I debated whether to title this post with such a grandiose statement. But it is factual and was one of the main reasons I’ve kept going with Baguazhang as my chosen exercise, defence, and health maintenance method. This little story will show you why. (Learn more here: “What is Baguazhang?”)
This event occurred over 10 years ago. But the moment of “life saved” is still vivid for me.
I was walking on a main street in downtown Toronto on a relaxing summer day around 5pm. As in most cities, this time of day is rush hour so every street was jammed with cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians all trying to get home. The phrase “rush hour” is ironic since no one is really rushing as much as they’d like. Some people react to this concentration of vehicles with impatience, frustration and in some cases, anger.
I came to an intersection at which I had a green light. So started walking across towards the opposite side of the street. To my left was a large van with his right turn signal flashing. He was waiting for his chance to make that turn and as soon as he saw an opening in the traffic, in his impatience, he hit the gas. I was still walking and was directly in line with the front of driver’s side of the van. He did not see me due I assume to his watching for cars, not pedestrians.
My peripheral vision caught the movement of the van as it lurched forward and my body automatically pressed my rear foot into the ground causing me to practically leap forward. The van missed me by inches and I found myself standing on the opposite street corner. I knew what had happened and thanked the Bagua gods for my standing there. 🙂 Why?
Because we practice so much walking with our Dragon Step thereby maintaining that “power in reserve” feeling I had become habitually back-weighted when I walked. This meant that regardless of which foot I was on at any given moment, it would be the one from which I can push in any direction.
We work with our peripheral vision regularly. This aspect of vision is suited to seeing movement “out of the corner of the eye”. So when movement is detected, the body can respond very quickly. So the overall process was 1. seeing the movement of the van peripherally 2. realizing the threat 3. pressing the foot into the ground to launch the body forward.
It’s important to understand that “I” did not do this. It was a survival instinct that is built in. Nor did I consciously do a Dragon Step at that crucial moment. My body did it automatically in response to the survival impulse. It all happened fast enough to get me out of the way of that van. The reason it happened so quickly was that I had been practicing Dragon Stepping long enough for it to be a habit. It was the habit of using the Dragon Step that saved me.
The key to internalizing this step is to walk that way all the time. It takes some time to develop the Dragon Step as one’s natural way of walking but as you can imagine, I’m pretty dedicated to it. I show how this is done in classes and I hope those who are learning might appreciate that they are learning a potentially life saving skill.