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Banjo History 201

banjo headThe Tai Chi of the Banjo

by Garry G. Bryan

What is really sadly neglected is the all but extinct art of Tai Chi banjo. If you had any knowledge of this arcane weapon form, you would never judge a banjo's combat effectiveness by its weight.

According to legend, when the ancient Tai Chi and Shaolin Kung Fu forms were developed on the Wudang mountain in Northern China, their popularity spread rapidly to the surrounding provinces and eventually reached the isolated Dang! bottom land. The first Shaolin priests who reached Dang! discovered that the people there had very little skill in the empty handed forms and no suitable weapons to train with.

The great Shaolin master, Wi-Me? observed the locals plucking on a strange instrument that resembled a wok with a neck. The hideous noises produced by this device inspired Wi-Me? to develop a weapon form combining the graceful movements of Tai Chi with the instrument: the Ban-Jo (translation: - Fearsome Noise).

Two methods of practicing the form arose: the unstrung form which was practiced for health and spiritual development and the strung form for combat applications. Those who wished to practice the combat form had to first undergo a rigorous conditioning called "Closing of the Ears" to avoid injury caused by the inherent nature of the form. In addition, the Ban-Jo technique was governed by three classes of weapon: The ancient light ban-jo, weighing less than 5 pounds was characterized by thrusting motions accompanied by sweeping the strings with the index finger and thumb. The normal weight ban-jo was primarily held by the neck and swung in a graceful circular motion. The razor sharp hooks on the rim made this a particularly devastating weapon. Finally the heavy resonator ban-jo was seldom moved during combat, but the right hand, armored with deadly steel claws, plucked alternately at the strings and the face of the opponent.

The form was wildly successful in the Dang! bottom land for several hundred years, but with the overthrow of the Ming dynasty the art was condemned by the victorious Ching emperor. Never knowing who their enemies might be, the Great Tai Chi banjo masters confined their transmission of knowledge only to their own families.

In the late 18th century members of the illustrious Yang family were forced, by tradition to train a notably un-martial cousin in the family style. The poor lad was unable to learn even the movement "The Supreme Ultimate" which consists of standing evenly on two feet and breathing. In desperation. The Yangs decided to attempt to teach young Bub-ba Yang the Strung Resonator form. He took to the form like Peking duck to a basketball pump and the rest is history.

Bub-ba became known as "Bub-ba the Deafener" and won many combats against some of the greatest Shaolin warriors of the day. His secret following of fanatical disciples grew to the thousands and though ultimately overshadowed by the "Boxer Rebellion" staged by the "Society of Harmonious Fists," the "Ban-Jo Jam" in which Bub-ba and the "Society of Harmonious Pickers" deafened and permanently maimed hundreds of imperial troops should be noted as the glorious culmination of 500 years of the banjo's martial history.

With the advent of Communism and the Cultural revolution, most Ban-Jo practitioners fled China for the U.S. and other countries. The art is even at the present day most secretive and if a Yang practitioner is asked about teaching the ban-jo form , he will most likely turn pale and change the subject to less lethal forms , such as Dim Mak (The touch of death).

Still, dark rumors abound that the Society of Harmonious Pickers still exists. Going by the name of "Augmented Fourths," they control most of the black market trade in Asian made Blue Grass Banjos.

So you see, behind the shape and weight of each banjo, there is a secret combat purpose. Remember the Dang! Banjo with respect!

History. It's not just for breakfast anymore!


Garry G. Bryan. - There's another Garry Bryan out there (same spelling). He's a nice guy, but he's fairly well known in the UFO/ET circles on the net and this Garry with the middle initial likes to avoid mistaken identities, as does the other one!

This Garry is rumored to be involved with the Augmented Fourths and studying Ban-Jo with Master Sum Shubb Kei-po.

Email to Garry G. at .


Main text ©2000 by Garry G. Bryan

Last Updated 15 Jul 2006 by PJH

Edited 07 Apr 2007 by WF