… and why are these people saying all those nice things about it?
It is often said that the martial studies are about fighting. This is hardly the whole story any more than mathematics is about adding up your shopping receipt. Martial studies can contribute to anyone’s life in their depth and fullness of meaning. Forms of martial arts can range from fighting and working out (mixed martial arts) or explorations of consciousness and esthetics (traditional martial arts). In the latter realm Bagua Zhang is one of the most exotic and sophisticated of martial arts.
Developed in the 19th Century Bagua inherited both the highly sophisticated mechanics and fighting theory of the previous thousand years and incoporated meditative and internal practice from the famous Black Hat Taoist Sect. To engender the meditative state, the act of walking a circle was taken as fundamental. Since it has no “corners” the movement through a circle could both keep to the prinicple of constant motion and at the same time encourage a refelctive consciousness.
Since Bagua was a late development in Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) it inherited much information and sophistication from hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge. In this sense Bagua is a highly compact style where a single movement may represent the variations and content of ten ordinary martial actions. Due to this high degree of concentration, Bagua practitioners initially learn movements in a purely formal manner, concentrating on the form, alignment, attitude, angle and exact shape. Once they have grasped the meaning of this level, applications of the style for self defense blend naturally with its health and meditative aspects. Bagua stands as a particularly complete system in this regard.
Steeped in Chinese philosophical thinking Bagua represents the human manifestation of the ancient realization of duality embodied in the Yin and Yang. These principles are quite easy to understand nut not easy to apply in life. Bagua’s major emphasis on Constant Change embodies what, for many people, if often only coffeehouse philosophy. Bagua refuses to become stultified or codified and the creative requirements from the student to adapt, and even invent, start much earlier in this practice than most martial disciplines.
What will I learn in Bagua class?
In Bagua even the basics are fascinating. You will start out with a Qigong practice that immediately creates the “feel” of Bagua. Next you will learn the basic walking exercises which made Bagua one of the most famous forms of Chinese Kung Fu.
Movements in Bagua are done slowly, with much intention and precision. The body must learn to feel the twist, the concept and the power simiultaneously.
As the body begins to get the idea more sophisticated movements, such as the imitation of the Eight Animals is added:
As they progress students go on to partner and power drills, constantly refining their movments while learning the physics and physiology of the art. Weapons also take their place in the currciulum not only for historic and esthetic contributions they make but for the specific skills they introduce; skills easily applicable to empty hand movement.