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ba gua zhang



Geoff offers the opportunity for you to join him in the traditional way of of Ba Gua Zhang.  As a true mind-body practice, the art covers areas of energetics, self-defense and self-cultivation.  Classes are located on the North side of Brisbane on Thursday and Saturday mornings. 

There is a medium level of fitness required to begin, though training is always done within your own sphere of competence, naturally expanding as you grow in your journey of proficiency. 

If you are interested in beginning a new path to mind-body integration through the paradigm of a traditional art, please contact Geoff via email.

about geoff

Geoff Sweeting has been training in the internal arts of Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan for 15 years, beginning work with Roy Jenzen in Perth. After moving to Brisbane in 1994 and achieving qualifications in acupuncture and herbal medicine, Geoff travelled to China for post graduate work in Chinese Medicine, and to pursue further internal arts study there in the late 1990's. In Guangxi province he studied Ba Gua Zhang with the then national champion Jiang Xiao Min, and Taj ji quan with Master Bo Le.

Following his heart, Geoff journeyed north to Beijing in pursuit of the more traditional systems. After considerable effort in Beijing, Geoff was accepted as an "inner door" disciple of Master Wang Tong, disciple of the great Li Zi Ming and Sun Feng Lin. This recognition gave Geoff the opportunity to become an official fifth generation Ba Gua Zhang and seventh generation Xing Yi Quan inheritor to these traditional systems. In an unprecedented move Master Wang agreed to travel to Australia in 2000, marking his first ever travel outside China, to help Geoff train students in Queensland.

During Geoff's visit to Beijing, he was awarded a certificate to teach Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan of Master Wang Tong's lineage, in Australia, the first of its kind to be issued to an Australian citizen.

geoff and master tong photograph

geoff at tombs




Geoff demonstrates the single and double palm change with circle walking.



Geoff performs the continuous five elements of Xing Yi Quan.


about ba gua zhang

tiger imageBa Gua Zhang is one of three main martial arts styles from China that are commonly referred to as ‘Internal Arts’ (Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Zhang and Tai Ji Quan). The name Ba Gua Zhang is literally translated into English as ‘Eight diagram palm’.

The eight diagrams symbolize the interplay of yin and yang, which are used to describe the cyclical nature of change manifested in the universe. They were first recorded in the Chinese classic known as the ‘Yi Jing’ (Zhou Jing), or ‘the book of changes’ over 4000 years ago.

Ba Gua Zhang belongs to the superior fighting arts of China. It is classed as one of the last classical martial arts to be formed in China, and up until today only has a history of  over 130 years. The founder of  Ba Gua Zhang was one Dong Hai Chuan. His original name was Dong Meng Kui. He was a stocky man with very long arms who studied martial arts diligently during his youth.  When his hometown suffered under poor harvests and natural disasters, Dong left home in search of better opportunities, and vowed not to return until he was crowned with success.

When he arrived in the capital (Beijing) he had many challenge matches, all of which he lost. He quickly discovered that he still had much to learn.  From this he decided to embark on a journey around China to seek out masters of the martial arts everywhere and learn from them. Thus he changed his name from Dong Meng Kui to Dong Hai Chuan. In Chinese “Hai Chuan” means to “embrace the world”, which stood for his openness in learning.

Dong traveled extensively through Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi and Sichuan provinces, and learned much about the martial arts. After 30 years of learning and refining his arts, which included learning both Daoist and Buddhist gong fu, as well as spending some time living in a monastery with Daoist monks, in his 50’s he created his own style of martial arts called “Zhuan Zhang” (Changing palms). This was a unique style that was completely new to the world of Chinese fighting arts, and became widely revered for it’s unorthodox guerilla warfare strategies of constant movement and change, and it’s mysterious circle walking practices combining both martial and spiritual methods.

From then on he led a colourful life in Beijing  taking on all comers and being undefeated in combat. He was even employed to work in the royal palace where he became head of security there. From here his reputation grew to huge proportions and his martial exploits were many, all of which have been well documented. He was held in such high esteem among the world of martial artists that people spoke of his methods as being Divine and coming straight from Heaven. Truly they said his skills were not of this earth.

At some point he changed the name of his art from Zhuan zhang to Ba Gua Zhang, after discovering that his theories and tactics aligned themselves perfectly with the theories of the Yi Jing (book of changes). And from then to the present day Dong Hai Chuan’s art was known as Ba Gua Zhang. Dong had many great students who went on to become remarkable men themselves. One such man was Liang Zhen Pu.

Liang Zhen Pu was the youngest of Master Dong’s disciple students (beginning his training with the master at 16 years of age), and one of his favourites because of this. In 1899 Liang killed a few men during a political uprising in his hometown, and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned, only to escape from jail the following year. Liang hid out in the country side and managed to open an armed escort service on the outskirts of Beijing and Baoding.  After the change in government he was once again allowed to return to the city. He stopped his bodyguard service and began to teach martial arts in Tianjin and Hebei. During this time he also had the unique opportunity to teach his art in the cities’ highschools. Upon his return to Bejing, he was able to further his studies with master Dong Hai Chuan, who was by then an old man.

Dong had further refined his skills and techniques, and he passed these on to Liang. During this time master Dong taught Liang, sword techniques and the seven star staff.

Liang also deepened his understanding of the art by studying with Dong’s most senior students, especially Shi Ji Lin. This is why Liang style and Shi style Ba Gua Zhang have many similarities and have the same 8 character classic of : Push, lift, carry, lead, remove, cover, split and enter.

Eight Diagram Palm is the double study of both internal and external skills. There are internal or stillness methods, and martial exercises also. Both have their own purpose and uniqueness. Among the many and varied practices in this great art there are  methods of “fixed palms” and “palm changes” (with the intent being of a  martial  and/or spiritual focus), standing forms, single and double technique practices, two person sets, free sparring and weapons training.
Ba Gua Zhang’s first and foremost principle is “Circle walking”. Long term practice of  circle walking is one of the main keys to understanding the heart of Ba Gua Zhang. There are many variations and subtleties within this one method and the applications are endless.

tiger imageWe call it the “Fundamental Law” because Ba Gua Zhang employs guerilla warfare type tactics (movement tactics), and the practice of circle walking helps engender the principle of continuous movement. Due to it’s positioning, circle walking forces the opponent to be contained in the centre, which must always be kept in mind. We are on the outside flank, facing the inside centre, never offering a frontal battle.

As well as being integral as a martial strategy, the practice of circle walking is seen as a method of cultivating stillness. It actually contains the Daoist principle of “movement in stillness and stillness in movement”. Externally we are moving and changing, internally our Spirit is extraordinarily calm, an unchangeable centre at the heart of all the whirling and turning.

There are 4 main characteristics passed down to us from Liang Zhen Pu for the practice of Ba Gua Zhang;

  • Ba Gua Zhang is stillness and movement combined boxing.
  • Always be from the outside flank facing inside to attack the centre.
  • Ba Gua Zhang utilizes moving strategies and moving tactics.
  • Ba Gua Zhang follows the laws of nature
  • The main practices of Eight Diagram Palm involve “palm changes” and other actions revolving around a centre. There are large circumference circles that we walk around, and small points of axis within the body that we circle around also. Thus we tend to favour centrifugal power, and correct placement of strength, over the use brute force.

    There are 8 important practice criteria that must be followed by practitioners:

    1) There are 8 human body locations that compare to the 8 gua from the Yi Jing;

    Qian-Head. Head must be pushed up.
    Li-Chest. Important to keep empty.
    Dui-Shoulder. Must be loose and sunken.
    Zhen- Grain way.Contract the grain way.
    Kun-Hip knee foot. Must be curved.
    Kan-Abdomen. Keep full.
    Xun-Both feet. Front foot empty, back foot full.
    Gen-Neck. Straighten the neck.

     2) Practitioners clearly need to understand the 3 divisions and four tips according to the whole body theory.
    The three divisions are;

    a) According to the body;
    Head is the tip, chest is the middle and lower legs are the root.

    b) According to the arm divisions;
    Hand is the tip, elbow is the middle and shoulder is the root.

    c) According to the leg divisions;
    Foot is the tip, knee is the middle and hip is the root.

    From traditional Chinese medicine we get the four tips as:

    1) Hair is the tip of the blood.
    2) Nails are the tip of the tendons and muscles.
    3) Tongue is the tip of the flesh.
    4) Teeth are the tip of the bones.

    3) Practitioners need to clearly understand the importance of “9 Part Strength”. This means to first take the nine parts of the body (that is, from the sections listed above the tips, middles and roots) and separately examine them so that they may be integrated through practice into one whole. Turn the 9 parts into one. Thus giving rise to ‘whole body power’. The “one qi of tai ji.”

    4) Always keep the 3 hollows during practice;
    Hand heart empty.
    Feet heart empty.
    Chest heart empty.

    5) Keep the three ‘prop-ups’;
    Tongue pushes up to soft palate.
    Head pushed up to heaven.
    Palm pushed up and out to the front.

    6) Keep the three ‘roundings’;
    Back rounded.
    Tiger’s mouth rounded.
    Both hands (arms) mutually embracing need to be rounded.

    7) Keep the four drops;
    Shoulders drop.
    Waist drops.
    Hips drop.
    Knees drop.

    8) When beginning to study it is important to avoid the ‘3 harms’;
    Avoid exerting the breath.
    Avoid overexertion of strength.
    Avoid raising the abdomen to expand the chest.

    These eight important criteria are the basis of the body method in Ba Gua Zhang.  They are the starting points for practitioners to help them discover a type of “internal power” through correct posture.  The ideas behind these practice criteria are to help build and foster the proper “intents” within the body.  With further practice the practitioner adds certain mental or spiritual intents that help take the art to the next level.  Though some are more “spiritual” or “meditational” practices, the majority of visualization and guiding techniques are to help raise the spirit (and thus the Yang Qi) for attacking skills (combat).

    pheasant imageThe techniques are practiced firstly in solo forms, then two man sets, and finally free sparring, once the essence of the movements has been fully understood. Ba Gua Zhang is a complete art in that it addresses physical, energetic, spiritual and self-defense cultivation practices. But it is integral to both the art and practitioners alike that the “Attacking Skills” (combat skills) are taught.  For without the martial side of the arts, it leaves the practice empty and without real spirit.  To bring the best out of an individual through these arts, we must allot the proper time in training to fighting techniques and attack skills concentrating on the “Wu Shen” (martial spirit). Through this way the individual can face certain emotional and energetic blockages, and overcome them by diligent practice.  Thus a type of spiritual advancement can also be made. 

    As well as this, through the trial of combat “Yang Qi” or dynamic energy is cultivated. It raises up the spirit and enhances the power and effectiveness of the individual. 

    If we do not train in a martial manner, then when the need arises for use in an emergency, the practitioner will not be able to just “ turn it on” at that time. How we train is how we react.

    In the spiritual practices of Ba Gua Zhang there resides many techniques and methods. Through long term practice of circle walking, one may lead the spirit into ecstatic states or feelings of mystical union.  The high point of practice is known as “spirit returning to emptiness” which is derived from Daoist forms of meditation. This may also be described as union with God.

    On another level the awareness of the practitioner can be expanded through certain use of the mind during solo or shadow boxing practice. Imagining that we are only our hands, and that our palms take in the world. Or that we become the earth or the heavens.  At times we may take on the spirit of animals and “forgetting” ourselves find  the true path to developing a higher physical and spiritual power.  We walk the circle revolving like the earth, we walk upon it and turn with it, our consciousness expanding out beyond our limitations to encompass the universe. When we point upwards we pierce the sky, when we strike down our bodies disappear into the depths of the earth.  Circles within circles, we turn like the seasons, we burn like the sun and freeze like the blizzard. 

    In our daily practice we aim for constant movement and change whilst also remaining still, just flowing with the intention of energy. Rolling and turning like a dragon, at once soaring up through heaven, then diving deep down, swimming to the bottom of the sea. A type of moving meditation, that helps us see that amongst the ebb and tide of our daily lives we can hold fast to our true nature, in touch with the Divine under all circumstance.


    Copyright. G. Sweeting 2003