Often in cinema, the Baguazhang presented is elegant and silky- with a larger diameter eight step circle. The popular Baguazhang movements employ the whole body with smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, utilizing palm techniques, dynamic footwork, and close-in wrestling. In feudal era, the larger circle radius is necessary for polearm-fu against multiple opponents- a characteristic strategy of Qing footsoldiers and militia. In modern times, there are raw lineages which maintain the polearm structures in the empty-hand routines… some more so than others. According to feudal Shaolin Armed Treatise, pure Yin/Cheng artifact of Interlinking Body methods without heavy modification in modern times- should indeed retain the polearm structures with transitions intact. Close-in wrestling integration, with the primary weapon dominant, is standard- and not the other way around. Pre- 1900s, unarmed pugilistic systems as portrayed in popular Baguazhang films would be viewed as an impractical self-defense system for urban applications.
Bajiquan is not included in the three major Internal Martial Arts categories- which was standardized in 1928 by the Chinese government for fitness and cultural-sports promotions. This exclusion of Bajiquan really makes no sense if Chen Taijiquan is considered an Internal style. Beijing Chen Taijiquan of Chen Fake (currently instructed by his grandson in Beijing, Chen Yu), descends from the same Ming era sources as Bajiquan. Bajiquan and Beijing Chen Taijiquan were separated and rebranded in the early 20th century- they were of one system in feudal times… the ROC Special Operations and Liu Yun Qiao (instructor of Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguards) in the pic- seem harmonious with Bajiquan Qi-flow and mind-intent boxing.
The Lion System of Men Baozhen follows the ancient tradition which combines west with the east, or specifically Napoleonic/ Prussian armed strategy with feudal wrestling- complementary to the Qing era hand to hand tactics utilized by Imperial Guards. This included various bone strikes, disarms, weapon-adapted joint-locks, bayonet-fu, and Qi belly.
A recent Beijing Interview with He Jinbao discussing Yin Style Baguazhang and his perspective on training. In short, He Jinbao mentioned there is fitness reform kungfu and there is real kungfu. If one prefers kungfu solely for performance, then it is better to remain a performer. If practicality and martial function are preferred, surely the performance will lack in aesthetics. He Jinbao recommends for unarmed combat- the importance of precision and power in feudal drilling methods, with intelligent and adaptive technique.
The Yin Style Baguazhang Phoenix System descends from the armored cavalry days in Ming Dynasty. Phoenix specializes in agile bone strikes, quick neutralization, and dynamic footwork. In feudal times, the Phoenix enhances long-range spear control without sacrificing close-in defense. With both hands grasping the polearm, the edge of the arm/ bone strike generates shocking power if an opponent breaks through one’s spear range. It’s a challenge to imagine that Chinese kungfu is utilized in such an epic fashion- outside of an MMA cage.
The Baguazhang Horse Stance is used for generating torque/ power during sparring, as well as strengthening the lumbar and leg muscles. The feudal stance training enhances tendon strength and an overall understanding of feeling grounded. It is a wide, stable stance with a low center of gravity. Advanced and dedicated stance work develops “Movement in Stillness”- the Baguazhang expert achieves stillness and relaxation, while the horse treks around the tree!!
The Snake System of Men Baozhen/ Xie Peiqi branch features a compact guard posture, emphasizing preemptive striking from a natural index position. The palm structures and constricting, binding applications descend from feudal Qing Military/Intelligence methods. Short stick and dagger are inherent throughout. This style of Snake Penetrating Palm differs from the Orthodox Penetrating Palms in its original application.
The Orthodox Penetrating Palms (left) utilizes a larger diameter circle in training, with a more classical Baguazhang style of movement. The footwork originally favored linear angles, sometimes cutting through the center of the circle. The framework contains Dragon-like, iron bracelet strategy. However adaptable for unarmed fighting- the feudal methods retain the short spear/ lance applications for melee on foot, perfectly. The Dragon structures (right) retain armed applications ranging from Shaolin staff to Napoleonic saber, with a bit of Bayonet-fu. Dragon is exceptionally balanced and well structured for modern self-defense. The Qing era footwork and structures are characterized as “Fencing Without A Sword”, generating force and angles of strikes as if sword fighting.
Well-preserved feudal systems retain elite biomechanics, endured through battles of ancient dynasties. The sophisticated and scientific body mechanics are still practical for all walks of life, even if combat sports are of minimal interest. At times, the feudal master will integrate the biomechanics manually. The student’s skeletal structures and Qi circulation are greatly improved… therapeutic, insightful, rewarding!