I think it is important to say at this point, for anyone who just by chance has happened upon this site, that I do not consider any system of Ba Gua to be superior to the others. Each system has its own strengths. The most important thing is to find the system that suits your body and spirit and that has the right teacher for you. I chose Liang Zhenpu style not because I thought it was inherently "better" than another system but because it suited my body and heart. I tried other styles and I thought they were very good but not the best for me. A person should not get discouraged because one system of Ba Gua did not suit them. Dong Haichaun had many students with many different body types and skill sets and those students taught many different people who brought their own natures to Ba Gua. If you want it enough you will find the right teacher.
However, since I do practice Liang style I would like to just give a brief overview of it and deal with at least one common misconception about Ba Gua.Since people often see Ba Gua practioners walking the circle and holding the Millstone Pressing posture they sometimes have the mistaken notion that it is a guard posture and one is circling an opponent in an attempt to disorient him, at which point he will be easily defeated. I have even heard some Ba Gua practioners make the same claim. I have not however ever heard that claim made by anyone who can actually fight using the art. Now of course surprise is essential in martial art. I suppose that by circling in a manic fashion I might be able to cause my opponent to laugh so hard that I could get the drop on him, but I don't think it's something I should rely on.
When walking the circle in a posture, for instance the Millstone Pushing posture, it is as if I am already in contact with my opponent and with each step I am either to his side or behind him. The technique itself happens when I change from one posture to another.
Liang Zhenpu style consists first of various warm up exercises and basic stepping particularly the mudstep, where the foot is lifted without showing the heel and placed flat on the ground without a heel-toe rocking motion. This is like walking in mud or on slick ground and creates great stability.
Ding Shyr Ba Gua Zhang:
The "mother palms". So called because they give birth to all that follows. Also called the Pre Heaven Form. The upper body holds a fixed posture while the lower body is in movement. The outer form is moving while the inner is tranquil and still. These postures are the foundation for everything that follows and they are also a form of neigong. They stretch the muscles, tendons and joints and each posture does so in a specific way. They create a balance of energies in the body. Typically eight postures are practiced although there can be more.
Eight Single Movements:
These are movements based on the Lao Ba Zhang that are done in a single line, not on a circle. There are also many other single movements that are practiced.
Lao Ba Zhang:
The Old Eight Palms, which consists of the Single Palm Change, the Double Palm change and the Body Turning Palm and variations on those three palms. I have learned two versions of this form and have seen many versions with minor variations. Each teacher seems to have their own take.
Eight Attacking Elbows:
A circular form utilizing the elbows to strike, throw and break. The elbow in this case does not mean just the tip but the whole bend of the arm. There is also a form called Thirteen Elbows which is not done on a circle.
The Sixty Four Linear Palms:
These are techniques done in a straight line. They were developed by Liu Dekuan, a disciple of Cheng Tinghua, perhaps to teach soldiers. There are eight sets, each consisting of eight techniques. They relate to the Lao Ba Zhang but offer many more variations. This is very helpful for teaching someone who is not trained in another art as it gives them a fighting vocabulary.