By Heather McLean, instructor, Southern Crane Kungfu
The Ba Duan Jing, or Eight Section Brocade, was created in the Song Chao, or the Song Dynasty, some time between 960 AD to 1279 AD. According to legend, the set of exercises was designed by General Yue Fei, who saw that his soldiers were weak of mind, body and spirit, so he came up with a solution; the Eight Section Brocade.
These eight exercises pull together Chinese medicine, body strength and flexibility, the senses, and martial skill. They are a unique set of exercises, and they most definitely work effectively.
A basic way of understanding what these exercises do is to think of them in two halves. The first four exercises work the spleen and stomach, which are secondary sources of chi; the stomach pulls nutrition from food, and the spleen rules the immune system (it is where the macrophages and lymphocytes, two of the five types of white blood cell, are created).
The second set of exercises focus on the kidneys, the primary source of chi. The aim is to keep them soft and supple, as weak kidneys mean weak chi.
Each exercise activates a different part of the body, linking the six harmonies with the acupressure channels that run from the eyes, nose, ears, lips and tongue, through the body to an organ. Each twist and shake and stretch pulls and twists organs, muscles and tendons, invigorating and releasing bad energy, plus generating more chi, while strengthening the body and sharpening the mind.
I was taught these exercises by our Calling White Crane Master, Master Feng Wu. I have seen the Eight Section performed in the UK before, but it is quite unlike the version I know. The style I have seen seems to be relatively easy to do, with higher stances and less taxing movements than the version I know, which is low down and hard work.
I recently ran a Masterclass for our students, which was a resounding success, and I hope to run more of the same in the future. It is great to share knowledge when you know it will be of benefit to others.