The martial art of Baguazhang
Background on the art of Baguazhang
The martial art of Baguazhang is known as one of the three Internal Martial Arts of China. Baguazhang literally means the "Eight Trigram Palm." The name itself comes from the well-known divination manual from ancient China called the Yi Jing or Book of Changes. In real practice though, there is only a cursory connection to this famous manual, as the original name for the art is simply zhuanzhang or turning palms. It is characterized by a core practice of walking the circle.
The founder or modern disseminator of Baguazhang is a man named Dong Haichuan. Dong taught in the Imperial Palace of Beijing for a number of years before teaching more broadly his art in Beijing in the mid-1800's. He was well known as a peerless fighter and one of the best martial arts of recent Chinese history. Although he taught a number of students according to records, two of his students stood out as not only being excellent fighters and practitioners of the art, but highly sought after teachers of the art as well. The first is Yin Fu, who is known as Dong's first disciple and the man who had potentially studied with him the longest. The second is Cheng Tinghua, who eventually would gain great skills to the extent that he would have the responsibility to accept challenges from rival martial artists in his teacher's school.
Baguazhang is not so much a system of techniques as it is a framework for the understanding of body movement, fighting principles, martial theory and methods of change. As such, many of its earliest practitioners came to the art as either champion martial artists in their own right seeking to improve their skills (such as Yin Fu, a Shaolin expert, or Cheng Tinghua, a master of Chinese wrestling, as mentioned above) or highly skilled practitioners hoping to enhance their own martial arts skills and a greater cohesive understanding of the how's and why's of training.
Baguazhang's name and the number of its practitioners spread across northern China. As the generations progressed, different teachers continued their teaching with their own understandings and methods. Today, there are a number of different styles of Baguazhang.
All lines of Baguazhang, however, should have certain commonalities. The most primary practice of Bagua is that of walking the circle. There are many variations on the palm changes or postures that one might hold while walking the circle, but this practice is the heart of the system. All systems of Baguazhang today should provide their students with not only concrete training methods to systematically improve their skills, but also a higher framework of principles to not just bring cohesion to their training, but to understand at a great depth its essence. At the core of this is the understanding of the nature of change.
The Baguazhang taught at Zong Wu Men
The lineage of Baguazhang taught at Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting arts is that of the YiZong school of Gao style Baguazhang. The head instructor of Zong Wu Men, George Wood, studied the art directly under one of the world's most respected exponents of the internal martial arts, Luo Dexiu of Taiwan. Our lineage is as follows -
Dong Haichuan -- Cheng Tinghua -- Gao Yisheng --
Zhang Zhunfeng -- Hong Yixiang -- Luo Dexiu -- George Wood
For more information on the YiZong school of internal martial arts and its practitioners around the world, go to our sister site - www.yizongbagua.com.
The technical aspects of training Baguazhang at Zong Wu Men
Our system of Baguazhang contains a very complete look at the range of movement, principles and application in regards to stand-up fighting. There is a substantial amount of both depth and breadth to the system. Full study of the art will bring the practitioner a well-rounded knowledge of striking with palms, fists, elbows, kicks, knees, shoulders, head and hips, knowledge of joint locks and standing control, and throwing. The practitioner will also eventually choose one or more directions of training with which to develop a deeper knowledge base.
In the beginning, training will emphasize the development of proper body alignment and principles of movement. Some of the beginning exercises taught will be standing meditation for the development of balanced whole-body power and mind/body connection, circle walking - to initiate the student to the unique type of body movement characteristic of Baguazhang (and further develop what you are learning from standing), and jibengong - the basic training and conditioning drills and techniques that are a requirement to successful development of all later martial skills.
Although martial applications and drills will be introduced into class immediately, the main goal for a beginning student is to understand and develop whole-body power and mind/body connection. In relation to your opponent, you will be working on maintaining good structure, achieving and maintaining advantageous angles and positioning, working to break the opponent's structure, working to break the opponent's mind, working with tempo and rhythm, learning how to start and set up the type of situation you want, the use of timing and other principles of use.
Later development will include the study of the core forms of the system, power development and how it fits into the application of Bagua's fighting methods, systematic application and martial skills development, and various levels of two-person drills, push hands and sparring practices with both covering a full range from cooperative to uncooperative. There will also be further study of qigong, neigong, and methods of moving meditation and Yi-development unique to Baguazhang.
At Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts, we teach our lineage of Gao style Baguazhang, as taught through the YiZong lineage.
You can find our more on our lineage of Baguazhang and more on George Wood's teacher through this website.