Chuan (2)
(fist/combat/martial art/chinese boxing)

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Indications of tai chi combat skill

In order to use tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing)
effectively in combat, a student must learn how to employ the art in a uniquely tai chi way.
Cultivate skilfulness in your training:

Use of jing, chin na and shuai jiao
Work without tensing-up
Whole-body movement
Gentleness (4 ounces of pressure)
Composure and calm
Small movements
Not resisting/fighting
Functional use of yielding
Respond without thinking
Ability to change
Loose and heavy
Nimble footwork
Versatility/range of fighting skills

Not forcing

Yielding involves following the line of incoming force; not forcing or opposing or anticipating.
It entails changing in response to what is happening, moving around an obstacle, flowing and adapting to the situation.
At the heart of yielding is the principle of making space; allowing and returning.
Although yielding may sound passive to the outsider, in application it is very deceptive and unexpected; often unnoticed.
The results are startling and effective.


Yielding can mean: 

  1. Stepping

  2. Shifting the weight and turning the waist

  3. Bowing the back and tucking in at the middle

Option 2 is the first choice for tai chi because it requires the least amount of effort.
Option 1 is used to improve relative positioning; to adjust.
Option 3 is not the preferred choice.

Tai chi was for housewives unless you found an authentic teacher, when it became the deadliest art.

(Robert Twigger)

Keep your practice focussed 

Learning multiple
styles of tai chi is pointless.
Arguably, every style should be teaching the very same underlying fighting skills and principles.
If you are training a number of styles, how much time do you commit to each?
It is wiser to focus on one style (regardless of which one it is).
On one approach.
Done correctly, this will require a daily commitment to home practice, along with weekly lessons and study.
If you want to learn something new; deepen your study of tai chi and/or consider a complimentary art (such as
bagua or xingyiquan) rather than another style of tai chi.


Be wary of tai chi classes that claim to be teaching tai chi but in reality offer a smattering of different martial arts.
There is little likelihood of a syllabus.
If you are wanting to learn tai chi, then learn tai chi.
Studying another martial art in a tai chi class will not improve the quality of your tai chi.
When a class pads-out its repertoire by teaching a variety of tai chi forms/styles or completely unrelated material, it is important to question the depth of understanding being offered by that class.

Lack of depth?

Tai chi is a rich art with so much potential.
There is no scope for boredom/sameness when a class is offering a real syllabus and the students are uncovering the mysteries of the art.
If an instructor needs to pad out their class with unrelated material, they are not teaching tai chi.
Maybe you need to find another class?

Is your tai chi 'martial'?

This is a good question.
It really depends on how the art is practiced and how much time you commit to practice.

Although most tai chi students train martial skills, they cannot honestly claim to be a martial artist.
Tai chi requires 'hard work'.
A martial artist attends class 2-3 times a week and trains anywhere between 1-4 hours a day at home.
This may be regarded as a serious commitment to gaining and refining martial skill.

Most tai chi students seek a milder degree of commitment; perhaps training once a week in class and maybe doing a little training at home.
They are likely to gain credible and effective combat skills,
but they are not demonstrating a martial approach to training.

Tai chi
is a form of martial art and martial arts are functional.
You cannot separate the art of tai chi from its application.

(Cheng Man Ching)


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Page created 1 August 1995
Last updated 17 June 2023