武当八卦掌 -Wu Dang Bagua Zhang or commonly known as “circular boxing” or “walking the circle” is considered not only the most circular and spiraling system of Chinese martial arts but also one among the three major “internal” Chinese Martial Art styles with Taijiquan and Xing Yi Quan.
It utilizes circular stepping patterns and snake-like movements to sidestep and deflect an opponent’s attacks. It employs constant movement and change, and the ability to fight while being on the move. With 8-palm changes, the movements promote overall mental and health benefits and increase physical vitality, strength, and endurance.
The creation of Baguazhang is attributed to Dong Haichuan 董海川 who lived in the late Qing Dynasty. In the same way, there are different martial arts styles due to differing theories, training methodologies, and specialties in combat, so too are there various schools of Baguazhang. These schools include Cheng, Yin, Sun, and Wudang styles, to name a few. Though they share the root of Dong’s teachings, other practitioners would bring their theories and experiences to the art.
For instance, the famed master Sun Lu Tang (founder of Sun Bagua) was originally a master of Xing Yi Quan. When Sun was introduced to the art of Bagua, he became quite taken with it and thus began practicing it himself. He then developed his school of Bagua known as “Sun Bagua.” When compared to other schools of Bagua, the influences from Sun’s Xing Yi Quan can be seen and thus differentiates his style of Bagua from other schools.
Baguazhang was known initially as “Zhuan Zhang” or “Turning Palms.” Then, finally, it came to be known as Baguazhang, referencing the Daoist concept of the “Bagua” diagrams. In the 80s, when Wudang Mountain began attempting to restore its cultural heritage post-Cultural Revolution, the Daoists sought out many of the mountain’s original masters who had gone into hiding. These masters aided in restoring Wudang’s martial arts and included notable masters such as Lu Zi Jian.
The foundation of Wudang Bagua lies in its Standing Meditation and Turning methods. In combat, it teaches adaptability through twisting and twining motions. When an opponent changes, so too do the practitioner. Power is developed through an understanding of the principles of Yin and Yang.
Legend believes that Bagua’s creation came about when Dong Hai Chuan sought out two Daoist masters to teach him their ways. An already accomplished martial artist, the Daoists took Dong as their student and instructed him to train circular steps around a tree. Then, they said to him, “circle this tree until you feel as though the tree is following you. Once you have achieved this, return to us.”
Though he didn’t understand his masters’ intention, Dong dared not question them. After seven years of diligent training, his feet had dug a deep, circular trench around the tree he had chosen. Then one day, Dong’s circular stepping had become so fast that he almost felt as though the tree itself was moving. He finally understood his masters’ intentions and reported back to them.
The Daoists were pleased and confirmed that Dong was a capable and suitable student. He was then taught eight methods of turning, or so-called “Palm Changes,” and was then instructed to practice these Palm Changes by using his circular stepping to weave himself in and out between two trees. After two years of training, Dong finally felt as though both trees were following him. After hearing of his progress, the Daoists were once again pleased and continued to teach him the advanced techniques of “adaptation.” It took Dong another two years to master these techniques, at which point the Daoists said with joy, “we have nothing left to teach you.”
武當八卦掌谱 – Wǔdāng Bāguà Zhǎng Pǔ – Move List
- 单换掌 – Dān Huàn Zhǎng – Single Palm Change
- 双换掌 – Shuāng huàn zhǎng – Double Palm Change
- 托天掌 – Tuō tiān Zhǎng – Supporting Heavens Palm
- 转身掌- Zhuǎn Shēn Zhǎng – Turning Palm
- 顺势掌 – Shùn Shì Zhǎng – Flowing Palm or Homeopathy Palm
- 磨盘掌 – Mò Pán Zhǎng – Grinding Stone Palm
- 下势掌- Xià Shì Zhǎng – Downward Palm
- 双穿掌 – Shuāng Chuān Zhǎng – Double Piercing Palm