QA: The Benefit of Reeling Silk in Bagua

A little while back, we published a short video tutorial on Reeling Silk exercise in Bagua Zhang. We just received a nice comment on it from Lyn, plus a couple of questions…

Q: Very interesting little video. The informal style of it made it easy to watch–& a disappointment when it ended! I always tend to enjoy (and find useful) little asides such as comments that the circle-size isn’t too prescriptive.

One question–what’s the main benefit of reeling silk, and must it be done exclusively whilst circle-walking?

A: Interesting question – and fundamental, but not necessarily difficult.

Let’s go back to the nature of Chinese martial arts which, indubitably, is one of naturalness. We may start with artificial punches but our fervent hope is to make them more natural. Well, there are lots of aspects of naturalism — one of the key aspects being rotation. You know, plants don’t come out of the ground in a straight line; things in the world aren’t actually straight.

So, what we’re trying to do is get our movements ultimately and, essentially, true and correct. That also means, as Taoist principles would say, that the forms and the ideas are picked from nature. Reeling silk movement is a natural movement; it could be you pulling a plant out of the ground, you could be turning the doorknob, it’s all over the place. In fact, if we examine it, we see that linear movement is the fake. There is no such thing as purely linear movement. That Wing Chun punch in front of the nose may look straight, but if you examine more closely, the elbows actually spiral as it happens.

To address purpose from this angle is simple, because there are almost no good martial arts moves of any style that are linear compared to circular. Circularity exists in every style, even Japanese styles. As some of my friends from Shotokan would tell me, “We have this, too; they just don’t say it.”

So, we find Reeling Silk energy everywhere. From the scientific aspect, historically, Chinese used pattern identification, and that’s what we have here. Rotation is one of the key patterns — and not just of martial arts moves. Look at the turn of the Big Dipper, for instance. That’s why Tai chi was originally called polestar boxing; it was the idea of “Look, this is everywhere.”

Well, where does that leave us? Using Reeling Silk energy while walking the circle is not mandatory. In fact, I tell my students at the beginning, “Don’t get into that. Just walk a circle for a couple of minutes.” But once you’ve walked that circle a few hundred times, my answer changes. Then, it’s like asking “Should I do weightlifting without the weights?” That’s why you’re there, and that’s why you’re making a circle. What else rotates your entire body? This is a complete body rotation; that means multiple and opposed rotations.


Watching my new kittens, I see that when they wrestle (that’s several times a day), neither of them do any motion that isn’t rotational.


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2 Responses to “QA: The Benefit of Reeling Silk in Bagua”

  1. Herb Rich says:

    As a devotee of both CMA and cats, you had me at “watching my new kittens.”

  2. Plum Staff says:

    Well, not that it’s needed, but CMA gives us a good excuse to watch them constantly: everything from wrestling play to spine flexibility to the incomparable ‘stillness-to-motion’ pounce. True teachers, as well as true joy.