Tai chi chuan training

Most people don't realise that tai chi started life as a martial art...
150 years ago tai chi chuan was the pinnacle of the Chinese martial arts.
Hard to believe?

Tai chi chuan is only taught to students who join the school:

• Kung fu (combat)
• Self defence
• Weapons
• Qigong (energy work)
• Neigong (whole-body strength)
• Forms
• Pushing hands
• Meditation
• Theory & philosophy
• Chin na (seizing)
• Shuai jiao (take downs)
• Jing
• Form applications
• Kicks, punches, palm strikes
• Finger strikes, elbows, knees
• Accuracy
• Evasive footwork
• Optimal use of alignment
• Minimal movement
• Conservation of energy
• Defence against a knife
• Multiple opponents/gangs
• Joint locks
• Trapping
• Focus
• Stickiness
• Physical sensitivity and awareness
• Balance, rhythm and timing
• Throws
• Escape from holds
• Close-range combat
• Grappling
• Defence whilst on the floor


Do not use tension

As soon as you use tension, you have failed.
Even if you eventually prevail, it has cost you an unnecessary amount of effort and is not taijiquan.

Correct use of alignment, timing, pressure and positioning will enable you to skilfully defend yourself.



In a tai chi class, a qualified master with decades of experience is overseeing your progress.
This means that faults in body use will be identified and gently corrected.

Bad physical habits can be slowly removed and replaced with healthy, intelligent alternatives.
Small errors will continually emerge and these too can be curtailed.
New, stimulating skills and insights ensure continued enthusiasm and curiosity.


Do not rush

When you lack composure, you are easily startled.
This leads to hurrying. And anxiety.

Instead of patiently waiting to see what unravels, you dither, hesitate and anticipate.

Rushing indicates a lack of competence.
It is obvious that the student has not put in the practice.

When you rush, you force.
Forcing causes your opponent's nervous system to inadvertently tense-up in reaction to your urgency.
This alerts them to your intention and makes them harder to manipulate.


Body building and weight lifting are fashionable activities today. The emphasis is upon developing external muscles which creates an armouring effect that can eventually distort the bony structure. It is the over developed musculature that actually torque's the bones and discourages them from bearing additional weight. The body attempts to compensate and problems arise.

Running does not necessarily in and of itself improve posture that is already poor and constricted. It often exaggerates problems due to the substitution of inappropriate muscles. The repetitive inappropriate development of the musculature (as in body building or weight lifting) often leads to diminished sensitivity. Stress occurs in the knees and lower back, encouraging injury.

Swimming is an activity that can either create structural problems or release them depending upon the way it is taught and practiced. Professional swimmers are known to develop shoulder tendonitis and kyphosis. Overriding head/neck righting reflexes (as occurs when the head is repeatedly turned but the body does not follow) eventually result in overdeveloping shoulder muscles, pinching nerves and distorting the rib cage.

Various sport activities emphasize strength, endurance and speed. Development of muscle control rather than skeletal balance takes precedence. Gaining speed at the expense of mounting tension, is too often the goal.
(Liz Koch)


Tear & repair mentality

The drawback of sport and mainstream exercise is that the emphasis is not upon good body use, optimal alignment, emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing.
The onus is upon the outcome rather than the process involved.
There is the pressure to win, to succeed, to perform, to be the best. Or to look good; muscular, trim or sexy.
People push themselves and the body can suffer.

Seeking to repair the body afterwards is not as smart as avoiding injury in the first place.


A tonic

Taijiquan is not going to fix you up. It was never intended (or designed) to be something employed for repair. At best, it may be seen as a tonic.
A tonic is a medicine taken daily in order to maintain and invigorate the body.It may significantly improve your health.
However, you should take note of the small print, the conditions of use:

  1. It must be administered every day 
  2. When you stop taking it, the health benefits go away
This is something to really think about. Re-read the paragraph if you need to.


Stay calm

If you lack composure, you will not see what is right in front of you.
Being calm is utterly essential.
You need to remain detached, emotionally aware and at ease.

This is the real reason why beginners practice 'escapes'.


A young boy travelled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist.
When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the sensei.

"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.

"I wish to be your student and become the finest karateka in the land," the boy replied.
"How long must I study?"

"Ten years at least," the master answered.

"Ten years is a long time," said the boy.
"What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?"

"Twenty years," replied the master.

"Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?"

"Thirty years," was the master's reply.

"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked.

"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way."

(Joe Hyams)


Partner work

There are three rules in partner work:
  1. Stay calm
  2. Do not rush
  3. Do not use tension
If you ignore these, your taijiquan simply will not work. Try as you might, nothing will be successful.
Internal taijiquan only works if you follow these basic guidelines without deviation.