Applications and Free-fighting

Applications and Free-fighting

Postby Erik » Sat Jun 01, 2002 11:56 am

In a book that Chen Weiming wrote he stated that 'many people know how effective Taijiquan is for fighting but it's a shame no-one knows how beneficial it is to one's health' (paraphrasing 'cause I lost the book). You have to laugh at that because today it's almost the diametric opposite.

The inarguable fact is that nearly All the Taiji stylists in the earlier generations had quite a reputation for their ability to fight. I have to believe that this ability is part of Taijiquan's heritage.

Push Hands! say. I've found (and I actually train with professional fighters) that push-hands is amazing for teaching sensitivity and allowing one to practice proper body mechanics. The practice of push-hands has given me quite an advantage when it comes to entries (to apply techniques). But for me, in no way does it equate to fighting ability.

I'm talking about the whole process of entry - application - finish. Martial arts, with the advent of mixed martial art competitions and the global sharing of information, is going through an interesting period where people like me are starting to realize that the idea of a complete martial artist (good character, health & fighting ability) is achievable.

I live in Thailand and train non-cooperatively with professional Muay Thai fighters and practicioners of other arts. My background is in Chinese internal martial arts and specifically Yang Family Taijiquan. I'm actually beginning to be able to use my techniques from these arts quite effectively against some pretty tough opponents and it has only added to my art, abilities, confidence, etc.

I see training of fighting skills as a dignified practice if it's done with the right state of mind. I don't want to think that Taijiquan is going to become a joke with other martial artists but the fact is it is. As a Taijiquan practicioner - we simply don't (and don't want to) fight anymore. I've seen Taiji practicioners become visibly upset at my mention of "...using Taijiquan for fighting"

I'd like to talk to those of you who train Taijiquan as a complete martial art about your training progression. I was completely disappointed to see that the grading system in the Yang Family's Association had absolutely nothing to do with martial skill. Does anyone know if the theory part of the tests cover fighting strategy as well? I look forward to any replies.
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Postby Brandon Buhler » Sun Jun 02, 2002 12:51 am

Greetings Erik,

Do you recall the title of the book Chen Wei-Ming wrote regarding your first paragraph? In his book T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ta Wen translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Robert Smith, Chen Wei-Ming did say "Those who wanted to study the martial arts studied Taichi and those who wanted to teach the martial arts taught Taichi." Page 11,1st paragraph. I've not been able to find any other books by the great master redarding the hand form in English and if you know of any please let me know.

Something you wrote that caught my eye was the statement, "I don't want to think that Taijiquan is going to become a joke with other martial artist but the fact is it is."
Taijiquan is infact beneficial to one health as we all know unless however one is getting hit or fighting. In my humble opinion Taiji is a passive fighting style for someone who has truly mastered the art. Jou Tsung Hwa quoted Liyiyu (1833-1892) as saying "In the last 100 years only one or two individuals ever achieved total mastery in Taijiquan." Thats not to say there are not other individuals who have reached a high level. I have never heard of a master fighting regularly to prove anything. That is an extremly good way to pull the opposite of gaining good health. Especially regarding the circumstances of injuring another person if you weren't at that skill level to defeat a martial artist without hurting them as YCF was reported to be at, like prison time. Taijiquan isn't exactly (to some degree)an art that you can put on gloves and have at it. It is funny that health was infact a side affect to a very deadly martial art. In China before guns of course, your martial art was your lively hood. The better the fighter the more power or the safer you were. Complete systems of fighting were developed for those reasons, perfected. My question is if you are effectively able to utilize your techniques from these arts why are people laughing?

I think Lao T'zu said something I would like to leave you with
"Even the finest warrior is defeated when he goes against natural law
By his own hand he is doomed and all creatures are likely to despise him

One who know The Tao never turns from life's calling

When at home he honors the side of rest
When at war he honors the side of action
Peace and tranquility are what he holds most dear so he does not obtain weapons
But when their use is unavoidable he employs them with fortitude and zeal

Do not flaunt your excellence
Do not rejoice over victory
With loss of others weep with sorrow and grief
After winning a battle do not celebrate, observe the rites of a funeral

One who is bound to action, proud of victory, and delights in the misfortune of others will never gain a thing from this world below Heaven"

Best wishes in your training,

Brandon Buhler
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Postby Erik » Sun Jun 02, 2002 6:05 am

Hi Brandon,

It wasn't the Ta Wen. It was a book he wrote in the mid 1920's I believe but I can't remember the name of it unfortunately.

Brandon I'm not talking about becoming a thug. I'm talking about becoming a skilled martial artist in my chosen art(s) and a good representative of EVERYTHING the art has to offer. I take as my role models other gentlemen martial artists, historical and current, such as nearly every member of the Yang Family, Sun Lutang, Wang Xiangzhai, Cheng Manqing, Tim Cartmell, Joyce Gracie and countless others who embodied the principles they espoused (and fought). All of these men and more well respected as fighters, teachers, gentlemen and proliferators of their arts.

There is nothing undignified about practicing a martial art as a martial art. No one will argue the health benefits from studying Internal Martial Arts. I argue that the mind and body benefit even more by practicing the power exercises and training methods that good IMA fighters practice. Your form actually becomes shadow-boxing (wasn't that the point originally?) once you've practiced and internalized the usages of each movement. You become able to direct your intent even more powerfully, your body mechanics become more refined and your quality of movement and sensitivity increases. The physical and mental health benefits are even greater. This IS internal martial arts.

I apologize for saying that Taiji is becoming a joke. It's not necessarily - hey I love Taijiquan! I've spent over half my life practicing it. I just see it going the way of qigong and meditation when it used to be respected for being so much more. I'd like to see it stand up to it's former reputation and I personally believe it can as an art. As formyself I'm making every effort to realize (make real) my Taijiquan as a complete system without compromising principles, body-mechanics, health, character or martial skill.

I'm just trying to share ideas with like minded IMA stylists out there (specifically Yang Taiji stylists on this board) and hope to stir up more discussion on this aspect of Taiji.

Dong Yingjie wrote a pretty cool little paragraph (Yang Family Secret Transmissions) about training with friends and exploring the principles and techniques together. It's in this spirit that I believe we should be working on and discussing the practical applications of the movements in the forms.

It tickles me that the first response to a new thread on an old aspect of training was responded to in the negative. Go figure.

Good Training - Erik

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited 06-02-2002).]
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Postby Michael » Sun Jun 02, 2002 5:56 pm


Loazi speaks about what is natural. What "he" warns against is trying to order things according to your desires. If you buck the tide, try to push things, go around issuing challenges (in the martial manner), trying to build up a reputation, you are looking for trouble, trouble of your own making and a "making" that will find you.

I have seen this type of behavior in many, but rarely in taiji people. the very foundation of taiji teaches us not to go about things in the way of a thug. The thug type rarely will stick with tiaji, he is usually someone from a different art trying to pick up new techniques. They rarely stick around.

You don't have to train martially to get health benefits. But I tell people all the time, to get the full health benefit you really have to train the martial side, which frankly calls for more training time and a deeper focus which benefits the body and the mind.


I think we are in total agreement. It would be good to have some technique discussions here a little more often. I look forward to more of your posts.

My best to you both,

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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Jun 03, 2002 8:48 am

Xie Bingcan once said to me something to the effect that mastery consisted in being able to use it.
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 06, 2002 3:21 pm

Hi All,

Here are 2 applications that really work well for me in push hands and free sparring derived from Single Whip and Single Whip Lower Gesture.

Single Whip - Opponent strikes with his lead hand (right foot forward). You (left foot forward and on the outside of his) block and grab/stick to it with your lead hand and swing a right palm-slap to his left ear.

He raises his right hand to block/protect his ear. As inside of your wrist/fore-arm hits the outside of his - stick/grasp and pull his arm out away from his body 90 degrees from his base-line to pull him forward a bit (your hook hand being a wrist-grasp). Release with your left hand and bring your left fore-arm across his chest/throat/jaw and keep the pressure on arcing him backwards as you take a sight step behind his lead leg with your left foot. If you do the chopping motion fast and hard as a strike it's even more effective. He should fall straight down at your left foot.

Lower Gesture - This one I'll talk about in the context of Push-hands. Each of you are pushing with your left foot forward, free-style stationary step. Grasp his left wrist with your right and immediately pull it away from him to your right side (the hook hand being a wrist-grab). Immediately squat down low pulling him over your shoulders as you take your left hand right up between his legs. You should now stand up with him across your shoulders in what a wrestler would call a "Fireman's Carry". You can either slowly set him back down on the ground or slam him right over your shoulders in a proper throw. (remember in the classics where it says " Lower Single Whip the hand invades the opponent's private parts..." This particular application is the basic one I teach my student's first as it looks just like the form when it's being done and uses exactly the same "jin" or "wave of force". It's a HUGE throw in that the opponent starts his downward fall from over 5 ft in the air. To add extra impact force, as you feel him begin to fall, maintain the grasp with the right hand and just slam him down like you would whack a ruler on a desk.

Both of these applications can be done at full-speed and power without hurting the opponent. Or you can hurt him, it's up to you. I often use the first one, up to the wrist grasp, to set up the throw - then do the "fire-man's carry" version stepping in between his legs as the throw itself. Often just playing around with my students before class I'll use Single Whip Lower Gesture to pick them up on my shoulders. I sometimes have my students do this to each other (fireman's carry-esque) because it's easy to lift someone heavy up on the shoulders without hurting yourself. Then have them do squats with the extra weight or weight-shift exercises.

Hope I explained it clearly. Too bad I couldn't download a video of them.

Good Training - Erik
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Postby Audi » Sat Jun 08, 2002 1:01 am

Hi Erik,

Thanks for your contributions to the board. I had a question about your Single Whip application. Do you see your initial block as going from right to left, left to right, or either? I ask because I am trying to link this up with the "Yin/Yang Fishes" discussed on one of the other forums.

Take care,
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Jun 08, 2002 2:10 am

Hi All,

I agree with Erik *and* Brandon about tcc as a martial art. Erik's remarks concern the "how" of tcc as a martial art; Brandon shows his concern about the "why." Both sides are necessary . . . well, imo, needed in order to be rounded. Tcc certainly contains excellent methods for protecting oneself or harming others. In that, however, it is not much different from most other martial arts --as Erik attests; one can hardly find a more "different" form of ma than muay thai. Imo, although several tcc masters of old were renowned for their martial prowess, they are not the reason tcc became so popular. It was seen as a jewel of Chinese culture that manifested all the highest martial and moral (civic) values, one of those being the prolongation of a healthy life. I don't think this was because of any statistical analysis of longevity; it was because the *ideal* of longevity, common to Taoist thought, was incorporated into the exercise. Of course, one way to (everyone's) promote longevity is to avoid fights. That's why Brandon's citation is so accurate. At the same time, the quotation also recognizes that there are times when it is necessary to fight. This implies, imho, that it is also prudent to prepare for that eventuality. OK, not everyone needs to do this. Warriors are a special part of society: that includes firefighters, policemen, soldiers, and also nurses and others who put their lives at risk for others. Anyway, for me, those are the proper reasons to refine the martial element of one's tcc: i.e., to be better able to serve. OTOH, doing the form won't be sufficient, but it is just as productive for promoting a healthy mind and body. Oh well, sorry for the sermonette.

Steve James
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 13, 2002 4:30 am


It's not so much a block, per se, as it is a gentle re-directing of the attack with your left fore-arm. The funny thing is - it works both ways.

Generally I try to get to the side of the opponent so in this case I would make contact with the INSIDE of my left forearm and re-direct the opponent's right attack so that it ends up going towards my right side. Don't push it down - re-direct it to the side smoothly (... to somewhere under your right armpit).

It works the other way too and actually resembles the form more as well. But it puts you square in front of the opponent and I generally try to avoid that.

Good Training - Erik

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited 06-12-2002).]
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 13, 2002 5:05 am

Roll-back, Press, Push series.

You begin with your right foot just to the outside and behind the opponent's left foot. Opponent has the left foot forward. You are holding the opponent's lead wrist with your left hand and have his elbow in the palm of your right hand (a wrist & elbow control position).

You push the whole arm forward as if you're trying to drive the opp's shoulder into his ear. He should respond by wanting to bend his arm at the elbow.

At this point you push his elbow up and over to your left causing his arm to twist over and he will probably bend forward at the waist. (you have mis-aligned his central axis, hip and shouler alignment and the level of the crown, eyes and shoulder and you are now controlling his center via his arm.) He's ripe for a forward fall or roll.

You simply weight drop, shift back and roll-back with your arms. You absolutely must keep the leverage (pressure) on with your right hand or fore-arm on or just above his elbow. Keep his elbow bent at least 45 degrees. The intent is trying to make his fore-head touch the ground somewhere directly in front of him. The attack angle being 90 degrees perpendicular to his baseline (the line from one ankle to the other).

At this point he will do one of two things - either a face-plant or a forward roll. This is an application of Roll-Back.

If the opponent was sensitive enough he will have countered like this - as he felt his elbow rise up and begin to be leveraged over he will file his palm past your left hip, straighten his arm, sink his elbow and hips - simultaneously. The same way a good Da-Lu player would. It's exactly the same movement as that found in Da-Lu except he won't be in a position to shoulder.

At the point you feel him begin to regain his structure you should respond by maintaining your grip on his left wrist and gently pull keeping the slack out of the opp's left arm.

Slide your lead elbow over his arm, lay your fore-arm across his chest keeping the pressure directed towards the center of his mass making him want to shift back.

Twist/rotate your body to the right and come face to face with the opp and shift forward. Your right palm facing your face in order to keep the elbow down. As if your palm is a mirror and your admiring how good looking you are. (Twist first THEN shift forward) He should be leaning back by now. Put your left hand on the inside of your right fore-arm and Press sharply and quickly aiming to the floor. He should be on his butt in no time. This is an application of Press.

His counter to your press will come when you slide your elbow over his arm and attempt to lay it across his chest. His best counter would be to grab your right wrist with his right hand.

If he does this - shift back ever so slightly, grasp his right wrist with your right hand (exchanging the grasp) and pull it across his body to your right side so that he faces you squarely. Sometimes this alone is enough to make him fall. He should be well twisted up by now. Place your left hand on his right shoulder and Push forward and down keeping the forward pressure with your right hand as well (slack taken out of his right arm). This is an application of Push.

Hope you like the applications. Good training - Erik

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited 06-13-2002).]
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