& Tai-Chi Institute
Introduction to Yin Fu Bagua-Zhang (Eight Diagram Palm)
Yin Fu Bagua-Zhang was founded by Dong Haichuan’s senior student, Yin Fu. The system is abundant in content with strong technical application and precise in theory/methods with a well-knit structure. The fighting theory and internal methods all originate from the Book of Changes (Yi-Jing). Yin Fu Bagua-Zhang is known as the “hard palm" system because its movements are fierce and vigorous, it utilizes the penetrating palm (point striking) which emphasizes both direct and shaking force (cold, crisp, and fast). The primary hand posture used in the Yin system is known as the “ox tongue" palm (four fingers held out together, thumb tucked in) coinciding with a "natural" stepping method. The main training methods embody four concepts: standing (strengthening postures), turning (circle turning), striking (fighting techniques), and changing. Bagua-Zhang's footwork is emphasized along with single action or combined strikes. The system includes both hand to hand combat techniques and weapon training. Yin Fu Bagua-Zhang is based on the eight trigrams (See eight trigrams above) in conjunction with eight animal systems. Each animal has seven forms, emphasizing meaning and intent, moving with the universe. Each attack method has three single action strikes. According to orthodox Bagua-Zhang, the attack methods and characteristics of the eight animal systems according to Master Men Baozhen are as follows:
☰ – Qián Trigram Lion System (乾 卦 獅 形 – qián guà shī xíng)
The Qián triagram is symbolic of heaven, initiating, the creative. It is unbroken, pure, yang. Being hard and cold, its element is metal. It is the father. With respect to martial arts it pertains to uplifting the spine. Its animal is the Lion and its characteristic palm is Interlocking.
The Lion system is the most fierce and aggressive of the eight animal systems. The Lion’s attack methods are Sweeping/Slicing, Cutting, Chopping, Hooking, Shocking, Blocking, Seizing, and Grasping. It’s representational posture is called Lion Opens its Mouth.
Lion system emits force using the waist and utilizes a unified whole body force. Training methods aim to create body unity while developing develop strength and endurance. Techniques are well-knit, unyielding, and oppressive, flowing seamlessly from one to another with no gaps. The Lion seeks to stifle and dominate its adversary by continually pressing the attack, thereby leaving no space for counters. It is supremely aggressive but not reckless. It’s characteristic palm is the Interlocking Palm, which is symbolic of the above attributes.
Attacks in the Lion system feature a circular force, which is emitted linearly. That is, with respect to the target the force is square and direct, however with respect to the practitioner, the force is round, being driven by the circular motion of the waist. Proper use of footwork, positioning, and timing are required for correct application.
The Lion system is foundational in Yin Style Bagua. Its reliance on the waist to originate movement and emit force, its interlocked fighting strategy, and its techniques inform all of the other animal systems. It is the beginning of all methods in Yin Style Bagua and one could view the other animal systems as simply adding nuance and particularities, in terms of force emission, technique, and fighting strategy to Lion. Indeed the Lion system’s first attack, rising sweeping, which is a powerful and effective movement in its own right, contains the seeds of the entire system.
Dong Hai Chuan : The man that gave Baguazhang to the public. Some say he is the founder.
(1840 – 1909)
Men Baozhen (1872-1957)
Dr. Xie Pieqi
Great Grand Master Men Baozhen seated & Grand Master Xie Pei Qi standing left
☷ – Kūn Trigram Unicorn System (坤 卦 麟 形 – kūn guà lín xíng)
The Kūn trigram is symbolic of Earth. Wilhelm calls it The Receptive. Huang names it Responding. It is the mother. It is soft, yielding, yin. With respect to martial attributes the Kūn trigram emphasizes maintaining a smooth body structure, including the proper alignment and angle of joints. It’s animal is the Unicorn. Unicorn, like Lion, emphasizes the waist, but whereas the Lion system uses the waist to emit force, the Unicorn system emphasizes using the waist to remove force. Sun Lutang writes that the unicorn has the skill of “moving quickly, changing, and being unpredictable,” and that the body is “light and quick, turning like a whirlwind.” Admittedly, as of this writing I have not studied the Unicorn system, and so it is difficult to write much about it, although I would expect that it plays a role in developing the overall foundation of Yin Style Baguazhang in similar fashion to the Lion system. Historically it appears to have been taught immediately after Lion, but it is expected that this generation of practitioners will see it only after the other seven animal systems have been covered. The characteristic palm of the Kūn trigram is Reversing the Body. When encountered in other animal systems the Reversing the Body Palm features quick turning movements and is often employed to work out of relatively weak positions.
☶ – Gèn Trigram Bear System (艮 卦 熊 形 – gèn guà xióng xíng)
The Gèn trigram is symbolic of Mountain. It is Keeping Still, quiescence, the beginning and the end. It is the youngest son. With respect to martial attributes it is concerned with the back, which should be held broad and rounded. Its animal is the Bear. Bear force is short and has a tough leathery quality. It is emitted using the back, which is held strong, while the waist and legs should be smooth and nimble. This is in accordance with the Gèn trigram, which is full on top and empty in the middle and bottom. Sun Lutang writes that the Bear is “the most dull-witted” but also “the most awe-inspiring”. It has the method of “shaking the fur”, the ability to “uproot trees”, and the “bravery to lean against the body”.
The Bear system is largely devoted to the idea of snatching victory from defeat. As such its techniques tend to be responsive, however despite this, many techniques and strategies are developed to viciously press an attack once advantage is recaptured. The Bear’s attack methods are Rushing, Penetrating, Withdrawing, Carrying, Leaning, Shocking, Soft, and Following. The characteristic palm of the Gèn trigram is Turning the Back. When encountered in other animal systems, the Turning the Back palm is typically concerned with overcoming weak positions.
☱ – Duì Trigram Monkey System (兌 卦 猴 形 – duì guà hóu xíng)
The Duì trigram is symbolic of Lake. Its element is metal. It is the joyous, the youngest daughter. It is mid-autumn and resides next to the father. Wilhelm writes that it means “smashing and breaking apart; dropping off and bursting open.” The Duì trigram is open above and is thus associated with the mouth and tongue. Martially the Duì trigram pertains to holding the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, which is said to complete an energetic circuit connecting the Ren and Du meridians. Physically speaking, placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth stabilizes the jaw and provides a convenient place to put the tongue so as to avoid biting it. Yin Style Baguazhang associates the Duì trigram with the Monkey. Monkey system is devoted to leg methods, which in addition to being utilized in their own right, are intended to be combined with the hand methods of the other animal systems. This is consistent with being “empty on top”. The Monkey system attack methods are Bending, Stomping, Springing, Hip, Chopping, Swinging, Ending, and Stamping. Sun Lutang writes that Monkey is “the most nimble,” and that it is “soft and yielding on top and hard and firm in the middle and lower part.” The characteristic palm associated with the Duì trigram is Enfolding. When this palms is encountered in the other seven animal systems it often employees a strategy that uses vertical movement to upset an adversary’s root and bring him down using a contracting force. Sun Lutang refers to the Enfolding Palm employing a “sinking contracting back power.”
☳ – Zhèn Trigram Dragon System (震 卦 龙 形 – zhèn guà lóng xíng)
The Zhèn trigram is symbolic of thunder. It’s element is wood that is young, strong and pliant. It resides in the east. It is the Arousing, Taking Action, the eldest son, spring time, movement, growth, and shooting upward. Wilhelm writes that “it is decisive and vehement.”
Martially the Zhèn trigram pertains to the legs and the feet. In Yin Style Baguazhang the legs are always active. This is true even when training “static” postures and stationary strikes. For example in static strength training postures, the rear leg provides an advancing force wherein the lower leg presses down and the upper leg presses up, thereby creating an empty/hollow knee joint. In contrast the front leg provides a simultaneously opposing lifting force where the lower leg presses up and the upper leg presses down, thereby creating a full/compressed knee joint. With respect to the feet, they usually grip the ground, and this slightly hollows out the foot around the Yongquan point (K-1). This practice helps develop a better root, strengthens the muscles of the lower leg, and stabilizes the knee joint. The animal system associated with the Zhèn trigram is the Dragon, which employees a long coiling fluid force that is driven by the legs and waist. The wrist is employed to help release a shocking force that is driven by the entire body. Footwork is expansive and large, while the arms are generally kept in front of the body. The Dragon can change rapidly, is unpredictable, aggressive, direct, and fast. Sun Lutang writes that “it is quiet on the outside and moving on the inside.” The Dragon system attack methods are Pushing, Lifting, Carrying, Leading, Moving, Capturing, Chopping, and Entering. The characteristic palm associated with the Zhèn trigram is Lifting and Holding. When encountered outside of the Dragon system, the Lifting and Holding palm tends to employ direct and relatively linear methods of attack combined with unpredictable footwork and abrupt changes. It employees techniques intended to work from relatively neutral positions.
Shrfu W.C Bey with his teacher Grand Master Xie Pei Qi
☴ – Xùn Trigram Phoenix System (巽 卦 凤 形 – xùn guà fèng xíng)
The Xùn trigram is symbolic of wind. It’s element is wood that is old and dry. It is the Gentle, Proceeding Humbly. It is the elder daughter, dispersing, penetrating, entering, advance and retreat, and completion. It lies in the northeast. Wilhelm writes that Xùn is the “sign of vehemence.” Martially the Xùn trigram, which is broken on the bottom, pertains to tucking the tailbone under and uplifting the perineum. Similarly to placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, this action serves to complete an energetic circuit connecting the Ren and Du meridians. Physically, the importance of this requirement cannot be understated as it is a critical aspect of transferring force between the upper and lower body for both offensive and defensive purposes. As such the tucking action is not a static position, but is akin to a sexual thrust, which is used dynamically. The Yin Style Baguazhang Phoenix system emphasizes using the shoulder for the emission and transformation of force. The upper body is use expansively, while footwork is relatively compact. Force is emitted using a relaxed elongated shoulder and a waist set in opposition to the direction of the force. This produces a heavy whipping action. The Phoenix employees spiraling motions in the upper limbs and body that are used to transform and remove force while simultaneously attacking. Sun Lutang states that the Phoenix is “hard and strong on top and soft and yielding on the bottom.” The Phoenix attack methods are Dodging, Extending, Chopping, Shocking, Transforming, Removing, Curling In, and Stabbing. The characteristic palm associated with the Xùn trigram is Windmill. When this palm is encountered outside of the Phoenix system it often employees combinations that reuse the same technique on both sides of the body in rapid succession. Strategically the Windmill palm tends to be concerned with moving around an adversary in order to gain position.
☵ – Kǎn Trigram Snake System (坎 卦 蛇 形 – kǎn guà shé xíng)
The Kǎn trigram is symbolic of water or rain. It is empty on the outside and full within. Wilhelm calls Kǎn The Abysmal. Huang calls it Darkness. It is the middle son, toil, concentration, danger, bending and straightening out, penetration, and entrapping. It is the moon, the winter and resides in the north. In Baguazhang its animal is the Snake and its characteristic palm is Moving with the Force. Martially the Kǎn trigram pertains to the abdomen, the requirements for which vary between animal systems. For example Lion system requires that the abdomen be held full and rounded out, whereas Rooster requires that it be relatively more relaxed. As with Unicorn, I have little personal experience with Snake. The Snake’s attack methods are Shoulder, Elbow, Knee, Hip, Shooting / Searching, Holding, Entrapping, and Grasping. Sun Lutang writes that it is the “most clever and nimble, and is the most lively.” He also notes that it has the method of point striking. Snake is also said to employ a constricting crushing force.
When encountered in other animal systems the Moving with the Force palm employees smooth footwork and flowing techniques. It has the dual meanings of yielding to and moving around a stronger force, as well as overpowering and following a weaker force. However both of these mimic the behavior of water, which flows effortlessly into emptiness. Water has a tendency to undermine and when concentrated can build momentum and exhibit an overwhelming crushing force.
☲ – Lí Trigram Rooster System ( 離 卦 鸡 形 – lí guà jī xíng)
The Lí trigram is symbolic of fire. It is hard on the outside, but soft on the inside. Wilhelm calls Lí The Clinging, while Huang calls it Brightness. It is attaching, scorching, dryness, light, lightening, and dependence. It is the sun, the middle daughter, mid-summer, due south. In Baguazhang its animal is the Rooster, and its characteristic palm is the Lying Step, as in “lying down.” Martially the Lí trigram is associated with the chest, which should be held empty. This means both that the chest is concave and and that the rib cage is relaxed and dropped down. The concaving of the chest is somewhat related to rounding the back, however they are distinct in that rounding the back has more to do with actively making the back broad and round from shoulder to shoulder whereas hollowing the chest has more to do with allowing the sternum to relax into the body. One action is active, the other passive, which accords with the nature of the trigrams. The Rooster system emits force using the elbow and chest and makes extensive use of the lying step stance. This is a low stance where the rear leg is extended, the front leg is bent, and the body is held in line with the rear leg. It is similar to, but should not be confused with a bow stance. Effective use of the Rooster system requires that the practitioner develop a high degree of sensitivity and the ability to emit a short range force. Techniques use a refined tactile awareness to off-balance an adversary while nimbly employing the waist and legs to dodge and move. Dodging movements are not unlike how boxers bob and weave to simultaneously gain position and avoid being hit. Offensively Rooster system employees a fierce arsenal of powerful techniques, and next to the Lion system it is the most vigorous.
The Rooster system’s attack methods are Dodging, Extending, Shifting, Rising, Entering, Whipping, Rushing, and Piercing. Across other animal systems the Lying Palm features the use of the lying step stance, evasive footwork, and working from positions that are neither fully dominant nor fully dominated. It is also typical to see the Rooster’s short application of force adapted to the host animal’s attack methods.
Baguazhang is a highly practical and efficient Chinese martial art that first reached prominence in the 1860's when it's first recorded practitioner, Dong Hai Chuan, was the supervisor of the guards for the Emperor's cousin, Wang Su, in Beijing.
Dong's #1 disciple, Yin Fu, later went on to teach Baguazhang in the Forbidden City. On August 15, 1900, Yin Fu escorted the Emperor Guangxu and Emperess Cixi to safety when the city was under siege by foreign troops during the Boxer Rebellion.
"In the early hours of 15 August, just as the Foreign Legations were being relieved, the Empress Dowager, dressed in the padded blue cotton of a farm woman, the Emperor Guangxu, and a small retinue climbed into three wooden ox carts and escaped from the city covered with rough blankets."
Qing Imperial Army Officers
Dowager Empress Cixi with her attendents (front corners are Yin Fu's Students)
Grand Master Xie Pei Qi
Demonstrating the eight animals of the Yinfu System
Kai Satterwhite (Sifu) Timothy Taylor (Sifu) Julien Bowles (Disciple) Michael Embiscuso (Disciple) Lawrence Middleton (Disciple)
Yin Fu Family Bagua Zhang
Liu Yun Chiao in the Bear posture of Yin Fu Baguazhang. Same posture as Xia Ta Zhang (downward crushing palm), or Meng Hu Xia Shan (Ferocious Tiger Descends Mountain) of Cheng Style Bagua Zhang.
Yin Fu Family Bagua Zhang
Grand Master W.C Bey teaching Yinfu Bagua Zhang to Master Diaz Ali El
Shrfu W.C Bey
Grand Master Xie Pei Qi
Demonstrating the Monkey of the Yinfu System