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

The Definition of Single Palm Change

By definition "Single Palm Change" simply means that in executing a maneuver, the palm that was originally the active palm, or yang palm, changes and becomes the inactive or yin palm. Additionally, in executing the palm change, the practitioner will change the direction of forward motion (at times this change maybe very slight). With the change of the yang palm also comes a shift in the practitioner's energy, power, focus, awareness, and intention from one side of the body to the other, from one palm to the other, and/or from one direction to another.

The variations on the single palm change theme are endless. The change can be simple, complex, high, low, inside, outside, left, right, fast, slow, big, or small. The change can occur from any given posture or position to any other given posture or position. Each complete school of Ba Gua will have many various ways of executing the single palm change and the execution of the single palm change will also vary from school to school. Practitioners who believe that there is only "one way" to execute the single palm change are severely limiting their practice and their understanding of Ba Gua Zhang.

Click to play Park Bok Nam demonstrates the
single palm change

Although there are a large variety of single palm change movements (many of which will be discussed later in this article), there are some consistencies in the execution of this maneuver which serve to define it. In examining a variety of single palm change motions from a number of different schools of Ba Gua Zhang we can recognize four main characteristics which appear to be common among all varieties of the single palm change movement. They are as follows: the yang palm changes to become the yin palm and vice-versa, the practitioner's path of motion changes direction, the general mechanics and power of the motion involve a rotational movement around the center line of the practitioner's body (this includes center line of the torso, center line of the arms, and center line of the legs), and the kou bu and bai bu foot maneuvers are employed in some manner. These characteristics define the single palm change and give the practitioner a basis for variation of this method.

Similarly, in seeking to define the "Double Palm Change" movement we notice that in the execution of this maneuver the palms are changed and then both palms are applied in unison. They could both be applied in the forward direction, in the downward direction, one up and one down, one back and the other forward, both to the backward direction, etc. As long as the body's energy and movement is split between right and left simultaneously and equally in the execution of a maneuver, this maneuver can be called "double palm change."

Practitioners and instructors who understand that Ba Gua Zhang is an art of principle and not one of choreographed form routines will be able to execute dozens of variations of the single and double palm changes because their idea of the single or double palm changes is that which is defined by principle, not form.

On one occasion I attended a seminar given by Park Bok Nam in Maryland. One of the seminar participants asked if Park could execute "his style's version of the single palm change." Park was confused because to him the single palm change is a principle, not a sequence of choreography. Park's reply was that there were many ways to practice the single palm change. He was very hesitant to go out and demonstrate any given one of them because he did not want the seminar participants to think that the single palm change was this one sequence of moves. Park said, "this single palm change, this is a principle, not a form."

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