Bagua Zhang – Dong Hai Chuan and Ma Wei Chi
Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigrams Palm) was created by Dong Hai Chuan around 1853, and was taught publicly after 1870. Dong did not originally call his art Bagua Zhang. His art was originally called Zhuan Zhang (Rotating Palm). The trigrams are symbols which are used to represent all natural phenomena as described in the ancient Chinese text of divination, the Book of Changes (Yi Jing). Zhang means palm and designates Ba Gua Zhang as a style of martial art, which emphasizes the use of the open hand, however some practitioners of this system also will use the closed fist (Ma Wei Chi was known for his fist and forearm strikes). Ba Gua Zhang, as a martial art, is based on the theory of continuously changing in response to the situation at hand in order to overcome an opponent with skill rather than brute force.
Each Bagua system is different. To understand that, you need to know that Dong Hai Chuan only accepted students that had already mastered another system. He taught each student what he needed, and not a specific universally taught curriculum.
Another thing to understand is that Bagua systems vary greatly in complexity of curriculum, and how flowery they are. Older systems tend to be less complex, and have less flash. Dong Hai Chuan himself, may have only practiced a single palm change walking the circle. He only taught a few palm changes. Dong’s students took his forms and theories and combined them with the martial arts they had studied previously. This resulted is in each of Dong’s students ending up with a different interpretation of Ba Gua.
Dong had five main students that he taught. Their names are listed on his tomb. My lineage is through Ma Wei Chi who is one of these five.
Dong Hai Chuan
Ma Wei Chi (1851 – 1880)
He was from Beijing and had an unusually violent temper (most Bagua men are reserved). He had two nicknames. His first was “Mei Ma” (Coal Ma) because he worked in a coal shop. He was often a braggart, and famously demonstrated the art of Iron Spear before the face of Prince Su. His specialty was the spherical punch. His other nick name, was “Ten Day Ma”. This nick name was because he was noted for his 10 day (or longer)delayed fatal injuries to his opponents. It was not that ten days were needed before an opponent’s injuries would finally kill him; Ma Wei Chi could easily kill an opponent outright, rarely needing to strike more than once. Rather Ma Wei Chi’s strikes were designed to cause latent internal damage that would only later cause death. The ten-day delay would prevent Ma Wei Chi from being considered the legal cause of the death, keeping him out of trouble with the authorities. He was not liked by the martial arts community, and had few students. There is much controversy over his pre-mature death.