Dong Haichuan the creator of baguazhang
  • Troy Williams
  • Glossary


Eight Trigram Palm, or Baguazhang (Pa-Kua Chang), is the youngest of the Chinese internal martial arts with much of its growth happening at the beginning of the last century. Baguazhang is easy to practice and the health benefit that continuos walking provides is obvious.

The practice of circle walking, or Turning the Circle, is Baguazhang’s (Pa-Kua Chang) characteristic training method. Practitioners walk around the edge of a circle in various postures and periodically change direction as they execute martial forms. This practice trains flexibility, body alignment, and martial agility. Since the circle walking practice can be applied to any martial art, Baguazhang contains a wide variety of techniques that are executed while moving. This variety can be overwhelming, but the greatest masters of the art are known for training extensively in only a few postures or palms. In short, Baguazhang is an excellent activity for those looking for a new exercise program or for those seeking to improve their martial art practice. It takes the simple post training skills of classical martial art training and ads a walking component that, when combined with some imaginative changes of direction, provides a fitness program that never grows stale.

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Pre-Heaven Bagua
  • Troy Williams
  • Glossary


In 2852 BCE Fu Xi is credited with creating the Eight Trigrams (Bagua). The trigrams of the Bagua, and the hexagrams of the Yi Jing are more complex representations of the simple Yin and Yang symbols of a broken and solid line.

There are two arrangements of the Bagua trigrams. The first, pre-heaven Bagua, is based on The River Map. The dots are unitary (base one) representations of the integers one through ten. In this diagram the sum of all the odd or even integers on the periphery equal 20. Adding any number on the inside squares with 5 (the center) will equal the number on the outer square.

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Zhang Sanfeng

Zhang Sanfeng (1247 - 1370) is another legendary figure of Daoism and the mythical creator of Taijiquan. Some stories about Zhang Sanfeng place him as early as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 - 960 CE) when China was undergoing a period of disunion. Others place him in the Song dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) which saw many achievements in science, philosophy, and arts, including the first use of printing (700 years before it was used in Europe), and the use of gunpowder (invented by Daoists during the Tang dynasty) in grenades.

If Zhang Sanfeng existed he was probably born in 1247 and lived during the years of Marco Polo’s (1254 - 1324 CE) visit to China. He studied Buddhism and martial arts at the Shaolin temple before leaving and establishing the Daoist temples at Wudang Mountain.

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Yue Fei

The information we have about Yue Fei and his Song dynasty contemporaries come to us from histories collected during the later Yuan dynasty. As with all such histories it is sprinkled with a lot of myth.

We do know that Yue Fei was a great military leader who is credited with the creation of many qigong and martial forms including Xingyiquan, Eight Pieces of Brocade, and Eagle Claw Boxing. As a child he learned Shaolin martial art from a man named Zhou Tong, who had studied at the Shaolin temple.

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Yu the Great

Yu is regarded with legendary status as Yu the Great (2059 - 2149 BCE), and he is considered one of The Three Sovereigns of China. King Yao ordered Yu's father, Gun, to tame the annual floods. Gun built earthen dikes, but they collapsed, and the project failed miserably. Gun was executed by King Shun, Yao's successor. Shun ordered Yu to complete his father's work. Instead of building more dikes, Yu began to dredge new river channels, to serve both as outlets for the torrential waters, and as irrigation conduits to distant farm lands. Yu spent a backbreaking thirteen years at this task, with the help of some 20,000 workers. Passing his own door three times is a tale of Yu's dedication:

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Yin Fu

Yin Fu (1840 - 1909 CE) was Dong Haichuan’s earliest disciple at Su Wang Palace. Some stories say that when he started studying with Dong that he did not appreciate circle walking and focused on striking and kicking methods, even laughing at the circle walking practice.

Dong Haichuan was upset at this and said, “If you laugh at circle walking again, you won’t have your front teeth anymore.” Yin Fu began to laugh and Dong used a palm strike to knock out two of Yin Fu’s front teeth. After that incident Yin Fu concentrated his practice on the turning palms.

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Yellow Emperor

Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor (2497 - 2398 BCE), is a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is considered in Chinese mythology to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese. He emerged as a chief deity of Daoism during the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE). Among his many accomplishments, Huangdi has been credited with the invention of the principles of Traditional Chinese medicine.

The Huangdi Neijing (Inner Canon of Huangdi) was supposedly composed in collaboration with his physician Qibo. Legend says that Huangdi became the leader of his tribe which bore the totem of a bear. His tribe went to war with a neighboring tribe bearing the totem of a bull, headed by Yandi. Huangdi, through his superior military and leadership skills won the war and subdued Yandi's tribe. The two tribes united and became one. The legend then says that the Chinese civilization began with these two tribes.

Sun LuTang

No author had more impact on our understanding of the internal martial arts then did Sun Lu Tang (1861 - 1932). This Grand Master of all three arts broke with tradition and wrote down—in classical Chinese characters (characters that he taught himself)—the practice methods of all three arts.

I have never read a book about the "neija" that did not quote his work. Sun Lu Tang was a renowned master of Chinese martial arts and the creator of Sun Style Taijiquan. He was an accomplished Confucian and Daoist scholar, and contributed to the development of the internal martial arts through his published works.

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Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (563 - 483 BCE) who--through a period of exploration--became The Buddha, or Awakened One. He lived in the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent. His father, Shuddodana, was the local king from the Sakya clan and Siddhartha would later become known by the title Shakyamuni, or Sage of the Sakyas. The Sakya were Kshatriyas—the second highest class of warrior—they did not regard Brahmans—the highest priestly class—as in any way superior. Shuddodana protected his son from anything ugly or unhealthy by building a series of palaces populated with young, healthy, and handsome women and men. Anyone who did not fit this description was removed. Siddhartha was so content that he did not ask such questions as why do people suffer? Why do people die? Or what is the purpose of life?

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If Laozi (Lao Tzu)--the old sage usually associated with Daoism--existed, he lived during the Golden Age of Philosophers. The book attributed to him--The Way and Its Virtue (Dao De Jing)--represents the ideal man living agreeably with nature. A legendary figure, Laozi's (600 BCE) influence on Chinese history, thought, and culture has been substantial. He insisted on living in a harmonious and spontaneous manner rather than exploiting the earth and other beings.

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King Wen

When Jou the Terrible ascended to the throne of the Shang dynasty (1600 - 1122 BCE), his behavior was so horrific that his name is synonymous with “a debauched tyrant.” Meanwhile, the nearby state of Zhou was gaining influence and the neighboring states would bring their disputes before King Wen of Zhou (1099 - 1050 BCE) to be settled since they knew King Wen provided a wise and fair arbitration.

On one of King Wen's visits to the Shang court, Jou the Terrible threw him in prison, where he was confined for seven years. While in prison, King Wen reflected on Yin and Yang, the Five Phases, and the trigrams of the Bagua. He decided to stack one trigram upon another trigram to form a hexagram--symbolizing a higher level of diversification. He attached a name and a description to each of the sixty-four possible hexagrams. He also rearranged the trigrams on the Bagua circle to reflect the complexity of the natural world--including the change of seasons and the interaction of the Five Phases. This arrangement is the post-heaven Bagua circle.

Fu Xi

In Chinese mythology, Fu Xi (or Fu Hsi) was the first of the Three Sovereigns of ancient China. Fu Xi (2852 - 2737 BCE) taught humans all the skills necessary to ensure survival. He brought the waters of the Yellow River into order by digging dikes, canals, and irrigation ditches. Fu Xi taught the Chinese people fishing with nets, hunting with weapons made of iron, cooking, domestication of animals, music, the writing system, sericulture (cultivation of silk worms) and the weaving of threads from silkworm cocoons into textiles.

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