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Mother Palms of Ba Gua Zhang – Part 2

This is the second installment on the Mother Palms of Ba Gua Zhang. The Eight Mother Palms are an essential part of Ba Gua Zhang training and the primary foundational Nei Gong exercise. The Mother Palms develop both the footwork and the internal strength that are critical to advanced internal development and combative skill. Most styles of Ba Gua Zhang use eight basic palms as the foundation, although in theory many variations are possible. In Liang style Ba Gua Zhang, we generally employ ten (10) palms in training: eight key palms and two variations.

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6. Spear Upholding Palm (槍掌) Tiao Qiang Zhang   

The Spear Upholding Posture is sometimes called Lion Opens Its Mouth or the Lion Stretchs Open its Mouth . It is like holding a spear with the tip pointing downward toward the opponent’s knee. Master Sun Lu Tang also refers to this posture as White Ape Draws the Saber. Sun associates this posture with the Heaven Trigram consisting of three unbroken lines. When holding this posture, Qi extends outward with the inside and outside, the upper and lower body all acting in unison. When practiced smoothly the body’s blood circulation will be unobstructed and one’s strength will increase. [1]  Though the mouth [of the Lion] opens wide, as if holding a large Ball,one must sense to seal and collect Qi below. [2] The Spear Upholding Palm is said to open the Kidney and Heart channels (Shao Yin) and their corollaries the Bladder and Small Intestine channels (Tai Yang).

 

Qian Trigram

 

Spear Upholding Palm – Fine Points

  • The inside hand extends outward palm up, while the palm of the outside hand extends forward and outward in a curved shape at the height of the head.
  • The outside hand pulls the side forward and pulls the step.
  • Extend the strength outward through the ribs and arms as the yao and central channel turn the body.
  • Sitting the kua aids the hands in pushing forward and extending.
  • The shoulders relax and loosen and both shoulders and elbows sink.
  • The palms take the shape of the tile palm.
  • This palm takes its name from a Ba Gua method of using the spear.

Song of the Spear Upholding Palm

Hold up the spear, rotate and grind the millstone,

Extending the back opens the kua for smooth steps.

Elbows sink, arms curve and extend (contend),

Upholding, overturning, revolving, piercing, and slicing continuously linked.

 7. Heaven Pointing Ground Drawing Palm (指天划地掌) Zhi Tian Hua Di Zhang

The name of this palm can also be translated as Heaven Pointing Earth Piercing Palm. [7] In this posture, one hand pierces downward just outside the thigh, while the other points upward. Both arms spiral and twist so that the whole body is twisted like a rope. The lower hand pierces downward to face forward toward the center of the circle, while the upper hand spiral upward to faces backward away from the center of the circle. This opposition creates a Yin-Yang balance of forces that passes through the entire body. Master Sun Xi Kun said that this posture twists the bones and sinews around the body’s center. [8]

Heaven Pointing Ground Drawing Palm – Fine Points

  • The inside hand drills and extends upward with the palm facing backward to “point at heaven,” while the outside hand pierces downward toward the center of the circle facing forward to “draw on the ground.”
  • The opposing forces of the two palms and the two sides of the body create a twist that goes from the sole of the foot through the whole body.
  • The shoulders relax and drop.
  • Slacken the yao (low back and waist) to stretch the arms.
  • Sit down and fold the kua to help the arms pierce and drill.
  • Slackening the yao and sitting the kua makes the steps smooth as though they are sweeping the ground
  • The hands follow the spiral of the arms to form the tile palm.
  • The eyes look past the upper arm (inside arm) toward the inside of the circle.

Song of the Heaven Pointing Ground Drawing Palm

Point to heaven and draw on the ground extending upward and downward,

Go forward with one yin and one yang.

Slacken the yao, sit the kua, raise the knee and leg,

Inside straight, outside hook, when moving forward brush the ground.

8. Yin Yang Fish Palm (阴阳鱼掌) Yin Yang Yue Zhang

The Yin Yang Fish Posture is like the Tai Ji Yin Yang symbol in which the white (Yang) “fish” and the black (Yin) “fish” are endlessly transforming and interchanging. The arms curve to form the shape of the Tai Ji Yin Yang symbol. The outer arm is high and the inner arm low, with the facing outward – one forward and one backward. In Yin Style Ba Gua this posture is associated with the Bear.

Yin Yang Fish Palm – Fine Points

  • The arms and body make a yin-yang shape.
  • The outside hand curves toward the inside of the circle, while the inside hand wraps behind the back opposite Ming Men (the middle of the lower back).
  • The outside hand follows the curve of the circle while the inside hand pushes away from the body.
  • Extend the strength outward through the ribs and arms as the yao, waist and central channel turn the body.
  • The back is taut and the chest is empty and relaxed.
  • Let the curved body shape aid the steps.
  • Fingers are apart and the palms are hollow.

Song of the Yin Yang Fish Palm

One in front, one behind, yin yang palms,

Front sink, back tread, strength must extend.

Taut back, empty chest, Qi sinks down,

Striding step, empty and solid should be distinct.

9. Millstone Pushing Palm (推磨掌) Tui Mo Zhang

This posture is also called Green Dragon Extends Its Claws, or the “Pushing Turning Palm.” In some styles it is associated with the Dragon. The hands are in the “Tile Palm” position, in which the hand is curved but the forefinger is straight. The forefinger of the inside hand is at eye level. The yes regard the forefinger of the inside hand or look through the Tiger’s Mouth (Hu Kou), the circular space between the thumb and forefinger. The outside (rear) arm is close to your body and curves so that the forefinger points at the elbow of the inside (front) arm. There is space under the armpits, and the shoulders have drawing inward force, while the elbows sink and drop. The head pushes upward and the chest is soft. There is a sensation of opening inward and closing outward.

 Millstone Pushing Palm – Fine Points

  • The fingers of the inside hand point upward at the level of the eyebrow and the palm root drops downward.
  • The outside arm has a wrapping, embracing force. It wraps around the body so that the fingers point at the elbow of the inside arm.
  • The palms take the shape of the tile palm.
  • There is space under the armpits and the elbows drop down as though protecting the body.
  • There is a feeling of extending through the arms, yet the wrists and elbows remain supple.
  • The reaching and extending of the outside arm helps drive the steps.
  • The arms are curved. They are not sharply bent or straight.
  • The shoulder blades are buttoned down and “glued” to the ribs.
  • The arms have a twisting wrapping force.
  • The outside hand is reaching toward the elbow of the inside hand.
  • The kua sits and twists and the body turns so that when the inside foot is forward, the inside hand is in line with the rear (outside foot).

Song of the Millstone Pushing Palm

Pile the back elbow first and protect the heart with the elbow,

Hand turns over and sinks, extending forward.

Following to the front elbow with wrapping-embracing force.

Front and back hands, and one spirit united.

10 Universal Palm

The Universal Palm (Yu Zhou Zhang) is essentially a neutral position that is a fusion of the other 9 palms. It is both a point of departure for the other palms and a unification of their energies. This palm is sometimes called the Moon Embracing Palm (抱月掌) Bao Yue Zhang, and under this name it is one of the Eight basic Palms of Beijing Gao Family Ba Gua Zhang as taught by Master Gao Ji Wu. It is also called the “All Round Posture.”

The Universal Palm body pattern allows one to gather strength with minimal physical effort. The Universal Palm is composed of interlocking and interconnecting circular forces – it has no beginning and no end. In walking and circling, and changing directions while holding the Universal Palm position, one resides in stillness at the pivot between the palms and changes.

Universal Palm – Fine Points

  • The outside of the arms and the back are round and make a circle.
  • The inside of the arms and the chest are round and make a circle.
  • Imagine there is a ball in each elbow.
  • Imagine there is a ball under each armpit.
  • The hands are round like holding balls in the palm centers.
  • The Tiger’s Mouth (Hu Kou) is round as though it holds a ball.
  • The fingers gently spread as though warming your hands on a fire and it feels as though there is small ball between each pair of fingers.
  • The roots of the fingers gently extend through the intention, rather than physical force
  • The trunk of the body is round, the Yao is round and Dantian is round.
  • In picture above, the right arm is spiraling counter-clockwise and the left arm is spiraling clockwise, however at the same time, internally, the arms are also drawing apart in the opposite direction.
  • The legs are round – in the picture above the right leg spirals counter-clockwise and the left leg is spiraling clockwise, however at the same time, internally, each leg is spiraling in the opposite direction

Song of The Universal Palm (Moon Embracing Palm)

Embrace the moon in two hands like holding a baby,

Hold in the chest and erect the upper back like tightening a rope.

Slacken the shoulder and drop the elbow for a flexible wrist,

In a form like an ape-monkey picking the fruit.

Notes:

[1] Ba Gua Manual of Sun Lu Tang (Paul Brennan Tranlation), A Study of Ba Gua Boxing by Sun Fu Quan (Sun Lu Tang), 1917.

[6] Lion Shape Baguazhang by Sha Guo-Zheng, compiled and translated by Bradford Tyrey. (www.neijiabooks.com)

[7] (Hua Di): Can read as “Ground Scraping” Palm

[8]Ba Gua Quan Zhen Chuan (Genuine Transmission of Ba Gua Zhang) by Sun Xi Kun (孫錫堃)