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12230958 Thoughts on Learning Baguazhang

12230958 Thoughts on Learning Baguazhang

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Published by Jason Gilbert

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Published by: Jason Gilbert on Feb 07, 2012
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60

CHAPTER FOUR

range. It also means that you move diagonally forward, not to the sides or directly forward.
Stepping diagonally backwards is a second-class option that only works under certain situ-
ations.
Done smoothly and competently, moving forward diagonally is what makes you look as if
you have circled around your opponent to be in the position of advantage behind him or
her. You didn’t really believe that walking the circle meant that you would circle the oppo-
nent like the Indians, riding around the wagon train that had pulled into a defensive circle
in bad Western movies? Circle stepping in any context teaches you about getting out of the
way properly, not about walking around in circles.
Getting back to the original idea of having two major approaches to dealing with an attack.
Ideally, you will learn to do both types of tactics in your training sessions even though a
much smaller person would be best to use only the avoidance method when dealing with a
larger attacker.
It is also important to remember the difference between working on the open and the closed
sides of an opponent. When fighting on the inside, and sometimes you have no choice, your
opponent has just as much access and opportunity to attack your vulnerable areas as you
have to attack his. But, if you are behind or outside your opponent’s arms, the opposite
does not hold true. You have access and opportunity to attack his vulnerable areas, he has
much less access to yours. In addition, you have superior positional advantage to take the
opponent down without much struggle, as well as the option to escape if need be.
In order to end a fight you need to dominate the opponent. If your opponent is bigger and
stronger, or has some practical skills himself, it will often be very difficult to do. This is why
when two people fight, the bigger and stronger fighter usually wins. If you are technically
far superior to your opponent, you can most likely put him down despite a significant size or
weight difference. If you’re not more skilled than the larger or heavier opponent, his greater
reach and greater mass in motion make it unlikely that you will prevail.
By the way, you should always assume that your hypothetical opponent is dangerous, stron-
ger and technically sound, and that having superior skills may be the only way you can win
the encounter.
It is also important to remember that bagua is an art that uses the open hand in preference
to the fist—particularly when attacking the head. The rationale is that all your opponent
has to do against a closed fist attack is duck a few inches, and you will end up connecting
with his skull with a real danger of breaking your fingers or wrist. These are the most com-
mon injuries faced by Western boxers despite having taped their hands and wearing gloves.
The other common problem is landing your closed fist on an opponent’s elbows if he covers
his ribs effectively with elbows, which are very strong and bony joints.
With considerable time and practice, palm strikes, or those using the heel of the hand, be-
come preferable for these reasons. Erle teaches three main versions of the palm strike for
slightly different martial purposes. Finally, the open hand can be used to grasp vital points
or lock up the key joints of the limbs. The bagua style we follow favours open hand tech-
niques, but each of the two forms contains one closed fist technique to remind us that this
weapon can be useful under certain situations and cannot be ignored completely.

BASIC MARTIAL TRAINING

61

The funny footwork used in the Slip Step is also a way of training the martial use of your
own feet and shins as offensive and defensive tools. One of the hallmarks of bagua is the
way in which a practitioner uses his or her feet while doing toe-in steps, to trap an attacker’s
legs and balance whenever possible while in close range. If you are crowding an attacker
without tensing up or losing your balance, it will be more difficult for the aggressor to
continue their attack effectively. The same applies if you are kicking their shins, stepping
on their feet or striking the vulnerable areas of the inside and outside of their knees while
doing toe-out steps, with hands doing the necessary martial work.

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