A great deal of controversy surrounds the association of Baguazhang the martial art to the Yijing. Some martial historians and Shifus claim that Baguazhang has no association to the book while others steadfastly claim that the connection is very real. The answer is that both groups are in part correct.
The founder of modern Baguazhang, Dong, Hai-Chuan did not claim his martial art to be associated with the Yijing. In fact historical records allege that master Dong was illiterate. Being unable to read or write would make it difficult if not impossible to grasp the intricate concepts of one of Chinas most scholarly and ancient philosophical texts.
Dong’s methods may be partially connected to the Yijing because he apparently memorized an ancient Daoist Qigong form based on the texts, but did not learn the texts. So one can claim there is no connection. While on the other hand a connection to Dong’s Baguazhang to the Yijing was apparently added much later by his senior students who were scholars versed in the Yi to support their understanding of master Dong’s principles. So we can see that both claims can be supported for and against a Yijing connection in Dong’s art.
The Yijing & Jiulong Baguazhang
In Jiulong Baguazhang we embrace the fact that Li, Ching-Yuen’s Baguazhang art is based on the theory of the Bagua (Eight Trigrams), whose source was the Yijing. Legend says that the Li family learned this Baguazhang from Daoist master Li, Ching-Yuen who claimed to have studied directly with the Long-men Daoists. If this legend is true then master Li’s Baguazhang springs from the same root as Dong’s but evolved along a different path as master Li was a learned scholar of the book of changes.
In Jiulong Baguazhang Qigong practice the student seeks to bring about stimulation of internal systems through physical actions combined with mental visualization. The forms are a mind / body link related to Chinese traditional Daoyin (yoga) and medicinal practices. There are two basic methods of practice. One is focused on creating health and longevity known as Jiankang Qigong and the other is used to develop martial art power and internal strength known as Zhandouli Wushu Qigong.
The Jiulong Baguazhang Tradition
The Other Yi in Yijing
In Chinese there is another character pronounced as “Yi”. This character is usually translated as mind or more often intellect. A better definition would be intention. Chinese masters discovered that each human has two minds or souls. One is the mind of thought or intention (Yi) and the other is the emotional mind (Xin) or heart. The heart is the part of us that feels and imagines, dreams and creates mental images.
Yi – Mind Intent What is Yi in Baguazhang? The best analogy might be of a cat watching a bird. If you ever watch a cat stalk a bird, you will notice the sheer intensity of the cat’s focus. The animals’ whole being is pure “intention,” and that is to get the bird.
This single focus of energy is what “Yi” means. It is important to remember that to apply this concept in practice, mental clarity is essential. We learn to visualize in exacting detail the desired idea, shape, form or energy we want. The more clear the image, the better will be the result. If the mind is scattered results will be minimal. In time, through repetitive practice, this procedure will become totally natural.
Constantly focusing on that image during training allows the imagination to empower the students efforts to attain the ideal level of health, strength, power, longevity, fitness or spiritual ideals. Each Gua is imagined to be a Dragon that manifests a specific type of power and energy. Each Dragon moves and reacts to outside influences in ways that reflect the powers associated with Gua to which it is assigned.
In Jiulong Baguazhang we use the Gua as mental images created with the Xin. What this means is that if we want to create a mental image of Heaven Gua for example we can read the Gua #1 in the Yijing and get an image of what this energy must be like. Each person will find a different image that associates with his or her own feelings. As Heaven is a great power and the text mentions a Dragon moving unobstructed in an open space one may take the image of an all powerful Dragon as his Heaven image. Then the student asks himself. “How would I feel if I were as strong, flexible and wise as a Chinese Dragon? How would I move, deal with problems, or fight if I were the Heaven Dragon or the Earth Dragon?” Through pretending to be this creature and taking on its attributes the student uses the Xin to create a focus for the Yi.
It is in this way that Jiulong Baguazhang utilizes the Yijing Gua in its martial art practice. If the student is constantly focusing on this type of imagery during the practice of Heaven palm his forms will take on the imagined power, flexibility and grace of the Dragon. In the martial practice of Wushu Qigong a similar method is used to create increased awareness of the senses, sight, touch, and hearing coupled with improved neurological response time for associated muscular actions and increased skeletal alignment for enhanced full body energy.
Jiulong Health Qigong and The Yijing
The Gua of the Yijing are associated with physical postures in Jiulong Baguazhang. This happens on two levels during practice. The first is the physical level. Each Palm contains specific movements and body positions designed to compress and expand the muscles and arteries and veins as well as the internal organs associated with the particular Gua being trained during practice. The second is the mental level in which a visualization of the meridians, internal organs and emotional energies associated with the Gua or Palm being practiced is activated.
The Gua are in turn associated with one or more of the Chinese five element principles of Chinese medicine. By using a combination of the Yijing Gua associations and elements associated with specific internal organs and meridian systems a type of mind/body acupuncture therapy can be achieved. Through the manipulation of these organs by physical postures and mental visualizations according to the laws of acupuncture one can sedate or tonify meridians and associated organs and systems.