The World Taiji Boxing Association
Internal Martial Arts

Baguazhang
Eight Diagram Palm

Baguazhang
(Bagua) Eight Diagram Palm, is a unique
internal Martial Art, which is the
epitome of Taoist philosophy based on the
I-Jing (The Chinese Book of Changes) In
practicing Bagua, we not only gain a great
self-defence art, but also
heal the body
and mind
of any defects manifested as a
result of bad living habits over a number of years.
Bagua is known as “the art of over kill”
It earned this name because of it’s brutal
and never-ending attacking methods which
make use of the very deadly Dim-Mak
points
on the human body.

Bagua

  Syllabus Covering:
Classical Circular Form Linear Fighting form 8 Animal forms Pole Staff
Deer Horn Knives Double Dragon Swords Circle Walking Circle Fighting Dispersing Hands
Qigong        


 

 Baguazhang,  is said to be the sister of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, the mother of the three 'internal systems'. It is one of the newest Chinese healing/martial arts of the internal system and contains the very best of the Shaolin Martial arts as well as the very best of the Buddhism or Taoism fighting arts. Its intricacies are great and one is able to continually discover new techniques from within the complex postures and movements which go together to build the framework which we call the Baguazhang form or kata. Invented by one man, the form has been slowly added to and taken away from until we have come to a highly evolved form of healing or self-defence which only relies upon the palms and feet for attack and defence. With mainly circular foot movement, the form lays stress upon the stability of the stance and the flexibility of the waist which is complimented by the vigorous movements of the arms and palms while always being coordinated in legs, waist and upper body. Bagua is said to have the fastest footwork of any martial art.

Baguazhang is a Dim-Mak art.

Dim-Mak literally means "Death Point Striking" whereby the practitioner is taught to strike to either one, or multiples of dim-mak points in the human body causing effects that range from a simple knock out to maiming and death, or even effects that manifest many years from when the strike was felt.

Every movement in Baguazhang has a meaning and is aimed at the dim-mak points. Bagua is often referred to as "the art of overkill".

 

THE MARTIAL ART:

 

Two methods of attack and defence are taught.

The first method is given to larger people who are able to literally crash their way in through any defence enabling them to reach the body's centre, this is the basic way of defence whereby we attack anything that comes within range.

The second method is mainly for smaller people. From the very basics of the eight palm changes or Bagua Cheng Chung, (Orthodox Eight Diagram), the practitioner is able to go on to the highest level of Bagua fighting, the 'DRAGON PALM FORM'. This form consists of circular foot movements, which enables the practitioner to evade to the side and come in at the rear in a circular movement at various speeds thus perplexing the opponent.

At this level, attacks are mostly executed from the rear, having got around there by using the very unique Bagua stepping method. This method is mainly for smaller people who do not have the physical strength of the larger person and particular attention must be given to training the waist to gain more power and flexibility, as this is where almost all of the power for Bagua is derived. If one is able to control the waist with one's mind, then the waist will control the legs and feet.

 

THE HEALING ART:

 

Although Baguazhang is not as sophisticated as its mother art of Taijiquan, it is one of the greatest healing arts. The healing side of Bagua is not as well documented as Taijiquan. But if we look at the relative ages of when the old Bagua masters died, (excluding those who died in battles etc.,) then we get an idea of how good this form is for health as most of them lived to very old and healthy ages.

The constant training of the waist, twisting, turning, bending etc, results in an effective exercise for the joints, sinews, muscles and internal organs so one is not only training in a fighting art but also a healing art. It is interesting to note that most of the old Bagua practitioners lived to very old ages, those who weren't killed in fights or the 'Boxer Rebellion'. Bagua is closely related to acupuncture whereby one is constantly twisting the acupuncture meridians to work upon each organ in turn thereby sending life giving Qi or energy to all parts of the body.

The dragon dances, undulates, twists, using flexible movements where necessary and rigid movements when needed. His/her movements are responsive; that is, movement is only reliant upon the actions of the attacker. Each movement has an equal and opposite reaction and these reactions are inter-woven and coordinated with each other.

This is how the 'Dragon Form' was given its name.

Blocking is always done in a circular manner thus minimizing the attacker's power and at the same time always on the move, in to the centre. Never is an attack taken full on using brute force. The waist generates the movement while the upper body stays rigid. The mind is concentrated on the lower abdomen with the breath regulated throughout the form.

The unique stepping method gathers no momentum, the power comes from the waist alone thus the practitioner is able to stop immediately and go the other way. There is never any weight placed upon the leading foot. The stepping is fast but only fast within each step's own boundaries. The momentum of each individual step must not go into the next step, it must stop when the foot stops, and then the next step is begun. In this way the feet are able to attack the opponent's ankle or at the highest, the groin.

In order to keep this idea of not gathering the momentum especially when executing the Bagua technique of swinging around to defend from the rear, we use the technique known as 'Cloud Shadowing Palms'. This technique involves the lifting of one or both of the arms straight upward as one spins around thus keeping the centrifugal force art a minimum, we are able to keep the centre and thus keep our control in order to defend against great strength. The arms are in a position to be able to crash down upon the attack.

Baguazhang is a unique martial art, which is the epitome of the Taoist philosophy. We not only gain a great self defence art but also heal the body and mind of any defects which have come as a result of bad living habits over a number of years.

HISTORY:

 

The true history of Baguazhang is vague. This is due to a person called Tung Hai Chuan (1796-1880) who was wary of telling anyone about his martial art's origins. Some people, including myself believe that it was Tung himself who founded the internal system known as Baguazhang but was afraid to tell anyone of his' invention' for fear of losing face. It was and always has been popular to tell people that one's art has been learnt from some ancient monk on top of some mystical mountain and that the art is thousands of years old rather than admitting that it was invented by oneself.

Tung Hai Chuan lived in Wen An district in Ho Pei Province about three centuries ago during the beginning of the Ching dynasty. The style came to be noticed in Beijing when a eunuch, Tung Hai Chuan, gave demonstrations (of the art) to the court of the imperial prince where he lived. At one time the prince held a very large banquet for many quests causing the lesser-experienced waiters to not cope too well. The prince and other high officials noticed the young eunuch, Tung bobbing and weaving in and out like a butterfly. Tung was asked why he was so nimble and it was found that he was a practitioner of wushu or war arts. Tung was then asked to demonstrate his art and the ensuing exposition thrilled the court no end. When asked what style of wushu he was practicing, Tung would always say that it was a combination of the very best of the Shaolin (a place in China translated as the little forest where a very famous temple once existed. The monks of this temple were taught the original Chinese martial arts all grouped together and called 'SHAOLIN TEMPLE BOXING') and the Wudang (named after a sacred mountain in China, Wudang Mountain where the internal martial arts were said to have emanated) or Buddhism and Taoist martial arts.

 

TUNG THE FUGITIVE

 

Many people believe that Tung Hai Chuan was a fugitive from the law, which is the reason for his not telling from whom he learnt his art. It is told that Tung escaped being captured by seeking refuge in the Buddhist monastery. Because of his inherent nature, he soon breached the rules of sexual abstinence and was asked to leave. He then performed his own operation (or so we're expected to believe), of cutting out the old crown jewels causing him to become an eunuch so that he could lose himself in the court as said eunuch. I think I would have preferred capture! Some sources say that Tung learnt the art from Pi Teng-Hsia.

Tung was apparently once heard to say to a master swordsman called Tsung Wei-I that his teacher and Tsung's teacher were fellow students and that teacher was Pi Teng-Hsia.

Another master called Jen chi-Cheng believed that Tung learnt the art from Tung Meng-Lin as Jen's teacher also learnt from him and there was a great similarity in the two arts. Tung died in the sixth year of the Emperor Kwong Hsu at the age of 84 and was buried a mile from the East gate of Beijing.

The art was proliferated by Tung's disciples. Cheng Ting-Hwa was said to have been personally involved in the 'BOXER REBELLION' in 1900. The story goes that Cheng Ting-Hwa died from multiple bullet wounds when he attacked a group of foreign troops during the rebellion. Armed with only two small knives he took out ten of the soldiers before he died. Cheng's most famous pupil was SUN LUC-TANG while his son, CHENG YU-Lung (1875-1928) popularized the art throughout Beijing and Tientsin.

Sun Luc Tang (1860-1932) learnt the art from Cheng Ting-Hwa and gained the name of 'SUN THE COWARD' because of his aversion to competition fighting. He could see no reason for a man to have to prove his art. His idea was that Baguazhang should only be used in defence of oneself or one's family etc. Because of this, Sun had very few students, however, at one time a very large Chinese wrestler challenged Tung and Tung turned him down. The wrestler decided to have the fight anyway and began to strike Tung with heavy blows. Tung took a few of these attacks and then with only two palm strikes put the man into hospital. After this many students wanted to join Tung but he turned to them and said that if he had to almost kill another human being to gain students then he would rather not. He disappeared for many years preferring to refine his art. He wrote four books on Taiji, Bagua, H'sing-I and one called "The Esoteric Way Of The Martial Arts", which, until now no-one has been able to translate because Tung tried to put onto paper what his inner mind knew about martial arts and of course only he knew what he was trying to say. YIN FU (1842-1911) was another of Tung's students. Tung only accepted him after many months of Yin Fu trying to sell him cakes! Yin Fu popularized the style of Bagua known as 'OX PALM'. He was also the first to use the 64 palm changes as we know them today.

 

FU CHEN-SUNG either learned the art from Sun Luc-Tang or from Cheng Ting-Hwa. Sun's daughter, SUN Jianyun is now very old (1987) and still gives demonstrations of her father's SUN style taiji and Bagua.

Chang Chao-tung learned the art from Tung Hai-Chuan and passed it on to Chiang Jung-Chiao (1890-?). Chiang Jung-Chiao taught Master Ho Ho-Choy and that is where my lineage comes from.

Chang Chao-tang was the first to formulate a formal long circular form which flowed from one movement to the next until the whole eight palm changes were performed. Before this as with Sun Luc-Tang we only had separate palm maneuvers plus the twelve animal forms.

Nowadays we have three forms of Baguazhang. The Animal forms, the Original Form (taught by Chiang Jung Chiao) and the 'Body Swimming Form' which is the Chinese Government style taught in the wushu colleges and performed in the many tournaments each year in China. The style that is presented in this book is the 'Original Form' of Chiang Jung-Chiao.

As well as the classical circular form, Yen Te-Hwa who learned from Chou Hsiang (1861-?) who in turn learned from Cheng Ting-Hwa, formulated a fighting or linear form which placed more emphasis upon the fighting aspects of the art. Here we are able to see how the martial techniques work and we are able to put them together with a partner to form a two person learning aid, something akin to Kumite from karate. This form is also presented in this book along with some of the main applications of the postures.

Baguazhang the Future.

With the way that the Chinese government is 'formulating all of its wushu it's anyone's guess as to what the future is for Bagua.

The internal styles are internal because one 'owns' the style. It's not a case of taking some movements and then 'putting those movements onto' one's body, it's a case of the forms changing to suit every body shape and so everyone will do the forms slightly differently. When we are attacked, we don't say that you must use this or that technique, you must simply react with what ever technique or 'non-technique' that your subconscious mind says to use and if we're forced to do the physical forms exactly the same way that some dead master dictated, then we have nothing more than a karate type kata where every movement has to be exactly the same as it was founded.

I hope that it never comes to the point where the Chinese masters have to come to the West in order to re-learn their 'folk' styles but the way it is going now it looks ominous. This book is my way and my contribution to try and save some of the old forms from dying out through bureaucratic government bungling.

Governments should have no say in how the martial arts should be performed, unless of course if that particular minister is a practicing master of the martial arts himself.

THE HEALING BENEFITS OF Baguazhang.

The great benefits to health are not as well documented, as for the mother art of  'T'ai chi ch' uan but none the less, Bagua does have great benefits. If we look at the documented ages of many of the Bagua masters we have a fairly good indication of the healing benefits of the art.

All of the internal systems of martial art all work in the same way where healing is concerned. They all work upon the acupuncture meridians sending life giving Qi or life force to all of the internal organs. This Qi is a sort of electrical energy which literally holds our very cells together. Qi is said to be used in the healing arts as well as in the martial arts but beware! For as long as the martial arts have existed, man has been claiming supernatural feats in the name of Qi, things that defy the laws of nature. Like being able to catch a raindrop and hold it intact! Or being able to ward off a spear attack to the neck. All of these ‘games' are purely circus tricks and should not be taken seriously.

However, Qi is able to help one in the three main areas of martial arts, that of timing, coordination and balance and that's a great help in itself. The Qi mends one's body and mind and in doing so simply makes one stronger and able to use one's body to its greatest use, utilizing all of one's muscular power rather than just the outer extremities of muscle. We gain relaxation through the practice of Bagua, another major pre-requisite for any martial art.

Each movement in the Bagua form causes the Qi to be routed along a particular organ and thus healing that organ associated with that movement.

The internal arts also work as preventative medicine in that if you have some disease which is in the very early stages then the art tends to bring that disease out in to the open so that we know it's there. For instance, a normal looking businessman came into my school because he had heard that these arts might help him to feel better. I placed this person in the normal standing qigong stance and told him how to breathe, then left him to it. About five minutes later he had fainted and had turned bright yellow indicating some liver ailment. I suggested that he got to the doctor and having done that was diagnosed as having the very beginning stages of liver cancer. Luckily they were able to save him as it was discovered so soon.

Everyone who comes to a Bagua class is not that seriously out of good health but we all of us, through twentieth century living have some small things wrong with us and these can be helped if not cured altogether with Bagua. Your ailments are literally twisted away, every acupuncture meridian is gently twisted as is every joint, muscle and tendon. The whole body has a thorough work out with no real stress being placed upon the system. Being a little more rigorous than the modern forms of t'ai chi, the whole body is given an aerobic work out. The fast or linear form of Bagua is probably the longest of all of the martial arts forms or katas.

Combine this with the circular form and you have quite a formidable exercise where at the finish you aren't tired but feel greatly enlivened.

Each of the postures from Bagua treats a particular organ and so if we take some of these postures out of context, we are able to treat certain organs sooner and with greater effect. For instance, the posture of 'Duck lands on water' works on the kidneys, or 'transfer flower connect to wood' works upon the stomach meridian.

It is important when a teacher is trying to heal a certain organ that he or she 'knows' his student as different postures are able to take out much poison from the system and one must know when to stop the therapy. One particular posture when used as qigong could very well heal the kidneys but it could also have an adverse effect upon the liver etc. If when you start to practice Bagua and feel a little ill then stop and wait a while before continuing to allow whatever it is that is making you feel ill to take its course.

Bagua is able to enhance your whole life and only takes a few minutes each morning to perform. It is indeed one of the treasures from China.

EXPLANATION OF THE FORMS.

 

One's Bagua training consists of eight different Bagua maneuvers which correspond to the eight trigrams of the I-ching.

It would take a whole book to expound upon the I-ching so here I will only say that the I-ching is the Chinese Book Of Changes which has a whole lot of good things for good living and good life management. It is also used an oracle which is based upon building up a set of six lines by either throwing a succession of yarrow stalks or by using the simpler method of throwing three coins and building up the lines that way. How the lines are built can predict things to come or things to do in order to cause things to happen etc. A very good book on the I-ching is by Lee Jung-Young called "I-CHING AND MODERN MAN". The I-ching represents the universe and all of the changes that can take place in this universe. Bagua uses those same changes in its palm changes. There are eight palm changes and when doubled make for 64 palm changes. The I-ching has eight trigrams and 64 hexagrams.

 

WALKING THE CIRCLE.

 

By walking the circle and performing the 64 changes we bring ourselves a little closer to the universe and eventually build up an internal energy called Qi or Qi. This Qi is to us as the water is to fish. The fish don't actually know that they are living in water until they are taken out of it and life becomes quite difficult. By the same token, if we are deprived of Qi, then life also becomes very difficult for us until we eventually die. The walking is the most important part of one's training and the learning of the form is only to enhance our walking and not the reciprocal. The Qi can be used for the healing or for the fighting art and its acquisition is the same for both arts. When we learn Bagua, we learn both fighting and healing.

Bagua PUSH HANDS.

There are two types of push hands from Bagua. The first is not unlike the t'ai chi push hands but is somewhat less in application so I tend to give my students the more advanced t'ai chi push hands regardless of whether they practice Bagua or not. The second type of push hands is more like a controlled sparring match and is an excellent way to introduce beginners to fighting. The two players walk the circle with wrists lightly touching. All of the regular attacks can be executed and defended against from this position.

This is probably the most important part in learning Bagua as a self defence art.

 

SELF DEFENCE AND MARTIAL ART ARE NOT THE SAME.

So far I have referred to Bagua not only as a martial art but also as a self defence art. The reason for this is that, just because someone learns a martial art doesn't mean that that person is able to defend him/herself or use it to fight. The martial art should only be used as a tool to gain certain things either for good health or peace of mind or as a tool to help us to defend ourselves. Once we have learned the martial art we then have to learn how to use it to fight out there in the mean streets and that's a whole lot different than fighting in the dawgwan or dojo. In order to train us in street fighting Bagua has certain 'training methods' built in to gain this goal. They are the techniques to gain no technique and only when one has gained the no technique standard will he or she be able to say that he know show to use the art for self defence.

The martial art teaches us HOW TO KICK or punch but all of the bag training in the world will not teach us WHEN To Kick or punch.

This crucial timing is only gained through the specific training methods and from experience. I would rate timing as the one most important aspect of anyone's fighting training. Not necessarily of their martial arts training but for street fighting, your life can depend upon your timing.