Dragon Style Baguazhang
Bagua’s origins are surrounded in mystery. However most believe Bagua was created by Dong Haichuan (1797 or 1813 – 1882). Dong learned several martial arts while growing up, as well as others as an adult traveling the country. Which arts he learned can only be speculated on but, probably were Shaolin based. It is accepted that Dong practiced circle walking as part of Taoist practices he learned during his travels. Dong combined what he had learned from his earlier training in his village with what he learned in his travels, along with his Taoist practices to form a new art he called “ZhuanZhang (Turning Palm)”. Years later the name became Baguazhang.
Ma Wei Chi (Maweiqi) 1851 – 1880owned a shop in Beijing selling coal and briquettes and he was therefore nicknamed “Mei Ma” or Coal Ma”. He was also known as “10 day Ma” because of the 10 day delayed fatal injuries his opponents often received, which kept the authorities away. As a young man he liked to fight. When Dong Haiquan became famous, Ma visited him in order to compare skills. Ma was easily defeated by Dong. Ma then threw himself down in front of Dong’s school and begged to be taught. Among the students of the Bagua Zhang school, Ma was known as a person of outstanding talent. However, he had a fiery temper, was arrogant and liked to challenge people to test his skills. He had no respect for others except for his teacher and thus he was not liked within the martial arts circle. Ma was an expert in Baguazhang, Baguadao, and Bagua Turning Spear. He was also known for his spherical punch, and striking with his forearms. He was famous for his spear technique. He died very young under mysterious circumstances.
Yang Ju-Lin, was the top apprentice of the Ba Kua Master Ma Wei-Chi. Master. Yan Ju-Lin was a short and stocky man and a very powerful teacher. It was hard for him to keep students long because he hurt many of them through his rough teaching method. Ma Wei Chi was known to be equally rough on his students, Master Yan Ju-Lin taught as he was taught.
Chiao Chang-Hung was the 33rd generation master of Hsiao Chiu Tien Wu Tao (little Nine Heaven). Master Chiao succeed the honorable Taoist abbot Lushan Doran the 32nd master of San Quin temple in Lu Shan. On the Yi Wu-Lu mountain in China. After leaving the Little Nine Heaven temple in Northeastern China, master Chiao learned Hsing-I from Liu Tsu-Yen, and Bagua from Yang Ju-Lin.
James McNeil was Chiao Chang-Hung’s first and only American student. He is a 34th generation Little Nine Heaven Wu Tao practitioner. Sifu McNeil learned Hsiao Chiu Tien Wu Tao, Hsing-I, and Bagua from Master Chiao. He had many other teachers before becoming master Chiao’s student. He learned Hsing-I from master Hsu Hong-Chi, Shaolin 5 family from master Ralph Shun, and Splashing Hands from master Huamea Lefiti.
Michael Murphy is a 35th generation Hsiao Chiu Tien Wu Tao, 6th generation Baguazhang, and 7th generation Tzu Men Chuan practitioner. He learned these systems along with Shih Shui, Iron Hand and Psychic healing from sifu McNeil. He also practices Hsing-I, Chen style taijiquan, and Cheng Man Ch’ing style taijiquan. He has also learned and/or taught many other systems such as Liu Ho Pa Fa, Judo, Aikijujitsu, and several Kempo systems.
Walking the circle is fundamental, and the basis of all training in Bagua. Bagua practitioners should walk the circle with spirit, intent, and power concentrated on a single goal. While Bagua circle walking trains footwork for fighting, it also follows the Taoist goal of creating stillness in motion.
The Taoist practice was to walk with the body natural and relaxed. The movements were to be comfortable. The intention was to gain a sense of balance while moving slowly. In the beginning you learn to walk the circle painstakingly slowly. In time you walk fast.
You walk the circle in one of the three basins. At first lower basin, you should be low so that the thighs move through a position where they are parallel with the ground. This develops great leg strength, stability, and root while moving. You learn this first, and walk slowly. Middle basin is somewhat higher( in the middle between upper and lower basin), with upper basin being the highest at a normal walking height.
As a general rule beginners and the Young should train lower basin, middle aged can train middle basin, and the elderly upper basin. The higher the basin, the faster one should walk. In an actual fighting situation move at upper basin.
Some Taoist walk the circle for meditative purposes. They walk the circle slow and steadily, with the mind calm and focused. Over time a high degree of mobility is developed when walking becomes very fast, and directional changes are frequent. Some practice to develop a balanced chi flow. To do so the movements and breathing must be smooth, and the dan tian stable. This walking method helps full chi circulation from head to toe.
General guidelines for Walking the Circle
Maintain a relaxed, comfortable posture, and focused intention while walking. Follow these guidelines and the variations on the theme are endless.
1) Allowing the body to feel natural and relaxed, comfortable and connected when walking the circle. This helps a balanced chi flow throughout the body. It also stabilizes the body and improves balance while in motion.
2) Walk smoothly and continuously. You should not waiver, wobble, or bob up and down.
3) Maintain focused intention so the mind and body are in harmony. Tension restricts chi flow, and throws the body off balance. Keep relaxed.
4) The lower body is sunken downward while the upper body is held erect.
5) The head is held straight up, while the shoulders and elbows are dropped.
6) The back is rounded yet straight and erect while the chest is hollow.
7) The wrists are sunken, while the palm remains pressing.
8) The waist is relaxed, while the buttocks are tilted up and slightly forward.
Once you have learned the single palm change and it’s variations, you learn the eight animals. When practicing the animals it is important to adopt the spirit of the animal. The eight animals are as follows:
- Snake – climbs the branch
- Swallow – seizes prey
- Dragon – sweeps to heaven
- Chi-Lien –
- Phoenix – Spreads it’s wings
- Lion – bares it’s jaws
- Bear – turns over in it’s cave
- Monkey – offers fruit
The Sixteen Principles of Ba Kua Push Hands & Two Man Practice.
|1. Ch’uan||To Pierce||9. T’ui||To Push|
|2. Pan||To move aside||10. T’o||To hold upward|
|3. Chieh||To intercept||11. Tai||To carry side to side|
|4. Lan||To block||12. Ling||To lift up|
|5. Ning||Twisting||13. Ch’an||Wrapping|
|6. Fan||Pressing||14. K’ou||To hold tightly|
|7. Tsou||Stepping||15. Tiao||To grasp|
|8. Chuan||Turning||16. Tsuan||Drilling|
The Power of Push Hands or Two-Man Practice
Two-person fighting forms convey the importance of an exercise called push hands. The primary emphasis of this exercise is to focus on how to develop rooting, sensitivity and yielding ability within the framework of applying the practical techniques of fighting. The student learns to develop the intrinsic energies and true relaxation by practicing the proper procedures of neutralizing and seizing. Throughout all this is the art of feeling or reacting with sensitivity and spirit to the opponent’s movements. Learning this exercise correctly will take the student much further into the subtleties and skills of fighting.
Two Man Fighting Form – is a form performed with a partner with fixed attacks and responses while walking the circle.
Push hands training – First you learn fixed step, then moving step push hands much as taijiquan practitioners do but, once you have learned that level you move on to doing push hands while walking the circle with your opponent. You each make changes freely.
There are many more exercises that can compliment your training such as the “Serving Tea” exercises, “Pole” exercises, and “Tien Gunn”. “Chi kung” is also an essential part of well rounded training.