by G.T. Little, Jr. and Gregory Hatza
[Adapted and re-edited by F. Hriadil]
en-light-en vt en-light-en-ing
- archaic: illuminate.
- to furnish knowledge to : instruct
- to give spiritual insight to
- freed from ignorance and misinformation
- based on full comprehension of the problems involved
- the act or means of enlightening: the state of being enlightened
- a philosophic movement of the 18th century marked by questioning of the traditional doctrines and values, a tendency toward individualism, and an emphasis on the idea of universal human progress, the empirical method in science and the free use of reason – used with
- Buddhism: a final blessed state marked by the absence of desire or suffering.
Source: Webster New Collegiate Dictionary 1997 p379: 13 down
No single word epitomizes the effect that Master Park Bok-Nam has on the martial arts better than “enlightenment.” It does not matter what system or style of martial art a person may practice. Any exposure to Master Park will strip away many confusing issues, questions, myths, or flat-out misinformation a practitioner might have about the enigmatic and continuously advancing art of Ba Gua Zhang.
Over quite a few years, we have attended many of Master Park’s seminars and never failed to witness dozens of proverbial “lights going on” over newcomers’ heads. Frequently, during Master Park’s lectures, one is bound to hear “oh, that’s why …” or “you know, I always wondered about that. This is the first time it ever made sense.” Even more common is the occurrence of students from various other styles or systems not being able to explain why they execute a move or series of moves in a particular fashion, other than to say that their instructor told them to do it that way.
While surrender and blind obedience may be admirable in a martial arts student, no such “fog” exists among Master Park’s students. They know exactly why they are doing what they are doing. And if for some reason they don’t, they know that they can ask and get a clear, precise, and absolute answer that makes incontrovertible sense. In fact, the very nature of Master Park’s teaching method promotes passionate dialogue among his students much like those that occur with seminary, rabbinical, psychiatric, or law students seriously involved in their studies. Once one gets even a glimpse of how deep this art really is, the thirst for knowledge becomes vitrually unquenchable.
A student of Master Park is not simply a drone following a syllabus who waits on trite positive reinforcements like grades, badges, sashes, certificates of achievement, or belts. It is likely that those who seek this kind of pop culture, business-oriented curriculum will be disappointed in the self-paced, traditional learning environment fostered by Master Park. Rather, his students are encouraged to study the natural principles upon which Ba Gua Zhang is based and are expected to research these principles to advance the level of the art. All stages of this pursuit serve to markedly enhance the serious student’s knowledge, understanding, skill level, and overall health irregardless of time or status. In other words, Master Park’s method of teaching and ongoing research, which was literally passed down to him by the five prior generations of Ba Gua Zhang developers and practitioners, is truly authentic, comprehensive, and progressive.
Though he had long dreamed of spreading traditional Ba Gua Zhang throughout the US, it still took over a year of extensive coaxing on our part to get Master Park to agree to teach outside of his school in Virginia. But, our persistence paid off and we were able to start a Saturday student group class in Maryland. The original Maryland group was made up of roughly 10 black belts (or their equivalent in ranking) from various other styles and systems, and from a number of different locations such as New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia.
The travel demands willingly accepted by the students and instructors attending this Saturday Maryland class demonstrated the deep commitment that they all shared for this art form, and for the unique learning experience of studying with Master Park. Imagine. Every single Saturday, Master Park and his assistants, Glenn Wright and Glen Moore, would make a 3-hour drive from Richmond to our location in Maryland. At the same time, the students forming the group were driving from 1 hour (D.C.) to 4 1/2 hours (N.Y) to paricipate in the class. The class itself was, and still is, 3 hours long. Once concluded, participants had the same grueling commute back home. Every Saturday, rain or shine. We even met during the worst weather conditions (snow, ice, hail storms, etc.) one could imagine. The only time we didn’t meet was if the hosting facility was closed. That is dedication!
As time progressed and more people became aware of Master Park’s background and expertise, various practitioners from throughout the country contacted him about setting up classes in their areas as well. This eventually resulted in the formation of student groups in New York, Boston, California, Minnesota, Washington, and other areas. The number continues to grow.
Every year now, instructors and students from all of these groups come together at Master Park’s annual Summer Training Camp in Maryland. There, over a 5 day period, we engage in a seriously intensive regimen of Ba Gua Zhang training that runs literally from sunrise to sunset. At the end of each camp, attendees generally find themselves greatly improved in their Ba Gua skills and, equally important, in their level of understanding of Ba Gua Zhang. Moreover, their enthusiasm for the art and confidence in the method grows considerably. The bottomline is that once exposed to the Ba Gua method taught by Master Park, most martial artists don’t want to bother with anything else. Serious students simply love this stuff!
The reason for this goes back to our opening remarks. Master Park’s method is clear and complete. There is no circus-like shroud of mystery surrounding his system. The students learn the reasons for and the applications of the methods they are taught, and Master Park drills this training into them until their responses become reflexive. Any serious and experienced practitioner of any martial art will tell you that “reflexive response” is what one strives for most. Otherwise, a martial art is useless beyond its exercise appeal.
The more you understand, the easier it is to assimilate the methods of Ba Gua Zhang and the easier it becomes to practice correctly. Then, all that is required is repetition and patience. In this way, “reflexive response” becomes securely ingrained in your body (where it belongs and where it can do some good when needed), as well as being understood in the mind.
An important result, as far as the martial arts goes, is that you too can become enlightened!
[ Editor’s Note: Gregory Hatza is a certified instructor of Master Park’s method and the director of the Catonsville, MD Student Group. G.T. Little, Jr. is a long time student of Master Park. ]