Kungfu movies and folk novels post-1920s have emphasized the mysterious “lightskill” or Qinggong of feudal Baguazhang experts- (often over exaggerated and out of context) with the kungfu man flapping around like a hot potato. Feudal Academia reveals Dong Haichuan and Gong Baotian may indeed utilize such dynamic footwork and agility… it’s called Parkour-fu. Parkour in the modern sense is French influenced and grew out of military obstacle-course training. Yin Style Baguazhang contains elite feudal Chinese martial strategy integrated with the French westernization movement in the mid-19th century. The iconic “Four Faces” footwork of Napoleonic era is adapted into the Manchurian fighting methods of Yin Fu- unparalleled against multiple opponents.
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 melee against multiple opponents- 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.
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. 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!