Ba Gua Lesson 4: More detailed discussion of Empty-Full

The presence or absence of “empty-full” principles determines why few examples of ba gua (or t’ai-chi) will work in real combat. “Empty-full” allows the practitioner to move rapidly, and change position, between attackers that are closing quickly from different positions. However, when “empty-full” is absent, a defense is static, a “defense” will only work if the attacker stands still in one positon. Combat is chaotic and attackers in a real fight do not stand still!

Whether you are a new student to the art, or an old pro, this page will help you understand and develop effective (or more effective) ba gua close combat skill. These pages will help you:

1) Develop an “eye” to see empty-full principles at a glance and

2) Train yourself to move in an empty-full way.


Determines one’s ability to access subtle electromagnetic fields related to the expression of “internal Energy” and “internal power.”

As explained in those later lessons, knee angles, the way muscles of the lower abdomen (dan tian), lower back (ming men), and upper legs, in relation to a relaxed and vertical upper body posture influence the body in powerful ways. Correctly performed and trained, these relationships allow one to touch, and ultimately master, a special category of “light touch” power and control against an opponent.

Start by studying these random examples of ba gua from YouTube:

(Above) Lack of "Empty-Full" : Hips and Upper Body become Fulcrums

Three random examples of ba gua stylists from YouTube. Note the three vertical red lines superimposed over the  practitioners.

These illustrations show the most common mistake made by the majority of ba gua artists. It is also the most limiting physical error  Why?  Because when an athlete is in a 50-50 weight distribution, the large muscles of the shoulder and waist become dominant and force is applied through a fulcrum. Effective use of ba gua in real combat requires a different approach.  One that allows quick movement when in close contact and allows power to be expressed without a solid two-legged base. The below examples are of three different ba gua artists, demonstrating combat applications of their art from a wide and stable stance.

A Fulcrum.  Notice how, in the below examples, that the techniques shown rely on the upper body acting as a fulcrum.

Replace wide, stable stance and fulrum use with a vertical line through the body.

Develop a vertical connection with the ground. This means that, instead of fulcrum power generated by hips and shoulders that instead, highly mobile power is transferred while in motion. Here are some examples of ba gua with empty-full principles:

The above image stills are from a ba gua demonstration by Master John Bracy that can be viewed at

Here are more examples:

The above images are from

Note, we aren’t the only ba gua artists that understand this principle, there are a few others:

These are from Clear’s Internal Combat Arts,

The above stills are of Master Su Dong Chen from

But, why does a 50-50 stance limit access to power and ability?

To effectively use a fulcrum orientation (as shown in the three photos at the top of this page) it requires that the practitioner “sets” and then applies power and technique.  This works with a cooperative partner, but almost never works in a street fight. Street fights are fluid and chaotic.  It is nearly impossible that the chaos of battlewill allow a person to “set.”  In other words, unlike cooprative demonstrations, the opponent won’t just stand there for the second or two that it takes the practitioner to set, and use, a wide base.

(Note, the approach of a wide stable stance will something work in boxing, but that is very different from any technique that requires turns, twists, or other complicated maneuver)

In contrast, a strike, technique, or throw from the empty-full orientation applies to the target instantly.  It happens at the exact same moment as the foot touches.  There is no delay.

Your next FREE ba gua lesson is extremely important: Study The TRUE empty-full Ba Gua walk