ABOUT PA KUA CHANG
Pa Kua Chang (Eight Diagram Palm), is also known
as Ba Gua Zhang. It is one of the primary internal systems of the
Chinese martial arts, the others are Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing I
Pa Kua Chang is an art based on evasive footwork and a kind of
'guerilla warfare' strategy applied to personal combat. A Pa Kua
fighter relies on strategy and skill rather than the direct use
of force against force or brute strength in overcoming an opponent.
The strategy employed is one of constant change in response to
the spontaneous and 'live' quality of combat.
Pa Kua is a very circular art that relies almost entirely on open
hand techniques and full body movement to accomplish its goals.
It is also characterized by its use of spinning movement and extremely
evasive footwork. Many of the techniques in Pa Kua have analogs
in other Northern Chinese systems, however, Pa Kua's foot work
and body mechanics allow the practitioner to set up and execute
these techniques while rapidly and smoothly changing movement direction
and orientation. Pa Kua trains the student to be adaptable and
evasive, two qualities which dramatically decrease the amount of
physical power needed to successfully perform techniques.
The basis of the various styles of Pa Kua Chang is the circle
walk practice. The practitioner 'walks the circle' holding various
postures and executing 'palm changes' (short patterns of movement
or 'forms' which train the body mechanics and methods of generating
momentum which form the basis of the styles' fighting techniques).
All styles have a variation of the 'Single Palm Change' which is
the most basic form and is the nucleus of the remaining palm changes
found in the Art. Besides the Single Palm Change, other forms include
the 'Double Palm Change' and the 'Eight Palm Changes' (also known
variously as the 'Eight Mother Palms' or the 'Old Eight Palms').
These forms make up the foundation of the Art. Pa Kua Chang movements
have a characteristic circular nature and there is a great deal
of body spinning, turning and rapid changes in direction. In addition
to the Single, Double and Eight Palm Changes, most but not all
styles of Pa Kua Chang include some variation of the 'Sixty-Four
Palms.' The Sixty-Four Palms include forms which teach the mechanics
and sequence of the specific techniques included in the style.
These forms take the more general energies developed during the
practice of the Palm Changes and focus them into more exact patterns
of movement which are applied directly to a specific combat technique.
Training usually begins with basic movements designed to train
the fundamental body mechanics associated with the Art. Very often
the student will begin by practicing basic palm changes in place
(stationary practice), or by walking the circle while the upper
body holds various static postures (Hsing Chuang). The purpose
of these exercises is to familiarize the beginning student with
the feeling of maintaining correct body alignment and mental focus
while in motion. The student will progress to learning the various
palm changes and related forms. The Sixty-Four Palms or other similar
patterns are usually learned after some level of proficiency has
been attained with the basic circle walk and palm changes. Some
styles practice the Sixty-Four Palms on the circle while other
styles practice these forms in a linear fashion. All of the forms
in Pa Kua Chang seek to use the power of the whole body in every
movement, as the power of the whole will always be much greater
than that of isolated parts. The body-energy cultivated is flexible,
resilient and 'elastic' in nature.
In addition to the above, most styles of Pa Kua Chang include
various two- person forms and drills as intermediate steps between
solo forms and the practice of combat techniques. Although the
techniques of Pa Kua Chang are many and various, they all adhere
to the above mentioned principles of mobility and skill. Many styles
of Pa Kua Chang also include a variety of weapons, ranging from
the more 'standard' types (straight sword, broadsword, spear) to
the 'exotic.' An interesting difference with other styles of martial
arts is that Pa Kua Chang weapons tend to be 'oversized,' that
is they are much bigger than standard weapons of the same type
(the extra weight increases the strength and stamina of the user).
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