Baguazhang, or Eight Trigram Palm, is a Chinese martial system that was originated in the late 19th century by Dong Haichuan. Our group practices the lineage associated with his most senior student Yin Fu, and therefore we refer to our style as Yin Style Baguazhang (YSB). The style was transmitted from Yin Fu to Men Baozhen to Dr. Xie Peiqi, to He Jinbao who is the current lineage holder and our teacher. Yin Style was historically practiced in and around Beijing, however in recent decades it has also taken on an international presence.
Another branch of the Bagua family tree, Cheng Style, of which there are countless sub-branches, originates from Cheng Tinghua, another one of Dong Haichuan’s students. Styles emanating from Cheng are far more prolific than Yin Style, and if you have previously encountered Bagua, it was likely Cheng Style.
Philosophically all Bagua lineages are rooted in the Chinese classic Book of Changes or I Ching (Yi Jing), which was originally a text used for divination but over the centuries became a book of collected wisdom. However, despite similar foundations and principles, as a combat system Yin Style has a set of distinct practice methods and techniques that are not typically found in other Bagua systems.
YSB has four broad classes of fighting techniques – striking, kicking, throwing, and joint manipulation. It’s training methods develop an ability to harmonize the motion of the entire body with an intent geared toward gaining position, emitting force, and ultimately disrupting and subduing an adversary. When executed well Yin Style techniques are cold, crisp, and fast.
Fighting skill is developed though four core practice methods. These are – turning, standing, striking, and changing. Each of these has both detailed mental and physical requirements that should be met when training, and when performed vigorously, are both mentally and physically demanding. The practice of YSB promotes health and well-being, and stimulates the mind, all while developing practical fighting skills.
Turning, which is a practice unique to Bagua, consists of holding a posture with the upper body while walking in a circle for an extended period of time. This exercise develops coordination of the waist, feet and hands, as well as balance, agile footwork, and mental fortitude.
Standing consists of maintaining a stationary posture with both the upper and lower body. The postures held by the upper body are often identical to the postures used when turning. Amongst other things, this practice develops whole body strength and awareness as well as proper structure and breathing.
Striking consists of drilling the same technique on both sides of the body either in a stationary posture or with one of several predefined footwork patterns. This type of training develops the ability to generate and emit force with appropriate timing, and builds strength and endurance.
Changing weaves together one or more basic techniques and footwork patterns into various combinations of wide ranging complexity. This practice develops the ability to adapt to the vagaries of combat and to maintain a flexible and dynamic range of application. Yin Style Bagua has a set of standard changes, but this aspect of the art is truly limitless.
YSB is composed of 64 attack methods, each of which has three or more basic variations. The 64 attack methods are arranged into 8 animal systems, of which each animal system contains 8 attack methods and is a complete martial system in its own right.
Each animal system also contains 7 distinct stepping patterns, which are combined with each attack method, producing 56 forms per animal system. These forms are short, containing only seven moves each, but the content of each is detailed and rich.
The animal systems while sharing a common YSB foundation are unique and each develops a characteristic method of emitting force and a set of complementary fighting strategies and techniques. For example the Lion system is geared toward emitting force with a strong emphasis on the waist and employees an fiercely aggressive and direct fighting methodology.
The eight animal systems, which correspond to each of the 8 Trigrams of the I Ching, are as follows:
|Lion||Qian (☰) – Heaven||Interlocking||Waist||Upright Spine|
|Snake||Kan (☵) – Water||Moving with the Force||Abdomen||Abdomen|
|Bear||Gen (☶) – Mountain||Turning the Back||Back||Rounded Back|
|Dragon||Zhen (☳) – Thunder||Lifting and Holding||Legs||Feet Grip|
|Phoenix||Xun (☴) – Wind||Windmill||Shoulder||Tuck Tailbone|
|Rooster||Li (☲) – Fire||Lying||Chest & Elbow||Hollow Chest|
|Unicorn||Kun (☷) – Earth||Reversing the Body||Waist||Smooth Joints|
|Monkey||Dui (☱) – Lake||Enfolding||Legs||Tip of Tongue|
Each animal system will be discussed at length in a future post.
Additional introductory material can be found at Yin Style Baguazhang International.
Alfred Huang has created an excellent translation of the I Ching. The author was brought up in the tradition of the I Ching and brings a perspective steeped in its content to his commentary.
Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching is also good and historically the go to translation. It contains translations of several other essays and traditional commentaries that are not contained in Huang’s version.
The Wikipedia Bagua page is a good distillation of some of the information found in Wilhelm.