HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF
SWIMMING DRAGON BAGUAZHANG SET
Green Dragon Tests Claws
Baguazhang, or Pakua Palm, was invented by Dong Hai Chuan in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. He was a skillful Shaolin practitioner before he was reputed to meet two Taoist saints on Hua Mountain who taught Dong Hai Chuan the intricacies of Baguazhang.
The core of Baguazhang was the Eight Mother Palms, which expanded to 64 Palms or Techniques. These 64 palm techniques were jointed together to form a kungfu set. Because the movements of the set resembled a swimming dragon the set was called Swimming Dragon Bagauzhang Set, or "Long Xing Ba Gua You Shen Zhang" in Chinese, which means word-by-word "Dragon-Appearance-Eight-Trigram-Swimming-Body-Palm".
Baguazhang uses the palm exclusively. The fist and other hand-forms like the tiger-claw, the leopard punch, and the phoenix-eye fist, are never used. Baguazhang is famous for its footwork, and a Baguazhang practitioner can get behind his opponents easily.
It mainly uses the Stream-Character Stance, also called variously as the Four-Six Stance, the Triangle Stance, and the Three-Body Stance. Other stances like the Horse-Riding, the Bow-Arrow and the False-Leg, are seldom or never used.
There are different versions of the Swimming Dragon Baguazhang Set. I researched extensively and composed a Swimming Dragon Baguazhang Set for our school.
While I was preparing to teach Baguazhang at the UK Summer Camp 2012, I made a startling discovery. Baguazhang patterns adopt three planes, whereas Taijiquan patterns two, and Shaolin patterns one. For example, in a typical Bagauzhang pattern, Green Dragon Tests Claws, when your feet point towards north, your body points towards north-east, and your hands point towards east. In a typical Taijiquan patern, Immortal Waves Sleeves, when your feet point towards north, your hands and body point towards north-east. In a typical Shaolin pattern, Beauty Looks at Mirror, when your feet point towards north, your body and hands also point towards north.
This three-plane facility enhances agility and provides better combat efficiency. I believe this improvement is much related to the development of the arts. Shaolin Kungfu is the oldest, established more than 1500 years. Taijiquan was established about 800 years ago. Baguazhang is the youngest of the three, established just about 300 years ago.
Isn't an art that has a longer history superior to another younger art? Normally it is. Karate and Taekwondo, for example, have a history of only about 100 years. By comparison, Karate and Taekwondo patterns are rudimentary. Shaolin patterns are sophisticated, in appearance as well as application. But to those who do not know their application, which means most kungfu practitioners today, their sophistication become a liability.
But Baguazhang and Taijiquan are different. Although their establishment was later, they inherited the advantages of Shaolin Kungfu. Both Zhang San Feng and Dong Hai Chaun, the first patriarch of Taijiquan and Baguazhang, had attained high levels of Shaolin Kungfu even before they established their arts.
We in Shaolin Wahnam are in a similar situation. Although we did not start learning kungfu 1500 years ago, we inherit the legacy passed down by generations of masters. In this respect, we are even luckier than Zhang San Feng and Dong Hai Chuan. Not only we have the benefit of breath and depth, we also enjoyed facilities of our modern world. Zhang San Feng did not learn Baguazhang, and Dong Hai Chuan did not use a computer.
Wong Kiew Kit
18th December 2015
Swimming Dragon Baguazhang Set in Pictures