The Utility of Tai Chi Chuan

May 12, 2013
Classical Tai Chi Chuan "Ward Off" Stance

Classical Tai Chi Chuan “Ward Off” Stance

Readers of the old “Dojo Rat” blog, which began in the fall of 2006, know that martial arts has been one of my passions for over thirty years.
It began with wrestling in high school, progressed through Japanese and Korean Karate, some Aikido blended with Jujitsu, and landed in the soft Chinese arts of Bagua, Hsing-i and Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi Chuan means “Grand Ultimate Fist”. In the early years, Tai Chi Chuan was an alluring but distant fascination for me. The slow, soft movements had martial quality, but the mysterious nature of the system would not reveal itself to me until years later.
Sometime around 1997, when my competitive tournament fighting days were winding down, I fell in love with Tai Chi Chuan. This was in part due to the aging process and the need for softer arts, but also because Tai Chi Chuan is more than a fighting art, it is a complete philosophical system.

First, let me borrow a comment to another Martial arts blog that arrived in my e-mail inbox today. I was inspired by the writers view of why Tai Chi Chuan is often mis-understood by people who compare various martial arts styles:

There is a new comment on the post “Master Wang Says: “Taijiquan Sucks””.

Author: JohnW.
I’m laughing at this article as I can’t believe it’s another dumb article downing Taijiquan. Let me say this to some of you who may or may not be familiar with the Taoist Cosmology. What comes first is the Tao that is complete emptiness or the great void in which everything that is something began. In religion that is said to be God as the Creator of all things is nameless, formless and beyond human perception. The second stage is the Taiji which is Yang and Yin. If there’s nothing then something then something created also creates it’s opposite thus Yin the mother, feminine principle first and then Yang the father also son. All things can have opposite as hot has cold and light has dark and hard has soft. The third stage is the 5 elements of Water, Wood, Earth, Fire and Metal which all things in the entire universe consist of forms of these five states. I will skip the explaination here and proceed to the next stage. The fourth stage is the 10 animals because all life on Ea!
rth can be found to be based upon 10 animal types of DNA patterns.

Now you say what does all of this have to do with Martial Arts? I will tell you please keep reading and have an open mind as this doesn’t go over easy with worldly minds who have very little patience for the spiritual aspects of the Martial Arts. Taijiquan such as Chen, Yang and Wudang are all based upon Long fist fighting styles. This can be proven but I won’t waste your time as that’s not my point. Do other styles of Martial Arts have Taiji in them? That is the question the answer is Yes they do. Taiji is not an martial art Taiji is a concept that can be utilized to perfect a Martial Art. Since human beings evolved from animals, yes the 10 animals then all martial arts are animal movements whether they be boxing, jujitsu, silat, long fist, kung fu or any combat art period. Taiji is higher in the cosmology rank than the 10 animals and that is why any art that utilizes the concept of Taiji to perfect it’s movements and balance it’s called Taijiquan which quan simply means fi!
st or fighting with fist.

So imagine with me now because this is getting into the realm of what the great masters spoke of in the holy text. Does anyone here have experience with fighting? All fighters know you don’t need a 1000 moves to win a fight. Most fighters use a few moves which they have perfected the balance, timing, distance and dynamics of those moves to defeat opponents. So Taiji started off as this article says with 3 moves then 13 then 108 and never in a fight will anyone use 108 moves to win. Never in a lifetime of fighting will you need that many moves to win even if you are a champion fighter and fight lots of opponents or military soldier or law enforcer will you ever use more than a few moves.

There you have it all wrapped up in one nice neat package. So begin to now practice your art with by slowly adding the principles of Taiji to your art. Thereby as time progresses you will improve and then you will see why Taijiquan is the ultimate fist. Everyone starts off hard using more muscle than needed to win but every good fighter starts to learn to use leverage, slight redirection and defection of attacks to overcome oppponents. This is soft skill and sometimes we need to start hard and get some fighting experience before we understand how a feather can move a 1000 pounds. Or how to win is to lose or to lose is to win.

For all of you thinking Taijiquan is weak you need to look at Master’s Wong’s videos who resides Sulkfolk, U.K. Master Wong using Taiji superbly as he incorporates Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do and traditonal Chinese Martial Arts into his Taijiquan. Only some expert fighters can percieve how he does that. To those of you still learning don’t be persuaded into a close mind and keep practicing and most important never stop learning.

This writer does a pretty good job at summing up the principles of the Chinese soft, or “Internal” martial arts.
People often question how Tai Chi Chuan got such a reputation hundreds of years ago in China. Those same folks question the effectiveness of a fighting art that practices so slow and softly.
What is often overlooked is that those famous old Chinese Masters actually fought, often in duels with swords and in the defense of villages or caravans. Many had been literally raised on martial arts of various types. That doesn’t happen in the same way in modern society.
If a person picks up a Tai Chi Chuan class at a community center, it’s rarely to learn to fight. More likely, the individual seeks some form of gentle meditative exercise. I myself have taught such classes.
But the quandary is this: People that have had little or no experience in contact sports have extreme difficulty applying Tai Chi Chuan in a self-defense system. Indeed, a fight is serious and life threatening. There is no slow or soft movement. But for those who have actually practiced live sparring with an active opponent, the principles of Tai Chi Chuan can come alive. The overriding principle of the soft arts is not to use force against force. The reasoning is, there is always going to be somebody bigger, stronger and faster than you. Tai Chi uses principles of neutralization to achieve a superior position rather than just walking in swinging and punching and hoping for the best. It tends to be reactive rather than initiating aggression.
The point is, if a person is already skilled in some form of fighting art, Tai Chi Chuan just makes it better. Simple yet sophisticated use of angles and neutralization are far better than trying to outpower an opponent in a head-on fashion.
And the bonus to this type of training is that it comes with a long legacy of philosophy and meditation that is rarely seen in other martial arts.

With gentle, precise practice, Tai Chi Chuan can be a gift for a lifetime.

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3 Responses to The Utility of Tai Chi Chuan

  1. Darren Brooks on May 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Very awesome explanation. Thank you!

  2. Bob Patterson on May 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    “Tai Chi uses principles of neutralization to achieve a superior position rather than just walking in swinging and punching and hoping for the best.”

    Indeed! I keep referring to it as “Chinese Aikido”. Also, the neutralization and throws are much more grounded which makes combat sense to me.


  3. Cathryn Trinidad on July 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. ^..”

    Very latest posting coming from our new web blog

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