Understand Baguazhang?

Though I didn’t understand Baguzhang when I first saw my teacher demonstrate his movement quality struck me as something very special.

I realised this quality was a result of deep practice of into Baguazhang – 八卦掌 the mysterious and beautiful Eight trigram palm.

But how can you understand Baguazhang?

Bagua in a few lines…

This is a very quick explanation of Baguazhang or Bagua the Chinese martial art (I-Bagua is what I call my approach to teaching). It is a small step to introduce and understand Baguazhang.

Bagua uses simple movement patterns that can be adapted to a wide variety of martial techniques (striking, locking, throwing, evading and countering). 

Put very simply, the key patterns are circles and twisting of both the arms and legs. The result is elegant, flowing spiral movement.

You can approach and experience Bagua as ‘energy flow’ and use the practice as meditation. Bagua can be fast or slow, athletic or leisurely.  Equally, you can use it both to calm and to energize yourself.

Through the combination of circles/spirals/twisting you can gain a comprehensive education of how the human body moves. 

Once learned, you can use this body/movement understanding to build health and strength. Conversely, you can apply this understanding to mess with or damage an opponent.

You can probably follow the logic of this easily enough, but that’s not understanding. To understand Bagua you need to practice.

Some different lines
Understand trigrams to understand Baguazhang – a trigram is made of three lines either broken (yin) or unbroken (yang)

Baguzhang translates directly as eight trigram palm. In this context palm signifies a martial art. A trigram is a set of three lines, each either broken/yin or unbroken/yang. There are eight possible combinations of these lines, hence eight trigrams.

The trigrams are at the core of the Yijing, often called the book of changes which is deeply embedded through Chinese culture and thought. Baguazhang corresponds to the thinking of the Yijing. The best way to approach this is to consider that the yin-yang polarities of the Yijing as directions and movements, so up-down, forwards-back, left-right. You can also add to this inside-outside, large-small, direct-indirect.

The advantage of taking this kind of view of the Yijing and Bagua is that it provides a framework in which to consider a range of martial approaches without getting lost in difficult theory.

And a tiny bit of history

While Bagua is clearly traceable back to 19th Century Beijing, it may have older (frequently disputed) roots. Though there are some fascinating stories to dig into here, this is not the place. Discussions of the interplay between history and mythology are nuanced.

Still, we know that the founder Dong Haichuan, taught a core of movements that were built upon over the generations into more complete martial systems. 

Practice the core, enjoy the results

Today many people want to go back to the core. Returning to the simple is the best way to understand Baguazhang.

The core is uniting body breath and mind.

The core is a few movements with thousands of uses

The result is health, calm clarity, power, sensitivity and adaptability.

The martial use is sophisticated, varied and powerful. The core practices can enhance fighting skills. But it is not ‘magic’: fighting skills require fighting practice.

For a simple introduction to the core of Bagua look at this page

or go straight to join the Bagua circle walking course.

An outline of the full syllabus of Gao style Bagua

There are many different styles of Bagua while they all share certain principles and practices the Gao style distinguishes itself through a division into two major aspects

Circle walking and palm changes – these teach the essence of the art – body use, strategy, balanced power energetic and meditative aspects

64 linear changes – these teach tactics and patterns of applied power

These two sides of the Gao style are complementary. It is through the combination that you can understand Baguazhang. The circular and linear practices are supported by sets of body training, power training, qigong/neigong and partner exercises.

To learn more about Gao style training and what you can learn from it visit this page or start now.