Eight Pieces of Brocade
The Eight Pieces of Brocade or Ba Duan Jin are often attributed to the twelfth century Chinese general Yue Fei who developed them as a method to keep his army healthy and as a way to strengthen the body, balance the vital functions and to drive stagnant energy and toxins from the system. It is possible there were originally twelve exercises but these have been whittled down over the years to eight. The Eight Brocades is a very popular Qigong set and is ideal for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Although simple these exercises have a lot to offer and even when practicing the set as simple physical exercises the routine will loosen your muscles, improve your posture, enhance your blood circulation and ultimately create a profound sense of wellbeing and relaxation. However by involving your mind (Yi) in your qigong practice you will reap their full benefits.
The Eight Brocades are possibly one of the most varied forms of Classical Qigong and today there are many different variations, some more energetic and martial, some slower and more relaxing, some practiced seated.
Over the years I have learned many different ways to practice these exercises and what follows in the notes below is my interpretation of the most common way to practice them including some of my preferred variations.
The 8 Steps of Ba Duan Jin
- Two Hands Reach up to the Heavens to regulate the San Jiao (Triple Burner)
- Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Eagle
- Raise hand on each side to adjust the Spleen & Stomach
- Wise Owl gazes backwards (to help prevent diseases and injuries)
- Sway the Head and Shake the Tail (to help get rid of the “Xin-Huo” Symptoms)
- Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
- Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely (or Angrily) to Improve Strength and Qi
- Bouncing (7 Times) on the Toes and Heels to Help Prevent Disease
To gain the best effect each exercise should be repeated 8, 12 or 16 times. Start off with 6 times each and add more repetitions. The ancient texts recommend 24 to 36 repetitions each.