Baguazhang, in my experience, is one of the best and most effective practical martial arts among all the Chinese Martial arts. Baguazhang is one of three main internal martial arts, the other two being Xing Yi and Taijiquan. Baguazhang is very good for one’s health; and, I feel it is even better than Taiji from my personal understanding of this art and based on my experience with several Taiji and Baguazhang masters. Baguazhang incorporates the practice of qigong in its forms practice, so one should not look at the forms as just fighting applications.
Every style of Chinese Martial arts is good. It is based on how one practices the style and one’s purpose for training in that particular style. For example, if you train and learn Baguazhang for street fighting/self-defense, practicing forms is not enough. Learning and practicing forms are just the first of three parts of training. The second part of training is to practice “gongfu” (“skilled achieved through hard work”) of Baguazhang in the fingers, palms, arms and legs for physical strength and power. You also need to practice flexibility of one’s shoulders, knees, hips and body. The third part of training is drilling and applying the skills one learns for each application until one really grasps the principles and feels skilled and confident.
Baguazhang is known for its circle walking, but there is some misconception of the purpose of circle walking. In actual fighting, one does not need to walk the circle all the time. Circle walking practice is used to avoid oncoming attacks and/or apply techniques where the attacker is vulnerable or off balance. Daily practice of circle walking makes one move fast while applying techniques. Baguazhang footwork is very important! “Kou” and “bai” are techniques in itself.
In my experience, I had to use the various martial arts skills I learned from training Xing Yi to the Chinese Army in the city of Da Ling to an actual real-life/self-defense situation. Baguazhang works better for me and is more practical. Having said that, I have also learned Taiji, Xing Yi and other external styles, too. Therefore, my fighting skills are a combination of all that I learned with Baguazhang complementing it due to its use of footwork, angles and constant motion/change. It is easier to have learned another fighting style and then combine Baguazhang practice to enhance one’s fighting capabilities.