Kung fu sparring is used very sparingly in martial arts and is used only as a supplement to other training methods such as forms and muscle conditioning. Different kung fu styles have their own versions of sparring, some of which are focused on developing specific techniques while others are simply used for general practice. Adopting a well-rounded approach to kung fu sparring will give you a comprehensive fighting pedigree and an appreciation for different styles of Chinese kung fu.
Da Sam Sing
Da Sam Sing is a sparring technique used in hung gar kung fu. This exercise strengthens the forearms because you only strike the top, left and right sides of your opponent's forearm. This sparring method is specifically for arm conditioning, designed to give your forearms the strength of iron rods. A trick to help you stay in rhythm when sparring with Da Sam Sing is to think of your opponent as your mirror. When he strikes low with his right arm, you block low with your right arm. You strike high with your right arm and he blocks high with his right arm. As you get stronger, practice the three strikes faster and harder.
San Da is the kung fu version of full contact sparring. It's also called Chinese Kickboxing, because you can use a combination of punches, kicks and grappling techniques. One key tip when sparring in the San Da style is to avoid getting complacent by sparring with just one opponent over and over again in your dojo or school. He learns your moves and you learn his and nobody is getting a challenge. When you confront a brand new opponent, you'll most likely lose because you are anticipating a learned set of strikes. Be sure to spar with opponents from different schools and different fighting styles.
Chi Sao is a wing chun technique designed to teach students the three fundamental movements, or families, of this particular kung fu style. Wing chun is very aggressive, with flurry punches and a scientific defense system. Students are taught to strike and counter strike at the same time, making wing chun sparring quite intense both mentally and physically. Students face each other and interlock arms, rolling them through the three positions of Bong Sao, Tan Sao and Fuk Sao. This sparring form is all about feeling out your opponent, probing for a weakness in his guard. In wing chun, your sense of touch is much more useful than your sight. To gain an edge in this manner, try Chi Sao sparring while wearing a blindfold.
Qin Na utilizes a series of joint locks and pressure point attacks to neutralize opponents, making it ideal for kung fu self-defense training. When sparring in the Qin Na style, students often "yield the grab," allowing their opponents to grab a hold of them so they can manipulate their leverage. However, sparring strictly in your athletic training clothes and shoes may limit your reaction time once confronted with the real deal. So, one way to maximize your Qin Na sparring drills is to wear street clothes during some of your sessions. Get used to seeing opponents in a non-dojo setting and reacting to them quickly and efficiently.
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images