By Master Liu Xing Han

The internal styles of traditional Chinese kung fu, the netchia ch 'uan, are the more rare and mysterious of the martial arts and, when fully developed, extremely powerful and effective.2 These are the styles of Ba Gua (Pa Kua) Zhang, Xing Yi (hsing I) Quan, and t'ai chi ch'uan.

In my youth, when I first began to study martial arts, I thought their purpose was only physical exercise and self-defense. My Ba Gua companions and I often played games to see who could remember more and we continuously tried to outperform each other. It was exciting to dodge, twist, and turn to counter each other's attacks. Years later I would begin to realize the great depth of the art. I discovered that Ba Gua is a far deeper subject than I thought was possible when I studied it as a child.

I learned that at the heart of Ba Gua was the / Ching; the great and ancient oracle, book of wisdom, and most important philosophical work. The / Ching is the study of change. It codifies the principle of change through analysis of the lifeblood of the universe: the primal opposing forces of creation and bipolar opposites of yin and yang. According to ancient sages, life, which is change, results from union of the tiger of yin, the feminine and receptive force which rises to meet the descending dragon of yang, the male and creative force. The interplay of the tiger Yin and the dragon Yang brings about life, change and birth. This is the essence of the philosophy of Ba Gua. After many years I understood that the martial art of the Ba Gua palm, like the philosophy it is derived from, is adaptation, extension of power, and constant change; because of these it is able to continually meet and adapt to any circumstance. According to the ancient Chinese Taoists, "reality" or "truth" is never frozen or crystallized, but fluid. In the same way that the trigrams of the I Ching do not represent truth as a fixed point but as the observation of harmony with change, the Ba Gua martial art reflects its philosophical roots via its constant flow of movements.

neichia ch'uan

Ba gua (Pa Kuo) Zhang t'ai chi ch'uan



Bust of Dong Hai-Chuan, founder of Ba Gua Zhang, on display in his hometown, Chu ChiaWu.Wen An County, Hebei.

Dong Hai-Chuan

One of Dong's students, Ch'uan Kai-Ting, drew this portrait after his death.

Harmony and change is the key to understanding the deepest secrets of the internal martial art of Ba Gua.

The famous master Dong Hai-Chuan of the Ching Dynasty, who lived from 1798 to 1879, developed the art of Ba Gua Zhang. He was an imperial bodyguard during the waning years of the last Chinese dynasty whose skill in martial arts encompassed the highest mysteries. Master Dong was respected far and wide not only as a martial artist of the highest order, but also for his knowledge of character and human nature.

The art he founded was like nothing ever seen before in human history. The style was based on effecting turns and circles while utilizing unique training patterns and special walking methods. In practicing his martial arts, Master Dong moved like a coiling dragon riding the wind. When attacked, he moved with evasive and masterful movements as he turned and "changed." No one could match him. He became a legend in his own time.

When Dong was young he traveled throughout China studying from every great master he could find. He was bright and clever, and became proficient in many styles. He especially loved to study with the mountain-dwelling Taoists, and it is said that there was one in particular, forever to remain anonymous, who imparted to him the greatest secrets of the art.

Eventually his travels took him to Beijing where he became employed as a servant in the Forbidden City. One day while serving libations in a yard overcrowded with guests, his great skill in movement became apparent to

Skill Mastery Arts

Dong Hai-Chuan everyone present as he moved effortlessly through the crowd and Dong was asked to demonstrate his kung fu. His performance, the first public demonstration of Ba Gua Zhang, dazzled the royal audience. The Emperor, realizing the high level of Dong's skill, instantaneously appointed him to the position of palace bodyguard and martial art instructor.3

Dong then began his career as a martial art instructor. He became famous in Beijing, eventually teaching his art to over a hundred students. Ultimately, five were accepted as "inner door" disciples and received the full body of the material.4 From these first five students the art developed its five principle variations and the body of knowledge spread gradually throughout the globe.

Of Dong's students, the most popular was Cheng Ting-Hwa of Beijing, an operator of an eyeglass shop by profession and a Chinese wrestler by hobby. Cheng Ting-Hwa

Taoist Master With Student

This photo taken in 1917, includes third and fourth generation students. Liu Xing-Han's teacher, Liu Bin, is middle row, left of center (with beard).

He became a famous and respected teacher of the art and passed it on to others, thus creating the "Cheng style." Cheng's skill was great and he was given the nickname "Invincible Cobra Cheng." He died in 1900.

There are several stories about Cheng Ting-Hwa's death. A popular version says that he confronted a group of German soldiers who were trying to force him and other Chinese at gunpoint to become part of a work party. As the story goes, he took two knives and charged into the assembled invaders of his country, coiling, turning, and twisting into their midst, killing several of them before he himself was killed.

Master Liu Bin, one of Cheng's top disciples, was my Shrfu ("father-teacher"). He was a philosopher and researcher of the most deep, secret, and fascinating aspects of the art. He was skilled in weaving Taoist yoga, astrology,

This photo taken in 1917, includes third and fourth generation students. Liu Xing-Han's teacher, Liu Bin, is middle row, left of center (with beard).

Master Liu Bin

Master Liu Bin



A Beijing teahouse circa 1900.

Body Exercising Eight Trigram Palm rii men di

Body Exercising Eight Trigram Palm

Liu Bin (center with beard) shown with senior disciples, Beijing, circa 1917.

The author Liu (at left) with Ba Gua "brothers" in 1933.

The author Liu (at left) with Ba Gua "brothers" in 1933.

and the I Ching into the art. Aided by the assistance of his kung fu "brothers" who supported him so that he wouldn't have to worry about making a living, he concentrated entirely on learning and preserving the art.1 I began Ba Gua study with Master Liu Bin in 1917 at the age of seven. The art I was taught is formally called "coiling (or swimming), body exercising eight trigram palm." I studied every day for many years. Until 1937 we studied openly, but when the Japanese occupied Beijing and martial art practice was prohibited by the occupying forces, my brothers and I continued our studies in secret.

Prior to the Japanese invasion, Beijing was more than the birthplace of the art, it was the center of Ba Gua and people came from all over the country to meet and practice with Beijingers. At that time Ba Gua groups within the city were divided into what was called "North City" Ba Gua and our group, "South City" Ba Gua. I met many good stylists in those years. I remember the well-liked and famous Sun Lu-Tang coming to practice and talk with my teacher and senior brothers. He was a good friend and of the same lineage as my teacher Liu Bin. Although I was quite young, I will never forget him telling me to practice hard and listen carefully to everything my master told me. In the Temple of Heaven Park I learned at the same spot as teachers before me. Cheng, Liu, and Sun Lu-Tang taught in that very park during the apex of Chinese martial arts in Beijing. I studied hard, learned every aspect of the system, and wrote down everything that I learned. I became a formally accepted inner door lineage holder (.ru men di) in 1925.

Until the late 1930s Beijing was more than


First generation:

Second j>eneration: Li Ts'un-I Yin Fu

Third generation:

Fourth generation:

Fifth generation:

First generation:

Cheng Ting-Hwa

Chang Chao-Tung Liang Chen-F'u

Cheng Ting-Hwa

Liu Bin the center of Ba Gua, it was the cultural and artistic center of all China. A dark time for Beijing and the martial arts was the Japanese occupation (1937-1945) since the occupation forces forbade practice during this period. The Cultural Revolution (1967-1976) was a second difficult time when it was impossible to teach openly. After 1976 I returned to the place where I had previously studied, near the south wall of the Temple of Heaven. I have been teaching there and in the park itself ever since. I have accepted more than 100 formal students in my teaching career, but only one foreigner: Mr. John Bracy. He had a good background in the art before studying with me and he was easy to teach. He proved to be extremely hardworking and totally dedicated to the art. In 1988 I accepted him as a formal disciple and gave him the BA GUA ZHANG INNER DOOR FORMAL LINEAGE

fifth-generation name of Yung Wei.6

Once Mr. Bracy touches the material he understands it. He is introducing this style in America through the Hsing Chen Martial Art School in California. His study expands to research in healing, meditation, philosophy, and combat skills and methods of the art. His present work is the writing down of what he has researched. He has accepted several formal inner door students of his own. Sixth-generation disciples under Mr. Bracy include Eric Gulbrandson, Don Quach, Chris Gulbrandson, Carlos Casados, and most recently Dave Phelps. All of these students have been personally approved by me and all initiation ceremonies, with the exception of Carlos Casados's, took place in Beijing in the presence of myself and other senior masters.

At the highest level, development and movement become a mystical experience. Although this concept seems difficult to the novice, the gate to the mystery is really very simple. Through persistent practice of both inner and outer work, the mystery reveals itself.

Persist with study, and revelation will come in a flash and you will begin to understand. Your practice will become deep, far ahead of those who practice on a shallow level. Consider the riddles of practice: move forward and withdraw; link mind and body; practice the method of constant change.

Chang Chao-Tung Liang Chen-F'u

Liu Xing-Han

John Bracy


Beijing Ba Gua teachers and friends attending John Bracy's lineage ceremony, Beijing, 1988. Some prominent Beijing Ba Gua masters shown in photo are, front row left to right: Dr. Hu Pu-Ren,Wang Rong-Tang, author Liu Xing-Han, Lyang Ke-Quan,and in second row, far right Li Zhong-Quan.

Always remember "one dong/one jing" (one move/one stillness). For every move there is an advance and a withdrawal and a change from movement to stillness. Be clear and precise, don't become confused, and practice consistently. Eventually practice will integrate into your daily life. Merge yin and yang, the dragon and the tiger. Remember always one

11 11 11 1 11 move, one calmness.

Liu Xing-Han

Beijing, China

Daoist Master Ren Zong Quan

Stele from side of Dong Hai-Chuan's tomb outside of Beijing. Arrow indicates author Liu's name carved into the plate with other fourth-generation disciples.

Wang Rong-Tang

L*a Xing-Han

Lyang Ke-Quan

Li Zhong-Quan

Continue reading here: Introduction

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