Bagua: Pre-Heaven and Post-Heaven

Kungfu Secrets Revealed

BaGua former and latter Heaven Gua 001One of the reasons why there are not as many practitioners of Kungfu here in the United States and quite honestly, even in China there is less and less interest in the modern version of Kungfu referred to in country as Wushu (martial arts) is that many keys to knowledge are hidden away from what they would call “outsiders” and knowledge is deliberately withheld.

Now in some respects it is understandable as some of the secrets are dangerous in the wrong hands, but the simple fact that knowing a thing and making that knowledge a real part of who you are and mastering that knowledge is a very different thing.

For instance if I tell a person he must stand in a horse stance (see Wujido 101: Stances) and tell him he should hold that posture one hour.  Well, most self-absorbed neophytes would storm off deeply resenting how I withheld training from them, when in fact the truth is the opposite.  I was giving them the correct training, they just did not want to do it, or even try.

It is a difficult instruction so I will encourage shorter sessions until they are strong enough to do it. But others just want to start hitting each other and messing around with sloppy technique that is dangerous in terms of injury potential but not only that, their abilities will be mediocre at best or even substandard in the end.  It does not matter if as has happened the standards are just lowered for commercial reasons.  This will never happen at Wujido.

The IQing

The before-heaven and after-heaven arrangements are displayed above for investigation. Rather than pouring through the extensive science behind the Gua (the solid and broken line arrangement above) I will draw your attention to the obvious and move on the the point of this article.  The Gua are all a series of three lines combining broken (yin) and solid (yang) lines in a series of three and then in 8 combinations representing the 8 directions or aspects. IQing combines these into a series of 64 six line combinations and  the interpretation of those combinations using a Confucian philosophical base is what the IQing is, a book with symbols.

Bagua Zhang (8 direction palms) is one of the more esoteric of the Kungfu styles and one of my favorites now since 1973 when my Bagua training first began.  Lots of aspects to Bagua were like puzzles and secrets that baffled and confused and the physical and technical requirements were profoundly difficult requiring a lot of fortitude and drive to learn over the many years.  Well, that is not the point either. What is the point of the two sets of arrangements displayed in the illustration?

There are many satisfying discoveries about Bagua Zhang embedded in those symbols that take a life-time to learn and master, but first, there is confusion among Bagua players even among the most basic aspects leaving someone who has a deep desire to learn the secrets of Bagua in a place where it is hard to know what is good, what is bad, what is real about this profound art.

So I wish to make a couple things extremely simple.  It still requires years of training and hard practice almost daily to achieve even a moderate level of skill in this art, not to even reach the highest levels but a couple simple concepts can help a learner to not get confused over-much.

These are the following:

Bagua is just two things; walking the circle and the 8 palms.  All 8 palms can be demonstrated in just a few seconds. the philosophy and skill in performing will take quite a bit longer.  The circle walking also can be easily shown but the accurate and varied steps take a life-time to fully master.  Simple, right?  There are tremendous benefits.  I will not go into those in this article. The other aspect is the question, what is pre-heaven Bagua and post-heaven Bagua.  What kind of deep secret is this!  Funny, none of my teachers in Bagua would really provide me with a straight answer to that, probably because of how simple it is.

Pre-heaven Bagua is the foundation of Bagua Zhang.  This means the walking of the circle and the 8 mother palms and their combinations.  Mother palms being another term referring to the palm and arm positions taken when walking the circle.

Post-heaven Bagua are the linear forms (techniques for application practiced on a straight line e.g. clamping styles, throws, grappling, palm strikes and kicks and so forth) these that accompany the core practice of Bagua wherein fighting technique and theory are combined in the traditional practice of Kungfu forms (tao lu).  The forms are not pointless unless the player is mindless and unfocused and is not constantly seeking the meaning of what is there.  These tao lu create capacity for action and build the body in a uniquely powerful way.

Application is something else entirely.  Strategies chosen by the player as compelling are extracted from the tao lu and practiced independently with high repetition and then with a partner if one is available to test the nuance of actual application, of course with appropriate levels of restraint so as to test the technique as well as not hurt your training partner.