Baji Martial Art: the Art of the Eight Extremities
A Fox knows many things, but a Hedgehog knows one big thing…
Archilochus, Greek poet
In this article:
- What is Baji Quan
- Baji Quan Study Plan
- Common Questions
- Baji Combat Rules
- Baji Weapons
- Tips for your Baji training
- Pro et Contra: our Verdict
A simple Name for a simple Principle
Eight Extremities Boxing (Bajiquan 八極拳 – also known in Japan as Hakkyokuken) is a traditional fighting style known for its direct and powerful striking. Unlike other fighting sports such as Kick boxing, Sanshou or Savate, Baji martial art does not require strong physical preparation to be effective, even though it can turn into a deadly style if practiced with dedication and with proper physical conditioning. Baji quan name originates from the eight strongest extremities the human body naturally provides.
Blending body’s Natural Armor with Martial Skills
Everyone would acknowledge that throwing a punch hurts, although specific training such as BMC can make that punch become less sensitive to pain. Baji quan works on the fundamental principle that the human body alone is equipped with powerful parts that don’t necessarily require training, and because they are naturally strong, they can be used by people without any martial experience. However, you should be aware that:
It’s the set of skills constituting these eight parts that turn the “eight extremities” into a knight’s best shield and sword. In order to unleash these skills, Baji martial art is a Fighter’s best choice
Baji martial art focuses exactly on these eight naturally-protective extremities to guarantee quick defense and maximum efficiency. It is also beneficial for martial artists who do not want to overly focus on Bone and Muscle Conditioning.
Baji Quan’s place in modern Martial Arts
Baji Quan is actually considered one of the most effective and powerful style in Chinese Martial Arts, as it has been chosen amongst 200 self defense methods by both Chinese and Taiwanese police forces. Furthermore, it has been used for centuries from the Emperor bodyguards. Without application, Baji martial art sequences become a perfect routine for staying super-fit and healthy.
Baji Quan Study Plan
Baji quan is a complete Martial Style, as it includes all things a combatant needs to learn to consider himself such. In fact, Baji martial art includes:
- Patterns (Dao-lu‘s)
- Pre-set patterns, where actions are choreographed beforehand (Dui lian)
- Punch-bag Training
- Baji Qin na (joint locks)
Some of Baji martial art patterns include:
八极拳小架 Baji Xiao Jia
Small frame (also known as short pattern). In its shortness, the essence of the style. Baji Xiao Jia is the first pattern (dao lu) a Student will learn when approaching to this style for his first time. Please consider that Baji Xiao Jia patterns may differ from Master to Master, and from School to School.
八极拳大架 Baji Da Jia
Big frame (also known as long pattern). After mastering the Baji Xiao Jia, this pattern takes the Student to a new, more advanced and demanding set of techniques. This dao lu is based on the Baji principle “advance, advance, advance” and is more challenging than the Xiao Jia.
八极拳母子拳 Baji Muzi Quan
Mother and Son frame. Learning Muzi quan is essential for any Baji fighter, because of the importance of alternating attacking with pulling back.
the principle of Yin and Yang is something a Baji Student must comply to: there is a moment to attack, and a moment to block
This alternation of states has the sole puropse of tuning the Baji Student into a confident, powerful combatant.
八极拳对练 Baji Dui Lian
Parts of the above forms are used between two opponents where actions are choreographed beforehand to form a pattern. The purpose of Dui lian’s is aiming at educating the brain to properly react to a set of pre-defined attacks of increasing difficulty.
八极拳擒拿 Baji Qin na
Joint lock techniques based on Baji quan. Please note that Qin na is a generic term used in Martial Arts to define “joint locks” with the purpose of neutralizing the opponent’s attacks without necessarily harm him. Each martial style has its own set of “Qin na techniques”, and this Unit of Competency in Baji quan aims at studying the ones related to this specific style only.
A punch is connected to the arm, the arm to the shoulder, the shoulder to the chest, the chest to the legs, and legs to the feet. Now, imagine to fully extend your garden hose, then trying to shake it vigorously once: the generated force will propagate throughout the whole hose, until the first wave reaches the end of it. This is the simplest way to explain how power is generated in Baji.
Stomping is one of Baji quan's fundaments. The principle is simple: when a Baji practitioner faces an opponent that is equal or more of his own weight, the mass and the weight of the Baji practitioner must simulate a heavier body, and in order to do this, stomping is the only solution that does not break any physics law.
Put it simply, by stomping my weight becomes for just one second more than the weight of my opponent, allowing me to win over his mass, finalizing my attack - or - if any of the above things don't work, giving me certainty that I won't be swept away by his mass. Let's call it "momentarily rooting".
Stomping has a price to pay, and this is the downside that states the above question partially true: it's very unusual to use stomping in a full contact match, where speed and agility are basic principles: creating a chance of stomping will advantage the agile opponent, and the expert Baji fighter knows it. So when it's wise to use stomping in the end? In two occasions: first, in short-distance situations - second, after first destabilizing the opponent with fast techniques, then using the stomping in conjunction with a Baji technique for your final, deadly strow.
I learned Baji from Shifu Lin Jin Rong, in Northern China, and after four years I became his direct student. His amazing way of teaching was technical and genuine: one day, when I had to perform in front of him, focusing my whole mind and energy to pretend I was fighting for real, all of a sudden I found myself speeding up, grounding myself by lowering my stances as much as possible and making the dao lu a bit "Shaolinized", but so aggressive and real. And since that day I kept this pace thoughout all my training sessions, although it requires a high fitness level.
Furthermore, when I started learning Baji for the first time in my life, it was after 10 years of Shaolin training, so it's normal that my "reptilian brain" merged Shaolin principles with the Baji ones. What counts for me, at the end of the day, is not competing against "who does it better" or "being"similar to that particular video on youtube", but competing against myself, as I believe the only opponent to compare with, on a daily basis, is just our attitude to think "what I already know is enough".
People think Baji is useless when compared to other Fighting Sports, but they don't know that there are two ways you can train Baji: one is Baji Qin na (the part of Baji that studies Joint Locks), the second is Baji Quan (the part of the style that is meant to be used in a real situation, where there's no space for half-measures, and full impact is the only purpose of using the deadly techniques Baji is famous for).
Combat Rules in Baji Quan
Although some of the following rules are valid for many other fighting sports, they will certainly make your Baji training ingrained in your heart. You will comprehend its principles deeper in time, even though some characteristics of this style might look pointless on the surface when you approach Baji for the first time.
- Advance, advance, and advance: Baji training will make your body etched to advance, rather than pulling back.
- Search for short distance. Althoug a Baji expert is trained at both short and long distance, Baji’s efficiency is mostly found in short range fighting. A Baji expert never forgets that this may have its downside, although real mastery means also getting close to the opponent without giving him a chance to take you down.
- Practice without solution of continuity. When practicing your Baji forms (be it Xiao jia or another dao lu) remember that Baji quan follows the principle of the Dao: black and white, hard and soft, fast and slow: your techniques should follow this duality as well. Gestures don’t have to look like a continuous ballet, but not even a tense robot-like pattern: preserve your energies in a fast but relaxed movement, exploding and expressing your full power when the part of the technique/dao lu requires it!
- Your body as a weapon. It’s not a punch. It’s not a kick. It’s not even a shoulder strike. It’s the whole body that impacts. Consider the engine of your car: do you think pistons generate power because they agree in making that engine work…? NO, it’s the crankshaft that pushes them up, making the whole engine come alive!
- Risk. Baji martial art is called the style of courage because it wants you to get that elbow of yours in the ribs of your enemy: and if it’s not a punch you want to throw, is the ability to get closer and closer while keeping yourself covered. This results in you having to make your Baji guard perfect and, more important, to develop a strategy.
Tips for your Baji training.
- Train daily: like everything in life, the difference is made by people who can win over their mind, over fatigue, over soreness.
- Be careful when you stomp too hard and for too long, as your feet may be very sore next days. I personally recommend Feiyue shoes with proper gel-cushions installed. This may cause a loss of “ground-feeling”, but your feet, calves and joints will benefit from them.
- Always end your training sessions with proper stretching and self-massage.
- Baji routines are indeed a good cardiovascular workout, but don’t forget to blend your Baji training with proper Physical Training.
- Don’t forget that Baji martial art relies on impact, so BMC training must be compulsory in your weekly schedule. Without, it would be just like being armed with a wooden sword and a wooden shield: surely you are protected, but how long will you last in a fight?
Baji Quan is a complete style: it also includes the following weapons:
- the Sword (Jian)
- the Spear (Qiang)
- the Saber (Dan Dao)
- the Long Staff (Bang)
- the Short Staff (Gun – pronounced “goon”)
- the Halberd (Chun Qiu Dao)
- the Tiger Head Double Hooks (Hu tou Gou)
That’s all for today. But it’s not all for Baji: if you are already a practitioner of Baji, sure you already know that words must stop and leave room for training. if you are new to Baji martial art, on the other hand, I hope this will be helpful for you to move your first steps towards this amazing style.