Tai Chi as a combat art?

Bob Hubbard

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Many think of Tai Chi as Chinese stretching, or that exercize old folks do to keep their arturitis (missspelled on purpose) at bay.

At its roots however, lies a tested and efficient means of self defence sharing many of the same ideas at Aikido.

"Tai chi’s history is a mixed bag. While the modern era sees tai chi as a mostly soft, smooth form of exercise, its birth was anything but peaceful. Yang style tai chi founder, Yang Lu-Chan, went through incredible hardship, not only in his studies with the Chen family, but also during the full contact trial-and-error process of synthesizing his own system. Yang and his heirs fought many matches to prove the worthiness of the system they boldly named the "Supreme Ultimate Fist," eventually winning the favor of the Qing Dynasty royal court.
Many modern-day students and "instructors" are shocked to hear and see that tai chi is a full-fledged combat art. The kicks, punches, throws, and locks of the system are versatile weapons, especially when the applications of the form are understood properly. However, most modern practitioners see the motions as an exotic dance and fail to comprehend the combat value of each and every movement in the form."

"Most people nowadays practise Tai Chi Chuan for health, which is understandable because Tai Chi Chuan is an excellent system for health promotion. But unfortunately many Tai Chi Chuan practitioners, despite many years of training, do not get the type of radiant health Tai Chi Chuan is traditionally reputed to give. This is because if you want its best benefits, including its health aspect, you have to practise it the way it has been developed to be practised. Hence, you have to practise Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, even if you are not interested in combat! The reason is actually simple: the typical health benefits for which Tai Chi Chuan is well known, such as balance, agility, vitality, calmness and mental freshness, are attained only if you train as a Tai Chi martial artist with emphasis on its internal aspects of energy and mind, and not as a Tai Chi dancer emphasizing merely external form. Tai Chi martial artists have to be fit and healthy first before they can consider self-defence; some Tai Chi dancers on the other hand cannot even run after a bus. "

These quotes are taken from the following 2 sites. I think they answer alot of the questions, as well as explain the current problems with our perception of taichi. As for me, I plan on having a short chat soon with my local sifu on his art. :)

References:
http://cfw2.com/article.asp?content_id=3192
http://www.taichiunion.com/magazine/kit.html

Peace.
:asian:
 
M

MountainSage

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Kaith,
I read an article that made the arguement that a person is limited in the time they can participate in a hard art, where as, in a soft art the time of participation is not limited. I can see this in my chosen art of TKD. My body won't take the abuse forever, so I'd recommend any of the chinese arts, they seem to promote active practice for many years. In most hard arts it seems after a given age or rank active practice turns to more talk than show. I've not seen many high ranked, older TKD MA that can go one on one with a younger and stronger person. Thoughts and opinions.

Mountain Sage
 

arnisador

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Even in Karate, they often say something like Sanchin when you're young, Tensho when you're old--switch to a softer and more internal form as you get older.
 
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Larry

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My taiji teacher when he was first teaching me back in 1972 said that learning taiji is a progression of five steps, and that the average person rarely got to step three, let alone step five.

He said taiji started out as

1) a system of exercise,

2) a form of dance,

3) a martial art,

4) a meditation,

and then finally

5) it became taijiquam.

I've used that explanation ever since.
 
M

MountainSage

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Larry,
Great statement aboout Taiji. It kind of mirrors TKD except the statement would go first: exercise, second: sport, third: martial art, fourth:finally get over the high, fancy kicks, fifth: become a true MA in body and mind. Many don't get to the third level and fewer to fifth. That quote probably can be altered to fit just about any MA and be correct. I am a firm believer that the Chinese MA got a lot of thing right that other art missed.

Mountain Sage
 

CrushingFist

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Originally posted by Kaith Rustaz
Many think of Tai Chi as Chinese stretching, or that exercize old folks do to keep their arturitis (missspelled on purpose) at bay.

At its roots however, lies a tested and efficient means of self defence sharing many of the same ideas at Aikido.

"Tai chi’s history is a mixed bag. While the modern era sees tai chi as a mostly soft, smooth form of exercise, its birth was anything but peaceful. Yang style tai chi founder, Yang Lu-Chan, went through incredible hardship, not only in his studies with the Chen family, but also during the full contact trial-and-error process of synthesizing his own system. Yang and his heirs fought many matches to prove the worthiness of the system they boldly named the "Supreme Ultimate Fist," eventually winning the favor of the Qing Dynasty royal court.
Many modern-day students and "instructors" are shocked to hear and see that tai chi is a full-fledged combat art. The kicks, punches, throws, and locks of the system are versatile weapons, especially when the applications of the form are understood properly. However, most modern practitioners see the motions as an exotic dance and fail to comprehend the combat value of each and every movement in the form."

"Most people nowadays practise Tai Chi Chuan for health, which is understandable because Tai Chi Chuan is an excellent system for health promotion. But unfortunately many Tai Chi Chuan practitioners, despite many years of training, do not get the type of radiant health Tai Chi Chuan is traditionally reputed to give. This is because if you want its best benefits, including its health aspect, you have to practise it the way it has been developed to be practised. Hence, you have to practise Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, even if you are not interested in combat! The reason is actually simple: the typical health benefits for which Tai Chi Chuan is well known, such as balance, agility, vitality, calmness and mental freshness, are attained only if you train as a Tai Chi martial artist with emphasis on its internal aspects of energy and mind, and not as a Tai Chi dancer emphasizing merely external form. Tai Chi martial artists have to be fit and healthy first before they can consider self-defence; some Tai Chi dancers on the other hand cannot even run after a bus. "

These quotes are taken from the following 2 sites. I think they answer alot of the questions, as well as explain the current problems with our perception of taichi. As for me, I plan on having a short chat soon with my local sifu on his art. :)

References:
http://cfw2.com/article.asp?content_id=3192
http://www.taichiunion.com/magazine/kit.html

Peace.
:asian:
I love your explanation... I hope I can find a taichi school someday with the martial art principle not the just health. yea i see so many sick(no offense intended) practicing taichi just thinking they are doing a disease excercise, not knowing while you practice the martial art is so rewarding it helps cure disease at the sametime, is not meant for health only is meant as a martial art, well something to what you said is what i want
 
P

progressivetactics

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I agree. Excellent point.

At a much younger day, I was quite confused about the art. Having limited exposure to it know, I am extremely impressed by its functunality.

We are severly lacking in quality Tai Chi Chuan in South East Michigan.
Any instructors......Here is your opportunity.
 
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Bob Hubbard

Bob Hubbard

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I've got a video clip somewhere, of someone demonstrating the combat aspects in tai chi.

It was rather interesting. First he would show you the slow 'dance' move, and then demonstrate with a partner. It made the lightbulb go on, i f ya know what I mean.

I took a look at some of the TaiChi sword forms I have on the pc, and damned if they started looking 'real' after than. The funky leg movement is a sweep, the waving hand a parry, the weird sword movement actually the midpoint in a block, parry and strike.

Sadly, I have too much 'fire' in me to focus on it like I would prefer. But still, it was very enlightening.

:)
 
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Jill666

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Originally posted by Kaith Rustaz
I've got a video clip somewhere, of someone demonstrating the combat aspects in tai chi.

Sadly, I have too much 'fire' in me to focus on it like I would prefer. But still, it was very enlightening.

:)

My Kenpo instructor is teaching our BB class a Yang style Tai Chi form. He is doing just that- showing the martial applications of the motions and they sure as hell work (who put that dent in the wall over there?).

Meanwhile, my Taijutsu instructor has shown a few Yin style meditation exercises. And yes, I'm having a great deal of diffilculty focusing. One day he turned off the lights, had a string of white lights along the ceiling, and put on some blues. As an old stonie, that did work- cooled me out.

You might try that- hey, why not employ any means to get the novice to begin letting go of all the caffeine and worries, and let understanding come in time.

Thoughts?
 
P

progressivetactics

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I learned a pattern many years ago, i still practice, called the 8 gates of bagua. IS this a standard pattern in Tai Chi? I was told by someone else that seen the form they learned it in Tai Chi, same version. I was taught through Aka Shai Kai Kempo, Soke-Clement Reidner. I figured it was borrowed from maybe BaguaZhang, but do the chinese have forms that are resemblent of one another like the Jap/oki systems do?
 

Kodanjaclay

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Master Barker,

I have never seen it in Taijiquan. I will qualify that as saying there are also 4 major schools and I am only familiar with two of them. Each school, as you are aware, has probably a hundred variants.

So, short of it... hard to say.
 

East Winds

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Each of the postures in Taijiquan has a martial application (or several martial applications). Each application also uses a specific energy. If the posture is correct, the martial applicatoin is correct, the energy is correct, the body is properly aligned, the energy can move = good health. You will get as much benefit from Line Dancing as you will from New Age Dance or Taicheese. You cannot say you pratice Taijiquan unless you are aware of and practice its martial applications.

Regards
 
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progressivetactics

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well, I am aware of what I am practicing, to the point I was instructed, and can see into it. I can not see what other styles do or teach, there for I asked.
 

CrushingFist

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i think it is true that some tai chi schools lack the martial tradition but i think you generalize too much there are 100 million plus people that do tai chi every day! Also, some teachers only show the martial material after a student has demonstrated that they are stable and aren't going to freak out if they get hit or go out and use the stuff they learn to bully people.


I think the lack of martial Tai Chi is partly due to the fact that the tai chi scene in the states came out of the 60's counter-culture which saw martial arts as violence rather then the control of violence and had little interest in fighting ("the pathologically peaceful" as Frank calls them). The stuff that has come out more recently (70's & 80's) seems to have more of a martial flavor.
One last thing, lots of people that learn Tai Chi's martial stuff still can't fight for a lick but that is because fighting skill takes years to develop and unless there is a love of martial arts most people aren't willing to do the work to really gain a high level of skill
 

East Winds

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CrushingFist,

You are of course correct in what you say, although I think the decline in Taiji started before that. I think it started in 1956 with the Chinese Government itself introducing 24 step "Simplified" Taijiquan. Formulated by a committee and based on Traditional Yang style (although there were no Yang family members on the committee), 24 step was a "sanitised" version of Yang developed specifically for health promotion. Afterwards it was grabbed by the Wushu people who further sanitised it for competition purposes. None of these modern forms contains the essences of Traditional Yang Family Tajiquan.

Very best wishes
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

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Originally posted by East Winds
Each of the postures in Taijiquan has a martial application (or several martial applications). Each application also uses a specific energy. If the posture is correct, the martial applicatoin is correct, the energy is correct, the body is properly aligned, the energy can move = good health. You will get as much benefit from Line Dancing as you will from New Age Dance or Taicheese. You cannot say you pratice Taijiquan unless you are aware of and practice its martial applications.


Be careful about understanding "postures."

My experience is that we think of postures as static "fight from this stance" crap. Stances in Tai Chi are transitory placements of the feet while wieght is constantly shifting. Combined with chi focused intentionally or naturally, the "postures" are unstoppable movements on the way to the next connected "posture."

I think it's the same as the "linking" concept common in Pakua (Bagua).
 
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progressivetactics

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having limited experience in Tai Chi, it sounds right, as Bagua is circular and non-stopping. Fluidity is the staple of the art.
 

Kodanjaclay

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The use of static postures in taijiquan is more akin to zhang zhuan than fighting. It is an internal practice designed to assist in the discovery of the microcosmic orbit.
 
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