Military combat

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Modern tai chi

People are so accustomed to images of friendly tai chi for health practitioners that they forget the origin of the Art.
There are smiles, blissful expressions and a certain element of posing.
The onus is upon relaxation, calm and stress relief.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist).
Taijiquan originally came to fame as a military art.

Public perception

If you told a member of the public that you were studying aikido, karate, ju jitsu or kung fu, they would instantly assume that you were learning a martial art.
There would be no debate.

If you tell somebody that you are learning
taijiquan, the response might be quite different.
Not many people think that taijiquan is a martial art.
And in most cases they are correct.

Taijiquan as a martial art

Taijiquan was originally developed to be an advanced martial art.
was employed by the Chinese military.
Martial arts legend Yang Lu-chan (Yang-the-Invincible) taught taijiquan to the Manchu Emperor's elite palace guards in the 1800s.

Military training is quite different to sport.
The Manchu Emperor's elite palace guards were armed and ruthless.
Jinzu taught: "In serving, serve. In fighting, kill."

Palace guard

Imagine what it might have meant to work for the Manchu Emperor...
You are responsible for the protection of the most feared and powerful ruler in Asia.
Palace guard responsibilities will have included:

Close quarters combat
Planning routes
Pre-searching rooms
Conducting background checks
Searching vehicles
Escort duties

A quarter of the world's population was ruled by the emperor. His family and personal safety is in your hands.
How serious would you need to be?

Military competence

Palace guards were highly skilled in armed combat; adept with a wide selection of feudal era weaponry.
It would have been necessary to maim or kill without pause or question.

Unarmed combat was a secondary concern since soldiers were always armed.

If the mountain of Tai should collapse right in front of me,
my face would undergo no change of countenance.


The p
urpose of taijiquan

Modern people do not have to train like a Chinese soldier from the 1800s, however, you should respect the true nature of the Art.
Taijiquan was never designed to be a health exercise.
Being fit and healthy is a by-product, not the purpose of the Art.

Are you are seeking to honour the Art and train it correctly?

Seek tuition from an instructor who is committed to performing the martial skills in a thorough and convincing manner.
This may be a little scary and unnerving but a good teacher can offer a safe training environment.
The instructor must adhere to The Tai Chi Classics and employ the principles in a pragmatic, effective way.

Train your way to skill

Be aware: training taijiquan as a credible martial art will require you to become supple, fit and strong.
This is no trivial matter and there are no shortcuts.
The journey is long, yet the rewards are great.

Many people imagine that taijiquan is the lazy person's martial art.
Such a belief is naive in the extreme and shows that you have not read this page sincerely or with comprehension.

Real life application

Does your martial art cater for the realities of actual combat?
Are you learning to respond to multiple attackers?
Will your opponents be armed?
Do they carry knives or other improvised weapons?
What will you be wearing? What kind of footwear?

Be honest about what you are expecting to do with your art.
Is your art up to the needs of combat?
Are you training the necessary fighting skills?
What is your personal fitness and condition level?

Contemporary combat

Your taijiquan fighting skills must address the needs of the modern era.
Right now that means: multiple opponents, knives, sticks, baseball bats, dog leads, batons etc...
You (the defender) will most likely be unarmed.

Day-to-day relevance

Most of your life will not involve physical combat.
However, you will be faced with psychological, emotional and physical challenges every day: stress, health, work, family, fear, driving.
A functional art must address the nature of your interaction with life.

The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.

(Miyamoto Musashi)


Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 28 April 2016