|Taijiquan combat (2)|
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Be wary of taijiquan schools that claim to be teaching taijiquan but in reality offer a smattering of different disciplines.
It is not uncommon for a so-called taijiquan class to include other martial arts training. If you are wanting to learn taijiquan, then learn taijiquan.
Studying another martial art in a taijiquan class will not improve the quality of your taijiquan in combat.
When a class pads-out its syllabus by teaching a variety of taijiquan forms/styles or completely unrelated material, it is important to question the depth of understanding being offered by that class.
The problem with training another art alongside taijiquan is that the other art may well ruin your taijiquan. It is like trying to find peace and quiet in a room that has the TV on.
Taijiquan is subtle, quiet, soft. It relies upon awareness, sensitivity, patience and muscular relaxation.
Performing hard-style external practices will de-sensitise your nervous system and prevent you from following the taijiquan principles.
Your application of taijiquan must account for the physics of the situation: timing, momentum, range, trajectory... It cannot be based on assumptions:
Incoming force: you must successfully deal with the physics of the attack
Strength: force on force and any sign of muscular tension means immediate failure
Neutralise: there must be a striking, chin na or shuai jiao component to your counter
Compromise: defeating the attack at your own expense is worthless
Flamboyant, unrealistic practice trains bad habits. Simplicity is best. If your application is jerky or hurried, your timing needs to be re-considered.
Controlled execution of an application is a demonstration of real skill.
The taijiquan way of moving is the key to taijiquan combat. Every movement and every potential application must be produced by a whole-body action.
There are no disconnected strikes in taijiquan. You must figure out the correct body mechanics required to produce the applications.
This is not easy. Internal skill is necessary at this stage.
Form serves to show you what the taijiquan should look like in combat. But do not be confused here. Form practice and form application are not enough for combat skill.
They are the beginning, not the end.
A student must accumulate a massive repertoire of applications featuring chin na, shuai jiao and striking skills.
These must be practiced relentlessly, so that the underlying principles become apparent. Every application must become comfortable and familiar.
Martial drills are set routines designed to train a short set of applications in quick succession.
The student learns to develop reflexive responses and gains confidence employing the art in a predictable, known scenario.
Gaps & deficiencies become evident and can be remedied in a safe environment.
The various types of pushing hands methods trained in taijiquan are invaluable for exploring sensitivity, stickiness, listening, pressure and softness.
Students can practice pushing hands endlessly and continue to incorporate fascinating new insights into their taijiquan.
Pushing hands also serves to offer a way into grappling and countering with skill.
Combat training must inevitably transcend drills, exercises, forms and methods. The student must be faced with combat. This is where it gets difficult.
Taoism embraces all sides of our character; recognising that people are both good/bad, strong/weak and so on. We cannot be one without the other. The key is to find balance.
A harmony of apparent opposites. A student must train to a point where unplanned responses occur. Instead of thinking, the student instinctively moves. They evade, counter and complete.
The appearance and feel of their movement is taijiquan.
This ingrained taijiquan response may be referred to as 'unnatural naturalness'. It is an unconscious level of competence. The student does not think about what they are doing. They just do.
And what they do looks like taijiquan.
Until you can simply 'do' taijiquan, you are not an experienced exponent. You must transcend the point where conscious thought intrudes. This will involve many years of daily training.
Unless you commit to practicing taijiquan long-term, your skills will never emerge spontaneously when you need them the most.
The more you train, the more familiar your body is with the art.
Taijiquan fighting method
Taijiquan is soft in nature and anything that encourages a harder use of the body will interfere with the yielding nature of taijiquan combat. Under pressure, softness must emerge.
Your composure is calm. Your skills are integral.
18 May 1997
Last updated 12 July 2021