Baguazhang
8 trigrams palm
     

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8 trigrams palm

Baguazhang (8 trigrams palm) is a very challenging internal martial art.
It
addresses the experience of combat in a different way to taijiquan with multiple opponents in mind at all times.
The student avoids direct confrontation by circling around the opponent or by encouraging the attacker to circle around them.


Change

Baguazhang uses insights from the I Ching and is based on the principle of change.
Our
class practices the Jiang style of baguazhang.
The founder of baguazhang (Dong Haichuan) was a bodyguard in the Imperial court.


Kung fu

Baguazhang was designed to be an advanced kung fu method.
The art contains many of the same fighting skills as
taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist), and a whole lot more besides...
It is a highly unusual martial art famous for its fast, evasive footwork and effectiveness against multiple opponents.
Your body emulates animal movements and changes continually.

Baguazhang is unlike and superior to the other arts I learned.

(Robert Smith)

Eligibility

Baguazhang is not an entry-level martial art.
It is not suitable for new starters.
Practicing baguazhang without the prerequisite foundation skills is reckless and dangerous.
There is a significant risk of injury because the joints are not strong enough and the body is not flexible enough.
Our terms are dictated by the insurance company policy requirement and are not negotiable.


A 2nd method

Once a student has passed taijiquan 1st dan they may ask to study baguazhang if they want to.
 

Foundation skills

Certain skills must be attained by the student long before a student can learn baguazhang:

A wide variety of standing and moving qigong exercises
Skill with a less demanding internal martial arts form (i.e. taijiquan)
A diverse grasp of form applications; how they operate and why
Internal biomechanics
Thorough and convincing combat skill
Whole-body movement
Stretching exercises
Taoist Yoga
Self-massage
Sensitivity, stickiness and pressure
Excellent balance
Impact/striking skill
A good sense of jing
Comprehensive knowledge of shuai jiao
Strong ability with the different aspects of chin na


Shuai jiao & chin na

Shuai jiao and chin na are very important.
Given that baguazhang contains an enormous amount of shuai jiao and chin na applications, there would be little purpose in learning the Art without the required foundation.
By learning a vast number of applications before even touching upon baguazhang palm changes (form), the student already understands range, reach and good positioning.
It ensures that they will not exaggerate their baguazhang in form or in application.
 

One of the most difficult skills in kung fu is the ability to change movements. This skill is a primary aspect of forms. When you are swiftly and smoothly able to change movements, your chances of defeating an opponent are greatly increased.

(Adam Hsu)

Shuai jiao combined

Baguazhang favours shuai jiao.
It is ideal against multiple attackers and perfectly suits the deft, speedy footwork of baguazhang.
By combining unusual angles of attack, chin na, jing, and shuai jiao, the baguazhang student employs a bewildering method designed to take immediate advantage of the combat situation.


Application

Momentum and flow are used to overcome strength. The aim is to draw the attacker out of their centre and off-balance.
Baguazhang trains the student to adapt, change and improvise.
There are no fixed techniques, with the exponent preferring to respond to the demands of the moment rather than force an outcome.

Baguazhang is particularly effective for applying chin na, shuai jiao and jing.
Students must be competent in all areas of martial skill.


Spontaneity

Baguazhang is all about responding spontaneously and favourably to stimuli.
This cannot be achieved if you are standing in your own way.
Fluidity, flow, softness and harmony are not possible when you are self-conscious.

Baguazhang teaches a student how to choose-without-choosing; to let the subconscious mind make decisions.
This will produce more powerful responses.
The application feels to have simply occurred, without force or effort.


Palm changes

Students work through 3 levels of palm changes:

  1. Fixed

  2. Flowing/swimming dragon

  3. Freeform

An immense amount of practice over many years is required.
Sifu Waller
emphasises the 'swimming dragon' method.


Hard work

Baguazhang is not an easy martial art to learn.
The student must be prepared to endure long hours of difficult training for the duration of their baguazhang study.
The initial training is concerned with circle walking and palm changes; gaining strength, coordination, rhythm and balance.
Only later is the martial aspect addressed.


Deliberate practice

Hard work alone is not enough, though.
Simply working hard will not necessarily lead to progress.
It needs to be deliberate, focused improvement designed to improve your practice by developing key skills outlined by your instructor.
The student must implement corrections, study the recommended books, undertake assignments and challenge their comfort zone.


Classical baguazhang

We study the classic style of baguazhang.
There are circular palm changes but no linear forms.



Why learn baguazhang?

Baguazhang training encourages nimbleness and agility; it enlivens your martial skill.

  1. It makes your footwork smoother

  2. It is sneaky and deceptive

  3. It encourages spontaneity and improvisation

  4. It's fun

  5. It improves your spatial awareness

  6. It works well against multiple opponents

  7. It's hard

  8. It challenges you physically and cognitively

 

Dirty bagua

Baguazhang is even more misleading than taijiquan.
It offers the opponent no tangible frame of reference with which to engage in combat.
The exponent aims to change continuously.
A response to your attack is a reaction to what you were doing, not what you are doing.


Feedback

Some feedback concerning Sifu Waller's baguazhang lessons:

After some months of questioning and reflecting on the true nature of internal martial arts I was recently, along with a number of Sifu Waller’s students, given an energetic and skilful introduction to the world of baguazhang. My first reaction was it’s everything I thought it would be, and clearly so much more.

To be on the receiving end of an application of bagua from Sifu Waller is to be permanently cured of any lingering doubts as to its effectiveness as a profound martial skill. I certainly harboured those doubts coming as I do from a background of predominantly external martial arts. (Where’s the flamboyant stances, where’s the crack of the gi as you snap out a gyakuzuki???) But as I gingerly picked myself up off the floor after a particularly enlightening application from Sifu Waller those doubts have died away like the echo of a scream from someone on the receiving end of ‘cavity press.’

As a general rule when Sifu Waller's remarks ‘Hey, this will make you laugh!’ I have come to understand a particularly vigorous application is approaching! It is in these applications that I am beginning to recognise firstly the skill and depth of Sifu Waller's learning, and secondly how my own learning skills and experience are woefully inadequate to the task of learning bagua and taijiquan.

It’s certainly sobering when after all those years of training, facing Sifu Waller I feel about as effective as an old lady throwing marshmallows.

Sifu Waller is constantly stressing relaxation. As I was reflecting on this it occurred to me that watching Sifu Waller perform bagua is for me like trying to read a book without my reading glasses. Once I learn to relax everything will become a little clearer.

I feel very grateful to Sifu Waller for an introduction to a form of martial arts that as I understand it is not that widely available to western students in its authentic form. I feel he has generously presented us with a wonderful opportunity.

It is also I suspect in my own case something of a double-edged sword. As part of the Mc generation I am as guilty as anyone of wanting everything now, and being very demanding in terms of my own needs, of looking straight to the highest teaching and grasping after it. It’s interesting to reflect after the introduction that this is clearly the opposite approach that is required by a martial art like bagua, and then it follows that an introduction to bagua at this time may simply be utterly beyond our capabilities. As Adam Hsu says in his book, The Sword Polishers Record, ‘kung fu literally means time and hard work, there are no shortcuts.’

Certainly bagua cannot be seen, as perhaps it could be argued some other aspects of martial arts are, as simply another medal to pin on the chest of ego.

For those of us who’ve been involved in martial arts for some time, and have some experience of Chinese arts and teachers, I feel we can be confident that with Sifu Waller we have stumbled upon a treasure trove of authentic Chinese martial arts. It’s tremendously exciting as the lineage and history is abundantly clear in his approach. It struck me, the first time I saw Sifu
Waller demonstrate it, that 5000 years of Chinese culture and history is somehow woven into the lethal beauty of bagua.

(Graham)



I find the syllabus is well-structured and offers carefully designed and enjoyable exercises which aid application of the palm changes. Learning the purpose of each of the movements gives a real insight into overall strategy of baguazhang.

In addition to creating an accessible website containing information relevant to learning baguazhang, Sifu Waller also takes the time to explain concepts in detail in class with the added benefit of being able to demonstrate how these principles can be applied martially.

The emphasis on evasive movements in baguazhang has been particularly helpful in overcoming my tendency to freeze-up during self-defence scenarios and instead I'm learning to relax and respond.

Although the underlying principles are similar to taijiquan, baguazhang feels very different. Adapting your mindset to take into account multiple opponents is difficult but very rewarding from a martial perspective.

Baguazhang is proving to be a great opportunity to escape from the trappings of individual techniques and instead concentrate on realistic improvisation of self-defence applications in high-pressure situations. I particularly appreciate the focus on deception and evasion.

(Dominic Hine)


Watching Sifu Waller perform his bagua was like watching a cat hunting or preparing for a fight. He had a single focus of attention to the exclusion of everything else. And a raw power, just waiting to be unleashed should the need arise. You were in no doubt about the outcome, if you were facing him...

(Andy Urwin)

 


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Page created 31 July 1994
Last updated 15 September 2017