A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
Booklets and Pamphlets
Reviews by Christopher Dow
Pa-Kua: The Gentle Art of Health
by John Painter
(Paper Lantern Publishing Company, 1986, 18 pages)
The intro inside this slight booklet reads, “This complimentary copy of the Pa Kua Chang Healing Arts by Dr. John P. Painter, based upon the Spring Rain Ch’i Kung exercises of Professor Li Ch’ing Yuen’s Nine Dragon Pa Kua Chang art, is distributed by Internal Arts Magazaine to Charter subscribers only. The material in this manual is excerpted from Dr. Painter’s book Pa Kua Chang Taoist Boxing for Health & Self-defense. [Paper Lantern Publishing Company].”
The booklet is, then, basically a marketing tool for Painter’s book, but even so, it contains some interesting information on Bagua. It starts off with a brief introduction to the history and art of Bagua, but it quickly moves on to its main subject: Bagua’s effects on health and well-being. It seems to cite data gathered on Bagua by an organization called the Life Sciences Institute. There is a collaborative, independent research institution called the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but it was founded in 1999, so it probably isn’t the same organization as the one named by Painter. (1) There also is an International Life Sciences Institute in Washington, D.C., founded in 1978, but as this organization’s members are primarily food and beverage, agricultural, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies, this probably isn’t the one Painter was talking about, either. (2) And then there’s the California Life Sciences Institute…. Well, you see where this is going. Painter’s pamphlet was produced thirty years ago. Who knows which Life Sciences Institute he’s referring to, or even if it’s still in operation.
Nonetheless, Painter presents data from this institute in a chapter titled, “A Report on the Effects of Pa Kua Chang and Its Effects on Physical Conditioning and Health,” which data, he confesses, was still being acquired at the time of the writing. The researchers gathered data on aerobic capacity, strength development, flexibility, production of relaxation response, and overall health improvement fostered by Bagua. He doesn’t give complete data on all of these aspects, but he gives samples of studies of heart rate, which show a reduction in cardiovascular rates following a round of Bagua. In addition, the data showed a marked decrease in intercellular body fat as well as an increase in flexibility. Studies of stress management also showed greater relaxation following the set.
“Beneficial Effects of Pa Kua Chang” is the title of the next section, and it contains mostly anecdotal references to the Bagua master Li Ch’ing Yuen, followed by a list of benefits to the body, mind, and spirit. I won’t enumerate those here, but they’re pretty much what you’d expect—both with respect to Master Li's skills and Bagua's benefits—and this material could just as easily be a bio of a Tai Chi master and a list of Tai Chi benefits.
Next, the text discusses how “the methods of Pa Kua Chang and her two sister arts—Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing I Chuan—offer an unrealized source of rehabilitative energy to those in need of healing and rejuvenation.” After this, Painter goes into Bagua’s effects on the lymphatic system, which increases the art’s positive impact on the practitioner’s health and well-being.
Painter then presents the introductory material for the Spring Rain Cleansing Exercises, a series of eight chi kung exercises performed while walking around the Bagua circle. But before he actually demonstrates the eight exercises, he pauses to discuss diaphragmatic breathing, the basic methods of walking the Bagua circle, how to step and turn properly to avoid injuring the knees, and the eight roundings of Bagua—namely holding major joints in rounded rather than angular postures. The eight exercises themselves are run through in two pages. The book’s final page seems to be a continuation of the general instructions on walking the circle, with a discussion of stance height added.
Pa-Kua: The Gentle Art of Health has a simple saddle-stitched construction, and the type was set with a typewriter, but the cover is printed on coated stock. It is a unique pamphlet of its type since it does not go into form—except for the Spring Rain Chi Kung form—but mostly discusses other aspects of Bagua in a more expository fashion.
A Bora-Yong (Purple Dragon) Self-defense Course
by D. H. Elder, Jr.
(Bora-Yong Martial Arts Club, 1975, 24 pages)
Dragonbolt, Priest’s Lightning Bolt (PLB), Yarawa, and Kubotan are all names for a short stick held in the hand that can be used in fighting, and that instrument is the subject of this booklet. Elder opens the text with a several-page tale of a young priest using a PLB to subdue a gang of bandits who accosted him during a journey to another temple. It’s a fun if familiar story, and it demonstrates the cloaked nature as well as the effectiveness of this weapon when wielded in the right hands.
The next chapter looks at different configurations of the PLB, both in materials and profiles. What it leaves out is the idea that a great number of items can substitute for a store-bought PLB, such as pens, lipstick tubes, short bones, or nearly anything that’s about 6” long and of sufficient diameter that you can hold it without it slipping out of your hand and that is not so flimsy that it will bend or shatter when you strike a target with its end. Heck, you can even use the stiff corner of a wallet or other object that can be held in the hand.
The next section on grip and stances emphasize the user’s ability to conceal the PLB in the palm, gripping it only when using it to strike at vulnerable targets, such as pressure points and cavities. These are illustrated, front and back, and ways to strike them singly or in combination are also given. This is pretty solid if sketchy material, marred by the author’s obvious anti-liberal stance. Sorry, Mr. Elder, but most liberals I know would kick an assailant’s ass, too. The only difference between them and you is that they’d probably feel bad about it afterwards, while you, apparently, would gloat.
Then, after warning would-be martial artists to study only with qualified instructors, the booket presents an ad for the the Bora-Yong Martial Arts Club, which you could join for only $5. Your membership included a discount on items purchased from the club. Items advertised on the next few pages include Dragonbolts in various configurations, nunchuka, and three-section staffs. Closing out the book is a page advertising Bora-Yong Martial Arts Club’s six other booklets—with “more to come” printed at the bottom of the page. Whether or not further booklets did appear is unknown to me, as are the contents of the other six booklets the club did publish.
Dragonbolt has typewriter type that is double-spaced, so the information it contains is about half of what the pages could have held. The handful of illustrations are crisp. The cover is printed on a light-weight coated stock, but oddly, there is no real binding—the pages are simply stapled together.
1 “Life Sciences Institute,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Sciences_Institute
2 “International Life Sciences Institute,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Life_Sciences_Institute
3 California Life Sciences Institute website: http://califesciencesinstitute.org/