Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ba Gua Footwork

       In this article I want to take a look at one of the foundations of Ba Gua Zhang. Footwork, without a strong understanding of footwork, your Ba Gua can hardly be said to be Ba Gua. When I was coming up in my training, the saying was, “Ba Gua is footwork.”  Without moving your feet, you are static and exposed, in the line of fire, lack power in your attacks and violate the principles of Ba Gua. Good Ba Gua Zhang has good footwork.
         I have been around long enough to see and hear many things that one group of folks will say is not Ba Gua and the next group will calm the same, is the true orthodox Ba Gua. As I have said before, I don’t believe in the true orthodox way exists, only adhering to the principles, but I also think many of those who claim something is not Ba Gua Zhang or that something else was mixed in, really haven’t done their research. With all that being said, let’s take a look at Ba Gua Zhang footwork.
       Let’s start where Dong Hai Chuan started. It is well known that Dong would not take on a student unless he was accomplished in another art. This art usually contained what are called the 7 classical stances. The 7 classical stances are those 7 stances that are contained in most of China’s martial arts. They include; Front stance, Horse stance, Cat stance, Kneeling stance, Crane stance, Crouching Tiger stance, and Cross stance. Now, the names may vary, but the stances are all recognizable by most who practice Chinese martial arts. If one does the research, you will be able to spot all of theses stances in various changes throughout the different lineages of Ba Gua Zhang. The importance of these stances are they are the foundation that Ba Gua circle walking and Eight direction rooted stepping is built on. If this were not so, why did Dong Hai Chuan require mastery of another art before starting Ba Gua Zhang?
        Eight Direction Rooted Stepping is the footwork one uses, when you make yourself the center of the circle or looking for a good angle of attack and stepping directly through your opponents center. Eight Direction Rooted Stepping is performed in the Dragon stance, what many consider the Ba Gua stance. It can be performed with many variations, but the primary emphasis should be on developing pivoting skills in all directions, along with half step or jump step and long step for attacking the center of your opponent. I have found that Eight Direction Rooted Stepping has been most helpful against an overly aggressive opponent.
           Circle walking footwork has many variations and types, but they all boil down too basically three types; Snake step, Lion step, and Crane step. Snake step also known as mud stepping is the step that is used develop stability in walking and bring more chi to the legs. There are some who think this is the only Ba Gua step. Those folks don’t fight much. It is performed by bringing the foot forward in a completely flat manner, so the whole foot sets at one time. Lion step or Rolling step is considered the combat step. It allows you to quickly and effectively maneuver over various terrains. It is performed like natural walking, with the heel setting down first and then rolling the rest of the foot forward. Crane step is used to develop stability for kicking. It is performed by drawing up the rear foot to a crane stance before stepping forward and down.
         Those are the stepping patterns. The stances that you walk the circle in are Toe-in and Toe out. Some will say we walk in a Dragon stance, and I will say I do to, but a Dragon stance is really just an extended Toe-in stance. When you step forward with the inside foot stepping straight, this your Toe-out stance. This is the genius of circle walking footwork even when you change direction you are primarily using only using two different stances with the classical stances mixed in as needed.
         This article is by no means a complete examination of Ba Gua footwork, but it is a good start. It is meant to get you thinking about Ba Gua footwork and to possibly expand your view on what Ba Gua footwork is. Remember Ba Gua Zhang is footwork!

Snake step

Lion Step


Crane Step
Toe In Stance
Toe Out Stance


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