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Locks and holds

Many martial arts employ locks and holds successfully. They are an effective way of restraining an opponent and/or damaging the body. Unfortunately, locks and holds require commitment.
We seldom use anything akin to a hold.


Grabbing hold of somebody is only used in tai chi when you are seizing. Instead of grabbing, we use:

  1. Wardoff

  2. 4 ounces of pressure

  3. Sticky jing

  4. Listening jing

A grab is not a good strategy for tai chi. It assumes too much.


Seizing is concerned with obtaining an abrupt grip. The grip must be penetrating and cause immediate pain. It should ideally take the balance instantly.
This is not a hold. You are not seeking to restrain the person pending submission. Seizing is designed to gain the attacker's complete attention.
The discomfort they experience prevents coherent thought and calm emotions.

Keeping hold

Some people consider 'holding' to be a viable skill but we will not be learning any conventional holds or locks. If you hold somebody, you are committed to maintaining the hold using sustained strength.
At some point you must let go and your opponent is free. What happens then? Also, what if they have friends or are armed? What if they are stronger or more aggressive than you?
We train chin na to be a fleeting action, it involves minimal commitment and the 'baby grip' is commonly used. All 'misplacing the bone' chin na must eventually be performed as a strike.


If you are grappling with somebody, softness is your means of escape. Strength is an immediate indication of failure.
Force against force is fruitless even if you are the stronger person; it costs energy and wears you out. Use your intuition, your wit and your sensitivity - not your aggression.
Be like water; have substance without tension.

The Tao cannot be avoided.
By attuning to its way, we seem to move less and less with a disturbing wilfulness;
we move with rather than against the nature of things.
Self interest gets in the Way of the Tao.
When we move selflessly, we move with grace,
ease and harmony amid apparent confusion.

(Ray Grigg) 


The notion of holding is concerned with fixity. Tai chi is fundamentally opposed to holding. Tai chi is about yielding, flowing and moving. It is not about fixity.
The fault of 'holding' can be found in different places within your tai chi:

  1. Rigid, fixed ideas bout things

  2. Patterns of tension within your body

  3. Habitual responses

  4. Emotional reactions

  5. A need to force/control/have your own way

  6. Pride

  7. Stubbornness

  8. A lack of openness to new/unfamiliar ideas

  9. An unwillingness to try things

  10. Clinging to the known/fear of the unknown

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023