Wisdom and Power: A Philosophical Approach to T'ai Chi

Chapter 7:
How to Fight

"But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil."
- Matthew 5:39

The "Grand Strategy" of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is to completely accept your opponent's attacking energy, and to follow it without resistance. If you can do this without fail, you can never be defeated. In order to be knocked down or otherwise harmed, you must provide resistance: no resistance, noarm. It is exactly that simple.

It is difficult for most people to understand how a system of movement based on non-resistance, which has the slow, graceful, dancelike character of T'ai Chi really can be an effective means of self-defense. I know I had this difficulty when I first encountered the art, particularly since I had been practicing a "hard" style of Kung-Fu for several years, and "knew" full well that sweat and muscle were the primary ingredients that went into making a tough fighter. The fact is, however, that T'ai Chi is not only effective for self-defense, it is widely acknowledged in the Orient to be th most powerful of all the martial arts. When I entered T'ai Chi training - as a skilled hard-style fighter at the peak of physical condition - I was flabbergasted to discover that my elderly, 120 pound instructor could throw me around as easily as if I were a helpless kitten! This incredible "strength through non-resistance" is well-known throughout the martial arts world. Yang Lu-chan, the founder of the Yang family school of T'ai Chi, travelled widely throughout China for many years accepting all challenges, and was never defeated. T'ai Chi Ch'uan is indeed the "Supreme Ultimate" boxing.

Yet there is a good reason why far more people study the hard, external styles of Kung-Fu, despite the acknowledged power of T'ai Chi; and it is simply that the soft, internal system requires greater perseverance to master, since it takes more time to begin to see tangible results from the training. After only a few lessons in one of the external arts, you will be able to kick, punch and block demonstrably better than you could before you began; whereas after a few T'ai Chi lessons you will probably feel better, but will have little to show in the way of concrete abilities. The T'ai Chi approach requires that you completely change the way you move, and that you totally "re-program" your nervous system's habitual response to aggressive energy. This takes time, as well as a dedicated willingness to "invest in loss." Most students are simply not prepared to accept the uncomfortable, ego-deflating period of "helplessness" you must go through while learning to accept aggression rather than resist it. Changing ourselves is never painless or easy, and the bigger the change, the greater the emotional difficulty. Still, for those willing to pay this price, the rewards are great.

I believe that a comprehensive understanding of T'ai Chi can ease (and speed) this difficult period of change considerably, and that is one of the reasons I have gone to such lengths to emphasize the abstract spiritual and philosophical basis of the art. It is important to understand the relationship between the broader subject of T'ai Chi as a whole and the fighting style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, which is the relationship of general to specific (or macrocosm to microcosm). T'ai Chi is a general model of the structure of all existence, while T'ai Chi Ch'uan is one particular (physical movement) expression of the T'ai Chi model. As such, every principle of T'ai Chi as a whole applies to the fighting style, but "narrowed" to relate specifically to physical movement and combat. For example, the Universal "Law of Change" is represented in T'ai Chi Ch'uan as the pattern of movement and Ch'i flow in your body; the principles of balance and non resistance are represented as physical balance and non resistance to physical attacks, etc.

You can expect, therefore, that the practical fighting techniques I am going to discuss here will sound quite familiar to you if you have grasped the general ideas of T'ai Chi up to this point. In all cases, they are the same principles I have discussed all along, but applied specifically to physical combat.

As I begin to go into these specific combat strategies, you may notice that the chapter takes on a slightly different "tone" from the rest of this book - a bit more pointed, a little less all-embracing. There is a reason for this. We have seen that in the broadest sense opposites are really only different aspects of an underlying unity, that conflict is illusory, and that all human values are relative and dependent on a particular point of view for their validity. In a fight, however, you must assume such a particular viewpoint in order to successfully protect your life. In the cosmic scheme of things, whether you as an individual live or die is relatively unimportant - the Universe will adjust and continue to unfold in its orderly, balanced and loving way no matter what. But if you hold the view that your physical survival is unimportant, you will likely fail to survive the fight; for your opponent will not consider the outcome so irrelevant.

This should not be confused with "narrowing" your consciousness - you should always be aware of the broader perspective, and this awareness is what gives the fighting style of T'ai Chi its serene power. You are merely faced with the necessity of adopting a particular frame of reference through which to act, as you must do in any physical activity, even tying your shoelaces.

In other words, once you find yourself in a situation where someone is physically threatening you and intends to do you harm you must decide either to submit to his intentions or to defend yourself. If you decide to defend yourself, a fight results, and winning the fight demands your full attention and singleminded pursuit. There is no room for doubt, uncertainty or divided effort. Of course you cannot know in advance that you will win a fight, but you must know that you will do everything in your power to win. If you do not intend to win, do not fight. ("Winning" need not mean the annihilation of your opponent. It is sufficient to render him unable or unwilling to continue his attack.)

Our unique objective in this chapter, then, will be to discuss what is necessary to win a fight.

To win a fight you must have a consistent overall strategy, specific tactics, and the ability to apply these at will to any particular circumstances. The bulk of this chapter will be divided into three sections that will consider each of these areas one by one; but before you can get the maximum benefit from these detailed instructions, it is vital to completely grasp the "grand strategy" of T'ai Chi fighting, to understand how to fight without resisting your assailant or opposing his energy in any way.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan is process oriented rather than technique oriented, which simply means that rather than memorizing a lot of particular moves to be used in particular circumstances, the T'ai Chi training develops certain qualities of movement, energy control, balance and awareness, which are then applied spontaneously as the situation requires. The process being followed is the Law of Change. Everything follows this law, and your opponent's attacks are no exception. If you can sense your opponent's energy-flow and move your own body in accordance with the patterns of the Law of Change, your movements will naturally anticipate those of your attacker. You will never be where he expects you to be, because you will know where his expectations are leading his energy in advance, and will simply move somewhere else.

No two T'ai Chi fighters will respond identically to the same attack, because they will use their own judgment and imagination spontaneously, but they will both use their energies and control their bodies in precisely the same way. The essentials of this way are balance, relaxation, and the conscious control and direction of Ch'i. These three attributes are the necessary prerequisites of being able to follow your opponent's energy without resistance, and they are so inseparably linked together that it is more sensible to treat them as one thing than as separate qualities. Loss of any of these attributes results in the loss of the others, while strengthening any one of them inevitably strengthens the others as well. These three attributes together reflect the quality I will refer to as being "on point."

In simple terms, being on point means following the Law of Change while remaining fully in the present moment.

*This results in the maintenance of balance because the position appropriate to maintaining balance is constantly shifting in a fight. If consciousness is occupied with the previous moment, or with anticipation of the next moment, it cannot perceive what position is appropriate to the maintenance of balance now, and may therefore be easily unbalanced. It is impossible to conduct a successful attack or defense from a position of imbalance.

When you are unbalanced, you are impotent for the moment - both time and energy must be used to regain balance, and this time and energy are then not available to deal with your opponent. If he is balanced while you are not, his advantage over you is decisive; and vice versa.

Being on point results in relaxation because muscles become tense in anticipation of future action or memory of previous action. Muscles are controlled by consciousness, and when consciousness is fully in the present moment it can clearly see whether a particular muscle is accomplishing any current purpose by being contracted, and if it is not, stop contracting it. This frees vital energy which would otherwise have been tied up in tension, and prevents you from being "locked up" muscularly, promoting fluid, spontaneous movement.

Being on point results in the conservation and efficient direction of Ch'i because the flow of vital energy is directed by consciousness. When consciousness is fully in the present moment it is aware of the preise direction and quality of Ch'i that is needed at each given instant in the constantly changing ebb and flow of conflict, and can direct it there through relaxed and open meridian channels.

The most important quality a fighter can possess, and this is not merely a philosophical consideration but a practical prescription for successful combat is the ability to stay on point: to be fully in the present, and to allow the consciousness to flow unhampered from moment to moment without attaching to anything. In one sense, this is the only quality it is important to develop, since every other ability required to fight effectively will result naturally from the ability to stay on point. A fighter able to stay on point completely, without ever wavering, would be theoretically unbeatable.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan training is designed to develop the student's ability to stay on point in a fight - period. Fighting ability follows automatically from the ability to stay on point.

This is one of the differences between the external and the internal approaches to fighting: external styles emphasize developing the techniques of a good fighter, like speed, power, effective combinations, etc. The nei chia emphasize developing the source of all effective technique, which is staying on point. In order to follow your opponent's energy and avoid offering it any resistance (including the resistance of your face being in the way of his fist), you must be fully in the present moment to be able to see exactly where that energy is at every instant. Technique is useless if you cannot apply it in perfect harmony with the instantaneous circumstances of the situation, and this can only be accomplished by never leaving the "here and now." You cannot rely on reflexes, because they are too slow: by the time your eyes flash the message "a fist is coming" to your brain, and your brain processes the information and sends the message to your muscles "move to the left," the fist will already have arrived! You must already be moving when the fist begins its attack, which you can only do if you have been attentively following the flow of your opponent's energy that led up to the moment the attack was launched.

In fighting, it is important to avoid becoming fixed in the rigid framework of any classical style, viewpoint or theory, but to keep moving and changing viewpoint. Any theory of movement and combat, even the most esoteric, is a human structuring of something that is really beyond the logical structuring of the human mind: an attempt to understand fighting by fitting it into a consistent and rationally coherent pattern. But a fight is reality, and demands continuous flexibility to deal with. No theory can subsume reality.

The best fighting training is therefore the building up of the fighter's ability to sense energy and to deal with it spontaneously by exercising harmonious control over his own energy. The ideal fighting training develops the fighter's ability to effectively move in any manner his heightened awareness perceives necessary without prescribing what moves should be made in any situation - since every situation is in fact unique. Anything which increases your (conscious) dominion over your own body and your ability to sense and follow energy, also makes you a better fighter.

The most valuable training device in the internal arts is the T'ai Chi Ch'uan form, which I will discuss in greater detail in the next chapter. Unlike an external form or kata, the T'ai Chi form is not a sequence of particular attack and defense combinations (although each move does have many practical applications, some of which will be illustrated). Rather, it is a sequence of generalized patterns of movement which are highly efficient, and which maintain balance, promote relaxation and direct the Ch'i in clearly defined paths while avoiding its dissipation in other directions. Practicing this form is not a way of memorizing what to do in this or that particular situation, but of developing the ability to move your body efficiently along the patterns of the Law of Change while remaining on point, from which position you will be able to respond appropriately to any particular attack, since you will always be in the right place at the right time.

Please reflect on this carefully and try to understand it fully before going any further. It might be a good idea to put the book down and take a break at this point. In the remainder of this chapter I am going to deal with specific tools and situations in fighting, and it is important to recall that these things are secondary to developing the ability to move on point, and their mastery results from that ability. Do not approach them as primaries.

STRATEGY

* The first thing to remember in a fight is to avoid meeting force with force. When force meets force, both forces are diminished, but the stronger force is diminished less, and is said to have "won." When force is met with non resistance, only the force is diminished; first because it is spent uselessly, and second because it results in imbalance which costs energy to recover. Therefore meeting force with force always results in the depletion of vital energy, and if the opponent is stronger, leads also to inevitable defeat; while meeting force with non resistance does not deplete the energy, and protects you from harm.

* When pushed, pull; when pulled, push. In this way you will keep your balance while unbalancing your opponent. An unbalanced opponent is vulnerable to attack until he regains his balance. No matter how fast or strong your opponent, he cannot defeat you if you keep him unbalanced while maintaining your own balance.

* Move in circles. Circular movement is continuous and flexible. There are no straight lines in nature, and life itself moves in circular (cyclic) patterns. Let your body follow the Law of Change: linear motion is committed to a single direction and must be stopped and restarted to move in another direction. This is unnatural and inefficient; it results in the loss of speed, energy and balance. Both your hand movements and your footwork should be continuous and circular, whether the circles are small and imperceptible or large and flowing.

* Be spontaneous. Avoid planning elaborate attacks or trying to follow through memorized combinations. Energy changes continuously in a fight, and no action will have exactly the effect you intended. If you are committed to any plan or direction, you will be unable to respond as the energy changes. Learn what can be done, and when the opportunity presents itself, do it - then forget it and address yourself to the next moment.

* Maintain intention. Once you are convinced that you have no alternative to fighting, you must intend to follow through to the limit of your ability. Resolute intention keeps you on point and breaks down your opponent's resistance. Even an instant of doubt about whether you should continue to fight or whether you should take advantage of whatever weakness your opponent presents to you will pull you away from point and lead to your defeat. To be conscious of the idea that you can always give up if you are losing is little better than giving up at the outset. If giving up is an acceptable alternative to fighting, then you should give up at the beginning; but if it isn't, it isn't, and to hold that idea in your mind inhibits your ability to fight effectively. If you are in combat you must put your entire being into it without wavering.

* Know your opponent. Pay close attention to him, sense his energy, try to understand what he is doing. Do not separate yourself from him by fear or anger, for you will have cut off your most important asset - the ability to attune your movements to his. Feel his emotions, study his habits, sense his intentions, identify his strengths and weaknesses. No two people fight identically, even people who have studied the same system for years. You must remain open to what your opponent is doing, blend your movements with his, treat him as a unique individual to whom you must respond individually and uniquely.

* Extend your Ch'i. Your vital energy is powerful and virtually irresistible if you can control and direct it. Practice and contemplation will make you aware of this enerfy and teach you how to use it; in a fight, keep a still mind and let your Ch'i flow. Damming it up in tension or unnecessary movement weakens both your ability to deal with your opponent and your resilience to his attacks. You have no doubt heard of martial arts demonstrators who are able to withstand powerful punches to the throat or sledgehammer blows to the abdomen. These stunts are made possible not by the strength of the demonstrator but by the Ch'i flowing through him which protects his body from harm. When your C'hi is flowing freely you will be able to direct it at your opponent or use it to deflect and neutralize his attacks. Never forget that a fight is a conflict of vital energy - it is not two bodies or two sets of muscles which fight each other. A body without Ch'i flowing through it is suitable for nothing except burial. Bodies do not fight each other: it is the Ch'i of the combatants which is in contest, and the Ch'i uses the body as a vehicle to express itself. The less resistance your body gives to the free flow of Ch'i, the better you fighting ability will be - whether you master a single technique or not.

* Relax, relax, relax. There is no more important lesson to learn in fighting than the value of staying relaxed. All natural athletes are relaxed, as are all of the best fighters of the animal kingdom. Consider cats, for example: they are fast, powerful, and push their bodies to the limit in the direction of achieving their goals. But they do not waste an ounce of energy on unnecessary movement or awkward body positions, fidgeting, etc. If you observe a cat stalking his prey, you will find both his body and mind to be clear and tranquil until the moment for action arrives - then he is able to move with uncanny speed and accuracy, because he is not "tied up." By learning to truly relax in even the fiercest combat situation, you will develop an alert flexibility that will allow you to attack or defend with tremendous speed.

Relaxation also enables your body to move as a harmonious whole, in concert with the pattern of your opponent's attacking energy. This relaxed unity of motion makes every move far more powerful and effective while simultaneously assuring that your opponent encounters nothing but soft emptiness when he attempts to attack you.

TACTICS

Stances - A stance is the way you stand when you are fighting. The stance you adopt determines your ability to maneuver, maintains your balance and provides a firm base for your techniques. A weak or poorly balanced stance, or one which is difficult to move from, is an inestimable handicap in a fight. It is wise to have a variety of stances at your disposal, since different situations make different demands of a stance. As the energy flows in a fight, you will need at times to be light and maneuverable, able to move in any direction instantaneously and cover a lot of ground. At other times you will need to be solid and firmly rooted to the ground in order to neutralize a strong attack or to deliver a powerful counterattack. All of the stances of the T'ai Chi form are both strong and flexible, and can be moved into and out of smoothly.

Illustrations 7.1 - 7.3
T'AI CHI STANCES

In addition, you will develop variations of your own as you begin to understand the nature of body movement and can relate the requirements of a fighting stance to your own body type, weight, center of gravity, etc. It is wise to learn them in strict form first, however, before modifying them to suit yourself, so that you will know from direct experience what is required of an efficient stance. In practicing stances, you should keep these criteria in mind:

* Any stance which you cannot maintain comfortably (after practice, of course) is an improper stance. A stance must be natural and unstrained.

* Never place yourself in a position which strongly commits you to one direction. A light and maneuverable opponent can simply dance around such a stance and attack your weak side. You must be able to move out of any stance quickly and at will, otherwise you will have chained yourself and made a gift of your weakness to your opponent.

* Keep your center of gravity within your base. Your feet are the base of the stance, but your center of gravity changes according to the position of your upper body. If your spine is straight and erect, you center of gravity will be around the T'an Tien in the center of your abdomen. A plumb line dropped from this center of gravity must always fall between your feet or you will be unbalanced and overcommitted.

Illustration 7.4
CENTER OF GRAVITY PLUMBLINE

* Strike a balance between stability and maneuverability. The lower to the ground your center of gravity, ther more stable your stance will be; but placing it too low to the ground makes it difficult to move from. Therefore you should lower slightly when the situation demands solidity, and raise slightly when rapid and unexpected movement is required. But this variation must be kept within limits, because the energy balance in a fight is constantly shifting and the appropriateness of a stance can change with lightning rapidity. You must be ready to meet any unexpected situation, to flow with what is actually happening at the moment. To plan a solid attack and trade your flexibility for committed strength is to cast your fate to the winds.

* When fighting, keep your stance moving and changing. This will keep your energy flowing and ready to respond, and will also keep your opponent confused and unable to accurately judge your distance, your direction of motion and your points of strength and weakness. Move circularly, but vary the pattern and tempo of your movements. Avoid at all costs repetitive or predictable movement; the Law of Change follows an orderly pattern, but this pattern can express in an infinite variety of ways. If your opponent is able to figure out where you will be at the next moment, you are lost.

Kicking and Punching

There are many ways of kicking and punching, most of which are effective in the right circumstances. Try to keep these things in mind when attacking:

* In punching with a closed fist, keep your wrist straight. Of the punch connects solidly, a bent wrist is a broken wrist.

Illustration 7.5
STRAIGHT-WRISTED PUNCH

* An open-hand (palm) punch, although it has a few inches less reach than a fist, is far more solid, and may easily be converted to a grab or claw. Similarly, a kick with the ball of the foot (behind the toe) has a few inches more extension than a kick with the heel, but has much more "give," and cannot deliver nearly the solid power of the heel kick.

Illustrations 7.6 - 7.8
PALM PUNCH -- BALL KICK -- HEEL KICK

* Sink and root. No attack can be powerful, no matter how strong or fast, if it does not have a firm base from which to take off. A common mistake of inexperienced fighters is to come up on the ball of the foot when punching or kicking. This severs the root completely and makes the attack far less powerful. Keep your heels on the ground when attacking, and use your Ch'i to root your stance to the earth.

* Put your whole body into the attack. The arms and legs have limited strength, and chi will not flow through them if they are not moving in harmony with the rest of your body. In a punch, for example, start the movement in the soles of your feet, gradually straightening the rear leg. To this, add a forward twisting motion of your hips. Let your shoulder follow, and throuw the punch with your arm on top of this motion. By moving in this way you will be A) faster, since the motions of the different parts of your body are additive, B) stronger, since your Ch'i will be directed into the punch, and C) more balanced, since you will be preserving the unified integrity of your movement instead of sending one of your members flying off half- cocked in disregard of the rest of your body.

Neutralizing

* When your opponent attacks (with a kick or punch, for example), you must take some action to avoid being hit. Various defensive tactics may be employed, including blocks, slips, parries, dodges and retreats. In T'ai Chi we rely on following the opponent's energy in order to be in the right place at the right time, and concentrate on a general type of defensive strategy called neutralizing. This simply means that instead of absorbing the impact of a blow, you should take some action to balance out its force without resisting it, to render it neutral.

There are many ways of accomplishing this. The simplest, of course, is just to ,move out of the way of the attack. When this happens, the force is spent uselessly in the air and is neutralized by your opponent's imbalance. This is the very best way of neutralizing an attack, and should be used whenever possible. If you are not hit, yuou cannot be hurt, and your opponent's unbalanced position after failing to connect provides an ideal opportunity for counterattack.

Whatever mathod of neutralizing is employed, you must be able to sense your opponent's energy and movemend so that you can move in perfect coordination with it. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan tactic for establishing this sensory link between you and your opponent is known as ward-off.

Ward-off is one of the repetitive movements of the TC form, and consists of lightly extending your leading arm to contact your opponent's attack; then using the information received from this contact to guide the coordinated movement of your entire body in such a way that it pushes you out of the way of the attack, allowing it to slide effortlessly past you. Remaining in light contact then allows you to follow the spent attack back to its source. The ability to use ward-off in this way is the purpose of pushing hands exercise, which I will discuss in depth in the following chapter. The essential point is to keep the contact extremely light and to follow your opponent rather than resisting him.

By using ward-off and judging your positioning and movement carefully, you can stay at the very limit of your opponent's ability to reach you, so that to attempt attack he must extend himself a great deal; while you have only to move a few inches to place yourself beyond his reach. You can do this by retreating, but circling around or under the attack is far preferable, because you will be immediately in a position to counterattack. If you have to stop your retreat and reverse your direction to attack, your opponent will have that much more time to regain his balance and defenses, and you will have upset the smooth continuity of your own Ch'i flow.

Illustration 7.9
WARD-OFF

In addition to moving yourself out of the way of an attack, another useful technique of neutralizing is to use a minimum of force do tedirect the attack away from yourself. If a powerful punch is coming straight at your face, it will take an equal amount of power on your part to stop it before it reaches you. However, it can be gently pushed to the side with only a few ounces of force, and allowed to continue on its now harmless course. Again, it will spend itself uselessly and become neutralized by unbalancing your opponent.

In neutralizing, no resistance is the rule. Never meet force with force, or attempt to stop an attack by blocking it. When you block (stop) an attack, you are merely substituting being hit in a comparatively well-protected area for being hit im a more vulnerable one; but you are still being hit. You still receive the force of the attack, and you do not unbalance your opponent, since his kick or punch connected with a solid target, as he intended. He is still in a strong position to continue his attack with other techniques, while you are recovering from the force of the blow. This is a foolish way of meeting an attack.

Rather, you should adjust your positioning according to your opponent and be ready always to avoid or redirect an attack with a minimum of force on your part. The illustrations at the end of this chapter will give you some ideas about the way neutralizing is accomplished in particular situations. As is the case with all of the tactics we are discussing, the best way to master neutralizing is to practice, practice and practice some more.

Timing and Positioning

Timing is more important than speed. Positioning is more important than power. The old adage about being in the right place at the right time is nowhere more important than in a fight. Even a slow and weak fighter can easily defeat a fast and powerful opponent if he can arrange to be in the right place at the right time.

How do you arrange this? By understanding, sensing and following his energy through ward-off and visual feedback, and superior strategy.

In many respects, man is very poorly equipped to fight compared to other animals. He has no claws or sharp teeth, his reflexes are slow, and he is very weak for the size and weight of his body. But he has one powerful fighting tool that no animal can match - his mind. Being a good fighter demands intelligence, understanding, calculation and sensitivity.

When fighting, be observant and alert. Watch your opponent's energy flow and do not place yourself where he will be strong. Rather, stick to his weak spots. Keeping your own balance, draw him out; make him overextend himself, than take advantage of his imbalance. Place yourself always where your opponent must move farther to attack than you must move to avoid the attack.

Sense the direction of his Ch'i flow, and do not stand in its line. When he attacks, let him sail past you and lend a gentle assistance to his downfall.

In timing, wait for the moment of your opponent's retreat to attack. When he has punched and missed, he must withdraw the punch and regain his balance. At that moment your attack will be successful.

When you become sensitive enough to identify the moment your opponent has unalterably committed himself to attack along a particular line, that is the moment to attack him from another direction. His commitment will render him unable to respond rapidly.

Practice non-resistance, and rely on your intelligence and understanding of the Law of Change. It will confuse and anger your opponent to see you dealing with his powerful attacks in a relaxed manner, and his anger will make it yet easier to perceive his energy patterning and take advantage of good timing and positioning.

SOME PRACTICAL EXAMPLES

This brief discussion of fighting principles has barely scratched the surface, compared to all there is to know about fighting; yet it has touched on the most importan factors that contribute to the ability to fight. If you continue the study of T'ai Chi Chuan beyond the limits of this little volume, you will become familiar with types of attack other than kicking and punching, such as locks, takedowns, grabs, claws and throws. You will learn to attack his acupuncture points and vital organs. But in all that you learn, you will find these few principles, and particularly the ability to follow you opponent without resistance - to stay on point - the primary requisites of a good fighter. If you study fighting for the rest of your life, you will spend more of your time working on these few things than on all the rest put together.

To five you some coherent idea how all these principles can be applied in actual practice, I am going to illustrate a few typical attack and defense situations and demonstrate how a trained T'ai Chi fighter might respond to similar circumstances. In glancing through these illustrations, please bear in mind that the most important thing is the general non resistive method of dealing with energy, not the particular techniques. A thousand other techniques would work equally well for a T'ai Chi practitioner who remains on point and follows his opponent's energy without resistance.

Bearing this in mind, let's look at at a common type of attack: a straight punch to the face.

Illustrations 7.10 - 7.13
Straight punch sequence

Rather than blocking the attack, the defender in this example simply shifts his weight to the side so that his face is no longer where the punch is aimed. Simultaneously, he lightly contacts his opponent's attacking arm with his crossed wrists and turns his left heel outward, preparing to follow the attack in the direction it is already moving (7.11).

Unexpectedly encountering empty air instead of a firm face, the attacker loses balance forward (7.12). The defender lightly grasps his wrist and leads him along the line of this imbalance, stepping out at the same time.

The attacker now falling rapidly off balance, the defender twists his wrist slightly, bringing him down, and pushes the ellbow while pulling up the arm to immobilize the assailant in a painful elbow lock (7.13). Alternatively, the elbow could have been dislocated with an open palm strike.

Illustrations 7.14 - 7.17
Wrist-grab sequence

A type of attack frequently encountered by women is depicted in the situation of illustration 7.14, where the attacker has grabbed her wrist and is attempting to pull her forward.

After resisting slightly to cause the attacker to pull more firmly, she suddenly steps forward in exactly the direction he is pulling her (7.15). This causes the attacker to lose his balance backwards, and relieves the pressure of the pull. She continues steppint into him and circles her arm clockwise (7.16), which releases the grip and leaves her assailant ready to fall on his back.

At this point she can step forward once more and direct her Ch'i into an open hand punch to his short ribs - which will easily break - and send him sprawling. She could just as easily have attacked his groin or solar plexus (7.17) along the line of his retreating imbalance.

Illustrations 7.18 - 7.22
Choke sequence

Here is another example: the attacker in Illustration 7.18 is stepping up rathe forcefully with the intention of choking the defender.

As the attacker's choking hands hear his throat, the defender places his right hand under the assailant's left wrist and wraps his left hand above his opponent's right wrist. (7.19).

Taking a small step backward, he splits the attacker's arms, leaving the forward thrust of the attack with nothing to connect with (7.20). Naturally, the attacker loses balance forward.

Lightly grasping the attacker's wrist or sleeve, the T'ai Chi defender pulls him in the direction he is laready moving - forward - and adds a twist by pulling in with the left hand and turning his own body (7.21).

As the attacker falls, he can be helped along with a strike to the face or throat.

I could continue such illustrations indefinitely, but I will stop here because I don't want to give you a catalog of T'ai Chi "moves" to be memorized. You should be able to see that the principles involved in these sequences are merely particular applications of the strategy and tactics outlined in this chapter. Knowing how to move and follow enerfy in this way will enable you to come up with your own techniques on the spur of the moment, and that ability is what the T'ai Chi training is aimed at.

Before moving on to the next chapter, in which I will present some very practical forms an practice exercises which can be used to build up the abilities described here, I want to remind you that the title of this chapater is "How to Fight," not how to show off or rough-house. You can have a great deal of pleasure practicing and working out with a partner under agreed-upon conditions; but please do not make the mistake of trying to use these skills to prove how tough you are in the local barroom. Such a use would only prove that you did not understand the art at all. Fighting is a serious business, not a game, and the abilities you gain in this area should be treated with the utmost respect and understanding.

Now, find a partner who shares you interest in T'ai Chi, put on some loose clothing and roll up your sleeves - it's time to sweat a little!


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