Playing the attacker (2)

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Your concern must now be how to play the attacker with realism. You need to be earnest and accurate. Do not stop until you have been countered effectively.
Brutality is unnecessary. And dangerous. If you cause an injury, saying sorry will not appease anyone.
You should avoid being silly/awkward. People are often tempted to make life too hard for the defender. This is not appropriate when working with a partner.
Give the defender something to work with, but don't patronise them either.


Once the student has made headway with the 'advanced' grade they will be expected to engage in actual combat. This will involve full speed attacks delivered with the expectation of notable power.
Getting hit will not be fun but students are encouraged to be considerate.

Countering the counter

The skilled student must employ balance, centre, yielding/making space whilst dealing with vigorous, realistic attacks. The opponent is expected to counter-attack your responses.
Your aim is to make the applications work regardless of this. Without forcing an outcome.

It is said; “If the opponent does not move, then I do not move. At the opponent's slightest move, I move first."

(Wu Yu-hsiang)


Your aim is not to take turns, or fight. Your aim is to finish the attacker off swiftly and decisively: 'stomping the sword' or 'holding down the pillow'.
This means being present, being alert, and taking advantage of every opportunity. You cannot space out.

A good attacker is a good defender

A strong attacker will also defend strongly. When attacking, be convincing and the defender is positively challenged. When defending, a good attacker will not hesitate to counter-attack.
You train your attacking and counter-attacking fighting skills simultaneously... every time you play the attacker. Focus.


When playing an attacker, act like you are the attacker. Be assertive. Consider your body language and facial expression. Step-in with vigour.
Standing aloof and not committing is a waste of everyone's time. You also run the risk of injury if you try that approach on a seasoned person.
Holding back from commitment means that you are training a bad habits.
Taijiquan may use yielding extensively but it also requires you to step-in and strike decisively whenever the opportunity presents itself. You must be capable of stepping-in without hesitation or fear.


During combat training, only stop if you are compromised. Avoid being silly but make the defender work hard. Seek out holes and errors and punch there.
The greater the attacker you are, the better the defender will be.

A skilled attacker is non-cooperative

Although an experienced student has far more skill than a beginner, they are actually safer to train with.
Neither clumsy nor fearful, they can balance the attack relative to the opponent/practice partner. They understand appropriateness.
The experienced attacker is not cooperative. They will mess you up in any way they can. If you have a poor grasp of the basic skills, and cannot adapt to the ongoing changes, you will struggle.
The non-cooperative attacker is unrelenting. They will exploit the gaps and deficiencies in your training. Any mistakes will be exposed immediately.

Expert attacker is ruthless

Even worse than an experienced attacker, the expert attacker is mean, edgy and accurate. They have good rhythm, timing and speed. They will put you under pressure.
It will feel like an assault and you will be hard pressed not to make mistakes. Similarly, the defender has a far more impressive range of counters at their disposal than the beginner had.
This kind of training is essential for combat. A genuine attacker will never be compliant. They will press home every advantage and use any means at their disposal to defeat you.
Expect knives, baseball bats and improvised weaponry. Expect multiple opponents.


The expert attacker will be a taijiquan person with similar fighting skills to your own.
They will have an arsenal of taijiquan abilities to employ against you and they will not cooperate with anything you do. Their role is to defeat you, irrespective of what you do.
This kind of scenario will tax you to the extreme and is very good for your combat training. It should be akin to combating your own shadow.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 13 January 2020