Ba Gua (combat / self-defense training) Lesson 2

The rewards and challenges of Ba Gua combat training


You are here because you either 1) Want to learn more about ba gua for close combat / self-defense or 2) You already have studied ba gua and you want to learn more about how to apply what you learned in a realistic way.  We hope this page, and those that follow will provide some guidance.

You are about to begin one of the most challenging martial arts adventures of your life: How to use ba gua, and for that matter, the other internal martial arts such as t'ai-chi (taiji) and hsing-i (xingyi) in close-combat.

Shrfu (master teacher) John Bracy's answer to a question presented on a YouTube video page is a good introduction to the challenges you are about to face:

The Four Essentials to making Ba Gua work in REAL COMBAT

1. The practitioner must have background in sparring and / or contact work against an opponent. In order to apply ba gua (or any other internal art for that matter) but ESPECIALLY ba gua, you must be comfortable facing punches coming at you by someone who is trying to hurt you. You have to have this skill FIRST. If you want to fight with it, ba gua cannot be your only martial art. Boxing or martial arts experience against an angry or aggressive opponent is essential. This is true because, in order to apply the art, you must come VERY close to the opponent. You must know how to judge strikes and deal with your fear of getting close. OTHERWISE, BA GUA WILL NEVER WORK FOR YOU.

2. You must understand and learn to apply EMPTY-FULL principles. This is a difficult challenge since the default for a person under stress is to use a fifty-fifty and fulcrum-based power. That kind of practice (which about 90 percent of YouTube B.G. demos includes -to their fault) means that POWER is torque and upper back / shoulder based. This means that, without empty-full ability under stress, you will unconsciously choose a wide, and less mobile stance when facing an opponent.

An example of EMPTY-FULL training can be viewed at

One way of determining if a representation of empty full is being demonstrated in a particular presentation is to draw a plumb-line from the base of the skull to the base where the person is standing. However, ba gua is impossible to apply without the 3rd essential point:

 3. You must be able to stay calm under stress, especially when under the intensity of REAL close combat. This principle has to do with how you train your nervous system. In a nutshell, there are two competing aspects of the nervous system. One is called “fight or flight” and has to do with the stress and emergency management of the nervous system. That one is called the sympathetic nervous system. The other is associated with play, self-healing, and calmness. It is called the parasympathetic nervous system.

At no time is there only one of these nervous systems at work, they are always some degree of mix. However, the gracefulness of top athletes under stress, and especially as demonstrated by boxers such as Mohamed Ali, is the ability be calm in context of a stressful encounter and represents a mix that includes slight dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system. This principle especially applies to B.G. in combat because, if you are tense and stressed, you cannot access and employ subtle muscle groups – especially those associated with accessory muscle groups. In other words, you have to be able to consciously control muscles that aren’t normally under conscious control.

4. To apply B.G., t'ai-chi, and the “internal” representations of hsing-i, you must be able to present powerful strikes while at a very close distance…and of course, without the time or room to cock your arm back in preparation. This kind of power is related to point no. 2 and has a lot to do with dominance of intercostal (rib cage) muscles compared to trapezius / upper shoulder back muscle orientation – and of course, conscious control over these under conditions of close combat

If you wish to continue, and learn more, GO TO LESSON 3