The Feb 2020 issue of Hiden Magazine (a martial arts magazine in Japan) featured my November 2019 workshops in Tokyo, Japan. Deep and sincere gratitude to the International Martial Studies Research Institute (Kokusai Bugaku Kenkyukai) for organizing and hosting all the workshops and to my Grandmaster, Mitsuoka Sensei and my teacher Sifu Christopher Matsuo for all their wisdom and guidance. Below is the article along with the English translation. Photos of workshop tour here.
Raymond Carbullido Sensei’s Dragon & Snake Style Bagua Zhang
– The martial arts evolution in Hawaii –
What is the power of “Vortex”?
Hawaiian Style Bagua Zhang – The ‘Vortex’
In November of 2019, The International Martial Studies Research Institute (IMSRI) hosted a Bagua Zhang seminar in Shinjuku City Tokyo, Japan featuring Raymond Carbullido Sensei. Carbullido Sensei was born in Guam in 1974 and is an artist by trade. He has trained in many different martial arts including Icho Ryu Aikijujutsu, Kenjitsu, and Jojitsu. In 1995 he moved to Hawaii and started training Bagua Zhang with Christopher Lee Matsuo Sensei. Carbullido Sensei also trains with Hidetoshi Mitsuoka Sensei.
Bagua Zhang is known as one of the three Neijia internal martial arts styles, the other two being Tai Chi Quan and Xing Yi Quan. While Bagua Zhang is very well known in Japan, there are not many instructors or dojos that teach it. Needless to say, many people came from all over Japan to attend this seminar. Carbullido Sensei teaches that Bagua Zhang is the master key to explore the natural movements of the human body.
Footwork – Center, Circle and Toes
Throughout the seminar, Carbullido Sensei taught fundamental Bagua Zhang footwork, postures, and movements to the participants. For new students, Bagua Zhang can appear to be extremely complicated, with intricate stepping patterns and many flowing body movements seamlessly linked together. However, Carbullido Sensei has the ability to simplify Bagua Zhang to its core movements and present them in a way that allows participants to come away with a functional understanding and foundation for their practice. The first movement that Carbullido Sensei introduced was walking a circle. Walking is a basic and essential human movement and forms the foundation for Bagua Zhang. The seminar participants formed a large circle and began walking around the circumference of the circle. Carbullido Sensei instructed everyone to keep their toes pointed in the direction that they were walking and to efficiently change directions from clockwise to counterclockwise. Further guidance was given to emphasize skillful movement, such as keeping the body weight on the balls of the feet instead of the heals and ensuring postural alignment throughout the body.
Why Bagua Zhang is so complicated
Bagua Zhang can appear complicated because it is an organic martial art as opposed to a linear system. To simplify the organic nature of Bagua Zhang, Carbullido Sensei taught that there are circles everywhere in our environment. However, these circles and their centers are arbitrary and mobile. For example, we can think of each of us as being at the center of our own personal circle, but if we begin to walk around something else, then we become the circumference of the circle and the thing we are walking around becomes the center. The center of any given circle can also change based on the direction that we are currently facing. When two people, with their own circles and centers, make contact with each other, the contact point becomes the center and the two people involved become part of the circumference. Carbullido Sensei also taught that it is important to be mindful of which circle we are currently activating. In Bagua Zhang, we are constantly navigating or weaving between tangent circles, somewhat like square dancing. If we get confused with all the changes in navigating our environment, we can simply go back to the easiest circle for us to see and navigate in that space.
Body twist – Vortex
To further a functional understanding of Bagua Zhang, Carbullido Sensei frequently used the word “vortex.” Vortices occur naturally in ocean waves, volcanoes, hurricanes, whirlpools and elsewhere throughout nature. A vortex can be described as a spiraling cone shape that embodies both centrifugal and centripetal forces. Centrifugal force is understood as the force that acts in a direction away from the center of the vortex, while centripetal force acts towards the center. In the context of martial arts, there are vortices found innately within the human body and in every skillful martial movement. For example, complimentary vortices can be found in the upper and lower body, acting independently and harmoniously at the same time. Each appendage (arms and legs) expresses its own vortex as well and in a complimentary manner that is in relation to the body as a whole. A cultivated understanding of the relationships between vortices within the body and in one’s environment can allow skillful navigation through internal and external chaos.
Cross-cultural interaction between China and Hawaii
Some people say Bagua Zhang is a mystical style. The principle and philosophy of this style is explained in terms of the I Ching, Yin-Yang, and the Five Elements. According to one theory, Bagua Zhang was not so complicated a style when Dong Haichuan, the founder of Bagua Zhang, created it. After Dong Haichuan, people practicing Bagua Zhang added new ways of explaining and practicing to understand the essence of Bagua Zhang. As a result, Bagua Zhang became a system that has tremendous amount of information. In his seminar Carbullido Sensei never used common Bagua Zhang terms such as “circle walking” or “single palm change” and so on. Instead, he used simple terms that people use in their daily lives. The reason why Carbullido Sensei can explain Bagua Zhang in such a very simple way can be attributed to him being an artist with a lot of martial arts experience, especially with Bagua Zhang. Based on his experience he has developed a unique way of teaching and explaining this complicated style. It is fascinating that a Chinese martial art, Bagua Zhang, made its way to Hawaii and has evolved to such a high level of sophistication.
English Translation by Kotaro Morita
Editing of English Transcript by Robert McMullin