Freeform combat

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

Freeform training

We offer our students freeform scenarios. Solo attackers and multiple assailants attack without warning. They may be armed or unarmed.
The exercise is rough, spontaneous and gets the adrenaline going.

Every fight should be fought as if life were at stake, even when you're fighting with wooden swords. Then the martial arts would find their rightful place, and become the practice of the way.

Otherwise, they are only a game.

(Taisen Deshimaru)


Freeform is not kickboxing. We are not training a sport. Your aim is not to trade blows. You must complete your counter-attack smoothly and efficiently.
The attacker is not trying to score points or win a trophy. Their aim is to strike you or grapple you to the ground.

It ends when it ends

The exercise does not end until a conclusion is reached. This may mean that you have gone to pieces, are being held or you may have incapacitated the attacker.
The latter outcome is your aim. Although you will not be hurt, you may well be struck.
There is no predictable pattern to freeform. The attacker may do whatever they like providing it is earnest and committed.


Step-by-step techniques, stylised responses and fancy movements will fail you during freeform. Your attacker will not play your game. Their aim is to break your rhythm, intimidate you and put you down.
This is not a macho, aggressive exercise. No one gets angry or badly hurt. But it does test your nerve.


Anything goes in freeform, so you cannot afford to be cocky or complacent. Spend too long with one person and his mate may jump on you from behind or slip a knife between your ribs.
Your attackers will not cooperate with you or assist you in any way at all. Their single function and purpose is to defeat you.


Group dynamics and evasion strategies cannot be codified into a step-by-step guide. You must learn to go with the flow, responding and adapting to the needs of the situation.
This takes patience and practice. If you lose your composure, you lose everything.
You need to work with punches, kicks and grapples. It needs to be varied, confusing, unsettling and unpredictable. A melee.


You cannot hide behind your image when training freeform. What you think does not matter. All that matters is what you can do. How you can cope.
If you are afraid of being hit, of being hurt, then this will hamper you. You will be placed in a compromising situation and required to free yourself effectively.
This kind of challenge will cause you to re-evaluate your training and your attitude.


Fear is the biggest demon to face in combat. People are reluctant to face up to their own fear, their own vulnerability, their anxiety.
We are all human. We all feel pain. We all can be injured. We will all die some day. Despite freeform combat being relatively safe, students panic, struggle and fail repeatedly.
Our syllabus is designed to help you work through your difficulties, and your fears and doubts. We train you to cope.

Stay calm

If you lack composure, you will not see what is right in front of you. Being calm is utterly essential.
You need to remain detached, emotionally aware and at ease. This is the real reason why lower grade students practice chin na 'escapes'.

Do not rush

When you lack composure, you are easily startled. This leads to hurrying. And anxiety. Instead of patiently waiting to see what unravels, you dither, hesitate and anticipate.


Rushing indicates a lack of competence. It is obvious that the student has not put in the practice. When you rush, you force.
Forcing causes your opponent's nervous system to inadvertently tense-up in reaction to your urgency. This alerts them to your intention and makes them harder to manipulate.

Do not use tension

As soon as you use tension, you have failed. Even if you eventually prevail, it has cost you an unnecessary amount of effort and is not taijiquan.
Correct use of alignment, timing, pressure and positioning will enable you to skilfully defend yourself.

Beyond the ordinary

The training will eventually reach a stage where the demands encountered in class exceed anything you might reasonably expect to encounter in 21st Century urban combat.
This is deliberate. When your mind and your nervous system are attuned to 'feudal era' expectations, you will be ready for anything.

Realm of consciousness

Taijiquan aims to teach the student how to heighten their awareness to a degree whereby they can perceive combat in an entirely different way:

You will begin to feel that your taijiquan practice goes beyond simple form training, and you will be able to perceive things as energetic combinations, rather than as static physical objects. Your training partners will appear to your senses as dynamic patterns of energy, rather than as clumsy physical bodies. When this happens, you can skilfully switch strategy and tactics in any situation.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)

school database

Page created 18 March 2001
Last updated 07 January 2020