Ba Kua means eight triagrams 'or 'eight changes' in English. The symbols are found in the ancient Chinese text of divination, the I Ching. Ba Kua is characterised by 'circle walking' where the practitioner walks a continuous circle executing various patterns of movement and forms. Circle walking gives the practitioner insight into the unity of Motion and Stillness. Ba Kua emphasises sinuous, spiral movement and is key in showing how you gain efficiency and economy in movement.
Ba Kua, in particular, teaches two main psycho-physiological aspects of Nei Jia. This gives Ba Kua its characteristic feeling. First, how to move in an efficient and natural way and second, how the mind settles and interacts with the physical world.
Ba Kua specifically teaches you how to move. It's all very well looking at the static pictures of martial art forms but how do you go from one picture to the next? Spiral motion is fundamental to our system as it is the only type of movement that allows change of direction without stopping. You must be able to accelerate or decelerate a limb without ending movement. Circular movement allows change in direction without stopping but does not allow continual acceleration or deceleration. Stopping movement is inefficient as you have to overcome inertia in order to start movement again. The time taken to deliver a strike will depend upon the distance travelled to the target. Since time is inversely proportional to the distance travelled, by reducing the striking distance you minimise the time it takes to strike or block. Furthermore, by doing away with 'dead time' (movement that is executed in two parts, for example going backwards to then go forwards) you also economise movement.
Ba Kua lays particular stress on practicing circle walking whilst gazing at a central point. The use of a focus point has significant repercussions for training the mind. The Tao is a settled mind. The gaze provides the thread by which our mind connects to the external environment - if your eyes move randomly your mind will not be still. Once the external, physical eye is steadied, you begin to discover the 'inner eye' of practice, a state of internal connection to your physical practice and to the external environment. The second stage of practice is therefore to move the eyes from one point in space to the next, i.e., one target to the next.
The three dimensional, dynamic sphere, aspect of spiral motion has major implications for combat. Combat can be understood as a series of time-competitive observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA) loops. The main objective of Nei Jia, and especially Ba Kua, is to increase the cycle speed of these decision loops. From this perspective, economy of movement is not based upon the power or velocity of a strike with respect to an opponent but rather at what point in time the blow is delivered - ie the rate of change of movement is the critical element not simply pure velocity.
Efficiency of movement in this way is seen as moving within an opponents OODA loop. As you do this a 'catch-up' effect occurs, your opponent finding it increasingly difficult to affect a defence. The forms that comprise Ba Kua are therefore not martial techniques as such but rather templates of the core principles on how to move naturally ie the forms teach you how to move without conscious thought within the infinite number of combat environments or situations. The name of Ba Kua therefore implies this as 'eight changes' indicating the totality of movement templates. Syllabus: 8 Walks 8 Changes 8 Animal forms Partner Work
Classes of Ba Kua are currently available at: Pineapple Studios, Langley Street, Covent Garden Saturday 4-5pm Studio 5. Cost £15 per class.