第一公式/Di Yi Gongshi – First Formula
Push, Lift, Carry, Lead,
Move, Capture, Chop, Enter
Penetrate, Dodge, Intercept, Block
Stick, Adhere, Link, Follow
(The first eight characters make up the Eight Mother Palms.)
第二公式/Di Er Gongshi – Second Formula
Penetrate, Move, Intercept, Block,
Twist, Overturn, Walk, Turn,
Push, Lift, Carry, Lead,
Coil, Capture, Hook, Drill
Baguazhang is a relatively new Style, being the youngest of both the Classical Chinese Martial Arts & the “Big Three” Internal Styles. It has benefited from the countless years of development that preceded its revelation to the general public by Dong Haichuan during the Qing Dynasty. The primary feature of Baguazhang is its ability to Strike while on the move, which is exemplified by that most unique training method: Circle Walking.
Originally, Baguazhang consisted entirely of Circle Walking. At that time it was known as “Turning Palm,” (轉掌/Zhuan Zhang), & had only three simple methods of changing direction known as “the Old Three Palms,” (老三掌/Lao San Zhang). As time passed & Master Dong refined his methodology, the number & complexity of the changes increased. The principles of the Bagua were notes to parallel Turning Palm’s features of continuous movement & continuous change, endless revolution, & use of refined force in three dimensional space. The Philosophy derived from the Yijing’s Theory of Change was combined with the Martial Techniques Dong Haichuan collected over the course of his life via the medium of Turning Palm. Thus, 游身八卦連環掌/You Shen Bagua Lianhuan Zhang – Swimming Body Bagua Interlocking Palm was born.
In this piece we will be taking a look at the two formulas of Baguazhang’s Sixteen Character Secret as a means of teaching key training methods & techniques in a straightforward manner. The two formulas have a small amount of overlap between them, leaving us with twenty-three characters in total. These characters cover a mix of both tactical & mechanical concepts.
•八母掌/Ba Mu Zhang – Eight Mother Palms
推/Tui – Push: The representative Tactical Hand Method & Offensive Force of Baguazhang, it also has numerous Defensive uses. A Long Force generated by the feet & legs, guided by the waist, & expressed through the hands. Depending on the articulation of the joints in the arms it can have more specialized Offensive expressions, such Crashing (撞/Zhuang), Depressing (安/An), or Pouncing (撲/Pu). It’s Defensive expressions are just as varied: Brushing (捋/Lu), Sealing (封/Feng), or Closing (閉/Bi). Pushing is an exceptionally versatile & useful Hand Method.
托/Tuo – Lift: A primarily Defensive Hand Method that can be used Offensively in certain situations. Defensively, it’s used to neutralize the enemy’s incoming Striking Forces, or break the chain of motion for Locking, Grappling, or Throwing techniques. Offensively, it’s used to Support or dislocate the enemy’s elbow or shoulder joints.
帶/Dai – Carry: A Method applied by the closing action of the Hand. By grabbing the enemy’s limb or torso & using strength to forcibly move their entire body, you can completely negate any attacks while creating an opening for a counter. A Long Application of Force results in a Throw, while a Shorter Application creates an opening for a Counter Attack. The best situation is to apply Carrying as a counter along the line of an enemy’s attack.
領/Ling – Lead: On the surface, Leading is very similar to Carrying, so much so that there are some silly misconceptions. Ideas like “Leading uses one hand, Carrying uses two,” or “Carrying always moves backward, Leading moves to the sides,” are some examples. Leading also involves grabbing one of the extremities, but instead of using a strong Force to move the enemy it, instead, uses a soft Force. The enemy is guided where you want them to go, but moves completely under their own power. The Defensive uses of Leading leave an enemy open to heavy Counter Attacks & sudden Throws, both accomplished by sudden changes in direction.
搬/Ban – Move: Another primarily Defensive Hand Method, Moving uses the back of the Hand & wrist to shift the enemy’s hands & arms to the outside so as to prevent further attacks via positioning. Offensive applications involve putting the enemy in very awkward positions that all but guarantee they’ll dash themself to the ground. Ideally, the use of Moving should put an enemy in a position where attack is impossible & defense is difficult. When viewed from a Mechanical perspective, it’s the act of Moving out of the line of an incoming attack, “Removing” yourself from danger.
扣/Kou – Capture: In many ways the inverse of Moving, this is an inward, trapping action using the Palms & inside of the wrists. This is, obviously, perfect for setting up Strikes. It is not required that you actually grab the wrists or forearms, but that can enhance the effect of this Hand Method. It can be used against soft targets like, the throat or obliques, though such situations aren’t ideal.
劈/Pi – Chop: In the minds of many people, Chopping is the quintessential Martial Arts technique. It’s a Hand Method so natural that even children use it instinctively. Chopping can use the hand or forearm as the striking surface. It nearly always moves from above to below, either vertically or diagonally, but when the forearm is used it can travel on a purely horizontal line. Other than the line of attack, the major categories of variation are Direct (直/Zhi) Chopping & Reverse (反/Fan) Chopping.
進/Jin – Enter (or Advance): Tactically, Entering is any action that allows you to enter the enemy’s personal space & strike any point on their body. Mechanically, it is moving forward, either in part or all together. You can advance a foot, advance a hand, or advance the entire body.
Regarding the Eight Mother Palms, the Bagua Turning Palm Song says: “推托帶領隨身勁，搬扣劈進上下忙。
Pushing, Lifting, Carrying, & Leading follow the body’s Jin,
Moving, Capturing, Chopping, & Entering Above & Below quickly.”
These eight are the fundamental Single Palm methods. They are both individual Strikes & representatives of a larger category of techniques. They encompass all possible Offensive & Defensive contingencies one is likely to face in a self-defense situation.
穿/Chuan – Penetrate: The representative Hand Method of Yin Style Baguazhang & the most well known by outsiders. Penetrating is inherently empty, devoid of its own Force. This is the root of its versatility. It can be used to connect movements or disguise intentions. It can look Empty but actually contain a hidden Force within its motion. Whatever direction it moves in, Penetrating always leads with the finger tips & moves straight in. As it says in Bagua’s Thirty-six Song Secrets, “Naturally refined Arts dread the Three Penetrations.”
閃/Shan – Dodge: A Mechanical action with endless Tactical applications, Dodging is a natural outcome of Baguazhang’s emphasis on mobility. It can be used at all Three Levels of the body: as the Dodging Step, Dodging Body, or the Dodging Strike. As Footwork, Dodging is fairly obvious: move out of the enemy’s way completely. Literally “Walk away.” As a Body Method, Dodging can be you moving your torso out of the line of an incoming attack or you redirecting an attack so that it misses your body. The Dodging strike combines these ideas into a repositioning movement that guarantees a devestating strike to a vulnerable part of the enemy’s body.
截/Jie – Intercept: In one sense Intercepting is the Defensive version of Chopping: a quintessential expression of Martial Arts. Perfect Intercepting prevents or deflects all attempts at attack, frustrating an enemy both tactically & psychologically. It is the height of skill to be able to prevent any attempt by any enemy to make contact with your body. This is a “must have” skill that cannot be neglected, so train it diligently.
攔/Lan – Block: In Baguazhang, Blocking is hard blocking, in the sense that it is deliberately intended to hurt the enemy. Tactically, it is also used to block out areas of the enemy’s personal space, placing obstructions in areas he’s already on the way to occupying. Blocking takes advantage of the nature of reflex actions to “set traps” that are unavoidable. It’s a purely Defensive Hand Method used in an extremely aggressive manner. Think of it as a type of parry that leaves bad bruises.
粘/Zhan – Stick (or Touch): The act of initiating contact with the enemy & maintaining it. Any part of the body can use Sticking.
黏/Nian – Adhere (or Stick): The act of maintaining contact with the enemy once they have initiated it. Again, any part of the body can use Adhering.
連/Lian – Link: Mechanically, Linking is the act of stringing together multiple movements into longer & more complex actions seamlessly & without interruption. Tactically, Linking is connecting your physical movements & responses to the enemy without losing that connection. It is the end result of both Sticking & Adhereing.
隨/Sui – Follow: Following is an incredibly rich concept, the comprehension of which is essential for utilizing Advanced Martial Arts to their full potential. Once contact has been initiated (Stick or Adhere) & well maintained (Link), you must be sensitive to the motions & intention of the enemy. This ability is Following. You literally “Follow” the enemy’s movements in order to exploit the dynamic of the situation between you as it develops. A further extension of this idea is Following your own initial release of Force with at least one additional Force, greatly increasing both the chances of successfully striking the enemy & damaging them, too.
擰翻走轉/Ning, Fan, Zou, Zhuan – Twist, Overturn, Walk, Turn: As a unit, these four refer to the mechanical action of the Waist, as the prime director of the entire Body, in Turning Palm.
擰/Ning – Twist: Mechanically, Twisting is moving the Upper & Lower sections of the Body in opposite directions in a way that doesn’t break their connection or impede their cooperation
翻/Fan – Overturn: Overturning is a three dimensional, spiraling motion. It is an immensely useful Mechanically action that greatly amplifies the Force one can emit.
走/Zou – Walk: Walking is soul of Baguazhang. Everything is built on Walking, both Mechanically & Tactically. It improves health & self defense ability. It increases agility, flexibility, speed, & stamina. It can be practiced anywhere, by anyone. Walking is the key to a long life.
轉/Zhuan – Turn: Moving in a circle, with a curve, or along an arc is Turning. Turning is a representative Mechanic of Baguazhang that absolutely must be grasped through experience. Circles Turn endlessly, just as Hevean Turns endlessly. Turning is both the foundation & height of Baguazhang’s Kung Fu.
纏/Chan – Coil: Coiling is a Mechanical Method used to change the relative position of the limbs & bodies of two people in mid to short range combat. Tactically, it’s neutral but can be used as a set up for both Offensive & Defensive actions. Offensively, Coiling opens the enemy’s “Doors” for you to attack. Defensively, it removes the opportunity for an enemy to attack you.
刁/Diao – Hook: A Hand Method used to attach to the enemy & take control, usually the limbs of the upper body or the neck. More often than not the control is intended as a distraction to set up a heavy Strike to a Body Target.
鑽/Zuan – Drill: A spiraling, penetrative mechanical force generated & lead by the waist, manifesting in the limbs. As a tactical concept Drilling usually refers to forcefully occupying the enemy’s personal space.