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Ba Gua Zhang and the Book of Changes – Part 2

In last month’s post (Ba Gua Zhang and The Book of Changes – Part 1) we looked at some of the basic connections of Ba Gua Zhang and the Eight Trigrams. In this post we will discuss some of the relationships between palm formations, body shapes and Yi Jing Trigrams.

Lao Ba Zhang & the Eight Palm Formations

In Ba Gua Zhang there are eight basic palm formations. The Eight Palm Formations are another way of looking at the constantly changing movements of the arms and body in Lao Ba Zhang and other Ba Gua forms and applications, Understanding these eight formations can aid in understanding the internal actions of the body in Ba Gua Zhang..

1. Upward Facing Palm 仰掌 (Yang Zhang)

In Yang Zhang, the palm heart faces upward, with the fingers and thumbs spread and the palm heart hollow. Yang Zhang can be a Piercing Palm or Penetrating Palm 穿掌 (Chuan Zhang), containing an intrinsic twisting power. It can also be used to lift up from below with the palm, or as a palm-up Cutting Palm 切掌 (Qie Zhang). Yang Zhang relates to the Qian-Heaven Trigram.

2. Downward Facing Palm 俯掌 (Fu Zhang)

In Fu Zhang, the palm heart faces downward, with the fingers and thumbs spread. This can be a Slicing Palm 片掌 (Pian Zhang) or Cutting Palm 切掌 (Qie Zhang). Fu Zhang can also be used to press downward and outward. Fu Zhang relates to the Dui-Lake Trigram.

3. Standing Palm 豎掌 (Shu Zhang)

The character Shu (豎) can refer to a vertical brush stroke in calligraphy. It can also mean to erect something, to be upright, or to stand upright. In Shu Zhang, the palm root is dropped so that the wrist flexes naturally without straining. The fingers spread and point upward, with the thumb pointing obliquely upward. Shu Zhang can be used to strike upward or downward with the palm root. It also clings and sticks. Shu Zhang relates to the Li-Fire Trigram.

4. Embracing Palm 抱掌 (Bao Zhang)

Bao (抱) means to hug and embrace, or to hold or carry something in the arms. In Bao Zhang, the fingers and thumb spread and the palm heart faces inward, the elbow is bent as though embracing or wrapping inward. This can be a Wrapping Palm 裹掌 (Guo Zhang). Bao Zhang can stick and adhere and can be used to strike with the back of the hand and forearm. Bao Zhang relates to the Zhen-Thunder Trigram.

5. Splitting Palm 劈掌 (Pi Zhang)

Pi (劈) means to split, chop, cleave, or divide. The fingers and thumb spread. The fingers point forward. The thumb side faces up and the knife-edge of the hand faces down. The arm is curved like the Chinese Dao (Broadsword). Splitting contains Piercing, and Piercing (Chuan) also contains Splitting. Therefore, Piercing and Splitting can easily inter-transform. Pi Zhang is related to the Xun-Wind Trigram.

6. Lifting Palm 撩掌 (Liao Zhang)

Liao (撩) means to hold up,  or to lift up. The action of Liao is like a woman lifting a long skirt, so it will not drag on the ground. In Liao Zhang, the fingers and thumb are spread and the thumb side of the palm faces upward. The palm heart faces inward. The palm moves upward from below. Liao Zhang is related to the Kan-Water Trigram.

7. Picking Up Palm 挑掌 (Tiao Zhang)

Tiao (挑) refers to picking up something on the end of a pole. It can also mean to poke, prick or to lance. In Tiao Zhang, the fingers and thumb are spread with the fingers pointing upward. The action is one of lifting up from below, or like lifting something on the end of a pole. Tiao Zhang relates to the Gen-Mountain Trigram.

8. Spiraling Palm 螺旋掌 (Luo Xuan)

Luo Xuan (螺旋) refers to a Helix or a Screw and the action of screwing and spiraling. The fingers and thumb spread and twist in a spiral or helix, so that the little finger turns inward and the palm heart turns to face outward. The fingers point upward. Luo Xuan appears throughout Lao Ba Zhang, in movements like Hawk Spirals Up to Heaven, and during many transitional movements in which the body is rotating. It can be used to deflect and to strike. Luo Xuan relates to the Kun-Earth Trigram.

The Yi Jing and the Fixed Posture Palms

There is a fair amount of variety in the way different styles of Ba Gua Zhang interpret palm movements and postures and their connection to Yi Jing Diagrams

1. Downward Pressing Palm

The Downward Pressing Palm is often considered to be related to Gen-Mountain. The Bear is associated with the Gen (Mountain) Diagram, which is often described as an upside down bowl. Power emanates upward from the Earth (the two bottom broken-yin lines) and emits from the back, associated with the upper solid-yang line. In some styles of Ba Gua, the Downward Sinking Palm posture is called “Tiger Descends the Hill.” This conveys the image of tiger walking on all fours with an undulating downhill gait. In practicing Downward Sinking Palm, it often feels as though the two palms and two soles touch the ground, creating an inner stability and rootedness combined with an internal relaxation and internal vibration.

The internal vibration and shaking power initiated by the Downward Sinking Palm leads some practitioners to connect this palm the Zhen Trigram. Additionally, the configuration of this palm is similar to the Zhen Trigram – substantial below with power moving upward, unobstructed by the two broken, insubstantial lines.

It is easy to see how the Downward Sinking Palm includes the energies of both Zhen and Gen. From stillness comes movement – Thunder and shock rising upward followed by its completion, returning to stillness before moving again. The shoulders and upper back initiate upward movement by pressing down to create an upward reaction, and that upward movement stops at the shoulders to recirculate and move again.

2. Heaven Uplifting Palm

The Heaven Uplifting Palm is sometimes associated with the Qian Diagram – and lines moving upward without obstruction. However, Cheng Style practitioner Zhao Ming associates the Heaven Uplifting Palm with the Kan-Water Trigram. He says the Mind-Intention should be concentrated on the two arms extending outward:

Imagine that the body is empty, light and transparent in the body, and that air can go through the body, until the body melds with the air and gradually disappears, so that only the two arms are extended horizontally, floating and rotating in the air, like a giant roc spreading the wings and hovering at high altitude. Above and below the arms one feels insubstantial, thus the energy configuration of Heaven Uplifting Palm resembles the Kan Trigram. (To read in detail about Zhao Ming’s practice of the Ba Gua Zhang’s Fixed Palms – CLICK HERE)

Sun Lu Tang associates the Heaven Uplifting Palm with the Zhen Trigram. The arms float upward buoyed up by the firm and substantial lower body, like a dragon flying.

3. Monkey Offering Peach PalmDui Diagram and Monkey offers Peach

Sun Lu Tang relates Monkey Offering Peach to the Dui-Marsh Trigram – one yin line above two yang lines. The two firm yang lines represent the solid stability of the legs and torso upholding the two palms and shoulders, which are relaxed and supple. Zhao Ming relates this posture to the Gen-Mountain Trigram – the body is soft and relaxed, buoying up the two arms where energy and intention are concentrated.


4. Pointing to Heaven and Ground Drawing Palm

Zhao Ming relates the Pointing to Heaven and Ground Drawing Palm to Qian-Heaven with its three yang lines piled one upon the other. The Mind-Intention is focused on the whole body, from the ground to the upward pointing hand, so that the whole body is substantial. Other practitioners say that this palm is related to Li-Fire, empty in the middle and firm above and below; flaring upward, but clinging to and consuming earth.

In some styles of Ba Gua Qian-Heaven is associated with the Millstone Pushing Palm, also known as “Green Dragon Extends its Claws.” In this way of thinking, “pushing the millstone” exemplifies the idea of “The eyes should not leave the hand, the hand should not leave the elbow and the elbow should not leave the ribs. These are the three links in the Qian diagram.”

Black Bear Extending Claw

5. Black Bear Extending Claw Palm

The Black Bear Extending Claw Palm is also related to the Qi Lin (“Unicorn” – actually a kind of Chimera with deer-like horns). Sun Lu Tang associates the Qi Lin with Kun-Earth because the whole body is flexible and changeable, like the three yielding receptive lines of the Kun Trigram. Cheng Style practitioners sometimes relate this palm configuration to the Dui-Marsh Trigram because the upper basin, or upper section of the body, is light and transparent, while the lower body is firm.

6. Lion Holding Ball Palm

Lion Holding Ball

Lion Holds the Ball (also known as Lion Opens its Mouth) is sometimes related to Li–Fire, with one yin line between two yang lines. One palm is above and the other palm below, like holding a ball. The arms are firm and maintain their positions while hidden changes emanate from the emptiness in between the arms. Zhao Ming says that during training, one should to concentrate the mind on the “fullness” of empty air in the middle while imagining covering the sky with one hand and covering the ground with the other hand.

Sun Lu Tang relates the Lion Holding Ball Palm to the Qian-Trigram with its three upward moving strong lines. Other practitioners relate this posture to Xun-Wind because the postures rolls and changes rolling along the ground, like a tumbleweed in the wind.


Green Dragon Extends Claw

7. Green Dragon Extending Claw Palm or Millstone Pushing Palm

The Green Dragon Extending Claw Palm is often related to the Xun-Wind Trigram, containing one yin line below the two yang lines. In this posture the hands and body push outward firmly while the legs change and transform quickly. Zhao Ming says that when practicing this palm, one should imagine the lower basin is light and soft, like a dragon coiling and rotating in the water.


8. Moon Embracing or Double Bumping Palm

In the Cheng Style Ba Gua the Moon Embracing Palm is sometimes related to Kun-Earth, with the sensation within the whole body being empty and light. However, in other styles it can represent the Gen-Mountain or Dui-Marsh, depending on where the Mind-Intention concentrates the internal forces of firmness and yielding.

Moon Embracing Palm