Baguazhang (2)
8 trigrams palm

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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 baguazhang

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.
Attackers are forced to play catch-up - responding to what you were doing, not what you are doing...

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.


Some feedback concerning Sifu Waller's baguazhang lessons:

I've found the baguazhang teaching to be fascinating, and very challenging. I find Sifu Waller's teaching very clearly demonstrates how studying the art demands a pre-existing naturalness in body use and a very high level of control. The exercises we have done have been reasonably simple, but very difficult to do! I am very much enjoying it, and what little martial application we have experienced is brutally effective. I can see shared principles with taijiquan but it looks and feels very different.

(Dr Ben Beattie)

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 baguazhang 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 baguazhang 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 baguazhang 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 baguazhang, and then it follows that an introduction to baguazhang 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 baguazhang 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 baguazhang.


Definitely worth studying and in terms of practicing the art, Sifu Waller is bewildering (in a good and incredibly impressive way). It’s the changing - so natural yet not natural. Perplexing!

(Dr David Cousins)

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.


Required skills

For baguazhang to work as a martial art, the student must gain aptitude with these skills:

• A diverse grasp of form applications; how they operate and why
• Internal biomechanics
• Thorough and convincing combat skill
• Impact/striking skill
• A good sense of jing
• Comprehensive skill with the different aspects of shuai jiao
• Strong ability with the different aspects of chin na

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.

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)


Page created 31 July 1994
Last updated 24 March 2020