Ba Gua Zhang as Practiced by the Chinese Boxing Institute International

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oy James Cravens

In this article James Cravens, a Ba Gua Zhang instructor in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, describes the ten principles he feels are important to any Chinese fighting art. Cravens was taught Ba Gua Zhang by Christopher G. Casey, a student of Wang Shu Jin.

Christopher G. Casey was born in the mid-40's and at the age of nine began his martial arts training in jujitsu. In the next thirty plus years, Casey would study Shorinyu Karate, Chinese and Okinawan Kempo, various Shaolin Arts, Qin Na, Shuai Jiao, Wing Chun, Fukien White Crane, Wa Lu, Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Xing Yi Quan.

Christopher Casey was born with little athletic talent, but a keen intellect and a determined will. Early on he studied with an interest in energy and real fighting. His ultimate goal was the study and mastering of energy and truth in combat, even over and the above a style or personality. His journey led him to the Republic of China (Taiwan). He became well connected with the government's Ministry of Education by becoming the Chief Liaison Officer of the Guo Shu Federation, Republic of China, to the United States, and later to Europe. The Guo Shu Federation is a martial arts agency of the Government of the Republic of China operating under the Ministry of Education. Casey promoted the Guo Shu arts, etc., in the United States and Europe for about twelve years in this capacity. In 1981 Christopher Casey formed the Chinese Boxing Institute International with several of his teachers as original board of directors. This was done because Casey wanted to make a distinction between the Chinese martial arts that were "energy boxing skills" and those that were not. Casey believed that arts such as Ba Gua Zhang, etc., could be practiced in a way that was with the energy boxing skills or in a way that was not with energy boxing skills. For example, much of the Ba Gua taught today is little more than a set of movements, often attractive, that has been formed by groups that have included in their Ba Gua Chinese opera, gymnastics, dance, etc., into the form movements. While this may be an art in itself, often the energy fighting aspect is lost. While these arts may assist in qi gong study and health, they are not appropriate for fighting arts. Chinese Boxing Institute International was an attempt to preserve these "energy arts."

Christopher Casey's connection with the government of Taiwan allowed him to study with many great masters over a 15 year period. Although his teachers were all different in technique and style, Casey studied in particular the principles and skills that were common and true among all his teachers. Casey sought out teachers who were famous for their fighting ability and were recognized as masters of energy boxing.

In Ba Gua Zhang, this led Casey to the famous Wang Shu Jin as well as instruction from Shen Muo Hui, M. Chaio, and Professor P. Hwng. Wang Shu Jin was his first teacher in Taiwan and his principle Ba Gua Zhang teacher. The arrangement Casey had with Wang Shu Jin was to learn combative energy Ba Gua as opposed to just a beautiful Wu Shu style Ba Gua. The purpose of this article is not to describe the Ba Gua that Casey practiced and taught, but to discuss the ten principles that account for any Chinese Boxing style becoming an effective "energy fighting art" or "true boxing."

Wang Shu JinChinese Boxing

The Ba Gua taught at the Chinese Boxing Institute International is from the lineage of Wang Shu Jin

The first characteristic that was common among all of Casey's teachers was the principle of rooting. Rooting in combat relates to a facet of one's body state and structure. To root one must sink and relax. This is best accomplished with a structure that keeps a tucked forward hip and vertical spine. It is not necessary to always be rooted. It is not supposed to be a force that challenges the force of the opponent. It does provide greater stability, changeability, and positions one to deliver force from the ground. When one is attacked in the lower regions as in a tackle, one does not root. Rooting in combat does not mean the feet are chained to the ground. One must root with mobility and must abandon root when necessary.

Secondly, Casey noticed that all his teachers used the principle of yielding. Yielding is simply the instinctive nonresistance to force. Some teachers had great suppleness such as P. S. Tao of Tai Ji Quan push-hands fame. Others, such as Wang Shu Jin had great ability to position themselves defensively at an advantageous position when attacked. In spite of differences, all acknowledged that in spite of their projection skills, there could be others of greater strength or projection, making yielding necessary for high percentage boxing against a stronger opponent. One must not just yield, but yield in a position that brings one's position into safety and ideally position one with counter attack potential. Some people have taught that one can yield until the opponent tires or hurts himself. This is a noble effort to make fighting neat and clean, but not very realistic.

Another common characteristic among the great boxers is that they all work on unitary movement. Unitary movement desires to use all factors of body and mind to achieve the maximum result. For example, if one is rooted and needs to strike with the arm, he may : a) push from the ground, b) shift his weight, c) turn his waist, d) the waist may then direct the arm weapon into the target. If all is coordinated well, the force is maximized and the power leaves the projector and energy is fired into the target. If one is standing tall, he may use the force of gravity to drop suddenly triggering a chain reaction of the above points b through d. These are samples of unitary efforts. Unitary is the opposite of segmented or isolated power. Unitary is supposed to always be loaded for delivery while segmented movement must reload before delivery.

Fourthly, all complete boxers learn to master the projection of force. The study of projection includes the unitary study above along with the study of your body state (the fifth principle), and the study of six/nine theory (the sixth principle). Projection can be increased giving the smaller fighter his maximum effectiveness. The study of the dan tian (center of gravity point) and the Zun Guan (third eye point in the forehead) point and their cycle of force are key to projection.

The principle of body state is the study of the tension of the body and how the muscles, joints, etc., connect. Masters vary in their body state, but the bottom line is that one needs a body state that can effect maximum projection and one needs a body state that allows for effective yielding, speed, and changeability.

The sixth principle is the six/nine theory. The meaning comes from the ancient Chinese classic Yi Jing. The Yin/Yang symbol represents the idea that one must do everything in the boxing with the ability to change at any moment. Every punch, kick, footstep, grapple, qin na, escape, etc., must be done in a way that permits changeability. This is not seen in most fighting. When one hits things they are OK, but when they miss their intended target they become vulnerable from lack of changeability. How can one move, hit, etc., in a way that independently projects powerfully, yet in a changeable fashion? This is the study of six/nine theory and a characteristic the masters possessed.

Principle seven (centeredness), eight (line and angle), and nine (forward pressure) concern the characteristic of efficiency in combat and economy of motion. Centeredness has several meanings. One has his own center to protect and has the center of the opponent to conquer or capture. The center is the basis of economy of motion. Sometimes one's center is a straight line, plane, or a critical mass where one's essence of structure and balance are located.

The eighth principle is line and angle. This is simply the study of the patterns of attack and defense. It represents economical coverage of your center as well as economical attack techniques to the opponent's center. Sometimes a straight line is the quickest best way to an opponent's center and sometimes a not-so-straight line is the best way.

The ninth principle is forward pressure. When one enters to touch or clash with an opponent, one may get the advantage. If so, the pursuit with forward pressure may increase the advantage to seize a finish to the fight. The pressure may also cause an opponent to respond in a way that can be read more easily because of the pressure. This radar of touch is essential to the boxing.

Ba Gua Zhang form sometimes appears to be an inefficient way of movement. If Ba Gua is to be an efficient fighting art, then its movement must be efficient. The above three principles must be understood to put this efficiency in combat.

The last principle that Casey observed among his teachers was the principle of mind hit. In combat, the role of the mind, the ability to attack the opponent's mind, defend your own mind from attack and distraction, is essential for high level boxing.

Again, it is important to note that various teachers have different abilities, qualities, styles, etc., but the people known as "boxers" possessed some degree of skill in the above mentioned ten principles. Every art or style claims to use at least some of these principles. These ten are unique when blended in a complimentary way, creating what appears to some to be "magic." It is only a special phenomenon that blends the right ingredients. We often say that when one is skilled in these things, he has the "touch."

These principles are not substitutes for the basic factors in fighting that are essential to all forms of fighting, such as: timing, distance, speed, size, power, intensity, etc. These belong to all arts and are essential for consistent success. The ten principles mentioned are above and beyond and define what is unique about Chinese Boxing. These things we believe bring one to their optimum. We do not have to be clones, yet we can operate under the same principles.

We are most thankful for a small American, poor in athletic ability, but rich in intellect and will, who was obsessed and in love with energy, who agreed to teach us, guide us and encourage us to seek for truth always above everything else. Christopher Casey died in December of 1986. He was known by only a small circle of people. A few that you may wish to inquire with are Taki Kimura, Wally Jay, Al Dacasscos, Lo Man Kan (Taiwan), Manfred Steiner (Hannover, Germany), Ping Siang Tao (Taiwan), Robert Smith, and Shen Mou Hui (Taiwan).

The writer of this article, James Cravens, is a thirty year student of martial arts. He was assistant liaison officer for the Guo Shu Federation, Republic of China, for ten years and has been President of the Chinese Boxing Institute International since its beginning in 1981. Cravens teaches in Fort Lauderdale, FL, has written three books and produced video tapes related to the Chinese Boxing curriculums. For more information write: CBII, 1040-D W. Prospect Rd., Oakland Park:, FL 33309.

Ten Principles of "True Boxing"

1) Rooting

2) Yielding

3) Unitary Movement

4) Projection

5) Body State

6) Six/Nine Theory

7) Centeredness

8) Line and Angle

9) Forward Pressure

10) Mind Hit

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