First rule of self defense

First rule of self defense

Postby DavidJ » Mon Jan 29, 2001 7:49 pm

While there have been many posts about the martial applications of many moves, I've seen no mention of the first rule of Tai Chi concerning fighting.

Simply stated: Never throw the first punch.

David

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 03-12-2001).]
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Postby Steve » Wed Jan 31, 2001 10:01 pm

I agree completely. Since everything we do is in response to the opponent's movements, it is difficult to justify striking first.

A most amusing incident occurred when one of my students, who recieved his first training in Aikido, and I attempted sparring in our respective arts. The result was the two of us standing in the middle of the room, staring at each other for five minutes before giving up.

How, after all, can one be sensitive to another's movements if one is the first to action.

Another, similar principle is: always defend, never attack. Attack requires strategy which clouds the approach, while defense allows you to remain clear and simply respond to the situation.

Steve
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Postby Michael Coulon » Thu Feb 01, 2001 3:29 am

Steve, while I agree that it is best to not "throw the first punch", I do not agree that remaining on the defensive is the best for self defense. The best defense is a good offense. Once you have responded to the initial attack, it is best to then take charge of the situation and end the confrontation quickly. T'ai Chi is an study in both Yin and Yang energies. If all you are doing is 'responding' to the situation there is a greater chance in a self defense situation that you are not going to be able to 'respond'. Responding in this Yin manner will increase your chances of getting harmed. It is better to exhibit Yang energy to overcome the assailant. There is 'strategy ' required in both ofense and defense, yet with proper training it should come down to instinct. You will react to a physical threat the way that you have trained to the most. This is why it is best to practice the form everyday and to practice push hands and applications to integrate the energies so that you react and won't have to think about it.
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Postby Audi » Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:19 am

This is an interesting discussion that seems to stem from the counsel to always follow one's opponent or not to move unless one's opponent moves, and then to move first. I have always thought of these not so much as a literal requirements, but rather injunctions to begin any encounter with listening energy (ting jin) and then to act appropriately.

I also think it is important to realize that the latter half of the principle of not moving is that when the T'ai Chi player moves, he or she is supposed to be so "reactive" that he or she must move first, rather than second. Similar to what Michael says in his post, I do not think that the emphasis is so much on favoring yin actions over yang actions as on engaging in the proper interplay of the two.

In my opinion, one of the great differences between T'ai Chi and Karate (for example) is that T'ai Chi presumes that through sensitivity any energy can fairly easily be transformed (hua) into another energy that is either harmless to the defender or that will lead the attacher into vulnerability if the attack is pursued home. The important thing then is to hear (ting) the attack coming, understand it (dong), and transform (hua) it into something useful. Every encounter is a product of the actions of both people, and so no result can be presumed or planned in advance.

Karate tends to treat the opponent as a target to be struck or a threat to be avoided, so that victory comes from superior strength, speed, and technique to get to the decisive point of contact quicker and with more power. When you see an opening to launch your attack, your opponent's actions are hopefully irrelevant, because they will be too little too late. The quality of the opponent's energy is really not taken into account.

If confronting a master, it is probably foolhardy to initiate any action that might expose weaknesses; but if confronting a mere mortal, I see nothing wrong with probing and testing for a response. You begin by feeding only small amounts of energy into the encounter, but if your opponent's response is not appropriate, you continue to up the ante.

After all, if what you "hear" after the beginning of an encounter is a yin response or a passive disposition, I think one must "follow" your opponent by "initiating" a yang response in order to comply with T'ai Chi principles. Initiating, however, does not mean that one pursues an attack home, because that would mean not "listening" to the opponent's reaction to your initial action. If your opponent cannot demonstrate understanding of your actions (dong jin) or of transforming energy (hua jin), why worry about exposing yourself?

I agree that thinking about getting in the first punch is not really consistent with the T'ai Chi approach of following one's opponent, but I think that feigning a punch or even initiating one is okay as long as you do not abandoning a "listening" attitude. In effect, you initiate a meaningless attack that triggers or forces your opponent to "move," and then you react appropriately.

You are simply asking your opponent a question and listening (ting) to see if they know how to respond. If your "question" meets no response, you press the attack home. If you hear (ting) an answer, but nothing more, you abandon your initial "attack" and probe somewhere else. If your opponent not only answers your question, but asks a question of his or her own, you abandon your attack and answer your opponent's question by "transforming" into a new probe/attack/question of your own.

Another way of saying all of this is that I think that the mere fact someone stands in front of you and by word or deed declares him or herself your opponent gives you enough yang energy to work with or is enough "movement" that you must now "move" first. I think the trick is in "moving" appropriately.
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Postby Blues » Fri Feb 02, 2001 2:57 pm

I have been following the thread of this discussion. I'm quite new to Tai Chi but I thought the first rule of TC is avoid getting hit, followed by open up your opponent, then take advantage of the opening. Again, let me say I'm a neophyte here so please let me know how far off centre I am.
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Postby Audi » Sun Feb 04, 2001 8:56 pm

Hi Blues:

Do you think your proposal for T'ai Chi's "First Rule" differs from what other martial arts advise? Have you practiced other arts? Although I am not a T'ai Chi neophyte, I think I have continued to cultivate a wondrous capacity to be more "off center" than the next guy and would be interested in your response.

My only quibble with your proposed rule is that you do not suggest a method for doing what you prescribe. When the threat stands before you and begins to close the distance, what do you do to "avoid getting hit"? What should you focus on in trying to "open up your opponent"?
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Postby Steve » Sun Feb 04, 2001 11:45 pm

Michael,

You are correct, of course. I think my maxim is not as detailed as it should be. It is rooted in the concept that so long as you remain without strategy, the opportunity to strike will present itself. In other words, attack at the first opportunity...not attack first. Therein lies the difference.

Ideally, since we don't want a drawn-out conflict that could lead to personal injury (or worse -- undue injury to the attacker), defense and offence should happen at the same time. Thoughts?

SB
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Postby Steve » Sun Feb 04, 2001 11:53 pm

Also, I don't think in a real threat situation it is necessary to bait your opponent, unless the fight is engaged. Yes, we respond to action, but we do not need to initiate action. Remember "If my opponent is still, then I am still." Stillness is as crucial to diffusing a conflict as action is to ending it.

Here, Bruce Lee's version seems to work:
"If my opponent is still, then I am more still. If he moves, then I move faster."
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Postby Michael Coulon » Mon Feb 05, 2001 6:00 pm

Steve, I think that you have worded your position much better. I totally agree the the defense and offense happen together. The dynamics of a self defense situation are such that the lines between offense and defense are obscured. I commend you in your postings on diffusing and not escalating a possible violent situation. In the martial arts one learns to fight so that one does not have to fight; better to resolve the conflict without taking it to the extreme. This may not always be possible, but you must respond to the degree of threat with the appropriate level of response. If someone is merely yelling at you the best thing is to ignore them and walk away (sometimes easier said than done). If you are at a club and an inebraited person pushes you, simply applying an arm lock to control the person so that no one gets hurt(yourself or the inebriated assailant) may be all that is required. If you are assaulted by a knife weilding mugger and you cannot retreat from the situation then use whatever is in your arsenal/bag of tricks to dispatch this one. As I have demonstrated, it is always best to avoid the confrontation, yet when there is a threat, respond to it with the appropriate actions.
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Postby Blues » Mon Feb 05, 2001 6:32 pm

Hello Audi:
In response to your questions - and please remember I'm new at this and do not have any MA background - unless you consider rugby a MA. I started my Tai Chi studies only within the last year. My first response to an aggressor is to get away without a confrontation, however when not given a choice but to defend myself I can only rely on one or two applications I feel comfortable with and have practiced - if a punch: from the ready position (Pei Pei), from inside block - rt forearm on inside of opponents wrist lft forearm to elbow ( just around "funny bone"),opponent is now opened up; join, lock out opponents elbow, turn from waist & take to ground - if a kick: (brush knee) block leg, opponent is now open; strike to most available target, i.e. groin/inside thigh, sternum, nose; lock out opponent's ankle or knee. Once the block has been initiated the opponent is opened up. Please help me here if I'm not on base and let me know.
I sense a great many people take up MA thinking they would like to be tough; breaking stones & boards looks cool to them. However, TC for me is a stress reducer, a moving QiGong, it's introspective and challenging - even though it is a MA I would hope that my life experience and the knowledge that I gain from my TC journey would allow me to apply my knowledge wisely.
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Postby Steve » Mon Feb 05, 2001 11:57 pm

If your only usable response is a block/punch combination, then use it. But what you just described is a lot of theoretical material that will reduce the speed of your response. Perhaps, as I said, consider using your waist to make both happen at the same time, i.e. the block contacts the offending arm at the same time that the punch connects with its target. This sounds hard, but it is only a matter of how much time you practice.

In the meantime, if you are new to martial arts, I would suggest you continue to avoid confrontations completely. Work on form. Until the form is really secure in your mind and body, all the theoretical applications and combative principles in the world won't make you a better or more secure fighter.

Best of Luck
SB
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Postby Michael Coulon » Tue Feb 06, 2001 12:52 am

Steve, this is excellent advice for 'Blues'. Concentrating on the form is of utmost importance. By gaining a better understanding of the form the energies involved and the applications will come within time. I would recomend to anyone who wishes to concentrate on several effective applications to concentrate on Grasp the Bird's Tail, Brush Knee (both sides), and Wave Hands Like Clouds. I find these to be very useful energies and techniques that are also very versitile. And 'Blues' I knew several rugby players in college and one may just have an argument that rugby is a martial art unto itself.
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Feb 06, 2001 6:37 pm

Hi Everybody,
When I said 'Never throw the first punch,' I meant "Never start a fight". That is the first rule because Tai Chi is self defense, not self offence.
Michael has it right. The idea is not to be aggressive, but to be able to end a violent situation with as little violence and damage as possible.
When defending oneself or others it can be appropriate to use moves such as punches and kicks and throws which are thought of as being offensive.
Blues has it right when it comes to the application of the fighting art: avoid being hit, avoid being damaged. This is only reasonable.
Thank you for the interesting responses to my post.
David
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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 07, 2001 6:28 am

Hi Blues (and everyone else),

Thanks for responding to my question. Your answers do not seem off base, although I have a little difficulty following the details of your applications.

The apparent balance you have between interest in martial applications and a goal of "stress reduction" and "internal challenge" will probably stand you in good stead, since I believe that T'ai Chi lays subtle traps for people who focus too much on either the yin or the yang aspects of the art.

By the way you phrased your reply, I would like to suggest that you consider a few things as you continue your study. First, T'ai Chi requires that you use the mind or spirit to begin and give intent to each movement. Make sure when you consider martial applications that this aspect is not neglected, or else your T'ai Chi will cease to be T'ai Chi and turn instead into ineffective "kung fu" or karate. The mind is important because, among other reasons, the difference between correct technique and incorrect technique can be physically so slight that the wrong "attitude" can be enough to destroy a technique's effectiveness. Compare this with visualization in golf, for example.

Second, T'ai Chi requires an attitude that sees movement and energy flow as continuous, so that from the beginning to the end of an application, something is always going on between you and your opponent. Your power is always available and being applied in some way. T'ai Chi is more like wrestling than boxing in this respect.

Also, the concept of transformation (hua) is important in studying any technique. Rather than thinking in terms of punch, block, counterpunch, think in terms of transforming your opponent's power into something to your advantage. The translation "neutralization" is probably more common than "transformation," but in my opinion conveys the wrong impression.

Another point is that study of any application must account for the flow of power (jin) in the entire body. By this, I do not mean merely getting your body weight behind a technique, but rather that literally every joint in the body is involved and integrated into the movement. Too much focus on things like "my hand does this or my elbow does that" often makes us lose sight of this.

Lastly, T'ai Chi's philosophy of a yielding adaptive strategy is deeply imbedded in the art. T'ai Chi shares many techniques that resemble the strikes and blocks of other martial arts; however, the why, when, and how of these techniques is very different from most of them. I think this is one of the points Steve had in mind in his first post, the spirit of which I agree with wholeheartedly.

Aggressive, assertive Aikido is just not Aikido, since a major principle of Aikido is to blend with the movements of one's opponent. Insistent, forceful T'ai Chi is just not T'ai Chi since a major principle of T'ai Chi is to yield to one's opponent's initiative. These are not just aspirational statements, but principles that infuse how each and every part of every movement is done in these arts. These are also aspects of these arts that are not visible if one does not look for them and that will not develop if one does not train them. Again the key is that the mind gives intent to the body's movements.

Let me know if you disagree with any of this, or if anything I say sounds too strange. Good luck with your practice.
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Postby Blues » Wed Feb 07, 2001 5:10 pm

Many thanks for the insights and sugestions.
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