This article has the following major sections. Click on a link to jump to that section.

  1. A Detailed Study Of Ba Gua Zhang's Single Palm Change
  2. Four Pillars of Training
  3. Ba Gua Zhang Movement
  4. The Definition of Single Palm Change
  5. The Form
  6. The Movements
  7. The Principles
  8. Conclusion

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A Detailed Study Of Ba Gua Zhang's Single Palm Change

Four Pillars of Training

Circle walking provides numerous physical and mental benefits for the practitioner in terms of health, longevity, body strength, stamina, coordination, balance, qi cultivation, calming of the mind, mental concentration, mobility in combat, body/mind unity, and acquiring the skill of "stillness in motion." The circle walk practice of Ba Gua was covered in detail in a previous issue of the Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol. 4 No. 6 and so we will not discuss it further here. Each system of Ba Gua will have their own requirements for basic circle walk practice and there exist a multitude of variations on the theme.

To arrive at the target in a straight motion is not special, fluidly circling left and right is preferable. The left changes to the right and right changes to the left, in withdrawing the body and reversing the steps one will find an opening.
- Dong Hai Chuan

The eight "mother palms" (also called the "nei gong" palms or the "qi gong" palms) are the foundational static upper body postures which are held while the practitioner is practicing the circle walk. These postures are designed to train certain structural alignments while the practitioner is walking the circle. The upper body is held static while the lower body is continuously moving. In the practice of holding the eight mother palms the practitioner trains structural strengths, internal body connections, internal/external body integration and harmony, development and awareness of muscle groups not usually under conscious control, tendon strength and conditioning, and joint opening and suppleness, in each of the eight postures that are held. Again, the exact postures will vary from one Ba Gua system to the next, each system of Ba Gua will have their own version of the "eight mother" palms.

The purpose of training the Single Palm Change is primarily to learn how to change power, strength, energy, awareness and mental focus from one side of the body to the other while remaining centered, stable, and balanced. In fighting, the basic single palm change is primarily used to change direction quickly, accurately, and appropriately in response to an opponent's movement. The single change can be used to change from any posture to another, or from any situation to another.

There are literally hundreds of ways to execute the single palm change. Its execution in practice aids the practitioner in learning how to change strength, power, and awareness from one side of the body to the other, develops central equilibrium, coordinates the upper and lower body, trains whole body "twisting power," and teaches execution of coordinated rotational motion for use in both offensive and defensive action. Additionally it develops the ability to maintain consistent mental focus when shifting the awareness from left to right or vice-versa. All of the aspects of the single palm change will be discussed in detail in this article.

Changing the palms is the mother, the beginning without end. The eight roots overturning the body originates from within. One root overturning the body produces the eight styles; the eight roots create the sixty-four names; the sixty-four forms create the changes. Yin and Yang, movement and stillness are profound without end. The eight roots overturning the body follow the Ba Gua. The "Black Dragon Waves its Tail" creates a whirlwind.
- Gao Yi Sheng

The Double Palm Change will develop many of the same components as the single change, however, it serves to add a bit more complexity in the changing of direction and it involves a division of body power, strength, awareness, and mental focus to both sides of the body at once. In most systems of Ba Gua the double palm change movement sequence is a bit more complex than the single palm change. The added complexity helps the practitioner take the lessons learned from the practice of the single change and carry them a step farther. Additionally, whereas the single palm change taught the practitioner to change the body energy, power, and focus from one side to the other, the double palm change teaches the practitioner how to divide the strength and power to both sides at the same time. The mechanics of developing power, energy, and awareness in a balanced manner to both sides of the body at the same time also takes the training to a new level. The practitioner begins to learn the principle of extending power to have it arrive at the four tips simultaneously. This is a important concept in developing internal power. The classic writings of both Xing Yi and Ba Gua advise the student to learn how to extend power to the four tips (hands and feet) simultaneously in order to develop whole body, coordinated strength.

In most systems of Ba Gua Zhang the single palm change and the double palm change are practiced separately from the other form sequences. In other words, they are not a part of any one of the system's eight sectional forms, but form the foundation for those forms and are practiced separately before the other form sequences are learned. In fact, many systems of Ba Gua have developmental eight section forms which are made up entirely of variations of the single and/or double palm change movements. In other Ba Gua systems the single palm change and the double palm change will be the first two sections of their first eight section circle walking form. In all systems of Ba Gua Zhang the single palm change and the double palm change (although they may be called different names) are the basic building blocks upon which all other Ba Gua movements are placed.

If the Ba Gua Zhang student spends a considerable amount of time studying Ba Gua's circle walk practice, eight mother palms, single palm change, and double palm change and gains a solid experiential understanding of these movements and their underlying principles, he or she will have developed a very solid foundation in Ba Gua and will be able to easily assimilate all aspects of Ba Gua training.

The Philosophical Connection

The art of Ba Gua Zhang was not haphazardly named after the eight trigrams of the Yi Jing. In all areas of practice there is a philosophical connection which has between the Yi Jing theory and the physical movement and training. Sun Lu Tang was the first to write about these connections in this book Ba Gua Quan Xue (The Study of Ba Gua Boxing), which was published in 1916. In his book Sun relates the practice of static standing in preparation for the circle walk practice to the philosophical principle of Wu Ji. He relates the circle walk practice while holding a static upper body posture to the principle of Tai Ji. He then relates the single palm change maneuver to the principle of Liang Yi and the double palm change to the principle of Si Xiang.

If one studies traditional writings one can understand the theory of Eight Diagram Palm. If one applies the theory martially, one can understand the principle of change and be victorious.

Those who have studied this philosophy will know that the belief is that all life, motion, or energy begins from a "void" or Wu Ji. When the Wu Ji begins to manifest movement, the Tai Ji is formed. When the One energy of the Tai Ji begins to reveal its opposite polarities (Yin and Yang), the Liang Yi is formed. When the two polar energies (Yin and Yang) of the Liang Yi combine to form four energies, directions, movements, or principles, the Si Xiang is formed. When the Yin and Yang combine once again to form eight combinations, the Ba Gua is formed.

In relating the Wu Ji, Tai Ji, Liang Yi, and Si Xiang principles to static standing, circle walking, the single palm change and the double palm change of Ba Gua Zhang, Su Lu Tang is telling the reader that in order to be able to progress to the formation of true "Ba Gua," in both theory and physical movement, the practitioner must have studied and understood the principles of Wu Ji (standing in preparation), Tai Ji (circle walking holding static upper body postures), Liang Yi (the single palm change), and Si Xiang ( the double palm change). This is why we refer to these fundamental Ba Gua Zhang exercises as the "four pillars" of Ba Gua training.

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