General Ba Gua Free Sparring Method

When you talk about sparring, regardless of style, you must consider the martial arts rationale. There is a reason for what is done. As far as bagua itself is concerned, there are a great many sub-styles. Many of these are similar, but some are quite different. No matter what their differences, though, they must follow the general methods below. Notice we have said general. To go into more detail would require far too much length for an article.

There are ten general methods in the bagua free sparring, and each of these must be understood clearly:

1. Single weight and don't focus.

2. Yin and yang.

3. Breathing and technique.

4. Distance.

5. Speed

6. Angle

7. Timing and chance

8. Footwork

9. Know yourself, know the opponent

10. Chi Kung and external training.

1. When you practice, keep the whole body balanced.

No part of the body can lose balance. If the balance is even a little off, that is called "focus" or "double-weight." Focus is the mind feeling, and double weight the physical feeling.

The one affects the other. Double-weightedness refers to the whole body, not just the feet or hands. If anything is tense that produces double-weightedness. When free sparring, you must remember not to focus the mind on using power. Otherwise, if you focus, you will lose your relaxedness and control. When you are not relaxed, the breathing is automatically bothered and your movements become stiff. If this happens, the mind will lock up and the spirit will break and lose alertness. This will occur because the nervous system is affected and your reflexes will be slowed; the opponent will instead be able to strike you.

When fighting, you must be like a fish in the wave, like a flag in the air. You must be very careful to understand these two ideas and to put this understanding in the body. That means being natural and letting your reflexes work. this is not simple. You must understand these two ideas deeply.

2. Yin and yang refers to anything opposite but not separated. In the martial arts there are two kinds of movements that are continuous, unbroken and from one root. If this is not understood, your practice will be wrong. In the martial arts sense, yin and yang are expressed as follows:

Yang-Yin; Exhale-Inhale; Sold-Fake; Tense-Relax; Moving-Still; hard-Soft; Fast-Slow.

In sparring, the use of yin and yang is very important. For example, when the opponent punches, that is yang, and when you defend, you must be yin. The timing here is crucial, because when the opponent changes from hard to soft, you must already change to hard and hit him. At that time, the opponent has now power to bloc. That is the meaning of the yin-yang circle.

When sparring, you must be careful that the opponent does not know this idea and in fact is setting you up. That is why you must use mind and power. When you use power, that is focusing. Using mind means, as the classics say, spirit, breathing, mind and power together to make harmony and be united. the power is all together.

When an opponent show you an open spot, that means fake, set-up. Do not hit there. Hit this protected area. You must reverse set-up to do that. Because that is the real open area to be hit, where he is focused. Another example: make a signal to the east, hit the west. Point to the south, hit the north. Up is open, down is solid. All these are for set-up use. When you are using these, you must follow what your opponent is doing, or you can be setting your opponent up. this is yin and yang, all opposites.

3. Coordination of breathing with technique. Before we noted that a full exhale is yang and an inhale yin. When sparring, if you attack- whether with a punch or kick - you should test, fake. At the same time, the breathing should be an inhale. Many martial arts people do not understand about this, or the difference between fake and real, because the timing and breathing are wrong. (Refer to ying and yang above if necessary.) If you get mixed up, you will get punched. But even if not, two to three techniques later your breathing will be very heavy. This method is extremely important and must not be forgotten.

4. There are three distances in fighting. Long, medium and close. The idea for each is different. A) Long distance: when sparring, consider how short or long limbed the opponent is. When fighting at long distance, be careful of kicks. but at that distance you must yourself kick, otherwise, the opponent will be waiting for your punch and he will set you up. You may use a kick as a set-up, or to break the opponent's concentration. B) Medium distance: at this range, either the foot or the hand can strike you. Be careful of the opponent using his hand and foot together to attack. the best attack is both hand and foot. C) Close distance: try to control the opponent's balance. When the opponent loses balance, the whole body will tense, the breathing will come up and his movement will slow. This is why push hands and sensitivity training are important.

5. Regarding speed. If the opponent doesn't move, you must be still. If the opponent moves just a little, quickly attack, faster than he. The hand must be flexible and sharp. The step must be light. Forward, backward and turning you must be light, like a cat. The body must be straight, balanced. The qi must be in the Dan Tien. if one thing moves, everything must move. When you contact the opponent, you must be like a tiger or a wolf. This means the mind must make speed by copying what an animal is like that strong, that fast. This has nothing to do with technique.

6. Angle. when sparring, you should use both hands to protect the center line at all times. Be careful of attacks from left and right angles. If a punch comes from a straight line, you should cross the bloc. If a punch comes from across, go straight in. (If, however, you are too late to go in, go straight back - regardless of whether the cross attack is high or low.)

when fighting, either attacking or defending, you must have three points together. Nose, toes and fingers (or fist) must point in the same direction. If they are not in the same direction, at contact you will lose balance and have no power.

7. When sparring, try to use timing and opportunity. When a punch comes, do not just block; punch back at the same time. That means punch and block together. If you just block, the opponent will continue to attack. That is why you must use the timing and opportunity for attack to keep the opponent busy with defense. The idea is block and hit, control and hit at the same time. That will make you fast, him slow.

8. Footwork. The main point in the bagua style is the footwork. If specializes in footwork. When sparring, the spirit must concentrate. If the opponent just moves, your foot must immediately move. The first thing you learn is bagua is to run. If you move too late, you are like a heavy bag.

In regard to the footwork, with each step the place of the body changes. This place change protects you, and at the same time you can attack the opponent. This is why running the circle practice is so important. But how to run fast? First you must understand single weight and the mind not focusing. If you are double weighted you cannot be, as the classics say, smooth like water, strong like a mountain.

9. Know yourself, know the opponent. You must analyze your opponent's fighting idea. For instance, if he is tense, focused, always careful about his balance, changes the angle of attack, show you different open spots, moves around a lot, and such. In yourself, you must consider how to defend and attack. Sun Tzu's Art of War says, "Know yourself. Know your opponent. One hundred times fight, one hundred times win." You must train very hard to catch this. If you do not really understand, do not fight.

In the beginning, you must be at the same level with your opponent to practice sparring. Do not have a big difference in level or size. This will prevent injury to the weaker partner.

10. Chi Kung and external training. this means in and out together. Old martial arts people have a saying, "Inside develop breathing, outside skin, muscle and bone." the reason you practice the breathing method is to exercise the lungs, in order to make them stronger and take in more oxygen. You want to make the breathing deep and smooth to let the chi run in the whole body.

As far as the external is concerned, you exercise A) the skin to make it thicker in order to protect the muscles and bones. You exercise B) the muscles to make them strong in order to have more power. Because no matter how high the level of qigong, if the muscles are weak, when you make contact in sparring you will have weakness and pain. In such a situation the qi will come up, the body will tense and you will be slow.

No matter what development method you use, you must follow what the classics say: "do not develop part of your body." If you do, later all the movements will lose their harmony. Mind, qi, breathing, and power cannot be separated or you will lose your power.

The last external element you develop is C) bone. these must be solid. Example: knuckles, forearm, shin. Any place you are going to contact an opponent must be solid. Then, when sparring, you will not be hurt and won't have problems of the sort, for instance, as when the muscles are weak