History of Baguazhang
Dong Haichuan started to teach openly in Beijing around the year of 1850, so the known history is about 160 years. This means that there are at least four generations of lineage holders. Because of separations into branches, in some branches there are ten generations.
Baguazhang is the culmination of years of martial arts and culture in China. To look for the roots of its theories and techniques, you need to look at over 2500 years of history. We have records and materials collected over twenty years of research that we will be making available to association members.
Ma Gui, although short and small, was a hero who would rather starve than teach just to survive. He was the pillar of the baguazhang system. In the last half of his life , from 1905 to 1940, he lived in straightened circumstances in a disrupted Beijing. Although he had unparalleled martial skills, he had no way to make a living. Even during this time he refused to teach just to survive. This type of strong character is seldom seen. Everyone in his epoch knew that the baguazhang world had this type of hero in him.
Many in the martial world think that although Ma Gui gave teaching pointers to some students, that he did not have a successor. In fact, Ma Gui passed on his system to Li Shao’an and Liu Wanchuan, moved by Li’s spirit of generosity and goodness. When Liu Wanchuan taught, he would frequently say, ‘this comes from Ma Gui’. He said those very words to me, the student of his student. Due to Liu Wanchuan’s teaching, we are lucky to have materials from Ma Gui (verses, photos, etc). In over a hundred years of lineage, we certainly have the system passed on from Ma Gui.
Baguazhang has come to us from Dong Haichuan. At the time of his teaching, the baguazhang world was united, all the students were as close as brothers, Beijing was truly a paradise for heroes.
In the last twenty to thirty years, however, differences arose and the wonderful feeling of the paradise has been disturbed. We are now openly promoting Ma Gui’s baguazhang, and hope that there will not be disagreements. We want to pass on this priceless jewel that no amount of money, fame, or social position can compare. Our teachers valued this baguazhang more than their lives.
We do not speculate, infer, or dispute with the martial skills of any person or any organization. We just want to explain what we know and what we can do.
Ma Gui learned from Dong Haichuan from a young age, also learning from Yin Fu. He lived in the baguazhang and martial world for over eighty years. All that he knew, learned, saw, and achieved, his behaviour and actions, we now can only guess. He most likely coached and taught many people. I have heard of ten such. But only Liu Wanchuan directly told his students that what he practiced and taught was directly from Ma Gui.
Actually, I’m the same as anyone who loves bagua. I’ve been searching for others who have learned Ma Gui’s system. If there were someone then we’d have more input that would enrich the system. I think, and I am certainly not the only one, that for the time being, throw bricks to bring out the jade. I wish that more people who carry on Ma Gui’s lineage would come forth and contribute what they know, and teach even more people.
Ma Gui entered the school of Yin Fu and learned Yin Fu’s baguazhang, of course he was Yin Fu’s student! But the Ma Gui school that we study is not the Yin Fu school of baguazhang. Ma Gui learned directly from Dong Haichuan, what he did is not just Yin Fu bagua.
Baguazhang is baguazhang, everyone trains what Dong Haichuan passed on, there really are no separate schools. Dong Haichuan had many students, and taught each differently, according to his character, interests, and abilities. So of course the result of his teaching and their training would differ. This doesn’t mean that their baguazhang is not the same, just that baguazhang has the ability to mold to each person.
Yin Fu never said to his students that he was teaching was ‘Yin Fu school baguazhang’. When his students wanted to distinguish what they were talking about, of course they naturally called it ‘Yin Fu’s baguazhang’. Cheng Tinghua and the others are the same.
Liu Wanchuan always emphasized that he was teaching ‘Ma Gui’s things’. So we naturally call our school the ‘Ma Gui school of baguazhang’ to show our respect for our teachers.
Whatever a school is called, never forget that it is baguazhang. Some people may be teaching without having received the true teaching, claiming to be some branch of baguazhang, but if they depart from the classics to far, or are too far from what bagua should be, then people will realize this and they will not last. This is what I have come to feel after decades training baguazhang. When training, you have your own limitations. It is hard to avoid leaning or tilting your sometime, but your honest seeking of the Way must always be upright.
All Chinese who know any traditional kungfu know about baguazhang, but not many train it. My own idea on why this is so is that baguazhang was born at an inopportune time Dong Haichuan gained mastery and came out of the mountains during the final years of the Qing dynasty. Just when the country was in its worst disarray, he walked into the corrupt and decaying late Qing dynasty. He taught for several decades, and passed Bagua on to a large group of students, but due to the turmoil that erupted after the dynasty collapsed many died or were maimed, and those who survived had to go into hiding. Under these circumstances, how could they continue to pass on their art?
Even more unlucky was the fourth generation of the lineage. There was hardly any transmission from the fourth to third generations, and some were complacent(?I don’t know what you mean by this). From 1940 to 1970 was the period in which the fourth generation needed to be carefully brought along, but this period was perhaps one of the bleakest, most disrupted periods in the history of China. It is fortunate that a few did manage to gain transmission. Fortune grows out of misfortune, as those of the fourth generation who did struggle to keep baguazhang during this dark time were marvellous.
In the 1980s the Wushu Association’s work of compiling the martial tradition of the country began. We were finally able to see historical stories, classic martial texts, and verses that had been hidden away for the fourth and fifth generations. Those who kept the tradition alive during this troubled time gave future generations the lifeblood of baguazhang’s written materials. It took everything they had just to not lose the tradition, it is too much to ask that it spread and become popular.
In the thirty years since 1980 I myself have been a part of the process of teaching and developing baguazhang. Spreading baguazhang in China and the world is the task of myself and like minded people. In looking back on the past, there is little use in commenting on what could have been, but in looking ahead to the future we have the ability to make a difference. Just look at us today and see how far we’ve come!
The I Ching is an all encompassing philosophy, so naturally it could be said to ncompass the principles, ideas and methods of Bagua. Bagua is a complete system of athletics, martial arts, life and health, and in a certain sense it is a physical exhibition of the I Ching philosophy. But Bagua’s development was not based on the I Ching, so studying the I Ching is not necessary to understand Bagua. However, the I Ching’s trigrams, principles and morals can help to raise ones understanding and practice of Bagua.
Most people who study the I Ching place an emphasis on calculating good and bad fortune, and it is often misused. However, Bagua gives you an opportunity to learn about I Ching philosophy on a fundamental level, because Bagua can teach you about your body’s internal fortunes and the Yin and Yang of your energy flow.
Not only is Bagua the essence of Chinese martial arts culture, it is also the culmination of thousands of years of Chinese culture! In terms of martial arts, Bagua’s endless changing and powerful movements can be used to attain victory over one’s enemies, but it is so much more than just that. It is deeply rooted in deep traditional philosophies such as Daoism and Buddhism, as well as other disciplines such as Chinese medicine, martial strategy and Confucian morality. Bagua has a message for the world: through the practice of Bagua, the excellence of these philosophies and disciplines can be a part of your life.
These philosophies and disciplines are more than just flowery words and abstract concepts, and they can be experienced on a physical and spiritual level through correct practice. Under the guidance of Bagua’s cultural and theoretical system, practitioners can become aware of their weaknesses. Through training according to nature’s Dao, we can return to a realm of natural perfection.
This is a scholarly question which I’ve researched for decades. In order to avoid needless debate, I’m not going to publish this research for now. However, let me just say that Bodhidharma’s Tendon Changing Classic is one of the most important theories in Bagua practice.
I have never studied or practiced Yoga, so I’m not qualified to comment on things which I don’t understand. However, research of Bodhidharma’s life reveals that the Tendon Changing Classics must have been based on something he had learned before journeying to China, which could only have been ancient Indian exercises. This would indicate that Tendon Changing Classics and Yoga are connected in some way, and may even come from the same root.
There are many different methods by which traditional holistic practices are being passed on in the contemporary world, of which Yoga is one. For those who have little time to practice, or who don’t want to make much commitment; or those who are only half interested in their practice and don’t strive to take better themselves- these types of practices are appropriate and may even provide some benefit. However, for those who dedicate themselves to their practice seriously, and try to make a name for themselves; or those who strive for excellence and become teachers of their art- it is rare for them not to become injured by their practice.
Look carefully at those around you and you’ll see what I mean!
As a result, I hope that I will have the opportunity to pass my understanding of Bagua and the Tendon Changing Classics to the Yoga community, and if it can be accepted and adopted by them, let it be a symbol of my respect to Bodhidharma.
Most people who ask this type of question most likely have a Western cultural background, because Easterners grow up with the concept of Qi from their childhood. However, this is a good question, because even of those who are familiar with the term, few understand it.
If one undertakes deep research, they will find that this is the root of traditional Eastern culture, philosophy and even religion.This is the reason that we say Bagua is the culmination of the Chinese cultural tradition.
However, it is difficult to explain the concept of Qi. For thousands of years the sages have been trying to explain this concept, but it is not something which can be merely explained by words. However, it is difficult to explain the concept of Qi.But through the practice of Bagua, it can be understood immediately.
All three are known as internal arts, and they have a lot in common. I spent ten years practicing all three before I decided to dedicate myself only to Magui Bagua. As a result of my experience with these arts, I feel confident in evaluating them as follows:
All three share a common goal, but have different styles and means of attaining it. Because the starting point is different, the arts themselves are quite different, but regardless of which art, if its direction is not accurate, it will stray from the correct path and not arrive at the ultimate goal.
Bagua’s starting point is its kou and bai step movements, coiling, turning and folding. If these skills cannot be done well, one’s practice becomes empty and becomes nothing more than a performance.
Taiji’s method is the pivoting of the spine, pushing, scillating, absolute precision. If these skills cannot be done well, the result will be a one-dimensional ability and an overall lack of coordination.
Xing Yi is based on its standing practices, with clearly defined advancing and retreating, and an emphasis on direct power. If these skills cannot be done well, the result will be stiffness, and these skills can be turned to weaknesses instead of strengths.
Bagua is the product and culmination of thousands of years of Chinese culture. Any technique in Bagua can represent a whole category of styles. Of course, I’m not speaking about fancy, contemporary Bagua routines. If you’ve practiced other styles, regardless of which styles you’ve learned, as soon as you begin practicing Bagua, you’ll enter a new realm. If you’re already an adept martial artist, you’ll become even better.
In fact, most people find that after they begin practicing Bagua, they gradually stop wanting to practice anything else.
Bagua is very appropriate for women! In today’s society, maybe even more so than for men. Bagua has the following beneficial effects on women:
a) Healthy and smooth skin. I have women students who, after practicing for a time, found that the health and smoothness of their skin was unlike anyone of the same age, and was almost as if they’d become ten years younger.
b) Increased circulation, detoxification and inner calm. These sorts of results do not take long to appear, and can even be felt after just one practice. They could almost be described as instantaneous.
c) Allowing the Qi to drop and circulate throughout the lower extremities. Bagua practice mostly takes the form of circle walking, of which the primary goal is to allow one’s Qi to drop. After a time, ones circulation improves, the hands become warm and joint soreness in the lower extremities disappears.
d) Maintenance and improvement of one’s physical form. We have some 40 year-old practitioners with the figures of 20 year olds, and 50 year olds who are still able to keep up with and even lead their much younger counterparts. These are the type of results that you have to see in order to believe.
Regardless of one’s age, as long as one is able to walk, one can practice Bagua. Our oldest practitioner is 90 years old, and we have many members in their 70′s and 80′s. However, it is best not to begin practicing Bagua until after puberty. Bagua requires a high degree of mental and physical focus and coordination, and beginning practice too early is not beneficial to a child’s natural development.
We are working on a member-only area of this site that will include instructional video and other materials. For no, try to attend one of our free webinars & train live with one of our qualified instructors!
Bagua is a traditional martial art of attaining victory over one’s enemies. It was developed to protect oneself, one’s country as well as cultivate one’s health and spirit. Also, it is a way of developing wisdom. While it can be used for fighting and solving violent confrontations, it is also so much more than just a method of fighting.
The Chinese use the word “Dao”, or “Way”, to describe the expression of natural law. There is a cultural Dao and a martial Dao. Walking the circle is the Dao of Bagua. Walking the circle is the essence of all Bagua techniques; it is the beginning, end, method and goal of Bagua. The study of Bagua is really a study of how to walk the circle!
Those who practice the external arts should gradually begin to study the internal arts. This is a fact based on the experience of thousands of years of Chinese martial arts experience. In fact, the internal and external martial arts come from the same route, but their methods are different. Those of the external arts are more abrupt, and can be practiced when one is young. However, if one continues to practice this way when growing older, it is difficult not to get injured.
Bagua does not teach Qin na as a separate technique. Liu Wanquan used to teach that grabbing and hitting could be done simultaneously. Bagua’s wrapping and grinding techniques, spinning and folding postures, clear and upright stepping, and rapid changing of space are the highest level of Qin na technique.
I have been studying the question of Qin na for many years, and have sought the instruction of many teachers on the subject. Let me assure you that not only does Bagua have effective techniques for attaining victory, but it also has complete system of locking, grabbing, obstructing, grappling, 点、制 techniques.
Those who are interested or skilled in locking and grappling skills will find that the study of Bagua includes a whole system of such techniques.
Bagua’s spinning back fist technique, also known as spinning back hammer, uses a fist to attack. Other techniques are basically all open palm techniques, using either the palm of the hand or the fingers.
Open palm techniques offer a greater reach than fist techniques. An increase in range is an increase in power. Another advantage is that palm techniques can change easily. Our palm technique is known as the “ox tongue palm”, which is a reference to its ever-changing nature. The ox tongue palm can change easily from locking, grabbling, and closing to pushing, pulling, and leading to spearing, piercing and pressing.
In other words, any of Bagua’s palm techniques can be used to hit. Martial arts place an emphasis on the advantage of a longer reach, so why give up an advantage of reach?
Bagua has three types of bare-hand training: single, partner and group. Weapons training is also divided into single, partner and group practices. Single practice is when you train by yourself, and partner practice is when you practice techniques together with a partner. Bagua partner practices are flow naturally and 妙趣横生, and through an exchange of techniques practice ones wit and skill. Group practice takes the form of one against many, and is one of Bagua’s most unique characteristics.
All Bagua techniques can be used against multiple opponents, to quote some Bagua proverbs: “Thousands on the perimeter, and I in the centre; 穿花打柳任西东”, 设若人多不方便，直出直入也堪夸”。有志于武道者，八卦掌定能了你通达天下之志！
Coiling the body and circular footwork;
attacking from the sides;
avoiding direct conflict;
gaining a positional advantage in which your opponent cannot reach you but you can hit your opponent with ease;
an upright posture, evasive stepping, and effortless attack and retreat.
Health & Wellbeing
In fighting, Bagua has “8 counters”, which are among Bagua’s most precious secret techniques. In order to conceal these techniques, previous generations gave them these unremarkable names.
In terms of health promotion, Bagua secrets were similarly hidden. These are the 8 principles of Bagua health promotion:
Others practice external strength, while I practice internal strength.
Others seek strength in their arms, shoulders and chest, while I strengthen my back and empty my chest.
Others exercise their lungs and heart, while I exercise my spleen, liver and kidneys.
Others exercise to make their bodies strong, while I exercise to make my lower legs strong.
Others exercise their muscle, while I exercise my tendon and bone. When others practice their breathing is laboured and short, while I practice my breathing is calm and even.
Others practice to make their reactions quick, while I practice to extend and sharpen my awareness.
Others exercise their extremities, I exercise my spine.
Bagua can bring you a deeper awareness of your life and health. Through Bagua you can study traditional Chinese culture, philosophy, history, and TCM; through Bagua you can increase your athletic ability, grasp the root principles of physical movement, and experience the art of movement.
Other than fighting ability, Bagua practice has eight incredible effects: a lightness of body, an improvement of figure, longevity, mental stimulation, and increased awareness.
How to Learn
Regardless of what shape you are in, as long as you can walk, you can practice Bagua.
However, it is best for people of too young an age not to practice too much. Children love to play and jump, and they should be allowed to practice all types of sports. Bagua is a philosophical, martial, cultural and spiritual practice, and children are not ready for such a discipline. This is advice that has been passed on down through the generations, so it is worth listening to.
Once you’ve become a member, mastered the basics and become a certified instructor, you can start your own group.
This is the most important question, and it is also the most difficult to answer. To say it is the most important, is to say that choosing a teacher is like choosing a profession. If you choose the wrong profession, it can cause you serious harm throughout your life, and this is even more the case when it comes to choosing a teacher. This question is difficult to answer because if one answers clearly they will have to deal with a lot of backlash, but if it is not answered clearly it only confounds the question further. I won’t hide from this question. I want to answer it clearly, but at the same time I don’t want to deal with any backlash.
Be very cautious in choosing a teacher. It is better to not study than it is to learn from an unqualified teacher. To find and follow a wise and knowledgeable teacher can benefit one greatly in all aspects of their life, and this is the reason why teachers have always been treated with such great respect. But there are too many who take on the name of a teacher for their own profit, and without thought for those they take advantage of in the process. These teachers may have a few tricks, or some strengths and skills, or even some insight which can allow beginners to expand their understanding of the world. However, once a teacher-student bond has been formed, the student becomes caught in a trap. While the students intention may have been to learn an art and strengthen their body, they soon find themselves constricted by the principles and morals of a misguided theory, from which it can be hard to break loose.
Masters, well-known teachers, mediocre instructors and opportunists often sound the same, but if you are going to learn from one, you must depend on your own eyes. If you follow an inept teacher, you will waste precious years of your life, your money and your hard work and come away empty-handed. In fact, you may end up worse off than before you began to practice, with bad habits which be difficult to change. But whose fault is it? It is your choice and your decision, and you must take full responsibility for it.
In the past, people didn’t go out and find teachers themselves, but rather were introduced by someone familiar with the discipline that they intended to study. This was a wise way of going about finding a teacher! If you ask my advice, I’ll suggest the Magui Bagua style, and you won’t be disappointed!
When you encounter a teacher, regardless of whether they are good or not, do not be anxious to become their disciple. First stay on the sidelines and learn for a few years, as difficult as that may be. Great teachers all have a certain quality of uprightness and character, and if this is the case with your teacher it will become clear within a few years. However, greedy, hypocritical teachers will also show themselves for what they are within a few years, and once that happens it is important to leave at once and go on one’s way.
To help prevent any of these problems and to ensure the highest standards of instruction in Magui Bagua, we have put in place a well-defined training routine and qualification process for all instructors. If someone, once qualified, wishes to become an instructor they must apply directly to the Magui Baguazhang Promotion Center. Once the application has been reviewed they are rigorously tested on all material they will be qualified to teach. Also, all qualified instructors must recertify once a year. In this way we hope to continue Magui Bagua in the purest, most complete form possible.
Shifu has become a polite form of address for anyone, although in the past it meant someone who had mastered a technical skill of some sort.
Teacher is a technical term for someone who passes on knowledge, but in Chinese the word for teacher, Laoshi, has also become a polite form of address which can be applied to anyone with seniority.
A master, which is also called a shifu in Chinese (same pronunciation as the word above, but with different characters) is the traditional name for a teacher in the master-disciple relationship. It is a term with great significance, and one’s shifu is second only to one’s father. Of course, it is almost impossible to realize such an ideal, and both master and disciple have to be very cautious in entering such a relationship.
If one is not sincere in their intentions toward their teacher, and do not intend to treat him like a father, it is best not to become a disciple. Similarly, if one does not find a teacher who is worth entering into a master-disciple relationship with, it is probably not worth doing so just to learn a little of this or that.