Bagua Zhang: Eight-Trigram Boxing
This intriguing art is probably one of the strangest to witness, and is certainly one of the most esoteric. In fact, Bagua fighters were feared among Chinese because of speed and direction, occasionally kicking or thrusting out a palm strike. This is the art of Bagua Zhang, or Eight-trigram boxing, one of the soft or internal styles of Chinese boxing. Eight-Trigram boxing draws its inspiration from the Trigram (an arrangement of three broken and unbroken black lines) of the classic book of changes or Yi Jing.
The trigrams are often arranged in circular form and it is this pattern that is traced out by the Bagua walker. The practitioner of Bagua Zhang must display all the skills of subterfuge, evasion, speed and unpredictability, which are the motives of this style. Force is generally not met with force, but deflected by circular movements. Circular forms are the mainstay of all movements.
Arching, twisting, twining and spinning, reflect a circular pattern that is as natural as the orbit and shape of the planets. A further hallmark of the style is the exclusive use of the palm instead of the fist as the main striking weapon. This may appear strange and even ineffectual, but in fact the palm can transmit a surprising amount of power. The palm can also be better protected than the fist, as it is cushioned by muscle.
The fist has to transmit the power of a punch through a myriad of bones, which have to be correctly aligned to avoid damage. If you had to punch a brick wall as hard as you could.... Would you use your fist or your palm?
The art of Bagua Zhang is deeply esoteric and were almost off limits to non-Chinese. There are practitioners who teach foreigners, but they are not nearly as prolific as teachers of Bagua sister art, Taijiquan. Anyone who finds a teacher of worth must be prepared for an intense schooling in a difficult art. Those who do become proficient in Bagua Zhang will inherit a disappearing legacy of old china.
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