Pre-Heaven Bagua Palms
Pre-Heaven Bagua is perhaps the foundation of Baguazhang, the forms within this area of Baguazhang represent traditional fighting methods. Whilst movements practised might look like dance they are actually help the practitioner to refine their skill and power. The movements should be simultaneously smooth and soft, strong and solid. Clumsy or hasty movements should be avoided.
Understanding the fighting aspects of Pre-Heaven Bagua are only revealed once you delve deeper into other areas of the Yizong system.
What are the key benefits of Pre-Heaven Bagua (Circle Walking)?
Depending who you are speaking to the answer for what the key benefits of Pre-Heaven Bagua might change. Even though Baguazhang is open to interpretation the mutual understanding is that after practising for many years you should have greater skill and power.
While the fundamental benefits for Pre-Heaven Bagua (Circle Walking) are clearly stated there are also practical reasons which get overlooked.
- Very quickly you'll realise how this rather unique way of walking begins to develop your balance, you are in affect walking a kind of tightrope, though not that severe.
- With deeper stepping you become more grounded and improve leg strength.
- You begin to free your mind from directing your limbs or controlling your movements.
- Focusing the mind becomes faster.
- Calming the mind and spirit is easier.
- Spatial awareness increases as you become used to the constant rotation of the moving circle, you become still as the world moves around you.
- As you become comfortable with walking fluidly you find a more interesting way to meditate.
Were Dragons Real?
In Pre-Heaven Bagua palms of the Yizong lineage there is a strong association to the form and the movement of a dragon. The first form you learn is the 'Single Palm Change', this form allows the practitioner to change direction when circle walking, this first "Palm Change" represents the dragon's head.
Following on from the 'Dragons' Head' there are eight forms that make up the dragons' body, in order they are named - Snake Palm, Dragon Palm, Tiger Palm, Swallow Palm, Turning the Back Palm, Twisting the Body Palm, Swinging and Turning Over the Body Palms. In the Gao style Bagua we have two version for each of these Pre-Heaven forms, usually referred to either 'Big' or 'Small' versions of the palm being practised.
Every Dragon Need a Tail
Finally every dragon needs a tail, made up from five palms the collective forms are practised as one, we call this collection of forms 'Black Dragon Swings its Tail'.
The movement 'Black Dragon Swings its Tail' represents the tail of a dragon and therefore the closing movement of the previous palms. While we often train these Pre-Heaven forms separately we would also start with the head and move through to the Dragon's body, ending with the dragon's tail.
Palm changes and circle walking
The movements or 'Palm Changes' of Pre-Heaven Bagua Zhang should be smooth and soft; yet within their softness there remains a solid structure. The emphasis is on uniting the upper and lower body, the inside and outside, into one single power. Internal structure and strength must always been guarded; hasty or clumsy movements should be avoided.
Pre-Heaven Bagua is also referred to as 'Circle Walking', this is because you literally walk a circle in continuous motion when practicing the 'palm changes'. A circle enables you to keep walking for as long as you can or need to, the motion of walking in a circle also helps you focus your mind and improve your skill.
The spiral movements of the circle walking of Bagua's 'Pre-Heaven' palm changes are practiced in order to combine inside, outside, structure, intent, strength, and power.
While circle walking, inside and outside should be combined and move naturally; body, intent, strength and qi are the four pillars which are the foundation for explosive internal power, so practicing Circle Walking is vital to this end.
In all these circular, twisting, and turning movements, one practices sinking, stability, roundness and heaviness. This is achieved by a unique step that we call 'Mud Stepping'. Actually there are three types of stepping, mud, chicken and crane. Mud stepping emphasises a heavy step with feet rubbing along the ground, next the 'Chicken' step emphasises the lifting and placing of the feet, keeping them level whilst executing a smooth natural motion, finally we have the 'Crane' step which emphasises the lifting of the leg extension of the stepping foot and single leg weighting.
When practicing 'Circle Walking' the upper body is twisted towards the centre of the circle, while the lower abdomen is naturally drawn in. Out of this posture, internal power is created. The slow walking will nourish internal strength and energy.
The rolling and winding hands of the Pre-Heaven palms; the circular and round stepping; churning up and down of the body all will serve to connect and activate the muscle groups and sinews; the whole body will then naturally move as one unit to develop a more effective power.
During practice, one should calm down all disturbing thoughts and worries. One should stay focused throughout the exercise. Movements are led by the intent; they are continuous, as if lined up on a chain.
8 Pre-Heaven Palms:
The Dragons Head (Single Palm Change - Reversed Single Palm Change)
1. Snake Smooth Movement Palm (Smooth Body Palm)
2. Dragon Piercing Hand Palm (Piercing Body Palm)
3. Turn Body Back And Strike The Tiger Palm (Returning Body Palm)
4. Swallow Overturning, Covering Hand Palm (Overturning Body Palms)
5. Turn The Body Over The Back Palm (Turning Body Palm)
6. Twist The Body, Leaning Forward Palm (Twisting Body Palm)
7. Swing The Body And Insert From Behind Palm (Behind The Back Palm)
8. Turn The Body, Pull And Hook Palm (Spinning Body Palm)
In practice, one should be patient and move forward according to one's abilities. A good and powerful art cannot be achieved through haste or shortcuts.
Snake Smooth Movement Palm. 1.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 1,or Snake Smooth Movement Palm and traditionally is known to eliminate heart fire.
Snake Smooth Movement Palm. 1.2
Also known as Smooth Body Palm, this version still resembles the snake of the smaller palm with the addition of flowing and more complex movements.
Dragon Piercing Hand Palm. 2.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 2.1, Dragon Piercing Hand Palm is traditionally is known to regulate the three burners.
Dragon Piercing Hand Palm. 2.2
Also known as Piercing Body Palm, the opening movement pierces vertically and gets just slightly longer than the first smaller palm.
Turn Back and Strike the Tiger Palm. 3.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 3.1, Turn Back and Strike the Tiger Palm and is traditionally known to sooth the liver and the lungs.
Turn Back and Strike the Tiger Palm. 3.2
Also known as Returning Body Palm changes direction and doubles back smoothly with transitions of weight just like the smaller palm.
Swallow Overturning Palm. 4.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 4.1, Swallow Overturning, Covering Hand Palm and is traditionally known to strengthen the kidneys and waist.
Swallow Overturning Palm. 4.2
Also known as Overturning Body Palm, the opening movements swoops up vertically and swiftly drop downwards just like a kung fu swallow should.
Turn Over the Back Palm. 5.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 5.1, Turn the Body Over the Back Palm is traditionally known to increase strength.
Turn Over the Back Palm. 5.2
Also known as Turning Body Palm, the movements in both palms change direction quickly without effort.
Twist Body Pat the Horse Palm. 6.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 6.1, Twist the Body Pat the Horse Palm is traditionally known to regulate the spleen and stomach.
Twist Body Pat the Horse Palm. 6.2
Also known as Twisting Body Palm, the movements repeat with continuous following twists and complex changes where timing is key.
Swing the Body and Insert from Behind Palm. 7.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 7.1 is also known as Smooth Body Palm is traditionally known to strengthen the bones and sinews.
Swing the Body and Insert from Behind Palm. 7.2
Also known as Behind the Back Palm, both forms require skill with balance and coordination.
Turn the Body, Pull and Hook Palm 8.1
Pre-Heaven Bagua Palm 8.1 Turn the Body, Pull and Hook Palm and traditionally known to rid all that ails you.
Turn the Body, Pull and Hook Palm 8.2
Also known as Spinning Body Palm, the movements are swift, requiring skill in timing and balance when spinning.