The Eight Mother Palms

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Because there are several different approaches to the theory and the practice of the Eight Mother Palms, I will divide the remainder of our Eight Mother Palm presentation into several sections. In the remainder of this article, I will describe the Eight Mother Palms as eight different upper body positions that are first practiced as the student holds the posture while standing still or walking the circle. I will then describe how these eight palms lead to the practice of more complex forms, applications, and theoretical concepts. In the article which follows this one, Ba Gua Zhang instructor Gary Stier will describe how the Eight Mother Palms are approached in his system of Ba Gua.

In Pa Kua Chang Journal, Volume 5, Number 5, I described Ba Gua's Eight Mother Palms as one of the "four pillars" of Ba Gua training (the other pillars being the circle walk practice, the single palm change, and the double palm change). In this context I was defining the Eight Mother Palms as being the foundational static upper body postures which are held while the practitioner is practicing the basic circle walk. These postures are designed to train certain structural alignments and energetic connections while the practitioner is walking the circle. The upper body is held static while the lower body is continuously moving. In the practice of holding the eight mother palms, the practitioner trains structural strengths, internal body connections, internal/external body integration and harmony, development and awareness of muscle groups not usually under conscious control, tendon strength and conditioning, and joint opening and suppleness. These components are trained in each of the eight holding postures.

Once the student has gained these physical and mental connections in the practice of the holding postures and the changes which link the postures together, he or she can then advance and learn how to utilize the alignments and connections that were forged during the basic practice into more complex movements and changes. The reason these postures are referred to as the "eight mother" palms ("palms" in this sense is referring to the energy of the whole body and alignment of the whole body) is because they are designed to build the physical and energetic foundation for all of the higher level training.

The Eight Holding Postures

In most systems of Ba Gua Zhang, one of the first things the new student will learn is the eight holding postures. These are sometimes called the "eight mother palms," the "qi gong palms," the "nei gong" palms, or the "eight forms." Many systems will first have the students hold these postures during basic stance training drills where the student simply stands still while holding the posture. In some systems the same leg stance is held as the practitioner holds each of the different upper body postures for a certain length of time before transitioning to the next. In other schools, the leg stance changes along with the upper body posture. However, in almost all systems of Ba Gua, this static posture holding is simply a prelude to the circle walk practice executed while holding these postures.

While many schools begin the training with static posture holding, other schools start immediately with the next stage of training. This stage requires that the student hold the static upper body posture while executing the basic circle walk practice. In the Liang Zhen Pu system of Ba Gua Zhang as taught by Li Zi Ming, this practice is called ding shi eight palms ( jit /Vif) or nei gong circle walking. In an interview conducted with Li Zi Ming's student Zhao Da Yuan, Zhao explains that while this practice in Ba Gua is considered to be similar to the "standing post" practice trained in Shaolin and Xing Yi Quan, there is one important difference - in Ba Gua the practitioner is moving. Zhao states that since Shaolin training has had a heavy Buddhist influence, they pull there spirit in and concentrate inward during their standing meditation. Ba Gua Zhang has had a Daoist influence in its circle walking practice and since the Daoists are concerned with becoming "one with Heaven and Earth" they do not like to stand in place and focus inward as in the Buddhist practice.

Zhao says that the Daoists believe that if you practice meditation while you are moving, you can better blend with the patterns of nature and absorb the qi of Heaven and Earth. Zhao continues by saying that nothing in nature stands still, everything is always changing and thus if the practitioner is moving while practicing meditation, it is more natural. He states that this does not mean static meditation is bad, he simply points out that since the "ten thousand things" in nature don't stand still, it is more natural to move.

Zhao explains more about the practice by saying that when the practitioner is holding a static posture, but continues to move around the circle, there is both "stillness in movement" and "movement in stillness." The internal leads the external and the external matches the internal. The external trains the form, and the internal trains the Yi (intention) and the qi. When walking the circle holding static postures, the internal and external are trained together, however, the internal leads the external. In Shaolin training the internal and external are often times trained separately. The internal is trained during sitting and standing meditation and the external is trained during forms practice. Zhao says that this is not natural. He believes that the Daoist method of training the internal and external together, with a focus on the internal, is more natural and thus more advantageous.

Zhao echoes the teachings of many schools of Ba Gua Zhang in his belief that the key element of this practice, and that which makes it "internal," is the link between the mind and the body. The circle walk training which is practiced while holding the static postures of the Eight Mother Palms has many physical benefits in terms of the body alignments and connections which are forged, however, the integration of mind and body which occurs during this practice a key element of this training. In fact, there are a few schools of Ba Gua who do not teach this aspect of the training until the student is more advanced because they believe beginners do not have the mental discipline required to properly focus the intention. In these schools basic exercises and form routines are taught to the beginners and the eight holding palms are only taught after the student exhibits an ability to maintain mental focus.

Zhao Da Yuan says that when the average person

Zhao Dayuan Bagua

Sun Xi Kun, Cheng You Long's student, holds the "Double Embracing Palm" posture

Sun Zhijun Palm Change

Sun Zhi Jun practicing the first of his eight holding postures, "downward sinking" palm contracts a muscle, 45 to 50 percent of the muscle fiber in that muscle fire in the performance of that task. A trained athlete, or a person who repetitively works a set of muscles performing a certain task, may contract about 70 percent of the muscle fiber in a given muscle for a given purpose. Zhao's theory is that if the practitioner holds a static posture, or moves slowly as in Tai Ji, and cultivates a complete mind/body connection in association with that posture or movement, he will be able to develop the ability to get more muscle fiber to contract at the same time for the same purpose. He states that if the practitioner trains the Yi (intention) and has a highly refined physical awareness, the mind can better focus and control the body's function.

In China, the term used to describe a strength which is developed over a period of repetitious practice is called gong liffi i]). Some teachers in China use the following story to explain gong li. There was a street merchant in Beijing who made and sold fried dough twists from a cart on the street corner. All day, day in and day out, the merchant took a long roll of bread dough, folded it in half and twisted the two halves together (as if wringing out a towel) to make a dough twist. He would then fry them up and sell them to travelers on the street.

One day a thief stole a woman's money across the street from the dough twist vendor's stand. In his escape, the thief ran past the vendor. As the thief went by, the vendor grabbed his wrist and applied a twisting motion. With the twisting of his arm, the thief was thrown onto the ground and the money fell. The vendor picked up the money and handed it to the woman from whom it was taken. The thief knelt before the vendor and asked what style of martial arts he had practiced to obtain such skill. The vendor answered that all he had ever practice was making fried dough twists.

The moral of the story is that after having spent years executing the wringing motion required to twist his bread dough, the man had acquired gong li in the execution of this action. He was strong enough to throw the thief to the ground because in executing this simple action thousands of times, he had acquired natural strength in its execution. The same theory applies to internal martial arts practice. It is better to have executed many repetitions than to have struggled with a few repetitions. When teachers tell their students to hold a certain posture and walk the circle for one hour, the logic of some students is to say, "But wouldn't it be more efficient if I walked for a half hour and held five pound weights in each hand." The answer is no. The benefits are not the same. In walking for the longer period of time without weights, the mind/body connection is formed to a greater degree and the practice is more natural.

Many of the ideas relating the to the physical benefits one gains in executing the circle walk while holding the Eight Mother Palms were explained in Pa Kua Chang Journal, Volume 4, Number 6, in the circle walking article, so I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say that in the holding of the eight static posture while walking the circle the practitioner will forge important muscular, tendeno-muscular, energetic, nervous system, and mind/body alignments and connections in the body.

The Mother Palms As Static Whole Body Postures

In this section of the article we will describe the eight mother palms as they are practiced in most of the schools of Ba Gua Zhang. Most schools view the "palms" as whole body static postures which are held to forge certain energetic connections, body alignments, and muscular/tendon development. In these schools, after the student gains the proper strengths, alignments, and connections in practicing the "mother palms," he then learns how to change between one posture and the next in a variety of different ways in order to learn how to utilize these alignments in fighting or for health building and maintenance.

Among schools that practice the eight mother palms as static upper body postures, there are two approaches to this method. These two approaches, which I will call the "Eight Energies" and the "Eight Animals" schools are described below.

The Eight Energies

I call this school of thought the "eight energies" school because the practice of their eight mother palms is designed to develop eight progressive energy stages

Eight Mother Palms

Fifth Gua Sixth Gua Seventh Gua Eighth Gua

Sun Zhi Jun demonstrating his eight holding postures while walking the circle.

in the body during the practice. Once the student has developed these levels of energy distribution and balance in the body through repetitive practice of these eight mother palms, he or she is then ready to utilize, change, and develop these energies in a variety of different ways by practicing the forms and drills which are taught after the foundation of the mother palms has been built.

One modern day practitioner from this school is Sun Zhi Jun of Beijing, China (see Pa Kua

Chang Journal, Volume 4, Number 4). Sun Zhi Jun grew up in Cheng Ting Hua's home village and studied with Cheng Ting Hua's student Liu Zi Yang (#1 ^r # ), Cheng Dian Hua's son, Cheng You Sheng

(iJL^f and Cheng Ting Hua's son Cheng You Xin ). Sun said that when he practiced in the Cheng village, practice of the "eight mother palms" was emphasized for the first three years of training. (One interesting note is that Sun Zhi Jun actually calls his eight holding postures the "old eight palms" and his first full Ba Gua form the "eight mother" palms. This is exactly opposite of most Ba Gua schools. However, no matter what the name, the concepts are the same.)

Although we will be exploring Sun's postures here, many other schools of Ba Gua practice postures which are almost identical, including Liang Zhen Pu stylists, and other Cheng Ting Hua stylists including Cheng You Long, Cheng You Xin, Gao Yi Sheng and their descendants.

The First Gua, "Downward Sinking" Palm: The first of Sun's postures, the "downward sinking" palm, is such that the hands are held down by the lower dan tian (-fl*1®?) as the practitioner is walking the circle. The palms are facing downward and the mental image is one of pushing the energy downward. Sun says that this first posture is used to help the student bring the body's energy to the lower dan tian. The student concentrates on walking the circle while sinking the body's energy down. The arms being held in a low position near the dan tian helps to facilitate this energy movement in the body. Practitioners from the Liang Zhen Pu (l^it M) system, the Gao Yi Sheng system, and the Sun Xi Kun system also utilize this holding posture.

The Second Gua, "Double Lifting" Palm: After the student has developed the ability to sink the body's energy to the lower dan tian through the practice of circle walking while holding the "downward sinking" palm, and has circumnavigated the circle many times in both directions, he or she will then transition to the

The Third Gua, "Closing Embracing" Palm: After the student feels a full and balanced flow of energy, which has been rooted in the lower dan tian during the execution of the first walking posture and then brought up to fill the middle tan tian, arms, and palms during the second walking posture, the student will then change to the third walking posture. In the third walking posture, "'closing embracing" palm, the student places one hand up just about eye height with the palm facing up while the other palm is placed up above the head with the palm facing down. This posture is very similar to the "lion" posture in the eight animal style (see photo on page 20).

This posture takes the energy that has been brought to the middle dan tian in the last walking posture and allows it to flow up to the upper dan tian located under the crown of the head and behind the middle of the eyebrows. The practitioner will imagine that the body's energy is coming up through the arms and connecting in a circular loop following the posture of the arms. The arm posture facilitates a concentrated flow of the energy to the crown of the head. In some schools the basic posture is the same, however, the upper palm is turned to face upwards (see the photo of Sha Guo Cheng on the cover of this issue).

The first three postures of the eight have now filled the body from head to toe with energy starting by a focus on the lower dan tian and lower abdomen moving down to the feet and then moving to the middle dan tian and chest area moving out to the arms, and then moving from up to the upper dan tian and the crown of the head. These three postures have formed a foundation of full energy in the body. The next five posture will now work to distribute the energy in the body in a variety of different ways. Sun says that the remaining five palms develop different types of "power."

The Fourth Gua, "Seven Star Turning" Palm: The next two postures focus back on the energy in the middle of the body, one opening up the energy of the back and the other opening up the energy of the chest. You can see that the next posture, the "seven star turning palm," (which is also known as "double embracing palms,") as shown by Sun Zhi Jun in the sequence on the previous page and by Sun Xi Kun in the photograph on page 15, will tend to open up the back while hollowing the chest. This helps to open up the energy in the back and allow that energy to follow the posture into the two palms. The practitioner's intention is place on the energy in the palms as if the palms are embracing a ball. In the eight animal school, the "monkey offers fruit" posture of the monkey form is almost identical to this posture. In executing this posture, some schools will hold the palms up higher than others.

The Fifth Gua, "Double Crushing" Palms: The fifth posture in this sequence is the "double crushing palms" posture, (also known as the "embracing moon

Liang Zhenpu

Liang Zhen Pu stylist Zhang Hua Sen holding the "Yin and Yang Turning Palms" Posture second posture, the "double lifting" palm. This posture is exactly like the "dragon" posture from the eight animals school. Sun explains that after the energy has rooted itself in the lower dan tian with the first walking posture, the student then brings both arms up and out to the sides of the body after executing the change of directions. This posture helps connect the energy in the lower dan tian with the energy in the middle dan tian, which is located in the area of the solar plexus. Again, it is the position of the arms combined with the walking of the circle which directs the energy to the proper place in the body. Sun explains that this second posture not only brings the energy from the lower dan tian to the middle dan tian, it also helps to spread the energy out to both palms from the middle dan tian in a balanced manner.

In practicing this second posture the student should focus on the palms as if he or she was holding something in the palms. The student feels the energy come out from the center of the chest and fill the palms as if the palms have small pools of water forming in them and the student does not what to drop the water. This image also helps place the intention in the proper place while holding this posture.

at chest" posture). While the previous posture held the back open and the chest closed, this posture opens up the energy in the chest by pushing the palms away from the body, turning the elbows outward and having the chest very rounded. This posture can be seen in photo 5 of the sequence on the previous page, or as executed by Cheng De Liang on page 14. Here the focus is on relaxing the shoulders, rounding the chest and pushing out with the palms. The image "double crushing palms," which can also be translated as "double crashing palms" gives the practitioner the image of pushing away from the body in a manner that would crash through something. The previous two palms are practiced by students of the Liang Zhen Pu system, the Gao Yi Sheng system, and the Sun Xi Kun system.

The Sixth Gua, "Yin and Yang Turning" Palms:

While the first five of these postures remain fairly consistent among the school who practice what I have been referring to as the "eight energies" system of holding postures, the next two will vary from school to school. The next palm, "Yin and Yang turning palms," is practiced by Cheng You Xin's students as having the upper arm rounded and the palm facing away from the body while the lower palm is held behind the back with the palm pushing down and away from the body. The picture of Sun Zhi Jun on the previous page is not very good. A better representation of this posture is shown at left by Liang Zhen Pu stylist Zhang Hua Sen (ik^ A). In the Gao Yi Sheng system, the first five postures are identical to those we have presented thus far, however, their sixth posture is exactly like the fifth except that the palms are facing in towards the body instead of away from the body.

The Seventh Palm, "Uniting the Internal" Palm:

The seventh palm as executed by Sun Zhi Jun is different from almost all the other systems who have similar postures to all of the other seven executed by Sun. Most of the other systems utilize a palm here called "Upper and Lower Standing Palms" as demonstrated by Sun Xi Kun on the cover of this issue. Sun Zhi Jun holds the upper hand out away from the body in front of the chest with the palm facing down and the cutting edge of the palm (pinky edge) facing forward. The lower palm is held at about dan tian height with the palm facing upward and the thumb side facing forward.

With the exception of the Gao Yi Sheng system, the practitioners from the "eight energies" schools execute the sixth and seventh palms so that one palm is high and the other palm is low, or one palm is in front of the body and one palm is behind the body. In executing these posture the practitioner is training the body's energy to separate between high and low and front and back while still remaining full and complete.

The Eighth Gua, "Pushing Turning" Palm: All systems of this method end the eight mother palms practice with the execution of the standard Ba Gua


Qian Gua


- -

Kun Gua



Kan Gua


Li Gua


Zhen Gua


Gen Gua


Xun Gua



Dui Gua


The Eight Trigram corresponding to the Eight Animals

*"Unicorn" is not always the name used here, however, all schools who utilize the eight animal names use the Chinese name of some mythical animal in relation to the Kun Gua. "Swallow" is sometimes also called "Sparrowhawk" or "Chicken."

Zhang guard stance posture as shown in photo 8 on the previous page and as shown as practiced by many different masters on pages 16 and 17 of Pa Kua Chang Journal, Volume 4, Number 6. This posture finishes the eight postures which began with bringing energy to the lower dan tian and legs, then to the middle dan tian and arms, then to the upper dan tian and crown of the head, then the back was opened and the chest hollowed, then the chest was rounded and the energy in chest opened up, next there were two postures which separated the body's energy between high and low and/or backward and forward and finally, the Ba Gua guard posture was practiced as a posture which ties all of the energies and strengths of the previous postures together.

In transitioning through all eight of these postures and learning how to become aware of the physical connections of the postures and energetic movements in the body that are associated with the postures, the student has built a strong foundation. From here the student will be taught more complex forms and changes, however, these forms and changes will all have a root in the basic eight holding postures.

You may have noticed that while I was describing these holding postures I made no mention of eight trigram correlation. This is because the practitioners of the "eight energy" method of holding postures do not usually make any connections between these postures and the specific eight trigrams of the Yi Jing. Sun Zhi Jun says that the practice of Ba Gua Zhang has no direct relationship with each individual trigram

Bagua Eight Palms

of the Yi Jing. He believes that drawing such direct correspondences is an over complication of the system. He says that the reason the art is called "Ba Gua" and is based on the Yi Jing is simply because in practicing the art the practitioner should understand the underlying theory of "continuous change without end" which is present in the Yi Jing.

The Eight Animal Theory

Next we will address the eight animal school of Ba Gua holding postures. By "eight animal" school we are simply referring to those practitioners who have given animal names to their eight holding postures and have corresponding eight trigram relationships between those animals and the eight trigrams of the Yi Jing. There are numerous schools who have these relationships and it is difficult to find out how these "animal" names originated. If it were only one system or one lineage who utilized these names, it might be easy to trace their origins, however, there are several diverse systems who use this method.

At first glance it appears that since most of the "eight energies" schools have a connection to the Cheng Ting Hua system of Ba Gua that Cheng's school did not have the "eight animals." However, Sun Lu Tang used the eight animal and eight trigram correspondences and he was a student of Cheng Ting Hua. Also, Liu Xing Han and his group of "Nine Palace" Ba Gua practitioners utilize the eight animals and they are also from the Cheng Ting Hua lineage. Additionally, various schools within the Yin Fu lineage also utilize the eight animals and the eight trigram correspondences. The most surprising part of all is that every system that utilizes the eight animals uses the same eight animal names and the relationships between the animals and the eight trigrams are all the same. These relationships are shown in the illustration on the previous page.

In principle, the eight animal holding postures serve the same purpose as the postures held in the other schools of Ba Gua. In connecting the postures to animals and trigrams, the eight animals schools have a group of characteristics which they can relate to the given postures of the form. The energies of the form postures and changes are related to these characteristics. As the practitioner learns more complex changing movements between the animal postures and learns to connect these animal postures to other movements of the system, the characteristics are expressed in the movements. In Park Bok Nam's system of Ba Gua, the student will eventually learn how to execute changes from one animal posture to all other animal postures. In other words, when the students first learns the animal holding postures they will learn them in a specific sequence, lion changing to unicorn, changing to snake, changing to swallow, changing to dragon, changing to bear, changing to phoenix, changing to monkey. Later the student will learn how to execute changes from lion to snake, lion to swallow, lion to dragon, etc. Eventually the student will have learned 64 different ways to change between the eight holding postures.

Some of the trigram and animal posture correspondences that are used in the eight animal system are explained by Sun Lu Tang in his book as follows1:

Qian/Lion: Qian is the form of Heaven. Its nature is Yang. It has the qualities of being strict, dignified, ardent, fiery, virtuous, and heroic. Its nature is that of bravery and heroism. It can eat animals like tigers and leopards. It has the awesome power of shaking its fur.

Kun/Unicorn: Kun is the form of the Earth. Kun is flowing. Its nature is Yin. The Unicorn is a benevolent animal. It has the skill of a flying body, transforming unfathomably. It has the skill of a flowing posture and a returning body that spins and revolves.

Kan/Snake: Kan is the form of Water. The Kan form is that of the center being full. Yang falls into the center of Yin. The Snake is very poisonous. Its nature is very clever and nimble. It is very active. It has the ability to part grass. In this form the outside is soft and flowing and the inside is hard and strong. This form has the dan tian full of qi. Inside and outside are like water, curving and flowing. There are no cracks that it cannot enter.

Li/Sparrowhawk: Li is the shape of Fire. Li is elegance. Yin elegance is in the center of Yang. Yin borrows from Yang and creates understanding. The Sparrowhawk has the quickness to enter the forest and the skill to overturn its body. In the fighting form, there is the method of hitting points with slicing and cutting. It also has the ability to enter the cave. In this form, the outside is hard and firm, the inside is soft and flowing. The shape has the heart's center being empty.

Zhen/Dragon: Zhen is the form of Thunder. Zhen is movement. The first Yang is master and creates growth. It has the method of searching bones, the skill of unfathomable transformation, and the form of flying and leaping. The form has the outside being still and the inside moving.

Gan Gua/Bear: Gan is the form of the mountains. Gan means stop. The last Yang line is the master of stillness. The Bear's nature is very dull and obtuse. This thing is very awesome and dignified. It has the strength to hold its head upright. In fighting, it has the bravery to strike with the body, the ability to raise branches, and the method of shaking and searching. The form is hard and strong on top, with the middle and lower being soft and flowing. It is the form of stillness.

Sun/Phoenix: Sun is the form of Wind. Sun is entering. The first Yin is the master of advancing in secret. The Phoenix has the skill to cool its wings. In fighting there is the form of nodding the head and the method of clasping someone under the arm. In this form the upper is hard and strong and the lower is soft and flowing. This is the form of the hurricane.

Dui/Monkey: Dui is the form of the Marsh. Embracing Palms is the fighting form. The final Yin is the master of dissolving. The Monkey has very clever skill. It has method of contracting strength and the skill to leap up mountains. This form has the upper soft and flowing with the middle and bottom hard and strong. It has a contracted short form.

The schools who utilize the animal styles will not all use the exact same postures. On the previous page we present the eight animal postures used in Park Bok Nam's school. The Lion Posture, Dragon Posture, and Monkey Posture are pretty much the same in every system, there are only some slight variations. Additionally, you will notice that these three postures also appear in the "eight energies" schools as shown on the page 17. The only exception is Liu Xing Han's school where the Lion posture is similar to that shown by Sun Zhi Jun on page 17 in photo 7. The only difference between this posture and Liu's is that Liu holds the upper palm and lower palm along the same vertical line instead of extending the upper palm out and keeping the lower palm in close to the body. Another slight variation, as mentioned previously, is that some schools hold the upper hand turned upward in the Lion Posture.

Park's Unicorn posture is exactly like Sun Lu Tang's Unicorn. It is also very similar to the Unicorn posture of Yin Fu's student Men Bao Zhen (Hff^ - as shown by Xie Pei Qi on page 19 of Pa Kua Chang

Journal, Volume 4, Number 1) except for Men kept the lower palm facing upward instead of downward. Park's snake is exactly like Sun Lu Tang's. His Phoenix is different from Sun's, but it is exactly the same as Liu Xing Han's Phoenix.

Park's Bear is different than Sun Lu Tang's. However, it seems that all of the animal schools have a

Sun Lutang

different Bear posture. Men Bao Zhen's Bear and Liu Xing Han's Bear are exactly the same as Sun Zhi Jun's sixth posture (which is also demonstrated by Zhang Hua Sen on the page 18). All the schools versions of the Swallow (also called Chicken or Sparrowhawk) also differ. Men Bao Zhen's chicken is identical to the "Embracing the Moon" posture of the "eight energies" school as shown in photo five on page 17 and in the photo of Cheng De Liang on page 14.

The point I am making here is that although everyone might not have the exact same holding postures or call them by the exact same names, all schools of Ba Gua have holding postures that are very similar. The reason for the differences? As explained previously, each generation of Ba Gua Zhang teachers have taught their student's based on each student's individual needs. These holding postures are each designed to move energy in the body in a specific manner for a specific purpose. They are also designed to develop certain physical strengths and internal body connections. Since each student is an individual and has different needs in terms of physical and energetic development, each student might not be taught the exact same postures.

Where did the Animals Come From?

Some Ba Gua scholars have theorized that the eight animal names were given to the various mother postures in these systems by instructors who had backgrounds in either Shaolin or Xing Yi. This makes sense since the Shaolin and Xing Yi schools already had various animal correspondences to their moves, however, if that is the case, how is it that all of the schools of Ba Gua came up with the same animal names? One might think that since Sun Lu Tang learned Xing Yi before he learned Ba Gua, he developed the correspondences and everyone copied them from

Sun Lu Tang's book. However, there are some "eight animal" systems, like the "Nine Palace" system, which pre-dated Sun Lu Tang's study of Ba Gua with Cheng Ting Hua. Liu Xing Han's teacher, Liu Bin, was senior to Sun Lu Tang. Then the next logical guess is that Sun Lu Tang got the idea from his friend and senior Liu Bin (-81 However, Liu Bin never studied Xing Yi or Shaolin, so where did he get the animals from? Did he get them from his teacher Cheng Ting Hua? If so, then why didn't Cheng Ting Hua's brother or his two sons teach the animal systems? Also, Men Bao Zhen's student Xie Pei Qi says that Men Bao Zhen studied these animals from Yin Fu. One might then guess that Yin Fu made the animal correspondences, after all he was a Shaolin practitioner and some of his other descendents also use these animal connections. However, Yin Fu's son, Yin Yu Zhang (f3*-^^), did not teach animals. So where does that leave us?

In my mind, the reason there is so much variation among some schools of the same lineage goes back once again to the fact that all Ba Gua teachers teach their student's differently based on their individual needs. Additionally, because Ba Gua is an art of principle and not choreography, each teacher is free to develop his or her system as long as it adheres to the basic underlying principles. Some see the degree of diversity between the various schools of Ba Gua as some sort of black mark against the art. These are the "sheep heads" of the world who think all martial art should be practiced exactly as the teacher has shown. They do not try and think for themselves and discover what will work best for them, they rely on the teacher for everything. I think that it is exactly the opposite. I think that the diversity, variety, adaptability and originality in Ba Gua is its strength.

Note 1: The excerpts from Sun Lu Tang's book were taken from Joseph Crandall's translation.

The Eight Trigram Palms of Shen Men Tao by Gary Stier

Gary Stier and his system of Shen Men Tao Ba Gua Zhang was featured in the Pa Kua Chang Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 4. In this article Gary explains how his system views the eight mothre palms.

The Eight Trigram Palms of the Shen Men Tao System, founded by Dr. Lei Wing-wah in the late 1940's, are externally simple in their form and structure, yet internally profound in their energy dynamics. Dr. Lei taught that the logical development of the Ba Gua art gradually progressed over time from simple ideas and forms to more complex ones. With this thought in mind, the foundation of the Shen Men Tao practice method is a unified physical, mental, and spiritual expression of the primary eight trigrams, or ba gua, of the Book of Changes, the Yi Jing.

It makes sense that an art named after these eight trigrams must have been greatly influenced by the philosophical ideas they represent, and the physical attributes associated with them. By deliberately incorporating such connections in the form routines, the dynamic energy potential of the art flows with unbroken continuity through a three fold process of inner alchemy to outer expression. Beginning with meditation on the original spiritual revelations inherent in the eight trigrams, the mind is then able to formulate an inner relationship with the intended meaning of the trigrams and, lastly, unite the metaphysical process of spirit and mind with the physical postures of the body. The Shen Men Tao formula describing this unfoldment as follows: "Spirit forms the intention; the intention directs the energy; the energy shapes the form; the form reflects the Spirit. This completes one cycle from Spirit to Spirit, Eternity to Eternity. All things are essentially One in origin!"

As a result of this process, the Shen Men Tao method teaches a single and unique palm shape or form as representative of each of the eight trigrams. A specific pattern of transitional movement leads the arm and hand into each of these palm shapes. As a group, the Eight Trigram Palms are sometimes referred to as the Mother Forms, or the Mother Palms, since each palm may be combined with any one of the other palms, 8X8, to produce the 64 Hexagram Palms, i.e. 64 uniquely different two handed forms or postures. Using these trigram and hexagram forms as a basic reference tool, any single or double handed posture from any sequence of Ba Gua exercises may be related to the Yi Jing as a type of moving Daoism. From this perspective, most of the tactical palm change postures presented as the Mother Palms by other styles or systems of Ba Gua are in fact two handed postures which are more logically representative of hexagrams rather than trigrams. If a two handed form posture is associated with each trigram, then an immediate problem arises when associating postures with hexagrams since we don't have four arms and four hands, making such associations difficult to logically justify!

In the Shen Men Tao training, the individual or single handed trigram palms are first practiced separately while walking the circle. Their identifying transitional movements are used to repeat the posture as many times or for as long of a period of time as desired. Each palm is practiced equally on both sides, walking circles to both the right and left. Next, all of the eight different palms are linked together into two separate form routines which represent the Earlier Heaven Arrangement of Fu Xi and the Later Heaven Arrangement of Wen Wang, respectively. Specialized breath work may also be incorporated in the practice as the routines become familiar enough to allow mental attention to focus on additional considerations. Specifically, a Pre-Natal Reversed Breathing is practiced with the Earlier Heaven Form, and a Post-Natal Breathing is practiced with the Later Heaven Form. These Eight Trigram Forms are then followed by the 64 Hexagram Palms Form, which logically combines all of the previous material, while expanding the expression of the simple forms and footwork to a much greater degree of difficulty both athletically and energetically. All of the Shen Men Tao Ba Gua practice methods discussed in this article will be presented in great detail by the author in a forthcoming book and video tape, which will be available in 1996.

See the photos on the next page.

Dr. Gary Stier, OMD, LAc, is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Doctor of Oriental Medicine who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and family. Dr. Stier is 46 years old, and has been a practitioner of Chinese martial arts for the past 34 years. He is the current President of the North American Pan Su Shen Tao Association, and a Region Six Board of Directors Member of the United States Kung Fu Wu Shu Federation. Dr. Stier may be contacted at the Holistic Healing Center in Austin as listed in the Instructor's Directory.

Gary Stier Martial ArtsGary Stier Martial Arts
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  • hildigrim
    Where is mother's energy housed in the body?
    8 years ago
  • lea
    What are the eight bagua palms?
    8 years ago
    How to Circle Walk using eight palms?
    8 years ago
  • mackenzie mcdonald
    How to hold hands in bagau dragon stance?
    7 years ago
  • harrison ferguson
    How to use all the self defence 8 paterns kua's in ba gua?
    3 years ago

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