Sunday, February 26, 2006


I have said before that I had health problems which was the reason I joined Ba Gua. On the way to getting those health problems, I had gone through many interesting experiences. I think I said that the biggest part of my health problems was a lack of ground. I had a lack of ground because my previous kung fu teacher had purposefully made me sick.

To a lot of people this will sound odd. It sounded odd to me. I was a scientific oriented person who basically believed the popular view of the world. When I became sick, I did not even know what a "ground" was, much less believe in it.

I think that part of the reason I became so ill was that my mind was also affected. The entire foundations of my belief system were being dismantled by the events that occurred in my life and in the kung fu class where I got sick.

It is hard to describe exactly how traumatizing this experience was. It was like being on a ship at sea. Slowly the ship was being taken apart, piece by piece. Some violent act was responsible for each piece being removed. As the ship became smaller, I jumped frantically from piece to ever shrinking piece.

Basically I discovered that just about everything I beleived or had been taught was a lie. I witnessed events on a daily basis that completely contradicted my old, common view of reality.

By the time I left the old kung fu class and joined Ba Gua, I had become slightly inured to these events. I could see or hear the strangest things and not react too much. I would pretty much believe anything because there was a very strong chance that it could turn out to be true.

One weekend at class there was some discussion about Mike going on an outing with the women. He had gone on a camping trip to Arizona or some such place. They had spent the time out in the boondocks in the middle of nowhere.

I mentioned before that when I joined the class, a very big production was put on about how the men and women had to practice separately so there was no flirting or sexual shenanigans to distract from the class.

When Mike told this story about him going on a camping trip with the women, I think my extremely expressive face which showed every thought that crossed my mind must have looked at Mike as if to say "Hey! I thought you said men and women separate? But you went on camping trip with them by yourself out into the middle of nowhere?"

And then I thought "I wonder how many condoms that trip required?".

Mike, being the perceptive kung fu man he was, was most likely reading my face as if it was a blimp with a written message crawling across it. I can only guess his motivation might be embarrassment, the urge to correct a mistaken assumption, guilt perhaps?

Anyways, he actually came up to me and spoke to me by myself. I am laughing because I recall that as a special event in my head that sticks out. Mike came up to me by myself and actually spoke to me. ;)

He said something about the camping trip. I said "uh huh". He obviously had something to say.

Mike said he had to go on the camping trip with the women. They were going on this trip as part of their Ba Gua / Women's Way thing that they were doing. Because it was going to be dangerous for them, Mike had to go along to protect them.

The message crawling across my face must have said something like "Protect them from what? They are Ba Gua women. You teach them Ba Gua to protect themselves. The whole point of their being here is so they do not need you to protect them".

Mike said "Ya. I had to go along so I could protect them from Demons". I thought "Ooooo Kaaaayyyyy".

Here I am looking at this guy who is a doctor, has a degree in psychology, 15 years of Tai Chi practice, 10 years of Ba Gua practice and he teaches his own class. I have come to the man and I am paying him money to cure my health problems. I trust this man literally with my life, my health. He is looking me in the face and saying that he went on a camping trip by himself to protect the women from Demons.

I am having trouble accepting that. Then I think of all the other things that I had trouble accepting. Things that I fought as hard as I could to ignore. Things that turned out to be right, and I was completely wrong.

I said OK. I guess I have to accept that explanation. I didn't press Mike or question him. Think about it. The only things I could have said would all be questioning of his authority or veracity. There was only one way any questioning of his story could have ended. With me doubting him and him resenting me for it.

I still to this day wonder if he was covering up a sleeping trip with select women from the group, or if he was honest. So much of what he said has been self serving. It is not right to judge a person based on their past behavior. It is also foolish to ignore evidence that shows the tendencies of how people react.

He didn't exactly say what the demons were. He could make a legitimate attempt to say he was using metaphors. That the Demons were just a word or phrase to describe the women's fear at being alone in the desert. "Demons of the mind" would be an excellent way to explain this away.

Besides remembering the event as one of the few times Mike came and talked to me by myself, there was nother reason I remember this particular event. A reason that makes me wonder if he was telling the truth or whether he is a very good actor.

When he was talking about protecting the women from the Demons, it was not said in a regular conversational tone. He said that he actually had to fight with the Demons. He did not go along just in case he had to. He actually had to fight them.

When he said this, he made a dramatic ripping and tearing motion with his arms as if he truly was wrestling or fighting with something. A motion similar to the motion a person makes when they tear a telephone in half.

I can recall it so vividly because I could feel the tearing motion. That was one of those things that had contributed to breaking my world view. I did not watch Mike peform the act of tearing a telephone book in two. I actually experienced or felt tearing a phone book in two with my own body.

There have been incidents in my life since that time that force me to accept there are such things as demons. Possession, witchcraft, magic, etc. Much of it is in the definition of each act. Still, each of the things listed can be said to really exist.

Still. Demons. You think?

Or a horny young man with slavish students?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone!

One of the things that seemed important to Mike about the group was secrecy. This ba gua was a "closed door" style of teaching that was not open to just anyone. People were not supposed to go around talking about it or showing it to people.

This attitude was not a one time announcement of the rules or an offhand remark. The idea was repeated many times. Enough so that I began to feel secretive about the class and what I was learning.

There was a conflict here though. The entire purpose of the group was to "save the world". The group was going to do this and that in order to make the world a better place. The class was a start. The initial group was being taught so that they could go out and teach. There were various things that various individuals did that were meant to reach out to people to help them or inform them.

I had real trouble with this. I liked the openness and the idea of saving the world. Not in a grandiose way but in a way of telling whoever I met things that could improve their lives. I am happy and thinking about all the people I can help, then the subject of the secrecy comes up.

The secrecy made me feel clamped down or shut down. Like I couldn't breath. I wasn't happy about it and it did not make me feel good. I agreed with it on an intellectual level because at the time I agreed with the tradional ways of learning martial arts. Secrecy was an accepted part of the martial arts throughout it's history.

I am conflicted on the inside. This was not limited to class. I would literally find myself out in real life helping people by talking to them or whatever. Then in the middle of what was going on, I would suddenly wonder if I was giving away too much or breaking the secrecy rules.

One day there was a men's meeting over at Jeff's. We went up to the seminary on the hill to practice as we usually did. We did the group practice then split up as we usually did. I found a spot over by a doorway that had a light over it. There was a wide expanse of concrete that was perfect for practice. The light was so bright that it was almost like a spotlight.

I began to practice my forms which were traveling kinds of forms. I had to walk back and forth and around and about so that I covered quite a bit of the concrete area. At some point a man was walking by. The man stopped to watch what I was doing.

I continued to practice. People stopping to watch was a common occurence at all of our classes. I know I stop to watch other people's kung fu practice. It is natural curiosity. After awhile though, the man was still there. Usually people will stop to watch a bit, then move on.

It is actually kind of rude to stop and watch people. The staring of strangers can break your concentration when you practice. Even if they are well meaning. I always try to stop a ways off to give them plenty of space. What the people stopping do not realize is that the person practicing is generating energy. Their energy field expands around them as they practice. Even though the observer may think they are standing 8 or 10 feet away and that is no problem, the kung fu guy can feel them. It is like they are standing in the way of the kung fu guy's energy field. Because the observers do not know about energy, they don't understand what they are doing.

This guy stayed for awhile. He just stood there and watched and watched. I continued my practice for awhile, then I got uncomfortable. I did not like the idea of this stranger watching me do the forms. He could be stealing them. I walked away to clearly show I was bothered by the man and he left the area. After awhile practice was over.

We get toghether and Jeff or George say "What was that guy doing?". I thought that was a pretty stupid question. If they saw the guy, they saw he was watching me. So I said, "He was watching me". Then they all looked at me. I looked right back at them.

One of them says, "did he say anything?". I said "no". There was this very strong feeling like something was going on that I did not know about. I felt like they were trying to tell me something or get me to say something. I had no idea what it was.

Then they said "Did you talk to him?". I said "no". I think one of them said "Isn't that kind of weird?". Then they all looked at each other again. I finally figured it out. They thought I should have talked to the man.

I was setting there dumbfounded. I had heard from Mike that we were supposed to be secretive. Here we were practicing our forms. That man was standing there watching me. If he was a kung fu man, all he had to do was stand there and watch me, then walk away with every form Mike had taught me. I have learned parts of forms by standing and watching someone practice for 5 or 10 minutes.

I was doing what I thought I was supposed to. Being secretive and hiding the forms from a nosy stranger. Then I get back to the group and they are acting like I am an incredibly rude person who is maybe mentally weird because I did not talk to the stranger who could be stealing Mike's forms.

I told them that I had acted the way I did because I was hiding the forms. They all gave each other that look again. I resented that. They were standing right there listening to the same speech from Mike about secrecy that I did. I did not understand why they had trouble with the decision I made and my actions. I felt they were looking down on me for something that was their own responsibility. They needed to clearly say everything was secrecy, don't show anyone anything and don't tell anyone anything. Or they needed to say, show people whatever you want and tell them whatever you want.

I am not the only one who apparently misinterpreted Mike's cautions for secrecy as you will find out in the future.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Masochism and Control

This is one of the chronologically out of sequence ones. It took place while Arol and Tim where still around.

We had gone to Jeff's for the weekly men's meeting. We went to a local school to practice. It was on top of a hill with a wonderful atmosphere. A great view, old buildings with atmosphere, lots of greenery. An invigorating place to work out.

We did our usual warmups, group forms, group walking drills. Then we broke up to work out on our own. The area we worked out in was not that large. All of us were in view of each other. We had to spread out because of the sidewalks criscrossing the area. It was difficult to find uninterrupted level spaces without a sidwalk edge or a depression in the grass.

After awhile I noticed Jeff, George, Tim and it seems like someone else I cannot remember. Must have been Arol. They were over by a building clustered together. George, Tim and Arol had trouble exercising on their own. They did not have the focus or attention or something. Or they were too social. They were unable to work by themselves for very long without drifting over to someone else. Usually Jeff.

By this time I was feeling fairly comfortable with everyone. Comfortable enough to speak out occasionally in spite of the anxiety. I had been their long enough to decide that I felt Jeff and I were alike. Jeff would probably react with horror at this comparison. He would not want to be anything at all like me. ;)

Jeff was a quiet and driven person. Part of it was because he was Asian. He had the usual Asian reticence. He was much more repressed than that though. Jeff was also driven. He had been doing martial arts since he was a child. He attended college and Chinese medical school as well as the Ba Gua classes. I felt a kinship with Jeff.

I was a quiet person who was driven. I had taken martial arts for years. I was not good at them, but I had the drive necessary to practice continually for years. When it came time to practice alone, I was often downright rude about it. I did not want to be interrupted because I felt the practice was serious. I felt these similarities that I felt I had with Jeff gave me some insight into his actions.

I walked over to the cluster of people to see what was going on. Jeff was telling the other guys about some exercise. What you do is squat down at your knees and brace your back straight up against the wall with your head straight. Then you put your hands in front of you and hold them together. The object of the drill is to hold the posture as long as possible.

Jeff was showing them how to do this as I meandered over. I listened to the description and watched the demonstration. Then we decided to have a contest. Everyone was going to do the posture and see who could last the longest. I thought this was a great idea because I had confidence in my ability to do the exercise. I felt I had to be better at it than George, Arol and Tim. Maybe I was as good as Jeff at it.

We all got ready, then started the contest. It did not last long. The posture is very strenous and painful. As I expected. Arol, Tim and George could not handle it. Arol and Tim gave up because they had no mental strength to force themselves to keep going thru the discomfort. George had trouble because he was a large man. He was over 6 feet I believe. He played sports and for some reason or the other he was very stiff because of them. When he did the posture, he hardly squatted at all and had to lean forward off the wall to even do the posture.

Jeff and I were good at it. Jeff because he had done martial arts for years and he was an Asian guy. In the Wing Chun class where I got sick at, we did some stamina and posture training. It was very strenous. It prepared me for this exercise. We both sat there in the posture.

After quitting, Arol, Tim and George were hovering around to watch Jeff and I. After some time, it was apparent we could both go at it for awhile. I was bothered alot by Arol, Tim and George hovering. They were not quiet when they watched as if they were respectful. I recall them laughing and joking etc.

I decided there was no point in continuing so I gave up. Jeff won the contest. After I stood up, Jeff stayed in the posture. Now Arol, Tim, George and I were standing there watching him. Arol, Tim and George were butt kissing and talking about how Jeff was good at this. One of them wondered aloud how Jeff could stand the pain.

I don't think there is any shame in saying I was envious of the butt kissing. I did not want the butt kissing for myself. I can't stand it. There is something about the act of one person butt kissing another that pulls at you. It probably is the sucking energy huh? ;)

I kind of got an attitude and was being a little smart. I said "It's easy isn't it Jeff. It's masochism". Masochism means that people like to hurt themselves. I did not mean the word literally. What I meant was that a masochist could better take the pain of an exercise because they liked it, or could endure it.

Jeff didn't say anything. I had the distinct impression he did not like what I said. At that time in my life, I was something of an unknowing pest. I did not realize that people would purposefully ignore you and refuse to speak. Not an adult man anyways. I repeated my statement. I said "It's easy for masochists, isn't it Jeff?".

I was including myself in the statement. I had done the exercise almost as long as Jeff. I was not saying it in an an accusatory way.

Jeff continued to say nothing.

Even me, being as dense as I was, realized that something was going on now. I figured I must have said something that made him unhappy. I didn't know what. To my way of thinking, if he disagreed with what I said, he only had to say so. I did not understand the silent treatment.

The silent treatment was my first taste of how controlling other people works.

When I said "Masochists can do this exercise easy, huh?", I was asking for Jeff to agree with me. The way that a man like Jeff thinks, I am trying to control him. I am trying to force him to agree with me. In my opinion, that is the craziest thing in the world. We were buddies in the same group. We were standing around talking and I was making an observation. I had not desire to control Jeff.

That did not matter. Jeff believed that what I was doing was controlling. Many people in that situation will do exactly as Jeff did. They will go silent. If a person does not talk to you, there is nothing to work with. If they agree with you, in their mind you are controlling them. If they disagree with you, their might be an argument or something else unpleasant. If they refuse to speak, what can you do? You could resort to abusive language. Then you look very very bad and you will be shunned by people.

I walked away when Jeff gave me the silent treatment because I did not understand any of that control stuff. To my way of thinking, I had tried to be friendly and joking with him by saying "Us masochists can do tough stuff easy". Instead of accepting the comaradery, I felt bad energy coming from him, and he refused to answer me even after I repeated myself.

Of course Arol, Tim and George are all watching this. To my anxiety and embarrassed mind, they were looking at me like I had done something wrong. I will be generous and say that is probably my anxiety filled mind working overtime. I think they were probably as mystified as I was by Jeff's refusal to answer me.

It took me years to understand what had happened. Maybe I am a slow learner. You think?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I give up! The chronology is not going to be perfect

OK. I admit it. I cannot keep it together anymore. ;) There are already about 5 out of sequence posts. I just realized after the last post that I have at least another 5 or more out of sequence posts.

I hope that things do not get too confusing. I know they confuse me. Jumping back and forth trying to keep events straight. It may seem silly or trivial but it is actually important.

The chronology of events provides the background for the changing relationships and attitudes among the group. Without proper chronolgy, a persons motivations might seem to change suddenly and drastically for no reason.

Oh well. I am happy enough that I am recalling events I had forgotten. They all add up to the picture that formed the impressions that I have today of my experiences with the class. Without all of the events, even out of chronological order, the picture will not be accurate.

Testing the new guy and Full Body Power

Chronologically, Peter has joined, a few months were skipped, then Brad joined. That made it, Jeff, Mike, Lonnie, George, Me, James, Brad, Peter and Steve.

At the moment, the time between when Peter joined and when Brad joined was uneventful. I am thinking it was very short. Maybe a month or two only. He was shown the basic forms while the class went along as usual. Nothing really eventful I can recall right now.

Then Brad joined and came to class. Mike had some kind of weird relationship going on with Brad. He talked and acted like he did not respect him. But if he was not putting on a show for someone, Mike seemed to feel some kind of deference or the other to Brad. I know Brad came from a money family. I don't know if that was the source of Mike's attitude or not.

The first thing Mike wanted to do of course was to test Brad. For some reason I have this sense of slyness and deceit associated with the memory. Oh. I recall the reason for the sense of slyness. Because it was sly!

There was going to be a meeting that was a setup. Mike was big on planning things ahead of time to set people up. It was going to be planned to have the Ba Gua students do a demonstration. Then Brad would be asked to demonstrate. He would feel the social pressure and feel obligated to demonstrate. When he did, everyone would have the opportunity to judge him.

The reason I remembered it was a setup was because I did not want to demonstrate. I had practiced Wing Chun. The forms are mostly static and unmoving. They were not really suited to demonstration like the moving and traveling Ba Gua and Tai Chi styles. I had also basically vowed to never do the Wing Chun forms again because they had made me ill. Then I had the stage fright. There was no way I was going to demonstrate anything for anyone. I know myself. I do not make a problem for no reason. I don't want to be cajoled or talked into doing things. If I say I cannot do something, I cannot do it. Period.

It was agreed that Jeff, Lonnie and Cris would do a demonstration. This was something of a rare event because of the attendance of Cris. Cris had been missing quite a few of the classes of late. Being a doctor trainee etc, was his excuse I suppose. No one every made a big deal of him missing classes the way they did when they tried to get rid of me.

Cris was there because the presence of Brad interested him. Or the idea of the setup to test Brad was intriguing. I can say that because after the special event, he went back to missing classes. ;)

The weather was going to be bad for one weekend. It was going to rain for most of the day. It was decided that everyone would go to Jeff's for the class. Even though Jeff had a very small place as I described before, because it was an apartment complex, it had a large covered parking area under which 30 people or more could practice.

The women as well as the men came to class. That meant there were 30 or so people for the meeting. It would appear to be a large and respectable group of people for a new person to meet. Somehow everyone crowded into the apartment. There was some short talking as traditional. Not very long though because of the crowd. We then went out to the covered parking lot.

Mike did some more talking. Then it was "casually" suggested that Jeff do a demonstration. He did some forms and some Ba Gua walking I think. Lonnie then did a demonstration of the Tai Chi form since that was his interest. Then it was Cris's turn to demonstrate.

It was the first time I had ever seen full body power.

One of the purpose's of martial arts is to knit the entire body into one unit. Especially the advanced arts of Ba Gua, Tai Chi and Hsing Yi work towards this goal.

I had read about full body power of course. I had practiced some Tai Chi so I had performed movements that were supposed to be done with full body power. I myself could not do it. I had never really seen anyone that could do it. Because Tai Chi is done slowy, the unity of the body can be hidden or covered up. Once a particular level of body unity is reached, there are few further signs of change. A person just gets stronger and stronger and stronger. All you can see is the same smooth movement of a person with maybe a few years of practice.

I felt lucky to see it. It was one of those moments of epiphany. The light bulb went off over my head and I thought "So that is what full body power is". Instantly. Without a doubt. Total certainty.

The reason it was lucky was because cris was a low level kind of student. He was good and could do the forms very well. His body had not knitted together completelty yet though. He was maybe 90% one unit. What this meant is that parts of his body lagged just a little tiny bit. Not enough to be the broken movement of a learning student. Enough for me to realize what was happening.

I can see him doing the movement right this minute. He was moving sideways with his hands held close to his body. He had made a movement sideways to perform an attack. One leg stepped into the attack and the other leg followed. It was this other following leg that provided my lesson that day.

Even thought the parking lot was concrete, there was a slight covering of rocks on the ground. I think there might have been street surfacing going on. The parking cars brought the rocks into the parking lot with them.

When Cris moved sideways into the attack, his following leg hit the rocks. The caused him to lose his footing just enough to threaten to break the one piece unity of his body. I clearly saw him pull his leg back towards him to regain control of the foot. It was the way the leg pulled the foot back that showed me the full body unity. The rest of his body stayed one piece moving into the attack he was performing. It was only that leg that was pulling the errant foot back into position. It really was a significant event in my life. I had probably read that phrase "full body power" for 5 years in various books or heard the phrase in talking to various people.

After that, for me, Brad's display was anticlimactic. He went out and did some of his forms. Brad had learned Ba Gua from a guy named Adam Hsu I think. That style was totally different from Yin Fu Ba Gua. The Stance in Yin Fu is low to the ground in a crouch. Brad's style was standing up in an almost Tai Chi style stance with the back straight and upright.

I did not think much of it. Maybe because I was biased against Brad. Maybe because I was biased for Mike. Maybe because the Yin Fu was prettier. There really is something unique and proud about Yin Fu style Ba Gua. Something about performing the forms makes you feel special. I did not see that in Brad's demonstration.

After the plan was accomplished, to check out Brad's style, a regular class took place. We separated into men's and women's groups. The men might have stood around and talked a little bit. Then we did our practice. With the plan accomplished and the raining weather, we did not practice long. We headed back to Jeff's apartment and everyone eventually drifted off.