Bagua Zhang or the eight-diagram palm is one of the most popular styles of martial arts in China. Other names for bagua include Youshen Bagua (roving eight-diagram), Longxing Bagua (dragon-shaped eight-diagram), Xingyi Bagua (Xingyi eight-diagram boxing), Yinyang Bapan Zhang (positive negative eight-plate palm).
Origin Stories of Bagua
There are different stories about the origin of Bagua. Some say it originated among the anti-Qing Dynasty cliques while others believe that it was created by the two Taoist priests Bi Yun and Jing Yun on Mount Emei , Sichuan Province, during the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty and then passed down through its nine generations of practitioners.
The eight-diagram palm is based on the old Chinese philosophy of eight combinations of three whole and broken lines used in divination. While practising, the practitioner moves according to the eight diagrams. There are eight basic palm plays. A total of 64 palm tricks and moves have come from the original eight basic palm plays. Apart from solo practices, there is also sparring: Sanshou (free sparring) and fighting with weapons, such as Bagua sword play, Bagua sabre play and Bagua cudgel play, and Bagua play of 7 star decorated-shaft etc. While practicing these routines, practitioners rove around like a dragon moving amidst clouds.
Features of Bagua
Bagua Zhang features dexterity and agility. When moving around it is like walking in a muddy place, with footsteps changing all the time like running water. Palm tricks and body movements follow one after another. The roving around looks like endless circles overlapping each another. The body turns around from the waist during walking, roving, turning, rising and falling. Palm tricks change with the movements of the body. When the upper body protrudes, the lower part of the body squats back to keep balance. When the arms are sent out, the feet draw back. When moving, like a dragon roaming; when squatting, like a tiger sitting; when looking around, like a monkey on the lookout and when roving, like an eagle circling.
Most of Bagua Zhang boxers are found in Hebei Province. Some of them learned Bagua Zhang from scratch from their tutors, while other martial art practitioners asked Bagua masters for advice to improve their skills. Over the years various routines of exercises were cultivated in different styles.
Other Bagua Styles
The Dong Haichuan-style Bagua Zhang. A native of Zhujiawu, south of Wenan County in Hebei Province, Dong played an important part in the dissemination of the eight-diagram palm, teaching many people in Beijing. Most reputed disciples of Dong included Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Liu Fengchun and Li Cunyi who all contributed to the dissemination and development of the boxing style. Some of the eight-diagram palm styles are named after these disciples, for example the Yinstyle, Cheng-style, Liang-style and Sun-style eight pictography palms.
The Li Zhenqing style of Bagua Zhang or the positive-negative eight-diagram palm Li (a. 1830-1900) came from a native of Weijiaying in Hebei Province who went to Henan Province to learn the positive-negative eight diagram palm in order to improve the boxing techniques he had already mastered. After returning home in about 1870, Li taught his skills to his villagers. A follower of Li Zhenqing, Ren Zhicheng wrote a book on the Yinyang Bapan Zhang (positive-negative eight plate palm) in 1937 and the book has been passed down ever since.