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Experiencing the Vastness of Ba Gua Zhang at Summer Camp

Imagine awaking early in the morning to the sounds of nature. Soon after, you take a five-minute walk in the crisp morning air on the hilly grounds. Around you are various dorm buildings and housing among the beauty of large trees and an old country ranch look and feel, including the horses (keep an eye on those horses, they’ll be watching you). Numerous others are working their way in the same direction towards the open area of eight tennis courts.

When you get there, you see the others finding their places in lines of ten spread across the courts. They move about loosening up awaiting the start of the session with Master Bok-Nam Park (Shizu), Shifu Moore (Shibo), and the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang motto: Wisdom-Benevolence-Sincerity-Bravery!

Over a hundred have gathered from all over the world. From Boston to San Diego; from Italy, Switzerland and England; from Brazil and now even an American coming from Japan. All over the world there are students of Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang.  Since 1992 students of Master Park have gotten together for the annual Training Camp every June.

After going through the regular warm-up set, students disperse to find a comfortable place to sit and do some deep breathing and meditation. This is followed by various Qi Gong practice and Ba Gua Zhang’s signature training-walking the circle.

Morning Qi Gong Practice at Pa Kua Chang Summer Camp

This morning practice will last about two hours, after which all are ready for a hearty breakfast – which has been prepared and is waiting for you at the cafeteria.

Everyone convenes in the cafeteria where we have some wonderful and interesting conversations with such varied kinds of people from all walks of life. All brought together for one common interest. Getting such diverse perspectives can be fascinating.

Breakfast is usually followed by one of Master Park’s informative lectures. As the sole inheritor of the Ba Gua Zhang system of his Shifu, Master Lu Shui Tian, this is always a wonderful and illuminating part of the camp. Even his most senior students never know what gem he might offer.

After the morning talk you’re off to do some physical practice. Usually this is an empty hand practice and after lunch you get to work on the basics of the Ba Gua staff or broadsword. By the end of each day you’re both exhausted and exhilarated, eager for more. as you relax and enjoy the down time.

The camp is a throwback to ancient times when a martial artist could be fully engaged all day in the practice, without the distractions of modern society. It’s also a big smorgasbord of this system as you get to “taste” a wide variety of what it contains. Whether it’s by observation of others or on complete and utter focus on your own practice in the moment, you will experience the vastness of Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang.

Close your eyes and just imagine…

Originally published February, 2005 under the title “Imagine…”

About Shifu Ahles

Shifu Raymond Ahles, the owner and Chief Instructor of the Blue Dragon School, is a certified instructor of Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu & Chi Kung and a 7th Generation Lineage Disciple in the Ch'iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association. In addition to his 25 years plus teaching experience in the martial arts, Shifu Ahles also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Physiology and has an extensive background in the healing arts of Oriental Medicine including certifications in Advanced Amma Therapy, Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture.

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