Baguazhang Kung Fu is one of three fundamental Chinese martial arts, the other two being T’ui Chi and Xing Yi Quan. It is also widely grouped into an internal system, which means that it is practiced separately from its traditional counterparts, and thus requires special attention. The internal system is divided into Baguazhang liu wu, or five defense styles, which are distinct, based on the use of stances and limb structures. These include: Baguazhang Liugu, or Short Fist; Baguazhang Sikkim, or Mount Chi; Baguazhang Daikung, or Western Tiger; and Baguazhang Jikmak, or Harmless Tiger. Sikkim and Jikmak are considered as advanced approaches to the original principles of Baguazhang, while the short list is for internal training only.
Baguazhang was named from a Chinese phrase which means “over firm the breath.”
This phrase was used by Baguazhang masters to indicate that the principles of Baguazhang were not to be watered down or distorted for the sake of efficiency in internal martial arts competition. Consequently, the Bagua was drawn from a large collection of hand drawings (baguazhang is simply the translation of this hand drawing) found in Chinese medicine, and combined these with the rules of an oral acupuncture technique known as “Xing yi.” The concept of Bagua is that every part of the body can be a point, and can therefore be treated as such. Practitioners believe that there are seven vital points on the body, where meridians exist.
The Bagua is divided into eighty-one branches, each divided into three sections: offensive, defensive, and middle. offensive baguazhang consists of shifting and striking at the same time, and is characterized by rapidity, an aggressive approach, and fierce slashing actions. Defensive is used to counter attack. The Bagua teaches one to employ an original form of footwork, using the rotation of legs as the pivot point. This rotation is used to assist the practitioner to escape from an opponent’s attack. Middle is the third section of Bagua and consists of circular and linear movements.
Some martial artists regard Baguazhang as their ultimate style, due to its circular forms and simplistic line construction. Other styles use Bagua as a powerful tool for internal power generation, due to its uses of tai chi or similar forms of Chi Gong. However, Baguazhang is different from most styles in that it is not consciously based on any particular school, and is often taught in classes that combine tai chi, acupuncture, and baking, all of which utilize the benefits of ancient Chinese medicine and philosophy. This article briefly covers the basics of Baguazhang and will introduce you to the five most common Baguazhang styles.
The Bagua school was founded by Bauchin, who studied hangman (book) Kung Fu, which is a derivative of Chinese martial arts. Bauchin found that many of his students developed arm and leg strength through circular motions, and he developed baguazhang as a way to make these circular movements more functional. He believed that these circular movements could transfer force between different parts of the body. In fact, his Bagua teaches many principles found in other forms of kung fu, such as the use of palm changes, but he does not incorporate the concepts of how hung or wushu, both of which are derived from Shiatsu.
Two aspects of bagua can be seen in Baguazhang, both of which are important to practitioners of the art. One is finger conditioning, and the second is the use of different hand postures in order to facilitate different breathing processes. Baguazhang also employs the concepts of push and hoi jung, though he does not always refer to them explicitly. For example, when discussing the use of bagua in the context of his book, Bauchin writes that one should practice “the left foot forward, right foot forward, back foot forward, and the reverse.” However, he also includes in this description the concept of the mainsail, which is the use of two hands, the former placed over the head, and the latter held in the left hand, just as a teacher might hold a student’s hands for a moxibustion and use that motion to help them focus their mind and energy.
Another important aspect of baguazhang is the use of wrist and joint locks, which are particularly important in the teaching of hangman (books) Kung Fu, since these will be necessary for standing and walking correctly, as well as performing some more difficult forms. Baguazhang also employs what he calls the four minute trick, which he says improves the strength of both the wrist and joint locks, allowing practitioners to hold longer and more complex positions. These seemingly magical techniques involve leaving the hands in a relaxed state of egestation, while moving the arms and hands in a circular motion around the body, using the momentum built up in the movement to shift the weight. The result is a powerful technique, which Bauchin describes as “something like a burst of energy,” that leaves the student “feeling like Tiger claws bursting through the skin.”
While Baguazhang may seem relatively simple in comparison to other styles, its secrets can often remain locked away for future generations. One of the most powerful moves, called the chi Sao, is difficult for even the most skilled practitioner to execute, and only accomplished practitioners are likely to learn it. Other secret moves include the slow and methodical movements of fan mien and the flowing circular finger rolls, both of which require advanced training. In addition, Baguazhang focuses on the perfect execution of both internal and external forms, and these are not commonly found in other forms of martial arts.
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