Yesterday I searched for new tai chi videos on Youtube, to update my knowledge in the subject, which I do from time to time. Anyway I came across a local TV program on the state-of-the-art of combat training in some tai chi schools in Hong Kong. In internet forums, in particular in the Chinese language ones, there have been endless debates about the combat effectiveness of tai chi. As the program showed, some tai chi schools in Hong Kong still hold on to this insistence of tai chi's combat effectiveness as its primary raison d'être.
Combat effectiveness however does not come as theoretical concepts. Its way of testing differs under different times and circumstances. In the modern world where fair competition is the norm rather than the exception, the effectiveness of combat training must be tested upon fair competition. In China, during the last decades, a new system of pushing hands competition, with rules trying to favor the tai chi pushing hands methods, has been invented, and it has enjoyed popularity among combat eager tai chi practitioners in the Mainland at first and later to other Chinese societies. Without going into technicalities, fair to say those with prior experience in wrestling will have definite advantage - which has been echoed by some traditional tai chi practitioners who preferred a more tai chi friendly approach towards combat pushing hands.
How about mixed martial arts? Isn't is a good test if tai chi practitioners can join the game and prove themselves? If not the professional types then the more sport-like/point scoring type called San Da? Some time ago, I read a book by a middle-aged Wing Chun practitioner (famous for his combat techniques and it was said that he was on the same league as the legendary Bruce Lee as far as Wing Chun is concerned). As a middle-aged sifu he no longer can prove himself in the modern ring. He took on the challenge of training a few young Chinese young men. He got financial supports from enthusiasts, rented a place in a rural area of China and started training the boys. The master believed that given him three years of full time training his students using the traditional methods he would be able to train up at least one or two fighters who could win medals in China's national San Da competitions. Unfortunately, as he wrote in his book, his students never made it. After three years of training, some left and those who stayed on couldn't get good tournament results. Nowadays kids have too many attractions, they couldn't persevere with hardship facing their training, the sifi sighed. With all due respects to those sifus who hold onto the combat tradition of tai chi and not afraid to test their art in modern fair competitions, they have to understand the reality of modern combat. The fact is nowadays no decent martial artist will accept any test of his combat skills except in the fair competition in the ring. These sifus should not despair either, for one thing, the combat skills and techniques of traditional martial arts were not created with the modern competition system in mind.
Having said that those who are interested in modern day competition can use some of the better training method of traditional martial art (in particular in the area of body structural building), in addition to whatever training methods that are applicable to the competition a martial artist chooses to face. The key is to win a competition (or to heal our body and mind, in the area of healing), rather than insisting on whether or not: This is real tai chi!
|Combat tai chi sculpture|