Internal Meets External: Basic Principles of Bagua
One of the greatest benefits of practicing internal martial arts comes from the growing sense of strength and union of internal and external well-being.
In Wang Shujin’s book, Bagua Linked Palms, the author explores the basic principles of Bagua Zhang, a Chinese internal martial art that gained popularity in the waning years of Manchu Dynasty under Master Dong Haiquan. Many famous martial artists have studied Bagua under Master Dong, including Cheng Tinghua, Yin Fu, Liang Zhenpu, Sung Yongxiang, and the author’s teacher, Zhang Zhaodong.
As in many theories and practices of martial arts, Bagua’s basic principles work to create a balanced and flowing Qi (chi), combining both mental and physical exercises together, through precise stances and movements.
Here are just a few of the simple, yet profound principles presented in Bagua Linked Palms for you to try on your own:
Empty Spirit, Raise Energy: Keep the head erect and straighten the back of the neck. The back of the head should float upward, but it should be held naturally. Keep your gaze level.
Contain Chest, Pull up Back: Keep the upper body erect. Do not pull up the chest. Wrap the shoulders inward and round the back. The chest is held comfortably; Qi should flow easily.
Draw Together Lower Abdomen: The dantian is a good place to accumulate Qi. Keep the lower abdomen empty so Qi can sink. This is not achieved by hollowing the abdomen but by turning the upper thighs slightly inward and dropping the coccyx, which draws the area in and down. This is also called embracing the belly.
Breath Slowly and Gradually: Breathe through the nose; do not use the mouth. The breath must be slow and even like a cloud floating in the sky.
Coccyx Upright: From the neck to the tip of the coccyx you must be extended and erect. This will allow the spinal nerves to function normally during exercise, and your reflexes will be unimpeded and lively.
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