Pa Kua Chang, also known as baguazhang, or 'eight trigrams palm', is one of the so-called 'internal martial arts' of China.
A Short History
It was allegedly created in the 19th Century by Master Tung Hai-Chuan (1796 - 1880), but was most likely merely passed on through him from an earlier unknown source. Originally taught by masters to their disciples as a method of personal defence, the art was also used in war, but only by individuals. It was never used to train masses of troops.
Another master of Pa Kua was Yin Fu (1842 - 1911). His most famous achievement was successfully escorting the Dowager Empress from Beijing when the city was besieged by foreign troops in 1900. Later, he became famous for this, and went on to teach the art of Pa Kua Chuan to many students, and this is one of the main reasons it survives to this day.
The Basic Theory
Based on the I Ching (the Chinese Book of Changes), Pa Kua is derived from the eight trigrams2, which are merged in all their different combinations to form the 64 hexagrams. The eight different trigrams, when combined in pairs, form the 64 hexagrams. These are used in the I Ching to convey philosophical points, and can also be used for divination.
There are 64 corresponding hand manoeuvres in Pa Kua. Added to these palm movements is the concept of 'walking the circle'. This builds up endurance during practice sessions, and prepares the practitioner for the constant circling for advantage found in sparring. It is only when the proper angle has been achieved that a circular attack is launched on the opponent. When walking the circle, there are periodic direction changes, which, during combat, can be used as kicks, sweeps, and trapping moves.
There are several weapons associated with Pa Kua, including the straight double-edged sword, a slightly curved sabre, a lance, and the most distinctive of Pa Kua weapons, the semi-circular sword. The basis of using these weapons is the same as the empty hand style. They rely on the circling moves of the user to generate their power.