The Deceptive Hands of Baguazhang ( Bagua Pakua ) By Erle Montaigue
Most martial arts nowadays are only ever taught at their most basic levels. This has come about because instructors themselves have not learnt the more advanced methods of their style. They teach others who think that this is all there is to the martial system, then they go out teaching others and the circle goes around.
So now we have martial arts that are supposed to be great self defence arts, but whose owners are beaten up in the street because the instructor only ever learnt a very basic form. The large open movements of any martial art are only there to teach us how to move in a more martial manner. However, if those same movements are used in realistic situations, like in a street brawl or against someone wielding a knife, they will not work at all.
As the once great martial systems move further away from their origins with instructors simply not willing to put in the time and effort necessary to take their martial art to that of an advanced self-defence art, we are seeing the martial arts denigrating into a purely sports orientated art with none if any of the original self-defence ideas left.
Bagua Pakua is one such art. It was once one of the most deadly fighting systems ever invented and earned its nickname of "the art of over-kill." Again in modern Bagua Pakua, we see instructors using big open steps, those that are taught only to the stark beginner, that which will never work in a real situation. We see them teaching very complicated techniques as street techniques. These complicated techniques from Baguazhang were only ever meant to teach the student about body mechanics with the idea that if you could sort of get it right using these silly complicated techniques, then the more basic methods would work fine.
We see instructors teaching to bring palm strikes from the hip! Or from long distances giving the attacker plenty of time to defeat such an attack. This idea has come about because many of the so-called hard stylists are now turning to the internal systems but are still using hard style methods.
In order to defend oneself, we must be able to strike from anywhere at any time and from any distance with enough power to knock someone out, even from as little as one inch away from the target, as this is all the time you will get to defend yourself. And Bagua Pakua has this ability provided it is learnt to its more advanced levels.
Another mistake that many instructors make, as with most martial arts, is to take the katas or forms literally. To take the techniques from the kata is to invite defeat. Any great martial art has a form (kata) and then it also has a fighting method. The fighting method of Bagua Pakua is nothing like the circular form, although the movements of the form are based upon martial applications as they are in Taijiquan. The fighting art must be learnt separately from the form as the forms teach us about body mechanics, timing, coordination and distancing. The fighting methods teach us about reflex defence/attack, defending without knowing, sub-conscious reaction and continuous attack using fa-jing as the engine. The fighting method teaches us about conserving energy or returning energy, about beginning with one 'lot' of Qi (energy) and recycling it rather than having to use your own energy for one movement, then summon up another lot of energy for the next etc. It teaches us about fa-jing or explosive energy and how to use this to strike from very short distances delivering devastating strikes to vital parts of the body.
Bagua Pakua hands are 'deceptive' in that when someone looks at an advanced practitioner, they see a very relaxed 'person' NOT a martial artist! It does not seem as if the Bagwa practitioner is able to defend himself until he does. Then, the hands of the Bagwa expert seem to spring to life with devastating palm strikes in a matter of seconds. The hands are also very hard on the inside and look and feel like cotton wool on the outside. We do not smash our palms into iron filings, nor do we smash boards, the way in which the Bagua Pakua hand is held brings Qi into the palm thus causing the palm to become like iron. The basic Bagua Pakua palm shape is the Dragon Palm. In holding the palm in this manner it is a way to summon forth the part of the brain that is for survival, or that part that many scientists are now calling the 'reptilian brain'. This part of the brain has been more-or-less lost in modern man but is still evident in animals. Bagua Pakua teaches us a way to get back to this animal survival mode. When I first learnt Bagua Pakua back in the early seventies, I was taught to hold the palm with fingers stretched so that the webs were almost white. At that time I did not know why as all other instructors were not teaching this method but rather teaching to hold the hand more like a Taijiquan hand. As I progressed, I began to discover why the palm is held in this manner. And it has to do with acupuncture and Qi flow. If you were to tighten only a couple of fingers, you would not feel anything in the back of your brain at the points called GB 20 (Gallbladder 20). But when you tighten the whole palm (not to the point of pure physical tension though), you begin to feel an activation in the back of your skull which is the 'activation' point for the reptilian brain. And when we look at what points on the palm that are activated by doing this particular Bagwa palm, we see that these points are all those that are responsible for Yang Qi! When you feel the reptilian brain come into action, your eyes will widen, your speech will go into monotone and your motor will be ready for action. I have seen some very 'yin' people turn into raving lunatics when given the Bagwa method of survival. A power that seems to come from nowhere is summoned and even slight framed people gain great power.
The power comes from the whole body and not from only the arm or palm. This is how we are able to strike from very short distances causing great damage.
The Bagua Pakua 'snake' is one of the realistic applications that are taught at an advanced stage. We are not told that we should do such and such when someone attacks using Bagwa form methods but rather the masters of old knew about the human brain and about body mechanics. They knew that if someone were going to attack you they would not advertise the fact! This only happens in sports martial arts in the ring! So the method of 'the Bagwa Snake' involves doing what a normal human being would normally do in a situation of being attacked usually to the head area. As the fingers are stretched, the both hands move upwards as we would normally do in a reflex manner to protect the face. This will kick in the reptilian brain and instantly the fingers of firstly the right palm then the left palm are thrust into the attacker's eyes.
Instantly and without stopping to 're-load', the right palm turns into a 'sideways snake head' and strikes into perhaps dim-mak points called GV26 just under the nose and CV24 just under the bottom lip causing instant knock out and great internal damage. Not stopping, the last movement loaded the right elbow, so it now smashes down onto the GB3 point (Temple) which is an extreme death point. This again loads the right palm which now comes back across the other side of his temple, followed by the left palm which slams into the right side of his face at points called ST 5 and the Mind point, which together cause death!
When we see this application done in a form or kata manner, it looks like a beautiful dance type of movement. Once the attacker has been defeated, the human brain again takes over and the practitioner walks off oblivious of what he has done other than that there is someone on the ground. The whole snake method has taken a split second to perform. But it would not work if we had to continually load physically each palm, the power comes from the waist explosively turning the body only a fraction but with so much power and speed that the hands which are further out react with even greater power and speed because they are 'attached' internally to the waist. Most modern martial arts teach us to divorce the waist and the hands relying upon only the power from the triceps.