Taijiquan combat

Taijiquan combat


I am looking for a master who really knows how to use Tai Chi for self-defence. Here are some of their websites. How can I know whether or not those masters know how to use Tai Chi for self defence?

— Ming, Malaysia


As far as I know, the Tai Chi masters and schools you mentioned do not normally teach Tai Chi Chuan for combat. Indeed very, very few schools in Malaysia or anywhere else in the world today, including in China, teach Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art. Most of them teach it as a form of recreation.

Some Tai Chi schools, especially in the West, teach combat application. But unfortunately they do not use Tai Chi Chuan skills or techniques for their combat application; they use other martial techniques like Boxing and Kick-Boxing.

There are a few ways to know whether a Tai Chi Chaun teacher (or a teacher of any kungfu style) can use Tai Chi Chuan (or any kungfu style) for combat. The most obvious, of course, is to see him engaged in combat, such as actual fighting or friendly sparring.

One should note, however, that the issue is not whether he will win, but whether he can use Tai Chi Chuan for combat. In other words, even when he wins but if he uses Kick-Boxing in his fight, then it does not show he can use Tai Chi Chuan for combat. On the other hand, even when he loses but if he uses Tai Chi Chuan in his fight, it shows he knows Tai Chi Chuan combat application.

An indirect way is to see whether his students can use Tai Chi Chuan for fighting. While it is true that it can be possible, though unlikely, that his students can use Tai Chi Chuan for combat but he cannot, it may be a better option, because it is you, the student, who want to be combat efficient in Tai Chi Chuan. Today it is not uncommon that while the teacher is a good fighter, his students do not know how to fight.

Asking a teacher to show you whether he can fight, is both impolite and risky. He may hurt you to teach you a lesson. But politely asking whether his students can demonstrate some combat applications may be permissible. Nevertheless, there are some hitches. Someone may give a good demonstration of combat application but still be unable to fight in a real situation. On the other hand, if a teacher refuses to show, it does not mean he can't. In my young days, when people asked me whether kungfu could be used for fighting, I usually asked them to attack me to find out — not necesarily in an unfriendly manner. Now I usually don't bother.

There are, happily, more civilized ways to find out, but you yourself need to be combat efficient in kungfu to do so. If you have been trained to use Tai Chi Chuan or any other styles of kungfu for combat, you would know whether another person can also do so by watching his performance of some Tai Chi Chuan or other kungfu patterns. It is like if you know how to play football or a musical instrument, you would know whether other persons can also play football or a musical instrument by watching how they handle a football or a musical instrument.

For example, it is obvious to the initiated, though it may not be clear to you, him and his students, that the Tai Chi teacher in the video you showed me, does not know how to use Tai Chi Chuan for self-defence. If a Karate or a Taekwondo black-belt were to attack him, he would be beaten badly.

Notice that in the Pushing Hands demonstration his stance is exposed throughout and his partner's hands are on his body, which means an opponent would easily kick his groin or strike his chest in real combat. Had they been practicing combat application, they would have learnt the hard way from direct experience that such weaknesses would cause them many hits.

Notice also the way the teacher pushes his students. His back foot is lifted, causing him to be uprooted, and he pushes like splashing water upward in a sea. The students are pushed back not by his force but by the students jumping back themselves.

The above is taken from Question 8 of May 2008 Part 2 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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