Taijiquan and Fighting Skill

lean with backFor many people, it’s hard to believe that an internal martial art such as Taijiquan can be effective as a “fighting art.” Though fighting or martial skill was apparent in these internal arts (baqua, xingyi, taiji) in the late 1800’s…there seems to be less and less progression of fighting skill amongst taiji practitioners. This, of course, is because taijiquan skill (gong) is aquired only through years and years of diligent practice. The second piece of the formula is to have a masterful teacher that is both knowledgable, and giving of his/her teachings. It is obvious that the promotion of health and wellness has done wonders for the growth of taijiquan, however, there exists the ‘lost art’ of application. To know taiji, one must (eventually) venture towards the skills of feinting/dodging, grabbing, throwing, neutralizing and hitting.
(this post should not be interpretted that I think fighting skill should be of “priority” in taiji practice. Taijiquan, in form practice, should be on nurturing qi (yang sheng) and cultivating a deeper connection between your mind (yi) and your body/actions)
The complete martial artists, on the other hand, should never neglect the training of the fist (quan), but never before gong (foundation skill)

Any thoughts…


~ by chencenter on January 14, 2008.

14 Responses to “Taijiquan and Fighting Skill”

  1. As a martial artist that has practiced different styles for over 18 years, as well as holding a Master’s degree in Exercise Science, the martial applications are abundant in Taijiquan. The postures, punches, and kicks actually incorporate principles of biomechanics (how the body should move according to its structural design and physics) that increase power and accuracy as well as provide stability throughout the range of motion. Not only does the art have multiple health benefits such as reducing the risk of falling in elderly people, reducing blood pressure, relieving stress, etc., but also provides a fighter effective skills that would aid in a street-fight or even a mixed martial arts match.

  2. Chris- well said. anyone disagree? (i.e. Wang Xiang Zhai, founder of YiQua/Da Cheng Quan said: “Taijiquan practice results in the erratic stimulation of the nervous system. Such practice is only good for wasting time… The art of Taijiquan only works on paper.” What about this statement to prompt a discussion???

  3. Interesting question.

    I think the problem stems for those who teach Taijiquan or other internal arts. Most practitioners of these arts do not spent the time and effort in their training learning both the theoretical/philosophical underpinnings of the art, the form and movements that make up the form and art. Most take up the internal arts as a hobby or something extra and thus their practice reflects it. I would like to say that most westerns in America have mystified the internal arts as something mystical or spiritual. These arts were created first and foremost for fighting. Too much emphasis has been placed on health or the health aspects and they (the practitioners are not doing that portion correctly). Either you have a school for martial arts or for health. As Yang Chenfu said “There is only but one way” Too many people are trying change this art into something else. This is from their lack of understand of the movements, postures, techniques, philosophy and theoretical underpinnings.

    I spent ten years of my life learning the five major styles Taijiquan and have only began to truly understand not only the theoretical underpinning of the art, the applications of the movements (fighting techniques), but also the context. This is where people fall off. The principles of Taijiquan are the same, but the expressions of the movements are different. The old school way caused students to drop out from the master’s tutelage, both those who became unbeatable. Keep in mind, there are still a few of us who practice the old school way under great instruction. Research Professor Wang JuRong, Professor Helen Wu, Master Liang Shouyu, Master Bomani, Master Lucy Wu, and Dr. Wu Chengde for starters. Instructors have watered down Taijiquan training to meet the masses for money and have forsaken the true art of Taijiquan and thus those watered down students have opened up schools teaching false information. People are unaware of the true art of Taijiquan and other internal arts and have been lied to for many years.

    It also helps that I studied changquan for many years as well. However Taijiquan can not be masters in one two or three years, it takes a life time and years to first get the form down then the theory, then finally the applications. Americans are not willing to put in the years to gain a full understanding of Taijiquan. Further, Taijiquan is a Chinese martial arts system which mean there are basics that have to and must be done as well as practiced on a regular basis. Just as one practices football, basketball, etc with the basics, so does Taijiquan.

    Don’t get it twisted there are still true practitioners of the old school ways and can not only speak about Taijiquan, but show it both in form and in combat, however we are hard to find.

    The ultimate problem with this discussion is false students teaching learning from other false teachers who have not fully understood the fullness of the totality of Taijiquan.

    People who make statements of the following

    “”Taijiquan practice results in the erratic stimulation of the nervous system. Such practice is only good for wasting time… The art of Taijiquan only works on paper.”

    Not only do they not practice true Taijiquan, they have a fundamental lack of experience revolving around the internal martial arts system, its theory, the philosophy, its historical development, or its applications. Such comments should not be taken into consideration by true practitioners.

  4. well said everyone. I think those who don’t realize that Taijiquan developed from battlefield arts and that some people still teach that side of it have no clue. Then again if someones only exposure is something like Taoist Tai Chi Society, it’s easy to see how people can think “oh it’s like a chinese yoga dance!” speaking of mma does anyone know of any fighters with a Chen style (or any TJQ) background? There’s lots of BJJ,Mui Thai, etc. It seems like chen style locks and throws and elbows would be just as effective. I’ve noticed alot of parallels between MT and Chen style as far as elbows, leg kicks and knees. Any thoughts?

  5. Interesting post (and responses). The reality today is that most martial artists in the “developed world,” regardless of style, are not developing serious fighting skills. We live in a relatively safe society where martial skill isn’t usually a necessity. On top of that, modern life has many obligations and distractions. Most people don’t have the attention spans needed for real training and just aren’t going to commit to seriously learning a martial art. Martial arts training for most people is going to be some sort of side hobby, where they’ll want to see some sort of relatively quick progression (like getting belts for example) to stroke their egos and give them a sense of accomplishment.

    Taijiquan training itself, in its modern incarnation, isn’t conducive to achieving true martial skill. There’s just too many people with no real understanding and only teaching for the health/spiritual aspects; as a consequence, the art in general is getting watered down. IMO, there’s too much of a mindset in taijiquan that form and push hands are the be all and end all of training. If we were all Zen masters who could clearly perceive the connection between the taijiquan principles and training methods without fighting experience, form and push hands training might suffice. However, the human mind for most people just can’t perceive very far outside of direct experience. To understand martial applications and possibilities, there has to be some experience with fighting situations (though hopefully trained in a safe environment). IMO, that fighting experience is going to have to come from outside of taijiquan from cross-training or at the very least interacting with practitioners of other arts.

  6. Johnny- Great to have you on here! Wonderful points in your comment to what seems to be “the big question.” The disappointing reality is that many people don’t ever consider Taijiquan as being a fighting art. The other disappointing reality is that many students… and even instructors don’t see it as such either. Several teachers are doing well at promoting the fighting aspects such as: Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Chen Zhonghua, Ren Guang-yi and Chen Xiaowang (are the main ones that I know of). The biggest group to be promoting this fighting skill seems to be the Chen Zhaokui Institute (you can find some of their videos on youtube). And although I think that fighting experience CAN come from inside taijiquan (with the proper teacher), for most individuals…I’ll agree…it takes ‘some’ cross training and lots of dedication.

  7. Try Erle Montaigue’s methods at the World Taiji Boxing Association. They’re a notch up from the last mentioned attempts at Taiji fighting skills. But it’s nevertheless true: there’s not enough fighting to test any such skills. Someday though there will be, political upheaval is inevitable.

  8. Re: “false statements” – the master who made this statement, Wang Xiang Zhai, is one of the major figures in neijia. Saying Wang knows nothing about neijia is sort of like saying Bruce Lee knew nothing about ranges of combat and mma.

    I think Wang would say the thing that’s missing in modern taijiquan is zhan zhuang. Notice among neijia, only the yiquan folks seem to consistently do: 1. zhan zhuang 2. hard sparring.

  9. Steven- Love Erle Montaigue. I watch his youtube vids all the time. He goes further in depth with Baqua… but I love how he mentions the exact points and describes the application as beautifully as he does.

    Neijia- Wang Xiang Zhai, who made the (above) comment regarding taijiquan, was a tremendous fighter and innovator of the martial arts. I respect him highly. I didn’t read over all the comments… but I don’t think anyone said that Wang knew nothing about neijia. Undoubtedly he was one of the higher skilled artists that ever lived… especially because his methods were tried and tested.. time-and-time-again. I DO think Wang was a bit near-sighted when it came to his opinion of taijiquan. Zhan Zhuang IS an integral part of taiji training… but hard sparring is never emphasized. Fighting skill rests in both… but noone will become confident, focused and competent as a fighter wthout the dent of hard work and of hard, and playfully serious, sparring. Thanks for the comment

    • Hello,
      I love! this discussion!!! as an chen stylist for 15 years I started out of frustrating with Yiquan. I did it for 2 years now and it boosted my taiji great forward and opened the doo for the understanding of taii application. but to really become a fighter i have to go out and do some sparring. but no time for that. myabe in the future when i finished my Yiquan Curriculum, which is really big…

  10. flying_phoenix said:

    People who make statements of the following

    “”Taijiquan practice results in the erratic stimulation of the nervous system. Such practice is only good for wasting time… The art of Taijiquan only works on paper.”

    Not only do they not practice true Taijiquan, they have a fundamental lack of experience revolving around the internal martial arts system, its theory, the philosophy, its historical development, or its applications.

    I think flying does not know who Wang was. If the rest of us believe he was one of the best, we should carefully consider and seek to understand his criticisms, not get defensive and say a master of neijia does not understand neijia.

    Personally, I think his statement is made in part because if one practices a long form, the nervous system and mind/body connection is not stimulated in a focused way like it is in Yiquan’s shi li. Not impossible, I guess, but more difficult.

    I personally like taijiquan. However, what is often missing in modern taijiquan practice is heavily emphasized in yiquan. Those of us who take Wang’s criticisms to heart should think about the overlap and what that means to our personal taiji practice, imho.

  11. Another great comment. Nothing to argue about in your comment, however, one may never really know Wang’s true feelings about taijiquan. I’ve found… with several of my teachers, that occasionally they will say something strangely (often intriguing) that offers “a shock value” to the students. I would believe that Wang had an inward respect for taiji since yiquan came from and uses a great deal of taijiquan’s theory. I also believe that the translation might have been a bit harsh, and possibly done with the sole intention to illicit a response. The word “erratic” has (or should have) no place in the description of taiji. Then to follow it up by saying it is a waste of time,…. i mean… come on! Fishing is a waste of time, golf is a waste of time… but they can be enjoyable. Taijiquan is about spirit (first and foremost) and using the spirit to great movements…movements in celebration and/or reflection of Life. People who want the full curriculum of Taijiquan must also learn the fighting set. enough said! Thanks again for commenting Neijia!

  12. […] Taijiquan and Fighting Skill « . . : : CHENCENTER BLOG : : . . […]

  13. Most of the times i visit a blog I notice that most blogs are amateurish. On the contrary,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

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