Bai Hua, a student of Liu Hung Chieh, was Beijing-educated. I met Bai Hua in
Hong Kong and was lucky that he was an
extremely articulate Mandarin speaker because I spoke only Mandarin. I shared
an apartment with Bai Hua for a time and he had as strong an influence on me as
did Huang Hsi I, especially in terms of lengthening body tissue and
opening-closing the joints and body cavities.
Bai Hua’s method of teaching was to focus on the most critical information.
His emphasis was on creating chi and yang internal power. A former Red Guard
general when he was a teenager, his martial approach was based on creating
techniques that only required one or at the most two hits to completely
Bai Hua studied with other teachers besides Liu Hung Chieh. Bai Hua began
learning chi gung when he was six years old to cure himself of a case of severe
hepatitis. He was sent to a village in the countryside that was so poor that
there were no herbs or acupuncture needles. So the local Chinese doctor taught
him chi gung to survive.
From that time, until he was 13 and met Liu, he had learned chi gung, Northern Shaolin and Eight Drunken Immortals boxing (an
internal/external form of martial arts). Bai Hua used to talk about the massive
street fights in Beijing
between the left- and right-wing Red Guard factions.
There, he witnessed young Red Guard bagua practitioners lifting and throwing
their rivals on their heads to their deaths. Over time, these battles escalated
to the use of swords and spears. It was in these large-scale fights that Bai
Hua gained his deep respect for bagua as a martial art of the highest order,
especially against multiple opponents in life-and-death battles.
Bai Hua’s clarity about internal chi and his mastery of the movement of
physical tissue below the skin was as astounding as it was precise. Everything
Bai Hua did was purely Taoist with no Buddhist overtones.
He emphasized the Fire method of Taoism (which Liu taught him, as opposed to
the Water method, which Liu taught me), and was highly trained in inner
alchemy. His knowledge of the Hua Shan chi gung tradition and the Old Yang
style of tai chi chuan he learned from Lin Du Ying were invaluable in my
attempt to comprehend the fundamentals of chi gung.
Bai Hua stressed the chi chu dzuo practices. Like Huang Hsi I and Liu Hung
Chieh, he emphasized personal practice above all else. Without Huang Hsi I and
Bai Hua, I would not have had the background or gung fu to have been qualified
to study with Liu Hung Chieh, and would not have been able to comprehend Liu’s
work and transmissions.
How Bai Hua Taught
Bai Hua was a student of classical Taoism, in particular the I Ching. He saw all the chi processes of
bagua and tai chi as being nothing more than practical applications of the I Ching.
He was concerned with what one’s goal was, the conditions necessary to
fulfill that goal, what specific techniques would be required to efficiently
accomplish the goal, and what reinforced or negated that goal. He explained the
framework of any problem in terms of the I
Ching and the various Chinese classics, including the Tai Chi Classics.
His way of teaching was to first have a student clearly understand the
philosophical principles and theories. He would then focus on how to consciously
turn the theories into practical applications for internal body movement (that
is, the movement of chi inside the body and the specific mind states that would
produce the required flow of chi).
Bai Hua emphasized large power movements in the manner of Wang Shu Jin,
rather than small movements and changes like Hung I Hsiang and Huang Hsi I.
In June of 1981, I visited Bai Hua in Hong Kong on the way to my first study
trip to Beijing, where I had been invited to
study tai chi at China’s
main Institute of
Physical Education. I
asked Bai Hua if I could train with his teacher while I was there. Bai Hua said
he hoped that I could.
He told me that Liu Hung Chieh was a recluse in the middle of the city and
did not teach people very often. He then added that it was totally
unpredictable whether or not Liu would teach me, even if he asked on my behalf.
Liu kept his own counsel and often refused to teach people—even some very
famous martial artists in China
who had sought him out.
Bai Hua then proceeded to write me a formal letter of introduction. As I
later learned, shortly before my arrival at his home, Liu had had a dream about
teaching a foreigner, who fit my description and consequently agreed to take me
on as a student.
At the end of this training, I became the first Westerner to be certified in
the complete simplified tai chi system, including form, Push Hands and weapons.