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Interview with master He Jing-han on Bagua quan

BAGUA QUAN The 8 trigram martial art

He Jing-han started to study Yang Taiji Quan at the age of 15. However after 6 or 7 years of studying he started to stagnate and he did not know how to proceed. At the age of 23 he was introduced to master Gong Bao Zhai and started to specialize in Bagua Quan.

Master Gong Bao Zhai inherited the Bagua Quan system from his teacher, grandmaster Gong Bao Tien, who was a direct student of grandmaster Yin Fu. Both of them were renowned martial artists and were instructors of the emperor’s personal bodyguards. He Jing-han became a disciple of master Gong at the age of 24. Since then the house of his master become his home.

What is the difference between the internal and the external in the martial arts?

What does the internal and the external mean in the martial arts?

We call the internal neijia and the external waijia. However, the Chinese character neijia could in fact mean also “inside the family” and waijia “outside the family”.

The characters have different meanings. Some people say that Neijia was something which has been kept inside the family while Waijia originates from the outside of the family sources. Others say, for example, that Neijia is for the monks in the monasteries Neijia while Waijia is for the people from outside. Another definition mentions the internal as something which was kept in the emperor’s palace while external was suited for the people outside of the palace. Another theory originates from the Ming dynasty – some people were devoted mainly to the studying, such as writers, doctors, painters etc. These people used their internal strength to keep a good health. They concentrated on a Chinese style of the meditation aimed to develop good personal traits and strong character. They applied this ability also into the martial arts.

So there really is a study process which leads from the internal to the external.

For example – as each and every one of us has already experienced – when we were young we were full of energy, we were constantly trying to show off. When I was young I had the feeling that the whole world belongs to me. In the middle age we know much more and we understand things better. We are not that aggressive, but have become calmer and seemingly not as strong as we used to be. However, if we want to do something we are prepared to do so.

There is both the internal and the external. The martial art has been divided into the internal and the external only recently. Someone stays with the external training while others may skip this phase and go directly to the internal training. So it may happen that you can see someone who practices internal styles but does not have enough strength from the previous external training. On the other hand, others who practice external styles and insist on being big and strong may find themselves in their middle age not knowing where to go, or how to develop further. That is why some of them start to practice for example Taiji Quan.

Is every Chinese martial art directed from the external to the internal?

No. The Chinese martial arts have been developing during a large period of time. It is like a development of the human muscles.

A child first moves with the help of the big muscles. Later on it learns to use also even smaller and smaller muscles, e.g. for using a pen.

In the times of Rome there were many fights. Large muscles were used for that. Later on also smaller muscles were being developed through art work – painting, ceramics, etc.

The same applies also to the martial arts – from the large muscles to the small ones; from the external part of the body into the internal.

The Chinese martial arts are also unique in the way they use the principles of the Chinese philosophy and the Chinese medicine and are inspired by them. The usage of these principles allowed the Chinese martial arts to achieve a substantial level of development. When these principles were added into the martial arts, people understood that there exists also a body which we do not see but which is more important than the one which we can see.

Thanks to Daoism they have discovered that they can start with the internal. It is about the yin principle where the yin part is more important than the yang part.

Its purpose lies in the internal organs, blood and the “soft way”. We use the so called soft way to deal with problems instead of a hard way. All these concepts are contained in Bagua Quan.

What would you recommend to people who start to practice Bagua Quan?

We never say that Bagua Quan is an internal martial art. The training process starts from the external. The beginning is connected with the development of Li. Only after that you can start to work with Qi.


Are the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia.


Qi is life energy. According to the Chinese medicine it circulates through the body along the meridians.

The system of Bagua Quan is very clear: you start with Li and then use Li to build Qi. We can not practice Qi directly. All movements in Bagua Quan originates from the muscle movements. But we use the muscles in different way than in the other martial arts.

We try to develop so called Jing and we call it the Jing system. It consists of muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Thanks to this system we can connect each individual joints. When the tendons are short this connection is not possible. This means that we use muscles by stretching them.

What makes Bagua Quan so exceptional?

What is the difference between Bagua Quan and the other martial arts? All of them use kicks and hits, anyway. So what is the difference?

The Bagua Quan´s foundations lie in the Chinese philosophy of bagua (8 trigrams). So even when this style uses forms – perhaps from Lohan Quan or similar styles – it changes them through this philosophical concept.

All the direct lines are changed into spiral. You can see it on blocks, hits or kicks. Change the direct line into spiral. If you change this everything changes.

What could Bagua Quan offer to people in comparison to for example boxing or kickboxing? Why do people practice such a vast and complex martial art?

Bagua Quan emerged during the Qing dynasty. The development of Chinese martial arts has in its long history only several peaks. The martial arts were on very high level during the Qing dynasty.

This also means that the Bagua Quan masters were very well trained and prepared. It was neither simple nor easy to stand against them. This is the reason why the masters of Bagua Quan had to be very precise and go into details. Nowadays the people who practice martial arts are mainly sportsmen.

Sportsmen are prepared for:

Victory according to the previously defined rules.
They fight against people on more or less the same level.
So if you want to fight in a ring you do not need Bagua Quan. If you want to get ready for the competitions in martial arts you should train according to the rules by which you would like to fight.

Bagua Quan does not have these rules. You do not train in order to win a competition, you just prepare yourself. You are trying to get ready for a situation which you might not be able to handle. This is a concept of Bagua Quan.

Thank you for the interview.

Igor Pramuk

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