Paradigm shift

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Have you ever seen the movie The Matrix?

Morpheus tells Neo that The Matrix construct is a program. It is built on rules. The rules can be bent and broken.

Morpheus: This is a sparring program, similar to the program reality of the Matrix. It has the same basic rules like gravity. What you must learn is that these rules are no different than rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent, others can be broken. Understand?

(The Matrix)


Taijiquan is like this. Compared to other martial arts it appears to be breaking/bending the rules. But is it?

Fighting expectations?

Most examples of fighting involve people trading blows, using aggression and force against force. Typically, the faster, stronger or more skilful person wins.

Example #1 - blocking

Most martial arts rely on blocking to counter an oncoming strike... Although blocking may successfully prevent a punch from hitting you, it does not stop you from being hit.
It merely transfers the force of the blow to another body part. Now, consider Newton's 3rd Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


Blocking, struggling, forcing, striking a balanced opponent... these are also harmful to your own body. In defeating your opponent you may also harm yourself.
If defending your own body results in injury to your body, is this success? Have you not failed in your intention? Bruises, sprains, stiffness, soreness, cuts and damage are all bad for you.

Example #2 -

Many martial artists lose their temper in combat. They fuel their responses with aggression and adrenaline. This may prove effective, but it puts the body and brain under duress.
Anger actually makes the mind stupid. This is a medical fact. It narrows the vision, limits coherent thought and causes the body to tense-up.

Example #3 - hitting a solid object

When you strike a balanced, stable opponent there is adverse feedback. We're back to Newton's 3rd Law already. If you are tense, then much of it will bang off your attacker's body and back into you.
There is a concussive shockwave that travels along your arm, into your spine and throughout your body. This is not good for your health. It also reduces how much power is being delivered.

Example #4 - tensing-up

In combat, most people tense-up. Their body is under strain. They're not moving in a natural, safe, comfortable manner. Tense muscles prevent the joints from moving freely.
Tense muscles are in fact weak muscles. They are not healthy, balanced and toned. They are over-working and straining. Your nervous system is sending and receiving faulty information from the muscles.
Another drawback of tension is joint health. Joints allow the body to have 'spring' - like a car's suspension? Without flexibility in the joints, the body has no 'give'. Locked joints are bad for you.

Example #5 - using the arms independently of the body  

If you look at the size of your leg muscles, back muscles, buttock muscles and compare them to your arm muscles, you'll find that the arms are comparatively feeble.
Your legs can generate way more power than your arms can. Most martial artists rely on localised arm strength and this prevents them from utilising the full strength of their body.

Nature's rules

Taoism is about learning and following the rules of nature. Taijiquan students must discover what these rules are. The rules pertain to physics, objects in motion, balance and human anatomy.
e.g. the very title of the book The Way and Its Power is an equation: if, then. In other words: if you adhere to nature, then you get to use natural power.


The word 'physics' originally came from the Greek language and refers to the nature of things. Therefore the subject of physics is concerned with how things operate in nature.
Taoism is the ancient Chinese equivalent of physics. In martial arts if you ignore physics (e.g. Newton's 3rd Law of Motion) this isn't very efficient or intelligent.


Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems e.g. balance, stance (foot position), mobility, coordination, use of energy, alignment, posture and poise.
Most people are not very energy efficient. They put strain on certain muscles, tax a particular joint, meanwhile other parts of the body no longer move correctly (e.g. sacroiliac).
What 'feels right' is not necessarily healthy or advisable - since 'normal' is outcome of habit and familiarity - not understanding.
It is very common to see people over-reaching, over-striding or over-working without any awareness that they are doing these things.

Follow the rules of nature

Taijiquan is based on following the rules of nature. Is this true of other martial arts? Apparently not. Bruce Frantzis once pointed out that most martial arts basically destroy the human body.
How come? These martial arts go against physics and they ignore human anatomy (which is why so many external martial artist get bad knees).
As you grow older, hard-style martial arts, sport and conventional exercise become increasingly difficult to perform. A martial art may work in combat just fine but what about the rest of your life? 


A young person can get away with ignoring their body and ignoring physics. They can fight in a manner that is harmful to their own body, and they may well recover.
As you get older this is no longer the case. Injuries last. They don't just vanish. Injuries sustained in martial arts training affect your day-to-day body use and health.

Effort to reward ratio

Defeating the attacker at your own expense is essentially a 'sacrifice' tactic. This is not how taijiquan operates. Commitment is limited. Over-commitment is a major fault.
The aim is to make the least amount of effort and receive the greatest reward.


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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 01 October 2020