Tai Chi as a combat art?

T

Taiji fan

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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 have to in part disagree although I suspect, it is more on differences in definition and language. In fact there is a 'fighting stance' in taijiquan from which the movemnts grow...the linking of movements as in form practice are a training aid for understanding the body requirements. Each 'posture' is made up of a series of frames, including an end frame which is the point where the energy is finished before the change to beginning a new frame and new energy. The weight is not 'constantly shifting'. Sometimes in an effort to improve their fluidity of form people run the movements into each other without understanding the end frame while others become fixated on the end frame, pausing over long at each one, although as long as the principal of 'one part moves, all parts move' this is preferable to not completing the posture/frame/movement/application....which ever term you use.
:)
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

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Originally posted by Taiji fan
I have to in part disagree although I suspect, it is more on differences in definition and language. In fact there is a 'fighting stance' in taijiquan from which the movemnts grow...the linking of movements as in form practice are a training aid for understanding the body requirements. Each 'posture' is made up of a series of frames, including an end frame which is the point where the energy is finished before the change to beginning a new frame and new energy. The weight is not 'constantly shifting'. Sometimes in an effort to improve their fluidity of form people run the movements into each other without understanding the end frame while others become fixated on the end frame, pausing over long at each one, although as long as the principal of 'one part moves, all parts move' this is preferable to not completing the posture/frame/movement/application....which ever term you use.
:)

A reasonable understanding. :asian:

The "frames" things is a good way to explain it, but if you are a beginner and don't already really practice, it will give you the false impression that it is a step-by-step process instead of a continuum of motion. Then again, that's how beginners learn it.

And blending the movements in a set is EXACTLY like you would use them -- it's not a training aid.

"Constantly" shifting may seem like hyperbole, but I really don't think it's inaccuracte. If the movements flow into one another, you are starting the next movement while endling the last. This does not "cut off" the end of the movement, but prevents hyper-extention, over-extension, and loss of chi in the process.

Your body should be breathing in and out at the same time at that point. Chi is not a pendulum. Look at the "TaiChi" symbol and it should be obvious. That's the way the movements should be.

Does this make sense?
 
T

Taiji fan

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The "frames" things is a good way to explain it, but if you are a beginner and don't already really practice, it will give you the false impression that it is a step-by-step process instead of a continuum of motion. Then again, that's how beginners learn it.
taijiquan is a step by step process, moeving through the 5 levels of training it is important to realise the specific requirments for each frame and that a single 'posture' has a valid use in application without the necessity to go from move to move. In any combat art the basic rule is to dispatch your opponent as quickly as possible. In taijiquan it is no different, in the basis of yield-redirect there is a need to make a finish point, and that when your opponant is uprooted, lying in a heap or what ever. The training in taijiquan form gives you the ability to train the body to remain connected while applying a technique or a series of techniques but is not the only method of usage. When you think about it taijiquan is an art for minimalists, the idea is not to waste a ton of energy.

Interesting discussing this with you...just out of interest what style do you practice, would be interesting to understand your background and see where you are coming from etc

:asian:
 
L

Larry

Guest
We are severly lacking in quality Tai Chi Chuan in South East Michigan.

My student Sang Wu Kim teaches regularly in Ann Arbor, and very strongly works with the martial art and push hands elements of the form with any student willing to put in the time and the effort. My teacher Gabriel Chin is not really teaching anymore, as he's 83 and the incredible health he's enjoyed all these years has finally started to wane with age.

Sang's basic curriculum includes:

Gabriel Tai-ji Curriculum
1. First Level:
a)108 Form slow
b) Chi-Gung

2. Second Level:
a)108 Form Application (approx. 38 different moves)
b) 4 Type twei-shou
Dan twei-shou
Lien bu twei shou
Phan Jang twei shou
Riao Jang Tui twei shou
c) Basic twei shou
ting bu
lien bu
3 step lien bu(grasp palms)

3. Third Level:
a) 108 Form Fast
b) 8 Type twei shou
Lu twei shou
On-nyu-bu twei shou
Lien-bu Lu twei shou
Chuen Jang twei shou
Pi-Shou twei shou
China twei shou
Left Side
Liked
c) ba gwa step training (go bai jang: cover up palm)
d) Ba-Gwa Circle Stepping twei shou

4. Fourth Level:
a) Shan-Shou Form
b) Ba-Gwa
c) dang show

5. Fifth Level:
a) Shan-shou free hand
b) full out

(I haven't the foggiest idea how Sang came up with these spellings, but you get the idea).

PM or email me if you want Sang's contact information.
 

East Winds

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Ken JP Stuczynski,

Not sure where you got the idea that I was talking about "Static" postures in Taijiquan.:idunno: I do use "static" postures when I practise Zhan Zhuang though. Taijifan has it absolutely right about the end frame concept. There has to be an end frame or else you have not completeed the posture, nor would you be able to issue Fa Jin. The flowing non stop movement blurring each posture into the next belongs only to Taicheese and New Age crap.:shrug:

Best wishes
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

Guest
Originally posted by Taiji fan
Interesting discussing this with you...just out of interest what style do you practice, would be interesting to understand your background and see where you are coming from etc

:asian:

I currently represent the 8 Tigers Academy of Tai Chi & Cki Kung.
http://www.buffalotaichi.com/8tigers/ourstyle.htm
Yes, it's a little bit "Tai Cheese", but we do our best in a region where there are few (more)qualified teachers.
 
T

Taiji fan

Guest
thanks for the info.....I haven't trained in Wu style so am not really up on their methods of practice. I come from a school of traditional Yang so all my comments/answers etc come from my understanding developed in this style..:asian:
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

Guest
Originally posted by East Winds
The flowing non stop movement blurring each posture into the next belongs only to Taicheese and New Age crap.:shrug:

Best wishes

Maybe this is just different teaching methodology, but part is a difference in approach between schools.

Our approach: I'm not talking about blurring, but blending into reversal. If you "end-frame" your technique (which may not mean what you are saying, but what I think you are saying), you have to compensate for a counter or miss if it happens. If you are already in motion (reversal) if/when it occurs, you are already doing that, and your opponent is most likely doomed on the comeback.

I don't think that's New-Ageish. I am careful in my studies to be open minded for what is non-traditional and useful, but always return to the older teeachings for consistency. Then again, I lack serious traditional training, so it may be an empty spot I filled in with an idea that makes sense.

:asian:

As for this one point about being in motion, it's just my experience, including applications of push-hands. And it's also personal preference, as I don't use Tai Chi as boxing. I keep people in my space -- under my control -- which means ideally I don't want to push you away, but down, in a way I gain a locking position.
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

Guest
Originally posted by Taiji fan
thanks for the info.....I haven't trained in Wu style so am not really up on their methods of practice. I come from a school of traditional Yang so all my comments/answers etc come from my understanding developed in this style..:asian:

Actually, knowing Wu would not help you understand what we do ... we are not a tradtional school, and so the training methods were lost from that styles to ours forever ago (sadly).

We preserve movements, applications, and theory, but we have no official, set training methodology. Before you slap us in the face for this, please understand that none of us do this for a living out here, and our exposure to the public is limited almost exclusive to demonstrations and community education courses (4-8 weeks, once per week).

We simply don't have the resources or "clientele" to do any better. :(

In fact, I often direct people who take my courses to OHTER schools who have more regular (and often traditional) classes & training.
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

Guest
Originally posted by Larry
... he's 83 and the incredible health he's enjoyed all these years has finally started to wane with age.

That's not very old for a tai chi master. That seems about the average (or below) for internal art masters in China. Too much American food, maybe? Did he start late in life?


{No offense intended by any of this ... just an observation} :asian:
 
L

Larry

Guest
Too much American food, maybe? Did he start late in life?

No, actually he started learning taiji in 1936 at the age of 16. Back then as he put it, taiji was very much looked down on by your average Chinese youth, who gave taiji the derisive nickname of "old men fishing" (as in "grabbing at the water trying to catch fish") Gabriel and his brother Peter were the youngest students of his teacher Liu, who had learned his taiji directly under Yang Ben Hou. Virtually all of the other taiji students were in their upper 50's and above.

Gabriel's physical problems started off when he was in the Kuomintang throughout WWII and later during the Long March. He caught TB on the Long March and carried it around with him until the KMT made it to Taiwan, where he ended up eventually having a lobectomy in the military hospital there. After that he'd be in vigorous health except for the fact that every 6-8 years or so he'd come down with pneumonia for a week or so.

As I said, in between pneumonias his taiji kept him incredibly strong and healthy. I remember when he was in his mid-50's and a group of us students were helping him move out of his house and into a house across the street, he wanted to take a refrigerator from the basement. Two of us students took the top while Gabriel took the bottom. Carrying the refrigerator up the stairs, Gabriel was on the bottom and practically pushing us up the stairs, showing virtually no strain at all (and the bottom of the fridge was of course where the motor was and everything). Into his 60's he was still doing one-legged "pistol" squats all the way down and up.

He made his living as a gourmet Chinese chef, having learnt how to cook from his mother. He knew well over 300 Mandarin recipes by heart and would cook everything from scratch, going into peoples' houses and making up these 12 course Chinese meals for anywhere from 8 to over 100 people. For one Thanksgiving meal he'd made for us students, he served a variety of "beef", "chicken" and "fish" dishes, all made from the same 20 pound turkey-- but the spicing he did made the dishes actually taste like beef, chicken and fish with the appropriate textures.

But I guess in the long run the medical effects of the war finally caught up with him regardless of everything else.

He ended up doing a lot better than his brother Peter, who Gabriel describes as actually having learned taiji to a far greater degree of mastery than he did (Peter, according to Gabriel, could for example jump off a diving board and while up in the air kick his lower forehead with both feet--totally straight legs-- before going for the dive). Peter ended up staying in the People's Republic after the war. During the Cultural Revolution in 1966, he was arrested and made to pull a one-man plow in the fields for the next three years. After that experience according to Gabriel, Peter was "broken" and had lost all his taiji. I saw Peter once in the mid-1980's when he was once allowed to come visit Gabriel in Ann Arbor. He was extremely nice, but frail by that time.
 

Randy Strausbaugh

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The notion of continuous motion vs. stoppage tends to differ from instructor to instructor, not to mention style to style. While the classics refer to T'ai Chi as flowing endlessly like a river, there is also reference to the notion that if one part moves, all parts move and if one part stops, all parts stop (implying that stopping is a valid action in the practice). Some instructors (my own among them) take the position that both approaches are useful in overall training. While continuous motion throuout the form tends to comply with the notion implied in the T'ai Chi symbol, the occasional practice of holding position in various places in the form can be useful for helping the student to develop frame and root. Just as the practice of doing the form at a rapid rate can give insight into T'ai Chi (assuming the student is ready for it - obviously not for beginners), these different methods of form execution will not only give the student variety in practice, they can help to enhance the student's understanding of the "orthodox" methods as well.

As for combat applications, my Kenpo background sometimes allows me to see applications which my instructor didn't notice. Unfortunately, when I show him them, he tends to look at me like I might be some kind of bloodthirsty psycho. Come to think of it, so did my Kenpo instructor. Hmm.:shrug:
 
L

Larry

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If you take a pen and write out a wave motion (kind of like penmenship practice where you're writing the small letter "u" over and over again), you'll find at the top of the wave there is a perfectly natural "stop" as the line reaches its apogee and then changes direction to drop down to make another bowl.

As you make this wave motion continuously there is also a natural stop to it.

This is the motion inherent in the style of taiji that I learned. The natural stop moment is usually where the qi is discharged in the form, while the continuous motion is either transitioning away from the discharge or building up charge for the next discharge. Very much like the pushing off and then gliding that is natural when you ice skate, or the natural rhythm that occurs when a couple dances the waltz.

When I was more active in practicing shin shin toitsu aikido in years past, I noticed an accentuated form of this rhythm was used by Koichi Tohei and many of his higher black belts. In the seminars I attended put on by Tohei, he would actually skip through the various aikido moves in actual application. John Ely of the Chicago Kinokenukai would be literally skipping in actual application also.

But this rhythmic motion seems to be the opposite of the way some of the other styles of taiji tend to move. For example, from my opservation the Cheng Man-Ching school tends to move, not in a continuous "u" rhythm, but in a steady and continuous "m" motion in their stepping. This makes a different dynamic overall. Not better, not worse, just different.
 
P

progressivetactics

Guest
If you take a pen and write out a wave motion (kind of like penmenship practice where you're writing the small letter "u" over and over again), you'll find at the top of the wave there is a perfectly natural "stop" as the line reaches its apogee and then changes direction to drop down to make another bowl.

I don't think I could ever be good at Combat Tai Chi....I am terrible at my penmenship :(
 
R

RobP

Guest
In the Yang lineage I trained in the emphasis was on large frame movements / forms initially eventually leading to small frame / fast movements. There was also an emphasis on "finishing" each posture as other posters have said.

However, while we did plenty of application work I still wouldn't feel comfortable calling it a "combat" system. Too many things were left unaddressed for that. General self defence maybe.
 
T

Taiji fan

Guest
Too many things were left unaddressed for that. General self defence maybe.
I agree that taijiquan has some benefit in general self defence but I would be interested to hear an expansion on this...what kind of things were left 'unadressed'. :)
 
R

RobP

Guest
Off the top of my head - no ground work, no work against knives or other weapons, no dealing with multiple attackers, lack of general "fight psychology" etc .

Like I said - plenty of application work, push hands and the like. Maybe that is down to what the art is designed for though, or what it became good at - one to one challenges against a fellow martial artist?
 
L

Larry

Guest
RobP and I are basically in the same camp--even though we've never physically met. For me the taiji I was taught had a lot of "holes" in it. As Rob said, no ground work, no work against multiple opponents (although that was implied), no work on rolls (although again that was implied). As far as my teacher was concerned, there was much that was touched upon and implied, but much that was also left out. Ny teacher admitted he had a hard time at first showing some of the "real stuff" to a round eye--even though I was his senior student. And some of the other stuff my teacher decided he didn't want to show anybody, because he'd decided it was too dangerous to show and he decided to go to his grave with much unrevealed.

Taiji is full of principles--called "jings" or energies--but these principles weren't emphasized as a point of origin for teaching. I was taught technique after technique and application after application. The basic idea was "if your oppenent does this, then you do that" with the assumption that your mind is going to operate almost like an encyclopedia with lightning speed to recover the proper technique for the quickly recognized strike or kick coming at you. Improvising techniques or chaining them one after the other were not explicitly taught. Application skill was assumed to come only after tremendous practice in tuishou and two man form.

Now don't get me wrong. I still consider taiji extremely valuable and practice the form almost daily or twice daily after 31 years of experience. And taiji is no different than aikido which in my experience has many of the same "holes" in its teaching components--particularly the lack of any ground work beyond rolling. Taiji's emphasis on staying soft has been extrememly valuable, and as a result of regular taiji practice my joints at my age are actually healthier than they were when I was in my 20's--mainly because my legs are stronger and I continue to rotate my joints (and drink a lot of water).

But it's not really a full "combat" art unless the person supplements it with some other discipline. A self-defense art? Oh yes, particularly against an attacker who doesn't know anything, or only knows something like karate.

Was it always this way? I don't think so. I believe taiji originally might have been a combat art, but lost its edge due to the way Chinese urban society works. Much of taiji now is based on the idea of meeting a solitary challenger and then symbolically "defeating" him in a round of push hands. That's my opinion why taiji has developed such an attraction towards a "pure" uproot. It puts both feet off the ground in a visible way so a third party can declare the uprooter the "victor" in a challenge without any injury to the uprooted. But uprooting an attacker on the street isn't likely to do much if the attacker is serious about wanting to hurt or kill you.

Can taiji be "modernized" or otherwise modified to turn it into a combat art? Most definately. And it wouldn't be that hard to do.

But the classical training in taiji leaves a lot to be desired, and suffers from the scholasticism of the Chinese academics who took to explaining it almost from the start.
 
K

Ken JP Stuczynski

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When I teach my "passive self-defense" course ("Tai Chi for Self-Defense), I supplement the hell out of it with Chin-na.

Perfect Combo, IMO
 

Randy Strausbaugh

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You'll find that most Chinese styles tend to be deficient in groundwork. While the Monkey and Ditang styles both have extensive rolling techniques, what I've seen of them appears to emphasize rolling back up to your feet. Even Shuai Chiao lacks groundwork. The only Chinese style I've heard of which emphasizes groundwork is the Dog style. In one of Robert Smith's books, an instructor tells him that the only way to fight a Dog stylist is to stand back and throw things at him. This probably is changing (at least in the US) since groundfighting has come into fashion.

Trying to avoid life's potholes,
Randy Strausbaugh
 

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