Baguazhang and Xingyiquan
Geoff Sweeting (Jiefu) has been training in the arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan since the early 1990's, and in 2000 was accepted as an "inner door" disciple of Master Wang Tong, disciple of Li Zi Ming and Sun Feng Lin. Geoff was awarded a certificate to teach the Baguazhang and Xingyiquan of Master Wang Tong's lineage, in Australia, the first of its kind to be issued to an Australian citizen. Geoff offers group classes, private training and online sessions in Xingyiquan and Baguazhang.
Baguazhang (Eight Diagram Palm/Eight Diagram Boxing) is a dynamic and fluid martial art that primarily utilizes spiral and circular power with turning and penetrating palms combined with continually changing footwork. This unique art adheres to the practical philosophy of ceaseless change and adaptation, and makes use of unorthodox guerrilla warfare-style tactics enabling a smaller force to overcome a larger power with greater confidence. This boxing art may be classed as a traditional form of mixed martial art, as it combines striking, trapping, throws and takedowns in its empty hands practice and numerous weapons training, all in the one system.
The art of Eight Diagram Boxing employs unpredictable, changing strategies such as:
dodge and strike, harass and run, outflank and contain the centre, evade left and right, sidestep and cut, duck and weave, move in and out, enter high and strike low, feign retreat & turn back suddenly, advance with wild intent then yield with sudden control, appear gentle and respond fiercely, wait in stillness and suddenly move, start calmly then strike with vicious force and so on. All of these strategies combined with training in the concepts of ‘circle-walking,’
‘whole-body power,’ ‘single-thread energy’ and ‘internal strength’ form what is known as
A Brief History of Baguazhang and the Liang Zhenpu Lineage
Baguazhang is one of three main martial arts styles from China that are commonly referred to as ‘Internal Arts’ (Xingyiquan, Baguazhang and Taijiquan). The name Baguazhang is literally translated into English as ‘Eight Diagram Palm’. The eight diagrams symbolize the interplay of yin and yang, which are used to describe the cyclical nature of change manifested in the universe. They were first recorded in the Chinese classic known as the Yi Jing (Zhou Jing), or ‘the book of changes’ over 4000 years ago.
Baguazhang belongs to the superior fighting arts of China. It is classed as one of the last classical martial arts to be formed in China. The founder of Baguazhang was Dong Hai Chuan. His original name was Dong Meng Kui. He was a stocky man with very long arms who studied martial arts diligently during his youth. When his hometown suffered under poor harvests and natural disasters, Dong left home in search of better opportunities, and vowed not to return until he was crowned with success.
When he arrived in the capital (Beijing) he had many challenge matches, all of which he lost. He quickly discovered that he still had much to learn. From this he decided to embark on a journey around China to seek out masters of the martial arts everywhere and learn from them. Thus he changed his name from Dong Meng Kui to Dong Hai Chuan. In Chinese “Hai Chuan” means to “embrace the world”, which stood for his openness in learning.
Dong travelled extensively through Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi and Sichuan provinces, and learned much about the martial arts. After 30 years of learning and refining his arts, which included learning both Daoist and Buddhist gongfu, as well as spending some time living in a monastery with Daoist monks, in his 50’s he created his own style of martial arts called Zhuan Zhang (Turning Palms). This was a unique style that was completely new to the world of Chinese fighting arts, and became widely revered for its unorthodox guerrilla warfare strategies of constant movement and change, and its mysterious circle walking practices combining both martial and spiritual methods.
From this point on Dong led a colourful life in Beijing taking on all comers and being undefeated in combat. He was even employed to work in the royal palace where he became head of security. From here his reputation grew to huge proportions and his martial exploits were many, all of which have been well documented. He was held in such high esteem among the world of martial artists that people spoke of his methods as being Divine and coming straight from Heaven. Truly they said his skills were not of this earth.
At some point he changed the name of his art from Zhuan Zhang to Baguazhang, after discovering that his theories and tactics aligned themselves perfectly with the theories of the Yi Jing (book of changes). And from then to the present day Dong Hai Chuan’s art was known as Baguazhang.
Dong had many great students who went on to become remarkable men themselves. One such man was Liang Zhenpu.
Liang Zhenpu was the youngest of Master Dong’s disciples, beginning his training with the master at 16 years of age, and was one of his favourite disciples because of this.
In 1899 Liang killed a few men during a political uprising in his hometown, and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned, only to escape from jail the following year.
Liang hid out in the country side and managed to open an armed escort service on the outskirts of Beijing and Baoding. After the change in government he was once again allowed to return to the city. He stopped his bodyguard service and began to teach martial arts in Tianjin and Hebei. During this time he also had the unique opportunity to teach his art in the cities’ high schools.
Upon his return to Beijing, Liang was able to further his studies with master Dong Hai Chuan, who was by then an old man.
Dong had further refined his skills and techniques, and he passed these on to Liang. During this time master Dong taught Liang, sword techniques and the seven star staff.
Liang also deepened his understanding of the art by studying with Dong’s most senior students, especially Shi Jilin (Shi Jidong). This is why Liang style and Shi style Baguazhang have many similarities and the same 8 Character Classic of: Push, lift, carry, lead, remove, cover, split and enter.
Xingyiquan (Form-Mind Boxing) is one of the major martial arts approaches evolving from ancient Chinese martial and warrior practices. It is the oldest of the so-called internal martial arts and emphasises a clear intent, fierce spirit, maintaining a stable centre, enhancing one’s natural instinctual energies and responses, integration of mind, body and spirit, and developing great courage in battle. As well as utilizing animal styles, five element fists, and weapons training, Xingyiquan is credited with being one of the first martial arts to place emphasis on standing or stillness practice. Early practitioners of the Art discovered that the more profound the inner stillness, the greater the explosive energy that could suddenly arise from it. This may at first appear paradoxical, but the law of opposites, the duality of yin-yang states that you cannot have one thing arise without its exact polar opposite also being manifested. So there is a direct relationship between stillness and movement. Working both internally and externally Xingyiquan practitioners learn how to approach life with greater courage in heart, clarity in mind and a profound sense of unity of will and energy. In light of these empowering qualities, the practice of Xingyiquan has the additional benefits of healing the body of illness and strengthening the spirit to help face and overcome many forms of suffering.
In plain terms, Xingyiquan is a combative training method that places great emphasis upon one’s thoughts, feelings and actions being congruently aligned. This means that the boxer’s intention, which puts them into a certain feeling state, is then expressed through the physical form (postures and movements). The form and technique that the Xingyiquan boxer assumes needs to be strong and stable enough to handle the intensity of their intention and feeling. If a boxer becomes too angry or emotional, then their attacks become wild swings and over-committed lunges that put them out of control. This is a case of the emotional intensity breaking apart the integrity of one’s xing- the postural frame and techniques applied. Conversely, if the intent and will is too feeble or not strong enough, the attacks will be weak and ineffective, regardless of how strong the structure of the body is. This is why Xingyiquan has the core teachings of unifying intention with feeling state, and developing an empowering, unified physical structure to support these inner powers.