By taking your standing practice from Wuji Posture through Trinity Posture, with the supplemental exercises, you are well on your way to understanding the whole body connection that makes practicing mindfulness martial arts worthwhile. For Baguazhang practice, the next critical component is walking.
Walking is a great exercise. The American Heart Association website lists benefits such as reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure, improved circulation, and reducing the effects of, or even eliminating, diabetes. Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and many other internal or mindfulness based fitness styles claim the same health benefits as a vigorous walk.
Some added benefits of walking and mindfulness martial art practice include improved appetite, weight loss, improved muscle tone, and stronger bones. The American Heart Association and internal martial art masters also agree that a regular exercise program will reduce the chance of falling, or getting injured by a fall, in your later years. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine martial art practice with the simple act of walking? Well, you can; Baguazhang is a martial art dedicated to walking.
Eight Trigram Palm, or Baguazhang, is the youngest of the Chinese internal martial arts, with much of its growth happening at the beginning of the last century. Despite its newness, it has spread worldwide and is one of the most popularly practiced martial arts.
The basic practice of Baguazhang is easy; you hold fixed postures from traditional standing practice while walking in a circle. Walking in a circle forces you to practice a unique toe-in and toe-out step crucial to escaping, entering and defeating an opponent. For the Baguazhang martial artist, standing is good, but walking is better.
Baguazhang trains both stillness and movement with the circle walking practice. The beginner learns how to walk and change directions on the circle while developing leg strength and flexibility in the torso. For anyone who has not suffered a serious misfortune, leg strength is a key to good posture and health.
The mobility gained from circle walking practice gives you an advantage for self-defense. You will learn to change foot and hand positions while moving. This skill to keep moving while defending yourself improves your chance of getting to safety.
Walking in Baguazhang differs from an ordinary stroll. Since you are walking in a circle you are not distracted by your surroundings, allowing you to achieve a meditative state.
The fixed upper body postures stretch and strengthen the torso, and add variety to your practice. You can learn an endless number of ways to change the fixed postures as you change directions on the circle so your practice will not become boring or stagnant.
Before you begin circle walking practice, you need a circle to walk around. As you become comfortable with the stepping pattern needed for good practice, you will not need a visual cue, but it is helpful for beginners. The easiest method is to put an object down and declare that the center of your circle. You could use a coat rack, a tall box, a shoe, anything that helps you find the center of your circle.
I have hung a plant hook in the center of my practice area, and when I am practicing I hang an extendable painter’s pole from it. The pole creates a visual reference for my practice and hides away easily.
Outside, you can create a circle with some sidewalk chalk, marking the edge of a circle on your driveway or patio. If you have access to a gym with a basketball court, the circle in the middle of the court is a good place to walk about.
The circle needs to be large enough that you are comfortable walking around it. A small circle can cause you to strain your knees or become dizzy quickly. Advanced students walk a circle in eight or ten steps. Beginners should start with a circle two or three times that size.