The History of Ba Gua Qi Gong

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It would be difficult to say for sure whether or not Dong Hai Chuan (Jc^^l) taught qi gong methods to his students which were separate from the circle walking practices of Ba Gua Zhang. There is evidence which points to Dong's involvement with the Quan Zhen I) sect of Daoism and thus we might conclude that he was taught the various qi gong methods practiced by this sect (which included circle walking - see Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol 4, No. 6, page 3). However, the only real identifiable trail that I have been able to uncover which traces qi gong practiced by modern practitioners directly back to these particular Daoist roots was a mention of Long Men Qi Gong (il H by Zhang Jun Feng (

The Quan Zhen sect of Daoism was part of the

Long Men School of Daoism. During an interview with Zhang Jun Feng's wife in Taiwan, she told me that her husband called his sitting qi gong practice Long Men Qi Gong. Zhang had learned this method of qi gong from one of Yin Fu's (f^iir) students (see Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol 3, No. 4, page 3).

There are several stories about Dong Hai Chuan teaching various methods of sitting and standing qi gong to his students. Most of these stories say that Dong reserved the practice of special qi gong methods which were separate from the Ba Gua circle walking practice for his closest students. Yin Fu style Ba Gua Zhang practitioner Xie Pei Qi of Beijing (see Pa Kua

Chang Journal, Vol 4., No. 1, page 16), says that Dong Hai Chuan taught Yin Fu both Daoist and Buddhist qi gong methods which Dong had learned in various places while traveling around China. Xie says that only a few students who were taught all of Dong's qi gong methods, Yin Fu, Ma Gui (^ifr), and Fan Zhi Yong

& M). However, since Xie was a student of Yin Fu's student Men Bao Zhen (H If Fan Zi Yong's daughter, and Ma Gui, it is possible he is either "propping himself up" or that he would not know about any other lineage's practice of qi gong. However, it is known that many of the Ba Gua descendants of both Yin Fu and Ma Gui emphasize qi gong practice in their Ba Gua training. While many of today's instructors of Ba Gua Zhang teach various qi gong methods, it would be very difficult to say whether these methods were originally part of Ba Gua Zhang as taught by Dong Hai Quan, or were added later.

Having discussed Ba Gua Zhang Qi Gong with various instructors in the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China, I find that there are generally two schools of thought. One school believes that the Ba Gua practitioner will not practice any qi gong exercises which are separate or supplemental to the linear and circular forms, exercises, and practice sets of Ba Gua Zhang. This view point certainly has merit. After all, Ba Gua is an internal martial art and thus everything a practitioner does in Ba Gua should harmonize the body, mind, and breath and promote the development of internal strength. For this group, the majority of what may be considered qi gong training is executed during the circle walk practice. In Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol. 4, No. 6, we discussed some of the circle walking methods utilized for qi gong purposes.

Many of the older generation Ba Gua Zhang instructors that I have interviewed in mainland China and Taiwan say that all of the qi gong and nei gong in Ba Gua is contained in the circle walk practice. They do not advocate the practice of separate standing or sitting qi gong methods. They say it is not necessary. If the circle walk and directional changes on the circle are practiced correctly, starting with simple methods and gradually progressing to more complex methods, the student will not need any supplemental qi gong practice.

The other school of thought believes in the practice of exercises and meditations which serve to supplement the standard Ba Gua circle walking practice and form execution. While most of these practitioners would agree that the circle walk practice can and will contain all of the elements of qi gong training, they also believe that beginning practitioners need to practice component parts of the training separately before they try to integrate these parts into the circle walk training. In these schools, qi gong, meditation and breathing exercises are performed separately from the circle walk practice until the student becomes very comfortable with the circle walk method. Concentration, visualization, and breathing methods are integrated into the circle walk practice in stages. This is a more gradual step-by-step approach and also certainly has merit. One cannot say that one approach is right and the other approach is wrong, they are just different ways to approach the same goal.

Before concluding this short section on the history of Ba Gua Qi Gong, I should mention that practitioners may run across methods of qi gong practice that are called "Ba Gua Qi Gong" but do not have any connection with Dong Hai Chuan's martial art of Ba Gua Zhang, or those who have practiced and taught it. The term "Ba Gua" or "Eight Trigram," and its associated philosophy, being deeply imbedded in Chinese society, has been used by many as a label for various religious sects, secret societies, martial arts methods, meditation practices, and qi gong. Most of these groups, methods, or practices do not have a relation to Dong Hai Chuan's art of Ba Gua Zhang other than the fact that they share a common name and might share a common philosophical base. If an instructor teaches a method he calls "Ba Gua Qi Gong" but he or she does not practice the art of Ba Gua Zhang, their qi gong method is probably not related to Ba Gua Zhang.

Because the principles of internal martial arts practice and qi gong are so similar, in the remainder of this article when I speak of qi gong, the term will also apply to any of the various Ba Gua Zhang practices, such as the circle walk, which are used in many Ba Gua schools to provide those results which others obtain from separate supplemental qi gong training.

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