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The Ba-gua Circle


As regards the Gao Ba-gua Circling as taught
by Chang Chuen-feng;

changchuenfeng copy

Following the linear method Chang taught the circle. The circle is even less specific and therefore holds the greatest potential for meaning. Though it lacks the sharp edges and punctuated lunging of the linear training it brings additional challenges. The walking itself develops equilibrium particularly on smaller circles and the frequent deep squatting give it a surprising aerobic quality. Whirling pivots amplify previous turning skills and the isometric activity of the arms increases strength and endurance throughout the body. It is recorded the great Roman boxer Melancomas (c.80 a.d.) used circling with extended arms til his opponent tired. Thus he prevented the usual facial disfigurment common to boxers of his time. In 16th century Spain the circle was used to train the rapier. Traditional wrestling around the world still trains in a circle. In the 1920’s Tai Chi Ch’uan expert, Chen Wei-Ming wrote a text which refers to circle walking in Tai Chi, and Shaolin Ch’uan was also known to have used it.
Religious traditions too use circling. From the Dervishes with their graceful turning, to the Hindus, who still walk around a tree in the early morning, and the Buddhists who circle their monuments as a token of respect. Indeed the Tibetan word for circle is “kilkor” and means “extract” petaining to an extraction of the truth not unlike that of the old Greek Parapatetics. Some Taoist sects use the circle as part of their protection and invocation rites and there are still a few old english dictionaries that list “gyromancy” as prognostication derived from walking in a circle.
The founder of popular Pa-Kua, Tung Hai-Chuan ( – ) taught circling and it is said during his early training with the Taoists he circled til he had worn gulleys around the trees!
In Pa-Kua the circle is a map of the universe and therefore, Hermetically-the self. Around the Pa-Kua circle are arranged the eight part cosmology of the Taoist Book of Changes. Within the circle are the qualities of Polarity (Yin and Yang) and Infinity (Wu Chih). To practice Pa-Kua is to walk this circle consciously emulating creation. With practice the emulation becomes internalized and the person themselves becomes a part of the creative processes of life. They begin to sense their self- to know who is watching-through their eyes. The developing union and detachment, of the practitioner with the world clarifies and integrates his awareness and the resulting penetration of vision allows him to see the unbroken relations in all things. Hung I-Mien stated,”…Pa-Kua is as broad and deep as the sky, like an unbroken line connecting all things”. How odd this poetry would come from a mellowed veteran of street fights and the war in the South Pacific! He had grown up and being a grandfather knew that the fighting function of Pa-Kua though canny and useful- paled in comparison to the wisdom derived from a life of self-observation and practice.

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