The Cheng School Gao Style BaguaZhang is a chunky, 392 page book on Bagua Zhang and it’s a labour of love on the part of the students of the Master Liu Fengcai – a disciple of the legendary Gao Yi Sheng – both Chinese and from Vince Black’s North American Tang Shou Dao Association,
Over the years I have periodically dipped into the profound Chinese martial arts system of Bagua Zhang as a compliment to practicing taiji amd xing yi quan. Back in the day there was very little information on bagua zhang and very few people teaching it. Through a fellow taiji practitioner I was introduced to bagua zhang bible – the Pa Kua Chang journal – which, when you could get hold of a copy, gave an insight into the complexity of the art and it’s different branches as they have evolved from the practices of its founder, Master Dong Haichuan. He also introduced me to Ed Hines, a student of accomplished Taiwanese Gao bagua zhang martial artist Lo De Xiu (Yi Zhong school) and managed to do a few classes with him before he left to live in France.
Over the years I’ve done classes and the odd workshop with bagua zhang practitioners like Marnix Wells who studied with Wang Shu Jin, Alex Kozma and Serge Augier (check the book Warrior Guards The Mountain) and Lo De Xiu – all of whom were also teaching xing yi quan. That said, while I remain fascinated by bagua zhang, I’ve never really progressed beyond the essential foundation practice of the circle walking exercises with their coiling and twisting actions which work on the soft tissue, tendons and muscles of the body. Still, in my view, all foundation practices are good and need to remain at the heart of one’s training.
Bagua Zhang is daoist practice based on walking the eight trigrams of the I Ching but as this book on Gao Yi Sheng’s system explains, it uniquely has both Pre and Post Heaven practices (circular and linear) which in turn produces the famous 64 palms. Gao bagua zhang, according to Liu Fengcai, has five distinctions from other styles.
1. Post and Pre Heaven are trained separately
2. The Gao preserves all the original charactertistics of Bagua
3. The roundness is constant, whether still or moving
4. Gao emphasizes softness with hardness inside
5. The Pre-Heaven Palms are the basis of the Post-Heaven Palms
This book is loaded with personal insights and offers a lot of information on the evolution of bagua zhang via a report by Professor Kang Ge Wu who gives a detailed and well documented historical reconstruction of its origins. It give a breakdown of each of the Palms and also deals with living skills and “martial destiny”, essential principles, notes on the “animal” palms, internal training, weapons, combat theory and two person drills.
Basically, you can’t learn bagua zhang or any other martial art from a book, you need a teacher, but it’s a genuine treat being given access to these writings as, in the past, these kind of training manuals were kept within the school and only passed from teacher to senior student. So, Cheng School Gao Style BaguaZhang is a valuable addition to what already exists and it’s an important reference book to add to or start your bagua zhang library.
There are a growing number of teachers dealing with the various branches of bagua zhang in the UK but to find classes in Gao Style Bagua Zhang under the lineage of Lou De Xiu, Taiwan check: http://www.palmchange.com/
The Cheng School, Gao Style Baguazhang Manual: Gao Yisheng’s Bagua Twisting-Body Connected Palm by Gao Yisheng and Liu Fengcai (Blue Snake Books)