Let's assume that you have become a somewhat seasoned practitioner, in which case you might be able to use your bagua skills in class against one of your peers or against an unskilled attacker on the street. However, being able to defend yourself against a skilful and aggressive opponent—whether or not he has a size advantage—is a different matter.
And, while you can certainly enjoy and benefit from your training on many levels without being able to defend yourself against such an opponent, it is also important to remember that bagua started out as an effective combative art—and not as qigong for health. In other words, we are likely to get the most from our training on all levels if we stay true to the roots of the discipline.
I don't want to sound pessimistic, but the longer I train the more I realise that it is very difficult to train safely and easily in a manner that can bring effective self-defence skills. Beware of teachers who say or imply that their bagua style has the secrets of combat that can be learned in a few easy lessons.
The secret to really learning to apply your bagua in a self-defence situation lies in incorporating some hard to find traditional training methods in your practice. Such secrets are to be found on your body as beads of sweat, in your heart as the courage and will to persevere in your efforts, and in your brain as you try to understand the theoretical underpinnings of bagua as a combative system.
Of course, another secret lies in finding a teacher these days who can really apply any or all of the traditional training methods in anything like a realistic combative manner. It also follows that, having found this role model, you train under his supervision until you can copy what he has taught and demonstrated easily, and then spend further years perfecting the various skills and attributes with a variety of partners and on your own.
All this can lead to an eventual understanding that comes as much from years of experience as it does from intellectual knowledge or solo form practice. We will call the final product maturity. And, if there are any simple steps to developing this potential to defend yourself in a bagua-like manner, they lie in mastering the following aspects of your training and learning how they interact together. Baguazhang is very much the sum of its individual parts.
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