Baguazhang for the Ages

I just started teaching baguazhang (pa kua) basics at my 6:30 Wednesday class in Staten Island and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m fairly late to the bagua party, having just started my practice in my 60s, but I’m appreciative of the unique qualities it brings to my practice. Its spiraling movements and energies are similar to some of the luoxuanzhang that I have have practiced for 10 years or so, but luoxuanzhang is a hybrid (bagua, xingyi, taiji, and yiquan) and bagua is its own thing.

Baguazhang derives its name from the “Eight Trigrams” of the Daoist classic, Yijing (I Ching, or Book of Changes). The Bagua are eight symbols that are used to depict the fundamental principles of existence. It is primarily an “open-hand” martial art, and therefore a “zhang,” rather than a “quan” or “fist” like taijiquan and xingyiquan, the other two major Chinese internal arts.

The spiraling energies of baguazhang are unique and are an effective complement to taijiquan and xingyiquan. It uses spinning, turning, and change of direction to evade and misdirect rather than clash with an adversary. It is said that it was designed to fight up to eight opponents at a time.

As we can see from Master Lu Zijian’s demonstration above, bagua’s graceful, fluid, swirling movements develop balance, agility, flexibility, and stamina. I was skeptical about his longevity (118 years?), but everything I’ve read so far seems to substantiate that. More important, though, is that this is the stuff he’s doing when he’s well past the century mark. He lived a LONG colorful life and continued to practice medicine and martial arts long after most of us are long gone.

In addition to the weekly class in Staten Island, I will be joining Master Fukui Yang at Eastover Estate and Eco-Village to teach Introduction to Baguazhang, May 11-13. (That weekend seminar will kick off the five-day Eastover Qigong Taichi & Eastern Medicine Symposium. May 13-18.)

Master Fukui Yang in Bagua Posture

I have practiced taijiquan for several decades now, and continue to discover new stuff all the time. As vast and perfect a system that it is, taijiquan is still but one approach. After decades of singular focus, I found myself getting a little provincial. Since age 49 I have been exploring other approaches: baguazhang, luoxuanzhang, xingyiquan, yiquan, Wudang Tai Yi, and others. Each opens to a whole new perspective, knowledge, and ability.

It is in the curiosity, the discovery, the novelty that we are forever reborn.

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