Grandmaster Li Xueyi demonstrates the Eight Big Palms of Gao style Baguazhang
Baguazhang translates literally into "Eight Trigrams Palm" (掌 zhang "palm" is a riff on 拳 quan "fist", a colloquialism meaning, essentially, a martial style). "Eight Trigrams" refers to the eight trigrams of the Yijing, the Zhou dynasty book of divination that has served as the mother matrix of Chinese civilization. The concepts taken from the eight trigrams theories include using them as symbols to represent the correct state of different parts of the body and the idea of limitless changes.
Baguazhang is also unique in that its primary training method involves walking in circles, a method said to have been borrowed from a Daoist practice called The Steps of Great Yu. Circle walking trains an enormous number of qualities and skills, as well as helping to strengthen and limber the body (In fact it has been said that the true core skill of Baguazhang is nothing more than walking the circle).
Baguazhang is generally considered to have been founded by Dong Haichuan in the 19th century, who primarily taught the art in Beijing, China. Dong's first generation of disciples would become famous martial artists throughout China (and later the world), including such notable names as Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Li Cunyi, Song Shirong, and Zhang Zhaodong.
Through Cheng Tinghua (and unofficially his student Zhou Yuxiang) comes the lineage of Gao Yisheng, founder of Gao style of Cheng School Baguazhang. Gao would add a major innovation to Cheng's method in the form of the 64 Post Heaven Palms (though in the method considered proper at the time he would credit this addition to an unconfirmable source, a wandering Daoist named Song Yiren).
Gao's 64 Post Heaven Palms would add linear training such as that seen in Xingyiquan and serve as a spelling-out of the applications contained within the previous circular set, now called the Pre-Heaven Palms. Gao stated, "Pre-Heaven Palms are the resource of Post-Heaven Palms, and Post-Heaven Palms are the applications of Pre-Heaven Palms; without Pre-Heaven Palms, Ba Gua Zhang would have no root, but without Post-Heaven Palms, Ba Gua Zhang is incomplete."
Our particular method of Gao style Baguazhang comes from the tradition passed on by Liu Fengcai, disciple of Gao Yisheng, through his martial descendants in Taiwan. In addition to the Pre-Heaven and Post-Heaven Palms, there are weapons such as Zi Wu duck knives (sometimes called Deer Horn Knives), saber, sword, spear, and cane, as well as a Daoyin set suitable for beginners.
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