Pa kua chang (Baguazhang) was created by legendary martial artist Dong Hai Chuan in the 19th century. He adapted traditional Taoist circle walking meditation to create a martial art that utilizes coiling and uncoiling of the body, cross stepping, and fighting on angles to strike, trap, and throw an opponent. Pa Kua masters are renowned for “disappearing” on their opponents because they quickly side step behind an attack. While Tai Chi teaches yielding to an attack, Pa Kua teaches circular evasion.
Dong Hai Chuan was born in Hebei province, but traveled throughout China studying different martial arts (including the Shaolin style “Fist of Luo Han”) and fighting challenges. His travels brought him to Beijing, where he took work as a servant in an Imperial household. The legend goes that as he was working as a waiter at a particularly raucous party, a prince (or, in some versions, the Emperor himself) was amazed at the way Dong wove his way through the jostling crowd carrying trays of tea without spilling a drop. One version of the story even has him leaping up on a rooftop to avoid the crowd. After a display of his unique art, and several successful matches against senior military officials, Dong was appointed head of the Imperial Bodyguards.
During his time in the capitol, Dong fought many challenge matches against visiting masters and was undefeated until he met Hsing-Ie master Guo Yun Shen, who fought him for 3 consecutive days with no clear winner. Dong tried to concede the match, saying that if Guo hadn’t pulled his punches, Dong would have been killed. Guo tried to concede, saying that if Dong had had a weapon, he could have killed Guo one of the many times Dong sidestepped behind him. The two masters agreed on a draw and became great friends. They decided that their arts were complementary and that they should be taught together, so since that time, most martial artists who learn one form also learn the other. It is in this way that Hsing Ie, Pa Kua, and Tai Chi began to be associated with each other as “Internal Martial Arts.”
The legend of Dong Hai Chuan's death is as spectacular as the many tales of his life. It is said that he predicted the exact day of his death, by natural causes. When the pallbearers (his senior students) came to carry away his casket, it wouldn't budge. The sound of laughter erupted from inside the coffin. "Master!" the pallbearers cried. Dong's voice echoed out as he laughed, "Not one of you has one tenth of my skill!" At that, the voice died out and the coffin was suddenly light enough to carry.
Learning Pa Kua at Shaolin-Do
The Classical Pa Kua form is eight sections long, and each section is done on the right and left side while walking the perimeter of a six foot circle. The martial arts applications are well hidden in the movements and the student must be taught how to interpret them. Concealed within the forms are throws, locks, strikes, and holds. This form is taught at the Black Belt level in our Kung Fu curriculum. To fast track it, and prioritize working solely on Pa Kua, contact us to set up a private training session.