Alerting the nervous system

classes     taijiquan     self defence     qigong     tai chi for health     about us     reviews     a-z

Involuntary reaction

Jerky, fast, forceful action will alert your opponent's nervous system. This will enable them to react to your movements.
Aggressive, sudden physical contact invariably triggers a reaction. This is a natural response to unexpected stimuli.


Taijiquan is practiced smoothly and slowly in order to avoid triggering your opponent's nervous system.
If we can use timing and positioning skilfully, it is possible to trick your attacker's body into failing to perceive the threat.


Most of the drills we explore teach you how to move without advertising your intentions. This requires a lot of practice.
Listening and sensitivity must be cultivated. Eventually all of your training must consolidate and be applied in combat practice.
If you cannot pull it together in combat, your taijiquan drills are useless.

You cannot tense up either

A secondary feature of the drills is to train your own body to overcome the involuntary physical response to unexpected stimuli. Everyone reacts when startled.
A taijiquan person must learn how to rapidly shed the effects of the surprise and move on. In time, the reflexive response becomes almost imperceptible.

No threat

If you can move without alerting your attacker, you create a window of opportunity. You create time.
There is no need to move quickly. Just carry on doing what you are doing. The very act of not alerting your attacker has bought you time. There is no need to rush. Use the opportunity wisely.


Seeking to force a result will also create an involuntary nervous system response. The attacker's body will resist without any conscious thought being involved.
Instead of forcing, we must allow. We must find accord.


What you are seeking is to move with the attacker. Force versus force is not taijiquan. Trick the opponent's body into complying with you.


It can be advantageous for you to alert your attacker's nervous system. If they are momentarily startled, they lose composure and become distracted.
A shock can also result in fear. Knowing how and when to use this requires training. The ability to throw your assailant mentally and emotionally 'off-kilter' can give you an edge.

Intimately involved in the fight or flight response, the psoas can curl you into a protective foetal ball or flex you to prepare the powerful back and leg muscles to spring into action.

Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you're in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.

As you learn to approach the world without this chronic tension, psoas awareness can open the door to a more sensitive attunement to your body's inner signals about safety and danger, and to a greater sense of inner peace.

(Liz Koch) 

school database

Page created 15 May 1997
Last updated 17 September 2019