by ROBERT ALLEN PITTMAN
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Is Ba-gua a Martial Art?

Ba-gua is a concept. The concept is translated from two Chinese words; “Ba” which means “8” and “Gua” which means “Warp” and is usually used to define a Trigram or set of three horizontal lines. The Chinese character for “Ba/8” looks like a boat. The character for “Gua” is a picture of the transverse thread on a loom. So you COULD translate “Ba-gua” as “8 Warps” or “8 Weavings”.

In many ways these “8 Weavings” are parallel to the Musical Scale found in both East and West and because of this those of us in the West can understand it most clearly as the musical octave. It has eight parts one of which leads to the next in an ascending or descending sequence. They are a chain of sounds or things or any kind of related phenomenon.

Now since we are using a Chinese word to describe this octave of phenomena or “appearances” we are best served using the Chinese Cultural interpretation of this phenomena. What Chinese history in it’s mythic or legendary form says about Ba-gua is that China’s most Ancient King, Fu-hsi discovered this idea of the Octave or that Nature has “chains of eight” or “eight related phenomena which permeate it”. In fact Ba-gua is considered to be the Science of its time. A kind of Physics related to conditions of matter or situations in life. The “First Weaving” of Ba-gua is “Light” or “Creativity”. This means that the beginning of each thing that happens is a kind of Genesis or moment of conception. You could call it the Big Bang of creation/evolution. An explosion of Light which produced Matter.

But the implication of the concept of Ba-gua is that there is something BEHIND the Big Bang. This Scientific Curiosity about “What is behind it?” is very Taoist and the Trademark of Ancient Chinese Thought. In Ancient times each culture had it’s own Shamanism and the Shaman of China became what was to be known as Taoists or “Followers of the Way”. This means they were INTERESTED in what “The Way” was, what was behind “The Way” —  and therefore investigated Life, Matter and all that was perceivable. This also meant they discovered how to increase their own perceptions and amplify them. On their way to discover more about Ba-gua they discovered more about themselves and their physical bodies. Ba-gua was a result of their deep investigation and these same Taoists later incorporated these discoveries into a large text called the “I-ching” or “Scripture of Changes”.

The Chinese word for “I” (pronounced “EE”) appears to me (my opinion only) to be the Eye of a Chameleon and the word for “Ching”/”Jing” is the standard character for “Scripture”. So the I-ching is – in many ways “The Chameleon’s Eye Scripture”. Remember the Chameleon has two eyes which move independently-and it is easy to see this – and while doing so – the chameleon itself changes colors due to its special skin. So the I-ching is about varied perceptions and how they change you or not.

The I-ching doubles (8 x 8) the Ba-gua into 64 possible combinations (instead of a Trigram they become Hexagrams or lines of six, rather than three) of harmonics or conditions. These conditions are supposed to represent the stages or “weavings”  in a human life from beginning to end from birth to death and the moment of even the afterlife, which is number 64. For many ages the old Chinese (NOT the modern Chinese particularly of the mainland now) used Ba-gua to classify scientific observations (empirical observation) and as a method of classification and observation and testing in medicines and sciences.

If you want to do a deep study of the Science of China, Joseph Needham’s work “Science and Civilization in China” is a great and long study. Needham himself was an Embryologist who turned his mind to how ideas are conceived and where. And he took this perception with him to looks at how science was conceived and germinated and grown in China from ancient times. And Ba-gua is definitely a major concept behind all of the development of Ancient Science in China.

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