- The Beauty of Eight Trigram Palm
1. The Beauty of Eight Trigram Palm: Yin-Yang Harmony and Strength-Softness Aesthetics
The so-called strength-softness aesthetics of Eight Trigram Palm refers to the inherent techniques and training postures in Eight Trigram Palm’s routines that embody strong, majestic, and powerful movements, akin to the wind rushing through a valley or a hungry tiger emerging from the mountains. These expressions are characterized by robust power, dynamic movements like a dragon, and agile changes reminiscent of an eagle. On the other hand, the softness aesthetics in Eight Trigram Palm encompass graceful and ethereal techniques, where movements flow and dissolve like wisps of smoke or soft silken threads. Throughout the entire set of Eight Trigram Palm routines, the emphasis on the softness aesthetics is evident, showcased through movements that resemble mountains, flowing water, twisting, and circular maneuvers.
Eight Trigram Palm is based on the principles of Bagua, utilizing the concept of the Nine Palaces and Eight Trigrams, which are derived from the interaction of the Five Elements. It adheres to the principles of Yin and Yang, with the key aspect being the combination of twisting and overturning while maintaining the overall stretching and contracting. The term “twisting” refers to continuously wrapping and coiling while advancing inward with the energy, and “overturning” means to twist the arm’s energy outward while extending forward. The relationship between twisting and overturning is that they transform into each other when taken to their extreme points, constituting the essence of Yin-Yang conversion in Eight Trigram Palm. “Stretching” represents the manifestation of Yang, while “contracting” signifies the transformation into Yin, both of which are closely linked with the concepts of twisting and overturning.
Moreover, “twisting” and “overturning” can be further divided into “twisting for wrapping” and “twisting for probing.” “Twisting for wrapping” involves directing Yin energy to overcome the opponent’s strength, while “twisting for probing” is using Yang energy to strike first before probing the opponent’s actions. Similarly, “overturning for struggle” denotes using Yin energy to neutralize the opponent’s attacks, and “overturning for probing” refers to utilizing Yang energy to confront the opponent’s force. These four forms together are known as the “Four Symbolic Techniques.” In Eight Trigram Palm, techniques such as pushing, lifting, circling, leading, deflection, hooking, blocking, and intercepting are derived from the transformations of twisting, overturning, stretching, and contracting, which are, in turn, generated by the interplay of Yin and Yang. Every move and posture in Eight Trigram Palm contains the essence of Yin and Yang, with Yin giving birth to Yang and Yang giving birth to Yin, creating a continuous cycle of transformation. This is where the beauty of the coexistence of strength-softness aesthetics lies in Eight Trigram Palm.
2. The Beauty of Eight Trigram Palm: Rhythmic Elegance and Melodic Beauty
The rhythmic beauty in Eight Trigram Palm arises from the artistic design of the entire set of movements, primarily demonstrated through the exquisite combination of dynamic and static elements. “Dynamic” refers to the instantaneous forms created by the practitioner’s body in space during the execution of various movements. Additionally, it involves the relative stillness and momentary transitions between movements during the entire process of practicing Eight Trigram Palm routines, presenting a sense of poise and formation.
The dynamic aspects of Eight Trigram Palm encompass speed, strength, and the degree of hardness and softness, as well as variations in size, extension, and elevation. These dynamic changes are achieved through the alternating arrangements in space and time, allowing the entire set of movements in Eight Trigram Palm to be fully displayed, thereby revealing its sense of rhythm and aesthetics, creating a typical artistic image unique to traditional martial arts. On the other hand, the static elements of Eight Trigram Palm include high and low positions, curved and straight postures, and opening and closing actions. The relative static movements and short transitions during the execution of Eight Trigram Palm can create countless artistic and abstract forms, resulting in a dynamic and ever-changing set of movements reminiscent of a dragon playing in water or a swallow darting through clouds, showcasing a distinctive artistic charm. Thus, Eight Trigram Palm’s practice requires precise control of motion and stillness, rises and falls, speeds and weights, elevations and descents, hardness and softness, forming a cohesive and complementary dialectical unity to showcase its distinctive rhythmic and melodic beauty.
At a higher level, Eight Trigram Palm’s beauty lies in the presence of “spiritual charm.” Accomplished practitioners of Eight Trigram Palm seem to be divinely assisted, with each step and palm strike seamlessly connected, combining form and spirit harmoniously. Their movements are flawless, giving the impression of a spiritual and marvelous experience, leaving a lasting impression on observers. According to traditional Chinese medicine and qigong theory, form is the material basis of spirit, and spirit is the commander and soul of form. Form gives birth to spirit. Thus, in the practice of Eight Trigram Palm, practitioners are often required to merge spirit with form, where the spirit follows the form, and the form follows the intent. The spirit and form are subtly combined, revealing both a concealed depth and an unrestrained openness. This integration is described as: the movements of steps and palms resemble the majesty of a rushing river, while the twisting and coiling of the body are like a gentle stream flowing around rocks, producing a nourishing effect. In simple terms, practicing Eight Trigram Palm necessitates the careful contemplation and comprehension of postures, rhythm, aesthetics, and spiritual charm to form a harmonious and complete organic whole, ultimately achieving a distinctive beauty of rhythmic elegance and melodic charm.
3. The Beauty of Eight Trigrams Palm in Martial Art and Skill
The training of martial art skills is, in fact, the cultivation of wisdom. Specifically, the training of martial art skills includes not only physical fitness but also the aspects of combat techniques and performance art. Combat techniques form the foundation of martial art, reflecting the individual’s ability to engage in single combat. It combines strength, speed, skill, and psychological tactics to achieve its purpose. Skills are part of combat techniques, aimed at showcasing the combat techniques effectively. The early use of skills emphasizes the interplay between offense and defense and the coordination of first and second attacks, which is an application of the principle of “strange and orthodox” in military strategy. In modern martial arts performance, skills are manifested through a combination of elements such as strength, speed, rhythm, flexibility, and aesthetics. Traditional martial art forms in Eight Trigram Palm highlight its rhythm, power, and speed, creating a memorable momentum that leaves a strong impact, showcasing its unique artistic charm.
Eight Trigram Palm’s combat process possesses the characteristic of adapting naturally to situations, using techniques that cleverly respond to the moment’s needs during combat. It is precisely because of this natural principle that it invokes practitioners and spectators to pursue the beauty of “combat skills” and “skillful artistry.” Of course, any form of art exhibits both its outward beauty and inner beauty. In Eight Trigram Palm’s combat principles, it retains the essence of practical combat value while refining and innovating the training techniques and necessary embellishments to create an artistic value for traditional combat skills.
In the practice of Eight Trigram Palm, the skillfulness not only improves the practitioner’s instant analysis and enduring physical vitality but also serves as an effective training method to activate the practitioner’s intelligence. Looking at the overall combat style, Eight Trigram Palm’s combat techniques are prominently expressed during circular movements. Circular walking is a fundamental aspect of Eight Trigram Palm, characterized by the Mud-Wading Step as the primary footwork, combined with a flowing outer swing and inner hook step. The body movements emphasize twisting, coiling, and turning in a coordinated and complete manner. Hand techniques primarily include pushing, lifting, carrying, leading, chopping, advancing, moving, hooking, blocking, intercepting, and seizing, while the leg techniques mainly utilize concealed kicks and leg trapping.
Eight Trigram Palm’s overall combat style requires agile and coordinated execution. The hand techniques are quick and precise, with the eyes following the hands’ movements. The body movements resemble the flexing of a bowstring and the agility of a dragon, exhibiting swift turns. The footwork resembles that of a warhorse, possessing swift and forceful movements. The agility of the footwork is achieved by maintaining appropriate balance, bending the knees while wading through the mud and applying groin and shin pressure. It is crucial to adhere to the principles of combat skills and not emphasize the agility of the footwork without following these guidelines. Eight Trigram Palm’s combat style is a combination of the “advance to seize the void” and the coordination of offense and defense, showcasing its fundamental techniques. By adhering to these principles, the true combat charm of Eight Trigram Palm is revealed.
In summary, the traditional forms of Eight Trigram Palm preserve and enhance the technical elements of combat, showcasing ingenious moves and flexible combat techniques. These, together with the active application of offensive and defensive combinations and the transformation of real and empty movements, fully demonstrate the combat beauty of Eight Trigram Palm. The excellent skill and coordination reflected in Eight Trigram Palm’s superb techniques mirror the “harmonious beauty” of the practitioner’s body movements, which we call the beauty of skill.
4. The Beauty of Form and Spirit, and the Aesthetic Imagery of Eight Trigram Palm
The beauty of form and spirit, along with the aesthetic imagery, are interrelated yet distinct. Aesthetic imagery cannot be separated from the harmony of form and spirit, the integration of internal and external movements, and the vivid expression of the practitioner’s physical form. Likewise, the beauty of form and spirit cannot be detached from the inner aesthetic experience and external physical rhythm, the harmonious unity of artistic expression. The difference between them lies mainly in their respective roles, where the beauty of form and spirit appeals to the eyes, while aesthetic imagery appeals to the heart.
The beauty of form and spirit is rooted in the idea that the form is the foundation of the spirit, and the spirit is the leader and soul of the form. When the form and spirit are combined, any traditional martial art form requires the integration of internal and external movements, where the flow of internal energy and external vigor harmonizes during motion, resulting in the harmony of form and spirit. For Eight Trigram Palm, this means focusing on both the external movements of hands, eyes, body, and footwork and the internal cultivation of the heart, spirit, intention, and power. The basic principles of Eight Trigram Palm include the “Three Forms, Three Forces” theory: walking like a dragon, moving like a monkey, and shifting like an eagle; walking steps like wading through mud, arms resembling twisted ropes, and turns resembling grinding a millstone. Also, the “Three Empties, Three Hooks” theory: empty in the palm, empty in the foot, empty in the chest; hook in the shoulder, hook in the palm, hook in the foot. The “Three Circles, Three Tops” theory: the back is round, the hips are rounded, the tiger mouth is open; the head is up, the tongue is up to the palate, the palm is up. Finally, the “Four Drops, Four Flexibilities” theory: the shoulder drops to the waist, the waist drops to the hips, the hips drop to the knees, and the knees drop to the feet; eyes are flexible, hands are flexible, body is flexible, and steps are flexible. While these seem to be requirements for body training during practice, they eventually lead to various experiences within the individual, which are then expressed through the form and spirit, achieving a high degree of unity and harmony between the mind and body, resulting in the embodiment of form and spirit, and the simultaneous expression of form and spirit.
The so-called aesthetic imagery, on the other hand, originates from the practitioner’s subjective thoughts and emotions. It refers to the picturesque and imaginative scenes depicted by the martial artist. Aesthetic imagery involves the cohesion of rhythm, harmony, and unity, as well as the appreciation of aesthetic value both by the practitioner and the audience. Consequently, the essence and value of martial art lies not only in the mastery of technical skills but also in maintaining a state of constant new experiences for both the body and mind, thereby achieving aesthetic imagery. Eight Trigram Palm’s aesthetic imagery has transcended the realm of mere natural states and entered the domain of cultural creation, thus imbuing the art with rich national characteristics. Though practitioners of Eight Trigram Palm may differ due to their individuality, emotions, and experiences during practice, the most significant factor is the artistic image expressed through the movement’s transformations, twists, turns, swings, and hooks, showcasing a robust, clever, and elegant artistic image, evoking feelings of vastness, clarity, and delight. As the saying goes, “Form like a gliding dragon, gaze like a vigilant monkey, sit like a tiger crouching, and turn like an eagle circling.”
In my personal experience of practicing Eight Trigram Palm forms, the beauty of form and spirit, as well as the aesthetic imagery,
are closely intertwined. Therefore, one must practice with mindfulness and understanding. The more profound your understanding of the “form” in Eight Trigram Palm, the more “spirit” and “aesthetic imagery” you will experience during practice. Mastery of the art leads to the display of aesthetic imagery, which, in the end, invokes a creative artistic effect. Whether it portrays a majestic and unstoppable momentum or depicts graceful movements like flowing clouds and a serene autumn lake, it depends on the practitioner’s expression of emotions and intentions through the physical form. Simultaneously, Eight Trigram Palm is not merely about skillful execution of techniques but a practice that allows the mind and body to enter into a new state of experience, achieving a combination of practicality and artistry. For instance, the move “hooking swing with crouched body,” as the upper body turns left, it forms a resting step to the left. The left palm rotates inward from under the right elbow, crouching the body with the elbow bent, the thumb pointing right, and the palm facing inward. The right palm bends the elbow and moves to the inner side of the left shoulder, the palm facing right, and the eyes looking at the left palm. If you merely consider it as a motion of a resting step and upward palm strike, it remains just a basic movement. However, if you deepen your understanding and imagination of this movement, and apply a twisting and wrapping force while the arms rise, twisting around the body as if it is wrapping around a pillar, you will achieve the artistic effect of the “Wu Long Grinding Pillar.” Moreover, while practicing this movement, adding the emotions in your eyes, it will evoke a visual impact of strength and vigor or the stunning power to overcome rigidity with flexibility. From the beauty of form and spirit to the aesthetic imagery, it stems from this process.
In conclusion, Eight Trigram Palm’s traditional forms embody both traditional aesthetics and modern aesthetics. The pairs of aesthetics, such as the masculine beauty and feminine beauty, rhythm beauty and rhythmic beauty, combat beauty and skillful beauty, form beauty and aesthetic imagery beauty, represent the prominent expressions of its aesthetic value. Only by consciously expressing these aesthetic features during practice and observation can we truly appreciate its beauty and enhance our appreciation and interest in Eight Trigram Palm forms, thereby promoting the further beautification of the forms’ refinement and practice.