Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts

Curriculum Information

Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts Curriculum Information

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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.

Dong Haichuan serving tea in the Prince’s Palace

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 technical aspects of training Baguazhang at Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts 

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. The 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 the 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.

Overview of Training

Baguazhang classes at Zong Wu Men try to balance solo practice with hands-on application with a partner. Unlike many internal schools, students are expected to be conversant in forms and techniques as well their combat applications. Zong Wu men students will learn bagua and xingyi as combat arts. It is at the base of our system to balance the fusion of solo and partner practice so that each supports the other in a complementary, mutual relationship.

Solo practice in our school has a few initial main purposes – practices to nourish the body and open the joints, conditioning and power training, work to train the breath and mind, work to train the body’s movement, alignment and structure, as well as methods designed to help bring a further depth of focus and awareness to one’s intent and bring one’s body/mind connection to greater cohesion.

Partner practice in our school has a range of different practices as well. There are drills and sparring methods in a range of intensity from fully cooperative to fully uncooperative. There are also paired forms and practices to further train one’s body movement, sense of flow and connection, timing, use of momentum, power and quality of mind/intent.

Core Components of Practice 

The three main pillars of our Bagua practice are tiangan, xiantian and houtian.

The tiangan, literally meaning heavenly stems, are our core body/mind conditioning practice. They are a series of 24 total exercises that are practiced to develop both internal and external conditioning. Though they are often strenuous, they help to develop the power for Bagua’s fighting methods and the mental discipline required for deep study of the system.

The xiantian, literally meaning pre-heaven, are our main and most important method of practice. They are short solo forms performed while walking on a circle, reflecting their roots as a method of Taoist meditation training. We often will say that the circling methods are for training the body, specifically the Baguazhang Body Method – Bagua Shenfa. In reality, the xiantian are the fount from which all else in bagua is derived. Our houtian combat methods, our throwing methods, our opening and controlling techniques, our body and mind development practice are all derivative of the xiantian, Bagua’s circle walking practice.

The houtian, literally meaning post-heaven, are short linear combat forms that contain the vast library of our fighting techniques and theories. There are 64 of these short forms in total, composed of 8 sections of 8, each derived from one of the core 8 circling forms.

Outline of the System

Basic training methods

Yangshengong – qigong – jibengong
  1. Yangshengong
  2. Kai san men – basic qigong for opening the joints and spine
  3. Ba duan jin Qigong
  4. Turtle and Crane Qigong methods
  5. Bagua Jibengong
  6. Bagua Roushengong or Roushenfa
Miscellaneous Basic Training
Standing practice
  1. wuji zhuang
  2. bao taiji zhuang
  3. houtian zhuang
  4. xiantian zhuang
Footwork training
  1. basic circle walking
  2. kou bu / bai bu / shun bu 
  3. half step (ban bu) 
  4. full step
  5. T step (ding zi bu) 
  6. seven star step (qi xing bu) 
  7. spin steps
  8. switching steps
  9. god walk and variations
  10. skipping step and variations
Jibenshoufa

Basic hand methods – 10 basic hand techniques for training the movement of the body in coordination with the arms. Drills basic motions later found in the Xiantian and Houtian.

1Chuan shou piercing hand 
2Kai kan shou opening chopping hand (aka: kai guo shou – opening slapping hand) 
3Tui pai zhang pushing patting palm 
4Zhuang zhang crashing palm 
5Gai fan chui covered overturning beating (aka: fan shou – overturning hand) 
6Tiao shou rising (plucking) hand 
7Shuai shou whipping palm 
8Nei wai he zhang inner and outer opening and closing hand 
9Tuo zhang supporting palm 
10Xie tiao zhang oblique rising palm 
Wuxing quan 

Five Elements – Study of the five elements of Xingyiquan fame. 

1Pi QuanSplitting Fist
2Zuan QuanDrilling Fist
3Beng QuanSmashing Fist
4Pao QuanPounding Fist
5Heng QuanCrossing Fist
Tiangan

10 pairs of exercises that strengthen, stretch, open and reinforce one’s structure in movement, mind/body connection and power. They are a type of Gao style Baguazhang-specific neigong training.

1BanTo move
2KanTo chop
3TiaoTo pluck
4ZhuangTo crash
5BengTo smash into (like an ocean wave)
6ZhuaTo grab
7KouTo hook or detain
8YeTo clasp
9CuoTo file across
10SongTo relax
Xiantian

Xiantianzhang means pre-heaven palms and refers to the circle walking training characteristic of Baguazhang. The circle walking training is the core method of practice for Bagua practitioners and will train the body method central to good Bagua practice.

    1. Single Palm Change (4 major variations taught initially by me – Luo Laoshi begins with the first two variations)
      1. Dan huan zhang – single palm change (the standard SPC for our system) (單換掌)
      2. Fan huan zhang – reverse palm change (反換掌)
      3. Chuan zhang – piercing palm (穿掌)
      4. Xia shi dan huan zhang – lower form single palm change (下式單換掌)
    1. Core eight palms (2 variations, first set is Tianjin/short version, second is the long Zhang Zhunfeng/Indoor version)
      1. Snake form smooth movement palm (smooth body palm) (蛇形順勢掌(順身掌))
      2. Dragon form piercing hand palm (piercing body palm) (龍形穿手掌(穿身掌))
      3. Turn body back and strike the tiger palm (returning body palm) (回身打虎掌(回身掌))
      4. Swallow overturning, covering hand palm (overturning body palm) (燕翻蓋手掌(翻身掌))
      5. Turn the body over the back palm (turning body palm) (轉身反背掌(轉身掌))
      6. Twist the body, leaning forward palm (twisting body palm) (擰身探馬掌(擰身掌))
      7. Swing the body and insert from behind palm (behind the back palm) (翻身背插掌(背插掌))
      8. Turn the body, pull, and hook palm (spinning body palm) (停身搬扣掌(旋身掌))
    1. Black Dragon Swings Tail (many variations – indoor and outdoor)
      1. The Dragon Swings its Tail (一龍為擺尾)
      2. The Dragon Divides the Water (二龍為分水)
      3. The Dragon Spreads (shows) its Claws (三龍為探爪)
      4. The Dragon Shows its Body (四龍為顯身)
      5. The Dragon Winds around the Center (五龍為攪柱)

Each palm also teaches certain principles, applications, throwing, and opening techniques. There are also preliminary training exercises that concentrate on the core movement principle of each palm.

The single palm change represents the head of the dragon, the body of the dragon is the core eight palm changes, and the tail of the dragon is represented by the Black Dragon Swings Tail changes.

Houtian 

Houtianzhang means post-heaven palms and refers to the straight line short form practice made famous by Gao style Baguazhang. These primarily train whole-body power, extension of power, opening of the body, and the core application practice of the style.

  1. Houtian Zhuang – Houtian posture (seven star stance (qi xing shi) / three bodies stance (san ti shi)) holding
  2. 64 linear palms (w/applications, some have two-person training methods, some work different areas such as kicking, elbows, etc.)
  3. Continuous palms – each set of eight of the Houtians done in a continuous set from one to eight.

These are for training the range of fighting applications that are somewhat less obvious in the circling forms. They will also train to reinforce and strengthen one’s structure and mind/body connection while reinforcing good movement principles, etc. 

The Post-heaven Palms are derived from the Sixty four single drills of the Pre-heaven Eight Big Palms” and which can also be linked style drills and are thus named the Post-heaven Sixty Four Entwining Palms.

Post-heaven Palm practice is based on “Hardness”(gang). Within Hardness is softness. Emphasis is in cultivating methodology, force and structure, seeking to achieve its skill from within.

This practice urges the development of power and lengthens the hitting distance. It uses the foot to assist the body and the arm to assist the palm. During practice attend to the Three Extensions: extend awareness, extend power and extend structure.

The twenty-four key demands of the Houtian palms:

1. 眼要明 The eyes should be clear

2. 耳要靈 The ears should be lively

3. 手要快 The hands should be fast

4. 肘要近 The elbows should stick next to the body

5. 腿要彈 The legs should spring

6. 裡要掩 Moving inwards the hand should close and turn

7. 外要撥 Moving outwards the hand should open and twist

8. 上要截 When the hand goes up, it should intercept

9. 下要攔 When the hand moves downward, it should block

10. 領要橫 Ling (leading) One hand will pull across

11. 帶要順 Dai (leading, bringing along) Two hands pull along with the movement

12. 摟要實 Lou (embracing) should be tight

13. 抓要實 Zhua (grabbing) A grab must be solid

14. 頓要擢 Dun (shocking and pulling down) should be done suddenly

15. 托要準 Tuo (Lifting up) must be accurate

16. 掖要連 Ye (clasping) should be connected

17. 擠要黏 Ji (pressing) should stick

18. 刁要爆 Diao (hooking) should be explosive

19. 崩要急 Beng (smashing) should be quick

20. 撞要靠 Zhuang (crashing) should be done close

21. 扳要猛 Ban (pulling against) should be fierce and swift

22. 扣要狠 Kou (hooking) should be merciless

23. 步要清 Footwork and stepping should be distinct

24. 身要活 The body must be lively

The special characteristics practiced in each of the Post-heaven Palms are as follows:

Line 1 – Guiding Principles  (一路綱領)

Line 2 – Hitting Methods  (二路打法)

Line 3 – Clever Methods  (三路巧法)

Line 4 – Subtle methods  (四路妙法)

Line 5 – Elbow Methods  (五路肘法)

Line 6 – Leg Methods  (六路腿法)

Line 7 – Stepping Methods  (七路步法)

Line 8 – Body Methods  (八路身法)

After one’s gongfu is well developed, the Post heaven and Pre heaven Palms may unite as one. Upon interception one’s whole body may react with a natural entwining rhythm, one may regulate the interchange of hard and soft, empty and full. Assaults can be hard, fierce and violent or clever, slippery and cunning. Pre-heaven Palms are externally round and internally square while Post-heaven Palms are externally square and internally round.

The first line of Post Heaven Bagua contains all the principles seen in later Post Heaven Palms. Points to remember include: Stepping should be clean, the body should be nimble, energy and power should be sufficient, and hand movements should be clear.

1. 開掌Opening Palm
2. 捧掌Upward Scooping Palm
3. 扽掌Pulling Down Palm
4. 探掌The Golden Dragon Puts Out Its Claws
5. 立掌Vertical Palm
6. 挑掌Rising Palm
7. 蓋掌Covering Palm
8. 纏掌Entwining Palm

The second line of Post Heaven Bagua emphasizes fighting principles and their application. The techniques should be practiced until they become natural. Hands and eyes must be quick. When striking, the opponent cannot follow.

1. 截肋掌Intercepting at the Ribs Palm
2. 葉下藏花掌Flower Hidden Beneath The Leaf Palm
3. 內砍掌Chopping from the Inside Palm
4. 外削掌Cutting from the Outside Palm
5. 二仙傳道Two Immortals Teach the Way Palm
6. 惡虎撲羊Ferocious Tiger Pounces on Sheep Palm
7. 鳳凰奪窩Phoenix Robs the Nest Palm
8. 進退連環Continuously Advancing and Retreating palm

The third line of Post Heaven Bagua practices internal power, making the entire body sensitive and receptive. Like the grass that sways in the wind, once there is contact, there should be an immediate response. Palms strike with tremendous power, with no wasted movement.

1. 穿肋掌Piercing the Ribs Palm
2. 橫搬掌Horizontal Moving Palm
3. 截手掌Intercepting Palm
4. 攔手掌Blocking Palm
5. 停身掌Stopping the Body Palm
6. 翻手掌Overturning Palm
7. 走行步Going away palm
8. 轉身掌Turning the Body Palm

The fourth line of Post Heaven Bagua practices “fajing” (explosive power) and is divided into four hard and four soft movements. These eight movements contain hidden and skillful principles. They look out for chances and change accordingly. Once the mind moves, the hands and feet respond. When eyes and spirit see a chance, the mind is already prepared.

1. 推山入海Push the Mountain into the Sea
2. 力托千斤掌Upward lifting palm
3. 帶扣掌Pulling and Fastening Palm
4. 外領掌Lead to the Outside Palm
5. 沾手掌Adhering Hands Palm
6. 黏手掌Sticky Hands Palm
7. 連手掌Continuous Hands Palm
8. 隨手掌Following Hands Palm

The fifth line of Post Heaven Bagua teaches pressure point attacks and the disruption of sinews. The emphasis is on elbow techniques and rapid and ruthless movement used in close quarter fighting.

1. 墩肘Back Elbow
2. 盤肘Rolling Elbow
3. 墜肘Sinking Elbow
4. 頂肘Upwards Elbow
5. 橫肘Horizontal Elbow
6. 挫肘Filing the elbow
7. 疊肘Folding Elbow
8. 鑽肘Drilling Elbow

The sixth line of Post Heaven Bagua teaches kicking methods. Legs kick on three levels: high, mid-level, low. So the 8 kicks learned in this line become 24.

1. 前趨腿Front Shin Kick
2. 後踹腿Rear Kick, Backward Stamping Kick
3. 外擺腿Outside Crescent Kick
4. 內掛腿Inside Hook(ing) Kick
5. 上踢腿High Kick
6. 下截腿Downward Cutting Kick
7. 斜掃腿Diagonal Sweeping Kick
8. 正撞腿Straight Jamming Kick

The seventh line of Post Heaven Bagua teaches sticking and adhering techniques. The main focus lies on stepping methods. One’s hands are ever unpredictable and always changing. Hands and eyes move together; body and feet move as one.

1. 掖掌Tucked (In) Palm
2. 擠掌Pressing Palm
3. 刁手Hook Hand Palm
4. 摟手Embracing Body Palm
5. 崩打Jabbing Strike
6. 撞掌Crashing Palm
7. 扣掌Hooking the face Palm
8. 搬掌Moving Palm

The eighth line of Post Heaven Bagua teaches internal structure and the use of different states of mind. Body-movement should be quick; eyes and hands correspondingly fast. Within the body are changes between yin and yang and modulations between stillness and motion.

1. 猿猴擣把Pounding and Grabbing
2. 狸虎敲心Mangoose, Striking to the heart
3. 吸身掌Drawing In The Body Palm
4. 伏身撈胯Lean over the body, scoop the leg
5. 搖身掌Swaying Body Palm
6. 閃身掌Evasive Body Palm
7. 橫撞掌Horizontal Crashing palm
8. 猛虎躥山The Fierce Tiger leaps forward

Nine Character Formula  (用法九要):

Smooth:Move naturally.自然
Brave:Being firm and resolute.果決
Straightforward:Being heavy when executing techniques.發必重
Clever:Using the opponents force against him.借力使力破千斤
Subtle:Being able to react with all parts of the body; the hands are unpredictable.變化多端出,手不見形
Continuous:Sticking, adhering, linking, following; continuously executing techniques.沾黏連隨 ,招勢不斷
Ruthless:No hesitation, be ruthless when moving.動不容情
Rapid:Once there is contact, move fast.一觸即發緊快
Skill:Internal and Outer Skill.內外功力

Duiliu 

Paired training exercises such as fanzhang, siping tuishou, danshou tuishou, sanchuan, sifangda, sanshou, two person forms, etc.

Other 

Various other exercises for training power, footwork, weapons, basic attributes, body movement, etc.

Ding shi ba zhang

Circle walking exercises done while holding static upper body postures. 

Rou shen fa

Body movement training exercises, designed to be able to give back to the student at all levels of training.

Weapons

Weapons have been something of an accident of history in our line of Yizong Baguazhang. Zhang Zhunfeng first taught the Hong Brothers in the early years after the KMT arrival in Taiwan. At this time, and until the 1980’s I believe but especially during the early years of the late 40s and early 50s, Taiwan was under martial law. Weapons other than a standard staff that every old lady would carry with them to the market were banned in public. You could not practice with them in the parks or carry them on the bus. As this period is the primary period of time in which the Hong Brothers learned their art, our inheritance of martial weapons was blunted, so to speak.

The primary weapons that we train today represent the three major lengths and ranges of weapons – the staff, the sword, and the Bagua half-moon (deer horn) knives. These examples train concepts in our lineage of the representative types of weapons of that range or type, so the sword (Jian) could include the single edge sword (dao), a baseball bat, or a short stick, for example. Because of this accident or intrusion of history, our line of Yizong uses these three ranges/lengths to teach the basics of all possible weapons. Wherein some lines of Chinese Martial Arts might have 10, 20 or more different weapons forms, we use the forms we have and the knowledge of how to use them in fighting as a basis for a more realistic look at fighting with weapons. The concepts and body methods we have developed lead us to an understanding of how to approach the use of traditional weapons, make-shift weapons, and how to understand what can be an extension of our body and mind.

Sun Xikun’s Baguazhang

Later students will train the basic palm changes of Sun Xikun’s style to get familiar with them and to delve into their particular approach to mind/body training.