Baguazhang is a Martial Art known for its percussive strikes delivered on the move. The image of a person Walking in a circle, continuously moving, changing direction, rising & falling & twisting like a dragon, immediately comes to mind for most people. There are some out there who mistakenly believe that Baguazhang only has Palm Strikes. This is far from the truth. We can forgive their ignorance, shocking as it is, because Your Kung Fu Uncle is here to set the record straight. Today we will take a look at the basic Leg Methods of Baguazhang: the Thirty-six Hidden Legs. Let’s begin then.
The Bagua Turning Palm Song Secret says:
The Leg Method is : “Put forth the leg without it being seen,”
In Bagua, Raising & Lowering the Foot is the root.
The Front, Back, Left, & Right make Thirty-six,
The Horizontal Leg following Lifting & Cutting is real.
Advancing, Retreating, Hooking & Hanging clarify the “Hidden Legs,”
Interlocked with Yin Yang & combined with Turning Body.
Treading, Stomping, Limping, Stamping, Bending, Rubbing, & Tripping,
When practiced until mature & simple, become spontaneous.
There are a few things made explicitly clear in this passage. There are nine Leg Methods & four Directions they can be applied. Front, Back, Left, & Right, as basic spatial orientations, each have their own appropriate Methods. But there are actually more basics than just the four spatial orientations: Advancing & Retreating are also listed, as are the explicitly mentioned Mechanics of Horizontal & Vertical. So where does that actually leave us?
The four directions don’t change: there is still Front, Back, Left, & Right. Mechanically, there is the Straight (Vertical) Leg & the Horizontal Leg. Strategically, there is using the Legs while Advancing, Retreating, or Turning. Tactically, there are nine Leg Methods. These are the relatively simple Methods of Treading, Stomping, Limping, Stamping, Bending, Rubbing, & Tripping, as well as the compound Methods of Hooking & Hanging, and Lifting & Cutting.
- 蹬/Deng – Tread: using the Heel to strike the enemy, especially in the crotch & torso. It’s a focused, concentrated attack.
- 踹/Chuai – Stomp: using the entire sole to strike the enemy along a straight line, especially in the torso, but also used against the knees & ribs. While the force is spread over a larger area, it tends to be a more vicious attack.
- 蹁/Pian – Limp: using the toes to lightly & quickly attack the enemy’s shin, repeatedly striking the same spot to reduce his mobility. It can also be used to interrupt the enemy’s attempts to advance or attack with the targeted leg.
- 踩/Cai – Stamp: using the sole to strike the enemy along a downward & forward line, never rising above the knee.
- 屈/Qu – Bend: after raising the leg bent at the knee, using the it to strike the enemy in any way, including directly attacking with the knee itself. It is a direct contrast to straight leg kicking Methods like Raising, Limping, or Hooking & Hanging.
- 搓/Cuo – Twist: using the Leg to entwine & draw in the enemy’s leg, either to trap him or upset his balance. It can be applied by both the leg & the foot.
- 絆/Ban – Trip: using the Foot, Ankle, & Shin to hook the enemy’s ankle in order to immobilize him or case him to fall. It can also be applied by using the leg itself to block off angles, blocking or reduce the movement options for the enemy, making it easy to knock him over.
- 勾掛/Gou Gua – Hooking & Hanging: just as above, you hook the enemy’s ankle, but instead of trying to keep his foot in place, you use your Leg to forcibly lift his foot up & keep it there.
- 提又切/Ti You Qie – Lifting & Cutting: this is essentially a combination attack. You raise a Leg to attack, either genuinely or as a feint, & then suddenly strike along a different line. It can also be applied by first intercepting the enemy’s Leg attack, & then quickly returning a counterattack of your own. It is especially useful in alternating between Straight & Horizontal Leg attacks.
When the Four Directions are combined with these Nine Methods, Thirty-Six variations result. Even if you aren’t a “Leg Man”, you should be familiar with these Methods at the very least. They will enable you to defend yourself against Lower Body attacks, expand your options for attack, & improve your overall stability. As the name implies, your enemy should not be able to see these coming. They are “Hidden” in the sense that you do not telegraph your intent to use them, usually by occupying your enemy’s attention with the Palm Methods. And finally, always remember what the Turning Palm Song says: when you’ve practiced these Methods until they’re completely mature, you’ll be able to use them spontaneously, without thinking about it, as opportunities arise.