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There are two main dichotomies in Chinese martial arts: Shaolin and Wu Dung (Cantonese: Wu Tang). Wu Dung is known for its internal martial arts usually classified under wu dung chuan. Three of wu dung chuan’s better-known styles are tai chi (taiji), hsing-i (xing yi) and baguazhang (also Romanized pa kua chang).

Dong Hai-chuan (1797-1882)—a manservant-turned-bodyguard for the emperor’s court—is credited as the founder of baguazhang (“eight diagram” or “trigram boxing”). Baguazhang combines the principles found in the I Ching (Book of Changes; a classic Chinese text written before 206 B.C.) with the physical movements observed from the hawk, monkey, lion, snake and bear, and the theoretically devised movements of the unicorn, dragon and phoenix. Baguazhang’s characteristic method of training is circle walking or turning the circle, which is used to develop balance, flexibility and body alignment.

Dong has eight (coincidental number or not) famous students, each of whom practice their bagua differently—thus the eight different “styles” of bagua. During the later Ching dynasty (1821-1850), a man named Cao combined bagua with the movements of the crane, rabbit plus additional tiger, dragon and monkey postures to develop the famous fighting style liu her chuan (six-combination boxing).