Sparring for noobs-
1. Build confidence in them- re-enforce it with confidence building drills like parrying, catching (things in Tai Chi form).
2. After teaching solo forms and applications, bring those into a sparring setting.
I am having to baby spoon feed noobs, so even doing sparring isn’t a weekly event. It’s something that is thrown in ‘here and there’ until they are comfortable enough. My goal is to assist with getting them used to someone aggressive enough to be throwing punches and kicks at them and how to respond appropriately and calmly under pressure.
In tai chi I dare not teach the empty hand form without showing the applications. This way in practicing the form they can use the application intent or ‘Yi’. I’ve introduce them to some Hsingyi and drills like- Heng vs Pao drill or Pi vs Beng drill. I introduce them to circle walking and Fan Chang change. Then walking drills where one guy does a fan chang change and the other guys needs to react and change on circle. There is always push hands too which is very reactive.
I started as a tai chi guy, but was lucky that my first teacher was a martial artist that taught Hsingyi and Bagua, and how Boxing shared principles. He also felt Neijia had a lack of real cardio, so he taught Western boxing with strength training as well. Neijia was “water” while boxing was “fire”…. the fire to burn up and raise the body’s metabolic rate and sweat out toxins and burn up the food/calories for health.
He was able to create many two person combat drills similar to push hands for each of the postures using a sticking approach, leverage, and body mechanics.
My approach is different. As much as I appreciate and have learned many push hands sets- I don’t start my drills from a already touching position. Real fights, they don’t start out that way.
1. Peng drill– guys throws a punch- bridge it with peng- (practice a few of those) then try grabbing the wrist and yank hard to unbalance them.
2. Lu drill– one guy chases with left or right punch and student needs to train lu to outside on whatever arm partner feeds him
3. Ji drill-using a sticking lu (from above 2.)to get to the outside of opponent and add jump stepping ‘press’ to uproot person or strike kidney.
4. An drill- angling off an attack by stepping away from opponents line and using peng to stick then attacking with a lifting/push their body from lateral angle.
These are working from a pre-sticking situation into a bridging one. How to blend and move with the opponents stepping, being in the right distance and angling to find line of attack after neutralization.
I am putting my friends at an advantage with boxing-like drills. As a matter of fact, I show them how a Muay Tahi (MT) guy might attack or a BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu) might attack or a Judo throw might be countered with a throw. Its called “know your enemy strengths and weaknesses”
Some of the Tai Chi fighting drills and 2 man work I have shown are solo fajin drills using the 8 energies while moving forward, back and to left right, and being centered. Good posture is key, this can be standing, and with jump steps when doing the offensive/defensive moves. Later transferring that power into a object like a heavy bag, eventually a moving target like on focus mitts, kick shield, and thai pads. It is important to be a pad holder that hits back to make them cover-up and use defense.
I like to have them do structured tai chi punches to the belly pad (step-parry-punch is a good example) and work palm strikes to focus mitts (brush knee/fair maiden palm) . We will take strikes and kicks from the forms and doing them on thai pads and create simple yet comprehensive combinations using good posture and structure. Simulated various attacks like throw a kick to person and have the person do brush knee to stop/catch kick and push the opponent.
It takes some kind of wisdom and intelligence to study IMA especially Baguazhang and Taijiquan.
We are doing 2 man taiji fighting drills. Some are solo movement drills, later they work with a partner on them. Paired drills might be using the 8 energies of taiji, 5 elements of Xingyiquan, Jiben shou fa of Baguazhang. We incorporate them with power on martial arts equipment. We sometimes use sections from the 88 “Tai chi san shou ” two man set as combat drills too. Sometimes we do taiji with wrestling/shaui jiao flavor, sometimes we do taiji with qi-na flavor, sometimes we do taiji with combat sport flavor more of a striking with arms (boxing) or striking with arms and legs (use of punches and kicks) and sometimes striking with arms, legs, and throws (full out san shou). All of it is based on who comes to class, where they are in their training, what I want them to learn. Most of the combat stuff is pretty much after warm-ups, stance work, basics- (hand skills, footwork, other), forms, and conditioning. After combat work we do qigong/meditation/mind work.
I can care less to be a dogmatic traditionalist, to me the traditionalist are a joke and just gathering dust. My training is based on 25 years of CMA/IMA and 8 years of MMA training with Pros in Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Olympic class Judo, Jujitsu, and MMA with real combat experience. Not only sport fighters, but fighters in no-nonsense arts like Wing Chun, Jun Fa, JKD, Krav Maga, Systema, Army combatives, Kali, and Navy Seals. Most CMA/IMA people I know don’t come near to having anything remotely close to real combat experience, it really is a rare type to find someone in IMA willing to fight and show it. Those who have stepped in a ring to test and prove functionality have my respect.
Tai Chi is there for me, I don’t have to be there for Tai Chi.