Yin Fu style Bagua Zhang (Eight Trigrams PalmsBagua Zhang, also written Baguazhang (Pinyin spelling) and Pa Kua Chang (Wade/Giles spelling), translated as “Eight Trigrams Palms,” is derived from the Daoist theory of the Yi Jing (The Book of Changes). This is the oldest of Chinese classical texts and has been used for over 5,000 years as a system of cosmology and philosophy to aid in making decisions and predicting the future.

Bagua Zhang is an internal Chinese martial art method. Its true origins are obscure, and it’s impossible to ascertain when or by whom the style was created. The first master to teach Bagua Zhang in the open was the famed Dong Haichuan, who taught it in the mid-1800’s in Beijing. However, it is believed that the method has much older origins.

bagua lineageOf all the names recorded on Dong Haichuan’s tomb that are recognized as having trained with the great master, the most famous was Yin Fu. He was Dong’s first student and trained with him for over twenty years, learning the complete system from him.

Yin Fu, already an expert in Luohan (some versions have it that he was an expert in Lian Huan Tui “Continuous Kicks” and She Xin Quan “Snake Tongue Palm”), started learning from Dong around the mid-1860’s. Some of the distinguishing characteristics that are found in Yin Fu style Bagua are the great variety of kicks and the Niushe Zhang “Ox Tongue Palm,” both of which can be attributed to Yin’s previous experience.

As with other internal methods, great emphasis is placed on Zhan Zhuang (“Post Standing”). Beginners then learn various stances, footwork, Tang Ni Bu (“Mud Tilling Step”) both in a straight line and in circle walking, Lien Huan Tui (basic kicking techniques), Dong Shi Ba Zhang (“Fixed Form Eight Palms”), and Xiao Kai Men (“Little Open Gate”).

Bagua is based on circle walking while employing various palm changes. Dong Shi Ba Zhang is fundamental for developing dexterity and speed in walking, building strong legs and arms, and for training the Qi, thus a great deal of time is dedicated to its practice. In order to sink the Qi and develop Jin, and not rigid strength, students must learn to circle walk in a firm but relaxed manner. Xiao Kai Men practice is also instrumental in training the waist, strengthening the tendons, and opening the Qi channels. From this training a student begins to develop an understanding of basic Bagua theory and concepts.

Yin Fu style Bagua contains several routines that are performed in a relatively straight line and are infused with some circle walking, such as Yin Zhang (“Yin Style Palm,” also referred to as “Ox Tongue Palm”), Lien Huan Zhang (“Continuous Palm,” sometimes called “Lighting Palm”), and Tui Tuo Zhang (“Pushing and Supporting Palm”). Again, the Ox Tongue Palm and the linear forms are attributable to Yin’s Luohan background. These sets are usually learned before progressing to more advanced routines and weapon forms. Also, with more advanced training, the tight fingers of the Ox Tongue Palm will naturally open slightly.

While Post Standing, the Fixed Form Eight Palms, Xiao Kai Men and other basic routines are foundational training, Ba Mu Zhang (“Eight Mother Palms”), also known as Lao Ba Zhang (“Eight Old Palms”), is the core training of the art. The Yi Jing is constructed on the Eight Trigrams that when combined form 64 Hexagrams; so, too, the Eight Mother Palms contain 64 techniques and when these palms are combined they form 64 Changes.

The Yi Jing theory of change is instrumental in Bagua and is the basis for its fighting principles and concepts. Movements are constantly changing – winding, spinning, turning, rising and falling actions combined with lightning palm work while rapidly walking the circle and quickly changing direction. The Yin-Yang theory is also important in Bagua – that’s why Bagua is often called “Yin-Yang Bagua.” Clockwise walking is Yang and counter-clockwise walking is Yin. The techniques must also blend hard and soft elements.

The progression of power development in Bagua Zhang is the same as in the other Internal Methods and is often distinguished through the saying “Xing Yi Wei Cui, Taiji Wei Nian, Bagua Wei Qiao.” “Xing Yi uses Crisp Power, Taiji uses Sticking Power, and Bagua uses Clever Power.” The progression of power is achieved in successive stages. First one achieves Ming Jin (“Obvious Power”), second An Jin (“Hidden Power”) and finally at the highest stage Hua Jin (“Neutralizing Power”).

Yin Fu Bagua fighting strategy emphasizes circular movements and seamless attack and defense methods. The goal is to get around and behind the opponent and to use circular attacks to press the issue and topple him over. Once the arms cross and contact is made, the opponent has no space to move or room to breathe.

Unlike other Bagua styles, Yin Fu’s method employs a variety of kicks, and these are used at varying ranges and at different targets. While dexterity in high kicking is required, predominantly low kicks are used in combat.

There is Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) practice in the Yin Fu system of Bagua Zhang; Tui Shou practice with one hand and then with two hands. While there are some concepts and similarities to Taiji Tui Shou, Yin Fu style Push Hands also contains many differences, and the methods of pushing are more brisk and energetic.

Bagua practice is excellent for keeping fit and for enhancing one’s health. Practice exercises the muscles, loosens the joints, and stimulates blood and energy flow. At higher levels, Bagua is an exceptionally effective form of fighting and self-defense.