In your instruction of Ba Gua Zhang do you do any specialized palm training or leg training

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Palm training is done, but we look at the palm as meaning the entire body and not just the hand. I would rather say Ba Gua open hand than Ba Gua palm. There is even a level in which training emphasizes the fist, but this doesn't matter. I say this because Ba Gua really stresses the open hand. The reason for the open hand is that it makes it easier to apply Qin Na, do throws, or strike very quickly. It's OK to toughen the palm to a limited degree so that it's toughened for some pain, but not to any degree that would cause a loss of it's sensitivity. Hard pounding could cause nerve damage. Referring back to our definition of considering the whole body as the palm, the Chan Si Jin power-issuing training is what is important. We also say "eight direction palm" but it really means many directions so that you can face your opponent in any direction and open their gate or create a leak by using different angles. This is also part of our training. We have a form that stresses the palms called Ying Shou (^"f"), likewise there is one for the legs, this one is Si Xiang Tui IM&), or "four direction leg." This name is borrowed from the YiJing In Chinese philosophy the beginning state of creation is called Wu Ji Emerging from this comes Tai Ji (iv ft), or Liang Yi ( which is a division into two elements. This then further divides into four or Si Xiang and from this comes the eight or Ba Gua (^b). This creation from fundamental elements also describes our training. However, this is only the philosophical part. When referring to martial arts Si Xiang means your limbs, the arms and legs.

In our training we begin with a form to train the waist, hips and back. This form is known as Liang Yi Zhang. After this form is learned, we progress to Si Xiang Tui, to strengthen and train the legs. Si Xiang level means you have to train your arms and legs. The legs are trained first because of the qi descending downward from the dan tian The qi goes down through the Ren Mai {H to the dan tian and then up through the Du Mai ftF ffl) and spine. In the Ba Gua stage, or the eight, the qi is flowing through the entire body and all of the body is twisting. We always use the whole body in our training, but we stress the areas mentioned above, in the learning process.

Could you compare Ba Gua Zhang with Chen Tai Ji?

First, let's discuss the similarities. They are both based on Yin and Yang (1%). All Chan Si Jin has yin and yang. If you don't have yin and yang then you don't have Chan Si Jin, period! Both Tai Ji Quan and Ba Gua Zhang have Chan Si Jin, but in my opinion, Ba Gua has more of it. For example if you were to say Tai Ji had 80% then Ba Gua would have 100% in comparison. I don't know any other style that emphasizes Chan Si Jin as much as Ba Gua Zhang does. That is the big difference between these two styles, as well as their similarity.

Some of the other differences are in the way the applications, strategies, and power issuing are trained. Chen is influenced so much by Long fist. Long fist and Chen Tai Ji are both clear in their attacks and fairly well-balanced in entering either the front, back, and side gates of the opponent. In Ba Gua the side gate is used much more. They both have their own power-issuing method as well. For example I feel that Tai Ji is like a rolling ball that has continuous rolling and Ba Gua is more of a cork screw or spiral. It's the same for comparing other styles as well. They all have their own flavor of power-issuing, Ba Ji has more stomping and its power is explosive like a cannon; Praying Mantis has a springy type of energy, and Pi Gua uses a whipping type of action.

Because Liu Yun Jiao was so famous for his Ba Ji as well as his Ba Gua Zhang, did he ever seem to blend either art?

You could really see that he didn't mix them. Both martial arts were very clearly done differently. It was easy to see each one's own power and flavor. The differences were really apples to oranges and he kept them that way.

Another area of interest in the internal martial arts has been with Dian Xue (fi ^L). Some martial artists have even said that Dian Xue and the internal arts are inseparable and that this was the intent of their originators. Could you express your feelings on this matter?

I wouldn't say this is true only for internal martial arts. In any martial art, oriental or not, you should know the weaknesses of the human body. Knowing these areas allows one to inflict great pain and damage. If I remember correctly, Liu Yun Jiao said he went through this specialized training but he didn't go into much detail. He didn't mention if he received this training from Gong Bao Tian. I do know that he had a lot of knowledge of Dian Xue from many different sources. Possibly it came from his training with Li Shu Wen (Ba Ji & Pi Gua), or Ding Zi Cheng (Six Harmony Mantis), or his exchanges with other martial artists.

What is Ba Gua Zhang's greatest strengths in its applications? What makes it different from other arts?

It's greatest strength is in it's power-issuing method that makes use of the entire body in it's spiraling silk-reeling energy. You might say that you use this energy in every technique. The body becomes a big spiral. You just don't see this degree of Chan Si Jin emphasized in other martial arts.

Many martial arts make use of direct or indirect angling to gain advantage in position. In making use of this type of tactic Ba Gua is extraordinary. You have to think of it like a snake, when you attack the head the tail strikes at you, and when you grab the tail the head bites you, and even if you grab the middle the ends will attack. This is how Ba Gua works.

Are there any other areas of Ba Gua Zhang that you feel are important to mention?

Traditionally Ba Gua has always been taught very conservatively and not been shown to outsiders. Now everything is changing and you can't do that anymore

Tsou Chiao

Jason Tsou's Shaui Chiao teacher was the famous Chang Dong Sheng (left)

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Jason Tsou practicing with the "double deer horn hooks"

or Ba Gua will become like the dinosaurs. A lot of people are amazed at Ba Gua's moves and become confused when they first try them. It's not a user-friendly martial art. A reason for this, may be the mysterious history surrounding this martial art and incomplete teaching methods being handed down. In the past people liked this system but didn't know if what they were being taught was correct or not, and many just didn't have access to it at all.

I was very lucky in Taiwan to have joined the Wu Tan association and to learn Ba Gua from Liu Yun Jiao. Also I was very lucky to have Adam Hsu enhance this training. I believe that Adam Hsu is the greatest interpreter of Liu Yun Jiao's Ba Gua Zhang system. When you open the veil and see the true face of this art, you will find that Ba Gua Zhang is very systematic and has a scientific step-by-step structure. Once you learn in this way you can really begin to understand and respect the creator of this system. I enjoy training in Ba Gua Zhang very much. I also enjoy teaching it and sharing it with others. I believe that all the people that have trained in our system agree that Ba Gua Zhang is a very approachable martial art and not a fearful beast that's dangerous and to be avoided.

There are a lot of misconceptions concerning Ba Gua Zhang, that's why it's important to look at how it's basics are taught. You should look at the techniques being taught themselves, how power issuing is trained, and how functional the applications are. You cannot do without these important training areas. My purpose is not to just teach a form, but to teach a workable martial art that the student can confidently learn to use.

One other area of concern is mixing martial arts. In some systems they teach you all kinds of things and mix styles. I believe that you need to learn the style as it was handed down so that your students inherit it as it was intended. If you add things, it is important to let your students know that this is your own doing and not the way you learned it. Some styles like Pi Gua and Ba Ji marry very well and produce a new product, but it is the teachers responsibility to let his students know that the styles have been merged. In my opinion Pa Kua's characteristic Chan Si Jin does not mix with anything else and is very uniquely it's own.

Could you talk about the weapons used in Ba Gua Zhang?

I remember Liu Yun Jiao always said that Ba Gua weapons were curved just like Ba Gua itself. Also Ba Gua is noted for concealed weapons. The most famous of the Ba Gua weapons are the double deer- horn hooks. The other weapons that master Liu taught were the double tiger-head hooks, double needles, and the saber. I know that other weapons are taught in Ba Gua by other schools, and I believe that they can be used, but it is these curved and concealed weapons that fit the system so well. The deer-horn hooks were made in small sizes that fit nicely in the wide sleeves of the person's shirt. The needles could be kept in the sleeves as well, and they fit in the open hand or in the fist with the edges sticking out. The needles could even be used as a dart when need be. Gong Bao Tian was famous for his concealed weapons and was said to have even used a pipe cleaner once in felling a bird.

Ba Gua itself is an ancient Chinese philosophy, however Ba Gua Zhang is a practical martial art. The philosophy is used to interpret some of the Ba Gua Zhang techniques or the martial art's internal training but it doesn't rely on it. When you come here to class it's not a philosophy class, the purpose is to learn martial arts. The one thing that it takes from the spirit of the Yi Jing and uses very well is the state of constant change. I always like the word "change" to describe Ba Gua Zhang in both it's principles as well as it's spirit.

Thank you for sharing this information with interested readers and myself. Hopefully your comments will help in providing a greater understanding and continued growth of interest in Ba Gua Zhang.

Jason Tsou recently conducted a Ba Gua seminar in Hawaii, and is presently starting new classes. Anyone interested in classes or seminars can contact him by phone or by mail. He is listed in the school directory appearing in this journal.

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