1, What is Ba Gua?
Ba Gua, or called Baguazhang, is one of the 3 internal Chinese martial art. The name and the principle of this style were from one of the oldest Chinese classics, the I-Jing(Yi-Jing as Mandarin or I-Ching as Cantonese pronunciation), or The Book of Changing. This style as a martial art, just gets the basic practical principle from I-Jing, or we can say that The Book of Changing gives the basic practice guidance toward the Ba Gua, or Baguazhang as a martial art system. So that Ba Gua is based on a theory of continuous changes adapted to different situations. It is one of the youngest style of the 3 internal styles, many people in China believe that it is the combination of Xing Yi and Tai Chi, since the force of Ba Gua is close to Tai Chi and the movements of Ba Gua are close to Xing Yi. There are a few different styles of Ba Gua in China, like Cheng style, Yin Style and some other styles. However, no matter what is the individual features among each other, all of them follow the same basic idea: focus on circular walking, attack with palms mostly and focus on internal power instead of physical strength only.
The style we teach is Cheng style and Xingyi-Bagua style. In China, Cheng style Ba Gua is considered as the one which is close to Dong Haichuan's original practice the most. Xingyi-Bagua style was created by Zhang Zhaodong in Tianjin, which is the combination of Xing Yi and Ba Gua, so Zhang's style can not represent the pure or the standard BA Gua style. So that we will not talk about this style here, instead of, we will focus on Cheng style. In order to understand Cheng style Ba Gua as a unique martial art system, we should explain the history of how this style, as a representative style of Ba Gua, gets developed systematically.
(1),General History of Ba Gua.
In the martial art community of China, people believe that Dong Haichuan(about 1813--1882) was the founder of Ba Gua. Since it is almost impossible to create this major system by one person, so many people also believe that Dong Haichuan was the first person who promoted Ba Gua in China after he learned from some unknown hermits. Written document shows that he had traveled many places such as famous mountains and temples, he learned from some Daoism hermits, for example, Bi Chengxia was one of Dong Haichuan's masters in some documents. So that, no matter he was the founder or not, he was the first master who taught people Ba Gua as a martial art system in Beijing back to Qing Dynasty(1644--1912).
Dong Haichuan did not show his skill when he arrived in Beijing. He worked for Prince Su. One day, he showed his martial art skill and impressed everyone who saw the demonstration. From that day, he has become a martial art teacher of Prince Su since back to that time, practicing martial art was very popular and almost everyone did martial art in big cities like Beijing, especially in the Qing Dynasty, the Royal Family members took practicing martial art as a necessary work.
Different from other master, Dong Haichuan could teach students who had different previous martial background. He knew how to improve their practice based on what they had studied from other styles. This is one reason why Ba Gua has many styles and some styles in Ba Gua have distinctive differences in the demonstration. For example, Yin style Ba Gua has a Shaolin feature since the founder of that style learned Luohan style before he met Dong Haichuan, and Master Dong added Ba Gua practice on his Luohan background. Cheng Tinghua, the founder of Cheng style Ba Gua learned Chinese Wrestling, Chinese Wrestling is not considered as martial art but it has the similar function as martial art, so there are a lot of taking-down movements in Cheng style Ba Gua. Many other Ba Gua styles were combined from Yin and Cheng styles since after Master Dong past away, Yin Fu and Cheng Tinghua became these masters who taught others students for Master Dong, even though those students were officially under Dong's name. But no matter what style is it since they are still part of Ba Gua style, they share the same characteristics of the BA Gua system.
(2), Brief History of Cheng style Ba Gua.
The founder of Cheng style Ba Gua was Cheng Tinghua. He was from Shen Town, Hebei province. He was born in 1848 and died in 1900. He learned Ba Gua from Master Dong. When he was a kid, he learned Chinese Wrestling. Master Dong taught him soft-palm system since wrestlers have better flexibility and garbing skills. The soft - palm system looks like swimming dragon, this is why this style is called Dragon Ba Gua palm or Swimming body palm. The palm shape of this style requires that some fingers slightly keep grasping posture, so people called it as Dragon shape palm too. After Cheng Tinghua mastered this style, he openly exchanged and practiced with other masters in order to verify and improve his knowledge, with time, he learned many practice from other styles, eventually, he added these methods into Cheng Ba Gua. So we can say that some skills of Cheng style were from other students of Dong Haichuan and some other other styles, such as Wind-Wheel Palm of Ma Weiqi and some Tai Chi and Xing Yi body method as well. This is why the Cheng style Ba Gua have so many different aspects of practice. His training system had been approved by other martial art masters back to that time, so that he became a one of the most important figures of the Ba Gua system. He had very high reputation in the Ba Gua style of Dong school that, he taught other students for Dong Haichuan when Dong was old, especially after Dong past away. In China, people call this as Dai Shi Shou Yi--teach the knowledge for your master. He taught the people at the south part of Beijing city, so people called his style as South-City Style, and comparatively, Yin Fu's practice is North-City Style.
He had taught many students and some of his students were famous master before they studied with him, this is why Xu Zhedong, the famous Martial Art scholar, wrote about Cheng Tinghua in his book that "when people talk about Ba Gua, no one will not know Glasses-Cheng(Cheng Tinghua's business was making glasses, so people called him "Glasses Cheng").
In the year of 1900, when China was invaded by the eight Countries, he was shot by German soldiers after he fought with armed soldiers.
Many famous masters learned from Cheng Tinghua such as Cheng Dianhua(his brother), Cheng Youlong (his oldest son), Cheng Youxin (his youngest son), Sun Lutang, Li Wenbiao.
(3), The development of Cheng style Ba Gua.
There were two threads of this topics: one was inside of Cheng family, the other one is "outside" of Cheng family, or we can say it is about how other people who were not from Cheng family developed this style. We will focus on the first one, because Cheng Tinghua's brother and Cheng Tinghua's sons developed this style the most in terms of keeping the knowledge going and improving more practice into the style which their father created.
a, Inside of the Cheng family.
The Ba Gua practice has been developed in the second generation of Cheng family. After Cheng Tinghua past away, his oldest son, Cheng Youlong coordinated with his father's students to promote this style. He studied not only Ba Gua from his father and uncle, but also he learned Xing Yi as well. He learned Yang style Tai Chi from Yang Jianhou, the son of Yang Luchan(Yang style Tai Chi founder), he worded with Liu Dekuan together to create Bagua-Taichi style. He helped his younger brother Cheng Youxin and worked with him to finish the creation of Cheng style 64 Palms. In the year of 1929, he died in Tianjin.
Cheng Youxin, the youngest son of Cheng Tinghua, was very young(about 9 years old) when his father Cheng Tinghua past away, so he did not learn a lot from his father. However, he studied from his uncle, brother and other students of his father. He was one of the master who designed the Cheng style 64 palms and promoted it in China. He taught Xing Yi in Tianjin also, it means that he was not only good at Ba Gua but also he was good at Xing Yi. From this generation of Cheng Family, they made the system more abundant. Especially to weapon routine, since they practiced with different masters so that, they could make the weapon routines of Cheng style Ba Gua more practical. We can say that most of the Cheng style Ba Gua routines were from both of these two masters.
b, Outside of the Cheng family.
Besides Cheng Family members, students of Cheng Tinghua also made valuable contributions to this style, for example, Sun Lutang published Ba Gua book to make this style available to public, Li Wenbiao taught Ba Gua to military, Gao Yisheng(learned from Zhou Yuxiang, the student of Cheng Tinghua and got instruction from Cheng Tinghua too) created the Cheng style Gao form, or Gao style Ba Gua, this style has become a very popular one in the BA Gua community of the world.
From above, we can get a conclusion that Cheng style Ba Gua as one of the most important part of the whole Ba Gua style, has never stopped being developed in the last 100 years. Many masters put their whole life and effort to make this style more available, and more practical.
Master Yang mainly studied from Grandmaster Yang Qinglin, his grandfather and Grandmaster Fu Shoubo, who taught him the Cheng style Ba Gua.
Since Cheng Style Ba Gua is a complete training system, Everyone who wants to learn this style should start from the basic circle walking exercise, here, we only mention the routines without basic exercises which are very important.
(1), Empty Hand Form:
· Eight Basic Palm: basic static posture circle walking, the foundation of the system;
· Eight big Palm: the main practice of the Ba Gua system, the essence of the style;
· Linking Form: practice the continuity of the style;
· Swimming Body Palm: more advanced techniques and practices will be learned from this form;
· 64 Palm: the most complicated Cheng style Ba Gua system, the quintessence of painstaking effort from generations of Cheng style Masters. Before, it is a proof to see someone has mastered the Cheng system or not;
· Eight-Fightting Palm: Special and unique techniques of Cheng Style, made by Cheng Youlong in Tianjin;
(2), Weapon Form:
· Ba Gua Sword: Eight Small-Routine and one Long Routine with Ba Gua long sword;
· Ba Gua Saber: Eight Small-Routine and one Long Routine;
· Ba Gua Spear: Eight Small-Routine and one Long Routine;
· Ba Gua Deer-Horn Knife or Sword: the unique Ba Gua Weapon, Eigh Small-Routine and one Long Routine;
· Ba Gua Guandao(Long Handle Saber): the largest Ba Gua weapon, Eight Small Routine and one long Routine;
(3), Ba Gua push-hand, two person exercises and forms, theory and practical principle.
To Xingyi-Bagua Sysyem, We only teach those who have mastered Xing Yi and basis of Cheng style Ba Gua practice, since it was how Zhang Zhaodong(the Founder of this style) requested when he taught this style.
Ba Gua teaching video by Master Hai Yang.