Gao Ba Gua Zhang was developed by Gao Yisheng, also named Gao Deyuan, was born in Shandong province, Wuli county, Dashan village in 1866 and died in 1951. At an early age he followed the practice of his family’s martial art, Dahongquan (Big Red Fist). After that he also began to study Xingyiquan, later coming under the instruction of the famous teacher Li Cunyi. At the age of thirty, he met Wuqing Wafang village’s Zhou Yuxiang. Zhou Yuxiang was a highly skilled pupil of Cheng Tinghua. His skills were very deep, especially in fighting. He was so adept at the use of his palms in attack that he earned the nickname “Peerless Palm.” Upon the first meeting of Gao and Zhou they decided to compare each other’s martial arts. In this first contest, Zhou soundly defeated Gao three times in a row, immediately after having Zhou’s skills proved to Gao beyond all doubt, he bowed down and asked Zhou Yuxiang to become his teacher. Because of their ages being similar, Zhou desisted and instead took Gao Yisheng to Beijing to formally introduce him to his teacher, Cheng Tinghua (known to the martial world as “Eyeglasses Cheng.” Based on the basic palm movements that his teachers taught him, after 40 years of refinement and organizing the system, it became Cheng Branch, Gao Ba Gua Zhang, also called Swimming Body Continuous Baguazhang, with its own unique style.
The martial arts of our school began being passed down since the time Zhang Zhunfeng arrived in Taiwan in 1947. Zhang Zhunfeng was extremely strict when teaching, especially in fighting and training the body. Every time he had class he led the class on his own and he would pass along the forms on his own. Therefore many of Zhang’s students had solid and real fighting skills. Real fighting is the tradition within this school.
This system has two parts, the first, Xiantianzhang ( Pre-heaven palms ), is done walking in a circle; the second, Houtianzhang ( Post-heaven palms ), is done in straight lines. The research methodology for the system is that of the Pre-heaven palms being the foundation of the Post-heaven palms and the Post-heaven palms being the application of the Pre-heaven palms . The Pre-heaven palms takes the Single Palm Change as the head of the dragon and the eight lines evolve from there, the contents of the Pre-heaven palms are:
Snake form smooth body palm
Dragon form piercing hand palm
Returning body, strike the tiger palm
Swallow overturning covering hand palm
Turn the body over the back palm
Twist the body searching horse palm
Overturn the body, through the back palm
Stopping body, move and hook palm
The tail of the dragon is the form of wulongbaiwei (Black Dragon Swings Tail), which ends the form.
Inside the Pre-heaven palms are neigong methods of cultivating the body, the eight large opening hand methods and the eight throwing methods.
The Post-heaven palm methods concentrate on practicing the forms of attack and defense. They take the eight palms and eight lines of the Pre-heaven palms to become the sixty-four palm methods. Each palm is then expressed alone as a single movement principle. The essential point of single movement practice in the Post-heaven palms is to catch the situation and fajing (emit power). The main point in practice is to catch the situation and then use the situation. The main point behind the practice of each line of the Post-heaven palms is as below:
The first line – key methods
The second line – hitting methods
The third line – skillful methods
The fourth line – sophisticated (subtle) methods
The fifth line – elbow methods
The sixth line – leg methods
The seventh line – body methods
The eighth line – stepping methods
After practicing hard and diligently for a period of time you can get to the point where the Pre-heaven and Post-heaven palms become one. As soon as your arm comes out, your whole body will naturally react in a rhythm to dissipate and spiral away the opponent’s power. How you practice is exactly how you apply it.