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36 Songs of Ba Gua Zhang

In Ba Gua Zhang, the 36 Songs and 48 Methods are rhymed mnemonics that delineate key points for training the forms and fighting methods. This translation of the 36 Songs of Ba Gua Zhang are presented here along with the original Chinese characters as well as the pinyin.

These songs and their translation can also be found in print in The Essentials of Ba Gua Zhang by Gao Ji Wu and Tom Bisio.

八卦掌功三十六歌

Eight Diagram Palm Skill Training Thirty-Six Songs

Ba Gua Zhang Lian Gong San Shi Liu Ge Jue

In Ba Gua Zhang, the 36 Songs and 48 Methods are rhymed mnemonics that delineate key points for training the forms and fighting methods. Each song and method details a specific aspect of body alignment, application and strategy. Students traditionally memorized the rhymes so that they could recall these important points while training. Many teachers in China, answer questions about Ba Gua by paraphrasing these rhymes. The first time one reads the 36 Songs and 48 Methods they seem abstract and confusing. Over time as one trains and practices the forms, movements and applications, their meaning unfolds.

36 Songs of Ba Gua Zhang:

歌诀一
空胸拔顶下塌腰,Kong Xiong Ba Ding Xia Tao Yao,
扭步掰膝抓地牢。Niu Bu Bai Xi Zhua Di Lao.
沉肩坠肘伸前掌,Chen Jian Zhui Zhou Shen Qian Zhang,
二母须从虎口瞧。 Er Mu Xu Cong Hu Kou Qiao.

Song 1

Empty the chest, uplift the back and drop the waist.
Twist the hip, close the knees, and grasp the ground firmly,
Sink the shoulders, drop the elbow, extend the forward palm,
Look with the eyes through Hu Kou.

 

歌诀二
后肘先叠肘掩心,Hou Zhou Xian Die Zhou Yan Xin,
手在翻塌向前跟。Shou Zai Fan Ta Xiang Qian Gen.
跟到前肘合抱力,Gen Dao Qian Zhou He Bao Li
前后两手一团神。Qian Hou Liang Shou Yi Tuan Shen

Song 2

Pile the rear elbow, protect the heart with the elbow,
Turn and drop the hand and extend it forward.
Follow to the front elbow to create embracing power,
The front and rear hand join together to gather spirit.

 

歌诀三
步弯脚直向前伸,Bu Wan Jiao Zhi Xiang Qian Shen
形如推磨一般真。Xing Ru Tui Mo Yi Ban Zhen
屈膝随胯腰扭足,Qu Xi Sui Kua Yao Niu Zu
眼到三面不摇身。Yan Dao San Mian Bu Yao Shen

Song  3

Curve the step  and straighten the foot to extend forward,
Walk like pushing a millstone.
Flex the knee, follow the hip and twist the waist the waist fully,
The eyes watch the three aspects (directions) without swaying the body.

 

歌诀四
一势单边不足奇,Yi Shi Dan Bian Bu Zu  Qi,
左右循环乃为宜。Zuo You Xun HuanNai Wei Yi.
左换右兮右换左,Zuo Huan You Xi You Huan Zuo,
抽身倒步自合机。Chou Shen Dao Bu Zi He Ji

Song 4

Training one posture, “single whip” is  not enough to be marvelous,
Circling left and right is appropriate.
Changes left to the  right and the right to the left,
Withdraw the body with retreating steps creates the proper opportunity.

 

歌诀五
步既转兮手亦随,Bu Ji Zhuan Xi Shou Yi Sui,
后掌穿出前掌回.   Hou Zhang Chuan Chu Qian Zhang Hui.
去来来去无而致,Qu Lai Lai Qu Wu Er Zhi,
要如弩箭离弦飞。Yao Ru Nu Jian Li Xian Fei.

Song 5

Once the foot turns the hand should follow,
The rear palm penetrates out and the forward palm returns.
Coming and going never with two in the same position,
Like an arrow leaving  a bow.

 

歌诀六
穿时指掌贴肘行,Chuan Shi Zhi Zhang Tie Zhou Xing,
后肩改做前肩承。Hou Jian Gai Zuo Qian Jian Cheng.
莫要距离莫犹豫,Mo Yao Ju Li Mo You Yu,
步入裆兮是准绳。Bu Ru Dang Xi Shi Zhun Sheng.

Song 6

In piercing out, the palms should be straight, moving closely  alongside the elbow,
Rear shoulder attacks and front shoulder succeeds.
Do not leave space and don’t hesitate,
Walk forward between the opponent’s legs.

 

歌诀七
胸欲空兮气欲沉,Xiong Yu Kong Xi Qi Yu Chen
背紧肩垂意前伸。Bei Jin Jian Chui Yi Qian Shen
气到丹田缩谷道,Qi Dao Dan Tian Suo Gu Dao
直拔颠顶贯精神。Zhi Ba Dian Ding Guan Jing Shen

Song 7

The chest must be kept empty,  the qi must  sink,
Tighten the back and drop the shoulders with the intention to extend forward.
Qi reaches the dantian area and contract the anus,
Uplift the vertex  to foster spirit.

 

歌诀八
走时周身莫动摇,Zou Shi Zhou Shen Mo Dong Yao,
全凭膝下两相交。Quan Ping Xi Xia Liang Xiang Jiao.
底盘虽讲平膝胯,Di Pan Sui Jiang Ping Xi Kua,
中盘也要下腿腰Zhong Pan Ye Yao Xia Tui Yao.

Song 8

In walking do not sway the body,
All relies upon mutual exchange below the knees.
In the lower position knees and hips must be level.
It is necessary to sink the legs and waist in the middle position.

 

歌诀九
抿唇闭口舌顶腭,Min Chun Bi Kou She Ding E,
呼吸全凭鼻口过。Hu Xi Quan Ping Bi Kou Guo.
力用极处哼哈泄,Li Yong Ji Chu Heng Ha Xie,
浑元一气此为得。Hun Yuan Yi Qi Ci Wei De

Song 9

Close the lips and mouth, and touch the roof of the mouth with the tongue.
Breathe in and breathe out all through the nose.
When force reaches its utmost, release it by saying “Hun” and “Haa,”
In order to unite the qi.

 

歌诀十
掌形虎口要挣圆,Zhang Xing Hu Kou Yao ZhengYuan,
中指无名缝开展。Zhong Zhi Wu Ming Feng Kai Zhan.
先戳后打施腕骨,Xian Chuo Hou Da Shi Wang Gu,
松膀长腰跟步躜。Song Bang Chang Yao Gen Bu Zuan.

Song 10

The Hu Kou of the palm should be stretched in a  round shape,
Spread and open the middle finger and ring fingers.
Poke first and then strike later using the wrist bone,
Relax the shoulders and lengthen the waist to drill with the advancing step.

 

歌诀十一
上步合胯倒不掰,Shang Bu He Kua Dao Bu Bai,
换掌换式矮身骸。Huan Zhang Huan Shi Ai Shen Hai
进退退进随机势,   Jin Tui Tui Jin Sui Shi
只要腰腿巧安排。Zhi Yao Yao Tui Qiao An Pai

Song 11

Walk forward and close the hip, retreat and separate,
Changing the palms, change the pattern, and lower the body.
Advance or retreat all depend upon the opportunity and situation,
All made possible by the skillful  arrangement of the waist and legs.

 

歌诀十二
此掌与人大不同Ci ZhangYu Ren Da Bu Tong,
进步抬前乃有功。Jin Bu Tai Qian Nai You Gong.
退步还先退后足,Tui Bu Hai Xian Tui Hou Zu,
跨步尽外要离中。Kua Bu Jin Wai Yao Li Zhong

Song 12

This palm is quite different from others,
It is skillful to walk forward and raise the foot.
In retreating it is necessary to retreat with the rear foot first.
In stepping aside it is necessary to leave the central position.

 

歌诀十三
此掌与人大不同,Ci Zhang Yu Ren Da Bu Tong,
手未动兮膀先攻。Shou Wei Dong Xi Bang Xian Gong.
未从前伸先后缩,Wei Cong Qian Shen Xian Hou Suo,
吸足再吐力独丰。Xi Zu Zai Tu Li Du Feng

Song 13

This palm is quite different from others,
Before the hand moves, the shoulder should attack first.
Before extending forward, it is necessary to shrink backward first,
Inhaling fully and then exhaling, strength is abundant.

 

歌诀十四
此掌与人大不同,Ci Zhang Yu Ren Da Bu Tong,
前手后手力相通。Qian Shou Hou Shou Li Xiang Tong.
欲使梢兮先动根,Yu Shi Shao Xi Xian Dong Gen,
招招如是不得松。Zhao Zhao Ru Shi Bu De Song.

Song 14

This palm is quite different from others,
The power can be linked between the front and rear palm.
When you want to use the tip, move the root first.
Every technique should be considered, without neglecting any.

 

歌诀十五
此掌与人大不同,Ci Zhang Yu Ren Da Bu Tong,
未击西兮先声东。Wei Ji Xi Xi Xian Sheng Dong.
指上打下孰得知,Zhi Shang Da Xia Shu De Zhi,
卷珠倒六更神通。Juan Zhu Da oLiu Geng Shen Tong.

Song 15

This palm is quite different form others,
Before attacking the West, first feint (make a sound) to the East.
It is necessary to know how to strike the lower while pointing to the upper,
Great skill to roll the pearl backwards.

 

歌诀十六
天然精术怕三穿,Tian Ran Jing Shu Pa San Chuan,
不走外门是枉然。Bu Zuo Wai Men Shi Wang Ren.
他走外兮我走内,Ta Zou Wai Xi Wo Zou Nei,
伸后而得不费难。Shen Hou Er De Bu Fei Nan

Song 16

Even the most marvelous under heaven still fear the three penetrations,
Not walking the external gate is useless.
He walks outside and I walk inside,
It is not difficult to succeed just by extending the hand.

 

歌诀十七
掌使一面不为功,Zhang Shi Yi Mian BuWei Gong,
至少仍须两面攻。Zhi ShaoReng Xu Liang Mian Gong.
一横一直三角手,Yi Heng Yi Zhi San Jiao Shou,
使人如在我怀中。Shi Nen Ru Zai Zai Wu Huai Zhong.

Song 17

It is not  skillful  to use the palm in only one side (one way),
At least necessary to attack from two sides.
One crossing and one straight to form triangle hands,
It is like holding a person in my two arms.

 

歌诀十八
高欲低兮矮欲扬,Gao Yu D iXi Ai Yu Yang,
斜身绕步不须忙。Xie Shen Rao Bu Bu Xu Mang.
斜翻倒翻腰着力,Xie Fan Dao Fan Yao Zhuo Li,
翻到极处力要刚。Fan Dao Ji Chu Li Yao Gang

Song 18

Higher needs to be lower and lower needs to be stretched out,
Not rushing, angle the body and circle the step.
Turn obliquely and backward by the force of the waist,
The force must be firm in turning to its utmost.

 

歌诀十九
人到掌法胜在刚,Ren Dao Zhang Fa Sheng Zai Gang,
郭老曾言柔内藏   Guo Lao Ceng Yan Rou Nei Cang.
个中椰油人知味,Ge Zhong Ye You Ren Zhi Wei,
刚柔相济是所长。Gang Rou Xiang Ji Shi Suo Zhang.

Song 19

People have said that victory comes from firmness in the palm method,
Master Guo used to mention gentleness is stored [concealed] inside.
Some understand its real meaning.
Mutual assistance of firmness and gentleness is an advantage.

 

歌诀二十
刚在写兮柔后藏,Gang Zai Xie Xi Rou Hou Cang,
柔在先兮刚后张。Rou Zai Xian Xi Gang Hou Zhang.
他人只柔腰与手,Ta Ren Zhi Rou YaoYu Shou,
我则吸腰步稳扬。Wo Ze Xi Yao Bu Wen Yang.

Song 20

When firmness comes first, gentleness is stored behind,
When gentleness appears first, firmness should be displayed behind.
When he is gentle in his waist and hands,
I should suck in with the waist with stable steps.

 

歌诀二十一
用到极处须转身,Yong Dao Ji Chu Xu Zhuan Shen,
脱身化影不留痕。Tuo Shen Hua Ying Bu Liu Hen.
如何变换端在步,Ru He Bian Huan Duan Zai Bu,
出入进退腰先伸。Chu Ru Jin Tui Yao Xian Shen.

Song 21

It is necessary for the body to turn when use it [a technique] to its utmost,
Dodge the body and change a shadow without a trace.
No matter what changes take place, it all depends upon the steps,
The waist must extend first in coming and going, advancing and retreating.

 

歌诀二十二
转掌之神颈骨传,Zhuan Zhang Zhi Shen Jing Gu Chua,n
转项扭项手当先。Zhuan Xiang Niu Xiang Shou Dang Xian.
变时缩颈发时伸,Bian Shi Suo Jing Fa Shi Shen,
要如神龙首尾连。Yao Ru Shen Long Shou Wei Lian.

Song 22

The spirit in turning the palm is transmitted from the neck bone,
The hand must move first in turning the neck.
Shrink the neck for changes and extend the neck for releasing [power],
Like a spiritual dragon linking its head with its tail.

 

歌诀二十三
打人凭手膀为根,Dao Ren Ping Shou Bang Wei Gen,
膀在肩端不会伸。Bang Zai Jian Duan Bui Hui Shen.
故欲进时进前步,Gu Yu Jin Shi Jin Qian Bu,
若进后步枉劳神。Ruo Jin Hou Bu Wang Lao Shen.

Song 23

Strike the opponent with the hand, the shoulder as its root,
The shoulder cannot extend completely.
Advance with the front foot when wanting to go forward,
It is wasted effort to advance with the back foot.

 

歌诀二十四
力足发自筋与骨,Li Zu Fa Zi JinYu Gu,
骨中出硬筋须随。Gu Zhong Chu Ying Jin Xu Sun.
足跟大筋通脑脊,Zu Gen Da JinTong Nao Ji,
发招跟步力能摧。Fa Zhao Gen Bu Li Neng Cui

Song 24

Power must be released fully from bones and tendons,
Force comes from the bone and must be followed by tendons.
The big tendon of the heel connects with the brain and spine,
Promote power in techniques by using the follow step.

 

歌诀二十五
跟到手到腰腿到,Gen Dao Shou Dao Yao Tui Dao,
心真神真力又真。Xin Zhen Shen Zhen Li You Zhen.
三真四到合一处,San Zhen Si Dao He Yi Chu,
防己有余能制人。Ji You Yu Neng Zhi Ren.

Song 25

When the eyes arrive, the hands arrive and the waist and leg arrive,
Then intention, spirit and power can be real.
When three reals and four arrivals combine into one,
Enough to defend yourself and defeat others.

 

歌诀二十六
力要刚兮更要柔,Li Yao Gang Xi Geng Yao Rou,
刚柔偏重功难收。Gang Rou Pian Zhong Gong Nan Shou.
过刚必折真物理,Guo Gang Bi Zhe Zhen Wu Li,
优柔太盛等于休。You Rou Tai Cheng Deng Yu Xiu.

Song 26

The power must be firm and gentle too,
Difficult to achieve skill if firmness or gentleness is over-emphasized.
It is true that too hard will surely break,
Too soft is equivalent to nothing.

 

歌诀二十七
刚柔相济是何言,Gang Rou Xing Ji Shi He Yan,
刚柔相辅总无难。Gang Rou Xing Fu ZongWu Nan.
刚柔当用乾坤手,Gang Rou Dan Yong Qian Kun Shou,
掀天揭地海波澜。Xian Tian Jie Die Hai Bo Lan.

Song 27

What is said about mutual assistance of firmness and gentleness?
There is nothing difficult in mutual assistance of firmness and gentleness.
Gentleness and firmness should be used with the Qian and Kun hands
Open heaven and earth and sea waves surging.

 

歌诀二十八
人刚我柔是正方Ren Gang Wo Rou Shi Zheng Fang,
我刚人柔法亦良。Wo Gang Ren Rou FaYi Liang.
刚柔相遇腰求胜,Fang Rou Xiang You Yao Qiu Sheng,
解此纠纷步法强。Jie Ci Jiu Fen Bu Fa Qiang.

Song 28

It is the correct method when he is firm, I must be gentle,
It is also a good method when I am firm, he is gentle.
Victory can be sought from the waist when firmness and gentleness meet,
This conflict can be dissolved by strong footwork.

 

歌诀二十九
步法动时腰先提,Bu Fa Dong Shi Yao Xian Ti,
收缩合宜显神奇。Shou Suo He Yi Xian Shen Qi.
足欲动兮腰不动,Zu Yu Dong Xi Yao Bu Dong,
踉跄迈去误时机。Liang Qiang Mai Qu Wu Shi Ji.

Song 29

The waist is lifted first in using footwork,
Miracles can appear in proper retraction.
The waist does not move when the foot wants to move,
Opportunity will be lost by walking with unsteady steps.

 

歌诀三十
转身变法步莫长,Zhuan Shen Bian Fa Bu Mo Chang,
擦地而行莫要慌。Ca Di Er Xing Mo Yao Haung.
看准来路方伸手,Kan Zhun Lai Lu Fang Shen Shou,
巧女穿针稳柔刚。Qiao Nu Chuan Zhen Wen Rou Gang.

Song 30

The step should not be long in turning the body and changing methods,
Remain calm and walk by sweeping the ground.
Extend the hand only after perceiving the coming situation,
In order to be steady, gentle and firm like a smart girl threading a needle.

 

歌诀三十一
人持利器我不忙,Ren Chi Li Qi Wo Bu Mang,
飞剑遥遥到身旁。Fei Jian Yao Yao Dao Shen Pang.
看他来路哼哈避,Kan Ta Lai Lu Heng Ha Bi,
邪不胜正语颇良。Xie Bu Sheng Zheng Yu Po Liang.

Song 31

I am not busy (worried) when he takes a sharp weapon,
When the flying sword comes close to my body from far away,
I avoid it by speaking “Hun” and “Ha” after perceiving his direction.
It is an excellent phrase that “evil never can triumph over righteousness.”

 

歌诀三十二
短兵相接似难防,Duan Bing Xiang Jie Si Nan Fang,
哪怕锋利似鱼肠。Na Pa Feng Li Si Yu Chang.
伸手来接囊中物,Shen Shou Lai Jie Nang Zhong Wu,
指山打磨妙中藏。Zhi Shan Da Mo Miao Zhong Zang.

Song 32

It seems difficult to defend in fighting with short weapons,
I am not afraid even if there is a sharp fish intestine sword.
Just extend the hand to reach it like taking something from a pocket,
Mystery is hidden in pointing at the mountain for making a millstone.

 

歌诀三十三
人众我寡力难挡,Ren Zhong Wo Gua Li Nan Dang,
巧破千钧莫要忙。Qiao Po Qian Jun Mo Yao Mang.
一手不劳凭指力,Yi Shou Bu Lao Ping Zhi Li,
犁牛犹怕反弓张。Li Niu You Pa Fan Gong Zhang.

Song 33

When it is difficult to stop many attackers single handed,
Must remember to offset a thousand pound force cleverly.
The labor of one hand depends upon finger force,
Even a ploughing ox fears the reverse bending of the bow.

 

歌诀三十四
伸手不见前掌伸,Shen Shou Bu Jian Qian Zhang Shen,
又无油松照彼身。You Wu You Song Zhao Bi Shen.
收缩眼皮努睛看,Shou Sou Yan Pi Nu Jing Kan,
底盘掌使显神奇.Di Pan Zhang Shi Xian Shen Qi.

Song 34

When the palm is extended without seeing the hand
Even without oily pine torch to light his body
Squeeze the eyelids and stare attentively.
Miracles come by using the palm in the lower position.

 

歌诀三十五
冰天雪地雨泞滑,Bing Tian Xue Di Yu Ning Hua,
前叫横使切莫差。Qian Jiao Heng Shi Qie Mo Cha.
翻身切忌螺丝转,Fan Shen Qie Ji Luo Si Zhuan,
高低紧避乃为佳。Gao Di Jin Bi Nai Wei Jia.

Song 35

When the ground is slippery with rain or on icy, cold and snowy days,
Do not hesitate to walk with the front foot sideways
In turning the body, must not turn like a screw,
This is the best method to avoid stumbling in uneven terrain.

 

歌诀三十六
用时最要是精神,Yong Shi Zui Yao Shi Jing Shen,
精神焕发耳目真。Jing Shen Huan Fa Er Mu Zhen.
任凭他人飞燕手,Ren Ping Ta Ren Fei Yan Shou,
蚁鸣我听虎龙吟。Yi Ming Wo Ting Hu LongYin

Song 36

Must have spirit in applying techniques,
Spirit will make the ears and eyes brilliantly real.
No matter that his hand flies like a swallow,
I can hear ants murmuring like the roar of a dragon and tiger.

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