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Tai Chi Chuan and Self Defence

Let me begin with an observation from the early seventies, for five years I worked for Mecca Entertainments Limited in Disco’s and Nightclubs, in this charged atmosphere I came across many who were considered to be very effective street fighters. These individuals did not train in any martial arts, did not enter ‘competitions’ and did not have any moral code as such.

However, what they were all good at was listening to and harmonising with their opponents, they were able to instantly analyse a given situation and were able to respond effectively to any attack from whatever position they found themselves in. The responses were spontaneous and swift, formless but in the final analysis perfectly formed. They learnt their skills in real combat situations.

Let me say that I am not advocating becoming a street fighter, but the great Tai Chi Chuan Master Yang Lu Ch’an was said to be known as ‘Yang the Invincible’ how did a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner gain such a formidable reputation, and what has happened since to create a great deal of confusion as to whether Tai Chi Chuan can be used as a self defence system as effective as any street fighters.

In the first instance the majority of teachers and practitioners of the arts do so for health benefits discarding or even denying the martial aspect of the arts. Thus the quan(fist) in Tai Chi Chuan has over many years been in decline – with a few notable exceptions- as many even take of the quan and we end up with Tai Chi in the advertising.

Secondly Tai Chi Chuan practitioners rarely cross train, in the sense that they not enter competitions against other styles such as jujitsu for example. Finally it is traditional for the martial artist to follow a code of contact which is against aggression- a moral code I totally agree with.

However it is my contention that Tai Chi Chuan can develop the street fighters effectiveness. The characteristics of proficient Tai Chi Chuan practice is fluid movement in all directions, of being able to coil and release one’s power, it teaches full body movement whilst being at one with your environment, and finally it gives the practitioner their arsenal of strikes, kicks and bumping techniques.

In skilled hands the practitioner is taught how to develop sticking ability, learning to defend oneself against attacks from all angles, but more importantly learning how to remain balance under pressure, so tthat one can be economical, efficient and effective when assessing any given aggressive situation.

The forms and standing practice make you strong, 100% focus gives you the edge, the rest is intent, the ability to change your mind quickly if you feel an attack is imminent and act accordingly. However the real possibility in Tai Chi Chuan is the ability to mould with your environment in such a way that aggression never comes your way.

Street fighters do have all the skills and abilities which can be trained through the practice of Tai Chi Chuan, what they do not have is the understanding that there is a unique strength ‘in not being there’, for this is true self defence, but this can only be gained in Tai Chi Chuan from the confidence that comes from a true understanding of the ‘quan’ in Tai Chi Chuan.

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