The Hidden Meanings of Bagua Pa kua
By Erle Montaigue 13/05/2010

Bagua Pa kua is probably one of the most perfect self defense forms. Not because it is a beautiful form to practice, or because it is great exercise; but rather that every tiny movement or posture has within it a hidden meaning of either an internal meaning and/or an external meaning.

In just the same way that most people learn a Tai Chi form and then they are done with it and "let's get on to the next set", students are often only taught a set of circular movements and then told to go and perfect it! Learning Bagua this way is to only learn 10% of what this great art has to offer.

If you cannot move, you cannot fight or defend yourself. This is a translation of one of the Old Chinese Sayings that I have accumulated over the years. It does not mean that we can simply move as most people are capable of moving! What it implies, is that we must learn to move in a manner that is conducive with the yin and yang and to and fro and give and take of self defense.

One of the most important areas of this 'movement' is that we must learn to be still within every movement we make. This is called in Bagua Pa kua, "Clouds Following". This means that whenever we make a movement, even a minute movement, or a large step, there must be internal stillness and equilibrium within that movement. In this way we are able to either continue with the attack or stop and go in another direction etc, instantly. This is also called the "Bagua Post". This gives the Bagua Pa kua practitioner the upper hand where combat is concerned as we are always in control of our own body and movement and therefore in control of any attacker's body and movement. We are able to move at any time to change direction because no matter what foot we are standing on or what movement we are making, it has internal stillness enabling us to 'move without moving'. That is the reason why it is said of so many of the old Bagua Pa kua masters that they "seemed not to move, and yet his opponent was defeated". His movement came out of stillness, like a tree rooted to the ground, its branches sway with the breeze but physically it is solid. And it is the same with Bagua, the only difference being that our roots are internal.

How To Get This Stillness Within Movement.

The training method for this way, is hidden right there in the both main Bagua forms of circular and linear. Hidden within every move we make is a training method to teach us how to move correctly. Sadly, most people only skim the surface of the purely physical form and are never told about the hidden meanings of each posture. For instance, why is it that we are told that we must hear the sound of the trousers as one foot moves by the other foot in stepping? There is a physical reason for this in that it teaches us about the very potent Bagua Pa kua kicking methods from the front foot, gaining great power without alerting the attacker to the fact that we are about to break his leg. We are told to walk in this difficult manner in order to force the body to move in the correct manner to gain this great power while kicking from the front leg. However, there is also an internal meaning for this way of walking. It teaches us about internal stillness.

In the beginning we are taught to walk the circle very slowly. The reason is to gain the most important part of Bagua, internal stillness while moving. Every time we pass one foot by the other during walking the circle, we must scrape the moving foot past the standing foot and we must hear the sound of the trousers as they pass each other. As the foot passes and at precisely the same time that we hear that sound, we are 'still' within. To an onlooker, the movement will be seen to continue as if we are just walking. however, internally at that moment, we are rooted to the ground from the crown down to the standing heel and into the earth. So the internal movement will stop for a split second and then catch up with the physical step. In this way we are able to also stop the physical step at any time, take it back, move it to the side, kick etc, without thinking about it and without losing balance, like a cat walking stealthily along, being able to change direction at any time.

As we are rooted into the ground, we feel it internally as each foot passes the other, like a bold of lightening passing through our centre in a vertical line to the ground. we feel it in the activation point for the earth GB 20 (Gallbladder Point No. 20) and then at the GV 1 point, like an iron rod up our backbone. This only happens for a split second as we walk, however, it gives a great feeling of well-being and internal balance, enabling us to get on with our daily chores happily with renewed vigor, like a shot of adrenalin.

There are other postures from Bagua Pa kua that also teach us about internal stillness. Of course the whole form and every minute movement teaches us this, however, some of the postures are there solely to teach us this. And sadly most people are never taught to perform these postures in this manner. For instance, the posture known as "hawk catches fowl" and "black bear looks back" have a rather silly martial application standing on one leg like that! However, both of these postures teach us something far more important that just an application, internal stillness within movement. We are taught that when we perform both of these movements and each movement after these, that, like the walking and passing each foot past the other foot, we also have a point of perfect stillness. however, this time, we not only stop the movement internally, but also externally. Both of these postures are difficult to perform and most people do them easily by doing them incorrectly by continuing the movement into the next movement. This is NOT 'Clouds Following". When each posture is performed there is a one second stop with complete stillness both physically and internally. Then, as we spin around on one leg and just before we execute the next posture, again there is a one second complete stop.

This causes these movements to now become quite difficult and just as in Tai Chi, Bagua Pa kua was never meant to be easy! Being difficult, Bagua Pa kua and Tai Chi teach us great lessons both in healing, in that we become perfectly balanced both physically and internally and also physically thus being able to have the best chance of survival in a life or death confrontation. But this will only ever happen if you are taught Bagua and Tai Chi correctly from the beginning, taking it slowly and not wishing to rush through the form in order to show off to friends etc.