Taijiquan fighting method

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Speculation versus fact

There are many discussion threads on-line in which people compare/contrast taijiquan's fighting method with that of other arts e.g. wing chun.
Such conversations are spurious.
They reflect a limited understanding of taijiquan and no grasp of the Art

Recognisable style

If you watch wing chun applied in combat, it looks distinctly like wing chun.
The same could be said of judo, aikido, ju jitsu, pencat silat etc.
By the same reasoning, applied taijiquan must look like taijiquan.

What does taijiquan look like?

Taijiquan looks like taijiquan.
The form, pushing hands, you know... taijiquan.
If your martial expression of taijiquan does not look like taijiquan, it is probably not taijiquan (see above).

When asked how he overcame his opponents, Hadrat Ali explained,
"I never met any man who did not help me against himself."

(Hadrat Ali)

Working for the Manchu Emperor

Imagine for a moment that you are working for the Manchu Emperor...
You've been taught taijiquan by the kung fu legend Yang Lu-chan.
Do you expect to be fighting with your bare hands, performing pushing hands or form exhibitions?

Armed combat

Soldiers carry weapons and the Manchu Emperor's Elite Palace Guards were equipped with swords and knives.
It would be rare indeed for a soldier to set aside their weapon and engage in unarmed combat.
Many of the taijiquan fighting skills hark back to armed combat.
The qualities of nimbleness, agility, whole body movement and whole body power are essential for combat with a sword

Whole body

Taijiquan teaches students to do everything using their entire body.
It reduces the risk of injury and significantly increases their physical strength and striking power.
But such skill is not easy.
Considerable patience and long-term challenging practice are required

Applying yin/yang

The taijiquan fighting method is based on the yin/yang concept.
Force is not blocked. There is no bracing. No aggression.
Instead of opposing strength, we draw it in and re-direct it.
Rather than meet an opponent head-on, we work around the attack.
A sharp, pliable, focused and expansive mind is necessary

Combat skills

Broadly speaking, the taijiquan fighting method can be split into 3 broad areas of skill:

  1. Striking

  2. Chin na

  3. Shuai jiao

Every training method in the syllabus serves to prepare the student for combat.

Get real

Form trains the body to move in a strategic, powerful, balanced manner, capable of evading attacks and delivering punches, kicks and grapples.
Wallbag work, striking drills, jing, neigong and weapons training amplify the ability to strike.
Chin na and shuai jiao are grappling skills; they are different ways to deal with a close quarters attack.
Pushing hands is also grappling - a bridging method - culminating in one of the 3 stated outcomes.

Qi power?

If you are looking to develop mythical qi power, wake up...
You cannot defeat your opponent using qi.
Stop dreaming.

Kung fu means hard work

Kung fu (or gong fu) literally means work, time, skill. More specifically: martial skill.
Taijiquan doesn't get easier. You get stronger.
But only if you practice.

Starting out

Taijiquan students cannot begin lessons by immediately engaging in combat.
They have no internal skill whatsoever.
What would be the point? The fighting would not be 'taijiquan'. It would be a waste of time.

Tai chi for fitness

New students learn how to relax, to move, to coordinate, to be strong, to be sensitive, to connect their separate-seeming body parts together...
This is tai chi for fitness.
Very few students last long enough to even commence martial training

You must get fit

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat and taijiquan is no exception.
There are many lazy tai chi classes in the world.
This is naive in the extreme.

Cross-training tai chi

taijiquan students train: core strength, massage, leg stretches, cardio work, yoga, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.

Brain work

Working the brain is the real key to success.
A strong, pliable, flexible, adaptive
brain is required for learning this art.
Brain work includes
: meditation, awareness, clarity, composure, metacognition, constructive reading, memory and rest.

Step by step

Once physical fitness has been gained, the student develops their technical skills.
These are extremely important.
It is necessary to have a high degree of physical aptitude and no remnant of tension.
When the mind and body move as one, the student can really begin to fight.

Confronted by limitations of effectiveness, the martial arts of the West responded with a continuous crafting of superior equipment. Confronted with similar limitations, the Asian warrior responded by fashioning a better self. The warrior turned not to technology in making his sword a better tool for fighting. Influenced by contemplative aspects of Taoism and Buddhism and by the self-discipline of Confucianism, he turned inward. He fine-tuned his body and mind in order to better manipulate his sword.

(Dave Lowry)

Arcane books

The root of the fighting principles contained within taijiquan can be examined further by reading translations/interpretations of ancient books:

  1. The Way and Its Power

  2. The Art of War

  3. The Book of Changes

  4. The Book of Five Rings

  5. The Way of Chuang Tzu

  6. The Tai Chi Classics

If the nuances are lost on your modern mind, try approaching the problem indirectly.
Start by reading some books by Krishnamurti, Gladwell, Wiseman or Leslie.
Then try the books listed above?

Taijiquan fighting method

If you want to find out what the taijiquan fighting method constitutes, read this website.
The website is about 800 pages long.
It does not offer shortcuts or techniques. It challenges you to have integrity and find things out for yourself.

Should you disagree with anything written in these pages, that is fine. Clearly the website was not written for you..

Worth reading

4 ounces
13 postures
Gaps & deficiencies
Small circle
Soft option

Page created 7 July 1996
Last updated
18 April 2015