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The system known as Pigua Zhang is one of the lesser-known styles of Kung Fu. Very few people outside of China has learned this formidable system, or has even seen what it looks like. Ba Gua Zhang is relatively well known around the world, especially because of its use of the palms, but in the case of Pigua Zhang, even though it also uses palms, it is barely known outside of China.

Pigua Zhang was probably already known around the Ming dynasty (1400 AD), since there is a recorded document that mentions distinguishing features of Pi Gua and Tong Bei a similar style. Tong Bei (a monkey with long arms) uses the movement of the arms, which are complemented with the basic essence of Pi Gua. However, it is only until the Ching dynasty (1700 AD), that a direct lineage can be traced from generation to generation. One of the greatest masters of Pi Gua lived during the end of the Ching dynasty and the beginning of the Republic. His name was Li Shu-Wen, the same Li Shu Wen we already know as master of Baji Chuan. Besides Pigua Zhang, there are other systems that used Pi Gua as a foundation, and later evolved as individual hybrid systems. As its name indicates it, Chang Chuan Pi Gua, also known as Shiao Lin Pi Gua, combines the techniques of Shiao Lin and Pi Gua . The basic techniques were taken from Chang Chuan, and the additional techniques were taken from Pi Gua and Tong Bei. Another style that combined Pi Gua is called Pi Gua Tong Bei, which as its name indicates incorporation of Tong Bei and Pi Gua.

There is a Chinese proverb which expresses the effectiveness, character and conviction of these styles: "Tong Bei and Pi Gua are styles that are not afraid of the immortals or the ghosts." Even though the majority of the techniques come from the Tong Bei system, Pi Gua is known throughout China for its techniques with the double sabers. Because this weapon can be considered an extension of the arms, it is natural that the techniques of Pi Gua were easily adapted to the use of the saber.

Nowadays, there are only a few masters who posses this ancient knowledge. The real use of this weapon with the system of Pi Gua is rapidly becoming a lost art, since these kind of weapons are no longer in use. Even today, some styles of Pi Gua no longer have the original techniques of the Pi Gua saber.

Chinese people use two main characters when referring to Kung Fu; in Pigua Zhang there are two techniques defined by the characters "Pi" and "Gua". Pi can be translated as "cutting" meaning the primary way of hitting with the palm. Gua literally means to hang or to suspend, and it refers to an upward movement in which the arm is used mainly to block or defend.

The term "Zhang" in Pi Gua indicates the use of the palm as a developed characteristic of this style. The concept of the palm is not limited to the surface of the hand, but encompasses the use of the whole arm. The palm can be compared to a drill, and the arm along with the rest of the body, to the motor of the drill. This concept can be divided into three sections; the top section, which includes the palm, the medium section, which includes the elbow, and the root, which is the shoulder. These three sections are combined whenever a Kung Fu technique is executed.

For the training and conditioning of the palm, Pi Gua uses traditional exercises common to northern styles. The training must be executed carefully and systematically, to avoid damage and to extend the total use of the extremities. When the practitioner incorrectly trains the conditioning of the skin, the tendons, the muscles, and the bones, the damage occurs internally, without any exterior symptoms. The practitioner does not notice he is getting hurt until it is too late, and correcting the damage is possible only through the use of special therapeutic medicines.

Palm techniques are some of the most obvious techniques of the Pi Gua system, but the footwork and body work are also important. Coordinating the stepping and the palm techniques is essential in any attacking or defensive maneuver, protecting one’s door, or finding a hole in the opponent’s door.

The concept of "the door" refers to an area or zone which is potentially vulnerable to an attack. For example, when the practitioner is engaged in a fight, he may initially tempt the opponent with a frontal attack. Normally the opponent will try to close his frontal door, preventing the access of any attack through it; this action will make his other doors vulnerable, so the practitioner can attempt a lateral attack.

Pigua Zhang, like Ba Gua Zhang, emphasizes lateral and circular approaches. To enter through the lateral doors, the body must be maneuvered in different positions, using special stepping and angles of approach. There are two special cases in which lateral approximation and opponent control are used in conjunction with the palm; these special cases are the techniques "Kuen" and "Sou", which mean to wrap and to block, respectively. Probably one of the most unusual characteristics of Pi Gua is the "Pai Da Kung" technique of training. Pai Da Kung means literally "to hit oneself". Its purpose is to condition the different parts of the body, to be able to absorb the impact of the opponent’s hit. The body acts as an axis, from which the arms are swung laterally, hitting the body in the process. Arms and legs must be relaxed in order to practice this training technique. This training is also unique in the aspect that it is better practiced when someone else is hitting the body, preferably a master, developing in this way the potential of the student. Students can help each other, but, unlike the master, they do not have complete control over the strength of their hits, and may hurt the other student accidentally.

Another way of training using Pai Da Kung is by letting children hit the student, this is safer, since the children do not have enough strength to hurt the student and are also easier to control. Pai Da Kung training develops the body’s resistance through the conditioning of the muscles, tendons, and the "Chi", to automatically respond to an impact.

The body’s defense mechanisms are developed spontaneously whenever the attack begins, just like an army responding to an invasion immediately moving to the occupied area.

Pai Da Kung also establishes one of the basic points of the use of Pi Gua . Many styles of Kung Fu train the student to reach a goal, but Pi Gua trains the student to completely obliterate the adversary, whether one is attacking or defending. The practitioner uses the hitting action of the body, arm and palm to completely break the through the desired point. If the desired point fails, the momentum created by the strike is developed within the body of the practitioner. Pai Da Kung then immediately allows the practitioner to react with another strike, as soon as the body feels the failed strike hitting the body; the new strike incorporates the strength of the first strike into the second, adding the complete coordination of the body.

The training of Pigua Zhang is divided into three levels, which develop the student’s ability. Traditionally, the study of the forms was preceded by an extensive basic training, which helps the student develop a strong foundation of the style. The first form introduces the student to the basic movements, stepping techniques, and palm strikes. The second form is more complicated and sophisticated, and its techniques are more advanced, elaborating on the content and the essence of the first form. The second form also adds Pai Da Kung training, and explores the timing and rhythm of the body as well. The third form concentrates more on the applications than the movements of the form itself, therefore allowing the student to reach his maximum potential. The movements look simple, but in reality they contain sophisticated techniques. As in all martial arts, the foundation is the most important part of the learning journey; if it is not strong and rooted, it will be impossible to achieve higher levels.