Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Warfox Bagua Treatise

Here is a article I wrote for Temple Underground about Bagua. If you haven't subscribed to their site yet, please do.!peer-review/cfvg

A Treatise on Bagua

In the beginning there was Wuji or the void: nothingness. The Wuji led to the Liang Yi, which is also known as the Two Concepts or energies of yin and yang (negative and positive forces). Liang Yi led to the San Cai or the Three Principles: Heaven, Earth and Man. The Three Principles led to the Si Xiang or the Four Directions: North, South, East and West. The Four Directions led to the Wu Xing or the Five Elements: Metal, Earth, Wood, Fire and Water. The Five Elements led to the Liu He or the Six Harmonies which are the three internal energies and the three external energies. The Six Harmonies led to the Seven Stars: Alpha, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid. The Seven Stars led to the Bagua or Eight Trigrams representing the eight elemental energies of Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. (Wu 1979)

Baguazhang utilizes the eight different elemental energies as a means for both strengthening the body and combat. The main strengthening method, often referred to as Pre-heaven Training, is done through practicing Zhuang Zhang (circle walking). Combat training is commonly referred to as Post-heaven Training and utilizes sixty four different palm techniques. Each also consists of eight different palm attacks. Without training the structure of the Pre-heaven, the attacks and defenses of Baguazhang are empty and powerless. Without training the Post-heaven, the power of Baguazhang can’t be wielded effectively. Both of these forms of training are separate, while remaining dependent on each other.  This resembles the relationship of yin and yang.

The importance of practicing walking the circle (Zhuang Zhang) can never be overstated. With every movement of Baguazhang, the hand follows the body, and the body follows the legs. Every technique is first guided by a step, which is the emphasis of circle walking. All of the sixty four palms have at least six different variations that become infinite when utilizing the different geometric patterns that Baguazhang footwork provides. Even though there are thousands of different techniques within the system of Baguazhang, they are all just variations of a single movement: Zhuang Zhang. (G. Z. Wu 2000)  

There are dozens of different techniques that can be practiced during circle walking including the Single Changing Palm, the Double Changing Palm and so on. However, all of the movements teach the practitioner to find stillness within movement and movement within stillness. By learning to twist within our structure, we are able to release the power of centripetal force from the ground and through the core of our body into our opponent. Every linear attack has the power of a spiral behind it, and every spiral movement flows in a straight trajectory. Through tightening and releasing, contracting and expanding, sinking and rising, opening and closing, Baguazhang can create a great force through realizing energy like a bow and arrow, or perpetually attack its opponent like an automatic crossbow.

In order to walk the circle, we must first understand the key points of the Baguazhang stance. These are the instructions of posture written by Wu Guo Zheng:  

“Lower the weight and gather energy into the Dan Tian (energy center), tuck in the buttocks to close the anus, extend the inside leg forward, push hip flexors forward and sink your weight on them to keep pressure off the knees, squeeze the legs together, breath from the zhong jiao (middle energizer), let your breath govern physical movements, slightly lower the chin to keep the head and neck erect, curl the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, twist from the waist extending both hands to the side of the extended foot, press down on the shoulders and hollow out the chest to round the back, keep elbows centered, wrists are erected upward, the elbow of the outside hand is aligned with the center of the chest cavity, the middle finger of the outside hand points to the inside elbow, the first finger of the inside hand points upward, the middle finger of the inside hand is slightly curved, all intent is focused on the opponent opposite of the inside hand. Train to let the body relax in this posture in order to shape the structure of power into one connected movement.” (G. Z. Wu 2000) .

When this posture has been learned, we can begin walking Tang Ni Bu (mud step) to build power within the legs. Tang Ni Bu can be done in a straight line, at first, to gain control, and later it can be practiced in the circle with the aforementioned posture. When walking the circle, the inside foot moves straight forward while keeping the energy in the legs tight together. The outside foot then moves forward with a slight kou bu (inside hooking step) at a forty five degree angle. It is crucial to always keep the weight in the back to avoid putting pressure on the knees. Just as if we were walking on mud and are uncertain the depth, the foot slides carefully forward before placing the weight firmly on the ground. Once the weight has been placed, we use the toes to grab the ground for stability while alternating weight to the other foot. The waist must remain twisted as our focus stays on the inside hand.

Just like eating, this Pre-heaven practice must be done daily. Unlike other internal styles, Bagua learns to gather its energy from continual movement instead of stillness. Every movement is controlled by breath. Inhale with one part of the technique and exhale with the other. Through relaxing, we learn the secrets of coiling and whipping power throughout the limbs. This practice must be done for twenty minutes to an hour a day in order to establish the necessary power and connectivity for the Post-heaven movements.

The Combat system of Bagua is based on the strategies of each section (gua): Heaven, Water, Mountain, Thunder, Wind, Fire, Earth and Lake. The sixty four palms also have sixty four counters with variations to deal with striking, kicking, grappling and weapon defense.  Each palm attack can be modified into a fist strike, elbow strike, shoulder strike, back strike, head butt, kick, trip, arm/leg bar or takedown. (G. Z. Wu, Soft Body Flowing Baguazhang 1985) Mathematically, the movements within the system of Baguazhang are endless because it is the art of change and unpredictability. The movements themselves are only blueprints to instruct the body to use a powerful structure while evading, controlling or dominating opposing energy.

Heaven (Qian) represents purity, straightforwardness and simplicity. It is the way of striking and not being struck. Each hand attack must contain the energy of the entire body. As you breathe, your arms are inflated with energy that strikes through the target. Smother the opponent with powerful striking combinations using every part of the body, from every trajectory. Each movement is a counter attack that is preceded with a block, but every block is also an attack and preemptive striking is often a solid defense.  

Water (Kan) represents flow and splashing energy. It is the way of using and controlling the hands. First, grab the opponent’s arm and move the limb to do more damage in the structure of the body. By raising, lowering, or stretching the opponent’s arm, the rib cage opens and can be easily fractured when struck. Dislocating and holding the limb while it is broken allows for continuous attacking by yanking the opponent into the strike. Alternate from grabbing and striking to grabbing again, hitting vital parts until your opponent collapses. Crash into your opponent’s soft spots using a waving motion like the tide.  

Mountain (Gen) represents impregnability and silence. It is the way of counter attacking and not being countered. Through careful stepping, you can trap your opponent’s arms together, guaranteeing their inability to block your strike. Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire. Use rolling energy within your core to evade while appearing to have not moved. The more your opponent attacks, the more he becomes entangled by his own limbs. When striking, always expect to be countered to take advantage of his advantage. By stopping suddenly, we are off balance and uproot our opponent.  

Thunder (Zhen) represents invisible power. It is the way of the body. The entire body is an arsenal searching for the correct opportunity. Aim with your intent and release the power of the entire frame into your enemy. Crash into your opponent or slam them to the ground suddenly when their mind is in between movements. Move in one direction while attacking or grabbing in the other. Be as fast and unpredictable as lighting. Use explosive attacks into the soft targets of your opponent.

Wind (Xun) represents sharp, cutting force. It is the way of striking with the elbow and breaking the elbow at the joint. Use the elbow rapidly from all eight angles while aiming for the soft targets of the body. The elbow is also a shield that can be used to repel any attack while simultaneously returning damage in a wheel-like motion. Use the elbow in annular movements to roll off attacks and advance on the target. Break the opponent’s arm by catching it between your elbow and body at the precise moment of his attack. Use the elbow in combination with the shoulder or palm for bursting combination speed and effective countering opportunities.  

Fire (Li) represents heat and pressure. It is the way of kicking and stopping kicks. Utilize the Baguazhang angular footwork to kick your opponent from the least expected angle. Every step is a kick, and every kick is a step. Hide your intent within the footwork and strike suddenly at the throat, nose, armpit, groin and thigh. All of the kicks are also trips and sweeps that can be combined together like a fire in a dry field. Use stopping kicks to stop your opponent’s legs from leaving the ground. Hook the legs while striking with the hands, and strike with the hands to hook the legs. Fire consumes wherever it touches.

Earth (Kun) represents deception and craftiness. It is the way of entry. Peel, dismantle, and open your opponent’s defenses. Force him to block so that you can surprise him with a hidden attack. Bait him to attack, and force him to retreat so that he will fall victim to your setup. Attack from one direction, and, immediately the next, just so you can hit him in the center. Secretly find the weak point in the defense then dissolve and disable it in order to unleash a finishing blow.

Lake (Dui) represents stationary depth. It is the way of footwork. By using tight, circular steps you are able to travel very far within the same place. Your opponent will not be able to grasp you, but you can easily grab him. When he attacks, he becomes clumsy in the depth of your evasiveness. Sink and raise your weight to expose your opponent’s vulnerabilities. Use footwork to control all ranges and you control the outcome of the fight.

The true power behind Bagua comes, not only from the footwork of Pre-heaven or the techniques of the Post-heaven, but from the understanding of opposing forces. The entire system is learning how to twist opposing energies together: Heaven vs. Earth, Fire vs. Water, Wind vs. Lake, and Mountain vs. Thunder. The wind is the opposite of the lake because it can’t be contained, whereas the lake can’t move around freely. The mountain is the opposite of thunder because it is massive and silent, yet thunder is loud and invisible. Baguazhang is the art of change, and through combining opposing forces we find the freedom of unpredictability. (J. Y. Wu 1979)

When we combine opposing forces together, we find a power within the resistance much like magnets of opposite polarities. These opposing forces not only exist between the Pre-heaven and Post-heaven Training, but also between the individual and Baguazhang itself. Baguazhang is a system of geometric patterns and concepts that utilize physics that can be challenging for the mind and body to comprehend. The individual must practice thousands of techniques ten thousand times.  He does this not to make the technique more effective, but to be molded into a living technique. Baguazhang itself is empty without the diligence of the practitioner. As it gives power to the practitioner over time then the individual also gives life to Baguazhang.

Baguazhang is the art of adaptation which comes through researching against various environments, opponents and situations. A chameleon can only adapt to what it encounters. Every theory must be tested, tried, and re-tested to ensure that the technique is of sufficient skill against any attack. Any Baguazhang technique can be used against any attack if the practitioner has trained it into completion. The movements must be blended with the nature of the man until each technique is a natural reaction.    


Wu-yuan Jin, Baguazhang, (Xinzhu, Taiwan, 1979) 
Guo-zheng Wu, How to Practice Bagua Well, 2000 (

Guo-zheng Wu, Soft Body Flowing Hands Bagua, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1985)

Jin-yuan Wu, Baguazhang Training Principles, (Xinzhu Baguazhang Association, 1979)

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