BAGUA KUNG FU

Bagua Kung Fu is one of the three main Chinese martial arts of the Wudang school, the other two being Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing I Chuan. It is more broadly grouped as an internal practice. Bagua  literally means "eight trigram," referring to the trigrams of the I Ching , one of the canons of Taoism.

The practice of circle walking, or "turning the circle", as it is sometimes called, is Bagua's characteristic method of stance and movement training. All forms of Baguazhang utilize circle walking 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. 

Many distinctive styles of weapons are contained within Bagua; 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 is also known for practicing with extremely large weapons, such as the bāguà jian bagua sword, and the bāguà dāo . Other, more conventional weapons are also used, such as the staff , spear, hook sword and the straight, double-edged sword. Baguazhang practitioners are also known for being able to use anything as a weapon using the principles of their art.

Bagua 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 is considered neither a purely striking nor a purely grappling martial art. Bagua 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's evasive nature is also shown by the practice of moving behind an attacker, so that the opponent cannot harm the practitioner.

Bagua'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 centrifical force allowing the practitioner to maneuver quickly around an opponent.

Bagua and Health:

 

Modern research has only recently confirmed something that the Chinese clearly knew over a thousand years ago – that regular moderate exercise enhances resistance to disease, improves emotional well-being and reduces the incidence and risk of high blood pressure, strokes and diseases like diabetes. Studies have shown that a moderate exercise like walking may actually produce greater results than more intensive cardio-vascular exercise.

Walking is also superior to many other forms of exercise, as it balances the musculature of the legs and utilizes the entire body through the natural movements of the arms and legs and their concomitant production of spiral movements through the torso, which in turn relaxes the diaphragm and engages the stomach muscles. This in turn stimulates the organs of digestion and improves circulation throughout the entire body.

Qi Gong and Nei Gong: The Benefit of Internal Exercise

 

Internal Exercises like Qi Gong and Nei Gong and martial arts like Tai Chi, which feature slow deliberate movements performed in conjunction with deep breathing and focused mind-intention have been shown to produce a multitude of improvements in physiological functioning and resistance to disease:

  • One study showed that Qi Gong exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, creating  improvements in symptoms such as memory, dizziness, and insomnia.

  • A study of people with high blood pressure showed that after 12 weeks of Qi Gong, blood pressure and cholesterol levels were lower.

  • A study in Korea indicated that regular practice of Qi Gong reduced blood pressure, as well as reduced cortisol levels. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland andis often referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in response to stress.

  • In the treatment of asthma, self-applied Qi Gong led to significant cost decreases, such as reduction in sick days, hospitalization days, emergency consultations, respiratory tract infections, and the number of drugs and drug costs.

  • Unfavorable changes of sex hormone levels due to aging were retarded by regular practice of Qi Gong exercises.

  • Superoxide dismutase (SOD), an anti-aging enzyme that is produced naturally by the body, declines with age. SOD is believed to destroy free radicals that may cause aging. In one study the SOD levels of retired workers who did Qi Gong exercises showed that the mean level of SOD was increased by Qi Gong exercise.

  • A study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared the effects of Qi Gong and Tai Chi, on adults 60 and older, measuring their immunity to the Varicella Zoster Virus that causes shingles. After 12 weeks, the participants had raised their immunity to the virus.

  • Regular practice of Qi Gong can improve sleep and reduce daytime fatigue and drowsiness.

  • Qi gong and Tai Chi have been shown to reduce stress and psychological distress.

  • The practice of Qi Gong has been shown to reduce arthritis pain and stiffness in the joints. Regular practice of qi gong helped patients reduce their pain medication. 

  • A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of Tai Chi, patients with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai Chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later. 

 

Meditation and Breathing

 

The practice of Qi Gong and Nei Gong also involve control of the breath and a calm, relaxed and mind that puts aside distracting thoughts for the duration of the practice session. This has been labeled “the relaxation response” by researchers like Herbert Benson. Benson found that this mind-body state, common to various methods of meditation and exercises like Qi gong and Nei Gong, could counteract the harmful effects of stress and the flight or fight response. Many of the following conditions can be significantly improved or cured when people regularly engage in a practice that produces the “relaxation response”: [9]

  • Constipation

  • Cardiac Arrhythmia

  • Herpes Simplex

  • Bronchial Asthma

  • Diabetes

  • Duodenal ulcers

  • Hypertension

  • Insomnia

  • Pain

Circle Walking Nei Gong

 

Ding Shi Ba Gua Zhang (the Nei Gong practice associated with the martial art Bagua) is unique as it combines the benefits of walking with the internal movements and deep abdominal breathing of Nei Gong and Qi Gong practices, and the relaxed and calm mind-intention associated with meditation and the relaxation response.