My Bagua Book

Well, it’s finally come to pass: I am finishing writing my book on How To Learn Bagua Zhang.

It’s been an intriguing experience. We have had so many requests for a companion to the DVD that I initially thought I would just write a step-by-step guide, like a sort of show-and-tell: the DVD being the show and the text, the tell.Bagua Zhang with Ted Mancuso @

But Bagua bested me, proving to be a little too  sophisticated an art for cursory examination. (If they ever publish a book, Bagua For Dummies, walk away –in a circle, of course.) Writing about Bagua is a challenge, even for someone with decades of teaching experience like myself.   It’s not just the difficulty of convincing people there is something to be gained by walking around in a circle thousands of times. You have to also try to prove to them that  forgetting all their beliefs about generating power is the way to get them to actually generate power.

Then I had my own internally generated moment: I suddenly realized that I  had to write a book that would actually teach Bagua Zhang. As reasonable as this sounds, I can sadly tell you that many–if not most–book writers in this field have long ago accepted the impossibility of teaching anyone martial arts through a text.

I gave a lot of thought about how to best do this, and decided that I use words when I teach. And words in a book can also teach. I just needed to re-frame my thinking.

I’ve long been aware that most martial arts books become very scanty when the hard work of instruction pops up on the scene. Text suddenly becomes only what will fit on a single line under the appropriate photo. It’s like notations made on the back of scrap book photos, “Jules, Jim and I having fun.”

But that is not how we teachers  really teach. Of course, we transmit instructions,  but we also back these instructions up with considerations of causes, situations, applications…things that are useful to the student’s progress; we even throw in  an occasional legend or pertinent bit of history. I saw in a flash that martial teachers are not giving instructions punctuated by a few stories. Really, we are telling a long tale embroidered by technical instruction.

(I remember a simply wonderful essay written by someone about his early days learning Kung Fu. His teacher would narrate an installment from that great folk story, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a little bit each night. He hated to miss class, not only for the Kung Fu practice lost but because he never wanted to skip an episode.)

I realized that this was narrative, plain and simple, the telling of a long story, the raft on which so much of the world’s civilization survives the floods of barbarism. Here is Odysseus, Aeneas, Don Quixote. I also, instantly, had a name for it: “Narrative Instruction.” My book, I decided, would try to replicate my teaching style. Instruct, correct, elaborate, explain. It will not be a book with all the forms and applications reduced to pictures floating on a naked page, suddenly and cruelly unsupported by words.

Will it work? We’ll see but, ultimately, you readers will have to tell me. Either way, I am having fun.

10 Responses to “My Bagua Book”

  1. J. Andrews says:

    Wow! If your book is anything like this essay about writing your book, it should be intriguing indeed!

  2. Rick says:

    I’m looking forward to it!

  3. Charlie says:

    Yes, Me too, looking forward to it. Most bagua zhang books I read, I cannot understand very well. How did you learn to read Chinese and translate? you are very talented and I cannot wait to buy.

  4. michael smith says:

    Sounds very intriguing! I do hope you will include photos of the form and applications AND provide the very detailed narrative you described with reference to your excellent art of change DVD. In my humble opinion that would be the best of all worlds. I’m excited at the prospect!


  5. steve weinbaum says:

    What else can I say but “me too”!

    Please consider it “pre-ordered” to use the expression that Amazon likes.


  6. Consider this a pre-order for your book. Just let me know when it’s ready.

  7. John Reeder says:

    Awesome. I was very impressed with your Bagua DVD, and I am looking forward to reading your book.

    Will you be including applications?


  8. Marco Sainte says:

    Considering that I was amazed with your two Bagua DVD’s (I honestly feel that they have the clearest instruction and explain the relevant information better than most other Bagua books and videos out there), it would be an understatement to say that I will be readily anticipating your book. I’m making sure to put the money aside to nab it as soon as it comes out.

  9. Mason Smith says:

    Please notify me when the book is ready. I enjoyed your teaching style on the video, so I’m really looking forward to the book.

  10. Ken Frankel says:

    If it is as good as the “Blossoms in the Spring” book that you co-authored then it will be very good indeed!

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