This is a story that one of my Sifu’s shared with me a long time ago. It is a short story and it goes like this…
‘ A sword is just a blunt piece of steel to begin with. To make a sword you first have to develop the rough shape of the blade and then grind an edge onto it. To get to this stage of development traditionally takes a lot of hard work and is done using very course grinding materials. And although it begins to look like a sword, the edge is not yet sharp and the sword is not too useful. You have to be careful at this time, because if you continue to grind it with these course methods you will grind away the steel until it becomes too weak to be a sword at all. So you have to change the sword-making method. At this time you have to use very fine polishing materials to sharpen and then maintain the edge of the sword you’ve created. Here you have to use softness, very refined motions, and diligent care – The sharp edge is the prize you seek.
So what you have to know clearly, is that if you didn’t first sweat and toil to grind the sword’s shape and rough edge into the blunt steel to begin with you would never have an adequate blade to sharpen – you would really have no sword at all.
The opposite is true as well. The blade will never be sharp, or last very long, unless you learn the secrets of how to polish a refined edge on to it – without this, the sword would never cut.‘
The Sifu left it at that. When you examine the origins of Baguazhang, you can see how this model fits Dong Hai Quan and his development of Baguazhang. The shape of the sword and it’s rough edge came from his many years of Longfist training. The sharpness that he became famous for came from the refined turning methods he developed (or maybe learned somewhere) in order to polish and maintain it. It explains a bit as to why Dong always taught Longfist to his students as a pre-requisite to what he called Turning-Fist (what we now call Baguazhang). Yin Fu, one of Dong’s disciples did the same. Actually most of Dong’s direct disciples carried on this tradition from as far as we can tell. It seems essential to do the same if we want a degree of the same results.