Monday, August 27, 2012

Power training for combat tai-chi

Whereas a tai-chi practitioner may not (and for most will not) aspire to train himself for ring-combat, it is a good idea that he understands the combat training method or philosophy (for want of a better term!) of tai-chi combat training.  Why?   For the simple reason that the training objectives of any tai-chi practitioner should include a training for physical strength (how can one be considered healthy if he is weak in physical strength?), and the way for tai-chi to train physical strength is through a special tai-chi training for combat readiness.

The core training of combat readiness is to build physical strength.  And in its most pragmatic (and simplest) form is to deliver a powerful punch and its corollary, to block a powerful punch.  Indeed there are tai-chi practitioners who neglect training for strength and power, and justify their behavior through hiding behind the classic tai-chi combat-technique concept: Use four taels to move a thousand catty (四両搏千斤), without realizing that his opponent can use the same combat-technique but with better strength!   Not so for tai-chi practitioners who have actually fought in the ring.

That reminds me of legendary tai-chi master Zheng TianXiong (鄭天熊) who, together with his students participated in the KungFu free-fight competitions in the 1960/70's in Asia (albeit those were the days long before today's more vigorous Sanda or MMA fights).  Yet, in a ring, power is, almost, everything.  And master Zheng and his students used tai-chi's training method for power and strength training.  And the master passed along his training method in the form of the famous "24 style tai-chi Nei Gong".  

Straight punches and hooks have been the basic moves for any ring-fighters.  And there is indeed one style in the 24 that can be used to train powerful hooks the tai chi way.  I am talking about "Smoothly pull away the sheep" (顺牵羊). Interested readers can refer to my previous post Power generation in 24 styles Tai-chi Nei-gong for a better appreciation of the training method.

Needless to say, power training in tai-chi did not start with the 24 styles nor end with them.  Like everything else worth pursuing, there are always rooms for further perfection and development, for interested contemporary practitioners.


  1. It seems to me that if you can't apply what you've learned in a combative setting, then you're not doing it right.

  2. Very true, but oftentimes the problem is one ain't got no opportunity to apply what one has learned, if one doesn't practice for ring combat (like [amateurish] Sanda) Hence unable to ascertain whether or not one can apply what one has learned. And friendly sparring will likely give one a false sense of security, for both ring combat and street self defense, which may be embarrassing (hopefully not fatal) for the practitioner, should such a response is called for....

  3. I believe tai chi is also a gentle and a very effective way to reduce and relieve stress. The method is safe and the impact is low, which makes it permissible for people of all ages to perform. It is also suitable for pregnant women and is perfect for people with back problems, fractures, and osteoporosis. Tai chi, compared to different Chinese traditional martial arts, is less expensive and it can be done either solo or with company and in practically any place.

    Saundra Tosh

  4. Sandra, you're absolutely right, tai-chi and chi-kung in general can be very adaptive to different situations including the ones you mentioned, and also patients recovering from major diseases, like cancer; and also for aiding spirituality that one might like to pursue. Having said that, what is definitive about these practices is the generation of chi which a practitioner can feel, failing which it is just soft morning exercise rather than tai-chi. In my practice, zhan zhunag is the fundamental means to cultivate chi.

  5. Tai-chi is also considered as a form of exercise. Doctors recommend their patients to practice Tai-chi to help rehabilitate your physical and mental state. With Tai-chi, you can learn how to relax your mind and let you perform with more focus, and likewise, improving your body’s strength and flexibility.

    Hugh Motz

  6. I can't agree with you more, thanks for your input on this subject.


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