QA: Bagua Zhang Variations

qaredI really enjoyed the article about bagua. Thanks. I’d appreciate it if you could explain to me why there are so many forms/palms. What is the goal of variations?

Thanks in advance, M

Dear  M,

You are right there are a lot of variations in Bagua, especially for a style that is less than 200 hundred years old. There is, in fact, almost one complete style of Bagua for each of those 200 years.  How did this happen and what gives? A few things pop into my mind and might interest you.

1. Of the first generation of students under creator Dong Hai Chuan, the majority were already masters of their own separates styles. That means that instead of having one style and it having relatively few variations in the first generation, you were probably starting with seventeen or so branches just to begin.

2. Bagua, at least as I was taught, is very rare in that it asks students to break down and rearrange material almost immediately. This is reserved for “black belt level” in most styles. In Bagua, it may come early and unsettling, all at a teacher’s wish.

3. This brings me to the third point. One reason a teacher likes to teach Bagua is that every Bagua movement contains about ten variations rolled into one. So we like to remind students by having a little more flexible approach to the changes, encouraging them to always keep in mind that each separate hand gesture is really more like a cloud of possibilities than a fixed motion.

And of course there is always the question of teachers trying to bring their own expertise into the instruction. This is not a bad thing, but in the newer styles it can seem as though there is an infinite amount of variations.

But then, come to think of it, that’s true.

Hope this helps a bit,
Ted Mancuso

2 Responses to “QA: Bagua Zhang Variations”

  1. Al says:


    Can you devlop a bit on the notion of to ‘break down and rearrange material almost immediately” ? – thank you.

  2. Plum Staff says:

    To elaborate a bit, Bagua is said to base itself on change. It fulfils that feature just by having locomotion as its base. It adds on two more attributes; palm changes and actual directions changes. These three activities make up Bagua. Basics like the Animals, threading,Three Level Hands all fit into the fundamental pattern of Circle/Palm Change/Reverse Direction. The arrangements of just the basics number in the thousands. In my school, even straight line forms, like our Kai Men Four Animals, are first learned and then I ask each student to create a new form with certain specifications. And that’s just the first form! Bagua is just too compact a style to let students wait for very long before exploring usage and customization. Variation becomes self-evident after a bit of training.

    Any other ideas, or variations on ideas?

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