8 Pieces of Brocade
The name "eight sections of silk," also translated as "eight pieces of brocade," is commonly read as BA DUAN JIN in Chinese and PAL DAN KUM in Korean. However, the title itself, “eight pieces of brocade” is inaccurate. The correct name is "pull and break tendons." “Eight Sections of Silk” has nothing to do with the number "eight", though in Chinese, the terms sound almost the same.
The former is written as:
(eight sections of silk)
The latter is written as:
(pull and break tendons)
Today the name "eight sections of silk" is used almost everywhere. The first author made the first mistake, and all of the subsequent books followed that same mistake. In much the same way these exercises have also been referred to as “weaving of the eight silken form” or, more simply as “the silk-weaving exercises”. To date, no one has found a historical relationship between these exercises and the silk industry but there is always the possibility such movements might have been popular for addressing the the results of long hours at tedious labor.
Regardless of background, all of these exercises share some interesting commonalities.
Many books on "eight sections of silk" describe the exercises as consisting of what they called the "scholars' eight sections" and "martial artists' eight sections". The former exercises are performed sitting on the floor and the latter exercises are performed standing up. There are also a know variety performed while laying on the floor.
Another commonality is nature of the breathing, which though varied from place to place tends to follow roughly the same pattern. In execution, one inhales on the action, holds briefly and exhales on the reaction.
Lastly, a third commonality is that use of these movements invariably falls into one of three uses. By using weights, raising the tempo or increasing the repetitions one can use these movements for conditioning. At a slower rate, one can also use these movements to identify limits to one's range of motion and conditioning. Thirdly, by slowing the rate further yet, these movements can be used as a form of relaxation and contemplation.
A film clip of this material is available while the following description of the material explains the individual methods in detail.
Perform "Insa" or the opening salutation. Circle the arms from Outside to Inside and then from Inside to outside. Begin with the feet comfortably together. With each technique the feet will move apart approximately 14 inches to a maximum of about 42 inches with numbers 4 and 5, before closing at the same rate. Where reference is made to a "shoulder-width", this distance is measured from the outside of one foot to the outside of the other.
Ill bon. (“Push Up the Heavens”)
From a relaxed position, with the hands at the side and one-shoulder-width apart, inhale deeply and raise both extended arms in broad arcs to either side of the body, the hands coming to an overlapping position above the head, palms up.
Pushing your palms towards the sky and locking the breath in low in the abdomen, rise up on your toes.
After holding your breath for a comfortable count and return your heels to the ground and exhale slowly as your arms drop in broad arcs back to your sides.
Note: It is also optional to let the right hand grasp the four left hand fingers with the left hand palm facing upward. Yet another option is to interlace the fingers. With each subsequent repetition reverse the positions of the hands relative to each other.
E bon (“Separate Heaven and Earth”)
Open feet an additional 7-10 inches or about one shoulder-width and a half. With open hands at the solar plexus, palms faced in towards the chest, begin to inhale. As one hand rises and the other hand falls.
Though initially leading with the fingertips, as the arms reach their maximum extension, the wrists are extended with the uppermost palm facing up and the lower palm facing down.
Lock the breath in and down for a comfortable count as the focus is on pressing upward and downward respectively with the palm-heel of each hand.
Begin to exhale your breath as the hands collapse back to the solar plexus.
Begin to inhale as the motion is performed using the alternate hands rising and falling.
Sam bon. (“Draw a bow to shoot a vulture”; aka: “The Archer”)
Open feet approximately another 7-10 inches or to about two shoulder-widths. Pull both palms up to the solar plexus area while taking a 1/4 breath in.
Inhaling as deep as possible, act like your right hand is drawing a bow string back and the left arm is at full length with the palm facing east,.
After locking your breath for a comfortable count, begin to exhale as the bow is allowed to collapse to your center.
From the center begin to inhale as the drawn bow is constructed to the alternate side.
Lock the breath down at the final point in the draw.
After locking your breath for a comfortable count, begin to exhale as the bow is allowed to collapse to your center.
After holding your breath for as long as possible, bring your finger tips together in front of your face.
Note: Remember to keep the arms, elbow, and hands level when you expand keeping tension in the shoulder.
Be sure to do both sides.
Sa bon. (“Pushing the mountains aside”)
Open feet approximately another 7-10 inches or to about two shoulder-widths and a half, rise and center in a Straddle or Horse stance.
As you begin to inhale, drag the backs of the hands across the centerline to the left. Pivoting on the balls of the feet shift from a Horse Stance to a Bow stance facing to the Left. The hands begin to arc in a large circle, clockwise and upon reaching the 7 o’clock position begin to press forward to the left. Pressing as far with the heels of the palms as is possible lock your breath comfortably in the abdomen.
Relaxing the arms and shoulders, exhale slowly as the backs of the hands now swing low across the centerline. The body pivots on the balls of the feet, exhaling until the body once again faces forward in a Horse stance. At this point begin to inhale as the backs of the hands continue to the right and arc upwards counter-clockwise and pivot on the balls of the feet to assume a right-facing Bow Stance. This time, when the hands reach the 5 o’clock position they press as far to the right with the heels of the palms as is possible, once again locking your breath comfortably into the abdomen.
Relaxing the arms and shoulders, exhale slowly as you return to a forward-facing Horse Stance.
Note: The arms are swung in a large controlled arc.
O bon. (“Panther in the Grass”)
Inhaling, lower the body over the right ankle, and straighten the left leg, extending the left foot out to the side. There should be a maximum of about 40 to 44 inches between the heels or about the same distance between the feet as with "Pushing Mountains aside.
The right palm moves to a position in front of the left shoulder, fingertips up and palm facing out to the left. The left hand is at waist level in from of the right hip fingertips pointed out to the side and palm facing down.
Begin to exhale as the hips shift from over the right ankle to a position over the left ankle, the right foot is now extended as the right leg straightens.
While shifting the hips, the right hand begins to close, thumb tip to finger tips and draws away from the left side, across the centerline and to move out and up to the high right side of the body as the arm straightens. At the same time the left wrist flexes strongly as the thumb-tips and fingertips also come together and move away from the right hip, across the centerline and to extend, with the back of the wrist foremost, to the lower left side.
Lock your breath out for a comfortable count while extending your hands in either direction.
Begin to inhale as the hands move to a complimentary position on the left side. The left hand moves to a position in front of the right shoulder, fingertips up and palm facing out. The right hand is at waist level in from of the left hip fingertips pointed out to the side and palm facing down.
Once again begin to exhale as the hips shift from over the left ankle to over the right. Again, while shifting the hips, the left hand begins to close, thumb tip to finger tips and draws away from the right side, across the centerline and to move out and up to the high left side of the body as the arm straightens. At the same time the right wrist flexes strongly as the thumb-tips and fingertips also come together and move away from the left hip, across the centerline and to extend, with the back of the wrist foremost, to the lower right side.
Lock you breath out for a comfortable count while extending your hands in either direction.
Note: Keeping your eyes level and focused on the horizon much like the ARCHER exercise.
Hold this position and your breath for as long as possible.
While extending the arms in opposite directions strive to force ALL THE AIR OUT).
As with the ARCHER exercise, movement first to one side and then to the other constitutes a single repetition.
Yuk bon. (“Tiger meets the day” )
Close the feet approximately 7 inches or about two shoulder-width apart.
Begin to Exhale a ¼ breath while lowering the chest of the body towards the floor until contact is made with the hands.
Inhale while executing a deep scooping motion with the shoulders, causing the chest to brush the floor and the shoulders to rise. The back should be tightly flexed with the chest perpendicular to the floor. Lock the breath down deep in the abdomen.
Begin to exhale as you reverse the scooping motion and return to the position with the hands on the floor.
Inhale as you repeat the sequence as before.
Note: Despite the name of the exercise this motion is not to be confused with the “rowing” motion characteristic of “Tiger push-ups”.
A double breath sequence can be accomplished from standing position. In this case, exhale while bending at the waste, and inhale while extending out. Lock the breath for a comfortable moment or two and then exhale as you retract. Inhale as you return to standing position and exhale as the entire sequence is repeated.
Chil bon (“Dragon Looks back at the Moon”)
With hands at solar plexus, close the feet again to approximately one and one-half shoulder-width apart, and begin to inhale as the hands migrate to the left side with the left hand palm up and the right hand, above the left, and palm out.
Continue to inhale while focusing on twisting the spine by “pushing with the right hand.
Lock in the breath low in the abdomen at the extreme point of the turn. Do not pivot on the balls of the feet to facilitate the turn. Keep the feet rooted to the ground.
Begin to exhale as the rotation is relaxed back to the centerline.
From the centerline and with the hands once again in a neutral position begin to inhale and turn to the right as the hands migrate to the right side. The right hand is now palm up with the left hand above the right, and palm facing outward. Inhale as deep as possible and proceed as before
Pal bon. (“Crane and the Fisherman’s Net”)
Close the feet another 7 to 10 inches to a width of one shoulder-width. With hands crossed at chest level draw the feet together and begin to inhale as the hands drop and swing out away to either side of the centerline.
Continue to inhale raising one knee high as the hands arc up high to either side. Hold the breath comfortably for a moment or two.
Begin to exhale as the knee and hands drop down. The hands will arc in towards the centerline until the distal ends of the forearms cross.
Repeat the sequence inhaling as the hands swing down and away and now raising the opposite knee, high as the hands arc up.
Exhales as the hands and knee fall once again.
Note: A single repetition includes the raising and lowering of the hands twice, once for the elevation of each knee.
Closing: The feet are together firmly, Circle the arms from inside to out, and then outside to in.