Another aspect to the learning of the Traditional Chinese internal martial arts is the use of trapping your opponents foot or legs with your own. This is usually done in conjunction with a strike, kick or even with a joint lock with the intention to throw your opponent to the ground.
Most martial arts, especially systems like Taekwondo, Karate, Thai boxing or even Aikido do not practice the leg trapping methods, as their system is based purely on punching and kicking or just on joint locking of the upper limbs. The benefits of trapping your opponents lower limbs are obviously to knock him or her off balance, to stop them from stepping in to attack or to stop them from moving away.
The Internal martial art of Baguazhang I and the Li style Feng Shou Quan are properly the two internal arts that practice leg trapping techniques most of all out of all the other internal martial arts like Taijiquan or Xingyiquan. This is due to the fact that both Bagua and Feng Shou use a lot of fast evasive footwork methos, which allows the practitioner to attack from various angles. All of the leg trapping techniques are done in combination with defensive or offensive hand methods which will twist the opponents upper body in one direction, while the leg trapping techniques will sweep the opponents leg in the opposite direction forcing your opponent to be thrown of balance to the ground.
Leg trapping can be performed on your opponents from or back leg or both legs at the same time , either from the inside or outside. You can use the foot to hook around your opponents ankle or you can use your knee to press against your opponents knee or you can use the whole length of your leg to brush against your opponents. The internal martial arts teaches to attack the opponents upper body and lower body at the same time to fully off balance him or her or to damage their legs by breaking the knee or ankle.
There are many individuals who are learning a particular style of Tai Chi and have not been introduced to the Tai Chi two-person exercise known as Pushing Hands or Tui Shou in Chinese. Basically, the Tai Chi Push Hands exercise is about up rooting your training partners balance by learning to re-direct your partners own force against himself. To do this you must learn proper body alignment and tactile hand skills were you learn to listen (ting Jin) to your training partners intent through the contact you make through your hands and arms.
All Tai Chi styles use the same principle of using the eight powers or doors (Ba men)in their forms and pushing hands practice, the eight powers are:
1). Peng /Ward off.
The practice of the Tai Chi pushing hands exercise allows the the Tai Chi practitioner to fully express and bring the eight powers alive and into application in many variations. So that the same movements that you practice in your Tai Chi solo forms which are made up of a set routine of the eight powers are now brought to use into the pushing hands exercise. By practicing Tai Chi push hands exercise alongside your Tai Chi solo forms will give you a deeper understanding and knowledge of how to strengthen and improve your over-all Tai Chi skill.
Sadly, there are more individuals practicing Tai Chi solo forms than pushing hands and you can tell this by the lack of whole body strength and intent they have in their practice of the solo Tai Chi forms.
Chin Na means to seize and grasp and is the Chinese term for joint locking, grasping the tendons & muscles, sealing the breath & blood etc. The Lishi style ( Li Family) Chin Na covers a multitude of joint locking methods that are very practical and effective as a means of protecting yourself from many aggressive situations. The Lishi Chin Na uses both standing and ground techniques to subdue or immobilise your opponent. The ground Chin Na techniques are not like wresting, were you are both rolling around on the ground, they are performed were you are in the superior position above your opponent who can be placed into five ground positions for you to take full control.
The five positions that are used in the ground techniques of the Lishi Chin Na system are:
1). The opponent is placed onto their back.
2). The opponent is placed onto their front.
3). The opponent is placed onto their right side.
4). The opponent is placed onto their left side.
5). The opponent is placed onto their bottom/knees.
Of all the five positions mentioned above, having your opponent on his or her front is properly the most safest, whereas, having them on their back is properly the most dangerous as they can fully see you and they can still use their own weapons against you. All of the five positions have you either standing above your opponent or using your knees to pin him or her to the ground in a punishing and painfully joint lock, the reason for this is that it allows you freedom of movement to react against more than one attacker and so that you can use all of your weapons like striking, kicking or joint locking.
The very first weapon that most internal martial art practitioners are first taught is the Staff or Gun. The staff helps to develop and strengthen the practitioners tendons and muscles of the hands, forearm and shoulders and is especial good for strengthening the grip which is ideal for those who enjoy the joint locking (Qinna) side to the internal martial arts.
The Chinese consider that all weapons training is in fact an extension of the hand and your ability to use them skilfully comes out of what internal martial art you chose. To study. For example the Tai Chi staff training would in clued both high and low postures, leaps and spins using both ends of the staff to either block or attack with. Whereas, Xingyiquan staff would not use low postures or spins, but would use direct blocks and attacks. But all of the internal martial arts staff training would include tactile skills of attaching and sticking to the opponents weapon.
Another aspect to the “Weapon just being an extension of the hand” is that in the internal martial arts you should be able to flow your energy (qi) through the staff to the tip, for as in Acupuncture when you use the needle to insert into the patients energy channels or meridians (jingluo) it is not the needle going into the energy point that treats the patients ailments it’s your own energy that manipulates the patients energy to treat the ailment.
Most internal martial arts have various staff forms that include both defensive blocks, attacking techniques like poking, chopping, and splitting. They also include throwing methods and how to disarm another weapon. The weapons forms can be either short or long in their training sequences and can move in a linear or circular direction like the Eight Trigram Palms Staff Form ( Baguazhang Gun Shi) which likes to twist and turn constantly changing direction while walking around in a circle. No matter what style of internal martial arts you study the learning of the Staff is very enjoyable, practical and a great way to maintain fitness , improve balance, co-ordination and concentration.
One of the aims of the internal martial arts is to be able to defend against one or more attackers. The internal martial art of Baguazhang uses fast evasive footwork it became famous for some of its top practitioners would hire themselves out to become bodyguards and they had to protect their employers caravan of property. Many times they would be attacked by robbers and they had to fight multiple attackers to both protect themselves and their employers property, this was how Baguazhang become famous as a martial art.
There is a saying in Baguazhang that says ” I am in the centre surrounded by attackers, moving like a butterfly weaving around the flowers no matter which direction they come from,. I remain calm and stick with my strategies.
This means that when you are under attack from multiple opponents your footwork has to be nimble and fast. You must constantly change direction to throw your opponents off balance and allow them to get in each other’s way which makes it easier for yourself to take them on one at a time. Your movement must be like a ” butterfly weaving amongst the flowers” all the time you must remain calm and centred, physically balancing yin and yang in your actions, while mentally as still as a mountain. This is the strategies used in Baguazhang to fight multiple opponents.
Nowadays, many individuals are practicing various wrestling or grappling styles like jujitsu which are good against one on one situations. But are useless in a multiple attack situation. Many times I have hearted stories of individuals who are practicing Mixed martial arts (mma) and they get caught up in a multiple attack situation and they take one of the opponents to the floor wrestling with them, only to find out that while on the floor with one the others jump in and the fight is over pretty quick. Obviously this kind of strategy is wrong and this is why there is no ground wrestling in traditional Gongfu styles, especially within the internal martial arts .
As part of the fighting strategies of the internal martial arts the use of soft and hard ( Yin & Yang) ward off and deflections can be used both in defence of offence situations. The aim of a practitioner of the internal martial arts is to be constantly changing and adapting to your opponent, meaning that you should be balancing the forces of soft and hard and not being hard or soft to much, being to hard means that you can be broken easily, whereas, being to soft means that you are powerless.
So if your opponent attacks you with great force then you can use the soft, deflective type of ward offs that will absorb your opponents force and then re-direct it away at various angles that will make him or her lose their balance, making them vulnerable to your own powerful counter-attacks . If you wish you can also add a hard ward off or strike to your opponents striking limb after your soft ward off as deflected the opponents strike away from its intended target, aiming your (Yang) hard ward off/strike at the muscles, joints, nerve or energy points on your opponents attacking limb to either deaden, numb, break or to cause an energy disruption within your opponents body. The use of a combination of soft and hard ward off techniques is a good example of balancing Yin &Yang within your internal martial arts.
A another example of using soft and hard ward offs is when you are attacking your opponent who uses a soft ward off to counter your own attacking force. You throw a soft, fake strike to allow your opponent to attach to your striking limb using his soft ward off technique. As soon as you feel your opponents touch on your striking limb, you then use your free hand to trap, pin or move your opponents attaching limb using a soft ward off to create a gap in his or her defence to allow you to attack directly at his or her body. Instead of a soft counter ward off you could also use a hard ward off/ strike on your opponents attached limb, causing him or her to lower his or her arm down due to the shock and force you exert when attacking their limb again causing a gap in their defence for you to further exploit.this is yet another example of balancing Yin &Yang or soft and hard forces within the fighting strategies of the (Neijiaquan) or internal martial arts.
There is a saying within the Chinese internal martial arts that goes ” If my opponent is Yang then I will be Yin. If my opponent is Yin then I will be Yang”. Basically you are using the theory of Yin and Yang as a fighting strategies , but how do you put this theory into application, we’ll if the opponent uses great strength, aggression and force in his or her attack, then you counter his or her forceful attack using fast evasive footwork, which allows your Opponents strikes and kicks to fall into empty space, this will allow you to dodge and evade to the sides and even to his or her rear allowing you easy access to counter attack back. Making your opponent miss and hit into emptiness also makes him or her waste their strength and energy. Alongside the fast evasive footwork you can also add in soft deflecting parries and ward offs that use your opponents forceful attack against him or herself and help you to break his or her balance.
In the case of you being the one who is attacking, and your opponent is using softness to defend from your attacks. Then you must use not just heavy strikes or kicks to attack your opponent with, you must also use hard, heavy ward offs or strikes to his limbs when he or she tries to parry or ward off your strikes. This create gaps in their defence for you to continue using your heavy attacks to finish the fight.
Obviously you are taught to be constantly changing from Yin to Yang, quickly using the theory to adapt and change to the opponents reactions and methods of attack and defence as smoothly, and as skilfully as you can. The aim is not to get court in game of strength verses strength as there will only be one winner and that will always be who his the strongest, whereas if you use your skill and the fighting strategies of the internal martial arts then you will always be safe and victorious.