Notice things

The first indication of a growing sensibility for quietude lies in your capacity to notice the world around you.
Instead of driving past in your noisy car, you walk slowly.
You see.

Insignificant-seeming things catch your attention: a butterfly, a leaf, a flower, the sound of an insect or the call of a bird.
If you experience genuine awe and delight, then you are learning.


The dark side of the street

Finding quiet places requires some degree of effort.
They may be subject to time, day or season.

You might need to get up very early or stay up very late.
These places can be found.

In order to find these places, you must slow down.
You must want to step off the treadmill, into the shade and find peace.



There are quiet places to be found in every city and every town.
You just have to seek them out.

Lost places, where people seldom go.
Leaves overgrown the streets and wildflowers are abundant.
Nature flourishes.
The air is cleaner and there are no cars and few people.


A bubble of stimulation

Most people exist in a bubble.
They wake in their own home, get into their car and then go to work/shops/wherever.
There is seldom any time spent in the fresh air.

Homes, cars and public places are usually filled with noise and stimulation.
Visual images, flickering screens, twittering voices, gossip...
Where is the peace in your life?
The stillness?


Small circle

When you are accomplished with adjustment, a very small movement can be used to immediately affect the attacker's centre.
This imperceptible touch instantly renders the attacker subtly off-balance.
As the attacker seeks to re-gain the advantage, the student must continue to adjust themselves in order to maintain the uproot.

Presence, sensitivity and a lack of self-consciousness are all required.
The subtle adjustments taught throughout the Yang Cheng Fu form now come into play.
Overt, unnecessary stepping would break the connection between attacker and defender, rendering the tai chi ineffective.


Weight shift

Shifting the weight between the legs and turning the waist is an alternative to stepping.
It requires less physical effort and relies to a greater degree upon timing and accuracy.

Although stepping is a safer option when you are being attacked, you may not be afforded the time to step.
Skill with peng, listening and yielding is now paramount.


Functional stepping

Stepping enables you to remain close to your attacker: balanced, structurally aligned, relaxed, sticky and sensitive.
But it should not be arbitrary.
You should only step as and when you need to and then only in order to improve your positional relationship with the attacker.


Which form?

When speaking about the Yang Cheng Fu footwork, which form is considered?
Typically the long form.

This particular form is performed slowly whilst the several other forms are not so slow.
The weapons forms and pao chui form all require nimble footwork.

Also, there is more to the Yang Cheng Fu style than just form...



The function of adjustment is maintain the optimal position at all times.
This skill is trained throughout the entire Yang Cheng Fu syllabus with numerous partner drills teaching the skill.


Stepping in the form

During the long form stepping is minimal.
This serves a particular, specific martial purpose: adjustment.

Evading an attack is the first stage in countering the attack and this often - but not always - requires a step.
However, if your step is too large you will be too far away to remain sticky and deliver an effective counter.
Therefore, stepping is not about escaping.
It is about adjusting your positioning.


Yang style footwork

The Yang Cheng Fu style of tai chi is occasionally criticised on account of its apparent lack of dynamic footwork.
Usually the obese size of Yang Cheng Fu himself is cited as the reason for this.
This may be true but is not the real reason.



Sport tai chi, 1960's hippy approaches and Age Concern classes still predominate the public perception of tai chi.
It may never be possible to change this public image.
But you can still train the art with integrity.


Peter Southwood's tips #18 Power

Do not force, tense up or hold - just quietly do the exercises thoroughly and well.
Without exertion or strain.
Strength will follow.


Tactical skills

There are many tactical skills that must be applied in combat, including:
  1. 3-D
  2. 4 ounces
  3. Balance, rhythm, timing
  4. Becoming the centre
  5. Disintegration
  6. Energy drainage
  7. Entry methods
  8. Everybody falls
  9. Finishing off
  10. First hand, second hand
  11. Floor work (control)
  12. Folding
  13. Holding down the pillow
  14. Kinetic pathway
  15. Large rhythm, small rhythm
  16. Latent movements
  17. Mutual arising
  18. Neutral state/composure
  19. Newton's Laws of Motion
  20. Overwhelming attacks
  21. Penetrating defences
  22. Sparing yourself
  23. Unite upper & lower
  24. Yin body
  25. Yin/yang 
Proficiency in these skills will radically alter the effectiveness of your tai chi. 



The more closely your form follows the natural inclination of your body, the more likely you are to use the lessons it teaches in actual combat.
The accuracy of the form must pertain to the spatial parameters of groundpath, the strength of good alignment and skilful body use.



Tai chi classes that study the art martially need not train in a uniform manner.
They may never have anything like the martial credibility of judo, karate etc... but it is possible to train the martial art with integrity.

Trained properly, tai chi should offer all the same skills as any martial art.
And a lot more besides.
To accomplish this you need a comprehensive understanding of what 'internal' actually means.
It is necessary to recognise the differences between combat stances, strength training stances and performance stances.
Your art must be tailored to function martially.


What is martial?

Spend some time researching the nature of combat. See what other martial arts classes and styles are doing.
Gain an understanding of what combat entails.

Do you know the difference between a martial art and a fighting art?
Between fighting and self defence?

Is your class exploring a realistic range of martial scenarios?
How do you address fear?


Self defence

Tai chi combat skills can be used in self defence.

The self defence training should include:

1. Countering punches, kicks and grapples
- solo attacker
- multiple attackers

2. Countering a knife

3. Escapes
- from a wide variety of holds, locks and situations

4. Floor work

5. Gangs/multiple opponents

6. Weaponry

Gaining credibility

You may not be able to persuade the general public to believe that tai chi chuan is a credible martial art.
But you can still train the art properly yourself.

The main thing is to adhere absolutely to the guiding principles of the art.
These were outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
If your art deviates from these, then you have gone astray.

Seek tuition from a teacher who is committed to training an art that applies martial skills in a thorough and convincing manner.


Other internal arts

Baguazhang and xingyiquan do not suffer the same credibility problem as tai chi.
They have retained a more credible martial image.


Explaining the art

Explaining the art is problematic.
A verbal description will not capture the nature of the art, its complexity, nuances, skills and subtlety.
You will probably be faced with incredulity.

So, why bother to explain what you do?The menu is not the food.


Credibility problem

The lack of parity within the tai chi community means that the general public are unlikely to change their opinion regarding tai chi as a martial art.
With so many approaches; martial and non-martial all called 'tai chi' it is quite a mess.

By researching and studying various styles, people can easily understand the differences between tai chi approaches.

Realistically, is the average person interested enough to do this?


No consensus

There is no consensus in tai chi as to what needs to be taught in order for the art to function martially.
We insist that all martial students study:
This is not the case in many schools.


Martial classes

Within classes that teach tai chi as a martial art there are many interpretations as to how the art should be applied.
There are differences of style, perceptions of relaxation, sensitivity and softness.

One class may teach karate-esque practice that bears little resemblance to the art outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
Another class may be ultra-soft and subtle.


What is tai chi?

Unlike other arts, the words 'tai chi' encompass a wide variety of approaches:
  1. Tai chi exercise
  2. Sport tai chi
  3. Tai chi dance
  4. Tai chi-style exercise
To make matters even more confusing, some people teach slow-motion movement and call it 'tai chi'.



If you went to a dojo to study aikido then in all cases you should encounter a martial arts class.
Naturally, there may be significant differences in teaching and style, but all classes should be teaching combat.

Now, consider this in reference to tai chi.
When you go to a tai chi class what exactly will you encounter?


Public perception

If you told a member of the public that you were studying aikido, karate, ju jitsu or kung fu, they would instantly assume that you were learning a martial art.
There would be no debate.

If you tell somebody that you are learning tai chi chuan, the response might be quite different.
Not many people think that tai chi is a martial art.
And in most cases they are correct.



Commitment means attending lessons every week and then going home and studying some more.
Only by exploring the art between classes will you gain the complete health benefits of tai chi.


Cutting swords

Cutting with the sword tests your grip.
If you are not holding the handle correctly you will hurt your hand.



The patience is primarily with yourself: things are not going to improve overnight.
Your mind needs to calm down.
Your body needs to adjust.


Active learning

To actively learn tai chi you must first recognise the need for patience and commitment.
What you get out of a tai chi class depends on entirely upon how much you are willing to put into it...