My first teacher: Master Shoaming Cheng of Houston, TX. –a Gao stylist from an early age.
Bagua quan emerged from ancient Daoist societies. In their view the key to understanding the theory of uniting the external with the internal is called ‘solely qi’. Focusing upon postures and techniques alone leaves you in the early stage of ‘regulating your body’. At first, extension and withdrawal, receiving and returning seem to be different actions. Develop strikes from your center first. Then, practicing softer techniques you want to reach the point where you have an empty center and can issue energy throughout your “fung shuied body”. Li, fire which corresponds to your “empty” or concave chest. Regulate your heart’s fire, then your abdomen will push out, fill, or become substantial. This is associated with kan, water. Dropping your sacrum is associated with sun, wind. Pushing out your back relates to chen, thunder. Stretching your occipital region to suspend your head relates to chien, heaven. Moist saliva from keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth corresponds to tui, valley. Gripping the ground with your feet is associated with ken, mountain. Your ability to open your six major joints (liu he) at anytime or anyplace, relates to kun, earth. This is how Master He Jinbao of Bejing relates energetic theory to the dragon body needed for bagua.
To awaken a deeper awareness of your entire body, turn your attention to your ‘four extremities’ or Shao. Develop a feeling tone for whole body awareness. Pay attention to how your hair is connected to your blood. Feel that your fingernails are connected to your tendons; that your teeth will connect to your bones; that your tongue will connect you to your muscles. When your body stops moving your four extremities should be balanced. Condense jin into your elbows in order to deflect/block an opponent by circling your elbows (dunbu). Move your limbs as if turning a wheel. Use the short pulse in stepping. It is a pause in which double weighting is avoided. Push when attacked from your side, hook when attacked along your centerline. Kick while you are walking.
My Wuji Xioyaopai Master, Liang Shou Yu of Vancouver —Like CYC, a Swimming Dragon Stylist
In walking the circle, don’t lean inward around the two poles of yin and yang. Your circle may be from 6 – 12 feet in diameter. Your left turning (counterclockwise) is Yang, while your right turning (clockwise) is your Yin pole. At an advanced level let your knees and ankles brush past one another in “mud sliding” steps. Keep your rear foot at 90 degrees from the circle’s center along with your waist at 90 degrees toward the inside of the circle, but keep your lead foot pointed inward 45 degrees. Use small half steps to discover that it’s all bent knee stepping when you speed up. If your opponent sticks well to you, move your body left and right to yield and neutralize. If they have a powerful “boring”, forcing you to retreat, take a large sideways-step to slow their advance. If they are big and powerful they will attack your upper three paths of head, neck and shoulders. Sealing and blocking them will be difficult. Squat and maneuver. Let your hand and your foot arrive together, but don’t reveal your shape —when changing positions reveal no definite posture.
Fight from your empty state (wuji) by linking your liu he or six harmonies internally while shoulders/hips, elbows/knees, and hands/feet externally harmonize. Keep your I or mind intent in your elbows and when one palm strikes, the elbow of the other arm always protects your center line. The best strategy is to occupy the center ‘door’ ie., the center line between you and your opponent and aim your elbow at their chest. Use your inner upper thigh and hips to strike the opponents body. Use your knees to strike their inner gua (upper thigh) and the external gua (hips). When kicking, your feet should strike in a quick glancing blow like wind scraping the ground surface; preferably low down. The quality of your arc and swaying step determines your effectiveness. Execute clear arc stepping at high, middle, and low levels.
Your palm is your whole arm. When you want to bend your arm first extend it. Once you make contact with your hands, turn your body and become insubstantial. Use your front hand to fake. Your hands should not come away from in front of your chest area. Do not use joint folding (qin na) but straight in and straight out palm techniques. Sink your qi, don’t “push it”. Any yin-fire twitches on the surface of your skin come from too much li, muscular power. Inhaling too deeply lifts your abdomen and tenses your lungs. To maintain your balance use 70% of your foot’s power for striking and only 30% of your hand’s power, but rather link or thread energy through your whole body in order not to let your wrist fall in vain.
Ignore, don’t check or block an attack. Slant to return and enter a palm; following with an entering palm in three linking attacks. First withdraw, yield as you evade, then follow and return energy to your opponent. Keep your hips squared on your opponent. Seat your hips to be firm and agile. When advancing extend your hands while taking big steps. Keep the distance between you short, separated by a half step. Don’t dodge (evade) in alignment to the point you lose proper distance for your attack. Counter your opponent’s qin na single or double hands by raising it above your head, then strike their face. When turning first turn your feet. Take small steps and squat your body while turning. If they turn while you turn, grab them to destroy their balance and look for an opportunity to throw them. Confuse their bare handed attacks by repeatedly boring your palm to their nose. Avoid your opponent’s opening when you see them closing and visa versa —anticipate. The two main fighting actions are ‘raise to drill’ and ‘fall to turn’. Against a weapon, attack their forearm and wrists. On slippery ground keep your front foot sideways and your rear foot straight.
Apply the four virtues of FOLLOW, AGAINST, HARMONIZE, and NEUTRALIZE as in push hands (see appropriate section). Then you will clearly manifest the actions of RISING, DRILLING, FALLING, and OVER TURNING. Do not stand too high to execute. Do not look or lean back when arc stepping to turn. Loosen your shoulders and vigorously drop your elbows when turning your hands outward to suspend your elbows. Raising your palms can neutralize to the sides and downward spiraling leads your opponent to emptiness. Use down and up like a turning wheel as both can effectively strike without interruption. There is no definite posture for walking or striking. This is the real shape of bagua according to Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang.
Rise (Tiao): to intercept and neutralize him with your lifting arm or arms. When combined with drilling it is an opening move.
Drill (Huo): combines with rising to enhance your neutralization.
Fall (Dai/Ling): to follow through in yielding toward the place where your opponent is not while leading him to emptiness.
Overturn (Fan): changes a poor defensive position into an advantageous offensive one.
Practice single and double palm changes. But, first, the eight mother palms.