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The mixed martial art approach is very popular these days... It may work with the external arts, but not the internal arts.
Taijiquan as an add-on?
Karate, aikido and wing chun students sometimes take up 'taijiquan' as a means of supplementing their existing practice. Taijiquan, qigong and neigong are used to cultivate whole-body strength.
The problem is... it doesn't work.
What is the problem?
Conventional martial arts people sometimes seek to bolster their art by training taijiquan. Whilst this may sound reasonable as a proposition, it is fundamentally unsound in practice.
The body usage habits of their arts are external.
an art where all the principles of other martial arts have been turned upside
They practice fast, we practice slow.
They practice hard, we practice soft.
Conventional martial art habits
These habits inhibit your ability to use taijiquan:
• Military-style warm-up exercise
• Existing body habits
• Typically focuses on striking or grappling, seldom both
• Blocking/resistant, force versus force
• Favours the younger, stronger student
• Isolated limb use
• Being in your head thinking about what to do next
• Denying your vulnerability
• Contracted, locked musculature
The person creates a vicious circle: the existing habits of body use prevent the individual from performing taijiquan correctly, thus diminishing any desired improvement in their existing art.
See the issue?
A lot of martial arts will basically destroy your body.
Internal skills cannot be learned quickly and then mixed in with others arts. Neijiaquan involves a whole approach to the experience of combat, and every action is an integral part of the system.
A student may spend a decade learning just one style and still miss much of the meaning.
Made to order
Whole-body strength can only flourish in the internal martial arts. The systems were made for neigong. The very nature of whole-body strength precludes its existence in the conventional martial arts.
The moment you tense your muscles or move your limb independently of the body, there is no neigong.
Context & meaning
Meaning requires context, otherwise the information does not make sense. Hoping to learn the complete set of neigong in order to incorporate it into a conventional martial art is fruitless.
Internal arts train internally
Fish do not just live in water. They are part of the water. They cannot survive without water. It is simply the nature of what they are. Context is everything.
Taijiquan fighting method
How can whole-body strength exist in a conventional martial system that does not use whole-body strength? That was not even designed with whole-body strength in mind?
Conventional martial arts approach kinaesthetic awareness and the entire experience of combat from a fundamentally different perspective to taijiquan.
Where’s the elegance, where’s the grace, where’s
the art, where’s the expression of what it means to be a human being in
A martial arts dilettante might well attend a taijiquan class alongside their existing martial art without telling the taijiquan instructor that they are doing this. Unfortunately, this will backfire.
There will be no real progress and the taijiquan instructor will spend the whole time telling the individual to 'relax' and stop using 'external' bad habits.
Our students study 3 compatible kung fu methods:
Chin na (seizing)
Shuai jiao (take downs)
Taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist)
They all use the body in an
internal way. Chin na and shuai jiao are kung fu
methods rather than a separate system.
If an external martial artist studies sport tai chi and learns competition forms, then the extended stances and exaggerated performance aesthetics may not jar with their existing training.
However, this is not taijiquan. Sport tai chi is not even remotely martial.
For many people, their martial arts fitness regime does not take into account 'motor learning'. Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Taijiquan combines exercise with motor learning.
Find another external martial art
If you want to cross-train a martial art, find compatible systems that can be practiced independently of one another; systems that do not contain conflicting principles of body usage.
A conventional martial artist might be better off training yoga rather than taijiquan.
Ideal form of exercise
According to the book The Blue Zones it is important to think of exercise in terms of what you can reasonably do long-term.
The ideal form of exercise is moderate enough that you can do it for the rest of your life. It needs to be joint-friendly, provide a gentle workout and be sustainable.
This sounds rather like tai chi, doesn't it?
Tai chi for health & qigong
Tai chi for health and qigong may seem like viable alternatives to taijiquan but they still require a deep level of muscular relaxation.
If you continue to train a tension-based martial art then no real progress can be made with qigong or taijiquan.
Meditation can help any martial artist. Tranquillity, peace and harmony can be cultivated.
You will see karate students
who are learning tai chi, for instance, coming from a long background in
karate. Unable to see the new art through anything but the filter of their
karate experience, they come up with a weird hybrid. They have not learned
how to see beyond their past experience and
open up to a new one.
23 September 1995
Last updated 07 November 2018