Why I Like Bagua

Everything is spinning crazily. The fact that facts are scarce does not prevent them from flying at us, relentlessly.  We spend our hours looping and diving, just to keep upright. In times like this, Bagua sounds just about right.

It is no wonder that people recognize that Bagua is the truth-speaker of a relatively untruthful world. Some acknowledge Bagua as the last of a breed of ancient Chinese Kung Fu styles, each containing its special face and unusual skills.  Others see it from a historical angle—after being out-stripped and out-run by the advance of the Western powers, Bagua developed a powerful set of its own solutions and its unique point of view. However you look at it, one quality is unavoidable: Bagua is about change and takes that quest seriously in every direction.

Bagua Starts With Change
Bagua is the kind of martial art you want to tell other people about but find it difficult to describe.  It is a definitional example of something that is greater than the sum of its parts: You observe Bagua’s most basic circle-walking, and maybe think it is for sneaking around an opponent or outwitting him by running circles around him. But you might not understand it as concretizing the idea of 360° awareness, or displaying its bodyguard capabilities against multiple opponents. Not only is Bagua ‘external’ but it is ‘internal’ in unexpected ways: when you grab a Bagua practitioner’s arm it should be similar to grabbing a furniture leg turning on a lathe—the unfinished piece may look perfectly still but its rotational movement will tell you otherwise, and may send you flying.

The twisty stationary postures might mislead you, until you notice that nature itself provides examples of standing steadfastness in Eucaplytus tree trunks and the gentle rotation of bones. There is so much twisting that even people in the arts who have no experience with the “internal” can at least feel what they see when the “dragon palm” coils its way through astonishing postures as twisted as a Buddha knot.

It’s not so much that Bagua walks a circle, as that fact that it doesn’t love a straight line. Circular movement—even in Gao Style Bagua, where walking is more linear—ensures that each and every step will be slightly different, and this constant alternation of outside step and inside step means that the internal (twist, focus, intent) is coupled with the external (curvature, angle, combination) in a powerful way.


Below is a simple Bagua ‘gong,’ or looped exercise, that will initiate you into the feeling of Bagua. You can even incorporate this into your main-style practice. The emphasis of Chan Si Jin, or reeling silk energy, should be present in all styles of traditional CMA.


Stand comfortably. Extend both hands like you are in a guard stance. This is for the Single Heaven Palm. As you inhale raise your front hand while twisting your forearm (either CW or CCW). Then exhale, lowering your raised arm while rotating your forearm in the opposite direction. Seem simple? It is, enough to be “mixable” with just about every move, not only in Bagua but in any martial art. In the old days Bagua was only taught to people with a strong foundation. 

Watch the video below for a demonstration of this entire gong, including the single and double hand versions.

No one ever gets bored with practicing Bagua.


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