Learning the Art

Nine Dragon Baguazhang (8 Trigram Palm) has been designed to make learning simple. We offer a step-by-step clearly laid out curriculum that allows anyone to learn this practical system of self-defense. While legend has it that this art was developed by 8 generations of bodyguards in China, its methods are currently used in law enforcement, personal security and the military. There is no question that skill in personal combat comes from training mind and body with equal rigor.

This is a principle based system. There are no forms or kata to learn. One does not progress in this system by learning increasingly elaborate techniques of fighting. Our focus is on the development of mental and physical skills found to be effective in dealing with violent confrontation. The fusion of these skills into a unified whole is known as internal power in the Chinese martial arts world.

An absolute requirement for combat effectiveness is a clear and calm mind. Therefore we use quiet sitting meditation as the foundation for all the cognitive training in this system. Meditation has been shown among other things, to enhance the use of the mental imagery and concentration integral to Nine Dragon Baguazhang.

Equally important in the development of combat skill is training in posture and the mechanics of movement. Repeated practice of postures and movements coupled with the appropriate mental imagery can greatly improve performance. This is a core concept of this defense system and has been for decades if not centuries. Human performance studies particularly in the field of sports medicine and psychology have provided such strong evidence for the effectiveness of these cognitive psychological techniques that they have been broadly applied to virtually all areas of competitive sport.


The basics curriculum takes about one year to complete. Students are introduced to seated and standing meditation practices. Posture and weight shifting exercises based on correct body mechanics are emphasized. Students will be shown specialized warm-up exercises, the basic stances of the Nine Dragon system and how to move with power and efficiency.

From weight shifting the student learns the walking practices, including the famous circle walking of Baguazhang. Nine Dragon Baguazhang is a system designed for dealing with multiple opponents and does not rely on maintaining stances during combat. Instead, all techniques must be delivered while stepping. Walking is therefore another foundation of this art.

Martial applications are taught using concepts of distancing and sensitivity while engaged in partner practice. Partner practice consists of testing the correctness of one’s posture and movement along with martial drills and games. Martial application training in our system is cooperative and not competitive. We firmly believe that competitiveness only interferes with the learning process.

In all the above physical work there is accompanying mental work. This involves awareness, relaxation, and learning how to use these while training.

The 8 Palms and Beyond

Following completion of the basics curriculum students will be introduced to each of the 8 Palms of Nine Dragon Baguazhang. Each Palm represents a particular way of moving the body associated with a particular set of cognitive and emotional images. These images are symbolized by the 3 line diagrams (trigrams or gua) of the I Ching, one of the world’s oldest philosophical texts. There are 8 trigrams, each corresponding with a Palm. There is no mysticism involved. The symbols are tools to develop the necessary imagery to empower movement.

In fact it is possible to consider each Palm a separate martial art based on identical principles of posture and movement. In studying a Palm the student continues to use and deepen the skills learned in the basics curriculum by applying them to striking, grappling and throwing. Each Palm may take up to several years of training before the student is able to move freely and apply power according to the manner of the Palm. When each Palm has been absorbed the student ultimately learns to combine them and use them spontaneously as required by the nature of the violence directed at him or her. At this stage the student is said to have entered the ninth Dragon Gate where thought and action are one.

Baguazhang fighting methods are not meant for tournaments or matches. There is no sparring in our classes because these methods can be extremely dangerous if applied with full speed and power. Safe sparring would require students to pull punches and limit the use of speed and power. This kind of training would therefore develop the wrong kind of combat reflexes. In real violent situations there is no time to think, only to react. If one has been trained to react to an attack with less than full effort because of repetitive sparring practice, it is more than likely this is how one will react in a dangerous confrontation. We are convinced that this would be exactly the wrong way to train.

Secrets of Success

Our goal is to help you become as skilled as your desire and potential allow you. Skill in personal combat requires the ability to act without thought or emotion as the situation demands. This ability comes through diligent practice on the part of the student. If there were shortcuts or an easier way, we would use them. The student who comes to class once or twice a week but never practices otherwise will simply not progress.

In each class students will practice seated meditation, standing postures, specialized warm-up exercises, weight shifting, stepping and applications. Classes are intended to present material that can be practiced at home. Our instructors will provide information and feedback so that you can monitor your own practice.

Daily practice, even for as little as 20 minutes will help you develop the kind of reflexes we have been discussing. If you are able to incorporate the postures and body mechanics learned in class while going about your day-to-day life this will speed your progress even further. We will show you how to do this.

It is important to understand that your performance in this art will depend not only on your practice but also on your level of physical fitness. Strength, endurance and flexibility are obviously key components of combat skill. Regular training of the material learned in class will increase your level of fitness in direct proportion to the time you spend training. Serious students will benefit greatly from the addition of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training to their personal programs. Our instructors are knowledgeable in these areas and can provide you with sound advice.

There are no masters in this art; only individuals who seek to improve themselves. Those who have been certified to instruct you are also students with a passion for sharing what they have learned.

We understand the effort and discipline required to develop skill. We want to share our experience to smooth the way for those who wish to explore the warrior path. We look forward to meeting you on this journey.