To the average American, the logo that is used for our school is quite strange and has little meaning. Filled with what seems to be odd symbols and unknown Chinese characters, lack of exposure in this area can lead to a number of misconceptions or misunderstandings. People tend to fear what they do not understand. Or they simply ignore it altogether, which does nothing to help bring more people into the martial arts.
Well, within those symbols and characters is some history, lineage, and the essence of Ba Gua Zhang itself.
Note: There are two main ways in which Chinese words are Romanized. In the Wade-Giles system you’ll see, Pa Kua Chang, Ch’i Kung, and Kung Fu. Using the Pinyin system, you’ll see, Ba Gua Zhang, Qi Gong, and Gong Fu. Pinyin generally results in better pronunciation (except for a word like “Qi” that is pronounced, “chee”), some words are more easily recognized with the older Wade-Giles system (i.e. Kung Fu).
What’s in a Name?
First of all, our name, “Blue Dragon” comes from the original name of this Ba Gua Zhang system, as taught by Lu Shui Tian to Master Bok Nam Park. The original name in Chinese was, “Ch’ing Lung Pa Kua Chang”. The Chinese character for “Ch’ing” (also written as “Qing” in Pinyin) can mean “blue”, “green”, or even “blue/green”. When Master Park taught me the Dragon Posture for the first time, he used English and called it, “Blue Dragon”.
A Strong Root
In the center of our logo we have the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association logo. This means we do not stand alone. Our root is with an international association. In 1987, Master Park set out from Inchon, Korea to spread this sophisticated, powerful, and very complete Ba Gua Zhang system. I am very thankful that he did. It has become a never-ending challenge.
After focusing on Ba Gua Zhang for four years, I was on the verge of moving to China to teach English and train with the best Ba Gua Zhang instructor I could find. Well, I found what I was looking for and I didn’t have to move to China. In my opinion, there is no instructor who understands Ba Gua Zhang and natural principles better than Master Park, anywhere.
“Ch’iang Shan”, meaning “Strong Mountain”, was the name given to Master Park when Lu Shui Tian accepted him as a lineage holder of his system. “Ch’iang” represents the sixth generation of the Yin Fu lineage under Dong Hai Chuan.
On the bottom of our school logo you see the two lines of Chinese characters. Chinese is normally written from top to bottom and from right to left.
The first line, on the right, reads, “Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang.” The second line, on the left, reads, “Yi Fu Wu Guan”. It reads, “Yi Fu’s School of Ch’iang Shan Ba Gua Zhang.”
The name, “Yi Fu”, meaning “Firm Father”, is the Chinese name I was given by Master Park in 1995, when I was accepted by him as a lineage holder of his system. “Yi” represents the seventh generation of the Yin Fu lineage under Dong Hai Chuan. The “Wu Guan” is understood to mean, “School of Martial Arts”, but there are other ways to write this in Chinese. I chose to use Wu Guan because it has more significance below the surface.
The Chinese character for “Wu”, translated as, “martial” is actually a combination of two characters, one is “Ge“, meaning “weapons”; the other is, “Zhi” and it means “to cease” or “to stop”. From this you can see that the original meaning of martial arts was “to stop the usage of weapons” or more clearly “to stop the fighting”. “Guan” most simply means, “a place”. Therefore, this School, “Wu Guan” is, “the place to learn how to stop the fighting.” And the “fighting” is really both externally around us, and internally within us.
Who was Dong Hai Chuan?
The only written records of the origination of Ba Gua Zhang can be traced to Dong Hai Chuan, who is historically credited with creating the style, somewhere around the 1850s. It is believed that Dong learned a meditative circle walking method from monks at a mountain monastery, and combined it with the martial arts he had experience with. However, Lu Shui Tian first learned from one, Li Qing Wu, and stated that his Ba Gua Zhang did not come from Dong Hai Chuan, and was at least 500 years old. In fact, he believed what he learned from Li Qing Wu was much deeper and complete than what he learned from his second teacher, (believed to be Lu Shui Kui, though unconfirmed) who was a Fourth Generation lineage holder in the Yin Fu lineage under Dong Hai Chuan.
Preserving the Lineage
Thanks to Dong Hai Chuan’s foresight, a Ba Gua Zhang practitioner will be given a new name when he or she has been formally accepted into the lineage. The first character of this new “Ba Gua name” will designate which generation of Dong’s lineage the person represents.
Before he died, Dong Hai Chuan wrote a poem which designates 20 generations of his lineage. Dong was afraid that there would be subgroups and sects of Ba Gua Zhang and he wanted students in his lineage to be easily recognized by their Ba Gua generation name.
The second character is given by one’s teacher and combined with the first, denotes both what the teacher sees in this student, as well as the teacher’s hope for what this student will become.
All seventh generation lineage disciples’ “Ba Gua name” will start with “Yi”, which means, “firmness” (in determination, purpose & perseverance). The Ba Gua name of any eighth generation lineage holders will start with, “Ding”, meaning “set” (as in “certain” or “fixed in place”).
Monkey Offers Fruit
Even the silhouette of Master Park in the Monkey Offers Fruit posture of the Eight Animals has siginificance. The monkey is very quick and agile and is regarded as the wisest and most intelligent of the animal kingdom. The monkey is closest to the human and so can be considered humanity’s link back to the natural world.
Behind Master Park’s silhouette in the center is the Yin Yang symbol. This symbol is more well known today but it simply represents: positive and negative; male and female; hot and cold; or the two most basic complimentary forces of the universe from which all things manifested. The symbol shows the two forces following each other and as one diminishes and runs out, the other arises.
The Yin Yang symbol is also used in circle walking footwork training to help develop quick spiraling patterns of movement and directional changes.
The eight groups of three diagrams, also known as trigrams, are what our martial art style is named for. These are the “Ba Gua” or “Eight Trigrams”. The Ba Gua come from the rather large “I Ching” (“ee ching”) or “Book of Changes”, which is about 5000 years old. People have spent lifetimes studying it, using it for everything from divination and fortune telling to Feng Shui.
In Taoist Master Alfred Huang’s translation of the I Ching, he states, “The I Ching is a truly profound book. It is the source of much of Chinese culture. Originally, the I Ching was a handbook for divination. After Confucius and his students had written the commentaries, it became known as a book of ancient wisdom. It is a book that not only tells one who consults it about the present situation and future potential but also gives instruction about what to do and what not to do to obtain good fortune and to avoid misfortune. But one still retains free choice. The guidance is based upon comprehensive observations of natural laws by ancient sages and their profound experiences of the principle of cause and effect.”
In discussing this principle, Huang says, “If we accept that every action we take is a cause that has an effect and every effect has a cause, we can more clearly see the results of our actions. The intention behind each action determines its effect. Our intentions and our actions affect not only ourselves but also others. If we believe that every intention and action evolves as we progress on our spiritual journey, then if we act consciously we evolve consciously, but if we act unconsciously we involve unconsciously.”
In its simplest description, the main theme of the Ba Gua, and more precisely the I Ching, means, “change”. This is the “Tao of I” (pronounced, “dow of ee”) which is translated as, “The Way (or Truth) of Change”.
Huang says, “Of the numerous treasures in the I Ching, I value the Tao of I the most.”
This “Tao of I” is the changing principle of the universe and comes from the observation that nothing in the universe stands still. All things are in a constant state of change. It is from this concept that much of our theory is based: in a self defense situation, keep moving, be unpredictable; from a health standpoint, blood and energy must continuously move freely throughout the body, otherwise there is sickness and disease.
The I Ching is elaborate in its application to one’s life. According to Huang, “The Tao of I also discloses that when situations proceed beyond their extremes, they alternate to their opposites. It is a reminder to accept necessary change and be ready to transform, warning that one should adjust one’s efforts according to changes in time and situation, The Tao of I also says: In a favorable time and situation, never neglect the unfavorable potential. In an unfavorable time and situation, never act abruptly and blindly. And in adverse circumstances, never become depressed and despair.”
Martial arts training mirrors life. It has been called a miniature version of the cosmos. In this context, one can read the I Ching and just as easily discover advice for better self defense and handling an adversary as well as one’s daily life. (Try it by re-reading above quotes from Huang).
The most profound experiences that one can have through the practice of meditation is the realization of “Oneness”. It is a sense that all things are not only interconnected but are of the same Source (God). In fact, all things are the Source, expressed in another way. This is a common description used by experienced practitioners from nearly any form of spiritual practice that includes some form of meditation, regardless of religious beliefs—be it Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, etc.
Interestingly, Huang also has this to say, “The true spirit and the most authentic essence of the I Ching lies in the philosophical concept of the merging of Heaven and human life into an organic whole, which is the origin of Chinese cosmology.”
This “organic whole” that Huang speaks of is the “Oneness”. The realization of which is known by many names: Enlightenment, Nirvana, Satori, Samadhi, Cosmic Consciousness, Awakening, Self-Realization, etc.
The Ba Gua laid out in a circular form represents the eight directions (also represented by the octagon) into which we always have choices to move: physically in a self defense situation; or mentally in life’s many options and possibilities.
The circle also represents cyclic continuity, such as times of day (sunrise, midday, sunset, midnight, repeat); seasons of the year; or a life that goes from birth to adolescents to maturity to elderly to death and back to rebirth (rebirth can be seen as the recycling of the energy of a person; the actual soul or spirit going into new body—reincarnation; or even the physical molecules becoming part of the earth and feeding a plant—however you’d like to see it).
The circle is also another representation of movement and how all things of the universe move in a circle. Even when water goes down the drain, it circles.
Ba Gua Zhang is most known for circle walking. Lu Shui Tian said that the circle walking was primarily what was taught by the Dong Hai Chuan lineage so it is easy to see why that is what the style became known for.
Circle walking has many benefits: For one, it helps train the body for continuous movement while the mind practices stillness by gazing on the non-moving center point. Another important factor is the increased involvement and greater effect on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and joints. Walking or running in a straight line has a much more limited affect.
Although it is not seen, the Wu Xing, or Five Elements, is automatically included. It is understood that from the Yin Yang and within the Ba Gua is the Wu Xing, representing “balance” and how all things effect everything else. This completes the Trinity of Natural Principles.
In the end, the logo we use, although unclear without explanation, is a true symbol of the history, tradition, and philosophy of what is being taught here at Blue Dragon School of Martial Arts. The study of the complex martial art of Ba Gua Zhang will challenge and develop the student physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The intense focus that is required to practice what is learned properly fully engages the mind making the practice itself a meditation. As your mind develops and becomes more disciplined, you begin to think more clearly and become more introspective. This introspection leads you to further consider your daily actions and reactions. Therefore, you learn to become a better person through the realization of who you really are; a reality that may not have existed for you prior to this practice.
Within the Ba Gua philosophy everything is considered. And from this philosophy the art of Ba Gua Zhang was born.
Originally published in February, 2004