The Ima Concept


Bāguàzhǎng is one of the major Chinese martial arts of the Wudang school. It is also one of the three main internal styles, or nèijiā. Bāguà zhǎng literally means "eight trigram palm," referring to the trigrams of the Yijing (I Ching), one of the canons of Taoism. It is sometimes also called bagua quan (eight trigram fist) but this is considered inaccurate because the techniques focus more on the open palm than closed fists.

The practice of circle walking, or "turning the circle", as it is sometimes called, is bagua zhang's characteristic method of stance and movement training. All forms of bagua zhang utilize circle walking prevalently as an integral part of training. Practitioners walk around the edge of the circle in various low stances, facing the center, and periodically change direction as they execute forms.For a beginner the circle is six to twelve feet in diameter. Students first learn flexibility and proper body alignment through the basic exercises, then move on to more complex forms and internal power mechanics. Although the internal aspects of bagua zhang are similar to those of xingyi and taiji quan, they are distinct in nature.

Many distinctive styles of weapons are contained within bagua zhang, some use concealment like the "scholar's pen" or a pair of knives (the most elaborate, which are unique to the style, are the crescent-shaped deer horn knives). Bagua zhang is also known for practicing with extremely large weapons, such as the bāguà jian (八卦劍), or bagua sword, and the bāguà dāo (八卦刀) , or bagua broadsword. Other, more conventional, weapons are also used, such as the staff (gun), spear (qiang), crutch (guai), hook sword (gou) and the straight, double-edged sword (jian). Bagua zhang practitioners are also known for being able to use anything as a weapon using the principles of their art.

Bagua zhang contains an extremely wide variety of techniques as well as weapons, including various strikes (with palm, fist, elbow, fingers, etc), kicks, joint locks, throws, and distinctively evasive circular footwork. As such, bagua zhang is considered neither a purely striking nor a purely grappling martial art. Bagua zhang practitioners are known for their ability to "flow" in and out of the way of objects. This is the source of the theory of being able to fight multiple attackers. Bagua zhang's evasive nature is also shown by the practice of moving behind an attacker, so that the opponent cannot harm the practitioner.

Although the many branches of bagua zhang are often quite different from each other (some, like Cheng style, specialize in close-in wrestling and joint locks, while others, like some of the Yin styles, specialize in quick, long-range striking), all have circle walking, spiraling methodologies, and certain methods and techniques (piercing palms, crashing palms, etc.) in common.

Bagua zhang's movements employ the whole body with smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, utilizing hand techniques, dynamic footwork, and throws. Rapid-fire movements draw energy from the center of the abdomen. The circular stepping pattern also builds up centrifugal force, allowing the practitioner to maneuver quickly around an opponent.

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