Bagua Zhang, Taiji Quan, and Xingyi Quan are known as three major internal martial arts styles in China. Bagua literally means "Eight Trigram" and Zhang means "Palm." The original name of Baguazhang was Zhuan Zhang, which means “Turning Palms.” This refers to the way the art is practiced—moving around a circle, turning the palms in various ways.
Bagua Zhang is based on the Daoist philosophy and theory of the Eight Trigrams. Bagua theory was used by the ancient Chinese to analyze directions, locations, causes and effect, and all the natural changes of the universe. Since nature always repeats itself, the Chinese believe that Bagua theory can be used to predict natural disasters, a country's destiny, or even an individual's fortune. The source of Bagua was Yi Jing, known as the The Book of Changes, or Dao De Jing. Yi Jing has been a major part of the Chinese culture and philosophy for more than four thousand years and many Chinese martial arts styles were created and developed under its influence such as Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua.
Bagua emphasizes circular movement, and walking is most important. You are always moving. Bagua uses movement as its foundation, and uses transformation as its principle. The movements are always changing, spinning and turning, while rapidly moving in curvilinear patterns. Its movements are described as,
"Walk like a dragon, retrieve and spin like an ape, change momentum like an eagle, and fierce like a tiger."
Walk like a dragon 行走如龍
retrieve and spin like an ape 迴轉若猴
change momentum like an eagle 換勢似鷹
fierce like a tiger 威猛如虎
Generally, both the stepping and the techniques are circular. Although many techniques such as yielding, neutralizing, sticking, adhering, and coiling are used, they are mainly adopted to coordinate with the round movements. Attack and defense are equally important. Rounded defensive movements are usually used first, followed by rounded attacking movements to uproot the opponent and make him fall. Because of its strategy and techniques, round stepping movements are constantly used in coordination with the techniques. The training focuses on palm techniques and firm rapid walking.
Baguazhang is also very good for your fitness and overall health. The constant turning and spinning movements stimulate the joints and muscles to provide a work out for many areas of the body that are not normally exercised. These movements also stimulate acupuncture cavities by compressing and relaxing the muscles around them, loosening stagnant energy, and allowing qi to circulate smoothly.
Bagua also concentrates on training the circulation of qi and building it up to a higher level. It emphasizes a calm and peaceful mind, is very effective for improving health. It is great for people who wish to improve their coordination, agility, flexibility, balance, leg and arm strength, fitness level, body posture, reflexes, stamina, and power. The practice of Bagua also stimulates the central nervous system, helps to lower blood pressure, relieves stress, strengthens the immune system, enhances elimination of wastes and the circulation of blood, and channels the flow of Chi through the body's meridians.
The first form a student trains is the Eight Palms routine, also called “Dragon Shape Bagua zhang（龍形八卦掌)", originally developed at Emei Mountain, China.
The Eight Palms techniques and form is the root and the foundation of the Emei Baguazhang art. Through practice, students will gradually internalize the core concept of the art, and also gain a basic knowledge of how Baguazhang applies in the combat.
After many years of development, basic eight palms routine has deviated somewhat between styles. However, students should understand that no matter how it has been revised, the basic Bagua theory and principles remain the same.
The fundamental palms are:
- Upward Palm 仰掌
- Downward Palm 俯掌
- Upright Palm 豎掌
- Embracing Palm 抱掌
- Chopping Palm 劈掌
- Scooping Palm 撩掌
- Picking Palm 挑掌
- Screwing Palm 螺旋掌
After mastering the basic Eight Palms, you are now ready for the higher levels of Emei Baguazhang training. In this DVD, we will introduce one of the best-known routines – Swimming Body Baquazhang.
Swimming Body Baguazhang is a more advanced routine compared to Eight Palms. Its movements are like a swimming dragon, swift, agile, twist and coiling. It is, therefore, also known as Swimming Body Dragon Bagua Zhang.
It is very good for fitness and health purpose and the intensity of the workout is moved up to the next level compared to the Eight Palms. The constant turning and spinning movements stimulate the joints and muscles to provide a workout for many areas of the body that are not normally exercised. These movements also stimulate acupuncture cavities by compressing and relaxing the muscles around them, loosening stagnant energy, and allowing qi to circulate smoothly. Bagua also concentrates on training the circulation of qi and building it up to a higher level. It emphasizes a calm and peaceful mind, is very effective for improving health. It is great for people who wish to improve their coordination, agility, flexibility, balance, leg and arm strength, fitness level, body posture, reflexes, stamina, and power. The practice of Bagua also stimulates the central nervous system, helps to lower blood pressure, relieves stress, strengthens the immune system, enhances elimination of wastes and the circulation of blood, and channels the flow of chi through the body's meridians.
Emei Swimming Body Baguazhang is an advanced traditional Baguazhang Sequence. Combining the knowledge learned from various masters together with Grandmaster Liang’s study in Baguazhang, he has re-organized the sequence ensuring that every movement contains various applications, emphasizing more on the smoothness of stepping and body movements. Therefore, this sequence not only reserves the traditional flavor and characteristics, it also has a strong sense of visual appeal.
I have been learning Baguazhang from my teacher, Grandmaster Shouyu Liang since I was a teenager. Grandmaster Liang’s first Bagua teacher is called “Hong Ze Great Master.” Hong Ze, a close martial friend of Grandmaster Liang’s grandfather had been trained in a Daoist temple called “The Temple of the Great Emperor of Martial Arts” on Zhen Wu Mountain, located on the south of Yangtze River. In the sixties, Grandmaster Liang learned more Baguazhang from Master Zhen huai-Xian. Master Zheng was a student of Grandmaster Sun Lu-Tang and Grandmaster Sun Lu-Tang was a student of Cheng Ting-Hua, who was the second disciple of Dong Hai Chuan and was commonly regarded as Dong’s best student. In the seventies, Grandmaster Liang learned Baguazhang from Master Zhao Zi Qio. Master Zhao was a student of Grandmaster Gong Bao Tian and Grandmaster Gong Bao Tian was a student of Yin Fu, who was the first disciple of Dong Hai Chuan. Master Zhao Zi Qio was also a student of Grandmaster Sun-Lu Tang while studying at the Nanking Central Guoshu Institute. Grandmaster Liang learned more fundamental Bagua Eight Palms and Xingyiquan from Master Wang Shu Tian. Master Wang was a student of Liu Bao-Zhen’s student, Guo Meng-Shen. Liu Bao-Zhen was a student of Dong Hai Chuan and a disciple of Li Zhen Qing who was a classmate of Dong Hai Chuan. Grandmaster Liang has also learned and exchanged Baguazhang knowledge with other masters and friends such as Sha Guo Zheng and He Fu Sheng
The above is an original article by Chenhan Yang whose latest DVDs are Bagua for Beginners 1: Eight Palms Bagua zhang Publication Date March 2019 and Bagua for Beginners 2: Swimming Body Bagua zhang Publication Date May 2019, produced by YMAA Publication Center.