Baguazhang and the Physics of Yin and Yang

One day during a session with my Sifu, I commented that the sequence of movement we were training was like Yin and Yang. He replied, “Everything is like Yin and Yang”. To which I replied, “ I suppose, but I really see opposite forces at play here.”


I recall his subdued yet emphatic response which was, “No, no, no. Yin and Yang are not opposites and you will never understand if you see it that way!” Ok. So now I was really confused and asked him to clarify. He nodded and said, “Ok”.


So I followed him as he walked around the park. Weird. We just walked all over the place – and I’m starting to think this must be some kind of Zen lesson or something that I won’t understand maybe forever. Then he spotted a rock out in the open and motioned me over to observe it. He said, “This, with the Sun. This is Yin and Yang.”


I saw that the Sun-facing side of the rock was bright, and the opposite side was dark. So I said, “Right, bright and dark – opposites.” He shook his head somewhat disappointingly and replied, “No…  Sunlight – both sides under the same Sun. The rock – both sides, the same rock. Each side can absorb and reflect light just the same as the other.” This last part was the crux of the matter. ‘Each side can absorb and reflect the same as the other.’


Then he continued to explain that the side facing the sun was receiving all the light it could absorb and was transforming the excess into reflected light. And that the side that faced away from the sun was also absorbing all the light it could absorb but was reflecting less of it. The very same processes on each side – but we observe differing states of Yin/Yang on each side. He explained that Yin and Yang cannot truly be separated. Yin is just the observation of absorption and Yang is just the observation of transformation. They are just aspects of a single process and not opposites – In fact, neither could exist without the other. This process of transformation is the foundation of everything that exists. Something gets absorbed and then transformed. For example you eat some food and your body absorbs it then transforms it into growth and energy. That’s a Yin and Yang process. Or as another example, somebody kicks a football and the football absorbs that energy and transforms it into an energy that pushes back against their foot and the ball flies away. That is also a Yin/Yang process. Yeah, it turns out that Newton’s second law of physics is just another expression of a Yin/Yang process! And speaking of physics, there is an ancient book that actually defines all the possible absorption/transformation (Yin/Yang) processes in our universe of existence. It is appropriately called, “The book of Changes”, or “I-Ching”. Typically this book is described as a mystic text, but I have come to believe that it is nothing of the sort. It is a book of physics waiting to be re-discovered by those with capable minds. That is not to say I am one of those – I am just one who is able to recognize the concept. Or more truthfully perhaps I am just one who was introduced to the truth of it by his Sifu.


In “The Book of Changes”, there are eight families/containers of change (“Ba Gua”) that form the basis of what becomes a total of sixty-four resulting types of transformation. Our martial art, Ba-gua-zhang, is not at all based on “Taoist Magic” or mysticism or any other type of “snake oil” – it is based completely on the use of the physics of these described transformations with respect to the forces inherent in a struggle between combatants. Pure and simple.


As a scientist and engineer, I have to say that to this day I am still amazed that at some time in the distant past some society was able to quantify this fundamental knowledge – I mean, upon reflection it seems not only more foundational than “cause and effect”, but is a deeper and more meaningful understanding of it too. Who could have been so advanced so long ago? Where did they go?


Baguazhang and the Sword Polisher’s Wisdom

This is a story that one of my Sifu’s shared with me a long time ago. It is a short story and it goes like this…


‘   A sword is just a blunt piece of steel to begin with. To make a sword you first have to develop the rough shape of the blade and then grind an edge onto it. To get to this stage of development traditionally takes a lot of hard work and is done using very course grinding materials. And although it begins to look like a sword, the edge is not yet sharp and the sword is not too useful. You have to be careful at this time, because if you continue to grind it with these course methods you will grind away the steel until it becomes too weak to be a sword at all. So you have to change the sword-making method. At this time you have to use very fine polishing materials to sharpen and then maintain the edge of the sword you’ve created. Here you have to use softness, very refined motions, and diligent care – The sharp edge is the prize you seek.

So what you have to know clearly, is that if you didn’t first sweat and toil to grind the sword’s shape and rough edge into the blunt steel to begin with you would never have an adequate blade to sharpen – you would really have no sword at all.

The opposite is true as well. The blade will never be sharp, or last very long, unless you learn the secrets of how to polish a refined edge on to it – without this, the sword would never cut.‘


The Sifu left it at that. When you examine the origins of Baguazhang, you can see how this model fits Dong Hai Quan and his development of Baguazhang. The shape of the sword and it’s rough edge came from his many years of Longfist training. The sharpness that he became famous for came from the refined turning methods he developed (or maybe learned somewhere) in order to polish and maintain it. It explains a bit as to why Dong always taught Longfist to his students as a pre-requisite to what he called Turning-Fist (what we now call Baguazhang). Yin Fu, one of Dong’s disciples did the same. Actually most of Dong’s direct disciples carried on this tradition from as far as we can tell. It seems essential to do the same if we want a degree of the same results.



In our Martial Arts Program, we strive through evidence based research,  to follow the same practices as those used by used by the legendary masters who created our Kung Fu.

For example “Baguazhang” (the main style at our club) is taught in conjunction with “Longfist” just as Dong Hai Chuan, the creator of “Baguazhang”, did.

There is a good reason for this (as with the rest of his teachings) – and we think it is essential to follow what we know of his actual training method in order to be truly Bagua.

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Fill your life with fitness, strength, agility and confidence.


   “A mystery. It cultivates longevity and the essence of life. It fortifies composure and well being. Aligns thoughts, emotions, perceptions, body, and actions with a higher manifestation of ones self. It is an elixir for personal strength.”

   “It resonates deeply. It enables absolutely. Wise people invest great time and effort into its practice. All should know it, but somehow it seems to choose.”

    About Us…

We practice the Internal martial art of Bagua Zhang and the the “Longfist” martial art of Zhaquan (Chaquan).

These martial arts are mystery, invention, pragmatism, and beauty all rolled up into a single practice. They are an extremely effective means of self-defence and at the same time a cerebral means of self-discovery and energetics. They are peerless.

Classes are ongoing in Surrey.

Send email or call 604 786 0874 for more info – or attend a free meetup in person. I look forward to meeting you!

Sifu John Spak

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