BaguaZhang

Baguazhang (the Eight Trigram Palm) is a rather unique style in Chinese martial arts, in terms of its unique use of internal strength and principles of combat strategies. The first person linked to this style that can be reliably traced in history was Dong HaiChuan, from the middle period of the Qing dynasty. Amongst Dong's students, Yin Fu and Cheng TingHua were the most representative. Grandmaster Liu's baguazhang teacher was Mr. Gong BaoTien, who was Yin Fu's student since childhood. Like his teacher, when Gong demonstrated his ability as a competent fighter, he was recommended into the bodyguard service in the Royal Palace. Thus, Dong HaiChuan, Yin Fu, and Gong BaoTien not only were three generations of baguazhang masters, but they were also three generations of Royal Palace bodyguards, serving the Emperor of China.

According to Grandmaster Liu, there are two types of baguazhang in Grandmaster Gong's teaching: qinggong (light-body skills) baguazhang and yinggong (hard strength skills) baguazhang. The training for these two are somewhat different. When Grandmaster Liu followed Grandmaster Gong to his home village in QingShan, YianTai City, ShanDong Province in 1934 to study baguazhang, he thought he was able to learn the qinggong baguazhang based on his skill in bajiquan's light-body training. However, after two weeks of training his legs were swelled to a point of extreme pain that he was not able to continue the training. Grandmaster Liu then switch to the training of yingong baguazhang.

Because of his contacts in the Royal Palace, Gong BaoTien had a habit of smoking opium. Upon his return from the palace he built a two-level house without stairs in his home village, and he would jump to the second floor to smoke opium after every meal. One day after smoking he stood on the patio in the second floor looking at his students practicing in the field below. By accident he knocked a pot of plant off the patio. Before his students finished shouting about the falling plant, Gong had already jumped down the patio, grabbed the plant in the air, touched down on the ground with his two feet, flipped back up to the patio and replaced the plant.

Gong's third son was even more accomplished in the light-body skill than his father. According to Grandmaster Liu's recollection, during the time of his baguazhang training with Gong, often everybody would ride horses to travel to the nearby YianTai city to play. Gong's third son would sometimes get bored traveling on horseback, so he would jumped to the tree branches on the side of the road, leaping from branch to branch and not being any slower than others on horseback. Gong's eldest son has some difficulty walking due to a childhood illness, so he practiced yingong bagua instead. His strength in his fingers was so strong that even his father could not escape from his grasp.

The training of baguazhang as taught by the lineage of Grandmaster Gong BaoTien is quite systematic and complete, from beginner's training to extremely high-level applications. It first emphasizes the training of the palm strength, then the agility of the footwork is trained. In application the primary focus is on chuanzhang, or "piercing-palms", with the use of four types of internal strength, or jings: guen (rolling), zuan (drilling), zheng (piercing), and guo (wrapping); the leg techniques emphasize the application of qi (lifting-up), luo (dropping-down), bai (swinging-out) and ko (locking-in). To avoid the sleeves hindering the movement of the fingers or thumbs during the use of chuanzhang, the palms are shaped with the fingers and thumbs relatively straight and close together, or like a "cow-tongue palm" as called by other people. The principle of baguazhang is to use the whole body as a single integrated "palm", and in it the use of silk-reeling strength is quite delicate and ever-present. The training routines includes bagua liangyizhang (the eight-trigram two-pole palm form), sixing bazhang (four-animal and eight-palm form), yin zhang (hard palm form), baguaquan (eight-trigram fist form), baguatui (eight-trigram leg form), xiantien bazhang (pre-heaven eight palm form), liushisi zhang (64-palm form), lianhuan zhang (continuous palm form), zhuang zhou (rotating-elbow form), etc. Besides the usual weapon training, the lineage also place special importance on the training of small-size and hidden weapons. This is probably because large weapons were not practical (probably not allowed) inside the Royal Palace. Grandmaster Liu teached three types of weapons that can be hidden within one's garment: dianxui zhen (pressure-point striking needles), ziwu yuenyan yue (an intersecting twin new-moon shaped blade) and shou chengzi (similar to iron-knuckles but with more function). Combat strength training includes post standing, post walking, and other weight trainings.