Joining Arms

This can be the most basic way of learning to apply bagua type martial methods, as well as ultimately the most advanced method; however, both partners must have considerable skill to avoid injuring each other while still practising in a meaningful manner. I think of the

Conditioning Set and Hammer Hands as being two initial rungs up the ladder to understand circling your partner while joining arms.

In the beginning, you only use inside and outside changes, as this minimises the chance of injury to anything except the wrists and forearms (N.B. Remember that you must never strike offensively or defensively with the wrists as you will only injure yourself or your partner). Eventually, you will cross the circle to attack/defend. In the beginning, take turns so that one person always has the attacking role for a prearranged amount of time. Eventually, either person can attack at will.

Doing this means using what I call the Moving Through Step, which literally takes you through your partner's attack into and through the centre of the circle, to end up on the other side. In solo practice, some styles use this as their primary or alternative means of changing direction while walking the circle.

In Joining Arms practice (sometimes called rou-shu, or "soft hands," or Bagua Push Hands), this is the best, though riskiest, way of attacking the other person, as opposed to staying a safe distance away on the circumference.

Whatever footwork method you use, eventually you can also use kicks to attack and defend. In this regard, use care when striking the vulnerable parts of the legs to defend. Let the leg move with the impact if you are struck. Don't resist the impact, go with it. If there is one secret to doing this exercise, it is to keep moving and to attack when it is time to attack, and not get too close unless you are doing so. In other words—timing and distance appreciation.

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