El Taller Latino Americano
Music, Art, and Language en El Barrio

Ba Gua Zhang

Ba Gua Zhang

Photo: David Personne

Photo: David Personne

Internal Development for External Empowerment

Led by Eric Darton

 

Class Information

Time: Wednesdays 12:00 - 1:30PM

Fee: $25 per single class

$15 El Taller Students

Sessions:  Every Wednesday


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What is Ba Gua Zhang?

Ba Gua Zhang is one of the family of Nei Jia Chuan, or internal martial arts, having the same roots as Tai Chi Chuan.

These forms are considered “internal” because they share common principles that promote correct body alignment, develop whole body power, and cultivate mind-intention as the source of external movement.

Ba Gua Zhang engages with and nourishes an “internal alchemy” within the body which serves to promote health, reduce stress, aid resilience and prolong life.

As a distinct form, Ba Gua Zhang is characterized by footwork, evasive movement and constant change. The actions of the whole body are coordinated with the rotation of the waist and the walking action of the legs. This, combined with relaxation and connection of mind and body, produces an explosive and coordinated power that comes from the unified action of the entire body and is not dependent on the relative strength of the external musculature. In Ba Gua Zhang, there are no intrinsic advantages to being male or female, large or small, slender or solidly-built.

Ba Gua Zhang’s unique feature is its use of curved steps to walk around a circle and change directions – a technique derived from a walking meditation practiced by Daoist monks.

The forms and techniques of Ba Gua Zhang are manifestations of whole body coordination and internal connection. These techniques are predicated on using circular and spiral forces to overcome straight line and arced attacks. Ba Gua Zhang emphasizes the cultivation of internal stillness while the body is in motion. Its basic principle of constant change and transformation yields infinite possibilities for movements seamlessly linked together.

Beyond its efficacy as a martial art, many practitioners believe BGZ’s most important benefits lie in its promotion of health and a deeper engagement with the world. Ba Gua Zhang’s emphasis on creating internal harmony and balance, self-cultivation of mind and body and adaptation to change help one to more easily negotiate daily life and our interactions with others. Ba Gua Zhang’s techniques for changing according to evolving circumstances is a kind of “going with the flow,” one that allows us to adapt to the natural world and its manifestations within us.

Harmonizing with change helps us build and sustain a healthy relationship with ourselves and with others, and facilitates our adaptation to different situations and cultures.

The practice of Ba Gua Zhang develops an embodied spirituality, that reconnects us with our “original mind,” an inner knowing or inner wisdom that is both distinct from, and a complement to, analytical thinking. It fuses strategy with spontaneous action.


What Will We Be Studying?

We will begin the practice of Ba Gua Zhang with key foundational Qi cultivation exercises involving “kidney breathing” and coordinated movement.

These exercises are not physically stressful, nor do they require muscular strength or flexibility, though they can be challenging at the level of mindfulness and mental focus.

We will learn techniques that should be practiced daily for approximately twenty minutes (for beginners). Later you may want to practice for longer periods. It is through this daily practice that the forms and techniques of BGZ are internalized and become part of our molecular selves.

In class and in practice on your own, wear loose, weather-appropriate clothes that do not bind or constrict and which allow for a full range of body movement.

Light, comfortable shoes (such as rubber-soled martial arts shoes readily available in Chinatown) with relatively flat soles are encouraged. Running shoes, cross-trainers, or shoes with heels are discouraged.

Please consult with a physician if you have any questions about the appropriateness of this practice for you.


About The Instructor

I have studied Liang style Ba Gua Zhang for over twelve years under Tom Bisio, a renowned martial arts master and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. For  several years I have assisted in Tom’s classes and am certified by him to teach foundational Liang style Ba Gua Zhang. Much of what is written above comes directly from his Student Handbook and is quoted with his permission.

My engagement with Ba Gua Zhang began as a result of learning a series of Qi Gong techniques in order to speed my recovery from pneumonia. It quickly became apparent to me that practicing Ba Gua Zhang as a martial art augmented and greatly enhanced the health benefits and efficacy of the Qi Gong exercises.

Though Ba Gua Zhang is a powerful self-defense form, one of its benefits is that its movement principles begin to permeate one’s everyday life. Today, I find myself using Ba Gua Zhang techniques to open wine bottles, pull down shades, screw in lightbulbs, as well as avoid cars or bikes unexpectedly rounding corners, or folks barreling heedlessly out of subway cars with their eyes glued to their cell phones. BGZ’s emphasis on the continuous change of one’s “moving root,” has made negotiating the unpredictable streets of New York as a pedestrian and cyclist a vastly more pleasurable (and safer) experience than I could have imagined thirteen years ago.

Last but not least, speaking as a veteran activist, I can attest to the axiom that effective political resistance flows from exactly the kind of psychic and physical resilience that Ba Gua Zhang cultivates.

If you have any questions, either about the class or about Ba Gua Zhang, please contact me at edarton@earthlink.net or at 917-288-6569.

For further information on Tom Bisio and Liang style Ba Gua Zhang, visit Internal Arts International: http://www.internalartsinternational.com, the organization with which I am affiliated.