Free Content

Lao Ba Zhang: Eight Palms, Eight Linear Forms and 64 Hands

Wang Shi Tong’s Lao Ba Zhang is inextricably linked to the Eight Palm methods, the Eight Linear Forms and the 64 Hands. Understanding how these forms and methods relate to and combine with the Eight Palms of Lao Ba Zhang is vital to mastering Ba Gua Zhang

Lao Ba Zhang & the Eight Palm Methods

Ba Gua Zhang is said to have eight basic methods of using the palm in martial applications. These eight methods are contained within Lao Ba Zhang and are also introduced and trained in the Eight Linear Palms associated with Lao Ba Zhang.

  1. Piercing Palm (Chuan Zhang) 穿掌
  2. Pushing Palm (Tui Zhang) 推掌
  3. Uplifting Palm (Tiao Zhang) 挑掌
  4. Splitting Palm (Pi Zhang) 劈掌
  5. Slicing Palm (Xiao Zhang) 削掌
  6. Testing Palm (Tan Zhang) 探掌
  7. Upward Striking Palm (Liao Zhang) 撩掌
  8. Bumping Palm (Zhuang Zhang) 撞掌

These eight methods are combined with thirty-six actions that describe hand methods (Shou Fa) foot methods (Tui Fa) and body principles (Shen Fa). All of these are contained within Lao Ba Zhang and are traditionally described by the thirty-six characters listed below. Engaging with the ideas and feelings expressed by these characters over years of practicing Lao Ba Zhang can give one many insights into the form and the principles it attempts to convey.

36 Characters of Ba Gua Zhang

These 36 actions are all present in Lao Ba Zhang and should be carefully researched:

  1. Pi: to split, chop, cleave, split logs, cleave a path.
  2. Tui: to push; turn a grindstone.
  3. Liao: to lift up, hold up, raise; lift up the curtain.
  4. 穿 Chuan: pierce through, penetrate, pass through, thread through.
  5. Zuan: drill; bore into; auger.
  6. Kou: hook, button, buckle up; detain.
  7. Na: to hold, take, seize, capture.
  8. Qin: capture; catch.
  9. Gai: to cover, put a lid on, to shield.
  10. Da: to strike, knock, break, smash, fight.
  11. Za: to pound, tamp, to crush.
  12. Tiao: to shoulder, carry, uplift, to pick up.
  13. Jie: to cut, to sever, to stop, to check.
  14. La: to pull; drag; haul.
  15. Xiao: to pare or peel with a knife, to slice.
  16. Gua: to hang, to put up, to suspend.
  17. Dai: to take, to bring, to bear, to lead, to look after.
  18. Ma: to rub, to wipe, brush off, cut one’s throat.
  19. Ti: to carry in the hand, to lift, raise, rising stroke in calligraphy.
  20. Kan: to cut, to chop, to hack, to cut down, to throw something at.
  21. Zhua: to grab, clutch, grasp, to scratch, to arrest, to attract.
  22. Lu: to rub along, to stroke; to roll up the sleeves.
  23. Hua: to change, turn, transform, to convert, to melt.
  24. Ling: to lead, to
  25. Jin: to enter, go forward, to advance.
  26. Tuo: to support from underneath, hold in the palm.
  27. Lan: to block, stop, bar the way.
  28. Ning: to twist, wring.
  29. Fan: to turn over, reverse.
  30. Zou: to go, walk, leave, move.
  31. Zhuan: to turn, transfer, rotate, change.
  32. Chan: to wind, tie up, tangle, entwine.
  33. Shuai: to fall down, throw, tumble, throw down, cast off.
  34. Dun: to pull, yank, shake.
  35. Peng: to hold, carry in both hands, hold level.
  36. Zhuang: to bump, like a car bumping another car.

The Eight Linear Palms & Piercing Palm

Each of the eight circular changes in Lao Ba Zhang has an associated linear expression. One Linear Form is paired with each of the Eight Circular Changes. These Linear forms are called the “Eight Hands” (Ba Shou) or the “Eight Basic Linear Forms.” The Eight Basic Linear Forms are considered to be a type of “Single Movement Practice” (Dan Dong Liang Xi 单动练习) – a bit like a boxer practicing a jab and a cross or a karateka performing lunge punches. These forms are critically important in helping one to understand and apply the actions of Lao Ba Zhang. The Piercing Palm is contained within each palm of Lao Ba Zhang and therefore is also practiced as a ninth linear form. There are three types of piercing palm:

  1. Upward Piercing
  2. Ox Tongue Piercing
  3. Flat or Level piercing

Practicing the Eight Basic Linear Forms and the Piercing Palm has many important functions including:

  • Power development
  • Direct powerful applications of the circular palm changes
  • Developing a forward driving following force

The Eight Basic Linear Forms can be combined with the circular palms to create further change and transformation. Combining linear and circular movements in this way teaches the body to interchange freely between firmness and suppleness, absorbing and emitting, striking and controlling. The Eight Basic Linear Forms are:

  1. Uplifting Palm (Upward Striking Palm) – 挑掌 Tiao Zhang
  2. Upward Striking Palm (Yin Striking Palm) – 撩 (阴) 打掌 Liao (Yin) Da Zhang
  3. Opening Palm (Surrounding Smashing Palm) – 开掌 Kai Zhang
  4. Wind Wheel Splitting Palm (Chopping Palm) – 风轮劈掌 Feng Lun Pi Zhang
  5. Heaven and Earth Palm (Downward Stamping Palm) – 天地掌 Tian Di Zhang
  6. Ten Kilo Weight Falls to the Ground and Rhinoceros Gazes at the Moon (Downward Yanking Upward Butting Palm) – 千斤墜地 (Qian Jin Zhui Di) -犀牛望月 (Xi Niu Wang Yue)
  7. Insert Flowers Under the Armpit and Phoenix Enters the Nest (Penetrating Punching Palm) – 插花掖肘 (肋) (Cha Hua Ye Zhou) —單鳳投巢 (Dan Feng Tou Chao)
  8. Face Slapping Palm (Hand Covering Downward Striking Palm) – 拍面掌 (Pai Mian Zhang)
Wang Shi Tong Performs Uplifting Palm (Upward Hitting Palm)

Ba Zhang & The 64 Forms

The Sixty-Four Straight Line Palms (Zhi Tang Liu Shi Si Zhang 直趟六十四掌) are also called the Sixty-Four Palms, the Sixty-Four Linear Forms or the Sixty-Four Forms. These forms are organized into eight sets of eight movements each. The first set of eight movements is related to the first palm in Lao Ba Zhang, the second set of eight movements to the second palm in Lao Ba Zhang and so on. The Sixty-Four Straight Line Palms are performed in lines. They can be practiced slowly or quickly. In the beginning level of practice, one emphasizes power that emanates from the driving force of the legs and waist. This develops “opening force” (Kai Jin) and firm rooted steps.

The Sixty-Four Straight Line Palms were purportedly created by Liu De Kuan as a means of illustrating and remembering practical applications of the circular palms. The eight moves contained in each line are linked in sequence and illustrate an idealized yet logical set of attacks and countermoves. However each individual movement has multiple applications in combat and every part of each movement can be used.

Wang Shi Tong Performs White Ape Offers Fruit

Each of the eight lines begins with Old Monk Offers the Alms Bowl (Lao Seng Tuo Bo 老僧托钵). Every line of eight movements should be practiced in many different ways: as a set of eight linked movements, as individual movements, and as pairs of movements. Individual movements can also be paired with movements from the other lines creating endless combinations. Just practicing each form paired with itself and the other 63 forms results in 4096 pairs!

For more on the Eight Linear Palms:

Ba Gua’s Eight Hands: Form 1 – The Uplifting Palm

Ba Gua’s Eight Hands: Form 2: Yin Striking Palm

Ba Gua’s Eight Hands Form 3: Wind Wheel Splitting Palm

For More on the 64 Linear Forms (64 Palms):

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 1

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 2

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 3

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 4

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight line Method: Line 5

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 6

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 7

Wang Shi Tong Performs the 64 Hands Straight Line Method: Line 8