Eight-Diagram Palm, Baguazhang in Chinese, is a boxing style characterized by continuously changing palm styles. It is so named due to the practising walking route like the traditional Chinese Eight Diagrams. As one of the three famous schools of Internal Boxing Arts (Neijiaquan), it is good for fitness, body-building and self-defense.
Eight-Diagram Palm was created by Dong Haichuan who combined Chinese Kung Fu and Neigong (exercises benefiting the internal organs). It develops on the traditions of Chinese Kung Fu that attaches importance to the fist styles as well as the beeline fighting route. The deft and swift changing styles perfectly ward off the attacks of the enemy. The distance and directions between the opponents can be well adjusted to optimal situations. A proverb describes this Kung Fu style as: It is like a swimming dragon as changing styles, a guarding ape as concentrating, a squatted tiger as sitting and a hovering eagle as walking.
The movement features are One Walking, Two Seeings, Three Sittings and Four Turnings. All of these are preconditions to practice the flexible skills and enhance leg strength. The elementary skills are standing like a pole and wading mud steps. To practice that, it is necessary to turn around and move in a circle flexibly when walking/moving, whilst the palm styles should vary accordingly.
Apart from the basic palm styles, there are pair practice and unsanctioned fight (Sanda or Sanshou), for which step moves are required to be well coordinated with the palm movements. The major weapons include saber, sword, cudgel and Mandarin Duck battle-axe. Other weapons are Spring-Autumn Sword, Interlink Sword, Five-Element Cudgel, Eight-Diagram Sword, etc.
Combining some skills of Form/Intention Boxing and Eight-Diagram Palm, the Form/Intension Eight-Diagram Palm is a representative style with eight basic palm styles and four featured actions: Eight styles are named after swallow, eagle, bear, monkey, dragon, snake, tiger and horse. Four motions refer to lifting, falling, smashing and turning. These skills provide favorable conditions for building leg strength. Simply, it is a helpful approach to keep a good figure; therefore, it is quite popular among the women.
Yin style was created by an apprentice of Dong Haichuan named Yin Fu. The extending hand is called Ox Tongue Palm which consists of sixty-four styles. The basic skills are created according to the ideology of traditional Chinese Eight Diagrams. They may have the same names as other styles, but show different forms and skills.
Liang Zhenpu, one of the eight apprentices of Dong Haichuan, fully summarized the features of the original Baguazhang and created Liang Style. Apart from the similar characteristics with Cheng and Yin styles, Liang style contains profound cultural connotations which are reflected in the complete practice theories. The practice is under the guidance of the relevant oral phrases, so people usually have interests in learning and practising.
Cheng style was created by Cheng Tinghua, another apprentice of Dong Haichuan. It is also named Southern School Eight-Diagram Palm, emphasizing the combination of strength and softness. The extending stunt is the Dragon Claw Palm. The main palm styles are single palm changing, both palms changing, turning back palm changing and others.
Shi Jidong created Shi Style, which is characterized by the Billhook Hand, namely index and middle fingers always adducting and thumb buckling. The basic practising principles should abide by “moving as the essence and changing as the method”. The skills are innovative Eight Diagrams Palms and Sixty-Four Palms and the weapons are saber, sword, spear and battle-axe.
Apart from these styles, there are also Zhang Style, Liu Style and Song Style.