Monday, February 10, 2014

Tai chi and combat essentials

The art of combat, like any physical activity of demand, requires speed and power. A tennis player with weak serves is as ineffective as one who always fails to catch a fast serve. The practice of tai chi or any other traditional martial art, as a combat training system, necessitates training of speed and power, irrespective of training of specific combat techniques. In other words, any teaching of tai chi or any other traditional martial art that fails to offer a system of training for speed and power will fail its primary mission.

Nowadays the most eager young people interested in sports combat will more likely choose Muay Thai or mixed martial arts with well-tested rules and well-tested training method to promote safety and allow the execution of speed and power at the same time. Traditional martial arts have to reinvent themselves into either lighter weight combat training which put emphasis more on speed than power, or loosely grouped under the heading of for health purpose, which in some cases, even the objective to develop speed is being compromised.

Is there other ways we can reinvent traditional martial arts with their rich systems in training for speed and power? And shall we put back speed and power training methods into for health purpose?

In traditional martial arts there are indeed two traditional routes for the good application of speed and power training. The first is professional stunt training in opera performance and the second is amateurish training in lion dance performance. A modern version of the former is stunt training in movie productions, in particular those involving traditional martial arts. Nowadays lion dance has evolved into an interesting spectator sport in the East, and a physical training system sought after by some eager young people.

In the modern era, in particular in Japan, there are more innovative ways to make use of training method of traditional martial arts. Specific training methods of traditional martial arts have been included into those for training athletes, in particular in the area of Core strengthen and joints loosening. Moving heavy weights is also an area that some masters found interest in tackling. In Japan there are schools using traditional martial arts to train helpers in old people's home, so that these helpers can efficiently move old people around without hurting their clients and themselves in the process.

In the area of health training, more and more emphasis has been placed on power training for older folks. The reason is that old people need to strengthen their bones otherwise they come brittle. For them using tai chi (including zhan zhuang, standard form and nei kung) as a conditioning tool is far safer and more effective than weight lifting. Power needs to be emphasized in such training.

Nowadays people are seeking a more and more active lifestyle even to the very old age. As such, training for joint opening and more speedy response become necessary. Tai chi can offer much help in this area.

Foundation combat training in classical tai chi covers three areas:
  1. Core strengthening (low dantian and spinal cord conditioning)
  2. Joint loosening and related muscles/tendons conditioning (primarily our shoulder and hip joints)
  3. Connectedness, or externalization of core strength (muscles-as-one)
These are the base from which a practitioner can build on for his specific training objective.

Modern lion dance in Hong Kong


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