Sparring Question

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Sparring Question

Postby seven on Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:21 am

I have been practicing taijiquan for about ten years now. My experience of two-person work has been lots of push hands and some striking drills. I recently got the opportunity to do some sparring with gloves with a karate teacher who is really interested in taiji. It's a great opportunity for me to dip my toe into sparring, but I am interested in suggestions from experienced IMA people about how to approach sparring with a karate practitioner. Things to try, things to not do, ways to make the sparring have a connection to what I practice. Thank you.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby MaartenSFS on Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:35 am

This is a bold new step that you are taking and puts you above 99.9999999% of Taijiquan practitioners, so you can start by congratulating yourself. Now wipe that grin off your face and get back to work!

Firstly, make sure that the rules that you are sparring under allow you to use your Taijiquan. The typical Karate point-sparring ruleset won't do you any favours. Next, begin by trying to use the techniques and strategies that you can already use in Tuishou (Push-hands). Choose a handful for each session and make it your goal to use those. It doesn't matter how many times you get hit or how many attempts it takes, as long as you are able to pull those off clean then it was a success. You'll be surprised at what "comes out"; things that are in the forms that you've never used in your life.

Speaking of the forms, try to experiment with using those techniques as well. Not too many at a time. If you are struggling to use the techniques against a resisting opponent it may be that you have not developed your power enough or are not training the correct power drills. Qinna, for example, requires extra finger and grip conditioning to really use effectively. If your teacher can pull these techniques off against a fully resisting opponent then talk to him about it and see if he's holding out on you.. :P

Follow these steps and you will be on the right track. Good luck! ;D
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby PshanATL on Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:30 am

As someone also going through this now, I think its important to work with someone who knows how to spar and can train you on sparring. For awhile you also have to let go of trying to do things the Taiji way. Fighting is chaotic and random and we can't make fighting like our martial art. We have to make our martial art like fighting. We're not going to be able to use Taiji skills unless we have some good fighting basics. The legendary Taiji teachers of old came from a rougher time and probably had a lot more experience with fighting. To develop a strong fighting foundation that allows me the timing and position to use Taiji skills, I found teachers that could fight. Right now i'm studying Muay Thai to develop skills like slipping a punch, blocking without leaving myself open, timing an opponent, using footwork to get better position etc.

There is also bad sparring, which only reinforces current skills and strategies. This is what a lot of people do when they free spar or go to a sparring meetup. Training means to learn new skills and improve on current ones not just practice the ones we have.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby MaartenSFS on Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:11 am

That's really good advice. I was kind of assuming that you had some fighting experience, but I shouldn't have. A lot of the great masters had already studied things like Shaolin and Changquan, which is basically like kickboxing, before studying Taijiquan, so I have no problem with that. Follow my above advice when ylu are ready to move past that.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby Bao on Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:54 am

Interesting topic. Agree with much what has been said. I've done my share of sparring against various people with different background. I've never felt very comfortable with more traditional or common type of sparring, but I found the Karate people I have sparred good to work against. You should probably also want to find other people from other styles for a broader view and experience.

I am not very fond of working with gloves, though it's sometimes good to feel what it feels like I suppose. I am also not a big fan of the common sparring mind-set of chasing hands and chasing points.

@Maarten, as you mentioned it, do you have suggestions on rule-sets that would suit Tai Chi better?

For sparring, a more MMA like mind-set, to have in mind that you should enter and set-up for a take-down and similar might be a better approach than just trading punches. The best of course is if you could focus on Tai Chi strategy and mind-set as much as possible. But I also agree that in the beginning especially, it's good to try adapt to and use regular sparring tactics and sometimes even forget about Tai chi.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from something I've written earlier, some things that I personally like to keep in mind and work on when I practice fighting:

Following and adapting

In T’ai Chi, you don’t choose what to do, your opponent does. In T’ai Chi, it doesn’t matter what your opponent does, what kind of kick or fist he throws at you or from what angle. Your opponent is merely a physical body in movement. Treat him as such. Treat him as such evenbefore he forms his limbs into weapons. Follow and adapt to the body always, even on distance. Follow the whole body, focus on the center and balance, the limbs are of less importance. If someone throws a kick or moves in for a take-down, it’s the same. It’s just a physical body in movement. Always consider the distance and angle and position yourself accordingly.

Positioning

Using distance and angle, position yourself always where you have as much advantage as possible and he has as little advantage as possible. For instance, a kicker or someone with long reach, always try to be inside his reach and closer than his favorite distance. With a little bit of sparring knowledge you could easily learn to determine your opponents favorite distances. Don’t wait until he goes in or throws something at you. Even before you know if you will fight or not, use distance and angle to make sure that you are in a favorable position.

“If my opponent moves slightly, I move first”

This might appear a bit cryptic, but it’s an important rule about timing. Every slight move your opponent does is a “tell”. It can teach you when to move in and when to position yourself into another angle. Again, always adapt to your opponent’s center. The small changes can tell you a lot about the changes and preparations for his overall strategy.

Enter and make contact – ASAP

If you encounter someone aggressive and you know that there is going to be a fight, don’t wait. Don’t take distance. Don’t go into a chasing punches sparring mindset. Just go in and make physical contact. Don’t do it fast, aggressively or something similar. Just walk in and put your hands on top of his. Now you can either wait on his reaction or you can separate his arms: to the sides, one arm up and the other down, or you can push both arms to one side. All of these methods give you different opportunities to enter and bring him down to the ground. From a T’ai Chi perspective, when you go in to touch him, you need to connect with his feet and center. You need to learn how to feel this. This is real T’ai Chi skill we are talking about now. If you have this physical connection through his structure, you will be able to follow and guide his ever slightest movement. If you have this connection and he moves first, you would probably find it ridiculously easy to guide him to the ground. But this is really where T’ai Chi practice as free push hands comes into play.

“Suddenly appear, suddenly disappear”

This is a traditional Tai Chi expression. It means that you need to completely hide your intentions and intent. Your stance must be natural, no aggression or preparation must be visible. Every of your attempts to attack must come suddenly out from nowhere. This could seem different compared to many other martial arts, but it’s in fact one of the real benefits of Tai Chi practice. You won’t need to visually withdraw a fist before attacking. You can also learn to do it with a good amount of speed. Your balanced structure, you rooting, will support the fist upon impact. Strike from a completely calm and balanced body, from a natural looking posture and from close distance. Your opponent won’t even have a chance to know what happened.


From: https://taichithoughts.wordpress.com/20 ... chi-chuan/

And here is some thoughts on why it's sometimes hard to make things work and about working on how to make things work:
https://taichithoughts.wordpress.com/20 ... e-it-work/
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby Bhassler on Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:34 pm

What's your goal? Sport fighting? Self defense? Becoming a bouncer? Joining a biker gang? Making money as an internet guru?

"Sparring" is pretty generic, and doesn't carry a lot of meaning by itself. Mostly folks just get good at slap boxing, unless they have a more specific focus. If your focus is sport fighting, then match the ruleset of how you want to compete. If it's self-defense, start by understanding what kinds of crime are common in your area and how those crimes go down. If you want to be an internet guru, get some good production values and a convincing story about why you're shit's so special. Etc., etc., etc...
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby MaartenSFS on Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:55 pm

Those are good points too.

As far as a Taiji rule-set I think that the Sanda rules are fine if you want to include striking. Perhaps allow for a little more time in the clinch. No hits to the balls and spine, etc. When wearing gloves you can go full-contact with relative safety (I like to wear a head-guard with face mask as well for added safety for both my students and me). This is really important and a lot of people make excuses to why full-contact isn't important to the detriment of their fighting skills. The fact is that dealing with an opponent that is trying to bash your skull in is psychologically and physically much more different than semi-cooperative scenarios.

If you want to go glove-less that's fine too, but then you have to hold back a lot more, though different possibilities open up, such as a lot of Qinna. The Qinna that I have kept in my curriculum targets mostly the elbows and can be done with boxing gloves on. In honesty I believe that if you just went with wrestling it would be better than going glove-less with strikes and holding back, as you can still wrestle full-speed and full-contact.

I think that glove-less is great for when you have a really good training partner and you just want to drill certain things against a semi-resisting opponent. Tuishou and sticky hands may be the best format for training Qinna, but it's hard to make it realistically competitive whilst still keeping it safe-ish.

If you want to do only wrestling then that's easy enough.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby johnwang on Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:13 pm

Sparring is all about footwork. Even if you can't find any opportunity to attack. As long as you keep moving around, soon or later you will find that opportunity to attack.

What kind of Taiji footwork will you use?
Last edited by johnwang on Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm still allergy to "push".
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby windwalker on Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:26 pm

johnwang wrote:Sparring is all about footwork. Even if you can't find any opportunity to attack. As long as you keep moving around, soon or later you will find that opportunity to attack.

What kind of Taiji footwork will you use?


100% agree.

Taiji has what are called the five steps one should know what this means and how to use them.

One should also be aware of bad habits picked up from pushing hands. The main ones I note are leaning, closing a distance without understanding the danger, and sense of time relative to action.

You should be able to feel his movement before it hits you. Not wait for it to feel it, it's too late. Another issue related to push hands practice.
.
One should be able to stick and understand what sticking means.

Good luck
Last edited by windwalker on Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby wiesiek on Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:59 am

thread with tons of good advices ! :)
with this main questions on the front:
..."What's your goal? Sport fighting? Self defense? Becoming a bouncer? Joining a biker gang? Making money as an internet guru?..."

In my opinion kind of old judo rules is the good starting point of free sparring .
basic breakfalls ability allows you go thru fight w/o injury and get the more fun from it.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby seven on Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:27 am

Thank you all for the thoughtful and helpful advice. My goal is to have fun and to deepen my understanding of taijiquan as a martial art. So far, the more martial my taiji practice gets, the deeper the secondary benefits are (relaxation, presence, integration, etc.) Unfortunately, I have not learned the steps of taiji that were referenced. Could you point me to a resource that would explain them?
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby windwalker on Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:40 am

good reading and will outline some of the Past Masters ideas how the art works. While they are interesting reading, ones own experience according to level should be the guide.

"八門五步用功法
[2] ON THE TRAINING METHOD FOR THE EIGHT GATES & FIVE STEPS

https://brennantranslation.wordpress.co ... i-fa-shuo/
Last edited by windwalker on Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:47 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby MaartenSFS on Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:13 pm

I believe that footwork is very important, but it's also higher-level stuff. I'd come back to it after getting smacked around for a while.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby rojcewiczj on Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:27 pm

The simplest, most important single thing in applying traditional movements in sparring is to be in the right distance. Traditional movements have application once your opponent is already within your reach. If you are not willing to enter and remain in close proximity, your movements will not apply. Most sparring, as is much of fighting, is fighting over distance, fighting to be closer, fighting to be farther away. As a traditional martial artist, you should not fight over distance, you should should enter and fight to finish. Dont try to run or reach. You can never be too close but it is tempting to stay too far away. When far away, enter swiftly without conflicting. When close, dont try to move away or butt in, use your techniques.
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Re: Sparring Question

Postby Wanderingdragon on Sat Aug 11, 2018 9:34 pm

Internal arts initiation into contact sparring is best served by practicing controlling the opponent, stepping off line while touching the attacking weapon with intent on shaking or affecting the opponents core. Stepping out of range without losing the central connection, while also recognizing when and why you fall apart. Striking with the step, getting in with calm and not tensing up when you see incoming, knowing you know your threat.
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