What We Teach
Ba Gua Zhang: 8 Triagram Palm
Ba Gua Zhang is considered one of the three main internal martial arts, along with Tai Chi Ch'uan, Xing Yi Ch'uan. Ba Gua Zhang translates as “Eight Trigram Palm” and has it’s roots in Taoism and the Yi-Jing or the book of changes.
Dong Hai Chuan (1797 or 1813-1882), is considered to be the founder of Ba Gua Zhang. It is believed Dong combined his previous martial arts training with Taoist circle walking practices in the creation of this art. The key element of the art and cornerstone practice is walking in a circle while holding various postures. As legend has it, Dong Hai Chuan lived in Beijing, China and impressed the emperor with his graceful movements and fighting ability, and became an instructor and bodyguard in the imperial court. Dong Hai Chuan’s approach to teaching was unique in that he taught each of his disciples differently based on their previous martial arts training and physical attributes. As a result, each style of Bagua that is taught has a unique quality, but they all share the same root and principles.
Ba Gua Zhang is both an effective martial art and therapeutic movement practice. As a martial art, it combines strikes, kicks, throws, and joint locking techniques or "Chin Na", while the practitioner is in continuous motion. It emphasizes correct body mechanics, circular stepping, spiraling movements, and whole body power to generate force and execute its techniques.
Standing Practices or “Zhang Zhuang”, is a part of all of all systems of Chinese internal arts. It is a practice of holding fixed postures with correct body alignments, while breathing deeply from Tan Tien and relaxing the mind and body. It is a profound form of meditation and healing practice. For martial artists, holding standing postures develops strength in the legs, correct body alignment, the ability to “root” into the earth. Additionally, it allows us connect with our breath and open our joints so that chi and blood can flow freely through them.
One of the cornerstone practices of Bagua is Circle walking, or “Ding Shi”. Circle walking is practiced as a health preservation exercise, a meditative practice, and also forms the basis of the fighting applications of the art. Ciricle walking energizes and strengthens the body, teaches us how to maintain proper body alighment, and calms and focusing the mind and spirit. It is a profound meditative practice that harmonizes the mind and body, while simultaneously opening up the energy channels in the body.
Liang style Ba Gua Zhang teaches foundational exercises, Nei Gong, Qigong, martial arts forms and applications, weapons training, and Chin Na. Westside Internal Arts emphasizes the foundational training curriculum of Liang style Ba Gua as taught to me by Tom Bisio. The foundational training is an extensive curriculum and offers the building blocks for more advance training.
Liang Style Ba Gua Zhang Foundational Level Curriculum:
- Zhang Zhaung or Post/Stake Standing
- Qi Cultivation Exercises
- Yin/Yang Patting Exercise
- Foundational Exercises (28-36 Exercises)
- Ding Shi or Fixed Posture Circle Walking (10 Postures)
- Twelve Posture Standing Posture From
- Tian Gan (Heavenly Stem) Nei Gong
- Eight Hands
- 8 Elbow Form
- Partner Drills (Body Conditioning and Single and Double Palm Change)
- Old Eight Palms (Lao Ba Zhang)
Hwa Yu Tai Chi Ch’uan
Hwa Yu Tai Chiis a rare and unique Chinese Internal Martial Art. It has elements of the three main internal martial arts (Hsing I Ch’uan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Tai Chi Ch’uan) infused within it’s forms and practice methods. Hwa Yu Tai Chi is often referred to as Liu He Ba Fa, or Six Combinations and Eight Methods. Liu He Ba Fa is a well respected martial art in China and had many of it’s prominent teachers in Hong Kong. John Chung Li brought the art to the United States in the late 1960’s. Mr. Li made some modifications to the traditional Liu He Ba Fa based upon his experience training in other martial arts, and adopted the name Hwa Yu, from it’s source and origin. Mr. Li taught in Boston in the 1970’s and taught both of my instructors, Robert Xavier and Glen Newth.
Mr. Li studied Liu He Ba Fa with Master Chen Yik Yan, and Hsing Yi Chuan under Master Han Xing Yuan. The rising and falling movement dynamic and body structure that is inherent in the forms and rooting exercises is a unique quality of Hwa Yu Tai Chi and assists in the tremendous health benefits of this art form.
Chen Hsi-I, a famous Taoist and Confucian scholar is said to have invented the art in 960 AD at the beginning of the Sung Dynasty. Chen Hsi-I is also credited with developing the widely practiced Tai Chi Ruler exercises. Chen Hsi-I left behind four manuscripts on Hwa Shan mountain, which outlined the principles and practice methods he developed. Chen Hsi-I’s senior student, Li Tung Fung found Chen’s writings in his cave and used them formulate the Five-Word Song. The Five-Word Song is an essential manuscript that contains the theory, principles and philosophy of Liu He Ba Fa. Unfortunately, the original manuscripts are no longer in existence so it is difficult to track down the exact origin of this text. This book is an extremely insightful guide to the inner workings of Liu He Ba Fa and Hwa Yu Tai Chi.
These are a set of exercises taught to the beginning student, but are powerful practice methods that are refined over many years. The rooting exercises are Standing, Rowing, and Walking.
The rooting exercises develop essential skills and attributes including balance, coordination, centering, core movement, and the ability to “root” into the earth. Additionally, these exercises strengthen and open up the joint capsules, particularly in the knees, ankles, and hips, strengthen the leg muscles, and develop the ability to move the whole body as one unit. The three rooting exercises in Hwa Yu Tai Chi are Rowing, Walking, and Standing. These exercises need to be practiced continually on a regular basis in order to enhance your practice and benefit that you will derive from the form sequences and martial applications.
The animal forms were developed to teach fundamental movements and practical self-defense skills. The animal forms are relatively short, usually 10 movements or less, and are taught simultaneously with learning the long form. Each particular animal form embodies the qualities of that particular animal, which changes you’re your intent and body dynamic when practicing.
Animals: Dragon, Crane, Mandarin, Peng, Goose, Bear, Tiger, Monkey, Ape, Snake, Leapord, Eagle, Lun, Lone Goose
Long Form: The long form is an amazing form that contains all of the principles and practice methods of Hwa Yu Tai Chi. It is divided into two sections. The first time I saw this form performed as a teenager, the grace, fluidity, and beauty, was incredibly inspiring to watch. The long form is divided into two Sections and comprises a total of 67 movement sequences. Each movement sequence is given a poetic name such as “streams flow incessantly” or “high mountain, flowing water.” The names provide a poetic image that that helps give greater insight, intention, and understanding of the martial arts application of that particular movement sequence.