A discussion of the specific characteristics of BaGua (PaKua) practice written by Mike Patterson
CHARACTERISTICS of BaGua (PaKua)
BaGua incorporates the concept of continuous change, and this is quite evident to anyone witnessing this invigorating style. BaGua moves in continuous, fluid circles within circles, utilizing an impressive array of dynamic footwork, confusing the opponent, first to evade and then to entrap the opponent. The BaGua practitioner seeks constantly to entice the opponent in and then execute a flanking move to end up either behind or to the side so as to not have to deal directly with the opponents arsenal. This can be a very suitable style for women, as well as men, placing the emphasis of self defense on tactic, instead of strength alone. BaGua demands a great deal of attention in the realm of martial combative theory before it can be applied successfully. Toward this end, there are several two person exercises designed to illuminate key concepts within the art. These can vary widely from family to family, depending on lineage and viewpoint. There is a heavy emphasis on Chin Na (seizing/locking) and Shuai (throwing) in BaGua. One of the more unique qualities of BaGua is the heavy, almost exclusive, use of the Palm in striking. Although it should not be forgotten that the elbows, knees, shoulders, hips, feet and head are also employed in close to distal situations.
The BaGua practitioner will first be instructed in the basics. The methods of aligning the body, eight mother palms stepping and turning will all be introduced and discussed in terms of mechanical performance. Then the basic forms of the single and double palm change will be introduced posture by posture until completed. Some families have a set of linear forms resembling XingYi that are taught at this time, sometimes prior to learning any circling forms. Generally, about midway through the process of learning the basic walking and changes of direction, some kind of push-hands or two-person practice will also be introduced with an emphasis on blending with the opponent's energy without attempting to forcefully interupt. Meditation will also be a preferred staple during this time for development of strength in the limbs.
Later, as the student becomes still more proficient, the cirular forms, weapons and additional two-person work will be introduced. Free-fighting would be the last endeavor that the developing practitioner will engage in, after the proper body parameters have been ingrained and understood to a reasonable level of competency.
There is a great deal of emphasis placed upon two person, multi-person and practical training exercises in BaGua. Some families have unique training exercises involving poles, large balls, cups with saucers, etc., all in the name of developing superlative skills. One of the more famous structures is called Nine Palace Training which consists of several different types of trainings all done in, on or around a Nine Station layout with a movement pattern coupled with the grid. This pattern is used to cultivate a presence of enemy in addition to light and agile footwork.
The energy of BaGua has been likened to that of a wire mesh ball. Its tendency is to wrap the opponent’s attack up within itself and then literally spit him out, often with violent consequences. The energetic structure is like that of XingYiQuan, namely, a Yang exterior coupled with a Yin interior. A practitioner of the art will seek to immediately control, and then maintain that control, of an opponent’s center, thereby giving the opponent minimal chance to hit back with any authority.