficult to tell apart their temperament and sex can be completely different. Some things are the same substance but are different in shape and form; for example the three states of water – ice, liquid and vapour – have different forms but are in fact all water. The similarities and differences in objects are all in ‘shape’ and ‘substance’.
‘Earlier stage Bagua Quan’ starts with ‘practicing shape’; once ‘shape’ has been properly formed this leads on to
the correct ‘substance’ . Consequently ‘Earlier stage Bagua Quan’ has very rigorous requirements concerning posture:
- How to align bones and muscles from a static state
- How to bring about a dynamic ‘finishing point’ pathway
- – Where to use force
Everything needs to be clearly understood. The student therefore gradually acquires experience and knowledge of the ‘substance’ of ‘action’ so that when he reaches the level of ‘Later stage Bagua Quan’ he can ‘give up image’ and concentrate on studying ‘action’.
Every school and branch of Chinese martial arts distinguishes between ‘shape’ and ‘substance’.
Most schools that developed in earlier times, although differing in ‘substance’, had the same ‘shape’ and laid emphasis on developing this ‘shape’. It is because of this that the moves and postures in Chinese martial arts are so colourful and varied so that right down to the present day they can be said to be the richest form of physical movement in the world.
However man only has four limbs and the combination of movements is naturally limited. So the schools of Chinese martial arts that developed in more recent times mostly emphasise the development of substance. In other words although their moves and postures might be similar to those of other schools their methods of manipulating the limbs were very varied and this was especially apparent in internal martial arts.
The nub of Bagua Quan is in its special methods of exercising the limbs and trunk and not in moves and postures. It focuses on the ‘action’ within the ‘image’.
‘Later stage Bagua Quan’ requires the student go beyond ‘image’. Whether a change is correct or not does not lie in the ‘image’ but in the ‘action’. The genuine Bagua Quan student will devote himself to studying ‘action within image’ and, not letting himself be confused by ‘image’, will grasp the meaning of ‘action’
For the student ‘image’ and ‘action’ are to begin with one and the same but later become two separate things.
Bagua Quan is a subject about which it is easy to get confused.