Most of the philosophy & history of the myriad BaGuaZhang styles will not be included here, healthful as it is extensively covered during regular classes. Instead, adiposity a brief overview to offer a modicum of knowledge concerning the subject will be expressed here, simply for the understanding of those persons interested in studying the art.
Ba Gua Zhang is literally translated as Eight Trigram Palm. Like Taijiquan, it is one of the main inheritors of the ancient Wu Dang Boxing arts. The most characteristic trait of Baguazhang is it’s emphasis on Circle Walking. Circle walking is a way of developing the legs through rigorous training of the santi posture, kou bu & bai bu steps, & multifarious posture changes reflecting the nature of Taoist principles.
The santi posture resembles the cat stance of traditional kung fu, with a few exceptions. Although depth of the stance is an invaluable aid in training strength, stamina, & qi, the posture is relatively high & very relaxed. Like the cat, all of the weight is kept on the rear ft (styles differ in the amount of weight kept on the front leg ranging from 10%-0%), and the lead ft is kept flat. Not weighted, simply flat, in contact with the earth & it’s energies.
Kou Bu, Bai Bu & Circle Walking
Kou Bu is most easily defined as a step taken with the toes both turned inward towards each other or the center of the circle (dependent upon the circumstance). Bai Bu is a step taken with the toes turned outward or away from the other or the center of the circle (again, dependent upon the circumstance). These are the steps that are taken either in our circle walk or linear drills, and they are the means of changing direction. The body seems to always turn toward the center of the circle. For styles or routines where more than one ‘center’ or target, is identified, the attention must follow the course of your actions in relation to such.
There are various methods of stepping, from Mud Stepping, to Snake Stepping, Natural Stepping, etc. Although particular styles emphasize methods particular to their training methods, at Black Mountain Spirit because of the number of Baguazhang styles available, all are taught and all are useful. The articulation of such foot changes is swift & decisive, requiring an immense amount of practice in order to perfect. This is the foundation of Bagua practice.
Basic Training Elements of Baguazhang
The basic training of Baguazhang also uses strength promotion exercises, qi gong exercises, & mind-intention meditation along with the physical training. From coiling to uncoiling, from left to right & up to down & down to up, the rapid-change ability of the the Baguazhang practitioner makes the unpredictable commonplace. Much like the Yi Jing, or Book of Change, Baguazhang practitioners interpret & extrapolate information by studying the changes. Circle walking allows the practitioner to build up an endurance in the strength of the legs, in the length of the breath & in the direction & steadfastness of the minds intention. The smooth, continuously changing movements flow evenly like the water of a stream, the power of a deep river, and the tumultuous changing of white rapids. By constantly rotating & stirring up the Lower Tan Tien, all power & movement originates from that source. This is the union of mind-intent, Yi, and vital energy, Qi. Techniques that possess this motivation are very advanced in their practice, and the side effects are very far-reaching. Just as all Taoism seeks to find the balance of yin & yang within the natural world, Baguazhang seeks such a balance both within one’s own body & without through their interaction with not only opponents during combat, but during practice they adapt to their terrain, the weather, astrological conditions, etc. Just as the training evens out & coordinates the body’s Qi, spirit & physical movements, such training also evens out temperament, organizational thinking & resource application in our everyday lives. This is the way that Baguazhang & Taiji are taught at Black Mountain Spirit.
As with most other neigong styles, keeping the back erect, or straight, is important. That would mean that the head is suspended from the crown point as if held by a thread, allowing the body to ‘hang’ down from it. The tailbone, wei lu, must appear to be turned under, that is, the sway back curvature of the lower spine must be opened as well in order for the spine to be straightened. Also, like Taiji, there is a sinking of the chest & an opening of the back to further facilitate this relaxed suspension. This hanging is one way of maintaining a relaxed posture, not one where the muscle tension of a held posture would disturb the natural flow of Qi. One must maintain a standard height in their circle walking without rising & falling with each step. Combatively speaking, it allows for a more free range of motion than all of the contortions that other styles use.
The circularity & continuous flow offers a different form of body conditioning than that of Shaolin or Taiji styles of kung fu practice. Once the paths of internal energy flow are fully opened & the mind is trained to lead the vital energy, one’s limbs seem to be immovable when necessary, & as pliant as tissue paper when listening Jing or other yin energies are necessary. These are some of the reasons why the development of Qi is more readily visible in Baguazhang than in other styles of internal practice. Practitioners are capable of a much greater range of flexibility & power generation very early in their practice, & there seems to be an almost unending source of motivational energy to draw from in their practice. Consistent practice and consideration of the concepts involved will lead the practitioner to a unique state of being, in their physical body, their Qi body, and in their spirit.
Baguazhang is an incredibly close range fighting system. Although it uses the long & middle ranges in it’s attack/defense, the closest ranges offer the greatest availability for a quick defeat of the enemy. The turning & spiraling movements are designed to deflect & parry incoming forces, while maximizing your own. When such maneuvers are used in a confrontation, the Bagua practitioner keeps himself & his vital areas from harm while applying the greatest amount of energy to the weakest points on the opponents anatomy.
Shi Gung Black has much higher expectations of his Bagua students. He must. The training that is necessary requires more that 2-3 classes a week. If one is to advance, one must work diligently & that means doing the extra work that Shi Gung “suggests” one do while between classes. One must work extremely hard to stay in the class. True mastery of Baguazhang can only come from diligent practice in its techniques & methods.
BAGUAZHANG AS BATTLEFIELD COMBAT ART
[I would like to Apologize in advance – YouTube always attaches ‘relevant’ videos after the Posted (THIS/MINE) vid clip.]
FREE HAND BAGUAZHANG FIGHTING APPLICATIONS