Before we close the Tai Chi Mastery Program I want to share with you some of my perspectives on using tai chi as a martial art. I know many of you mainly practice tai chi for health, but many others want to know how to use tai chi as an effective martial art and for self-defense.
I have seen a lot of comments about why we don't see tai chi being used in MMA (mixed martial arts) and because it is not seen in that arena, it therefore must not be very effective. My own view is that tai chi can be as deadly as many other martial arts, in fact I would say it is better than most, but to be effective you have to go through the classical training progression, which few in the West undertake.
One could ask, "In the age of guns and mechanised weapons what is the usefulness of learning a martial art like tai chi?" I think it is important to recognize that the art of tai chi gives you the abillity to be a master of different energies both in yourself and those around you. As you move toward mastery in tai chi you are at the same time moving toward mastering energy.
How many times have people tried to suck your energy dry? How many times in life has negative energy been directed at you either directly or indirectly? Were you conscious of this at the time and were you able able to make a choice about the best action or did you take a negative energy hit? Tai chi gives you practical methods to work with day-to-day situations learning to flow and move with energy so you can choose how to best use your energy. Few martial arts do this. Tai chi also works on the principles of water, that of flowing with the line of least resistance.
In my book, The Power of Internal Martial Arts and Chi: Combat Secrets of Tai Chi, Bagua and Hsing-i, I talk about four different stages of learning tai chi as a martial art. To go through all four stages requires ten to twenty years of learning and is only for the most dedicated (some would say extreme).
I studied full-time in Communist China in the Chinese language for eleven years (this was before I had a family). To put this in perspective you can become a Western medical doctor in just over eight years. I say this to emphasize that traditionally learning tai chi was taken as a full-time profession not as a part-time hobby. Doing so enables a person to acheive extraordinary mastery of the tai chi form, energies of tai chi and of course superior fighting abilities.
At the end of the post I have shared a short video where I introduce tai chi as a martial art and show a few basic applications. This is taken from the Tai Chi for Beginners program. You can click here to skip straight to the video.
If you want to learn the four stages of learning tai chi as a martial art please keep reading:
This first stage can be broken into seven parts:
Much of the Tai Chi Mastery Program is about building a strong form. I wish I could say that it is common for teachers to help others build a really solid form including the internal energetics, but unfortunately I have not found this to be the case in the West.
To build a strong foundation you also need to know how each of the four primary energies within tai chi flows through the different moves. These are the four energies and brief martial applications:
Push hands is not fighting itself, but is a two-person exercise that develops most of the skills and types of power practitioners will need in combat, both open-handed and with weapons. Normally, you first learn empty-handed and then later practice with a variety of weapons.
There are four styles of push hands:
If you love tai chi and have not discovered push hands yet, you are in for a treat as it is a special practice that is both fun and what many call addictive.
Push hands is not fighting or even sparring. So you have to make the jump. There are three methods that get you from push hands to sparring:
In all three of these transition methods, the focus is on gaining the skill to recognize what energies inherently defeat what other energies.
Sparring has a hundred times more variables to be handled than Push Hands. Yang Lu Chuan is said to have spend six years learning only the fighting and sparring strategies of tai chi. Free-style sparring is quite different from actual life-and-death combat. People respond very differently when they feel their survival is at stake as opposed to when only winning and losing is at risk.
From the traditional tai chi perspective, fighting called lan tsai hua is push hands with the following added:
The classical fighting training exists on two levels. The lower level is concerned pragmatically with how to hurt or kill your opponent. The highest level, acheived by the famous Yang Lu Chuan who was called "The Invisible," is where, instead of hurting your opponents, you are able to throw them some distance through the air without hurting them at all, using nonviolent fa jin. An opponent who is not physically harmed is often relieved of an inner need to seek revenge.
Here is a short video clip from the Tai Chi for Beginners program which is a bonus to the mastery program:
The internal martial arts are very powerful but their effectiveness requires full commitment, time and dedication. Whatever you interest level, 20 minutes several times a week or as something you do as a profession, I believe that tai chi gives you back more than you put in. I think knowing these four stages can help you if you are just starting off or even if you are a teacher of the art, especially if you are interest in tai chi as a martial art.
Finally I want to mention that within the Mastery program, if you are a martial artist, I follow this classic progression with a focus on the first two stages giving you as much of the internal knowledge that I could fit into 50 plus hour program . This includes building a solid form with neigong components, tai chi standing postures, understanding the classics and an entire series on tai chi push hands.
We have also included 2-DVDs which focus on using the four energies of tai chi in fighting applications. After that you will need to find a Live teacher to go through the next two stages. If the group decides I will do some additional Live sessions on martial applications.
Whether you study with me or with others, my hope is this information has been useful to you. I look forward to seeing those in the mastery program at the events and interacting through the Live lessons I will be giving each month.
I recently returned from a three week instructor training in a chi gung practice called “Gods Playing in the Clouds”. This intensive was held at Menlo College near San Francisco and I’d like to share some details about my experience.