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(4 pages total)

Page 2 - Neijia FAQ


Second only to Taijiquan in popularity is the internal martial art of Baguazhang (Pa Kua Ch'ang). Within this one family style, there are many variations, ranging in movement from flashy performance routines that amaze onlookers to no-nonsense combat styles designed to devastate an opponent within seconds.

"Ba" means "eight" and "Gua" refers to the trigrams of Chinese philosophy from the "Book of Changes" (I-Ching). "Zhang" means "palm", so Baguazhang is a martial art where the palms follow the ever-changing eight trigrams of Chinese philosophy. As a martial art, its emphasis is on horizontal delivery of internal power.


The first specific reference to Baguazhang is in 1796, when it was recorded that a Shandong boxer taught the art to others. But it was a poor, country boy from Hobei province named Dong Haiquan who is credited with making Baguazhang popular. Dong, after having a few fights in Beijing, traveled to Mt. Omei in Szechwan province where he studied with two Daoists (Taoists) who taught him Baguazhang for eleven years. Dong then returned to Hobei, and finally to Beijing, where he taught a number of students.

There are many stories about Dong Haiquan's martial ability, such as his ability to jump 20 feet in the air. The most famous story (although many scholars disagree on its legitimacy) was his battle in Beijing against the famous Guo Yunshen of the Xingyiquan style. It is told that the two battled for several days with Dong finally becoming the aggressor and soundly defeating Guo. So impressed with each other's fighting abilities, they formed a pact requiring all their students to train in the other's discipline as well as their own. Even today, this pact is still honored by many instructors of the individual arts.

Another story about Dong was told by Wan Laisheng, one of his students. It seems that everyone thought that Dong has passed away and he was placed into a casket, ready for burial. Many of his students had come to pay respect and they began to pick up the casket to move it to the burial site. But when they tried to pick it up, it would not budge. They tried several times, but the casket was if it was nailed to the floor. Then suddenly a voice came from within, saying: "As I've often said, none you you has even one-tenth my skill!" He then passed away and the casket was easily moved. Dong was 81 years old when he died.

Sun Lutang

One of Dong Haiquan's highly skilled students was Cheng Tinghua, who continued to teach Dong's Baguazhang style in Beijing. One of his Cheng's students was the famous Sun Lutang (1859-1933) who had learned Xingyiquan directly from Guo Yunshen, and later created the Sun family style of Taijiquan. Sun was quite impressed with Cheng Tinghua's Baguazhang skills and stayed in Beijing for a number of years to study with him, even though most of his training from Cheng was limited to walking the circle and standing postures.

Once, a southern boxer came to challenge Cheng, and soundly defeated all of Cheng's senior students. Sun Lutang offered to fight for Cheng, despite his limited Baguazhang training because Cheng had "nothing to lose" at that point. Sun easily defeated the challenger with his very basic skills. Cheng was quite pleased and taught Sun the entire system, including the sword and spear. In fact, it was Cheng who gave Sun his given name of Lutang (he had been previously called Sun Fuquan) and encouraged him to travel to Sichuan Province to better understand the theory of the Yijing (I-Ching).

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