Some brief thoughts on conditioning with a Bagua perspective

As I’ve started to try to write some of my thoughts down on this topic, I realize that although I have a good intuitive understanding of what I’m trying to get at in my own training, I am having a hard time conveying this understanding in writing. So as opposed to taking a concrete throw down the laws type approach to my first post on this topic, I will just try to get some general outlines, general ideas and general principles down first. I think opening it up to comment and criticism will help me to more fully form my thoughts on the matter.

I know that I’ve talked about much of this before in class. There are a few basic goals that I personally look to accomplish when I approach a conditioning type program to complement my Baguazhang practice, such as:

  • Reinforce good body methods (I have a preference for exercise that will help to reinforce the body method I train)
  • Accentuate strength along common and relevant paths of motion (jin training – tiangan for example – I want to become stronger and more aware within my common paths of motion)
  • Reinforce weak points in the body and prevent potential injury (strengthen the joints and pre-hab – I’ve had some major injuries in my days and this is now one of the most important aspects of my supplemental training)
  • Heal existing injuries and balance the body (I need to address said injuries and the effects thereof)
  • Cardio (does a body good)
  • Explosiveness / Plyo (I’ve never been a strong guy, but am always looking to improve)

I am hoping that’s a good list at what I’m personally trying to accomplish and what I believe I should help my students with. Naturally, my own interests in the arts do impact my training goals. And as I consider the Internal Martial Arts to be fighting arts, I’m looking to not only improve my abilities, but still look to be able to scrap progressively better into my 40’s, 50’s and beyond.

On a parallel track, here are some general areas of Baguazhang that I try to carry over into my conditioning:

  • Whole body movement
  • Expanding one’s range of movement, power and mind
  • Carrying one’s power and mind throughout the full range of movement
  • Spiral power (or twisting I guess, I hate that term for martial arts, I’ll have to explain why later…)
  • Balance in motion
  • Balance in one’s body and mind
  • Reinforcing good habits of motion while making attempts to not introduce bad habits of motion

Alright, enough for now on this, this is an OK outline for me.

About george

George Wood is the head instructor of Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts, based in Northern Virginia. He teaches the martial arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.
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4 Responses to Some brief thoughts on conditioning with a Bagua perspective

  1. jleeger says:

    George, this is an awesome post! You’ve hit on all the major points that a good exercise should focus on.

    I think one of the challenges most people face is goal-setting. Knowing what you want determines what you get…

    Bagua has most of its own “conditioning” built in (as do most martial arts, I guess). But there are always different ways to “advance” yourself…Laoshi talked about it during the seminars – the difference between winning or losing is about .5 or .25 seconds, or less, dependin g on the skill of the competitors.

    Conditioning helps give you that “edge.”

  2. george says:

    Yeah, and as you go on, its natural to keep looking for more edges!

    One really strange period in my training (now looking back at it that is) was when I probably read up too much on a myth in the Internal arts: how you shouldn’t have to use muscle and how doing conditioning work like push ups and such will limit you.

    Its funny how much of an idiot I can be. My teacher would never say anything of the sort. He would say he doesn’t do that sort of work now, but then turn around and do one legged squats or spinning jump kicks or forward stretches and plant his palms flat to the ground with no warm-up… Must have done that a ton when he was younger! Actually, I remember him mentioning some classic Chinese martial arts sayings before to me, like “strength can beat 10 techniques” or “when two high level fighters of equal skill contest, it is the one with the greater strength who will prevail.” He would also talk glowingly of Hong Yixiang’s and Zhang Zhunfeng’s great strength and jin – how Hong could tear skin off with his hands or how Zhang could snap a hardwood staff like a toothpick.

    But nonetheless, I was an idiot. I spent way too much time not keeping up with my conditioning. I did tons of forms and tons of tiangan, but there are still certain muscle groups that those will not hit. Your body needs to be balanced out with some opposing movements too. I now know that that has limited me to an extent, and likely helped lead to a few injuries that I probably shouldn’t have developed. There was good development in that I emphasized skill building and not contesting force. But in retrospect, I would have served myself better in the long run by paying some more attention to balancing and conditioning my body more.

    Ah well, live and learn.

  3. jleeger says:

    Right on…that’s the secret.

    As long as you don’t learn something and become so exasperated that you quit, you’re doing what you should be doing!

    Today’s WOD is going to be a “Posterior Chain” exercise day. Most folks focus on the muscles on the front of their body because they’re the ones they use the most, and more importantly, they’re the ones they can SEE.

    I wondered about strength in the Internal Arts a lot too. And my “experimentation” led to me straining my lower back by “relaxing” under a 315lb squat. BAD IDEA!!!

  4. george says:

    LOL! I remember that. I guess we’re all idiots at times.

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