The Baduanji is a set of exercises created by Marshal Yeuh Fei during the Southern Sung Dynasty (1129A.D. – 1279A.D.) for improving his soldier’s health. Since that time, these exercises have become one of the most popular exercises in China. The history of the Baduanji (Eight Pieces of Brocade) is said that originally there were 12 pieces of brocade, but after being passed down from generation to generation for more than 800 years, they were edited to 8. Yeuh Fei isn’t only credited with being the founder of two martial arts styles: Eagle Claw (an external style) and Hsing I (an internal style). Yeuh Fei is considered one of the wisest and bravest heroes in the history of China, and he is highly respected even today. The main purpose of Chi Kung styles in this category is to first gain mental and spiritual calmness, peace and balance.
Start with standing meditation – feet shoulder width apart, hands in front as if you are holding a ball at chest level, thumbs up, Fingers apart, eyes forward.
1) Supporting the Sky with Both Hands Stretch – Slowly raise your arms, keeping your shoulders relaxed, as if you were lifting an invisible balloon in front of you, palms up flat, finger tips toward each other, but not touching. As your hands reach chin level, turn palms outward to face up, and bring them above the crown of your head. Raise up on toes. Bring arms down to neutral. Repeat.
2) Drawing a Bow to Each Side – Gently raise hands so that the form an “x” in front of your chest, palms facing you, left hand closer to chest. Turn face to left. Reach right hand slightly to left side and curl fingers loosely, as if holding the drawstring. Turn left palm to left side and press as if against the wood of an archer’s bow. Pull back with right elbow, not hand, as you continue to press left hand. Keep shoulders relaxed. Relax arms to neutral position. Repeat on opposite side. Repeat.
3) Holding Up a Single Hand – Extend your left hand upward, palm facing up, fingers pointing back while extending right hand downward, palm facing down, fingers pointing forward. Extend and push palms flat. Switch positions. Repeat.
4) Looking Back Like a Cow Gazing at the Moon – Raise your hands face level, as if looking through hands like window. Turn entire upper body to left. Look as far back as possible. Make sure your hands remain in front of face. Return to front. Drop hands. Bring hands back up. Start opposite side. Repeat.
5) Stretch Over Lowering the Head and Hips – Bend over to left side, keeping your right arm curved above your head. Let your left arm hangs to side. Transfer weight to right side. Relax arm and hips and back, and fold forward. Roll back up to neutral position. Repeat on opposite side. Repeat.
6) Gather Heaven and Earth by Touching the Feet with Both Hands – Raise arms to shoulder height, palms facing up. Bring arms overhead. Keep arms round, as you turn palms down. Press downward in front of chest with palms down. As you reach chest level, bend knees into low squat, keeping back straight. Do not lean forward. Push palms down as near to floor between feet as possible. Relax arm and hips and back, and fold forward. Roll back up to neutral position. Repeat.
7) Slow reaches – Left hand reaches forward palm down, while right hand reaches back, palm up. Look towards back hand. Switch positions. Repeat.
8) Shaking the Body – Place hands with back of hands to lower back (upper butt). Bounce on feet, while keeping shoulder and arms relaxed. Repeat.
Finish with standing mediation.
Link to video of me instructing Baduanji: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Diu5czUaM&t=34s
Additional information on the exercises can be obtained from:
Master Lam Kam Chuen, The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung [ed. Qigong] Exercise. New York: Fireside Books, 1991. This book has an excellent section on the preparatory exercise of “Hugging a Tree” or “Holding a Balloon.”
Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, The Eight Pieces Of Brocade (Ba Duann Gin) – A Wei Dan Chi Kung Exercise Set for Improving and Maintaining Health. Yang’s Martial Arts Association (YMAA), 1988.
Edward C.Chang, trans. Knocking at the Gate of Life and Other Healing Exercises from China: Official Manual of the People’s Republic of China. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1985.
Michael P. Garofalo, “Eight Section Brocade,” at http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/esb.htm.
Yang Bolong, “Four kinds of meaning in the exercise of Ba Duan Jin,” Chinese Health QiGong Association.
Chinese Health QiGong Association, “Health Qigong: Origin of Ba Duan Jin,” “Baduanjin qigong,” at Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baduanjin.