Every month I receive one or two letters asking me to print more articles on Ba Gua Zhang fighting "techniques" or "applications." One problem with doing such a thing, besides the fact that it is difficult to learn from written word and photographs, is that Ba Gua Zhang is not a "technique" oriented art. The moves in Ba Gua Zhang forms, especially the circle walking forms, are not technique specific. In fact, many of them are far to complex to really be applied efficiently in a fighting situation. That is why most all lineages of Ba Gua developed straight-line fighting sets. These sets were based on the principles of the circle walking forms, but the moves were executed in a shorter, smaller, tighter, and faster fashion.
The Ba Gua moves in the circle walking forms were designed to train the body to develop certain principles of motion and mechanics of body usage, not be applied as specific techniques. Ba Gua movements train the body to be continuously coordinated, connected, aligned, and powerful to the left and right, inside and outside, up and down. There is a continuous, connected flow of motion which coordinates, connects, and harmonizes body, breath, and mind while moving in spiraling, twisting, and circular patterns in order to take advantage of the inherent power in these types of motions.
While one might certainly devise some specific kind of martial application based on these movements, the movements of most of the circle walking forms, because they are training principle and not technique, have literally hundreds of variations in application. Once the principle of motion that each movement is designed to portray is grasped, the practitioner then has an entire catalog of "techniques."
In the next issue, we will try to examine this idea of training principles of motion by examining Ba Gua's signature move, the Single Palm Change. We will examine the single palm change movement in its vast number of variations as practiced by various schools of Ba Gua and we will discuss the principles of motion and body mechanics that are being developed when one practices the Single Palm Change.
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