Beginning Method

To APPRECIATE the classical circling method of Pa-kua, which will be described later, we begin with a description of a method easier to understand and assimilate and yet one which does not defile the overall idea of the art. This is a method taught by Chang Chun-feng in Taiwan. Chang claims to have learned Pa-kua under Chang Chao-tung, but this method contains so little of that master's classic style that it must be supposed that he learned it from some other teacher in the Tientsin area. I practiced with Chang for three hours one rainy afternoon in Taipei in 1960—a short time but long enough to see and feel his considerable skill. Illness prevented his teaching me on a regular basis, but I was able to learn his method from two of his senior students, Hung Hsien-mien and Hung I-hsiang. Before I left Taiwan I had learned the basic sixty-four postures and enough auxiliary movements to bring the total to over one hundred. I was not able, however, to photograph the system and have had to rely on my notes. Here we can only sample the whole, selecting postures that best illustrate the general principles.


Each of the exercises that follow conform to the principles of Pa-kua, even though some have crept in from hsing-i and other systems. Practice them well, and, when you meet them in the postures, you can incorporate them with facility. Moreover, with these ex ercises learned, you will be able to create your own actions. And it is well to dwell on this a moment: a tactic is only that, a tactic. Principles are far more important, for with these we can invent, change, and refine other tactics.

First off, let's look at the principles underlying this type of Pa-kua.

(1) Because the palm is more powerful and flexible than the fist, it is the major weapon used in Pa-kua.

(2) The opponent must be stretched or unbalanced if an attack is to have the desired effect.

(3) Your arms move only as part of your body.

(4) Every action is circular; this imparts speed and power.

(5) To attack a strong antagonist you must cross either his body or his arm, preferably both. That is, do not attack directly, but rather obliquely by "turning his corner" and then attacking. To cross his arm(s) means that, as he attacks, you deflect and in the same movement seize his arm (see Figs. 6-9).

(6) In pushing, hold your hands together and push slightly upward, thus destroying your opponent's root and propelling him backward.

(7) The waist is along the major axis of the body. Let it lead every action.

With your left fist at your left side, extend your right arm, with the hand opened and the palm up. The fingers of your right hand are held together and your arm, though extended, is not stretched, lest it afford a locking opportunity for your opponent. Keep your shoulder down throughout. Slowly turn your waist in a movement that turns the right arm in a chopping motion from right to left. Keep your knees bent slightly, and let your eyes follow the attack-

ing hand. When your arm and upper torso cannot turn farther leftward, turn your right palm down and return to the right. Then do the same movement with your left hand. Now notice the close-up in Fig. 17: the shoulder is down, the elbow slightly bent. After several weeks of practice, spread your legs farther apart and do the action. The essence of this exercise is to mesh the actions of waist and arm.

2. DIRECT CLAMPING (Figs. 18-23)

Take a wide stance with your fists at your sides. Put your right hand in front of your left leg and, with the elbow bent, turn your waist and arm down to the left to a point beyond your left leg (Fig. 19). Now turn waist and arm to the right, shifting your weight more to your right foot. When your arm goes past your right leg, turn it in a big counterclockwise circle as your body rises (Fig. 21). Continue turning it and your waist to the left until you return in front of your left leg (Fig. 23). Follow the movement of the hand with your eyes. Repeat with your left hand by simply reversing directions. Remember: your bent arm turns and moves only in conjunction with your waist.

3. REVERSE CLAMPING (Figs. 24-28)

This exercise merely reverses Direct Clamping. Beginning at your right leg, roll to the left with your waist and bent right arm. When you reach your left leg, turn your arm in a clockwise circle, rise, and return to the right. Your eyes follow the movement. Repeat with your left hand. The discerning student will see three circles in these actions: (1) the waist moving directly right or left, (2) the torso falling and rising, and (3) the overturning of the attacking hand. The target for this clamp is just under your opponent's nose.

4. DEFLECTION ATTACK (Figs. 29-37)

With your fingers open, bring your right hand, palm down, to eye level. Hold the palm cupped. This simulates a block. Now, without extending or altering the position of your arm, push to the left and down, the body leading the arm. As your arm nears your left knee, flatten your right palm. A fuller variation of this action is seen in Figs. 33-34. Here, as your left hand protects your groin, you turn to the right and your right hand comes to forehead level. Now,

turn your waist to the left as you pump down. In the function (Figs. 35-37) you may see it more clearly. Your opponent strikes with his left hand, which you deflect. From here you may pump down immediately or await his response. If he pushes down on your right hand then, of course, he provides impetus for your pumping action. If he throws his right hand—the Chinese believe that this "empties" the left side, making it vulnerable—you merely pump down as he strikes with his right fist, raising your left for protection.

Keeping your shoulder down, turn your waist to the left and chop down until your bent right arm passes your left leg. Returning to the right, bow your wrist and use the ridge as an attacking member. This simulates a downward chop at an opponent's throat, recovery, and a wrist-ridge attack to his midsection. For details see the photos, but, again, the key is to let your arm move only as a part of your body, never independently. A slightly different application is seen in Figs. 44-46. Here, as you withdraw your right leg, you chop inward (at opponent's attacking arm) and then, stretching your leg, you attack over his arm with your wrist-ridge.

6. CIRCLING AND REVERSE PUSH (Figs. 47-50) Turn your waist to the left and circle your bent right arm as far as it will go. Then, pivoting on your elbow, push your right palm obliquely downward to the right as your body stretches on a line.

7. SQUATTING ATTACK (Figs. 51-55)

This exercise is truly functional in that it provides vertical leverage where no horizontal leverage is possible. Suppose you are caught in a tiny room with no area of lateral movement open to you. In such an instance, whether attacked from front or rear, you simply squat and use a hand-thrust attack. By lowering your body into a squat and at the same time thrusting out left and down, you create impact. Rising, clench your right hand in a fist at your side. Then, squatting again, use your right palm-butt obliquely leftward and rear (Fig. 55 is a rear shot of this action). Rising, use your left hand, merely reversing the instructions for the right hand. Your target in these actions would be the opponent's groin or midriff.

This exercise must be mastered if the postures are to be done correctly, for it enters into most of them. First take the straight-ahead posture (which actually is the hsing-i basic posture), with your left foot ahead. Your left arm is slightly bent and your eyes focus on the fingertips. Your right hand is open protecting the groin. Forty percent of your weight is on the front foot and 60 percent on the back foot, which is turned 60° outward (Fig. 56). (Hereafter this is called the 4-6 posture.) Now as you pull your left hand back to

your left side, thrust your right arm obliquely to the left (Fig. 57). Pulling your right hand back toward your right side, take a short step forward with your left foot, turn to the right and crouch as in Fig. 58, both fists at your sides. Finally (Fig. 59), take your right foot forward, put it down so that it is perpendicular knee-to-toes, stretch your body, and push upward, both hands held close together (you may interlock the thumbs). Your left leg is nearly straightened by the expansiveness of the move. Alternate sides after mastering the initial action.

Take a deep stance. Extend your left arm with the palm up. Now, turn your left hand over, clench your fingers, and begin to pull back to your left side. Simultaneously, spear out with your right hand, palm up (Figs. 60-62). Then, turning your right hand over, pull back and let the left spear come out from under the withdrawing hand (not illustrated). The hand going out and the hand coming in must move as one. The function of this exercise is that you cross

the opponent's arm, pull him into you and, at the same time, spear him with the opposite hand. An elaboration of this tactic is seen in Figs. 63-66. Here, after spearing, circle your right hand counterclockwise with your body and then thrust it forward again. Imagine catching an opponent's left triceps from underneath. Your counterclockwise circle pulls him forward, and then you quickly release him and spear his armpit.

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