The Essence of Baguazhang - Translation of Ancient Secrets - The Real Theory of Baguazhang

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang, Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang, and Master Wen-Ching Wu

The Real Theory of Baguazhang

Helen Liang - Bagua Deer Hooks

Soothe the neck and suspend the head, smooth the hips and withdraw the anus.

Soothe the neck means that the neck should be naturally and comfortably upright to support the head. This implies that the neck should not be tensed, which may be caused by continually looking upward or downward, or by tilting the head.

Suspend the head refers to holding your head up, so that it feels like you are being suspended from a wire attached to the top of your head. When the head is erect like this, the spirit of vitality can be raised.

Smooth the hips means from the back to the thighs should be a single plane, and that you should tuck your tailbone under your torso, expanding the joints in the lower back and relieving pressure on your sacrum. The pelvis should be like a bowl holding your organs, and neither tilt forward nor backward. When this is done correctly, the body will be upright and you will be able to find your center and obtain your balance. Only then can you be rooted. This is similar to the Taiji principle: "The tailbone should be upright" (Weilu Zhong Zheng).

Withdraw the anus means to hold up your anus. It must be emphasized that holding up your anus is not the same thing as tensing and squeezing it. It is like you are holding up a bucket of water - though the mind is upward, the arm can still be relaxed. What you are looking for here is a light feeling of lifting up the anus, not squeezing it shut. This allows the spirit to be raised and the Qi to be condensed inward to the Lower Dan Tian, so that power can be stored. When you learn how to coordinate the expansion of your anus with the emitting of power, your Jin (martial power) can reach a high level.

Loosen the shoulders and sink the elbows, solidify the abdomen and smooth the chest.

Loosen the shoulders means that the shoulders should not be tensed or raised, but should be loose and sunk. Sink the elbows means that the elbows should always be pointing downward.

Solidify the abdomen means to store Qi in the Lower Dan Tian so that your abdomen is full. This has the same meaning as the Taijiquan principle "Qi Chen Dan Tian" (the Qi is sunk to the Dart Tian) and "Nei Yi Gu Dang" (internal should be full like rumbling).

Smooth the chest means to make the chest loose and easy so that air can enter and exit through the lungs freely. This implies that when you practice, you should not tense your chest or hold your breath. The chest should feel natural and comfortable.

Rolling, drilling, struggling (expanding), and encircling (wrapping), insubstantial and substantial mutually produce (each other).

This sentence is talking about the variations of Jin. Rolling (Gun) implies the circle rolling motion of the arms and shoulders. Drilling (Zuan) is a combination of a turning and forward motion, and therefore means the drill-like movement of the arms. Struggling (Zheng) means to use the force to expand. Encircling (Guo) implies to embrace in front of the chest. These are the four main Baguazhang arm movements which are used to manifest Jin to its maximum. When you combine rolling and drilling, the power can be strong and penetrating. When you combine expanding and embracing, your strategy can be alive. The insubstantial and the substantial can become exchangeable and mutually produce each other. When this is accomplished, not only can your power be strong, but your strategy can be mysterious.

Shaped (like a) dragon and looking (like a) monkey, sitting (like a) tiger and turning (and rolling like an) eagle.

This sentence implies the variations of your body's shape. The movements and the stepping should be swift and fast like a dragon, agile and alert like a monkey, rooted and solid like a sitting tiger, and turning and rolling like a flying eagle. Baguazhang's four unique characteristics are: "Walking" (Zou), "Watching" (Shi), "Sitting" (Zuo), and "Turning" (Fan). All of these characteristics can be manifested by imitating the four animals: dragon, monkey, tiger, and eagle.

Twisting, spinning, stepping, and turning, rebounded stepping and frictional shin.

When you walk around a circle, your waist, elbows, palms, and neck must be turning toward the center of the circle. In this way will you create a strong spinning force towards the center. When you walk, the stepping must be light and walking power rebounding from the rear leg. Furthermore, when you walk your legs should cross each other closely, with your knees nearly touching. In this way will your walking be firm and rooted. If you walk with your two legs wide apart, then your walking foundation will be loose and you will float.

Bent legs and muddy stepping, center of the feet hollow.

When you walk, you are bending your knees at a height that is most beneficial for you. The goal is to generate a firm root while you are walking. When you are stepping, it is like you are stepping on muddy ground. The feet should not be lifted too high from the surface of the ground as you move forward. In order to make the center of your feet hollow while you are walking, your heel and the ball should touch the ground simultaneously. In this case, your stepping will be firm.

Raise horizontal and fall buckled in, continuous both horizontal and vertical.

Your feet should be horizontal both when you raise them to step, or when you lower them to touch the ground. The feet are arced, so that the instep is turned inward slightly. When you are moving, your mind is continuous, your Jin is unbroken, and your movements are constant. Only then, through your mind, can you move up and down, left and right, forward and backward, continuous and smooth.

The waist firm like an axle and the hands move like wheels.

When you move, the waist is the center of your body, like the axle of a car. A car's axle must turn before its wheels can. When you want to change direction, you must change the angle of rotation relative to your direction of motion. Likewise, when your body is turning around, your hands should move like wheels rotating and turning. With good control of the waist and body movements, plus an agile circular motion of the arms and legs, your techniques will be powerful and skillful.

Fingers divided, the palms concave, unfold (i.e., smoothly extend) the forearms and horizontal shoulders.

This sentence talks about the positioning of the hands, arms and shoulders. The fingers should be opened and the center of the palms should be concave. The forearms should be extended comfortably toward the center of the walking circle. Finally, both shoulders should be sunk and kept at the same horizontal level.

Stand like a mountain, move like flowing water.

When you stand still, you are like a mountain, firm and solid. When you move, you are like flowing water, smooth, swift, and fast.

Fire on the top and water on the bottom, the water is heavy and the fire is light.

According to the theory of the "Five Phases" in Chinese medicine, the heart belongs to fire and the kidneys belong to water. The fire is light and the water is heavy. Therefore, the chest should be loose and light, while the Qi in the abdominal area should be full and solid.

The Vi is like a banner and also like a luminous lantern.

In ancient Chinese battles, banners and lanterns were commonly used to send signals to the soldiers, directing them; banners were used in the daytime and lanterns were used at night. This same analogy is used in all Chinese martial styles, the Yi is considered the banner or the lantern and represents the decision of the general. Once this decision has been sent out, the action begins.

The abdomen is the root of Qi and the Qi moves like clouds.

Qi is stored in the Lower Dan Tian, which is located in the abdomen. Therefore, the abdomen is the residence of the Qi. In every action, the Yi (wisdom mind) is generated first, and the Qi naturally follows. This Qi (i.e., bioelectricity) energizes the physical body and manifests the .fin. In order to move the Qi smoothly, the Qi should move like a cloud, without any stagnation.

(When) the Yi moves, wisdom is generated and the Qi is able to be transported through hundreds of holes.

In Chinese Qigong practice, it is said: "Use your Yi to lead your Qi." This means that when your Yi is generated, the wise decision is made. Under this intention, the Qi can be led to every tiny place of the body to unite the entire body as one fighting unit. In such instances, the entire body can be energized and the spirit of vitality can be raised.

Develop to release or withdraw to tighten, moving or still (are all) supported with the round (energy).

This sentence implies that every action you make should be supported with a round feeling and round movements. For example, when you are still, your Qi is round and full. When you move, motions such as expanding, releasing, withdrawing, and tightening all carry with them rounded action. You should remember that when your Qi and actions are round, your Qi can be full, your actions can be soft or hard, relaxed or taut, yielding or neutral, and your strategy can be alive.

Shen (spirit), Qi, Yi, and Li, united and concentrated.

This is the spirit of fighting. When this spirit is raised, the Yi is strong and the Qi can be full and abundant. When you have enough Qi to energize the physical body, your muscular power (Li) will naturally be strong. Therefore, when these four items unite and are activated to a high level, you will become a formidable combatant.

The true principles of Bagua, are all inside.

All of the foregoing theories and their explanations make up the essence of Baguazhang. If you are truly interested in learning Baguazhang, you should ponder all of these theories.