Thoughts on Tai Chi blog, "what is it like to fight with Tai Chi Chuan?" An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.
What is it like to fight with Tai Chi Ch’uan(Taijiquan)?
I don’t mean in a technical sense, or ask about what techniques or
methods you could use in this art. You can find plenty of material about
ideas on fighting methods and techniques everywhere. That is in my own
opinion of less interest. What I mean is: How do you feel when
you fight with Tai Chi? Is your combative mind different when you
practice Tai Chi as your first and foremost art of combat? I think so.
And I will try to verbalize my own personal experience on this matter
and try to share some light over how this art can affect a person’s
ability to deal with violence.
But first of all, I am not a typical fighter and I don’t look at
myself as anything even close to a fighter.
And already for a long time
ago, all urge to prove myself has been gone. I don’t like violence and
as I have a family to look for now, I would never accept any kind of
challenge. (And I don’t even know if I could fight as well today when
too much is in stake.) But when I was younger, sometimes I looked for
trouble just to test myself, to see if I had anything like fighting
skill. There were a few events. I can not boast about many fights, but
there has been a few. Except for Tai Chi, I have practiced other styles
as well, but I can honestly say that no other style taught me fighting
better than T’ai Chi Ch’uan. And no other teacher was better to teach
fighting skills than my Tai Chi teachers. Does this kind of statement
seem odd for a person who studied shaolin, free fighting and briefly
even a style like Muay Thai/Thai Boxing? When you think about Tai Chi,
is it slow movements practice, usually performed by elderly people, or
cooperative push hands practice you think about? Or do you associate the
art with real combat skills? I sincerely doubt that it is the latter.
Will you be even more surprised if I say that I really started to
understand how to deal with fights when I gave up anything else that I
So why then can someone say that he had learned more about fighting
from Tai Chi than from any other art? Instead of speaking about things
like mind and Yi, I could at one level use two words to answer this
question: Timing and distance. Sounds like nothing special? I might
would like to add a few other words as well just into the soup, as angle
and leverage. And of course, relaxation, stability and how to not
forget how to breath. But timing and distance might be the most crucial
abilities for general fighting skills, for whatever form of martial art
you speak about. In Tai Chi anything you can come to think about in
terms of two man practice comes down to timing and distance Regardless
if you speak about application, push hands or free practice as sparring
or anything else you do, and it’s right there. But this leads to other
things, like relaxation and footwork. Or maybe it’s the opposite around.
What is unique in Tai Chi, is that softness and relaxation always comes
first, everything else second. But still, if you don’t have the correct
timing, you won’t be able to relax into applying a technique or a
method. And if you don’t have a good footwork, you can not control the
distance, something that is crucial for timing of application. So, if
you don’t have the correct timing and distance whatever you do, you
won’t be able to relax properly. In other words, due to the
fundamentally extreme focus on softness and relaxation, you can not
cheat with other basic things that is necessary for you to make your art
work, as timing and distance. So there is a certain way of combining
skills in Tai Chi, skills that affect each other in a special manner,
due to the main focus of the art.
The thing is, when it comes to Tai Chi as a combat art, is that these
basic concepts of timing and distance is not only something that is
always joined together with relaxation and balance. The key is that this
unification of qualities will be drilled right into your bones. Things
like acting proactive and keeping agile will become second nature, just
like being relaxed and keeping balanced are. And the only thing you need
to achieve this to become second nature, is Diligent partner work as
applications practice, free push hands and sparring. With Tai Chi basics
continuously in mind when practicing, you will teach your own body that
it functions better under pressure when it can be relaxed and rooted.
Eventually you will naturally breath deep, drop your strength down to
the feet, and calm your mind even when you compete in fighting or fight
for real. You will keep on teaching yourself this, drilling it into your
own body and mind, to a point when instantaneous relaxation and balance
will become your natural reaction to a threat as encountering violence.