Baduan literally means “eight sections” and jin, “brocade”.
Like most popular traditions in any culture the origins of Baduanjin are shrouded in myth and legend. Some say they began several thousands of years ago. There are, in fact, historical records of exercises that resemble Baduanjin dating back 4000 years to the time of the Yao settlements. An exciting piece of evidence was unearthed in the late 1970’s known as the Dao Ying Xing Qi Fa (Method of Inducing Free Flow of Chi). This silk book dates from the Western Han Dynasty and contains 44 drawings of men and women from different social classes in exercise postures very similar to Baduanjin.
It is known for certain that the famous General Yeuh Fei who lived during the Southern Sung Dynasty developed a set of 12 exercises to train his army. These later, he simplified to eight. In the course of its development, Baduanjin has appeared in a number of different versions. Two fo the more popular versions are one done seated and another done standing. The seated version was devised by Zhong Li in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and rearrand rearranged by Li Shixin, a lecturer in the Physical Education Department of Beijing University. The standing version was compiled by Zhuo Dahong, associate professor at Zhangshan medical College, on the basis of several already existing standing versions. Today visitors at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China can see statues of monks performing Baduanjin and use them as part of their daily training. Listed below are the names of the eight standing movements:
- Supporting the Heavens with Two Hands (Tonify the triple warmer)
- Drawing the Bow as Though Shooting the Eagle (Tonify the lungs)
- Separating Heaven and Earth (Tonify stomach and spleen)
- Wise Owl Gazes Backwards (Tonify eyes, neck, and spine)
- Shake the Head and Wag the Tail (Tonify the heart)
- Reaching Down to Dissipate Kidney Disease (Tonify kidneys and lower back)
- Punching with Intense Gaze to Increase Ch’i (Improves strength and shoulders)
- Shaking Body to Ward Off Disease (Helps release tension)
Wikipedia has a description of how to perform the standing version of Baduanjin. Also listed are the seated movements:
- Internal focus with clenched fists (helps to stabilize body and mind)
- Relax the whole body.
- Clench fists and focus there for about 10-15 breathes.
- Hold the Mountain with Hands (knock teeth 36 times)
- Interlock fingers behind head
- Strike upper teeth with lower teeth 36 times.
- Sound Heavenly Drum (tap fingers 24 times)
- Move hand to cover ears.
- Tap back of head 24 times with middle finger pressed under index finger.
- Rotate the Heavenly Pillar (10 times)
- Slowly rotate the head around the shoulders 5-10 times in each direction.
- Whirlpool (36 times, swallow in 3 gulps to dantian)
- Stir tongue 36 times between hard and soft palates to produce a mouthful of saliva.
- Swallow it in three gulps.
- Rub Lower Back (rub hands to make them warm)
- Rub hands together until warm.
- Slowly massage lower back with both hands 36 times.
- Push breath down (3 times, do so gently)
- Inhale, hold it, then breath out and push downward.
- Rotate Shoulders (36 times)
- Rotate shoulders as if hands are hold the pedals of bike.
- Support Heaven with Two Hands (9 times)
- Palms up, raise hands over head with fingers interlocked.
- Pull Toes with Two Hands (9 times)
- Grasp middle part of both soles with separate hands and pull feet.
- Whirlpool (36 times, swallow in 3 gulps to dantian, a repeat of #5)
- Prime the Orbit (3 times, a repeat of #7)
We like to finish with some isometrics and relaxation techniques then do microcosmic orbit meditation. You can purchase a 15 minute video of Sifu Fong Ha teaching the 12 Pieces of the Brocade at a workshop in the store.