The serving tea exercises of Bagua are for developing integrated body movement, and power. They are based on a story involving Dong Hai Chuan the founder of Bagua. The story is about how he became the teacher for the palace guards.
As the story goes the Emperor entertained his guests to a great feast. The palatial grounds were crowded with people at that time, and entering and exiting was impossible for the servants. Dong Hai-Chuan , was able to maneuver in and out of the palace grounds by leaping on and off the courtyard walls while balancing trays in each hand. The Emperor was very impressed by Dong’s agility and questioned him. Dong revealed himself to be a Master of Baguazhang, and gave a demonstration of his skill. His performance was so unique that the Emperor made Dong the martial arts teacher of the palace guards.
So the exercises are done as if you have a tea cup in your hand that you must keep upright without spilling a drop, or dropping the cup. As I previously stated using these exercises you develop integrated body movement and power. This is a goal of all the internal martial arts. Though the terms used to describe what you are doing vary. For example taiji practitioners talk about reeling silk. This is the same thing with winding, and unwinding, coiling and uncoiling, and all the joints working in unison.
Bagua like all internal arts relies heavily on sensitivity. There are variations on Rou Shou to help develop sensitivity, and fighting applications. They all start out with a set pattern. Once you’ve mastered the pattern you move onto free style movement where either opponent can attack at will. Here is an example of a two man form being done free stye:
Here is an example of walking the circle in upper basin slowly. I’m doing the single palm change to change directions. Read my earlier blogs on bagua for clarification on walking the circle.
Here are a few applications out of tien gunn.
Here are some of the 25 tien gunn exercises. Tien gunn is used for developing fundamentals for Hsing-I and Bagua. I develops body integration, and root. It can also be done as a chi kung if you slow it down.
Maintain a relaxed, comfortable posture, and focused intention while walking. Follow these guidelines and the variations on the theme are endless.
1) Allowing the body to feel natural and relaxed, comfortable and connected when walking the circle. This helps a balanced chi flow throughout the body. It also stabilizes the body and improves balance while in motion.
2) Walk smoothly and continuously. You should not waiver, wobble, or bob up and down.
3) Maintain focused intention so the mind and body are in harmony. Tension restricts chi flow, and throws the body off balance. Keep relaxed.
4) The lower body is sunken downward while the upper body is held erect.
5) The head is held straight up, while the shoulders and elbows are dropped.
6) The back is rounded yet straight and erect while the chest is hollow.
7) The wrists are sunken, while the palm remains pressing.
8) The waist is relaxed, while the buttocks are tilted up and slightly forward.
Walking the circle is fundamental, and the basis of all training in Bagua. Bagua practitioners should walk the circle with spirit, intent, and power concentrated on a single goal. While Bagua circle walking trains footwork for fighting, it also follows the Taoist goal of creating stillness in motion.
The Taoist practice was to walk with the body natural and relaxed. The movements were to be comfortable. The intention was to gain a sense of balance while moving slowly. In the beginning you learn to walk the circle painstakingly slowly. In time you walk fast.
You walk the circle in one of the three basins. At first lower basin, you should be low so that the thighs move through a position where they are parallel with the ground. This develops great leg strength, stability, and root while moving. You learn this first, and walk slowly. Middle basin is somewhat higher( in the middle between upper and lower basin), with upper basin being the highest at a normal walking height.
As a general rule beginners and the Young should train lower basin, middle aged can train middle basin, and the elderly upper basin. The higher the basin, the faster one should walk. In an actual fighting situation move at upper basin.
Some Taoist walk the circle for meditative purposes. They walk the circle slow and steadily, with the mind calm and focused. Over time a high degree of mobility is developed when walking becomes very fast, and directional changes are frequent. Some practice to develop a balanced chi flow. To do so the movements and breathing must be smooth, and the dan tian stable. This walking method helps full chi circulation from head to toe.