The Circle and the Universe

This is from Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

John G. Niehardt, University of Nebraska Press,

Lincoln and London, 1979.


You will have noticed

that everything the Indian does is in a circle,

and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.

In the old days, when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the scared hoop of the nation,

and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.

The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop,

and the circle of the four quarters nourished it.

The East gave peace and light,

the South gave warmth,

the West gave rain,

and the North with its cold and might wind

gave strength and endurance.

This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion.

Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.

The sky is round, and I have heard,

that the Earth is round like a ball,

and so are all the stars.

The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.

Birds make their nests in circles,

for theirs is the same religion as ours.

The Sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.

The Moon does the same and both are round.

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing,

and always come back again to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood,

and so it is in everything where power moves.

I am interested in how this sentiment, voiced by Black Elk relates to the Bagua quan I practice.  I do not believe it to be a co-incidence, that these two systems of thought hold the circle and the movement of and through the circle, as a primary function of importance to the universe…

Bagua Quan and its Relationship with the Bagua

By He Jing-han

Translated by David Alexander


It is less than 200 years since Bagua quan (also called Bagua zhang) was established by its founding master, Dong Hai chuan, but its origin and source are shrouded in cloud and mist.  The true face of mount Lu (translator’s note: the truth of the matter) cannot be seen, not even to the extent of whether the title of Bagua in actuality unites science with technique or matches name with reality; or whether this is a forced analogy produced by an intentional mystery.
Opinions are widely divided among Bagua devotees let alone in the wider martial arts world.

The branch of Bagua quan which I study, descends through the ancestral masters Dong Haichuan, Yin Fu, Gong Baotian and Gong Baozhai.  It is a system which incorporates and integrates physiological, medical and martial sciences and yet is based on Yin and Yang, the Five Elements and the principles of the Eight Trigrams (the Bagua).  It is certainly not incidental that this martial art is named Bagua.  In the rest of this article I will give an outline of what I know and feel.  However the Bagua quan system is highly integrated with proven technical principles and students need to experience personally its principles through their own bodily training.  Please forgive me for any inadequacies and omissions in what I have written and expressed.

Pre-Heaven is the body, Post-Heaven for application

As everyone knows, in the complete chart of the Bagua signs there is a

Chart of Pre-Heaven Bagua signs


Gen                                                                Zhen

Kan                                                                                                    Li

Xun                                                               Dui


And a Chart of Post Heaven Bagua signs


Gan                                                                    Gen

Dui                                                                                               Zhen

Kun                                                                       Xun


(to bring these charts into line with the sense of direction of people today they have been changed so that north is up, south is down, east is right and west is left)

What is called; “the body is Pre-Heaven”, “application is Post-Heaven” and “the chart of Pre-Heaven Bagua signs” symbolise the rules of motion in nature.

The “chart of Post Heaven Bagua signs”, is referred to as such because it contains the Sixiang and the Five Elements, symbolising the system of changes in the physical world.

Following on from this, here is another excerpt from another article by Master He Jing-han,


Why do we do Walking Palms when practicing Bagua?

Walking in circles is not a pattern of motion unique to Bagua quan. When you see two people poised for combat, or even two animals fighting for supremacy, the two sides more often than not are moving around in a circle in order to keep facing each other.  However why is it that only Bagua quan incorporates circling in its training methods and, what is more, makes it the special feature?  Why is not circling suited to other martial arts?  This all stems from the twisting energy in Bagua quan…

We cannot be certain how humankind originally discovered spiralling motion.  Perhaps it was painstakingly worked out, perhaps it was an echo from the inner voice of the body, perhaps it was prompted by animals or perhaps it was just some inspiration that came to primitive men when they were manipulating their limbs and torso.  Be that as it may, they discovered that spiralling motion had many advantages and could make good the inadequacies of linear motion.  So it was retained and developed and has been used in the domains of religion, fitness, martial arts etc right up to the present day.

    For Bagua quan the importance of spiralling motion is:

 1. It can enable the limbs and torso to achieve a greater degree of stretching. Therefore –

2. It can link up all the joints along the tendon pathways of the limbs and torso.  This is the body’s outer linkage.

3. It can enable movements of the limbs and torso to penetrate and link up in the internal organs.  This is the body’s inner linkage.

4. It can develop a continuous and endless movement.

5. It can enable the body to be used more effectively, producing maximum energy from minimum effort.


The entire theory of Bagua quan is based on this. The Bagua’s motion must have spiralling, twisting energy, otherwise they would not be the Bagua.


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