Ba Gua Palm (Chinese: 八卦掌; pinyin: bā guà zhǎng) or the Eight-diagram Palm is one of the most popular internal styles of martial arts in China. The style derives its name and history from the Chinese book of divination, the Yi Jing, or ‘The Book of Changes’. Ba Gua Palm derives much of its practice from Daoist ritualistic circle walking and theory. Its practice and application is based on the principles and theories of the Yi Jing, Yin Yang Theory, and Five Element Theory.
Ba Gua Palm features dexterity and agility. When moving around it is like walking in a muddy place, with footsteps changing all the time like running water. Palm tricks and body movements follow one after another. The moving around looks like endless circles overlapping each another. The body turns around from the waist during walking, moving, turning, rising and falling. Palm tricks change with the movements of the body. When the upper body protrudes, the lower part of the body squats back to keep balance. When the arms are sent out, the feet draw back. When moving, like a dragon roaming; when squatting, like a tiger sitting; when looking around, like a monkey on the lookout and when moving, like an eagle circling.
Ba Gua circle walking also promotes improvement in all circulatory systems of the body and can bring about a greater bodily awareness and improved focus. Through continued development in all of the Ba Gua Palm practices, a practitioner will be able to develop internal feeling and experience a greatly fluidity in movement.
As with all internal martial arts practices, correct posture is important in Ba Gua practice. The Ba Gua circle walking posture is one that can greatly improve upper body flexibility and fluidity, loosen tense muscles and tendons, strengthen lower back and abdominal muscles and help to loosen up tension that is built up in the waist, back and shoulders. As one becomes more used to the straightened posture, muscles and tendons around the spine are allowed to relax while the spine itself becomes the major support for the full body posture. Improved spine posture helps to promote softer and more elastic tendons and muscles in the neck, shoulders, back, waist, and hips.By strengthening the waist, the health of the kidneys is also greatly improved.
The basic practices of walking the Bagua circle and standing in the different still postures of Ba Gua can be greatly beneficial to one’s overall health. Walking the Ba Gua circle can help with strengthening the legs as well as promoting better joint mobility, flexibility and circulation in the lower body and establishing a greater sense of balance in the lower body. Because Bagua walking relies on constant movement for correct practice, this also engages the lungs for deeper respiration which can be greatly beneficial for strengthening the lungs as well as aerobic exercise for those looking to lose weight.