Advanced martial art

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Martial art

Tai chi was designed to be an advanced fighting method.


People read the word 'advanced' and really don't think it through. The word advanced literally means far ahead, more difficult, more challenging. It signifies a higher stage of development.

Martial arts training

Learning any martial art is hard work. It involves years of arduous training, and most people quit at the onset. Very few students who start martial arts lessons even gain a black belt.
Fewer still progress beyond their first dan.

Hard work

Hard work alone is not enough, though. Simply working hard will not necessarily lead to progress.
It needs to be deliberate, focused improvement designed to improve your practice by developing key skills outlined by your instructor.
The student must implement corrections, study the recommended books, undertake assignments and challenge their comfort zone.


In China, a student would focus on gaining competence with an external martial art method. This process would entail a great deal of hard work.
There would be years of drilling, punishing practice, sweat and aching muscles.

Retire or climb higher?

Time takes its toll... Harsh training methods, power, speed and flexibility favour the younger person. The traditional martial arts practitioner often chose to set aside the external training and retire.
Or they sought something more advanced.

Seeking a teacher

In traditional China it was not easy to find a martial arts instructor willing to offer tuition. The onus was upon the student to prove themselves.
An instructor was leery to waste time and effort with a lazy student. Finding an advanced martial arts instructor was even harder still...

Too easy

Nowadays, people can start training an advanced martial art from the onset. They can literally contact an instructor and request a lesson. This is problematic.


The modern student lacks an adequate foundation with an external martial art method. They are normally unprepared for the hard work that lies ahead.
They dismiss the word 'advanced', not realising that it signifies a training regime far more challenging than anything offered by an external method.

A martial athlete?

Combat is not easy and there is a risk of injury if the student is unfit. This is true of any martial art. To reach a high level of skill, the student needs to take a lesson from sport.
They must become a lot fitter, but not necessarily a martial athlete.

Martial fitness

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat.
Tai chi students train: massage, leg stretches, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.

What makes tai chi advanced?

Tai chi follows a different path to most martial arts. It teaches all the skills associated with the external arts (albeit performed differently) and also a large number of unorthodox considerations.

Unconventional skills

Internal skills are not easy to acquire. They are subtle, hard to learn and require a high degree of awareness. Many insights are seen as being counter-intuitive.

Gain external skills first

A tai chi student learns all these external skills but employs them in an internal way:

Kicks, punches, palm strikes, finger strikes, elbows, knees
Grappling whilst standing and on the floor
Joint locks
Escape from holds
Self defence
Close-range combat

An advanced martial art exceeds external martial arts skill.

Higher skills

Tai chi employs additional skills: mutual arising, wu wei (not forcing), folding, filing, wrapping, blending, listening, interrupting, leading, borrowing, adhere & stick, sinking & rooting, sung, substantial & insubstantial, projections, change, misplacing the bones, dividing the muscles, sealing the breath, cavity press, shuai jiao (applications & skills), form application (every movement of every form), jing (whole-body power), neigong (whole-body strength), reeling silk, fa jing, yin/yang, te, 6 balanced pairs, mushin (surrender/immersion), opening & closing, wu nien (not preparing), zanshin (continuing mind), conservation of energy, minimal movement, 5 animals, 8 powers, 5 centres, central equilibrium, freeform triangle, groundpath, moving from the centre, practical applications of yielding, small circle movement, uniting upper & lower, using the mind instead of force, whole-body movement,cold jing, inch jing, uprooting, following, connection, double weightedness (avoidance of)... and so on.


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Page created 21 May 1998
Last updated 10 November 2023