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Training For Sparing

By Chen Zhaokuei

Train hard, but not to death; train with your mind, but do not lie yourself

The result of a fight depends mostly on bravery, but bravery alone is not enough. To achieve a high level fighting skill is needed too. A fearless fighter with a high level skill is like a tiger with wings.

During training, we have to be well co-ordinated and flexible in each move of the forms. We have to understand the movements clearly, and be able to shoot energy like machine gun. A punch should take the shortest way to its target. It should be fast, strong, cruel and precise. It should have such a quality that it can overcome a strong and committed enemy. Serious training is the only way to achieve this. Pay attention to the difference between fast and slow movements; hit like steel, move like water, opening and closing, relaxing and flowing, gathering and issuing.

Practising with just slow movements leads to slow punches, which will be easy to parry. But doing only fast movements will make it difficult to feel the best path for the flow of your energy and this will make the trajectory of your punches longer than necessary. Fast movements train and improve your speed, but for quality of movement you need to know the trace of the line and the path of your energy. This is the way to optimise speed and efficiency.

Concentrating on "moving like water" leads to weak punches, which are no danger to your opponent. Hitting like steel means to hit with the character of steel. Being able to do this reveals the quality of your gathering and issuing, which in turn depend on the quality of your relaxation. The ability to “move like water" is a sign of absolute relaxation.

The examples above show the necessity of reaching a level of quality which will allow you to change easily from fast to slow, to transform the hard to soft, the heavy to light and vice versa. This quality should be ready whenever you need it, without disadvantages or limits.

This quality is not easily achieved. It needs years of hard training. But hard training means clever training, otherwise you will have destined yourself to death. The goal of your practise should be well defined. We should not be like Beijing opera stars who show a dance with a spear. Flowery shows like that are just for entertainment, but useless in a real fight.

Use your advantage against their disadvantage

After achieving a reasonable skill in sparring. You should specialise in one or two techniques. The best technique is one that complements your body structure, power, reflexes and some other factors. For instance, a tall man should work more on "cai" or "lie". His punches should be as if he can "split the mountain", very powerful.

A small person should work mainly with the elbow, shoulder strikes and leg attacks to the lower part of the opponent's body. He should be fast and agile. The power of his strikes should be united, flowing and flexible. He should use Peng (ward off) as his strategy. In the classics is said: Peng accumulates power that can move mountains. This strategy is very suitable for short (small) people.

To gain power emphasise Cai (grab), Lie (split) or Zhou (elbow). The strikes should be so powerful, so devastating that you end any possibility of your opponent continuing the fight with your first strike. (One strike-game over).

To gain dexterity, work on trick movements. The opponent should be deceived in any possible way, and then attacked with fast moves. Those with slow reflexes should work more on the defence, so when the opponent strikes, you parry and redirect it back.

Remember, only specialise in one or two techniques to create a superiority of your advantages over your opponent’s disadvantages.

Specialisation on its own is not enough to bring you victory. Learn how to use it. Hide your speciality so you can surprise your enemy. A good idea is to provoke a wrong idea of your weaknesses. Use deceiving movements and take advantage of the false impression created.

For example, lets say you have good leg techniques and fast footwork. Your opponent is shorter than you. First, leave an open line your lower body. He will probably take it. But that is a trap, because you can use a leg technique which your opponent cannot escape. The practical rule here is that real and fake moves should complement each other in such a way that your opponent cannot distinguish between them. But you should know which is which!

Attack the soft points

In sparing, be watchful and find out your opponent’s weak points. Only then can we be more confident and choose a strategy that uses our advantages against his disadvantages (know your opponent). If you are not able to do this, you'll be nervous, lose confidence and start attacking with no plan. When you attack with no plan, you reveal your own weaknesses to no advantage and will eventually lose the fight. The key element of finding your opponent’s weak points is his body structure. Feel his power and reflex in the first touch. After that you can choose the right strategy.

Do not be passive

In war the priority is to annihilate your enemy, to save yourself is of secondary importance. Only with the defeat of the enemy you can effectively protect yourself. For instance, your opponent is taller and faster. Even worse you aren't as good as him. Obviously you have the disadvantage. If you are passive, you’ll give him the initiative and the full advantage of his strengths. The result will be certain for you. So from the very beginning you must attack first vigorously and without hesitation in every possible way. In this way you have possibility of turning a sure defeat into a victory.

Make noise in the East, attack from the West

To be confident of victory when sparring, deceive your enemy. Confuse him with feints and then surprise him. This is an important way of turning disadvantages into advantages. That's the meaning of " make noise in the East, attack from the West". The trick to this is to hide your real attack in a false one. Make your enemy believe the false attack is the real danger. If your false attack does not look real, the real attack won't be successful either. For example, if your strike on the left is a false strike, and that on the right is real, it is essential that your opponent’s attention is drawn to your attack on the left, to make his defence on the right weak. Then you can attack with a fast and devastating strike on the right.

To deceive successfully, your false attacks should target the main parts of enemy's body, doing all strikes using the shortest path and smallest circle to the target. Don’t "telegraph" your feints. These signs will give away the true intention of your moves, which can result in a surprise counter-attack. On the other hand you could use these signs to confuse. For instance, first you look left and attack right, then you look right and attack right. The enemy after feeling first false move might think that the next strike will come from the left. In this way he might open on the right. This is to say that you should "attack where there is no defence".

By Chen Zhaokuei, Translated by Vidyo Vidrev