Powers & principles

classes     qigong     tai chi     kung fu     about us     reviews     a-z

Punches, kicks and grapples

Most martial arts are compromised of punches, kicks, elbows, knees, blocks and techniques. These are employed according to a particular strategy or attitude. Tai chi is not like this.
The art adheres to a Taoist principle.


Tai chi was designed as a vehicle for the implementation of the yin/yang principle.

A punch is not a punch

A tai chi 'standing fist' punch is not the same as a wing chun punch. The punch itself is not the emphasis. It simply represents the means of contact, the point of impact.
Our concern is with the jing utilised to produce the punch and how that choice of jing will affect the opponent when delivered

Jing has been considered a secret transmission in tai chi society. This is not only because it was not revealed to most students but also because it cannot be passed down by words alone. Jing must be experienced. Once you feel jing done by your master, you know what is meant and are able to work on it by yourself.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)


There are 8 powers and 5 elements in tai chi. A standing fist punch can be delivered using wardoff, push, squeeze, pluck and bump. Each 'power' will result in a very different outcome on impact.
It is just a matter of choice.

Gaining power

Tai chi is ultimately about learning the 8 powers and then combining them effectively in combat situations. Can you already see that this is nothing like the conventional way of perceiving combat?
We are not thinking in terms of punches, kicks or grappling. Delivering jing is our focus

Fa li

Fa li is delivery that feeds kinetic energy through a fairly evident, connected framework. It is structure-based.
Abrupt, sharp and penetrating, it is the first method of striking but strictly speaking not tai chi.

Fa jing

Fa jing is vibration based. The body is looser, more natural. It is capable of spontaneous movement in all directions and power generation is far less reliant upon an evident structure.
This is the second striking method.


Tai chi applications were designed to employ jing whilst adhering to a combat principle. Usually pertaining to positioning, leverage, balance and timing.


The focus of an application is the principle it contains. Once the principle is understood, multiple variations can be devised by the student using that principle.

Beyond technique

The student must discover the underlying physics involved in every application. They can then apply what they have learned in countless ways; thus transcending the limitations and fixity of technique. 

How do you learn these things?

You need to read The Tai Chi Classics.
To understand the Classics you need to be actively studying tai chi with an expert, and deepening your grasp of Taoism and martial principles through daily study of the books.

Only when your mind is clean are you in a suitable state to read books and study the Ancients.

(Huanchu Daoren)

Worth reading

13 methods
The essence of the art
Jing (internal/whole-body power) 
Fa jing
Technique-based mentality
Power generation
Myths & magic

school database

Page created 7 April 1998
Last updated 16 June 2023