Bagua (pronounced like “ba” “gwa”) has been practised for at least 4,000 years as a form of low-impact aerobic exercise for fitness, health and meditation for stress relief—which may or may not include study of fighting applications.
Using stepping methods, practitioners walk in a circle and change direction, known as Circle Walking. Upper body postures are also held whilst Circle Walking, the most essential of which is the Single Palm Change. Together Circle Walking and the Single Palm Change give shape to bagua’s primary techniques.
Right from the start, students can begin accessing components of internal power for fostering incredible health and vitality through Bagua Circle Walking without the necessity of learning the complicated choreography associated with tai chi or qigong.
Initially, Bagua Circle Walking practice involves connecting the body through alignments and soft tissue stretches of the muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia until the body becomes one coherent whole. Then, these principles are integrated into walking.
The practice of bagua makes a person very strong, flexible and healthy—in mind and body. You can have the experience of emptiness whilst being full of energy. Learn how you can transform walking into an art.
Bagua Zhang: Extraordinary Art Form
Bagua is a vigorous and aerobic, yet relaxed and internal practice. It is based on walking in a circle and frequently changing direction. Bagua is the physical manifestation and primary movement practice of the I Ching (Book of Changes).
Bagua’s two primary techniques, Circle Walking and the Single Palm Change, were developed from the 16-part neigong system (i.e., the essential components that create internal power for health, healing and longevity). Working from the inside out, the outer bagua form was created from and powered by the internal movements.
In bagua, everything is practised on both sides of the body, balancing bodily systems as it is opened and strengthened. Bagua zhang is one of the most beautiful arts to watch with its continual spiraling and unpredictable, changing movements.
Watch Paul demonstrate Bagua Palm Changes:
Bagua zhang’s martial arts applications are quite unique, utilising spheres and spirals to create continuous movement and power. Bagua zhang’s speciality is the ability to defend oneself against multiple opponents (up to eight). This is achieved by using sudden turns and changes to confuse the attackers and by arriving where they would least expect it.
I Ching: The Root of Change
Although records of the existence of bagua date back to 4,000 years ago, the martial art of bagua, with its eight palm changes and corresponding 64 combinations is much younger, surfacing just over a century ago. When exactly these aspects were developed is unclear, as are its origins, because Tung Hai Chuan (the modern progenitor of bagua) would never say where he learnt it.
The I Ching is also cloaked in mystery as no one knows who compiled it, where it came from or when it was written. What we do know is that its principles existed 8,000 years ago as an oral tradition. Although no one knows its source for certain, it appears that the text migrated over to China from the Kunlun Mountains between Northern Tibet and the Takla Makan Desert. This is particularly interesting because the Kunlun Mountains are implicated in both bagua and the I Ching. The 4,000-year gap between the arrival of the I Ching and the origins of bagua would have afforded the ancient Chinese plenty of time to develop a sophisticated physical practice.
What the ancient Chinese understood is that there is only one constant in the whole universe: CHANGE. Everything is constantly in flux–days, seasons, years, plants and flora, waves of the ocean and more.
The art of Bagua Circle Walking Meditation was developed by the ancient Chinese to help humanity understand and cope and merge with change. Walking the Circle, or bagua zhang, as it is more commonly known, was developed for three primary reasons:
- To achieve stillness of mind.
- To generate a healthy, disease-free body with relaxed nerves and great stamina.
- To develop and maintain balance internally while either your inner world or the external world changes.
The I Ching-Bagua Relationship
The ancient Chinese have used chi practices, such as qigong, tai chi and yoga for millennia. Studying the I Ching provides a mental framework from which you can grasp and understand the concepts of perpetual change. Bagua practice creates a kinesthetic (felt) sense of change that penetrates your flesh. The direct experience of that change is realised through the body and this experience of change further transforms your mental framework and understanding of the I Ching.
Bagua practice is about embodying the eight universal energies of change, as described in the I Ching.
Practising bagua generates many benefits such as:
- Removing inertia
- Developing spontaneity
- Freeing your body and mind of either externally or self-imposed constraints.
Bagua is an excellent method for clearing out all that clogs up our body, energy, emotions and mind—that which makes us sluggish and unresponsive to life. When the body and mind become free, your energy develops, the mind awakens, your understanding of life becomes clear and your true path unfolds, so you can morph and flow with the cosmos.
One of the fundamentals of bagua practice is to help you become fully present to your experience, so that you can realistically acknowledge your present situation. Acceptance of your present state provides the foundation required to begin the process of creating profound and lasting change.
As long as you deny your present state of being, you block the ability to change, grow and become clear.
Bagua removes the many layers and veils covering up what actually exists inside you. Continual practice of bagua will allow you to apply this to accepting others for who they are and where they are in their own growth process. Eventually, advanced practitioners seek to accept all and everything without wishing for it to be different in any way.
Rejection breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds rigidity and rigidity closes us down. This prevents us from flowing naturally, causing imbalance, which over time can make us susceptible to illness—in the body, mind, spirit or any combination thereof.
Balance breeds wisdom—the wisdom to see the world as it is. Balance ultimately allows acceptance, compassion and love to flow freely. Balance is created through all well-developed energy practices from qigong to acupuncture to bagua. These practices open up the flow of energy within you, so you can tune into nature and become harmonious with all and everything in life.
Bagua Circle Walking Meditation & the Single Palm Change for High-performers
Bagua is a rare and ancient exercise system that was specifically developed to take a human being to the absolute zenith of his/her ability.
Paul is one of only five Senior Bagua Instructors of Bagua Zhang Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis, having trained bagua in-depth with his teacher since 1995. Paul’s Bagua Circle Walking Meditation teachings have been centred in England and Germany since 1996 upon his return from the USA, where he lived with his teacher. Paul now teaches regular bagua classes in Kentish Town, North London.
© 2010 Paul Cavel—All rights reserved. Links are appreciated, but please check with me before distributing any portion of this article.