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Taijiquan fighting method
Tai chi is associated with old people moving slowly around community halls or out in the park. Not many people are even aware that tai chi for health is derived from taijiquan - a martial art.
In most cases, tai chi classes are health classes. Very few contain a credible, functional, comprehensive martial syllabus.
Missing it by a little will lead many miles astray
Tai chi is often practiced badly. People get really muddled up concerning basic skills and fail to study The Tai Chi Classics deeply enough.
They make major assumptions about taijiquan based upon what other martial arts are doing.
The weak art?
Usually in combat, taijiquan students just tense-up and start using external martial arts skills. Others go floppy. Neither approach is correct.
To relax and sink.
A distinction should be made between the relaxation of the whole body and a limp or flaccid condition of the whole body.
When the head is picked up, the joints are thrown open and the relaxation of the body is uniform.
Yielding refers to a dynamic relationship with the attacker in which the limbs are neither floppy nor tense. It requires peng, sensitivity and an understanding of 4 ounces of pressure.
The aim is to adjust continually in order to maintain the advantage.
The aim is to create space without being out of range for countering. Unless the taijiquan student sustains dynamic tension whilst making space, they cannot immediately affect the attacker.
Advanced practice requires the student to keep the attacker slightly off-centre and off-balance whilst withdrawing.
Folding is not collapsing, crumpling, buckling... It is a variety of things, including:
Play in the joints
Yield, store, bounce back and release
For every movement, the arms draw into the centre, move outwards and then return to the centre again
Maintain groundpath whilst switching from hand to wrist, wrist to elbow, elbow to shoulder
Your body must be
square on the inside and round on the outside.
This removes any scope for weak framework or stiffness
in the body.
All of those countless qigong exercises, form movements and neigong qualities function to create a framework of strength. This network of connected body parts exists at all times. It is inherent.
You do not need to tense-up or apply contracted muscle power. All you need to do is trust that this framework exists, and use it.
Practice builds skill
Until you understand (and can employ) peng, you cannot use your taijiquan properly. You will continue to assert. Seeking to demonstrate your strength aggressively indicates fear and poor skill.
You must know that peng exists in order to use it. To do this, you must practice hard, get in condition, relax and let-go of tension.
Luke Skywalker: I don't believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.
(The Empire Strikes Back)
Striking the air is bad
Striking the air when applying an application is very bad practice. It cultivates the habit of not hitting the attacker. We want to train the opposite...
Impact is essential. It affects things. Having your body at the correct angle for a strike is paramount. Commitment makes you move in closer. It exposes you to counter-attacks.
It trains you to see the attack in terms of line of force, angles of strength and weakness. You must also allow for effect and gauge the risk of adverse feedback.
Playing patter-cake with your attacker is also bad practice. It indicates a lack of groundpath. You must always affect the assailant.
Tapping the outside of their body will not harm them in any way or deter the attack. If anything it will do the opposite because you will have shown the ineffectual nature of your counter.
2 December 1996
Last updated 11 April 2019