No matter what circle walking technique is utilized, if the practitioner is relaxed, the body is aligned properly and the intention is focused, positive results in the physical, mental, and spiritual realm will follow. The practitioner's primary goal in practice will determine the walking technique employed and the technique employed will result in a more pronounced level of growth in one or more of the components which make up our physical, mental, and spiritual existence. In this section I will briefly describe some of the direct benefits a practitioner might experience if the focus of the practice is in one of three areas: meditative practice, Qi development practice, and/or physical development practice. The Ba Gua Zhang purist will be concerned with development in all three of these areas in training the complete art.
The circle walk exercise of Ba Gua Zhang originated as a Daoist Qi cultivation and meditative practice. In the world of Chinese martial arts, this practice can be compared to the Than Zhuartg , or standing meditation practice which is an integral part of the Shaolin and Xing Yi Quan training systems. However, there is one important difference; in Ba Gua Zhang circle walking the practitioner is constantly moving. Zhao Da Yuan A 9L), a well known Ba Gua Zhang student of Li Zi Ming in Beijing, China, states that the circle walk, or moving, meditative practice directly reflects the Daoist influence. The Daoists of the Long
Men sect were concerned with a unification of Man, Heaven, and Earth and therefore believed that if the meditative practice was conducted while in constant motion, one could better blend with the patterns of nature and absorb the Qi of Heaven and Earth. Zhao continues by saying that nothing in nature stands perfectly still and thus remaining in constant motion while meditating is more natural. Whereas the Buddhist meditation is static and the focus is inward, the Daoist circle walking practice is a moving meditation with the intention focused outward. In this circle walking practice, the practitioner seeks to blend with the natural world.
The practitioner who walks the circle with the meditative aspect of the training as a focus will walk at an even, fluid, steady pace. The speed of the walk can be slow to moderate. The walking step should be natural, comfortable, and continuous. The knees should be bent and the hips and waist sunk slightly so that the Qi sinks to the dan tian. Lowering the center of gravity encourages the Qi to sink; maintaining a smooth, fluid walking motion stabilizes the dan tian so that the Qi will settle. If the body bobs up and down or
Lai Tian Zhao, a student of Wang Shu Jin who teaches in Tai Chung, Taiwan, lifts his leg high when changing directions on the circle to help train balance and stability
Liang Zhen Pu style Ba Gua practitioner Guo Guang Quan practices the circle walk in Beijing's Temple of Heaven Park everyday wobbles back and forth while walking, the dan tian will be disturbed. When the Qi sinks to the dan tian, the mind can more easily maintain a meditative focus.
While walking, the practitioner will maintain focused on an object such as a tree or pole which is placed at the circle's center. The breathing is smooth and relaxed and the practitioner may choose to repeat a mantra while walking as in the Daoist practice mentioned earlier in this article. This mantra does not need to be of religious significance, it can be as simple as repeating, in your mind, the number of times you have walked around the circle. It can be anything that will keep the mind from wandering.
Typically the practitioner will walk in one direction for a desired number of rotations and then switch directions and walk the other direction for the same number of rotations. Training sessions last between 30 minutes and one hour with the practitioner circumnavigating the circle's perimeter, alternating between the clockwise and counterclockwise walking directions. The method utilized to change directions will vary from school to school. When training the circle walk as a meditative practice, the change of direction is always very simple and executed in a smooth and fluid fashion so as not to disturb the practitioner's mental focus and concentration. The upper body posture the practitioner assumes while walking will also vary from one school to another. The practitioner may choose to hold the same upper body posture throughout the practice session, or change the upper body postures with the change of directions on the circle. Each of the different upper body positions is designed to have a specific influence on the body's energy.
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