The reason people come into the learning of tai chi chuan are many and varied. It could be that they saw a demonstration, a documentary or even read an article on the benefits of practising tai chi and this caused a spark of interest to be lit. Much has been written of the positive health promoting benefits which can be achieved through the practising of tai chi on a regular basis. The increasing popularity of tai chi chuan adds proof to this I believe, as the ever increasing numbers of new adherents right across the age spectrum shows no immediate signs of abating. Society today seems to be asking so much of our time and energy that unless we stop, slow down, take time to reflect and make the necessary alterations we may very well end up imploding. The practice of tai chi chuan is indeed a way by which we can begin to make positive and lasting changes to our lives. Through the regular practice of the tai chi hand form we will over a period of time begin to achieve a state of tranquil mindfulness. The hand form is but one of several methods in tai chi’s repertoire through which to attain calm.
There are numerous pushing hands drills in tai chi. These are partnered routines performed in a smooth, relaxed, calm and coordinated manner which also serve to nurture a relaxed state of both body and mind. Apart from the various therapeutic benefits of practising tai chi chuan, many come into it for its martial benefit. There are many still who are ignorant of the fact that tai chi chuan is actually a very effective martial arts system. I propose a few reasons why I believe there to be such a lack of awareness of tai chi chuan’s martial prowess.
Firstly, there are few teachers able to teach tai chi as a martial art as they themselves were not instructed in the martial aspect of tai chi chuan.
Secondly, it is by far simpler to teach tai chi as a therapeutic, health promoting and relaxing art form.
Thirdly, the teacher’s fear of litigation if a student gets hurt. There is also the possibility that as more teachers are teaching the art professionally and so the teaching of tai chi becomes their premier source of income they can ill afford to have their students getting hurt and consequently becoming unable to attend classes thereby affecting the teachers cash flow.
For us to have any hope of combat success in tai chi chuan there are certain methods and strategies we would need to employ depending on the situation we are faced with. One such method is the five step strategy. This strategy consists of:
Rejection of brute force
Adherence demands that we maintain a constant contact with our opponent.
Softness demands that whilst adhering to the opponent we should maintain a relaxed contact.
Following demands that once the direction of the opponent’s force has been detected we should go along with it and not oppose it.
Rejection of brute force demands that once the opponent’s force is felt we do not respond with force but maintain a relaxed contact in order that we may be able to react appropriately.
Spontaneity demands that the very instant we detect the opponent’s intention we must respond immediately before their attack can be completed. Spontaneity must be instinctive and immediate.
I earnestly believe that the five step path strategy can be used in a far less confrontational manner. When confronted by an enraged individual who may have hurtful intentions regarding us we need to remain calm.
We must adhere to said individual’s negative energy by remaining positive and fearless. Try to make a conscious effort to connect with the individual’s energy. Hold their attention and focus.
When engaging the individual verbally we must maintain a softness of voice which must not appear threatening as doing otherwise could result in exacerbating the situation. Appearing to be soft may seem less challenging and help to safeguard against provoking increased anger.
We must maintain eye contact at all times in order that we be able to follow the individual’s every move and in so doing maintaining a safe distance. In following we are responding to both physical movements and verbal utterances. Again here, if we are to respond it needs to be in a calm and gentle manner.
If the individual begins to get agitated, aggressive and brutish in manner our response needs to be of a total rejection and refusal of being drawn into a possible physical conflict. We must endeavour to soothe any aggression with calmness.
We must be ready to respond spontaneously to any attempted attack be it physical or verbal by responding in a non-threatening way. We must remain calm, relaxed and alert.
In so doing it is hoped that the raging fire which is attempting to consume the individual will be dowsed by our non-retaliatory action.
Often what can be used to kill can also be used to heal.
What can be used to destroy can also be used to repair.
Softness will defeat hardness. Calmness will subdue anger. Fearlessness is a welcomed ally.
Nothing is impossible to a willing mind. (Zen Quote)