BAGUA ZOU ZHANG – Walking the Circle
Walking the Circle – How this simple and very rich tool can change our muscles, tendons, essence and mind. Walking is an art itself and can bring every practice to a higher level.
The first practice in Baguazhang – and by the way the longest lasting practice in this boxing method, until the very last day of your life – is circle walking. How we step, how far, how deep, how solid, how balanced, how rooted, how quick, how aligned… There is no end to the requests a practitioner has to undergo concerning walking the circle. Really, the principle is to become friend with changes and instability, because walking the circle is really a way to check our limits and to go beyond our frustrations. Walking stimulates blood circulation via the pump-effect of the foot sole for the return of venous blood, and the wonders of walking, especially of circle walking, are too many to be described here briefly.
What the body learns during the circle walking affects directly the brain, and broadens the panorama, the skill of seeing on a larger perspective. Horizontal walking and looking brings open-mindedness, new reactions, expansion and communication. Balance, stability, resiliency, will to endure, all these concepts are graved also into our mind and allows us to constantly change and become new persons, as far as we accept to train in the right way, it means not forcing but welcoming the changes. We all know that becoming elder starts from the legs. The day we do not move feeling stable and rooted and need a support, is the day we would like to postpone the most. Circle walking is one of the best tools to keep instability away.
Form of dynamic meditation
Keeping constantly attention to what we do, where we put the feet, how we walk, why we do certain movements, is a form of dynamic meditation. This helps a lot in our days, where concentration and attention are steadily at risk because of the way our activities and job are made, basically fragmented. As mentioned before, the creator of Baguazhang studied for long time circle walking, and used it as the main working tool for developing excellent footwork, as for example Sun Lutang was famous for. After one hour walking, despite the fact that we did not move from the spot, we have some kilometers done and the benefits of the spiral pattern – that circle walking provokes in all parts of the body – is extremely beneficial for all parts, limbs, joints, and activates the energy knots in the body. Shocks and memories are encapsulated and stocked in our joints, and sometimes fears and pains comes from the past trauma we experienced. Moving joint and releasing tensions is the best way to get out of this vicious circle.
In Baguazhang there are different ways of stepping, all headed to develop specific skills, but the most normal and used step in Sun Lutang system the natural step, Ziran Bu, or Lion Step. where the foot lands on the heel a fraction of second before, and the toes follow. This step allows the foot pump to do his job and help our body to keep healthy. Circle dimensions are also important in Bagua: from large circles, almost a straight line, to on-spot, on the ax circles with two-three steps, all is used in time to create new balance habits in our body and in our mind. Walking a eight steps circle is our golden Rule, very much like Leonardo’s Man in square and circle from Vitruvius, who is the measure of all things, and the only connection between Earth and Sky, being able to harmonize two different worlds.
Looking around us while relaxing and feeling good is a very good medicament for everyone. Hands and arms postures are used to create harmonization with the upper part of the body and to connect between down and up. It is called a dynamic standing pole, because arms do not move, but our legs do. For those who consider internal energy, circular patterns activate internal organs and the different Dantian or Chakra in Hindi. Like with Taijiquan, Baguazhang has been proved to be very effective for specific diseases, and generally to clean the body from unwanted things, thanks to the squeezing effect of twisting movements. 20 minutes a day is an excellent example of with a little investment in time and patience we can get back years of wellbeing.
Author: Luigi Zanini
Images: Luigi Zanini
Baguazhang is one of the three known Chinese Internal Martial Arts, and is the youngest one, since he was divulgated and diffused around 1850 in the Beijing and Tianjing area. The fighting ability of his founder, Dong Haiquan (1797-1882), his special footwork, the specific way of training the body and the number of skilled specialists he taught and helped him to spread his art: all this made Baguazhang a highly-reputed and effective combat art. Dong himself made his fame inside of the Imperial Court and soon his style became the combat method of the last emperors in the Prohibited City.
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