The Influence of Baguazhang on the Musculoskeletal System
In the practice of Baguazhang, there is an emphasis on the principles of “rolling, drilling, expanding, and wrapping,” which relate to the changes in force and posture of the upper limbs during training. “Rolling” refers to circular rotating arm movements, “drilling” involves both spinning and forward spiral arm movements, “expanding” means pushing outward, and “wrapping” involves inward wrapping and embracing. All four types of movements require the contraction of the muscles in the upper limbs to generate power. During training, it is necessary to incorporate rolling and drilling, generating both inward contracting force and outward expanding force. “The combination of the extraordinary and the ordinary” refers to the emergence of contradictions. All the force in Baguazhang is manifested through the mutual opposition of rolling, drilling, expanding, and wrapping forces, arising from the contradictions between the extraordinary and the ordinary. This type of training requires frequent stretching and contraction of the arms, emphasizing wrapping force, twisting force, competing force, and shoulder movement. The rolling, drilling, expanding, and wrapping movements of the upper limbs, with their rotational and stretching forms and training characteristics, place higher demands on the various joints of the upper limbs. It requires flexibility and coordination of the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints, as well as strong muscle contractions in both arms. Therefore, through repeated practice, it can effectively train the stretching and contracting abilities of the joints in the upper limbs, providing comprehensive exercise for the bones, muscle groups, and ligaments.
In the process of movement and combat in Baguazhang, there are high requirements not only for variations in techniques and forces but also for the movements and postures of the waist, back, and lower limbs. When practicing Baguazhang, the waist must serve as the axis of movement, requiring the waist and back to twist. The movement of the hands must be preceded by body movement, and the movement of the body must be preceded by waist movement, using the twisting of the waist to drive the whole body. This requirement allows for the full exercise and development of the flexibility of the muscles in the waist region and their rotational twist. “Rising, falling, swinging, and hooking” are the basic stepping methods of Baguazhang. During movement, one should start with steps resembling a rotating statue, land steps like mountains, swing the feet like striding, and hook the feet like a coiled snake. The lower limb posture requires “bending the legs like wading through mud, with the soles of the feet embracing emptiness.” Bending the legs means bending both legs to focus the force in them, and wading through mud means moving the feet forward without raising them too high, like wading through mud. “Embracing emptiness with the soles of the feet” means that the soles and heels of the feet land on the ground at the same time, with the toes gripping the ground and the arch of the foot embracing emptiness. This method of training and the posture of the lower limbs place higher demands on the strength of the legs and toes, as well as the flexibility and stability of the ankle joints. As a result, the strength of the legs and toes, the toughness of the ligaments in the lower limbs, and the flexibility and stability of the ankle joints are effectively strengthened and exercised by practitioners.
Therefore, long-term practice of Baguazhang can make the muscles full and elastic, enhancing their contracting power. Due to the muscle contractions and the traction they exert on the bones, as well as the improved metabolism and blood supply to the bones, the shape, structure, and performance of the bones undergo positive changes. The bones become stronger, and the muscles, joint capsules, and ligaments around the joints are also well exercised, enhancing joint stability, flexibility, and agility. This has a positive impact on the mobility of the musculoskeletal system and significantly improves the physical fitness of the body.
Bagua Zhang Impact on the Respiratory System
The practice of Baguazhang can have a positive impact on improving and enhancing the functionality of the respiratory system. In the practice of Baguazhang, there is an emphasis on the principles of “the abdomen as the root of qi, qi resembling the movement of clouds, and qi flowing through a hundred pores.” This means that the abdomen is a good place for “storing qi,” and during training, it is necessary to allow the breath to deeply enter the abdomen, causing the abdomen to be full and undulating, known as “qi sinking into the dantian” and “qi should be full and undulating.” “Qi resembling the movement of clouds, and qi flowing through a hundred pores” indicates that the deep breathing exercises in Baguazhang should flow slowly like clouds in the sky, without sudden inhalation or exhalation. Only in this way can the inhaled oxygen be delivered to the various parts of the body. Through long-term practice of Baguazhang, the qi enters the dantian and reaches the four extremities, establishing a connection between internal and external breathing, referred to as the “unity of mixed yuan qi.” In the human body, the lungs and trachea are the first to directly benefit from the respiratory system during movement. The unique training methods and requirements of Baguazhang, such as “expanding the abdomen and chest, qi resembling the movement of clouds, and qi flowing through a hundred pores,” are extremely beneficial for reflexive vasodilation of capillaries, rhythmic changes in chest pressure, and deep and long breathing. It ensures that the respiratory organs receive adequate blood supply, thus improving their health. In addition, Baguazhang mainly utilizes abdominal breathing, consciously increasing the depth of respiration and strengthening the upward and downward movement of the diaphragm. This type of abdominal breathing method can effectively develop the respiratory muscles, enhance lung capacity, and improve the ventilation and gas exchange functions of the lungs.
The Impact of Baguazhang on the Nervous System and Meridians
All human activities rely on the regulation of excitation and inhibition of neurons in the cerebral cortex, while the variations, coordination, and balance of movements are commanded by the central nervous system. Dysfunction of certain functional parts of the central nervous system can lead to neurasthenia, resulting in symptoms such as insomnia and indigestion. Baguazhang, with its unique style and distinctive palm techniques, stands out in the Chinese martial arts community. Its movements are light, agile, and rhythmic, with footwork resembling walking through mud, adapting and changing with each step, interconnected and flowing. The palm techniques involve circular movements without end, with circles within circles. The waist acts as the axis, rotating and twisting while walking and changing palm shapes, resembling a wandering dragon and a crouching tiger, moving freely and exhibiting endless variations. At the same time, practicing Baguazhang requires focused concentration and unity of mind and body. This activity demands attentiveness in the eyes, hands, feet, and body, with a unified flow throughout the entire body and coordinated limbs. Therefore, under these specific conditions of movement, the motor cortex of the brain remains in a regulated state of regular excitement, providing a beneficial training effect on the central nervous system and brain function. This focused mental stimulation also induces protective inhibition in other parts of the cerebral cortex, which serves as a positive form of rest for individuals engaged in mental work.
According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, the human body contains a complex system of meridians, including the twelve regular meridians and the eight extraordinary vessels. Qi, blood, and body fluids primarily circulate through the meridians, and regular practice of Baguazhang can effectively exercise the Ren meridian, Du meridian, Belt meridian, and Chong meridian, thereby promoting a positive impact on meridian circulation. For example, the “xing zhuang” (walking stance) exercise in Baguazhang is performed with the aim of activating the lower limb meridians based on the guidance of traditional Chinese medicine meridian theory.
The Impact of Baguazhang on Internal Organs and the Endocrine System
The basic training requirements of Baguazhang include “dragon form, monkey appearance, tiger sitting, and eagle turning,” as well as “twisting, rotating, walking, and kicking the shins to massage the gallbladder.” “Dragon form, monkey appearance, tiger sitting, and eagle turning” require the practitioner to move like a wandering dragon with the hands and eyes following closely, and sit like a tiger with a composed and powerful demeanor. The body must exhibit swift and nimble waist-turning and turning actions, full of freedom and ease. “Twisting, rotating, walking, and kicking the shins to massage the gallbladder” requires the practitioner to direct the head, hands, elbows, and body toward the center, creating a rotational force. When walking and turning, the leading foot should step lightly, while the trailing foot exerts a bouncing force. Forward movement should involve close contact with the inner side of the metatarsal bone, rubbing against it. These movement characteristics engage various muscle groups and muscle fibers throughout the body, promoting the opening of capillaries and accelerating venous and lymphatic return, thus reducing the burden on the heart. Furthermore, due to the frequent use of abdominal breathing in Baguazhang, combined with the improvement in the regulation process of the nervous system on internal organs, the contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles act as a “self-massage” for the liver and gastrointestinal tract. This promotes appropriate movement of the stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys, improves hepatic blood circulation, stimulates gastric and intestinal peristalsis, enhances the secretion of digestive fluids and adrenaline, strengthens nutrient absorption, and promotes digestion and metabolism. Therefore, regular practice of Baguazhang can improve appetite, reduce constipation, and lower cholesterol levels in the blood.