In Ba Gua Zhang, mobility is primary. Store then release, evade then return, False and true change inside the steps. Move like the wind . . .
So begins the "Song of Ba Gua Zhang" handed down by the art's founder Dong Hai Chuan (ife/lM1!) over a century ago.1 Its message to practitioners is clear - practice the footwork! While there are a variety of footwork components which are practiced by the Ba Gua Zhang practitioner, the major component is trained while the practitioner walks in a circle, or multiple circles, and thus the circle walking practice has become the trademark of Ba Gua Zhang. While one goal of training the circular footwork is to develop Ba Gua Zhang's characteristic evasiveness and mobility in combat, the depth of this practice reaches far beyond its application in self-defense.
A good Ba Gua Zhang practitioner spends a lot of time walking in circles; the question on everyone else's lips is, "Why are you doing that?" If Kwai Chang Caine practiced Ba Gua Zhang his answer to this question might be something like, "Those who practice will know. Those who don't practice will never know." A very short answer which holds a lot of truth, however, since I can't fill up the rest of this article with a flashback to my youth at the Shaolin Temple, I guess I will have to come up with something a little more concrete.
The Ba Gua Zhang practitioner will benefit in many ways from the circle walk practice. Health, longevity, body strength, stamina, coordination, balance, Qi cultivation, calming of the mind, mental concentration, mobility in combat, body/mind unity, stillness in motion, etc. - all of these aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual* health can be improved through simple circle walking. As third generation Ba Gua Zhang instructor Li Zi Ming states in his book Liang
Zhen Pu Eight Diagram Palm, "When cultivated to the highest level of proficiency, circle walking serves to regulate physiological functions by balancing metabolism, improving the physical constitution and enhancing the overall health. Therefore, it is not only a way to maintain health, but also a key to longevity. Furthermore, it is a good method for vanquishing enemies.2" As Li lived to be 92 years of age, he can certainly validate the longevity claim.
Every system of Ba Gua Zhang contains numerous variations to the circle walking practice. While certain principles are always adhered to while
* When we refer to "spirit" or "spiritual" here we are not speaking in religious terms. The term is use here in the context of describing one's individual spirit as it is defined in Chinese Medicine. It relates to a quality of vitality
Ba Gua Zhang instructor Sha Guo Cheng (1904-1992) walks the circle holding the "Rubbing Body Palm" posture walking the circle, variations on the theme are many. In this article we will explore the history of Ba Gua's circle walk practice, examine the underlying principles which are common to all circle walking methods, and then take a look at some of the many variations of the circle walk practice available to Ba Gua Zhang practitioners.
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