The Qigong Art of Baguzhang and The iChing

The Taoists in ancient China realized a longtime ago through observation that nothing in nature stands still. By seeking to harmonize their self with nature one of the practices they created was Qigong martial art of Baguazhang. It is an art of continuous change. They realized that the human body mimicked the cycles and patterns of nature and thus created specific Qigong exercises for health and combat that mimicked these cyclical patterns.

The Qigong art of Baguazhang is based off of the ancient Taoist book the IChing, otherwise known as the Yijing, or Book of Changes. The IChing or Book of Changes was written thousands of years ago. It is the science of the natural universe. By combining symbols that reflect dynamic elements in nature it is used as a codification to be able to predict patterns of change, polarities and cycles, which are inherent in both humans and nature. Many use it for divination, but in reality I have seen only one person successfully use it consistently as a method of divination. He has been studying the IChing for over 50 years and is also the head of a large Taoist sect in Hong Kong. I watched his top disciple use it for divination, but only was partially able to do it without help from our master. He has been studying divination with the IChing for almost 20 years. That said I doubt very highly that anyone can go buy a book on IChing and throw the sticks to read someone’s future. I have been studying IChing for almost 7 years and what I have realized is not how to specifically read the future, but to understand more and more about natural changes and how to adapt to them. One thing is certain, there is constant change happening. Those who can embrace the changes and adapt accordingly will be successful in whatever endeavor they are embark on. Those who resist changes and cannot adapt will be left behind or even worse. Adapting to the changes is going with the Tao. Not adapting is going against the Tao and according to the Tao Te Ching, to go against Tao is death.

The question is, what are the changes and how do we recognize them? Changes come on a macrocosmic level as well as a microcosmic level.  Meaning, if we understand the universal patterns of change then we can understand the earthly patterns of changes. If we understand the earthly patterns of change then we can understand the changes within our own body. The universe is always affecting the earth and the earth is always affecting us. For example, the seasons affect our health and the changes within our body.

In ancient Chinese Medicine understanding the IChing is required to be a Chinese Medicine Doctor, in fact crucial. They need to be able to understand the changes that the patient is going through in order to attempt to predict what the outcome will be. Once they have administered medicine, they need to monitor the changes in the patient’s body to see if their hypothesis was correct or they need to adjust more.

In Qigong, understanding the changes is about what your body needs in that moment to bring balance. How do we know when it is time to bring more fiery exercises into your practice session or bring more water like exercises? This is one of the crucial key to self-mastery in Qigong. When do you need fast and when do you need slow? When do you need hard and when do you need soft.  When do you need Fajing or releasing exercises and when do you need slow energy cultivating exercises? The changes are going back and forth in a cycle from Yin to Yang and Yang to Yin.  What differentiates Baguazhang Qigong from other styles of Qigong is that our motion Qigong is in a constant state of change from tension to relaxation, hard to soft, fast to slow and so on. It is up to the practitioner to figure out what they need in that moment. For the more advanced practitioner there will need to be research of what changes produce others. This is when the 5 Element Theory is introduced.  For example, a water movement produces wood, which then generates fire and so on. This is based on the creative cycle of changes of the 5 Element Theory. Only after a long period of guided instruction can a student begin to understand when those changes are needed. This is the learning of self-knowledge.

When applying the IChing to Baguazhang combat or self-defense situations we need to understand the changes in our opponent and ourselves, as well as understand the crucial concept of continuous change. Through combinatorial analysis based off Bagua principles we can create patterns of change in our attack and defense combinations so that they flow together smoothly and changing almost seamlessly and continuously. If I attack high and left, which change will occur in my opponent? Where will my opponent go? This dictates my next movement. For me, combat is like dancing, you must become sensitive to your opponent, moving with them and sensing the energy only then can you understand what their own changes are so you can adapt to the situation and eventually control it all while continuously moving. For example in Tai Chi, Shaolin, Karate and other common forms of martial arts, the practitioner will stop, root and strike. In Bagua we have the principle of continuous change. We learn to strike while moving constantly. While moving we are combining patterns of attack and self-defense that are in alignment with the changes of the 5 Element Theory. For example, if someone attacked me with a fiery strike I would absorb it with a soft water technique. In the case of self-defense we learn to use the destructive cycle of the 5 Element Theory to create destructive changes. Then we must research unpredictable change where in, once the opponent is committed to moving in a certain direction we change thus throwing off his entire strategy and balance. Baguazhang practitioners also often initiate an attack in one direction to get the opponent to move in that direction and then quickly strike into that new direction. It is here that the practitioner learns to control the changes in their opponent.

Maintaining Center

An important point the IChing teaches us is that everything has a center. The center of our galaxy is the sun and everything rotates around the sun.  Our earth has a central axis and rotates around that 24 hours a day. A hurricane has an eye, which is the center and everything rotates around that center. Our body is a microcosm of the natural universe. Our spine could be called a center and your body rotates around that. Your Dan Tian is a center. Within your body you have other centers, shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles and neck. You can rotate the areas of the body around these centers. This is a Baguazhang principle. There is more extensive information on the relationship of the IChing in relation to the Qigong martial art of Baguazhang that I will be revealing in my upcoming book as it is too for this blog.

By utilizing this amazing science of natural principles of continuous change, the cyclical patterns of change we can more easily predict and understand our own body for health and healing as well as that of an opponent or someone we are doing healing work on. It is a crucial element for the heart-centered warrior.

林峰 Lin Feng

Martial Arts and Qigong in Bali, Indonesia

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