Part one: About the history of Baguazhang
Q1.How old is Baguazhang?
A.Dong Haichuan started to teach openly in Beijing around the year of 1850, so the known history is about 160 years. This means that there are at least four generations of lineage holders. Because of separations into branches, in some branches there are ten generations.
Baguazhang is the culmination of years of martial arts and culture in China. To look for the roots of its theories and techniques, you need to look at over 2500 years of history. We have records and materials collected over twenty years of research that we will be making available to association members.
Q2,Hasn’t Ma Gui’s baguazhang lost transmission?
A.Ma Gui, although short and small, was a hero who would rather starve than teach just to survive. He was the pillar of the baguazhang system. In the last half of his life , from 1905 to 1940, he lived in straightened circumstances in a disrupted Beijing. Although he had unparalleled martial skills, he had no way to make a living. Even during this time he refused to teach just to survive. This type of strong character is seldom seen. Everyone in his epoch knew that the baguazhang world had this type of hero in him.
Many in the martial world think that although Ma Gui gave teaching pointers to some students, that he did not have a successor. In fact, Ma Gui passed on his system to Li Shao’an and Liu Wanchuan, moved by Li’s spirit of generosity and goodness. When Liu Wanchuan taught, he would frequently say, ‘this comes from Ma Gui’. He said those very words to me, the student of his student. Due to Liu Wanchuan’s teaching, we are lucky to have materials from Ma Gui (verses, photos, etc). In over a hundred years of lineage, we certainly have the system passed on from Ma Gui.
Q3,Does the Ma Gui Bagua system have other branches?
A.Baguazhang has come to us from Dong Haichuan. At the time of his teaching, the baguazhang world was united, all the students were as close as brothers, Beijing was truly a paradise for heroes.
In the last twenty to thirty years, however, differences arose and the wonderful feeling of the paradise has been disturbed. We are now openly promoting Ma Gui’s baguazhang, and hope that there will not be disagreements. We want to pass on this priceless jewel that no amount of money, fame, or social position can compare. Our teachers valued this baguazhang more than their lives.
We do not speculate, infer, or dispute with the martial skills of any person or any organization. We just want to explain what we know and what we can do.
Ma Gui learned from Dong Haichuan from a young age, also learning from Yin Fu. He lived in the baguazhang and martial world for over eighty years. All that he knew, learned, saw, and achieved, his behaviour and actions, we now can only guess. He most likely coached and taught many people. I have heard of ten such. But only Liu Wanchuan directly told his students that what he practiced and taught was directly from Ma Gui.
Actually, I’m the same as anyone who loves bagua. I’ve been searching for others who have learned Ma Gui’s system. If there were someone then we’d have more input that would enrich the system. I think, and I am certainly not the only one, that for the time being, throw bricks to bring out the jade. I wish that more people who carry on Ma Gui’s lineage would come forth and contribute what they know, and teach even more people.
Q4.Some people say that Ma Gui was Yin Fu’s student. Is this true?
A.Ma Gui entered the school of Yin Fu and learned Yin Fu’s baguazhang, of course he was Yin Fu’s student! But the Ma Gui school that we study is not the Yin Fu school of baguazhang. Ma Gui learned directly from Dong Haichuan, what he did is not just Yin Fu bagua.
Q5.Why does Bagua have so many different schools?
A.Baguazhang is baguazhang, everyone trains what Dong Haichuan passed on, there really are no separate schools. Dong Haichuan had many students, and taught each differently, according to his character, interests, and abilities. So of course the result of his teaching and their training would differ. This doesn’t mean that their baguazhang is not the same, just that baguazhang has the ability to mold to each person.
Yin Fu never said to his students that he was teaching was ‘Yin Fu school baguazhang’. When his students wanted to distinguish what they were talking about, of course they naturally called it ‘Yin Fu’s baguazhang’. Cheng Tinghua and the others are the same.
Liu Wanchuan always emphasized that he was teaching ‘Ma Gui’s things’. So we naturally call our school the ‘Ma Gui school of baguazhang’ to show our respect for our teachers.
Whatever a school is called, never forget that it is baguazhang. Some people may be teaching without having received the true teaching, claiming to be some branch of baguazhang, but if they depart from the classics to far, or are too far from what bagua should be, then people will realize this and they will not last. This is what I have come to feel after decades training baguazhang. When training, you have your own limitations. It is hard to avoid leaning or tilting your sometime, but your honest seeking of the Way must always be upright.
Q6.Baguazhang is virtually unknown in the world, especially outside China. Why is this?
A.All Chinese who know any traditional kungfu know about baguazhang, but not many train it. My own idea on why this is so is that baguazhang was born at an inopportune time Dong Haichuan gained mastery and came out of the mountains during the final years of the Qing dynasty. Just when the country was in its worst disarray, he walked into the corrupt and decaying late Qing dynasty. He taught for several decades, and passed Bagua on to a large group of students, but due to the turmoil that erupted after the dynasty collapsed many died or were maimed, and those who survived had to go into hiding. Under these circumstances, how could they continue to pass on their art?
Even more unlucky was the fourth generation of the lineage. There was hardly any transmission from the fourth to third generations, and some were complacent(?I don’t know what you mean by this). From 1940 to 1970 was the period in which the fourth generation needed to be carefully brought along, but this period was perhaps one of the bleakest, most disrupted periods in the history of China. It is fortunate that a few did manage to gain transmission. Fortune grows out of misfortune, as those of the fourth generation who did struggle to keep baguazhang during this dark time were marvellous.
In the 1980s the Wushu Association’s work of compiling the martial tradition of the country began. We were finally able to see historical stories, classic martial texts, and verses that had been hidden away for the fourth and fifth generations. Those who kept the tradition alive during this troubled time gave future generations the lifeblood of baguazhang’s written materials. It took everything they had just to not lose the tradition, it is too much to ask that it spread and become popular.
In the thirty years since 1980 I myself have been a part of the process of teaching and developing baguazhang. Spreading baguazhang in China and the world is the task of myself and like minded people. In looking back on the past, there is little use in commenting on what could have been, but in looking ahead to the future we have the ability to make a difference. Just look at us today and see how far we’ve come!
Q7.How many renowned practitioners does the Magui style have? (has the Magui style had?)
A.I have published them all on the webpage, please see the section historical origins.