Esoteric Martial Arts

The Tao of Bridging
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Fighting is conflict; to fight against someone or something is to struggle aggainst an opposing force, and to resist the strength of another and overcome them with your own strength.. A fight is a clash of Wills expressed in the clash of bodies.

The art of fighting without fighting is therefore to engage in a fight, and to overcome an aggressive opponent, without the clash of bodies, without resistance, without the struggle between opposing forces, and ultimately therefore, without conflict.

The art of doing this is in the soft overcoming the hard, and it is the foundation of soft martial arts like Tai Chi. It is also a principle that can be applied by practitioners of so called 'hard' martial arts.

To fight without resisting your opponents strength means that your movements must go with the flow of your opponents movements, rather than against them. You must find the harmony of the Tao within the Chaos of war, and marry your physical will to that of your adversary. That explains the reference to the Tao in the title of this article; the referrence bridging relates to the primary method by which this is learned, and subsequently employed. On a less prosaic note this article could just as well have been called 'the gateway to close range combat'.

In any fight there are two primary 'ranges' refering to the distance between fighters. Long range combat means the distance of your arms reach or greater. At this range a fighter will primarily be looking to use striking and blocking techniques, although chargind takedowns are also an option. Close range combat means anything closer than arms reach; at this distance gaplling and wrestling become prominent. Any complete martial art must contain elements for both long range and close range fighting. MMA cage fighters, for example, often use a combination of Muay Thai for long range fighting and Jujitsu for close range fighting.

The 'bridge', used in hard martial arts like Wing Chun Kung Fu, and made an art in itself in Tai Chi Pushing Hands, is a technique employed at the transition between longe range and close range to gain control over an opponent.

The bridge is basically an extension of the block, the only difference being that the bridge is 'sticky'. This means that instead of simply bashing a strike away in a parry, you seek to make and keep contact with the striking limb. In doing this you are not in any way resisting the force of the strike, but instead redirecting it. Your own force comes from the side, perpendicular to the force of your opponent. By doing this you encounter very little resistance, and by maintaining contact with your opponent after the intial parry and moving in close you are seeking to also maintain control over their movements.

In the early and intermediate stages of mastering this technique it is used as a defense, and as a way of setting yourself up for a more attacking technique designed to win the fight. In Wing Chun, for example, a practitioner may move into a series of rapid short range strikes, of the kind perfected by Bruce Lee with his famous one inch punch. But it might júst as well be used as a method for a practitioner of jujitsu to get past a strikers attacks and move safely into grappling range to execute a submission hold or takedown.
At an advanced level, however, this technique can encompass the entire method of self-defense. For an advanced practitioner of traditional martial arts with an element of personal development and moral awareness, such as the Wude of Kung Fu, who will have transcended the need for any kind of aggression, or to prove themselves in combat sports, this technique is the entrance to the art of fighting without fighting.

At this stage, for a true martial arts master interested only in defending themselves and those arounf them, all aggressive and attacking techniques such as strikes and joint locks become redundnant. The true master is able to completely control any aggressor with very little force; by going with the flow of the attackers movements and subtly redirecting them his opponent expends all of his strength to no avail. This is the pinnacle of the art of compassionate fighting, and one part of the art of fighting without fightin.

For thise of us yet to reach the august level of a master the same principle can be used to create a fun and highly productive training practice. To do this two people face each other, wearing appropriate protective equipment such as gloves and gum shields and so on. One of them takes on the role of the attacker, and their job is to attack the other person using only strikes. Any kind of strike can be used in this practice, although you may wish to take out elbows and headbuts and such like to make the exercise safer and a little bit easier. Needless to say this exercise should be practiced as semi-contact rather than full-contact.

The second person takes on the role of defender. Their task is to get through the strikes and get into close range, and then to maintain this for as long as possible, staying as close as they can to the attacker and avoiding being hit. They do this by sticking to their opponents limbs rather than by avoiding them, and using the teachnique described earlier. They should use as little force as possible.

There is an almost infinite amount of variety as to what can happen in this practice, and it can be great fun and a real challenge. The defender will probably find it very difficult at first, so be prepared to take a few punches. When you begin to get the hang of it it can seem at times almost as if you are dancing to some hidden harmony rather than fighting, pulling your attacker on invisible strings to the rhythm of some secret song.

Also in this section: 'No Mind' Kung Fu

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