Understanding fighting

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YouTube is filled with many examples of perfectly decent martial artists getting beaten up by an MMA guy. The beating is normally decisive, fast and pretty bad. What happened?
The answer is simple.

Martial expectations

A boxer or an MMA practitioner is a very serious opponent. They train in earnest. They are ruthless, seasoned fighters. They can take a beating. They are not messing about.
This hardly sounds like the average tai chi student does it?

What are you doing?

It is useful to take a long hard look at why you are training tai chi. Be honest here. Not concerning your hopes, dreams, fantasies, ambitions or intentions...
Look at what you are really practicing, how you are doing it and why. It may help you to wake up.

One of my friends studied judo for years and years. She was waiting for a chance to use it, but for a long time nobody tried to attack her. Then one day somebody grabbed her in a parking lot - and she slugged him with her purse!

And then she thought, "Oh! What happened to my judo?"

She must have been practicing judo as if it were an isolated thing. We should always practice to let the immediacy of the moment come through. Then you always have a sense of what you are doing now.

(Chungliang Al Huang)

Chinese attitude

Have you ever seen a documentary about Chinese people training for a sporting event? Find one and watch it. There's no laziness at all.
People train incredibly hard; really hammering themselves to fitness. The attitude is inspiring and intimidating.

Advanced martial art

The old Yang style of tai chi was developed by the martial arts legend Yang Lu-chan. Yang Lu-chan's nickname was 'Yang-the-Invincible'.
He is famous for teaching his tai chi to the Manchu Emperor's elite palace guards. How hard do you think Yang Lu-chan trained? How serious?
Military combat is life or death. There's no room for lengthy debates about qi...

Health, self defence, fighting or military?

So, what is your focus? If you're attending classes once a week, doing no home training, no bag work, no combat training - then the answer is self evident.
Doing a bit of self defence practice is fine, but it doesn't make you a 'fighter'. And 'military combat' is a whole different deal

Beaten up on YouTube...

People typically get beaten up on YouTube because they're stupid. A tai chi self defence guy is certainly no match for an MMA fighter. Of course they get beaten up. What other outcome could there be?
The mistake was to accept the challenge in the first place.


Tai chi legends inspire people to want to prove their skill. Many of the stories may indeed be true.
But have you ever considered how hard the exponents trained? How seasoned/experienced/skilled they were?
They were probably far more tough than you can imagine


In medieval China a martial arts school only stayed open if the art actually worked against raiders, bandits, mercenaries, thieves and bullies.
The instructor really needed to be capable of using their art. Your average contemporary tai chi class hardly compares.

The student

No matter how technically good or bad a martial art may be, it is only as good as the person who employs it. The student may be lazy or inept
. They may be earnest and sincere.
Make sure that you are honest about what you are doing. If you're not a cage fighter (and you aren't highly skilled at combat) don't fight a cage fighter if you can avoid it.

Martial artist?

If you want to be a martial artist, then start by acting like one. Buy a wall bag. Set your alarm an hour earlier and get out of bed.
Plan an earnest home training routine that takes into account the realities of combat. Find home practice partners within your class and (ideally) from other martial arts schools.

Gaps & deficiencies

Gaps are holes in your practice that can be exploited by an opponent. A gap may be caused by poor postural alignment, leaving a leg behind when you step or failing to complete an application.
Every mistake represents an opportunity. It is essential for your practice partners to mercilessly exploit your vulnerabilities. It will remove your naivety...

Over-confidence is fatal

Combat never goes as planned. Real skill takes time to acquire and there are no shortcuts. e.g. martial artists train for years to handle a knife attack and still cannot guarantee a favourable outcome.

No time for bravado

When it comes to combat, it is wise to admit your shortcomings. Most p
eople have no idea how to fight. They imagine that a cocky 'attitude' and a big mouth will work against a real life fighter.

One rule

There is only one true rule in combat: Never underestimate the opponent. (Sun Tzu). To do so would be your biggest and perhaps only mistake - an attacker's capabilities cannot be discerned from appearance alone.

It is absurd to think you are going to get anywhere by giving only an hour a week to your practice or that you can regularly skip classes.

Martial arts is not like a bridge club, where you drop in when you have nothing better to do. Martial arts will always make greater demands on your time than would most hobbies or avocations.

(Dave Lowry)


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Page created 21 May 2002
Last updated 16 June 2023