Frederick Chu, Shaolin Wabnam USA

Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow

Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow

Table of Contents

        1. Introduction to Baguazhang
        2. The Development of Baguazhang
        3. Inheritance of Past Masters
        4. Developing Baguazhang Force
        5. Green Dragon Tests Claw
        6. Green Dragon Tests Claw in Motion
        7. Circle Walking
        8. Continuous Circle Walking
        9. Walking the Circle in Stance Forms
        10. Black Tortoise Circle Walking
        11. Eight Mother Palms Stance Training
        12. Trees, Weights and Poles
        13. Going Through Woods
        14. Lightness Skills
        15. Supplementing the Circle
        16. Building the Bagua Body
        17. Yin Fu's Medical System
        18. Shaolin Kung Fu
        19. Manifesting Force
        20. Hitting Objects
        21. Brains as well as Brawn
        22. Palms like Iron, Blades of Steel
        23. Evolution of Dong Hai Chuan's Tradition
        24. Sun Lutang
        25. Taiwan and Beyond
        26. State of Baguazhang in 2018
        27. Baguazhang as Practised in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute
        28. Eight Mother Palms
        29. Single Change Palm
        30. Double Change Palm
        31. Examples of Side-Body and Back-Body kicks
        32. Smooth Flow Palm
        33. Back Body Palm
        34. Turn Body Palm
        35. Circle Body Palm
        36. Rotate Body Palm
        37. Return Body Palm
        38. Swimming Dragon
        39. The future of Baguazhang
        40. Acknowledgements
        41. Resources

1. Introduction to Baguazhang

In the long and varied history of martial arts, every style and tradition passed down from previous generations has its unique characteristic that makes it immediately discernible to the educated eye, a sentence that encapsulates the entire style. Northern Shaolin is known for its sophisticated leg techniques and agility, Southern Shaolin is especially famous for its bridges and solid stances, and Wudang kung fu for its continuously flowing nature. Perhaps no art is as immediately recognizable to even the layperson as the constantly coiling, circling, and above all, moving combatant that excels in Baguazhang.

This treatise will briefly touch on the history of Baguazhang, the methods by which past practitioners gained their skill, and touch on the nature of the art in the modern era. What follows is a collection of my knowledge of Baguazhang, including personal insights as well as the wisdom and knowledge shared with me by historical masters through their writings and videos, and my own masters to whom I am very grateful in passing on their Baguazhang to me: Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute, master Wei Chung Lin of the Chinese Taoist Martial Arts Association (now deceased), and master Dexter Parker of the Low Tiger Kuntao Federation.

While I have only been training Baguazhang for approximately seven years, it is my hope that my experiences will, in some small way, improve the reader's understanding of this wonderful martial art and perhaps provide points of discourse and perspectives to guide and enhance their own practice.

2. The Development of Baguazhang

Oral tradition holds that Baguazhang's progenitor, or at least its earliest, most well-known practitioner, was a man named Dong Haichuan who lived and died near the end of the Qing dynasty in China [1, 11, 16, 18, 21, 23]. The circumstances of his birth and early training change with every telling, though it is typically accepted that Dong had some training in a form of Northern Shaolin kung fu, perhaps Northern Lohan kung fu before learning the art that would make him famous, propelling his status from working as a chef's assistant to later teacher to the Imperial Guard for Prince Su's household after defeating the previous holder of that position [1, 16, 17].

The circumstances of who Dong was before joining the palace and even where he learnt his art are shrouded in mystery. The Cheng tradition jokingly states that Dong "learnt his Baguazhang from a Daoist sage whose name he never quite remembered up on a mountain, in a province he never seemed to say," for example [1], and even the reason behind the naming of the style has multiple versions [1, 17]. What matters to most martial artists today are the fighting skills that he passed on to his disciples.

For the vast majority of his teaching career, Dong refused to teach beginners, only accepting students who were already experts in other forms of fighting [1, 4, 8, 21]. His first disciple, Yin Fu, was made to spend ten years mastering Dong's Northern Shaolin kung fu as well as demonstrate his proficiency in his village's form of martial arts before being trusted with Baguazhang. Dong's other most well known students included Cheng Ting Hua (known for his Baoding style wrestling and grappling), Ma Gui (a lumber merchant who practiced a family martial art), and Ma Weiqi (a coal merchant of no relation to Ma Gui, who practiced his own family's martial arts).

Dong was said to have taken his students' backgrounds into account and taught them a common curriculum of exercises meant to develop the power, speed, and agility needed to use his art, as well as taught each student principles and specific techniques to apply his way of fighting to their pre-existing skills.

In this way, Yin Fu's Northern Shaolin, while retaining its hard and fast character, gained flow and smoothed its angular footwork into arching steps. Ma Gui and Ma Weiqi, both of whom were said to be solid men who emphasized firmly rooted stances and footwork, gained a measure of lightness and flexibility. Cheng Ting Hua's wrestling and grappling was enhanced by the addition of Dong's palm striking skills. In this way, there was no single, true Baguazhang tradition, and likewise, no one inherited Dong's own personal way of fighting. To coin a phrase by a modern master, he "taught by prescription" to each student's personal needs [11].

3. Inheritance of Past Masters

History aside, what is important for the martial artist is the ability to defend oneself and to survive intact. In kung fu parlance, an oft-quoted phrase states: "Strength cannot defeat techniques. Techniques cannot defeat force. Force cannot defeat speed." Certain traditions will add the phrase, "Speed cannot defeat the marvelous." [19].

Briefly, "strength" in this phrase refers to brute strength that is not refined by training. Conversely, "force" refers to the type of refined and honed power, accuracy, agility, and skills that are cultivated through a variety of holistic as well as specialized training methods.

Leaving aside a discussion for developing speed and the marvelous for now, every fighter reflexively or consciously recognizes the importance of having "force" in a friendly sparring match or a fight. If your punch does nothing more than tickle your opponent, or if your kick misses by a mile, then your art is useless. Kung fu practitioners of past and present recognized the importance of "force" and hence developed a plethora of exercises aimed at ensuring that their students could survive.

Horse-Riding Stance

Horse-Riding Stance

In kung fu training, the most well known force training exercise is the Horse Riding stance [1, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 22]. Different schools will encourage different variations of the stance, but the general idea remains the same: assume the position and hold it for a period of time. While often considered torture to the beginner, the benefits that come from consistent practice are manifold: strong and sturdy legs which can crush an opponent's groin or break a rib with a solid kick, solidity and balance to resist being knocked over by an opponent, and strengthening the muscles and tendons of the entire body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. For those schools that profess to practice internal cultivation such as the development of energy (what the Chinese call qi) and mental discipline through meditation, holding the Horse Riding stance provides venues to develop those qualities as well.

There are some people who see the mobile art of Baguazhang as well as other martial arts and martial sports that believe in mobility (such as Muai Thai, modern as well as classical Greek wrestling, and boxing) and believe that simply practicing the footwork for which Baguazhang is famous will make them competent fighters. Lacking a stable stance prevents fighters from being able to change directions quickly while maintaining good balance, especially in awkward positions. I have defeated many such fighters in sparring simply by stepping into their space with my Horse Riding or Bow Arrow stance, knocking them to the ground.

While certainly, other skills were involved, such as timing, spacing, speed, accuracy, and correct techniques, the decisive factor was the fact that my stances were much more solid and rooted than their floating legs. It behooves all Baguazhang practitioners to train the fundamental stances of their art, and, as Baguazhang grew from Shaolin kung fu, all Baguazhang practitioners would benefit from a dedicated period spent in training the fundamental Shaolin stances. To be frank, anyone who attempts to dissuade the Baguazhang practitioner from training stances is a fool and their students will be unable to use their art to the fullest.

4. Developing Baguazhang Force

Baguazhang, like any other martial art, does have its own specialized methods of acquiring "force". Even the very beginning movements of practice are themselves a training of body, energy, and mind. In many Baguazhang sets, as well as Taijiquan, Wudang, and Xingyiquan sets, the practitioner stands upright for a brief period of time in a neutral pose called the Wuji stance. Taking a moment, or even many minutes, in this posture as standing meditation relaxes and primes the body and mind for the practice to follow, as opposed to merely practicing rote physical movements.

A very common subsequent movement is drawing the arms up and outwards to either side and then above the head before sinking the palms down the front of the body, prosaically called Gather Energy From Cosmos, for that is exactly what this pattern is doing, besides providing a gentle way to stretch and lengthen the entire body besides opening the chest and abdomen.

Some schools will then press the heels of both palms together before pressing their palms forward in a pattern named Old Monk Presents Bowl. This method helps make the forearms, wrists, palms, and fingers quite flexible besides spreading energy to the palms, making them powerful and agile for combat. While some practitioners will only perform these movements once or twice at the beginning of their sets, it is a worthwhile investment to perform these patterns for many repetitions before moving on to "proper" practice.

5. Green Dragon Tests Claw

The most famous method of developing force in Baguazhang is Circle Walking. While the specifics of how the bodily postures, points of mental focus, breathing methods, speed, timing, and every imaginable aspect of the exercise vary from school to school, the heart of the exercise is assuming an appropriate position and walking in a circle for a period of time.

Green Dragon Tests Claw

Green Dragon Tests Claw

Circle Walking is a true multi-tool of force training; because so many variations of the exercise exist, practitioners of all skill levels can practice and get different benefits. Perhaps the most well known variation of Circle Walking is using a posture known as Green Dragon Tests Claw, often considered the typical guard position, fighting stance, or poise pattern of Baguazhang and walking in a circle.

At a physical level, practitioners learn to maintain all of the physical alignments gained from their static stance training while in motion, besides all of the health benefits that come from walking for a period of time. Similar to static stance training, energy and mind are trained to develop the qualities demanded of internal schools of martial arts.

Much can be said about Green Dragon Tests Claw, especially its use in Baguazhang training. At a base physical level, the legs are held with the heels in one line, the feet angled at 45 degrees, and the feet approximately one and a half to two shoulder widths apart with the weight evenly distributed between the feet or being slightly rear-weighted with sixty percent of weight on the back leg.

The position of the legs is known as the Stream Character stance, though its popularity in Baguazhang, even to the point of certain lineages doing away with all other stances and using it for all combat applications and force training, has led to some calling it the Bagua stance.

Many arguments have been posited regarding why the heels are in one line, versus being apart as is typically seen in other kung fu styles such as Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, or Wuzuquan. The answer to that question, as with many other questions in Baguazhang, has to do with agility. With the trademark combat feature of Baguazhang being to flank an opponent, by having the feet in one line, the practitioner is more easily able to dodge to either side without significant readjustment, according to the opponent's angle of attack.

The arms and open hands are held in an outstretched, typical guard position that protects the torso and head from direct attack. The most common posture used by Baguazhang schools is to have the center of the front palm facing outwards towards the opponent while the rear palm is held in whatever suitable position (be it facing forwards as well, facing downwards, or to one side) as a guarding position, in a similar manner to Xingyiquan as opposed to Taijiquan and Shaolin kung fu where the edge of the front palm often faces forward in patterns such as Playing the Lute or Amitabha Palm.

With the palm's edge pressed forward and the fingers held closely together in the Willow Leaf Palm as in Playing the Lute or Amitabha Palm, the practitioner's force is relatively more consolidated and focused, especially at the edge of the palm. When the fingers are held slightly apart and the center of the palm faces forward, the practitioner's force is relatively more flowing and focuses at the center of the palm before flowing out to the fingertips.

Beyond the general alignment and appearance of the legs, body, and arms (the so-called three "external" harmonies), if you consult one hundred different masters as to whatever to do in particular with the fingers, wrist, waist, head, tongue, or even anal sphincter, you will receive one hundred different answers. [1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 16, 21, 22].

Baguazhang, though scant in classical literature, provides us with the 36 Songs and 48 Methods meant to guide students in their martial practice and application. Two translations of the first Song, which describes the performance of Green Dragon Tests Claw according to an unknown master in the first three generations of Baguazhang, state:

"Empty chest, lift head, sink the waist
Hook step, bend knees, grip the ground
Sink body, drop elbows, stretch front hand Two eyes should emit from tiger's mouth." [7]

"The chest relaxes, the crown of the head lifts up, and the waist sinks,
The toes point inward with the steps, the knees are close to each other.
The shoulders sink, the elbows drop, and the front palm extends forward,
The eyes look through the space between the thumb and the index finger." [1]

While the former translation is more literal and in line with classical Chinese and the latter more palatable to English audiences, the general features are similar. However, even this original source of Baguazhang writing is not necessarily followed all of the time.

Yin Fu Baguazhang's Lion system, for example, founded on Northern Lohan principles before the addition of Baguazhang, does not have a "tiger's mouth" (the space between the thumb and index finger) through which to look at an opponent thanks to the position of the fingers held in the Ox Tongue Palm hand form [9, 21].

Demonstrations of Ma Weiqi fighters may have the front palm down at the level of the chest or even waist as opposed to the head [8]. Cheng and subsystems from Cheng Ting Hua's students such as Gao and Nine Palaces practitioners likewise may not use the tiger's mouth alignment at all [9, 20].

Regardless, in sparring and fighting, it is results that matter more than litanies of demands. The reader who is interested in requirements for various stances in different lineages is encouraged to peruse the sources noted. Indeed, some schools will posit twenty to thirty individual anatomical points to keep in mind at all times. That is frankly exhausting, counter-intuitive, and serves little to no purpose to the beginning student who can only focus on two or three things at a time in the beginning, for example, weight distribution or the height of the hands.

6. Green Dragon Tests Claw in Motion

The head-on stance of Green Dragon Tests Claw used in combat has, as its most well known variation, a sideways stance which is used in Baguazhang's most famous exercise, Circle Walking. Unlike its parent style of Shaolin kung fu, when training Circle Walking, Baguazhang has its three external harmonies each pointed in a separate direction.

Green Dragon Tests Claw

Green Dragon Tests Claw in Motion

Whereas a typical pattern in Shaolin kung fu might have feet, body, and hands pointed in a single direction for the purposes of decisive force and Taijiquan might have two of its external harmonies (for example, feet and body in one direction but hands in another during a warding off maneuver of Immortal Waves Sleeves), Baguazhang during Circle Walking has the feet pointed in one direction, the body facing another, and the hands pointed in yet another direction. If, for example, an imaginary line were drawn from the rear heel to the front heel from west to east, the torso would be turnt to face northeast, and the palms pointed to the north when the Baguazhang practitioner begins their Circle Walking exercise.

With every step along the circle, the practitioner adjusts to maintain their three external harmonies twisting and turning inwards. The turning and twisting of the body serves several purposes, such as the development of flexibility, the ability to strike an opponent decisively in any direction, and, at an energetic level, helps compress and focus the practitioner's power to more effectively strike an opponent down.

Baguazhang has a very high demand in flexibility and fluid movement, especially given the mass fighting and urban warfare that past practitioners had to survive at the end of the Qing dynasty. It is a lucky bonus that the exercises and demands of Baguazhang as a fighting art, especially its agile movements and flexibility, enable practitioners to maintain a high level of mobility and strength even in old age.

7. Circle Walking

Many books and videos exist on a variety of Baguazhang styles detailing each school's favored manner of Circle Walking [1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 20, 21, 22]. The importance of becoming an expert in a school's manner of Circle Walking cannot be understated: each school of Baguazhang practices its Circle Walking to most quickly obtain the force, skills, agility, speed, and other qualities they believe they need for effective fighting.

My first Baguazhang master, Sifu Wei Chung Lin [9], for example, after checking that my stances and basic footwork were up to par, taught me his mode of Circle Walking starting on my first day of lessons with him over the course of six months and told me to train them everyday without fail. Sifu Lin's mode of Circle Walking emphasized holding the upper body in a series of eight different postures, all aimed at developing what he termed different types of "energies", or types of force to use in combat. One posture emphasized sinking force to press down powerfully on your opponent, for example. Another posture developed spreading force to open up an opponent's tightly locked defenses while simultaneously projecting power all the way from the upper back and shoulders to the fingertips. Sifu Lin found this exercise so important that I practiced this everyday for six months in order to build up agility, force, and flexibility before being taught my first combat application in his Yin Fu Baguazhang system.

While Sifu Lin did not call this exercise anything in particular, some other schools call this exercise Eight Postures Circle Walking [1] or Eight Internal Palms Circle Walking [17]. While some schools of Baguazhang will gloss over practicing Eight Internal Palms types of exercises, I personally found it, when combined with Black Tortoise training described below, to be the most powerful method of force training in my Baguazhang repertoire, exceeded only by advanced Shaolin force training such as Cosmos Palm (also known as Red Sand Palm).

8. Continuous Circle Walking

It is important to note that the Green Dragon Tests Claw posture in Circle Walking is relatively more flowing in terms of the energy developed compared to other patterns, and that flowing energy is far more forgiving and safer to develop than consolidated energy; hence, many schools will begin their Circle Walking training with Green Dragon Tests Claw to develop a foundation in flowing energy before moving on to focus that energy into harder force using other postures [17].

The manner in which a practitioner changes directions along the circle, how many times to walk in a certain direction, if the mind should be focused on this-or-that, and so forth are all dependent to one's particular school, aims, and objectives in training. Typically, beginning students are asked to focus on something, be it their center of gravity, their breathing, or some other mental anchor on which to build mental focus and discipline before eventually abandoning the anchor and allowing their mind to be free and clear, to develop mental clarity.

9. Walking the Circle in Stance Forms

Another variation of Circle Walking seen in many schools is pausing in between each step while walking along the circle for a period of time, called by some schools Walking the Circle in Stance Forms. Compared to continuously walking the circle, holding a posture for a period of time before moving onto the next step along the circle emphasizes and demands far more in terms of rooting, balance, sinking the body, and in energetic terms, sinking energy to the abdomen and consolidating energy into internal force across the entire body.

While beginning students might not be able to hold an appropriate posture for an extended period of time, be it Green Dragon Tests Claw or some other posture chosen by their master, a reasonable standard to aim for in the modern era is fifteen minutes for each "step" along the circle.

Intriguingly, this manner of practice is found in many other styles of martial arts. As one might expect, it is often found in other styles influenced by Wudang kung fu. The method is also found in schools of Praying Mantis where certain postures are held for a period of time to develop the strength, flexibility, and other qualities needed to become an effective fighter [17].

10. Black Tortoise Circle Walking

A curious and very rewarding mixture of the static and dynamic methods of Circle Walking is to walk along the circle in an extremely slow manner, to the point where every step along the circle can take many minutes of slow motion movement. I have not heard of a specific name for this manner of practice, though I have heard it unofficially termed "Doing Baguazhang like Taijiquan" [20] and, in the Shaolin and Wudang kung fu traditions, it is termed the "Black Tortoise" method of practice [17].

Perhaps one of the most well known practitioners of this manner of Circle Walking is a Nine Palaces Baguazhang master named Bai Yucai, who has several vignettes of his training found on YouTube [20]. My own experience in Baguazhang force training found this to be the most demanding exercise in my Baguazhang repertoire, with excellent benefits in mental clarity, discipline, rooting, and force developed not just at the palms and legs, but the entire body. For a time in my early training, I would only walk a single circle in each direction, with each circle starting at ten minutes and gradually being slowed down to spend one hour walking in each direction before completing my force training.

Bar a Rushing Horse

Horizontally Bar a Rushing Horse

11. Eight Mother Palms Stance Training

Another combination of static and dynamic training involves Eight Mother Palms stance training, which is seen far less often in public compared to previously mentioned exercises. The practitioner will hold a certain posture, for example, Green Dragon Tests Claw, in one side's mode for a period of time and then switch to the other side for a period of time before walking in a circle using the energy developed from the static posture to flow [17].

Peacock Spreads Tail

Traditionally, each school would take a particular posture from their Eight Mother Palms, a collection of eight short series of movements that encapsulate the most fundamental techniques of their system. Some schools jealously guard their favored postures, seeing them as the true secret of their school's force development. Interestingly enough, some schools are very open with their postures and force training sets. Eight Mother Palms stance training is the primary way of developing force in the Baguazhang practiced in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute and shall be explored in further detail later.

Dark Dragon Wags Tail

Dark Dragon Wags Tail

12. Trees, Weights and Poles

As a brief aside, with even a cursory glance at modern Baguazhang literature as well as the literature and videos available of Baguazhang and other so-called "internal" martial arts, one will find that it is very much in vogue for Baguazhang practitioners to practice their Circle Walking around trees.

Some people, styled as masters by their students or the public, state that it is very important to train in natural environments and around trees so as to absorb good energy from trees, plants, fresh air, and so forth in practice [1, 5, 6, 22]. While I can personally attest to the benefits of practicing outdoors in all manner of weather, be it an arctic tundra, desert wasteland, or the calm weather of the American Midwest, the idea of absorbing energy from trees is patently ridiculous for several reasons.

While the chemical exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide allows animals and plants to coexist in an excellent symbiosis, at the level of energy or qi dictated by Daoist masters, the energy used by animals and plants is fundamentally different. According to these Daoist writings, the "metabolism" (to coin a modern term for an ancient art) of animals and plants is different enough that not only does the human not benefit much from attempting to absorb a plant's energy, the human does not get much benefit from it. If anything, using this energetic paradigm, the plant is harmed by a loss of nutrients and the human is harmed from not taking in appropriate sources of nourishment [17].

Regardless, in my own practice, just practicing Circle Walking, or any other force training exercise, appropriately and in a meditative state of mind generates more than enough energy for my purposes in both modern life and sparring at the modern level. That being said, an experience that all practitioners will eventually come across is that one takes in what is around oneself. If one trains in pleasant, clean surroundings with adequate air flow and a lack of distractions, the practice is often far more beneficial than if one were to train inside of a stuffy office. While an in depth analysis of environmental factors on the practice (what the Chinese term feng shui) is beyond the scope of this treatise, interested readers are encouraged to discuss with an authority on the matter.

Another common variation seen in Baguazhang practitioners aiming to develop force is the use of various forms of weights during their stance training and Circle Walking. Some practitioners will wear metal rings around their arms, similar to Southern Shaolin practitioners [17], while others might hold heavy metal or stone balls on their palms [4, 8]. Quite unlike the energetic nonsense of attempting to vampirize trees, the physical feedback of even a light, one pound weight wrapped around the wrist or held in the hand is an excellent manner to ensure that the practitioner has correct form and is not using undue muscular tension to hold themselves upright. If a suitably light or heavy ball, wrist-weight, or otherwise is unavailable, then holding a brick in each hand will do, in personal experience. Yang Jwing Ming and Liang Shouyu describe balancing cinder blocks and bricks on their palms, elbows, and other body parts as a part of their tradition of Ermei Baguazhang [22].

13. Going Through Woods

From the core exercise of Circle Walking, be it training Eight Mother Palms, Eight Internal Palms, Walking the Circle in Stance Forms, or otherwise come many variations. Perhaps the most famous variation comes from the Shaolin exercise of Plum Flower Formation, also known as Going Through Woods, where the practitioner moves through a "forest" of poles, imagining them as opponents or other people on the battlefield and aiming to flow between these "combatants" to avoid getting struck, to build awareness of the battlefield, and to develop the ability to strike decisively while on the move.

While it may be inconvenient to hammer dozens of poles and pylons into one's backyard (or even illegal depending on local regulations), rough analogues to the poles include traffic or athletic cones, bowls or bricks left on the floor, ropes hanging from the ceiling, or even piles of laundry and other random objects in the home thrown across the floor. Some schools will further modify the "poles", having poles of various heights, angling several of them to force the practitioner to duck, dodge, and sink quite low in their stance or even leap up over an imagined sweep at their legs [11, 12]. This makes for excellent preparation for eventually moving on to sparring multiple opponents.

14. Lightness Skills

In addition to speedy movements and seemingly being able to twist, turn, and suddenly be at an opponent's back, Dong Hai Chuan and his students were infamous for their leaps and jumps, collectively referred to as qing gong, or "lightness skills" [1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 22, 23]. Dong's student, Song Changjun (named in some sources as Song Changrong) [1] was most well known for his lightness skills, being nicknamed "Flying Legs Song" for his skill at tightrope walking, performing his Circle Walking on the narrow rims of baskets that had been weighted down with rocks (with legend having it that eventually these rocks were entirely removed with time), running up walls, and leaping through windows.

While Song did not teach very many students, luckily several aspects of his lightness training survived, passed down to the Gao family, with the modern Gao family patriarch, Gao Jiwu, describing the fundamental practice as walking the circle while raising the legs in the Single Leg stance, combined with appropriate breathing methods [3].

While I did not spend much time on this specific training method, nor can I perform at even one percent of the lightness skill that Dong and Song were said to have demonstrated, some of my classmates have commented favorably on my leaping ability and arrow step, and I believe that part of my jumping ability came from spending a few months on this practice. This practice is not absolutely necessary to developing a modicum of lightness skills, however. The Eight Internal Palms and Eight Mother Palms Circle Walking that I learnt early on from Grandmaster Wong and from Sifu Lin right at the start of my Baguazhang training did much to enhance my speed over a period of time.

15. Supplementing the Circle

Baguazhang, like all great martial arts, is complete. There is no need to draw upon outside material to become a competent, healthy, and long-lived Baguazhang practitioner. The two pillars of all kung fu are force and application.

While there are dozens, if not hundreds of exercises, techniques, and so forth in pretty much every Baguazhang school's repertoire, at its core, Baguazhang is composed of two sets of exercises: Circle Walking, which provides force, and the 64 Palms, a collection of combat applications, without which Baguazhang cannot be called a martial art [16, 17]. Beyond Circle Walking and the 64 Palms, each school has its own supplemental methods to meet their particular aims and objectives.

16. Building the Bagua Body

Even inside of the Baguazhang tradition, there are exercises beyond Circle Walking to enhance the practitioner's attainment in health and combat. Park Bok Nam calls these supplemental exercises important to "build the Bagua body" [11, 12]. Park's school uses a series of exercises aimed at allowing the body to rotate from its central axis (a line running from the crown of the skull to the tip of the tailbone) to streamline body mechanics, to allow the entire body to move as one coordinated unit, and to focus power at the palms [11, 12].

Yang Jwing Ming and Liang Shouyu share their own series of qigong exercises which incorporate Daoist as well as Shaolin qigong patterns to improve energy flow and flexibility across the body [22]. Sifu Lin had "warm up exercises", as he called them, to enhance flexibility in the waist and spine and to focus power at the palms as well, one of which greatly resembles Lifting Water, also known as Lifting Hands, in Taijiquan [9].

Let this be a lesson to every kung fu student: sometimes what the master calls "warm up exercises" can actually be extremely powerful exercises to build internal force. Neglect them at your own risk. Grandmaster Wong likewise has a series of flexibility exercises, prosaically titled the Art of Flexibility, which draws from the Eighteen Lohan Hands and Tongzigong to provide his kung fu students with the flexibility and agility needed to perform kung fu combat applications with ease [17].

17. Yin Fu's Medical System

The Association for Traditional Studies, for example, holds that Yin Fu inherited a complete system of qigong, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, and diet from Dong Hai Chuan to provide venues for both health as well as combat [21]. Due to Baguazhang's historical and philosophical ties to Daoist sects, some lineages of Baguazhang practice qigong, meditation, and other exercises from Daoist traditions, such as Eight Pieces of Brocade, especially if they have only learnt Baguazhang for combat as opposed to a health sustaining art [4, 8, 17, 22]. Related to the Eight Pieces of Brocade are the Eighteen Lohan Hands (the first eight of which are the Eight Pieces of Brocade) which provide even more options in energy cultivation to the practitioner.

18. Shaolin Kung Fu

The widest and deepest tradition of both force and combat application come from Shaolin kung fu. Historically, Baguazhang is itself a specialization from Shaolin kung fu. Baguazhang as a stand alone art is capable of many things in combat application, force, and very importantly, allowing its practitioners to be agile and mobile even into elderly age, though certain feats of force are beyond the scope of typical Baguazhang force training such as Circle Walking.

Shaolin Cosmos Palm (also known as Red Sand Palm) as well as Wudang Cotton Palm make for excellent methods to enhance the skills of a Baguazhang practitioner. My own personal experience since learning the methods of Cosmos Palm in 2016 from Grandmaster Wong have led to the flowing force I've developed from Circle Walking to be consolidated and to attain a certain power and solidity that I previously lacked.

19. Manifesting Force

Even as force, agility, speed, and all other important qualities are developed in stance training, flexibility, Circle Walking and its many variations, those qualities must then be manifested to be of any use to the Baguazhang fighter. In kung fu parlance, fajing refers to using the force developed by the above exercises, rather than raw and brute muscular strength, to injure an opponent.

The mechanics of fajing are typically described as physical movements starting from the legs and stance, being modified by waist rotation, and manifesting at the striking point, often the hand, finger, or other part of the body in an uninterrupted flow of movement and energy [1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22]. At first, these movements are much slower and weaker than simply shooting one's fist or palm out from the shoulder, but appropriate fajing brings into play the power of the entire body to be focused into a single striking point for devastating effect.

Much as the boxer trains their jab and the Muai Thai boxer sweeps their leg at a tree for hundreds of times everyday, the Baguazhang fighter practices their strikes, kicks, throws, and grips many times everyday to refine their skill. The Yin Fu branch has their Striking Methods, whereby each subsystem within the Yin Fu family has its eight favored attacks, as well as numerous variations on each fundamental attack, which are repeated over and over again so that any one of them can be used as a combat ending move [21].

Cheng Ting Hua's descendant branches, especially the Gao subsystem, is well known for its 64 Palms set which collects what they consider their most important techniques to train over and over again. The lineage of Lu Shui T'ien, currently headed by Park Bok Nam, has a series of exercises to build force at the palms, elbows, and other body parts which are tackled one at a time, with the student spending many months on each method before moving to the next [11, 12].

The Ermei Baguazhang school of Yang Jwing Ming and Liang Shouyu likewise have their fundamental techniques which are repeated over and over to exhaustion [22]. One modern master, Ma Chuanxu of Liang Baguazhang, described that it was exceedingly important to have a decisive level of force and to be able to use it in fights; he advocated that rather than leaving "some bruises that can heal in few days [w]hen I strike my opponent I want him to spit with blood" [14]. Another master of the Ma Weiqi tradition, Guo Shilei, outright stated that if one is unable to prevent an opponent from fighting further with a single strike, "Then your skills are no where near up to scratch." [4, 8]

20. Hitting Objects

Many teachers are divided on the matter of whether or not a Baguazhang practitioner should spend much time hitting various objects, such as bags filled with sand (or beans, rice, or other objects), wooden poles, punching bags, focus mitts, trees, and the like. Some schools believe that regularly striking at an object has a benefit in conditioning the palm or other body parts to be able to deliver a harder strike as well as to sustain the force of a blow it is delivering [13] while others state that correct practice of other fundamental exercises such as Circle Walking and Old Monk Presents Bowl will provide an adequate level of protection for the palm [18].

Some teachers state that hard conditioning of the palm to develop force such as Iron Palm or otherwise is meant more as a supplementary exercise compared to more important exercises such as Circle Walking [17, 19]. A few lineages have exercises performed both in solo as well as with partners to condition the entire body to take blows by grinding and striking various parts of the body against poles or one another [22].

Needless to say, anyone who undertakes hard conditioning training should exactly follow their teacher's advice in that regard. I would even venture to say that any lineage that performs hard conditioning without complementary exercises to preserve the body's normal function, including flexibility and sensitivity, is incomplete. Grandmaster Wong, for example, was kind enough to provide exact instructions for practitioners of Iron Palm as well as Tiger Claw to prevent accidental injury to the fingers and eyes over the course of training [18, 19]. Some schools will provide remedies such as liniments, herbal concoctions, or even modern commercially available products such as Tiger Balm to their students [13, 22, 23].

Regardless, all of my masters and all writings I have read that actually train towards the use of Baguazhang as a martial art have stated that, at some point, you have to hit something, be it your partner in realistic sparring, a bag, pole, or otherwise. The main disagreement is on how regularly to hit that object, and for what purpose and what purpose that serves in the modern era. For example, stories abound of past masters such as Cheng Ting Hua and his student, Sun Lutang, striking their palms on an old, decommissioned cannon on the Beijing city walls everyday on top of spending many hours on Circle Walking and other training [1].

Certain schools even have a graded program of different objects to strike, such as bundles of paper, wooden or metal poles, bags filled with rice or beans, and so forth to develop different types of striking force, such as a strike that only injures the surface of an opponent, a strike that penetrates deeply into their body, a strike that pushes an opponent away harmlessly, and so on [11, 12, 13]. Yet other schools will have a practitioner use a bag filled with rice or sand, for example, but have the practitioner treat their hands with various herbal concoctions with the idea of stimulating energy flow and the development of a certain degree of striking power [17, 23].

A few schools will even use a striking bag filled with a paste made from various herbal and animal products in a bid to infuse certain characteristics to the practitioner's hands and body [17]. I do not have any personal experience with these herbal concoctions, nor do I have personal contact with anyone who has used them for a long period of time. The practitioner is encouraged to be critical and to mind their own safety in these and other matters.

Regardless of the methods used to achieve these ends, Baguazhang practitioners who have succeeded at their training are capable of using the form of what appears to be a simple and straightforward palm strike to inflict all manner of unpredictable harm on their opponent. Having been on the receiving end of some masters who, in rapid succession, inflicted hard strikes that knocked me down, soft strikes that knocked the wind out of me, sinking strikes that made me collapse inward on myself as though a heavy weight were pressing down on my shoulders, and releasing strikes that sent me hurtling five or more feet away, I can speak to the existence of these skills hidden in the palm of a master's hand.

21. Brains as well as Brawn

While decisive force and effective combat application form the two pillars of any good martial art, they are not the end-all and be-all of fighting. Beyond merely possessing enough force to knock someone out with a single blow as well as having a technique for any conceivable situation is the knowledge of how to best effectively lever one's abilities to survive fighting unscathed. This knowledge takes the form of appropriate tactics and strategies. In Chinese literature, the most famous scroll of strategy is Sun Zi's The Art of War, often quoted and cited for every situation, be it combat, love, trade, and business.

Baguazhang lacks a broad classical literary tradition, with its main body of written advice to future students taking the form of the 36 Songs, which describe advice given to beginning Baguazhang students, and 48 Methods, which describe specific fighting situations and recommendations to intermediate and advanced students [1, 7, 15, 22]. An in-depth analysis of each separate Song and Method goes beyond the scope of this work, and interested readers are encouraged to read the works of Grandmaster Wong, Yang Jwing Ming, Liang Shouyu, Frank Allen, and Tina Zhang who have covered this subject in excruciating detail.

22. Palms like Iron, Blades of Steel

Baguazhang, despite being a young art barely over a century old, inherited a rich tradition of skills, tactics, force training, and culture from other styles of kung fu. Like any fighting art, it had to respond to the needs of the day, including the most common weapons wielded by enemies in all circumstances. Certain Songs and Methods of Baguazhang state the importance of force training [7, 22] as well as developing the decisiveness and courage needed to fight empty handed, if needed, when weapons are drawn.

Deer-Horn Knives

Deer-Horn Knives

Dong Hai Chuan's personal weapons were the deer horn knives [1], also known as the mandarin duck knives due to their silhouette resembling a duck and for the cultural motif of mandarin ducks mating for life [1, 17]. Aside from the handle, virtually every surface of the weapon has a point or edge, making it difficult to disarm. However, so many points and edges may pose some danger to the practitioner themselves, leading to certain characteristic Baguazhang maneuvers, such as whirling the palms around the body, being unavailable without significant modification.

Yin Fu, who trained in both Dong's Northern Shaolin as well as Baguazhang, was also known for a paired weapon, in his case the scholar's needle [1]. The scholar's needle, also known as the judge's pen, was a long, thin metal rod that was pointed at each end. The needle had a small ring in the middle to allow the weapon to be worn by the middle finger and extended along the forearm while being concealed in clothing such as the robes worn by imperial bodyguards. Such needles gave extra penetrating power to the thrusting palm strikes favored by Yin Fu Baguazhang practitioners, besides providing a metal surface along the palm to provide a measure of safety in batting away an opponent's weapon.

Dark Dragon Wags Tail

Fu Zhensong [1, 24] was well known for his overly sized saber nearly as tall as he was. The weapon's creation story is as ridiculous as its size and weight: supposedly when Fu dictated the dimensions of the weapon to a blacksmith, an accounting error akin to mistaking inches to feet was performed, resulting in a weapon some five feet long [24]. Whether or not the weapon was actually used in combat is a matter of some debate, but the gigantic weapon is so well established in Baguazhang circles that it became known as the bagua dao.

The weapon that most enhances and brings out the character of Baguazhang is the Wudang sword [17]. While there are many different lineages of swordsmanship, much like how the Shaolin tradition is said to be the best staff, Wudang holds the title for possessing the finest sword. Being a relatively lightweight weapon, hard clashes and cleaving blows as seen in the saber are entirely absent from the sword. Excellent footwork, subtle wrist motions, and the agility required to entirely avoid an opponent's weapon while simultaneously delivering death within three inches are necessary when wielding the sword. In all of these venues, Baguazhang excels.

Bagua Sabre

Bagua Saber

Not only does Baguazhang training with internal force, agility, and subtle body mechanics transfer over into enhancing one's swordsmanship, the pinpoint accuracy, flowing movement, and the principle of making the entire body into a single flowing entity brings empty handed Baguazhang up to an even higher level. If one were going to learn just one weapon, it is difficult to argue against learning the Wudang sword.

Wudang Sword

Wudang Sword

23. Evolution of Dong Hai Chuan's Tradition

Even during Dong Hai Chuan's lifetime, Baguazhang underwent hundreds of permutations. Every student that Dong trained acquired their own facet of Dong's art and passed it to their students, who likewise evolved and modified the art to their personal needs.

Leaving aside the claims of some schools that profess to train the "original" Baguazhang that Dong is said to have learnt from Daoist masters affiliated with the Dragon Gate sect of the Wudang temple [22], several of Dong's students and grand-students were most especially well known for changing and systematizing what he had taught. Perhaps the most famous practitioner was Sun Lutang, a student of Cheng Ting Hua who arrived to Beijing already having had a foundation in the Xingyiquan practiced in Hebei province [1].

24. Sun Lutang

Sun Lutang trained in Xingyiquan during his youth before moving to Beijing, where he was exposed to a number of different martial arts masters. After learning Baguazhang from Cheng Ting Hua and later from Hao Weizhen, a teacher of Wu-Hao Taijiquan, Sun Lutang came to the personal realization that his Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, and Taijiquan shared certain principles, namely an emphasis on the cultivation and application of internal force rather than muscular strength, underlying body mechanics that emphasized the importance of solid rooting as well as light agility even with narrow stances, and the maintenance of fighting skill and health even in old age [1, 18].

While Sun Lutang was said to have used Baguazhang for the majority of his fighting career, he later transitioned to Wu-Hao Taijiquan for health and spiritual cultivation purposes and later merged the solid decisiveness of Xingyiquan, the agility and trickiness of Baguazhang, and the flowing characteristic of Taijiquan into a single style that his students called Sun style Taijiquan in his honor [17].

Because of Sun Lutang's knowledge of Chinese classical literature, besides possessing the rare skill of literacy amongst Baguazhang masters (who were, for the most part, illiterate due to humble social beginnings), Sun's writings and thoughts on Baguazhang as well as Xingyiquan and Taijiquan spread far and wide, becoming an established orthodox standard for much of the kung fu world.

25. Taiwan and Beyond

Following Sun Lutang's example, many teachers even in the modern era who practice one of the so-called internal arts will often have a foundation or exposure to the other two [1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 17, 22]. Taiwan was a Mecca for these sort of triply trained masters for a time after the Chinese Nationalist Party was driven from mainland China by the Chinese Community Party, with lineages there arising from masters such as Wang Shu Jin [5. 6], Hung Yixiang and his brother Hung Yimian [2], and Pan Yue [9], the last of which gave rise to master Wei Chung Lin, my first Baguazhang sifu.

What was common between these Taiwan based masters was that all believed Baguazhang was not meant for beginners. Harkening back to Dong Hai Chuan's example, all believed that students required a basis in something else, be it Xingyiquan, Shaolin, or some other "simpler" style before one could make the most of Baguazhang's sophisticated (and borderline impractical and outlandish appearing) techniques and tactics.

The early twentieth century saw Baguazhang practitioners leaving the Chinese mainland for a variety of reasons. One practitioner, Lu Shui-T'ien, during World War II, left the mainland for Korea after China had been occupied by Japanese forces, occasionally making guerilla forays against the Japanese until the end of the war, whereupon he retired in Korea and eventually passed his art down to a Korean man named Park Bok Nam [11, 12].

Baguazhang also made its way to Indonesia around this time period, said to be taught by imperial bodyguards who were gifted to the Indonesian king by Chinese royalty. Eventually this Baguazhang was incorporated into a local system of martial arts named Low Tiger Kuntao, which was spread by the Shaolin-trained Buddhist missionary Liu Seong and passed down to the Dutch-Chinese martial artist Willem Reeders [13].

Unfortunately, much of these early twentieth century tales of Baguazhang come from half-remembered oral traditions, so matters such as the exact lineage of these Baguazhang branches in other countries are difficult to name. Both Park Bok Nam's and Liu Seong's Baguazhang share certain characteristics such as hard, forceful strikes using consolidated force, leading me to believe that the predominant influence on those two branches of Baguazhang came from the Yin Fu tradition, compared to the relatively softer (though no less powerful) force of the Cheng or Sun traditions. Given the paucity of students in their lineages, it is unlikely that Ma or Song Baguazhang had much influence on these traditions. Interested readers are encouraged to contact representatives of those lineages for further information if desired.

26. The state of Baguazhang in 2018

The current era provides a myriad of both challenges and opportunities for the modern Baguazhang practitioner. Baguazhang was previously considered a secret art meant to preserve life and inflict death, similar to access to firearms and military secrets today. Certain lineages went so far as to only teach "everything" to a single trusted student in each generation so that knowledge would not be used and abused. This nearly lead to the loss of the Yin Fu Baguazhang tradition in the late twentieth century when the chosen successor died in a car accident, prompting the lineage head, Xie Peiqi, to spread his art across more than a single student [21].

Some masters, however, remained as secretive as ever and refused to pass on vital aspects of their art, especially their force training and combat applications. Wang Shujin, for example, was infamous for teaching the movements of his two main Baguazhang sets, and even his stances as force training, but seemingly never passed on actual combat applications, expecting his students to figure them out on their own [5, 6]. This startling lack of combat skill can unfortunately be seen in some branches left behind after his death, especially in Japan, where while he was a prolific teacher of internal kung fu forms and qigong, it seems as though he may never have taught a single one of them how to deliver and defend against a punch.

Luckily, teachers tend to be far more open with their art nowadays, going so far as to spread their writings and even videos to the modern audience. Unfortunately, the skill of many self styled practitioners of Baguazhang lags far behind the generosity of modern masters. It is not a rare or difficult thing to watch fights or even simple sparring matches on YouTube or television and to witness Baguazhang and other practitioners of traditional martial arts being handily defeated.

Often times, it is difficult to even tell if someone is a Baguazhang practitioner in these videos because they do not even use Baguazhang stances or techniques! Given the sophistication of Baguazhang techniques and even its most basic strategies such as the tricky footwork needed to flank an opponent, the learning curve of Baguazhang is steep and demands a very systematic approach to training from beginning to end. The systematic development of a Baguazhang fighter is covered in more detail later.

Another popular sentiment that interferes with the development of skillful fighters in the modern era who train Baguazhang is the sheer amount of philosophical haberdashery that is spread about. The earliest practitioners of Baguazhang were illiterate, disciplined fighters who entered and left fights with nothing but their clear minds, sharp eyes, and hands ready to inflict the violence necessary to preserve their lives amidst a battlefield brimming with swords, spears, bayonets, and primitive rifles. They spent more time Circle Walking and practicing their fajing than they did meditating over the Five Elemental Processes, the Eight Trigrams, the Sixty Four Phases, and other forms of Daoist esoteric mysticism that are so in vogue today.

It has been a very common personal experience of mine that those schools that spent an excessive time philosophizing over the mystical and elemental correspondences of their art were among the worst fighters I had ever seen. If they had spent more time even striking a sandbag rather than reading scrolls written in arcane and purposefully confusing five thousand year old language, they would have at least obtained basic force such as Iron Palm as opposed to being unable to perform even Green Dragon Tests Claw in a correct manner.

Another difficulty many Baguazhang practitioners seem to have about their own art is where their power comes from. Numerous Baguazhang practitioners pay lip service to the idea that intrinsic energy, or qi as described by traditional Chinese medical adherents, is what powers the art [1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 21, 22]. It seems as though every school has its own idea as to what is being referred to as energy. Some practitioners believe it is strength provided by the tensile strength of tendons and ligaments and connective tissues [8]. Yet others state that the power generated by Baguazhang training comes from fluid dynamics and the sloshing about of the body's vital fluids such as blood and lymphatic fluid [1]. Yet others believe more in the orthodox Chinese medical paradigm of a vital life force that is cultivated by special practices such as stance training and Circle Walking.

This lack of understanding in the nature of Baguazhang force, especially in those schools that emphasize the orthodox Chinese medical paradigm of energy, bleeds over into tests of combat skill. For various reasons relating to stories about past practitioners, over the top kung fu movies, and other outlandish tales passed down by word of mouth, modern practitioners are occasionally loathe to test their art in free sparring. Stories about the past masters causing their enemies to spit blood from the mouth with a gentle tap of their palm or warnings about how dangerous it is to "play around" with kung fu leads to certain practitioners refusing to test their art in a realistic manner for fear of harming themselves or their partners.

My own exposure to Baguazhang combat skill was rare. Even in Sifu Lin's school, where every tool imaginable for the development of a capable fighter was present, including force, application, and strategies, after Sifu Lin's death, besides myself, there was but a single student in the school that still trained (or even remembered) straightforward combat applications. The remainder of the students preferred to spend their time in meditation and practicing their sets as a form of choreography and demonstration.

Rather than spending the majority of their time on Eight Internal Palms and Striking Methods, the bulk of their time was spent playing with swords and flowing through their sets, and hence even Sifu Lin's senior student, who now teaches in his stead, does not teach partner applications or sparring at all beyond very basic sensing skills similar to the Pushing Hands found in some Taijiquan schools. This state of affairs is exceedingly common in the kung fu world nowadays and is a sad and pathetic stain on the history of a simultaneously brutal and elegant art such as Baguazhang.

27. Baguazhang as Practiced in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute

In the summer of 2012, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute taught his interpretation of Baguazhang for the first time in Arundhel, England. Similar to Dong Hai Chuan's original intent, Baguazhang in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute is seen as a specialized art to be pursued after completing basic training in fundamental Shaolin kung fu or Taijiquan, a process which takes the typical student between three and five years to complete [17].

Grandmaster Wong acquired his Baguazhang from a variety of sources, including most importantly intensive correspondence and explanations by master Wong Chong Ling, a Baguazhang teacher who lived in Hong Kong [17] as well as a review of classical and modern literature [16]. The core principles of Grandmaster Wong's Baguazhang are developing internal force through the Eight Mother Palms and the use of characteristic applications in the Swimming Dragon set.

28. Eight Mother Palms

While many sources state that Dong Hai Chuan taught the same first two or three Mother Palms to all of his students (Single Change Palm, Double Change Palm, and Smooth Flow Palm) [1, 3, 9, 17, 22], every school has its own versions of those Mother Palms. Some schools do not even have a series of exercises termed Mother Palms, but rather borrow Daoist terminology to term their force training exercises as Pre-Heaven Palms and their combat application techniques as Post-Heaven Palms.

Regardless, what follows is a brief overview of the Eight Mother Palms as taught in Shaolin Wahnam, drawing on both Grandmaster Wong's own direct teaching as well as my experiences through practice. Readers interested in the finer points of practice, including the force training of the Baguazhang opening pattern as applications not listed here, are encouraged to consult Grandmaster Wong's website reviewing his courses and sources on Baguazhang to find the answers they seek [15, 16].

29. Single Change Palm

In all schools of Baguazhang, the Single Change Palm is considered the most important of the Eight Mother Palms and is taught very shortly after the student is first introduced to Circle Walking. Shaolin Wahnam is no exception to the rule, with the two major patterns of its first Mother Palm being Bail Moon From Sea Bottom and Control a Galloping Horse.

Bail Moon From Sea Bottom is typically performed as a low reverse rising palm chop delivered from the Horse Riding stance. Like many techniques in Baguazhang, it is a "hidden" technique in that the angle of the attack as well as its intended target (the opponent's groin or lower abdomen) are easily hidden from the opponent's sight. The wide arc of the sweeping palm as it crosses in front of the body before sweeping downward and outward to slice upwards at an opponent's groin as performed in the Single Change Palm also provides another lesson to the perceptive student: the importance of transitional movements.

While some beginners might only see the final slicing palm at the end of the movement, the arm's sweep covers the entire body and thus can be used to train, for example, the body mechanics needed to brush away an incoming strike by circling it downwards and away (as seen in Taijiquan's Cloud Hands or Brush Knee Twist Step, also called Green Dragon Shoots Pearl, and Southern Shaolin's Plum Flower Set's Kitten Washes Face). The initial transitional movement can also be halted early on to terminate the circling arm sweep into a descending palm chop to the side of an opponent's face or onto their clavicle, a pattern known as Alone Chop the Hua Mountain (prosaically known as "the karate chop" by many laypersons).

Controlling a Galloping Horse follows immediately after Bail Moon From Sea Bottom and is performed in the opposite direction as Bail Moon From Sea Bottom. This reinforces another lesson that comes right at the start of Baguazhang training, namely being aware of opponents coming from all directions. Controlling a Galloping Horse essentially acts as an outward arm sweep that is used to grapple with an opponent, locking their arms, head, torso, or even legs into an awkward position.

While the Baguazhang classics typically advocate against wrestling with opponents [1, 4, 8, 22], the ability to capture an opponent and use them as a human shield is an important consideration when sparring multiple opponents. Perceptive martial artists familiar with kung fu might also notice that when Controlling a Galloping Horse is performed many times, it very closely resembles the Silk Reeling of Chen Taijiquan.

When the Eight Mother Palms are trained as stance practice combined with Circle Walking as mentioned above, practitioners in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute will typically choose Green Dragon Tests Claw as a characteristic stance to represent the Single Change Palm. Not only is it the primary stance from which a Baguazhang combatant engages their opponents, it develops the most generalized internal force out of all Baguazhang stances and hence its benefits most easily transfer to other purposes, such as focusing the force developed from this posture to other body parts or for other skills [17]. In this manner, it is similar to the Horse Riding stance of Shaolin kung fu or the Three Circle stance of Taijiquan: excellent for building force for all occasions.

Green Dragon Tests Claw

Green Dragon Tests Claw

30. Double Change Palm

The second Mother Palm consists of Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue, Point to Heaven and Jab Earth, Swallow Skims on Water, and Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse. When completing a revolution of Circle Walking, the practitioner thrusts their reverse palm in one direct and immediately in the opposite direction, channeling force from the stance to the fingertips and typically aiming at fragile locations on an opponent's body such as the eyes, nose, or throat. Such targets, when struck, or even gestured towards, can raise apprehension in an opponent, and in fact, the 36 Songs and 48 Methods both speak favorably of repeatedly thrusting at an opponent's face if all else fails [1, 7, 9, 22].

Point to Heaven and Jab Earth

Point to Heaven and Jab Earth

Point to Heaven and Jab Earth is typically performed in a narrow T step or Two Character stance and is typically used as a withdrawing step from a longer stance to avoid an incoming powerful strike or kick. Thrusting the palms upwards and downwards provides an opportunity to dislodge grabs of all sorts, including grips to the throat, which are a common enough attack by all manner of combatant, trained and otherwise.

Likewise, the simultaneously raised and sunken position of the arms provides coverage against that most feared attack used in Muai Thai, a clinch to the neck as well as repeated knee strikes. The raised palm thrusts upwards to dislodge the clinch (and can also be used to thrust at the opponent's throat or face) while the outside of the forearm is used to deflect away the opponent's thigh.

Do not make the mistake of attempting to meet the point of the attacker's knee with your forearm, which can result in your forearm or wrist being injured, but rather deflect away the inside of their thigh. You can then follow up with an appropriate technique such as pushing them away, planting your leg behind their standing leg and throwing them to the ground, or whatever else is necessary to keep yourself save. This is similar to a pattern called Plant Willow Before Camp in Southern Shaolin kung fu.

When used as a static posture for stance training, Point to Heaven and Jab Earth is exceedingly demanding on the legs, more so than the Horse Riding stance. Take care to allow your body weight to sink all the way to the ground without being caught up in overly tensed or locked knees, and you will reap excellent strength and flexibility in the hips. The position of the hands also quite naturally focuses force at each fingertip, not just for striking, but also for a deeply penetrating grip.

Swallow Skims on Water appears to be a confusing technique. After all, what possible use might there be for squatting down on one leg before springing up into the Bow Arrow stance while brushing the front arm forwards and upwards, especially after spinning around? An important principle to keep in mind, which is explored further as the student pursues the third and seventh Mother Palms, is how to effectively use spinning and circling while maintaining safe coverage from their opponent's attacks.

One possible application of Swallow Skims on Water is to get to an opponent's back or side and to deliver a single or double leg takedown (if one wishes to be merciful) or to thrust upwards at an opponent's groin with the full lifting force of the practitioner's legs and body. Most people lack sufficient conditioning at their genitals to sustain such a blow without at least being momentarily distracted by pain. Be wary of an opponent who is able to use a back-body kick against you and be ready to sink or step back in your stance. Such a kick is a common counter used in certain styles of both Northern and Southern Shaolin kung fu.

31. Examples of Side-Body and Back-Body kicks

Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse has a variety of uses. At its simplest usage, it can be used as a horizontal palm strike delivered from the Horse Riding stance, emitting almost every conceivable type of force, such as release force to send an opponent stumbling backwards, striking force to penetrate deeply into an opponent's abdomen, or sinking force to make an opponent crumple inwards on themselves by disrupting their structure at the waist and hips.

Side-Body Kick

Side-Body Kick

This pattern can also be used to keep an opponent at bay if they attempt to close in for a wrestler's shoot or to get to one's side or back, provided that you recognize what is going on quickly enough. In kung fu, it is very important to know the possible counters of any technique you plan to use, and hence a Baguazhang practitioner must know how to defeat their own trademark skill of getting to an opponent's back so that they can "counter the counter" and succeed regardless of an opponent's knowledge of counters. This requires a deeper level of force, skills, and tactics and is the mark of an expert.

Back Body Kick

Back Body Kick

32. Smooth Flow Palm

Smooth Flow Palm emphasizes much in the way of the threading palm, and is composed of Golden Dragon Spirals Pillar and two variations of Swimming Dragon Plays With Water performed in the Unicorn and Horse Riding stances.

Golden Dragon Spirals Pillar, which is essentially taking tight inward circling steps, sees further training in the seventh Mother Palm and forms the heart of Baguazhang movement, refining the skills developed from Circle Walking and tightening circles into spirals that allow a practitioner to flank an opponent as well as get to their backs with ease, especially if an opponent is delivering an overly committed attack.

Swimming Dragon Plays With Water is one of the most characteristic techniques of Dragon kung fu from both Northern and Southern Shaolin traditions, where swerving motions serve to a minimize an opponent's force with minimum effort, often without having to move the feet very much from their original position, and to allow a counter-attack to exposed vital points on the opponent's body. While the striking hand form may differ (such as the thread hand, sword finger, palm, or fist), the underlying principle of avoiding an opponent's ability to harm you with exactly as much movement as is needed to keep yourself safe while simultaneously being close enough to strike demands a high level of skill and hence is important to begin practicing early on in the Baguazhang fighter's training.

Swimming Dragon Plays with Water

Swimming Dragon Plays with Water

The variation of Swimming Dragon performed in the Unicorn stance provides many possible applications besides a continuation of the threading and swerving variation performed at the Horse Riding stance. Those skilled in leg techniques, including the famous Shaolin 36 Leg Techniques and the Shaolin 72 Qin-Na Techniques which are said to be incorporated into Baguazhang [16], besides anyone who has spent a suitable amount of time on their stances and footwork, will notice that bringing the thighs and knees close together on a retreat can be used to cover the groin and, if someone is fast, catch an opponent's hand or leg on its way to strike that part of the body.

Practitioners with experience in grappling and an intermediate level of sensing skills will be able to take that one step further with an opponent attempting a single or double leg takedown as seen in grappling and wrestling; sinking deeply into the Unicorn stance correctly can result in capturing an opponent's wrists or hands in between your legs and, if the opponent attempted a rear leg or double leg takedown, to capture one of their hands in the crook of your rear knee, sandwiched between your hamstring and calf, leaving your hands free to inflict whatever combat ending move you wish on the opponent's exposed head, neck, back, or sides.

If you do decide to use this technique, however, be aware of where exactly you are capturing and locking your opponent's arms; you do not want them to have enough "slack" from capturing their elbows, for example, that their wrists and fingers can still grip, twist, pull, and tear the more sensitive aspects of your anatomy. This tactic can be seen in some other styles of kung fu, such as Heavenly Dragon Descends to Earth from Xingyiquan as well as the Northern Shaolin Seven Stars set, both of which are arts also practiced in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute.

Swimming Dragon Plays With Water's variation in the Unicorn stance serves as the major stance used to represent the third Mother Palm when used for Eight Mother Palms force training. In addition to, much like Point to Heaven and Jab Earth, being a demanding exercise for the legs, hips, and waist, the position of the hands helps focus a tremendous amount of force at the front forearm and palm. While Southern Shaolin kung fu practitioners are more well known for their Iron Arms, I found myself able to quite comfortably keep up with a variety of external martial artists in arm conditioning and testing exercises such as Three Star Hitting despite my practice of "soft" kung fu.

Needless to say, however, my arms were nowhere near as hard as my kung fu siblings who have spent time on hard force training such as Hung Gar Iron Wire or Southern Shaolin Triple Stretch. Interestingly enough, while I was able to quite easily knock away the arms of a former classmate who practiced Muai Thai and Krav Maga for over ten years, I had to bow out of knocking arms with a good friend of mine who had trained Iron Wire for about as long as I had trained Baguazhang (approximately three years at that point) after just four or five swings.

33. Back Body Palm

The fourth Palm Change includes a variety of techniques useful for throwing an opponent to the ground and reversing the situation when an opponent attempts to throw you. The first pattern is Separate Clouds to Look at Sun, which uses a small circling and floating motion of the arms which can be used to dislodge a head or neck lock, such as that applied by an opponent using Control a Galloping Horse.

It can also serve as a last moment, reflexive floating defense against any particular attack aimed at the upper torso or head, such as an opponent using Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue, knocking aside their arms and breaking their rhythm of continuous palm thrusts to give you time to recover from their continuous attacks.

While the Baguazhang literature states that even experts fear continuous attacks [1, 7, 22], the ability to break a continuously pressing attacker's momentum is a useful skill trained even within the basic repertoire of Baguazhang. While the techniques may differ, the skill is the same. This illustrates an important point in combat: all else being equal, skills trump techniques.

Dark Dragon Wags Tail

Dark Dragon Wags Tail

Dark Dragon Wags Tail is one of many curious appearing patterns in Baguazhang. What possible benefit is there to leaning forward deeply in the Bow Arrow stance while having one forearm parallel to the ground and the other arm stretched backwards? One reason deals with training the intense flexibility and freedom of joints needed to be able to deliver a strike from any direction. When practiced for stance training, this pattern is very effective at developing flexibility in the waist and shoulders, locations which are very commonly tight, especially in modern practitioners who are more accustomed to sitting in chairs and at computers than anything else.

This posture also reinforces the appropriate alignment and withdrawing of the scapula towards the spine, strengthening the muscles of the back as well as releasing tension from the chest muscles, for otherwise the scapula would not be able to move correctly into place. I have also found that force is focused at the bent forearm as well as outstretched rear palm.

In combat, especially when engaged with multiple opponents and using the tactic of "Fierce Tiger Enters a Herd of Sheep" (briefly, plunging into a crowd of enemies and using your agility to fight your way through them, as opposed to the tactic of "Rear Wall Battle" where you assume a safe position and force your opponents to come to you), if you are occupied with an opponent in front of you and someone approaches from behind, you may apply sinking or retaining force with your front forearm while simultaneously shooting your rear palm behind you at abdomen or groin level to buy yourself a second or two of breathing space before making an escape.

When delivering such awkwardly positioned attacks, however, it is important to be mindful of how you will escape an even more awkward position, such as if the opponent at your rear catches your rearward wrist or moves to the side to deliver an attack to your lower back or bottom while simultaneously controlling the opponent at your front or sides in a decisive enough manner to allow you to deliver the rearward attack in the first place. This and many other, stranger, and more outlandish situations have occurred in sparring, and hence while no one can prepare a specific counter for every specific situation, you can train the force, agility, speed, accuracy, and all other underlying qualities to give you the best chances to survive even the most unexpected attack.

Whirlwind Sweeps Leaves has a rather obvious application, capturing an opponent's upper body or kicking leg and then pulling or sweeping them over the straightened leg of your Bow Arrow stance in a similar fashion to Fisherman Casts Net from Taijiquan's famous Grasping Sparrow's Tail sequence.

In a pinch, the strong momentum generated from waist rotation and a solid stance also trains the force needed to deliver horizontal chops and sweeps with the arms and palms, translating easily into a palm strike that claps up at the ear, a hooking punch to the temple, a sharp horizontal elbow to the ribs, or even a close quarters blow from the shoulder.

Patterns such as this exemplify why it is important to spend an appropriate amount of time on fundamental practices of any art (such as the Mother Palms of Baguazhang, One Finger Shooting Zen of Southern Shaolin kung fu, Eighteen Lohan Art of Northern Shaolin, Cloud Hands of Taijiquan, and the Five Fists of Xingyiquan). The benefits they provide go far beyond the surface level.

Knight Plays With Lion is a rather well known pattern that even those with a cursory knowledge of Baguazhang can recognize. It has many hallmarks of the more flamboyant Baguazhang patterns, similar to Cloud Dragon Returns Head in the eighth Mother Palm or Great Roc Spreads Wings from the Eight Internal Palms, such as both arms thrusting out in either direction and the practitioner seeming to take up much more space than their body would otherwise occupy.

This pattern quite naturally shoots force to the fingertips while simultaneously opening and relaxing the joints of the spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers, more easily allowing the transmission of force from the practitioner's stance to the extremities, laying the foundation for the future development of inch force, that is, the ability to deliver an exceedingly powerful blow without having to pull back and wind up for the strike.

The combination of a raised leg as well as a hand pattern is often seen in a genre of kicking techniques called No Shadow Kicks, where a distracting hand pattern (which may be a feint or a real attack) is used to distract an opponent from the real kick below. Some patterns include Rising Dragon Galloping Tiger (a simultaneous back fist and snap kick to the lower body) and Shoot Spear at Yun Pavilion (a simultaneous vertical punch and thrust kick), both of which are patterns found in Northern and Southern Shaolin kung fu.

Likewise, the withdraw from a Bow Arrow to the Single Leg stance enables the practice of escaping an opponent's attempt to throw you using techniques such as Whirlwind Sweeps Leaves, or any other throwing technique that relies on putting leverage across the legs. By removing the opponent's point of leverage, you nullify the greater portion of their throwing strength. Thrusting your fingertips at their eyes, nose, or throat further distracts them from being able to effectively marshal their remaining strength to throw you to the ground.

Granted, in actual application, you may or may not thrust your palms in opposite directions, but in solo training, doing such is very effective for the reasons listed above. If you do decide to escape an opponent's throw by lifting your leg into the Single Leg stance, be aware that you are likely still not as stable or as rooted in your Single Leg stance as an opponent who had assumed a stance with a solid enough structure in a bid to attempt to throw you. Be prepared to quickly step in another direction or to take advantage of your already raised leg to kick your opponent if the circumstance calls for it.

34. Turn Body Palm

Turn Body Palm emphasizes quick direction change in a one hundred and eighty degree arc and develops the use of Unicorn Steps to immediately strike an opponent that has snuck up behind you using Strange Python Turns Body. While much of Baguazhang is performed from the Stream Character stance, narrowing the stance to the Unicorn Stance with a shift forwards or backwards provides a few inches of space to avoid an incoming strike.

However, given that many opponents in my experience do not perfectly place their strikes but rather plough through space with wild abandon, my own preference is to include a bit of sideways step when withdrawing into the Unicorn Stance to further dissipate an opponent's incoming force. Much like with Alone Chop Hua Mountain, the descending chopping palm of Strange Python Turns Body can be aimed at virtually any target on the opponent's upper body, especially their temple, cheekbones, or clavicle. In the Swimming Dragon set practiced in the Shaolin Wahnam, after dislodging a bear hug applied by an opponent from behind, Strange Python Turns Body is used to strike them.

Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow

Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow

Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow serves as the fifth Mother Palm's next pattern as well as the stance chosen for Eight Mother Palms force training. Similar to Knight Plays With Lion, it is a pattern that maximizes the use of the practitioner's limbs, bringing many weapons and types of force to bear to a situation. Needless to say, this and other similar patterns require the utmost balance and strength to be effective in fighting. The amateur practitioner should use a simpler and less demanding pattern for any situation.

The most obvious application seen if every limb were used simultaneously includes floating away an incoming strike, thrusting the reverse palm at an opponent's eyes, either as a feint to distract them or as an actual strike, and simultaneously kicking them in the groin. When trained as a static posture for force, Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow develops excellent balance, floating force, piercing force which is especially useful for strengthening and delivering strength through the fingers, balance even in awkward positions, and at a physical level, teaches the student to rely more on their core and spinal muscles to support their kicking leg rather than the muscles of the thigh, which in turn lets them move their hips directly from the hinge of their hip rather than trying to swing their thigh forward from their quadriceps.

Naturally, the question may arise as to whether or not a simultaneous hand strike and kick can be effective, given that a strike and a kick have a difference in their optimal range. A leg is far longer than an arm, for example, and, especially with a snap kick, also called an organ seeking kick in kung fu, is most optimal along the arc formed by the swinging instep of the foot. A kick that is delivered with the express purpose of a simultaneous hand strike would have to compensate for the shorter range of the hand strike, either by changing the position of the kicking leg or to choke up on the striking point of the kicking leg, such as using the lower shin or even the knee, depending on the opponent's height. Is such a thing meaningful?

The answer to that question should be obvious to anyone who has engaged in actual sparring or fighting and has been accidentally (or maliciously) kicked in the groin. Suffice it to say, a powerful blow to the groin is often quite painful, regardless of whether or not it is delivered by the toes, instep, ankle, shin, or knee. Even practitioners of protective force such as Iron Vest, Golden Bell, and Cotton Art prefer not to get struck in the groin.

Direct experience aside, there is also the matter of training philosophy in kung fu, which harkens back to force training, one of the most important considerations of kung fu practice (the other being combat application). The force training of Baguazhang and all other forms of internal kung fu, including appropriately trained Shaolin kung fu and other so-called external forms of kung fu, fills the entire body with force, even if the exercises may tend to emphasize force at certain body parts, such as Golden Bridge at the arms and the abdominal dan tian, Baguazhang at the legs and palms, or Carrying Sun and Moon at the chest.

The force training involved at both the basic level of training as well as in specialized training makes the entire body powerful, including less optimal body parts for a certain technique, be it the toes, instep, shin, or otherwise. Philosophy aside, remember that in the end, what matters is that you have escaped from combat intact while your opponent has been dealt with in a decisive fashion. The level of mercy that you allow to flow from your hand (or foot) is at your discretion.

Golden Bridge

Golden Bridge

Hundred Birds Return to Nest is another excellent pattern that showcases the advantage of Baguazhang in using quick, closing steps to lend additional force to a strike. A common situation to use this pattern involves an opponent at close quarters using both arms to deliver or support an attack to the upper body or head, such as a two handed grab to the neck or shoulders, a double handed attack such as the Double Butterfly Palms, or even just using one hand to press down your guard and one hand to punch.

The outward flaring arms of Hundred Birds Return to Nest provide a wall or bridge that prevent your opponent's arms from closing inwards as you slip forwards into their space with a T step to deliver a double inward palm strike to their chest. Naturally, this pattern is not locked into a double palm strike, and one hand can certainly be used to tame or cover the opponent while using the other hand to strike. Even other famous double handed attacks such as Double Butterfly Palms from the Southern Shaolin Flower Set, Double Dragons Play With Pearl from the Shaolin Five Animals Set, or Embrace Moon in Bosom from Northern Shaolin Tantui often use one hand or forearm to disable the opponent's guard or to otherwise maneuver them into an uncomfortable position while the other hand delivers the actual strike. Occasionally, the hands are not even what delivers the actual attack, such as Lion Opens Mouth in Wudang Taijiquan, where both arms can be used to forcefully float an opponent's guard entirely and to throw them back into the range of a kick from below.

Carrying Sun and Moon

Carrying Sun and Moon

Returning to Hundred Birds, when delivered with enough force to the chest, can cause the muscles of the chest wall to be temporarily stunned, leading to a crisis in breathing for the opponent and a hard stop in most people's ability to continue combat. One of my masters told me, "When I want to stop someone from fighting, I take away three things from them: their sight, their breathing, and their stance. Most people can't fight with even one of those missing, much less all three" [13].

I personally do not know how long such a "stun" lasts, as the two times this attack was inflicted upon me, it was very quickly reversed by the master who applied it on me during sparring, but those were among the most terrifying five seconds of my life. Needless to say, be careful when training this pattern with your classmates. When a practitioner has sufficient force built at their abdomen as well as their palms, it is exceedingly easy to drive power into the opponent's body due to the positioning of the striking hands as well the forward momentum provided by the sudden half step forward.

The use of the half step forward to deliver additional impetus to a strike is seen especially in Xingyiquan and Chen Taijiquan, and to a lesser degree, Shaolin kung fu and Wuzuquan, though in those styles a hard stamp is often applied to help vibrate the force inside of the practitioner before sending it into the opponent's body. While in Baguazhang, the stamp is not typically used (Hundred Birds Return to Nest uses a far gentler step forward into the T step), it is worth noting for practitioners of those styles to ensure that they are not using excessive force in stamping the ground, as I have met a surprisingly high number of practitioners who have given themselves knee and ankle problems from years of incorrect practice in that regard. Safety first in all things, especially if you are pursuing martial arts as a hobby and not as a means to defend yourself and your loved ones from death.

Peacock Spreads Tail

Peacock Spreads Tail

Peacock Spreads Tail rounds out the the fifth Mother Palm and, similar to Point to Heaven and Jab Earth, provides a pattern that, by dint of its step and body movements, allows a retreat from virtually any attack. In any martial art, be it those that have a handful of techniques (such as the Five Fists of Xingyiquan or the Eighteen Collection of Praying Mantis) or many dozens or even hundreds of techniques (such as Baguazhang's 64 Palms or the 108 Patterns of Yang family Taijiquan), it is important to have a few failsafe maneuvers that work for all occasions.

In Baguazhang, Point to Heaven and Jab Earth as well as Peacock Spreads Tail serve as those patterns. Grandmaster Wong further noted [17] every kung fu style has at least one, if not more patterns that can be used against any kick, such as Single Whip Saves Emperor in Northern Shaolin, Striking Tiger Poise in Taijiquan, or Lohan Strikes Drum in Southern Shaolin. Point to Heaven and Jab Earth as well as Peacock Spreads Tail are nemesis techniques against kicks in Baguazhang particularly because not only does the Baguazhang practitioner avoid the opponent's kick by nature of their stepping and body movements, the Baguazhang practitioner is immediately primed and ready to deliver their own counter-attack before an unwary opponent can begin to withdraw their leg.

In addition to its combat application, Peacock Spreads Tail can serve as an alternative to Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow as a stance for Eight Mother Palms force training. It provides an example of what kung fu literature calls yin-yang harmony. While the legs, body, and torso are made solid and develop hard, consolidated force due to the nature of the Horse Riding stance, the arms and open palms, by comparison, have softer, flowing energy running along them and to the hands, enabling the practitioner to be both solid as well as fast.

35. Circle Body Palm

The sixth and seventh Mother Palms begin to use footwork and arm movements that are well known to the general populace, namely spinning about in spirals as well as whirling the palms about the body. The first pattern in Circle Body Palm is Big Boss Removes Helmet, where the practitioner may spin in a tight spiral while sweeping their arms and palms in a circle around their head and upper body before moving on to the next pattern.

The "helmet" being removed in this pattern is a neck or head lock, and generally one that is being applied from your front or side, and typically one that involves the opponent having one hand on top of your head and the other grasping the bottom near your chin. While dislodging a headlock applied from behind, such as a Full Nelson from wrestling, can be done, it is often more effective to use another technique. The spiraling turn performed in conjunction with the arm movements is characteristic of Baguazhang and further enhances the flow of force from the practitioner's body to their arms.

Even in the midst of a strike, kick, grapple, or throw, the Baguazhang practitioner gives further force and momentum to their techniques with the addition of taking a step, which is brought up again and again in the Songs and Methods of Baguazhang [22]. In my own experience with other martial artists, especially with my shorter height, reach, and slighter weight, it has always been my stances and footwork that provided victory, especially over stronger and larger individuals.

A particularly memorable occasion came up in the winter of 2016 when I visited a school of Chen Taijiquan to learn their Pushing Hands system. While the majority of them lacked the skills necessary for free sparring, such as the ability to deliver a powerful punch with correct spacing and timing, the majority of them had spent a significant amount of time playing at Pushing Hands and hence were quite adept at sensing and redirecting incoming force while remaining at a static position.

Without fail, however, the moment I added my footwork to the equation and began circling to their weaker points, their skills fell apart, not only in sensing but also redirecting my force. Likewise, the level of force that I was able to emit was much more than they could handle when I added a half step or a full step while they remained at their static posture.

Returning to the Circle Body Palm, Big Boss Removes Helmet is followed by Horizontally Sweep Thousand Armies. This horizontal arm sweep serves many purposes. At its most basic level, it can be used as a percussive strike like any other arm or hand strike, and if the arms are loaded with force and momentum such as from Big Boss Removes Helmet, it can be quite a staggering blow.

The body mechanic used in Horizontally Sweep Thousand Armies is effectively the mirror image of Whirlwind Sweeps Leaves from the fourth Mother Palm and can likewise be used to throw an opponent by sweeping their upper body while using the front leg of your Bow Arrow or Horse Riding stance as a fulcrum to throw them to the ground. If you wish to be nasty, instead of throwing the opponent to the ground, where they may have the opportunity to roll away, redirect your sweeping arms so that your opponent's head or back land on your thigh or knee.

Any technique in kung fu can be applied with varying levels of injury inflicted to an opponent. While it is a sure sign of mastery to be able to deal with an opponent in a manner that leaves them stunned, unable to continue fighting, but unharmed, such a scenario of "letting mercy flow from your hands" is not a realistic end point for all situations. Sometimes the decisive way of ending a situation that has escalated to physical violence is to be absolutely sure that the opponent is physically and mentally unable of inflicting violence to anyone else.

Lion Rolls Ball

Lion Rolls Ball

Lion Rolls Ball is the last pattern of Circle Body Palm and it is important to remember that the pattern includes both the withdrawal of the body and palms after Horizontally Sweep Thousand Armies as well as the push forwards. In this fashion, Lion Rolls Ball incorporates the skills of the famous Double Butterfly Palms in application as well as the internal force of the Dragon for force. In a similar fashion to swallowing back in Grasping Sparrow's Tail from Taijiquan after warding off an opponent's force, the withdrawal of the body and palms can be used to swallow and dissipate an opponent's incoming force, for example shifting back away from an incoming thrust kick and using the palms to catch their foot before shifting forwards to push them away (twisting their ankle or knee is at your discretion) or capturing the head of someone attempting to charge your lower body (again, twisting their neck is at your discretion).

The shift as well as pressing of the two palms forwards allows many options for the type of force you wish to project at your opponent, though the most common ones used in this situation are striking force to deliver a blow that penetrates deeply into your opponent's body or release force to send them hurtling away. To those martial artists who are trained in the internal force of the Dragon, Lion Rolls Ball is an excellent pattern to train and manifest that force, and it is the hallmark of an expert Baguazhang fighter to manifest Dragon force with precise control.

Dragon force is a skill discussed in both Northern and Southern Shaolin kung fu and especially so in schools that emphasize internal force. The true hallmark of an expert in Dragon kung fu is being incredibly powerful while moving at the speed of thought. It requires tremendous internal force, meridians and body mechanics that are free from blockages, and a mind that is simultaneously clear, focused, and relaxed.

At its highest level, its force is a function of mind. The practitioner's mind (shen in kung fu parlance) and thoughts are used to guide energy to flow, which in turn makes the body move in the desired fashion, rather than moving through the simple biomechanics of muscular tension and muscle memory alone.

Grandmaster Wong is himself a specialist in the Southern Shaolin Dragon Energy Circulating set and his skill permeates the Baguazhang that he teaches [17]. Other sets and styles that emphasize Dragon force and the importance of the mind include the Northern Shaolin Dragon Form, which I was lucky enough to learn from Grandmaster Wong in 2018, and Bai Mei's Southern Shaolin Dragon kung fu. Low Tiger Kuntao likewise involves Dragon force training at its intermediate level as a specialization and its highest level includes a Dragon set, though unfortunately I was not privy to that advanced Dragon set [13].

The completing movement of Lion Rolls Ball, that is, sitting at the Bow Arrow stance after just having completed the double palm strike, is the static posture chosen to represent the Circle Body Palm. In addition to incorporating the benefits of training the Bow Arrow stance, tremendous force is built in the palms and wrists. In training this posture, it is important to keep the chest open, despite both palms pressing forwards, as the development of a chronically closed chest can lead to problems down the line for both health as well as fighting purposes.

36. Rotating Body Palm

The Rotating Body Palm consists of the most essential movements for Baguazhang combat application, with inward and outward spiraling steps that train the ability to move to an opponent's back with a single step. While typical Circle Walking will develop the stepping needed to flank an opponent with impunity, advancing that skill to get to their back is best achieved through the seventh Mother Palm, especially the spinning step called Green Dragon Coils Around Pillar.

Naturally, many who have watched me practice this Mother Palm at local parks have later come up to me and asked if I were practicing ballroom dance, waltz, or the Sufi mysticism of the Whirling Dervishes. The answer to all of those questions is an unfortunate no, and that the only dance that I have trained in my life was ballet for a few years in university. At any rate, the one time I tried tango lessons, when I went to spin my partner, my martial reflexes kicked in and I had to break off before I accidentally broke my partners arms as a result of this Mother Palm. Let this be a lesson to those martial artists who seek to engage with the rest of the world: always be in control of your art and do not become enslaved by your training.

Returning to the matter of the Rotating Body Palm, those martial artists trained in joint locks may notice the potential application of spinning to the flank or back of an opponent while capturing the opponent's wrist with one of your hands and floating upwards at that opponent's elbow with your other arm. The threat of pain, dislocation, and fracture is a great way to destabilize your opponent, besides the physical force of this joint lock forcing them upwards and causing them to be floating rather than rooted and enables you to more easily "take your opponent for a walk," as Grandmaster Wong notes [17], besides using them as a shield.

If you do decide to use this pattern to lead an opponent around, be aware that the arm you use against the underside of your opponent's elbow may be exposed and vulnerable to attack from the opponent's other arm or even to being bitten if the opponent is tall and flexible enough to reach, or to being attacked by another opponent, in which case you will have lost your leverage and gained an injury.

Another movement that some martial artists will be able to notice is that in the midst of spinning about, one of the arms coiling upwards and being lifted up to the sky. Naturally, this pattern is called Lift Hand Touch Sky and it is one of the most useful defensive patterns in the entire system. It serves as a similar pattern to the Thread Hand in Shaolin kung fu, using slanting movement and minimum force to dissipate the power of an incoming attack in a very economic movement.

Importantly, due to its training throughout this Mother Palm, the Baguazhang combatant learns to use it as a defense against any conceivable angle. In my own free sparring, this has saved me from being punched and kicked in the back of the head several times. In less stressful situations, the lifting arm of Lift Hand Touch Sky can be used to defend against virtually any strike aimed at the upper body or head and also serves as an excellent pattern with which to maintain contact with an opponent to sense their intention while stepping to their sides or back.

Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse

Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse

Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse serves as the final pattern for this Mother Palm as well as the recommended stance for Eight Mother Palms force training. Its application is discussed under Double Change Palm. When practiced for force training, it makes for an interesting contrast to Peacock Spreads Tail. While both use the Horse Riding stance as a base, the arm positions change the nature of the force without any need to apply the mind or breathing.

In a similar fashion to the use of the Hook Hand in Taijiquan's Single Whip to compress the force in the body like a spring to propel force out through the striking palm, Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse's bent arm (without the use of excessive muscular tension) encourages force to flow out to the front palm. This directed flow, rather than a diffuse spread of force, helps focus the practitioner's power exactly to where it must go, which tends to be directly into the opponent to hamper their fighting ability.

37. Return Body Palm

The Return Body Palm completes the Eight Mother Palms and begins with Lone Bird Flies Away where spreading and floating force are used to throw open an opponent's guard in preparation for a follow up attack. How damaging you wish to be when opening the opponent's guard is up to you. If you wish to be merciful, you may simply fling their arms open. If you wish to be nasty, you may scrape your fingertips across your opponent's face and eyes to further distract them before following with your coup de grace.

Regardless, as with all double handed patterns, not only can it be performed as a single handed variation, if you do decide to use it as a double handed maneuver, be aware of possible counters, especially more common ones such as an opponent shifting back in their stance and gripping your hands.

Thankfully, the immediate follow up pattern in Return Body Palm covers exactly what to do if an opponent grips your arm. Phoenix Snatches Nest is a formidable technique, delivering a double reverse palm thrust to the opponent's face and a simultaneous hidden kick from below. Baguazhang very rarely will use a kick or other leg technique in isolation; to enhance the success of leg techniques, it is often useful to perform a distracting hand or other upper body technique to draw the opponent's attention away from the kick. Even a leg technique can be used to distract for a follow up leg technique, such as the famous Yin Yang Kicks of Northern Shaolin or the Swaying Lotus Kicks of Taijiquan.

The coiling of the arms in Phoenix Snatches Nest serve to both transmit spiraling force from the body to the fingertips while also training the body mechanics needed to escape an opponent gripping your arms. Remember to be relaxed and not to fight the opponent's grip by pulling away. Coil and spiral your arms against the weaker part of their grip and, if need be, step forwards or to the sides in order to raise the chances of your escape. A Baguazhang combatant is always moving and using the strong points of their footwork and agility to maneuver into a more favorable situation, a feature that sees further application in the Swimming Dragon set.

Cloud Dragon Returns Head is performed to either side after Phoenix Snatches Nest and is another lesson in delivering a forceful blow in multiple directions at the same time, including to awkward angles. The raised leg can simultaneously be used as a kick to one opponent as well as raising it to avoid an opponent attempting to directly attack it.

The reverse palm thrust off to one side can be used to strike at the face of a foe as well as the side of their neck or the area behind their ear to cause significant discomfort. If your timing and sensing skills are adequate, you may even use this technique against an opponent approaching from your flank or back and shoot out your palm, brushing aside their arm with your own arm and hitting them at the same time when they would have expected to hit you. Such a feat is a hallmark of an expert.

Cloud Dragon Returns Head

Cloud Dragon Returns Head

Cloud Dragon Returns Head is the recommended stance for Eight Mother Palms force training in this Mother Palm and trains significant flexibility in the spine, waist, and hips while also developing balance and, similar to Cloud Dragon Rests on Pillow, the ability to use the muscles of the spine and core, rather than only the quadriceps, to lift and move the legs, which further enhances the flexibility and strength of the waist and hips.

Monkey Presents Peach provides another opportunity to practice the spiraling and coiling body mechanics for which Baguazhang is famous. The half step leading up to raising one leg into the Single Leg stance (which can be a platform for a knee strike, kick, or to deflect an incoming leg technique) and delivering a raising double palm strike to an opponent's chin or throat uses similar philosophy to Hundred Birds Return to Nest.

Monkey Presents Peach can be used as a counter for an opponent who has thrown your arms out to either side (perhaps using an opening movement such as Lone Bird Flies Away) and attempts to close the distance quickly, whereby you can follow the opponent's opening momentum to bring your arms back close to strike upwards with both your palms and knee.

Great Roc Spreads Wings is the final pattern of the final Mother Palm and, as the name implies, develops spreading force, especially along the arms, which enables you to separate an opponent's guard, for example, if they attempt to choke or attack you, especially with both arms or if they attempt to perform a wrestler's shoot or grapple against you. Note that spreading the opponent's guard is only the first level of defense; you must follow up with a decisive strike or the opponent may simply leak around your spread to attack your exposed body.

As mentioned above, the Eight Mother Palms comprise the core of Baguazhang force training and combat application. Each school of Baguazhang has its own variations, but regardless of school or lineage, all state the importance of using the Mother Palms to develop force as well as skill with fundamental combat applications in order to use Baguazhang as a martial art.

It is highly encouraged that beginning Baguazhang practitioners (who, again, should ideally have a foundation in another martial art before pursuing Baguazhang as a specialization) spend some time developing force as well as training the applications of the Eight Mother Palms, initially in single step application and then gradually in combination as well as applying them against opponents from various angles and from different directions, so that they can eventually build the skills needed to use them in free sparring, before moving on to more advanced applications as seen in the Swimming Dragon set. Specific drills and exercises for expanding the student's ability to use Eight Mother Palms applications from straightforward situations to more sophisticated situations should be discussed with one's teacher.

The detailed use of Baguazhang methods for spiritual cultivation is beyond the scope of this treatise, though suffice to say that by making the body strong and flexible, generating a smooth flow of energy, and developing both a calm, focused, and clear mind through the Eight Mother Palms, the Baguazhang practitioner will be well equipped to pursue whatever method of spiritual cultivation they desire.

38. Swimming Dragon Baguazhang

Tradition holds that the Eight Mother Palms each have eight variations and modifications that give rise to the Sixty Four Palms of Baguazhang combat application [1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 15, 16, 17, 22, 24]. After becoming competent at the Eight Mother Palms, students in Shaolin Wahnam learn more advanced tactics and complicated fighting situations through the practice of the eight sequences that comprise the Swimming Dragon set.

Like all pre-established combinations and choreographies, the onus of a combat sequence set is not that the practitioner will always fight exactly as dictated by their set (although skillful combatants can use a sequence of applications almost regardless of how an opponent responds), but rather to spend time focusing on skills that can be drawn upon without thinking when the combatant finds themselves in an analogous situation. Note also that Swimming Dragon combat sequences tend to be rather long, often involving ten or more exchanges. Most actual fights do not last that long unless combatants are exceedingly well matched with one another.

In the Shaolin Wahnam version of the Swimming Dragon set, half of the combat sequences begin with the combatants apart and half of them begin with the combatants already having their lead forearms in contact. This is to provide opportunities for Baguazhang students to practice safely entering into an opponent to deliver or defend against an attack as well as how to sense and respond to an opponent once contact is already made.

While Baguazhang does not have as deep of a tradition of sensing skills such as Taijiquan Pushing Hands or Wing Chun Sticking Hands, there is much in the way of sensing skills built into typical Baguazhang combat applications [17].

Complete analysis of the entire Swimming Dragon set, which comprises nearly three hundred movements, is beyond the scope of this treatise. However, a brief analysis of the first combat sequence, which highlights many important core principles of Baguazhang combat application, will be discussed here.

The first combat sequence begins with both practitioners, the initiator and responder, evaluating one another while remaining at Green Dragon Tests Claw. The initiator steps in with Open Window Look at Moon, using their front arm as a bridge to make contact with the opponent, test their guard, and open their guard to deliver a palm strike with their rear hand to the opponent's chest. This is a very typical attack in Baguazhang and uses many characteristic principles, such as the simultaneous use of both hands, the Stream Character stance, force issued from a palm strike, and keeping one forearm in reserve to sense the opponent's response.

The responder defends themself in kind, stepping back and deflecting the incoming palm strike with their own forearm before delivering their own palm strike to the initiator's chest using their own Open Window Look at Moon. When you are unsure of your opponent's level of skill or force, it is more advisable to use conservative techniques that have much safety built into them. Again, the presence of a sensing and deflecting hand, the narrow Stream Character stance, and the frontal palm strike at close range provide many opportunities to respond to a surprise counter from an opponent.

From here, things begin to get more interesting. The initiator, upon seeing that their initial attack failed and a counter is coming towards their own head or chest, takes a slight step back with their front foot, threads away the incoming palm with their own previously striking palm, and then steps to the responder's side to deliver a palm strike to the side of the responder's head or body in the pattern Green Dragon Returns Head.

The astute observer will note that the initiator has essentially weaponized the poise pattern used in Circle Walking. In using footwork and attacks to get to an opponent's flanks or side, experience will show that the more committed an opponent is in their attack, the easier it will be to get to the flank or side. In some instances, opponents who overly commit to attacking the space you once occupied will do all the work for you, leaving themselves entirely exposed.

The flanking attack is most characteristic of Baguazhang beginners and intermediate practitioners, followed by experts and masters who circle all the way to an opponent's back because of their superior skill. It is very important for beginners to practice the application of their flanking step. A very worthy drill for Baguazhang students would be to train the transition from Open Window Look at Moon to Green Dragon Returns Head many times everyday as a matter of regular practice, after their Circle Walking and other force training before training anything else.

The responder, not wishing to have their face or body damaged, shifts away from the incoming palm strike before sinking down into the Horse Riding stance and delivers a reverse palm slice to the initiator's groin with Bail Moon From Sea Bottom. Depending on the height of the initiator's attack, the responder's rear guard hand may be used to float up at the initiator's hand or merely be kept near the front shoulder if the responder feels they are adequately far away from the initiator's hand.

This counter reveals an inherent weakness to the sideways stance used in Green Dragon Returns Head, namely that the groin and lower body may be exposed to an opponent who is perpendicular to that sideways stance. Likewise, it demonstrates the principle of using what is heavy and solid (the Horse Riding stance with pressing footwork) against that which is light (the sideways Stream Character stance).

Much kung fu literature discusses using softness when an opponent is hard and vice versa [1, 7, 15, 16, 18, 22, 23], which is a very valid tactic, especially for beginners and intermediate practitioners. Experts and masters, because of their deep skills and wide experience, may use whatever they wish against any situation. All practitioners, regardless of beginners or more seasoned practitioners, must likewise be aware of any inherent weaknesses in their combat.

The initiator deals with the palm slice to their groin by shuffling back in their Stream Character stance to get out of range from the responder's hand and directly sweeps their palm downward at the attacking arm's wrist, forearm, or elbow using Separate Grass Search for Snake. In kung fu parlance, this is known as a direct counter-attack, or no defense direct counter [18, 19].

Rather than brushing aside the incoming Bail Moon From Sea Bottom as a block or deflection, the initiator's safety has already been guaranteed by the spacing provided by their shuffle backwards; if the responder's reach were too great for a shuffle, then the initiator's safety would be acquired from stepping back into a T step or even taking a full step backwards. The initiator's own palm chop is meant to directly attack and damage the responder's arm to prevent them from fighting effectively.

The initiator immediately follows through after Separate Grass Search for Snake by stepping slantingly with their Horse Riding stance behind the responder, guarding and twisting their upper body, covering themselves from a possible counter-attack, and sinking their stance to throw the opponent to the floor using the pattern Black Bear Fells Tree. As all martial artists should know, throwing techniques are not brutal, tight-jawed, sweat-drenched contests of strength. That is for the movies. There is significant set up required for a throw, and the actual sinking of one's stance to bring the opponent to the ground is simply a confirmation of what has gone before.

The responder, not wishing to have their arm broken by Separate Grass Search for Snake or thrown to the ground by Black Bear Fells Tree, withdraws their "bailing" arm and escapes the initiator's throw by simultaneously sweeping their arms outwards in a manner similar to Lone Bird Flies Away and lifting their front leg to remove the initiator's point of leverage and immediately follows with returning their front foot to the ground in a Stream Character stance, using their rear hand to clamp down the initiator's hand against their own shoulder to prevent them from pulling away, and delivers a palm strike using their front hand to the initiator's chin with the pattern Knock on Door Look for Inn.

While this pattern can be applied easily with muscular strength or even waist rotation, it is the hallmark of successful Eight Mother Palms force training which enables the practitioner to apply this pattern with inch force. This is very similar to the Thrust Palm, also called Metal Fist or pi quan, of Xingyiquan.

The initiator, recognizing this situation of having their hand trapped is exactly what may have occurred in the eighth Mother Palm, coils their arms outwards ala Lone Bird Flies Away to simultaneously free their trapped hand and to brush aside the incoming palm strike, steps slightly off to one side, and thrusts both reverse palms to the responder's face and delivers an organ seeking kick to the responder's groin with the pattern Phoenix Snatches Nest.

A hallmark of Baguazhang combat application is taking small steps just off line to avoid an opponent's force as well as to set up an appropriate angle along which to deliver combat ending attacks. It is exceedingly rare for a Baguazhang combatant to remain "in line" with their opponent, and every pattern in this sequence, as well as for much of the Swimming Dragon set, involves small steps to and fro in order to find the holes in an opponent's guard.

The responder recognizes that their knockout blow has failed, and recognizing that the double thrusts to their face may conceal a combat ending kick below, shuffles backwards in their Stream Character stance and slices down at the kicking leg with their own Separate Grass Search for Snake using the principle of no defense, direct counter.

The initiator withdraws their kicking leg before stepping deeply into the opponent's space with their Bow Arrow stance and delivers a palm strike with their front hand in the long stance, long arm technique of Fierce Dragon Across Stream, also called Lazily Rolling Up Sleeves in Chen Taijiquan or Green Dragon Charges Face in Northern Shaolin kung fu.

What follows is an exchange of bridging skills and flanking footwork whereby the two combatants deliver Fierce Dragons against one another and defend against them with soft and circular movements to deflect the incoming strikes off to the side, using the pattern Reading Spring-Autumn Annals by Night. Astute observers will notice that this looks very similar to a bout of Pushing Hands in Taijiquan using Lazily Rolling Up Sleeves and Immortal Waves Sleeves (also known as warding off).

This section of Swimming Dragon, similar to Open Window Look at Moon followed by Green Dragon Returns Head, is another excellent section to take out of the Swimming Dragon set to train extensively in isolation. The practitioner learns to use body movement without needing to take a step in order to allow an opponent to exhaust their strength and lead an opponent's power into emptiness before replying with their own strike.

Eventually, the responder tires of this contest of bridging skills and looks to change the situation by stepping to the outside of the initiator's last Fierce Dragon and locking his head and arm using Control a Galloping Horse. If the responder wishes, they may attempt to choke the initiator into submission or crush their throat. Typically, when using Baguazhang stepping, it is favorable to step to the outside of an opponent, as stepping to their inside exposes the practitioner to the opponent's other hand, both legs, or even a blow from the opponent's head. Hence, for beginners, it is advisable to step to the outside, though at the intermediate stage, it is important to learn how to get to an opponent's side or back safely from either direction.

The initiator, not wishing to be locked and possibly choked into submission, quickly raises one hand with Lift Hand to Sky to protect their neck and steps off to one side deeply into their Horse Riding stance, floating the responder's controlling arms and gripping at the responder's waist or flank with their dragon claw using the pattern Golden Eagle Catches Chicken. The goal here, as with most gripping techniques (collectively termed qin na in kung fu parlance, also Romanized as chin na) is not to cause a life ending injury, but rather to inhibit their fighting ability by damaging the muscles and points along their waist, robbing the opponent of the ability to use full waist rotation to transfer power between their upper and lower body.

Baguazhang typically does not emphasize gripping techniques so much as other styles, for example Black Tiger kung fu or the Hung Gar of Wong Fei Hung's lineage, but an art cannot be considered complete without incorporating the four general categories of attack: striking with the hands and arms; leg techniques such as kicks and sweeps; throwing techniques to fell an opponent to the ground; and gripping techniques to damage and control an opponent.

After recognizing that their lock has failed and that they are being attacked, the responder steps off to one side into the Horse Riding stance and sweeps their arm down like a sword at the initiator's clawing arm using the pattern Tiger Tail Hand Sweep, using no defense, direct counter. This is the highest level of defense (after "first defend, then counter" and "defense becomes counter"), and Swimming Dragon is full of such maneuvers.

The initiator demonstrates the agility of Baguazhang by shifting momentarily back into a Unicorn step and letting the responder's Tiger Tail Hand Sweep go by before stepping into the opponent's space with a Bow Arrow stance and uses Whirlwind Sweeps Leaves to strike the side of the responder's head with their palm. As ever, it is important to guard your opponent and to make sure they cannot simply directly attack you while your own attack is on the way, especially when delivering these sorts of inward coming attacks from the side, as they require more time to deliver compared to a straight attack such as Knock on Door Look for Inn or Fierce Dragon Across Stream.

Regardless, the responder defends themselves by sitting back in their Stream Character stance and brushes aside the incoming strike using Reading Spring-Autumn Annals by Night, making sure to follow the initiator's momentum rather than trying to fight against their movements. In this case, as ever, the stances and footwork provide the spacing necessary to prevent the responder from getting struck at all, even if they did not use their arm movement. The arm movement is simply to confirm their own safety as well as to provide a platform on which to deliver their next attack, in this case shuffling forwards in their Bow Arrow stance to use the same hand with which they used to defend against the Whirlwind palm to deliver a reverse palm thrust at the initiator's face using the pattern Yellow Dragon Shoots Tongue.

The initiator steps back and away from the incoming reverse palm and uses the longer reach of their legs to deliver an organ seeking kick to the responder's groin, covered by a reverse palm thrust of their own to the responder's eyes. A salient point of kicking techniques used in Baguazhang, as mentioned above, is that virtually every kick belongs to the genre of No Shadow Kicks.

The responder, who is no stranger to combat, shuffles back and uses Separate Grass Search for Snake to chop down at the kicking leg, after which both combatants withdraw to assess one another using Green Dragon Tests Claw before their next exchange.

39. The future of Baguazhang

All in all, Baguazhang, for being a martial art that only emerged onto the public stage a few centuries ago, has all of the hallmarks of an excellent system for combat. It provides the engine of Circle Walking to build force in a variety of ways, sophisticated combat application to meet combatants of all skill levels at the basic, intermediate, and advanced level, as well as the tactics and strategies needed to know when to fight, when to run, and if combat is required, how to best survive intact.

These points are worth remembering. Kung fu, including Baguazhang, is not some form of interpretive dance that belongs on the stage as some wushu performers or those ignorant of its combat application may think. It was born from the blood, fists, knives, and bullets cast across the turmoil at the end of the Qing dynasty with the ultimate goal of preserving its practitioner's life and to keep them robust, healthy, and combat-worthy even into older age.

The fact that it is so effective as a form of moving meditation and spiritual cultivation is a wonderful bonus, especially for those of us who pursue it as a hobby in our relatively peaceful modern times. To the avid reader who has persisted this far, I wish you the best in your training and hope that you have learnt a thing or two about Baguazhang.

40. Acknowledgements

I would like to take a moment to thank the following people who provided their knowledge and recommendations in the form of peer review, perhaps the most important aspect of a research paper besides the research itself.

Fabienne Burri, of no house but her own.
Fang Jun, Shaolin Wahnam Singapore.
David Langford, Legacy Shaolin.
Alvin Lim, Ma Weiqi Baguazhang.
Kristian Staev, Shaolin Wahnam Maine.

41. References

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13. Parker,Dexter.(2013-2017). Personal correspondence.
14. Szymanski, J. (2001). Interview with Mr. Ma Chuanxu, Liang Style Baguazhang Expert from Beijing andPresident of the Beijing Baguazhang Research Association. China From Inside. Accessed from < href=""> 2018 December 23.
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Frederick Chu
Aventura, Florida, United States of America
2019 March 14



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