Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts
Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts Curriculum Information
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 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
- Kai san men – basic qigong for opening the joints and spine
- Ba duan jin Qigong
- Turtle and Crane Qigong methods
- Bagua Jibengong
- Bagua Roushengong or Roushenfa
Miscellaneous Basic Training
- wuji zhuang
- bao taiji zhuang
- houtian zhuang
- xiantian zhuang
- basic circle walking
- kou bu / bai bu / shun bu
- half step (ban bu)
- full step
- T step (ding zi bu)
- seven star step (qi xing bu)
- spin steps
- switching steps
- god walk and variations
- skipping step and variations
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.
|Kai kan shou
|opening chopping hand (aka: kai guo shou – opening slapping hand)
|Tui pai zhang
|pushing patting palm
|Gai fan chui
|covered overturning beating (aka: fan shou – overturning hand)
|rising (plucking) hand
|Nei wai he zhang
|inner and outer opening and closing hand
|Xie tiao zhang
|oblique rising palm
Five Elements – Study of the five elements of Xingyiquan fame.
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.
|To smash into (like an ocean wave)
|To hook or detain
|To file across
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.
- Single Palm Change (4 major variations taught initially by me – Luo Laoshi begins with the first two variations)
- Dan huan zhang – single palm change (the standard SPC for our system) （單換掌）
- Fan huan zhang – reverse palm change （反換掌）
- Chuan zhang – piercing palm （穿掌）
- Xia shi dan huan zhang – lower form single palm change （下式單換掌）
- Core eight palms (2 variations, first set is Tianjin/short version, second is the long Zhang Zhunfeng/Indoor version)
- Snake form smooth movement palm (smooth body palm) (蛇形順勢掌（順身掌))
- Dragon form piercing hand palm (piercing body palm) (龍形穿手掌（穿身掌))
- Turn body back and strike the tiger palm (returning body palm) (回身打虎掌（回身掌))
- Swallow overturning, covering hand palm (overturning body palm) (燕翻蓋手掌（翻身掌))
- Turn the body over the back palm (turning body palm) (轉身反背掌（轉身掌))
- Twist the body, leaning forward palm (twisting body palm) (擰身探馬掌（擰身掌))
- Swing the body and insert from behind palm (behind the back palm) (翻身背插掌（背插掌))
- Turn the body, pull, and hook palm (spinning body palm) (停身搬扣掌（旋身掌))
- Black Dragon Swings Tail (many variations – indoor and outdoor)
- The Dragon Swings its Tail (一龍為擺尾)
- The Dragon Divides the Water (二龍為分水)
- The Dragon Spreads (shows) its Claws (三龍為探爪)
- The Dragon Shows its Body (四龍為顯身)
- The Dragon Winds around the Center (五龍為攪柱)
- Single Palm Change (4 major variations taught initially by me – Luo Laoshi begins with the first two variations)
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.
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.
- Houtian Zhuang – Houtian posture (seven star stance (qi xing shi) / three bodies stance (san ti shi)) holding
- 64 linear palms (w/applications, some have two-person training methods, some work different areas such as kicking, elbows, etc.)
- 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.
|Upward Scooping Palm
|Pulling Down Palm
|The Golden Dragon Puts Out Its Claws
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.
|Intercepting at the Ribs Palm
|Flower Hidden Beneath The Leaf Palm
|Chopping from the Inside Palm
|Cutting from the Outside Palm
|Two Immortals Teach the Way Palm
|Ferocious Tiger Pounces on Sheep Palm
|Phoenix Robs the Nest Palm
|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.
|Piercing the Ribs Palm
|Horizontal Moving Palm
|Stopping the Body Palm
|Going away palm
|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.
|Push the Mountain into the Sea
|Upward lifting palm
|Pulling and Fastening Palm
|Lead to the Outside Palm
|Adhering Hands Palm
|Sticky Hands Palm
|Continuous Hands Palm
|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.
|Filing the 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.
|Front Shin Kick
|Rear Kick, Backward Stamping Kick
|Outside Crescent Kick
|Inside Hook(ing) Kick
|Downward Cutting Kick
|Diagonal Sweeping Kick
|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.
|Tucked (In) Palm
|Hook Hand Palm
|Embracing Body Palm
|Hooking the face 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.
|Pounding and Grabbing
|Mangoose, Striking to the heart
|Drawing In The Body Palm
|Lean over the body, scoop the leg
|Swaying Body Palm
|Evasive Body Palm
|Horizontal Crashing palm
|The Fierce Tiger leaps forward
Nine Character Formula (用法九要):
|Being firm and resolute.
|Being heavy when executing techniques.
|Using the opponents force against him.
|Being able to react with all parts of the body; the hands are unpredictable.
|Sticking, adhering, linking, following; continuously executing techniques.
|No hesitation, be ruthless when moving.
|Once there is contact, move fast.
|Internal and Outer Skill.
Paired training exercises such as fanzhang, siping tuishou, danshou tuishou, sanchuan, sifangda, sanshou, two person forms, etc.
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 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.
While serving his mandatory tour of duty in the Navy as a young man, Luo Dexiu had the good fortune to meet up with and study with Liu Qian. Liu Qian was an early student of Sun Xikun. Luo always talks of this time as being a very important part of his martial arts learning.
He learned much from Liu Qian in the way of theory and principles of Baguazhang, so much so that it would profoundly change the direction of his martial arts training and lead him to further research and study into Baguazhang.
Liu Qian was an early student of Sun Xikun, who apparently kept in touch with him throughout Sun’s life. Sun died in KaoHsiung, Taiwan if I recall, so likely had contact again with Liu Qian at the end of his life. Liu Qian did have other students/disciples in his classes.
When Luo began training with Liu Qian, he apparently earned the ire of Liu’s other students. Luo was not only able to beat Liu’s students, but he proved to be Liu’s hardest working student as well. Although Liu Qian appreciated Luo’s thirst for knowledge and the willingness to work for it, it did not make Luo friends with Liu’s other students.
Luo learned many things from Liu Qian – much work on Bagua theory and training, the mother palms and eight palms forms, the Bagua neigong, fighting principles and applications, and much work on throwing. Luo trained with Liu Qian both in his public classes and directly with him privately.
Sun Xikun’s Bagua is most similar to our Gao style WuLongBaiWei (Black Dragon Swings Tail) palms in flavor. Sun Xikun’s takes this a step beyond however in terms of Yi development.
Also, a little more on Liu Qian… He was part of the KMT military and came to Taiwan that way. He told Luo Laoshi that he had seen Cheng Haiting’s (Cheng Tinghua’s son’s) classes and his practice, although Luo stated that he was really a student of Sun Xikun, not a classmate. He was also a member of Yi Guan Dao as well.
Our lineage through Sun Xikun is therefore as follows:
Dong Haichuan – Cheng Tinghua – Cheng Haiting – Sun Xikun – Liu Qian – Luo Dexiu