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The purpose of martial arts

Once upon a time martial arts were taught for very simple, pragmatic reasons:

  1. Personal protection

  2. Professional combat skill

The need for professional combat skills remains unchanged.
Guns and batons may be widely used by security/military services. However, robbed of their weapon, an individual still needs unarmed combat skills.


Our students explore a variety of fighting skills from tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing):

Strategy & tactics
Close-range combat
Conservation of energy
Kicks, punches, palm strikes, finger strikes, elbows, knees
Optimal use of alignment and structure
Whole-body strength
Minimal movement
Defence against a knife
How to deal with multiple opponents/gangs
Joint locks
sensitivity and awareness
Balance, rhythm and timing
Evasive footwork
Escape from holds
Jing (whole-body power)
Grappling whilst standing and on the floor
Self defence

A student must become proficient with all of these fighting skills.

Form application

Form teaches the body to move in a way that can be applied in combat. Each pattern of movement has a number of potential combat applications.

In order to be soft, you must first relax. In order to be relaxed, your joints must first loosen. When your joints are loose, you can move your body as one unit and manifest your jing like a soft whip.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)

San sau

San sau' are predetermined attack and defence sequences in which both students are required to adhere to a set pattern.
The purpose of san sau is to train timing, coordination, range, accuracy, footwork, rhythm, habitual responses, composure and reflexes.
Training begins with the basic pattern, before adding peng, jing and eventually full-power attacks.

San da

In contrast with san sau, san da is not fixed. The assailant does not use predetermined attacks and is encouraged to be as awkward and challenging as possible.
The aim for the attacker is to provide a realistic combat experience. Non-cooperative.

Newton's Laws of Motion

Familiarity with Newton's Laws of Motion will aid your understanding of how tai chi works in combat:

  1. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by a net force

  2. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration

  3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

5 animals

tudents discover how to use the 5 animals: bear, bird, monkey, snake and tiger.

Not sport

It is important to recognise that the roots of Chinese martial arts lie with the need to defend oneself, not sport. In real life combat there are no rules. Train what is possible, not what is allowed.

Acceptable fighting skills

By law we are permitted to use 'reasonable force' in order to defend ourselves but as an art tai chi has no problem with:

Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh
Grabbing/seizing the trachea
Breaking a bone
Throwing an opponent on the head or neck
Groin attacks
Small joint manipulation
Throat strikes 
Strikes to the spine or back of the head
Butting with the head
Hair pulling/seizing
Downward elbow strikes
Grabbing the clavicle

recognisable fighting style

If you watch wing chun applied in combat, it looks distinctly like wing chun. The same could be said of judo, aikido, ju jitsu, pencat silat etc.
By the same reasoning, the martial art of tai chi must look like tai chi.
What does tai chi look like in combat? Tai chi looks like tai chi. The form, pushing hands, you know... tai chi.
If the martial expression of tai chi does not look like tai chi, it is probably not tai chi.

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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023