I was sent a YouTube link a few weeks ago showing a Bagua instructor doing fighting applications against a student. The student stepped and punched, and the instructor did all sorts of fancy, twisting movements -- sometimes two or three techniques that included takedowns and joint locks -- all while the student didn't fight back. Usually the student did one punch and basically stood there.
Now, I've done a lot of fighting applications on video. Usually, they're done to instruct, so you slow it down and show how it's done. I'm also a fan of practicing principles of movement.
But most of the fighting applications I practice, and the ones I put on video, are applications that work in a real situation. It's NOT a real situation for an attacker to stand with his arm outstretched in a punch position while you do two or three techniques. I don't care if you're practicing TKD, Shotokan, Aikido, Tai Chi, or Bagua.
My students and I over the years have rejected techniques because -- even though I was taught them (prior to my Chen tai chi training) -- it was clear they were based more on fantasy than reality.
I've been in real fights. Granted, I haven't been in a real fight since I was 18, but I was in enough of them growing up that I know what it's like to be up against someone who doesn't want to cooperate.
It isn't easy.
When the person you are sparring isn't cooperating, it isn't easy to do an armbar, it isn't easy to do a takedown, and it's pretty impossible to do a lot of the applications that are shown the way they are shown in some arts. Bagua is one of those arts, but Aikido is another. I've seen some real B.S. demonstrations where the instructor causes a grown man to fly backwards off his feet using just a couple of fingers. It is not going to happen in real life.
I have a couple of theories about the old-time internal fighters in China -- the ones who lived prior to 1950. You know, the guys who are all dead now.
One theory is that they really weren't that great at fighting -- it's just that they were better trained than most of the fighters they encountered.
Another theory is that they learned many arts and used what worked, then gave it a name that gained fame.
And another theory is that the great fighters used real techniques -- simple techniques -- and all the B.S. elaborate techniques that rely on an opponent standing still came later, after we all softened up.
Perhaps none of these theories is true -- or some of them are -- maybe all of them.
So the next time you're working on applications, tell your partner to stop cooperating and react the way he or she would react in a real self-defense situation.
See how effective the application is then. If it isn't effective, keep trying. Try to misdirect your partner with another technique and then go for the one you want. But don't let them cooperate.
That's when you'll see what your techniques are made of. And if they don't work, you should throw them out.