Gao Style Ba Gua Zhang has a syllabus including Linear sets of exercises. These are set in to 8 groups that manage to cover a range of fighting techniques per group.
To briefly cover this there are Elbow sets, Kicking sets, Footwork sets etc...
The variation of these Houtaian is neatly placed into a syllabus for the reasons of martial development. The sets are clearly martially orientated whereas circle walking can be less obvious. This area of training can increase the importance of your development into the martial spectrum of Ba Gua Zhang.
The lines should be practiced with several areas of attention.
These areas to look out for are:
Tucking in the Abdominal area
Angles of movement
Without these important elements the lines will become empty and unsubstantial. It is very important that the attention to detail is observed. Pay attention to the teacher and put your faith in their instruction to reap the benefits.
Below is a series of images showing the progression through the 'Kai' houtian:
The Lines will become usful flags for technique when sparring and often address the fundamentals of a good fighting base. The lines will supplement and circle training and at a suitable point, when the techniques become reflex drilled, they can be directly introduced into a circular form.
The straignt line forms can be merged into linking sets:
The first line including:: Kai, Pong, Dun, Tan, Li, Tiou, Gai, Chen are linked with a seris of steps that break the repetative movements. This encourages a new rhythum to be used, and also strength.
The importance of form is relative to the more circular sets. The staight line sets will encourage a more structured and omni directional strength that is so important to perfecting the art of swimming dragon practice.
One useful tip to improving the core fist eight Houtian is to repeat the movements in both directions in the order of Kai, Pong, Dun, Tan, Li, Tiou, Gai, Chen. This will improve the continuity and familiarise the practioner with more interesting footwork variations not normally achieved. The order would therefore be:
Kai, Kai, Kai, Pong, Pong, Pong, Dun, Dun, Dun, Tan, Tan, Tan, Li, Li, Li, Tiou, Tiou, Tiou, Gai, Gai, Gai, Chen, Chen, Chen
Introducing pace as a training element is a worthy training tool:
Try them slow and check the posture by closing your eyes (during a pause) and feel where your weight is in relation to the power the exercise is generating. A bit of commom sense and intelligence should work away the rough edges.
Try them as fast as you can occasionally. This works especially in the linking set. Other aspects of the exercise become obvious. For me I found the change of directions is staggeringly knackering. This complements the real fighting fitness so you can train to fight at a pace with internal structure....
Structure is always something that Luo Dexiu mentions when teaching the straught line methods of Gao style baguazhang. You can see here in the video below how clear he makes the intention of the technoque and the refined structure behind it. Practice with these 'drill' based forms can be very rewarding to your body mechanics!: