Wahnam Taijiquan, Tai Chi Chuan

Kicks, which are important in Taijiquan, are never or seldom found in Aikido


I have practiced various forms of external martial arts in the past including Karate and Thai Boxing. I always have a fascination with both Aikido and Tai Chi. What advantages there are in Tai Chi over Aikido? My aim is to develop my spiritual side as well as my self defence skills. I appreciate this may be a difficult question but any insight you may have will be much appreciated.

— Craig, USA


This is not a difficult question. In fact the question is both important and interesting. The answer is also not difficult. For those who are informed or have direct experience of genuine Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido, the answer is obvious. It is only a difficult question for those who mistakenly think that Taijiquan is merely slow, graceful forms.

I would like to point out that my answer here is from the perspective of Tai Chi Chuan. You should also consult Aikido masters to have the other side of the picture.

I use the term “Tai Chi Chuan” instead of “Tai Chi”. In my webpages, Tai Chi Chuan refers to an internal martial art, whereas Tai Chi refers to a form of external dance-like exercise. Tai Chi Chuan is spelt as “Taijiquan” in Romanized Chinese, but in China today Taijiquan, which is one of the seven categories of wushu, is also practiced like an external dance, devoid of internal and martial dimensions.

To me, Tai Chi Chuan is superior to Aikido in all the four aspects of martial arts, namely form, force (or skill), application and philosophy.

The form of Tai Chi Chuan is often described as poetry in motion, whereas Aikido form, though beautiful by itself, lacks such depth of artistry. This, of course, is my personal opinion. Tai Chi Chuan form is systematic, designated into patterns, sequences and sets. Aikido does not have such facilities.

Wahnam Taijiquan, Tai Chi Chuan

Taijiquan patterns are poetically named. This pattern demonstrated by Grandmaster Wong, for example, is called "Playing the Lute".

Each technique in Tai Chi Chuan is designated a name, which is both poetic and meaningful. Aikido does not have this advantage. If an Aikido master wishes to express a technique, he has to describe it in words, such as “Move in with your right leg, grip his arm or wrist, use your hip for leverage, and throw him backward onto the ground.”

To express the same technique, a Tai Chi Chuan master just has to say “Carry Tiger Back to Mountain”. His instruction is precise, and his students would know exactly what to do, whereas students of the Aikido master may not know the exact movements of the technique described in more words.

More significantly, because Tai Chi Chuan practitioners all over the world and throughout the centuries share the same vocabulary, it means that someone practicing Tai Chi Chuan today in the United States can benefit from the teaching of a master living in China two hundred years ago. Aikido students do not have this advantage.

The internal force of Tai Chi Chuan is fantastic. Without having to hit sandbags, carry weights or run a few miles a day, a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner, who may be an elegant woman of 60 years old, can spar for a few hours without feeling tired and comfortably handle able-bodied persons half her age and double her weight. A 60-year old woman practicing Aikido would not be able to do so.

The combat application of Taijiquan is complete; it can be used to handle any attacks. It may not be so in Aikido. Kicks, for example, are seldom or never used in Aikido to attack an opponent. The benefits of Taijiquan are directly applicable to non-combat purposes in daily life. The development of internal force and mind power in Taijiquan, for example, enables the practitioner to perform better whatever he does. Aikido is mainly concerned with advantageous use of momentum and leverage in physical movements, with little or no conscious training in energy and mind.

The great works and developments of Taijiquan by masters over many centuries have been richly recorded in classics, often in poetic forms. The resultant Taijiquan philosophy deals not only with combat but with holistic cultivation, leading to the highest spiritual attainment, called merging with Tao in Taijiquan, or returning to God in Western terms. Aikido, being a recent invention by just an indvidual, does not have such rich and deep philosophy.

Wahnam Taijiquan, Tai Chi Chuan

Because of internal force, an elegant lady trained in Taijiquan can handle a younger, bigger-sized man


Reproduced from Questions 8 in Selection of Questions and Answers — August 2004 Part 2

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