Monday, January 16, 2017

Gao Bagua Files: Wind Section

As we get deeper into the movements it becomes important to discuss planning. There are roughly 2,500 movements in our system and each one must be practiced a minimum of 10,000 times before you reach an initial understanding. This sounds like an impossible task, but in actuality time can be manipulated to our advantage if we learn how to plan outside of time. This requires a keen understanding of the rhythm and pauses within your own daily schedule.

The good news is you actually only need one move to be effective in most self-defense situations. Of course, an internal movement when practiced a thousand times, descends into a deeper level of intuition and quickly becomes 10 movements. Through further research, you find that a single movement is an infinite number of techniques and by learning to change the shape of your body, range and angle of the attack, you can paint a beautiful picture with only one color. In fact, for students who want to really have a deep understanding of Bagua, but don't feel they have the needed commitment, I recommend they spend their days researching the different planes of one technique over the years. They will gain far more than a man who gets a new technique every day but doesn't go any deeper than the instruction of their teacher.

For myself, I teach in programs and tailor-fit exercises, giving students one completed style or section that compliments their personality, habits and thought-process so that they can immediately benefit from their strengths while covering their weaknesses as they become a specialist in a particular art form. If they are diligent, the seed of knowledge can birth into a fruitful harvest more bountiful than what any instructor could ever offer. In a sense, every art will become customized to the individual because the art alone is not life. It needs a practitioner before it can take shape and a practitioner needs an art before he can take aim.

As for lineage holders, we don't practice merely for our own personal progress, but for the development and preservation of the art itself. Therefore I must research each movement hundreds of thousands of times, which of course is a lifestyle of exploration and adventure. For those that are in the same boat as myself or perhaps managing more tasks in a day than they can handle, I will give my two cents on how to train while juggling a full-time job, babies and other endeavors.

Some people train for 6 hours a day, and that is great if you have that much time in your hands. There are advantages, but because martial arts is life, their are also disadvantages because you will have less time to experience actual life-related activities. Changing diapers can teach you a kung fu of humility and even finger dexterity that you would never grasp in an isolated temple. Every house hold chore or work task contains a kung fu secret and only through the combination of training while taking on your daily responsibilities will you be able to pursue the empowered version of self. If you never learn this balance, you may quit your art once you come down from your vacation of training on the mountain.

Myself, I only get about two and a half hours a day of training with my current schedule because I steal an extra hour on my lunch break (don't tell) when I can or I wake up an hour earlier and split my workout when I need. However, I've had schedules when I've only had one hour to train and to my surprise, I was able to make significant progress.

The trick is overlapping of seasons. Let's say that currently I'm in sword season. This means that every day I will train the sword for 30 minutes for the next year. Within that 30 minutes I will only practice a single technique with the sword, which will give me at least a 1000 repetitions. After that I will train something with more movements like Ba Da Gang (circle walking) for the next 30 minutes. Within Ba Da Gang there are 12 movements and that season will last as long as 6 months. Then for the next half hour I will practice one of the 64 palm movements, which will last for a week. Finally, the last movement will be freestyle practice, which is all free movement, but will be directly influenced by the practice of the season.

1 sword movement: 3O minutes = 1000 reps (one year)
12 Ba Da Gang Movements 30 minutes =  7-10 reps each (6 months)
8 palm movements 30 minutes = 10-15 reps each (one month)
Freestyle = 30 minutes (daily change)

It helps me to give a title to the season, using key words so I can track my yearly progress. I would call this, "Free Sword within 64 Projections of the BaDaGang"

The freestyle movement is always themed around footwork and then a random concept or weapon. Maybe I will practice with palm strikes, shoulder strikes, knee strikes or chop sticks. This is what keeps everything fresh and helps me tie the techniques of the season together. My sword form has around 150 movements, which means I can do each movement twice throughout the year if I choose. Yet, that would be a bit too robotic. It's better sometimes to practice combinations, fakes and evades with the techniques to give me a sense of reality with the training and it gives me more reps. Also every day falls under a different theme. Sunday is kicking, Monday sparring, Tuesday stealth or throwing weapons.

This means on Tuesday I would train the sword while training my throwing knife skills, usually in a combination. It can get pretty tricky as the seasons and days mix and match, but that's what keeps it from getting stale. I also use other training tools like playing cards and dice to add randomness and unpredictability to my concepts. The sword training remains the foundation of the year while every day, month and 6 months other parts continue to change and overlap, preparing me for the next season. After ten year,s everything is covered and I can take it deeper depending on results.

Wind Section- The Wind Section is also called the Way of the Elbow, representing 33-40 of the 64 palms. No one can see where the wind comes from or where it goes, we only know when it has arrived. The elbow in Bagua is used for striking, locking, parrying, trapping and evading. It circles like a wheel and is guided by the continuous footwork, making it unpredictable on offense and a moving shield on defense. By learning to use the elbow to cover every part of the body, the practitioner becomes much like a shelled animal and the limbs are free to retaliate. The key to using the elbow effectively is understanding its influence within, behind and around the limbs. The opponent may feel he is overwhelmed by palm strikes, locks or slicing techniques, when in actuality he is dealing with the hidden elbow.

Dun- Dun is the Squatting Elbow and the 33rd movement of the 64 palms. It begins very much like the Dun, which is the third movement of the Heaven Section. By generating a small forward moving circle within the hips, the lead hand extends into a spearhand that lifts the oncoming attack as it is deflected upward. Just as the attack is deflected, the rear hand assists the lead hand by grabbing and sinking the weight straight downward to yank the opponent of balance. As he is off balanced, the practitioner takes a small kou bu (inward pivot step) propelling the body into a spin that launches a turning elbow into the opponent before he can retreat.

a. The spearhand is actually just a safety mechanism so that the delivery of the elbow can be assured. However, once you have a good kou bu, you can time any attack and roll off of it to deliver a powerful spinning elbow much faster without the spearhand. The key is to aim the kou bu so that the body spins in a straight line toward the desired direction. It is not a spinning move but a rolling move, which means it is a counter can be used to intercept a movement, but the risk is much higher. Let your opponent just barely miss with a hand technique so that his ribs will be exposed for rib crunching satisfaction.

b. The kou bu can be aimed to measure where you want to attack your opponent. If the practitioner places it to the right of the opponent, he will bury into his ribs, on the other side he will turn towards the opponent's back. The kou bu be can be done while retreating to create a snake like coiling attack that springs towards the opponent as he chases you. The step can be extended so long that it moves clear passed the opponent as he comes in for an attack. Timed correctly, the opponent won't be able to see where you have vanished to and by the time he is aware, he should already be paralyzed.

c. Remember that all elbow strikes can be adjusted to perform other strikes depending on the range and speed of the oncoming attack. A spinning elbow can be transitioned to a spinning shoulder if the opponent is faster than anticipated. If the opponent steps backwards then the spinning elbow can be a spinning palm or back kick.

Pan- Pan is called the Disc Elbow or Territory Elbow and is the 34th movement of the 64 palms. It refers to capturing the oncoming movement as it approaches between the two elbows while the hands shield the face, much like a boxing stance. As the punch extends, help it hyper extend by squeezing the elbows together, using the muscles in the back as the weight sinks slightly. Once the elbow has been snapped, extend the posture into a long stance (from weight in the back cat-like stance) launching an elbow attack into the ribs. As the opponent stumbles step in an angle (t-step) while bringing the outside hand across the opponent's jaw with a hammer fist and then using the stepping momentum to slam him on his neck.

a. Because this movement begins like a boxing stance, it can be done against any strike. It's especially useful for hyper extending the elbow for someone with an effective jab. It's hard to time, but if you mind your footwork, you aren't in danger of getting popped. With both hands up, you are in a very protected position.

b. After the arm has been snapped, it's crucial not to release the broken arm until the opponent has been completely disposed of. An injured animal is the most dangerous. Use the moment of pain to place you in a better position to finish, but do not believe that a broken elbow is the end of the fight for every person. With the adrenaline running, the opponent may not even know it's broken until he goes home.

c. The first movement is a cat-like stance with the hips sunken into the kua and then a long stance carries the elbow into the opponent from a great distance. This stance transition is an excellent coiling attack for all types of hand strikes. By keeping the weight low while moving from a back stance to a long stance, the practitioner generates a force stronger than a tackle, but it has pinpoint accuracy and adjustable range. It is also a great way to use paired weapons (moon daggers, double sticks, etc.). Curl back just as the attack misses and spring forth with a counter too fast and too long to escape.

Zhui- Zhui is the Crashing or Crushing Elbow and is the 35th movement of the 64 palms. Zhui begins by sinking downward and backward into a deep stance to evade an oncoming attack while the elbow smashes into the attack from atop. As the opponent attempts to retract his damaged limb, the practitioner chases it back, striking the unguarded point. Then the following hand lifts the guard out of the way, rising and pressing the opponent off balance with a single palm towards his center of balance.

a. The easiest and safest version of this movement is smashing atop the attack. It's important to remember that the entire body smashes on the attack, guiding the elbow and the elbow does not reach down for the attack on it's own. When the whole body sinks, there is more power and the practitioner doesn't lower his guard, keeping him safe from an additional surprise attack. If the elbow reaches for the target, the practitioner could be baited into taking a shot.

b. This movement works fine on the hands, but is exceptional against low kicking attacks. Drop the weight while smashing onto the leg with the elbow and use the rear hand to grasp the back of the leg so the opponent can not retract it. Then while suddenly rising and moving forward, the opponent is certain to have a hard landing. Aim for the edge of a table or street curb in a real jam.

c. This movement is like gravy on mashed potatoes when done with a saber. Evade an attack while coming down on it with the blade and then spring forward, launching the tip into the opponent. Gravy and mashed potatoes baby.

Ding- Ding is the Summit Elbow and the 36th movement of the 64 palms. Ding begins by turning sideways like a horse stance to deflect the incoming attack with the lead forearm, elbow or shoulder. This is done by making a circular motion that defects and draws the attack near. As the attack is deflected the lead hand does a circular grab while stepping forward, using the rear hand to either snap the arm from underneath or launch an attack from underneath the arm to the face or throat. When the opponent is stunned, take another step inside the opponent's defense launching the elbow into the ribs. Finally a last step is taken to launch the rear hand into an elbow strike from above and then a short half step is used to elbow the throat, finishing of the opponent.

a. This technique includes 4 strikes, three of which, are elbow strikes. This can not be done without fluid footwork. Each step uses a small bai bu (outward pivot step) to launch the attacks quickly and efficiently. If your have heavy feet, you can not control the range to use the elbow effectively and will only lead yourself into a bad situation.

b. All of the elbow attacks are also blocks. Do not think in mere terms of trying to strike the head or the body, but it terms of using the angle to cut off different trajectories. The elbow uses space management to either strike or cut off the opponent's possibilities. With fluid footwork, using a three part combination with elbows may present itself as strike-strike-strike, block-strike-strike, block-strike-block, etc. The opponent's offense will choose the practitioner's defense.

c. Although traditionally all of these steps are preceded with a bai bu (outside pivot step), they can also be reversed by using kou bu (inside pivot step). This will change the elbows from being straight forward attacks to becoming spinning attacks. However, they are not spins, but rather straight forward attacks that come from the other side of the body.

Heng- Heng is the Measuring Elbow and the 37th movement of the 64 palms. Heng begins by dropping the weight and sinking the hands into a spearhand position, which is actually serves as  an elbow snap. After the arm has been snapped, the practitioner takes a step while circling the weight vertically, dropping a back fist atop the opponent's face or secondary attack. Whether the opponent is struck by the attack or blocks it, the center weight of the practitioner is generated into the hands by taking a half step that launches the opponent off-balance with dual fists.

a. While using the spearhand, both hands make a shape like that of a crocodile as they glide passed each other. The hands are mirror opposites as one slides upward and the other downward. The practitioner's elbows must be tightly aligned behind the center and the shoulder pressed downward. This way, the sliding of the two hands is done by slight turning in the waist. Every spearhand in Bagua is also an arm snap. The angle of the snap can be changed instantly, depending on the oncoming attack.

b. Sinking the weight, does not mean lowering the body. It means that the ligaments within the hips have been stretched and now the practitioner can lower his body mass within itself. Doing this creates space within space so that there is freedom of movement where there is no room for movement. In order to attain this flexibility, one must practice a consistent form of posture training i.e. standing training, San Ti Shi or Circle Walking.

c. The movements in this combination are spearhand, back fist, double fist. Yet the movements are not as important as the directions. The directions are down, up, forward. In a fight, there isn't time to decide which strike to use at what time, but mastery of the directions will give you all the opportunity needed to launch your attacks. In Bagua, we always set up the opponent by moving one direction, suddenly another and finally the unexpected direction.

Cuo- Cuo is the Misread Elbow and the 38th movement of the 64 palms. This movement begins with a spearhand to misdirect the oncoming attack while the practitioner takes a step forward and uses a single palm to snap the joint or strike the face. The body then coils back placing weight on the back leg as the practitioner then extends a deep stance single palm to the same area. This repeated motion can be done to snap the joint in to separate places: the elbow then shoulder. It can also be used to indicate two strikes to the same area such as a lumber jack chopping a tree. But the movement is designed for baiting  the opponent into a second strike so that it can be countered easily.

a. The Misread Elbow is actually a safeguard. What to do in case you misread the attack. If the first arm lock is successful, the movement is completed. However, if the opponent is able to slip his hand out of the practitioner's grasp, this technique can ensure an even more powerful counter as they have placed themselves in a position to wind up the body from the inside. This coiling spearhand can be down by twisting the hips while sitting on the back leg, which creates a spring in the waist. By relaxing the tension, an attack can be launched that is at least two times more explosive than the original attack.

b. By keeping the shoulders pressed down and the body tight, the spearhand and palm roll easily off of the hips as if one solid motion. It is a shield that rolls around the body and pries open the defenses of the opponent. By utilizing the kou bai bu footwork, this peeling open the opponent can occur from multiple angles making it quiet difficult to defend against. It's important to sink the shoulders into the hips so that as the pivoting steps occur, so does the coiling and uncoiling within the frame. This creates a geometric advantage against opponents who still move in simple patterns.

c. By drilling this movement with a partner in a circular sequence, the practitioner will be able to feel the coiling sensation in the hips that allows for immediate, powerful counters. The drill is easy to do as both practitioners have the same leg forward to start. Then while one student attacks the the single palm to the mid or upper section, the other student counters with a coiling spear hand and releases into a single palm with the other hand. This movement can be repeated in succession and after thousands of reps, footwork from front to back, side to side and circle walking can be practiced. This is a highly valuable, but often overlooked drill for Bagua practitioners.

Die- Die is the Folding Elbow and the 39th movement of the 64 palms. Die begins by capturing the oncoming attack while yanking the opponent into an eye jab. If the opponent parries the finger jab, both hands are twisted into a sinking circle while stepping forward, locking the opponent's arm into a cross trap. You literally fold your arms as if folding clothes and the opponent becomes folded within your structure. After he is off-balanced, a final shove forward with the hips into a long stance sends the opponent flying backward.

a. This movement is a quick and easy trap to pull off on fast fighters. The key is as the first hand is grasped, the second hand goes straight toward the opponent's eyes. This takes all of the attention off of the hand that has already been grasped. As he blocks the counter, all of his weight is neutralized by twisting the hips and sending him downward. The leg can sweep from the opposing side to make the takedown even easier.

b. The key component of this takedown and all take downs in Bagua is control over your center. The center can be thought of as the lower middle part of the body. The center can be shifted from one way to the other or twisted and expanded to created various effects while grabbing an opponent. While yanking around an opponent, you should be using your center to send him one direction or the other. The hands and feet are merely an extension of the center.

c. This circular trapping motion can be practiced with a stick if you don't have an opponent. Hold a short stick (less than arms length) and twist it downward while sinking the weight and stepping forward. Repeating this motions will synchronize the body so that the pressure of the lock tightens and becomes not only a takedown, but an arm snap.

Zhuan- Zhuan is the Drilling Elbow and the 40th movement of the 64 palms. Zhuan begins by bringing the weight forward (long stance) to meet with the oncoming attack with an outward to inward circling parry. Once the attack has met with the parry, the practitioner launches his weight and lifts the opponent's arm in the air exposing the ribs. Simultaneously, a kou bu (inside pivot step) is taken to launch a spinning elbow into the exposed weakness.

a. When yanking someone towards yourself, it is most important to maintain a superior structure. If you are lower than your opponent as he crashes into you, he will be knocked off balance regardless of the used technique. However, if you are not sunk in your stance while pulling someone toward yourself,  you could be helping him complete his own take down.

b. CAUTION! If you grab someone's wrist who is an experienced fighter, they will automatically try to strike you with the other hand to get free. It is a natural instinct and it's really fast. Yet, this is a great way to bait an attack towards yourself and occupy both hands. As the lead hand grabs, prepare to block the oncoming counter with the elbow. By sinking your weight you will find yourself an a great position to drill into the opponent with anything technique of choice.

c. This movement is traditionally taught with long deep stances, but as long as the legs are tight, you can generate the needed force. Experiment with different heights and distances to assure the success of delivery. This turning elbow will always be an important tool in the toolbox. Yanking your opponent into the attack, doubles the damage. If he is coming in too fast, use the shoulder instead.

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