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Exploring the Traditional Japanese Martial Art Baguazhang

December 19, 2018

Exploring the Traditional Japanese Martial Art Baguazhang

The Baguazhang is a traditional Chinese martial art used in the Wudang school of martial arts (the other two being the Taijiwuan and Xing Yi Quan). As shown to the left, it typically incorporates a large sword in the routine, often towering taller the practitioner wielding and using it. While China has produced dozens of swords and bladed weapons throughout its history, those used in Baguazhang are particularly significant because of their large size. So, what's the story behind Baguazhang exactly?

Origins of the Baguazhang

Baguazhang was invented by Chinese martial arts expert Doug Haichuan in the early 1800s. According to reports, Haichuan embarked upon a journey in the rural Chinese mountains to seek self-enlightenment. During his journey, he came across Taoist and Buddhist monks who taught him martial arts, including swordsmanship. Haichuan was later hired as a bodyguard for the Chinese emperor. It's safe to say he left a strong impression thanks to its unparalleled martial arts skills. This prompted Haichuan to teach martial arts to other aspiring practitioners, some of whom would later go on to open their own martial arts schools.

The Mechanics of Baguazhang

The defining characteristic of Baguazhang is a body movement or technique called circle walking. Also known as "turning the circle," circle walking involves moving one's body in a circular motion while maintaining a low posture. The practitioner essentially walks around the edge of an invisible circle while keeping his or her body low to the ground. The size of this invisible circle varies depending on the practitioner's skill. Newcomers to Baguazhang often use a small circle that's just 6 feet in diameter. Experienced practitioners, on the other hand, use a large circle that's 12 feet or bigger in diameter. Larger circles such as this provide practitioners with more room in which to perform their circle walking. However, it also means means that practitioners must be conscious of the invisible boundaries of the circle.

Practitioners of Baguazhang use a variety of weapons when performing this traditional Chinese martial art. Among the most common is the bagua jian, a large crescent-shaped sword with a live blade. While walking around the perimeter of an invisible circle, practitioners gracefully swing the bagua jian over their head and in front of their body. In addition to the bagua jian, other common weapons used in Baguazhang include deer horn knives, staves, spears, canes, flails and broadswords.

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