Archive through April 07, 2006

Tim's Discussion Board: Tai Ji Quan : The Ultimate Self-Defence (by definition): Archive through April 07, 2006
   By marc daoust on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 01:02 am: Edit Post

i know you guys are trying to convince yourself
that taiji is a real martial art?!
but no one can prove it and none can back it up???
so stop wasting your time babbling about
stuff that don't work and start training real martial arts!!!!!
ps. if you think your works i'll go to meet you,and i'll be happy to prove you wrong!!!
we can do push hands or busted heads?

   By Russell on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 04:47 am: Edit Post

Spot, the point is that people don't accept that taiji is any use as a martial art. OK, that's their choice. What happens though is that they then try to 'improve' it by adding bits and pieces from whatever martial art they happen to have studied previously.

As a result, they don't explore the fundamentals such as sensitivity and power generation, ´which is what the art emphasises and has as a prerequisite, regardless of any particular application (push, strike, armlock, whatever.)

So, what passes for taiji these days is all over the place, from thuggish ex-wrestlers to tree-hugging hippies.

By the 'source' (which I think I did clarify), I mean researching what is given in old manuals and writings and also the accounts by people who trained with Cheng Manching. If Wolfe Lowenthal says pushing Cheng was like trying to find a ghost, and if Cheng writes that taiji cannot be spoken of in the same breathe as martial arts in which the stronger and faster beats the slower and weaker, then we should listen and take that as our starting point. People are too quick to dismiss what they don't understand when they might benefit from doing their own research into those assertions.

Marc, page 2 of Tim's intro to Sun's taiji - exceptional physicality is not a prerequisite for fighting ability. He also says that Sun's taiji is complete in itself. Do you have the book?

Also, I'm curious to know which other martial arts or teachers you have proven wrong after meeting them - presumably loads? What 'real' martial art do you practice? I imagine it's one you created yourself? Tim runs a full contact competition, if you want to convince the world :-)

   By spot (Unregistered Guest) on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 05:07 am: Edit Post

I think we have a different understanding of the word clarify, so I'll say it again.
What do you mean by source?

   By Russell on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 02:58 pm: Edit Post

I've answered that - try reading the thread carefully and thinking about it. What's your understanding of 'source'?

Those of you who doubt the use of taiji might also start with Tim's intro on this website. I don't see anything that contradicts what I (and others) have been saying.

One quote, for example Adept fighters of the Wu style are able to project an opponent with very little overt movement.

If we keep going in circles with this post, I'm going to take up ba gua....

   By Michael Andre Babin on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 03:22 pm: Edit Post

Any application of force is relative in terms of it's softness: are you 'softer' than the opponent who is ridiculously stiff and telegraphs his strikes; are you 'softer' in your response in terms of deflecting or counter-attacking rather than doing stiff, 'blocking before striking', techniques or just barging in to throw your weight around; are you 'softer' in terms of your attitudes and your approach to defensive attacks.

Taiji can work in combative terms -- though you don't often meet competent expressions of that side of the art -- and is certainly "relatively soft" but that softness is useless unless you also have whole-body power and a wide experience using it against a variety of attacks from a variety of body types. Push-hands and sensitivity drills are only part of the martial package, not the whole thing.

In the end, any practical combative skill is the product of years of experience as well as cross-training as well as being fit and strong.

   By spot (Unregistered Guest) on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 05:46 am: Edit Post

Since your understanding of the "source" seems to stop at an over-rated calligrapher, who acheived his reputation because of policital connections, I think you're on a wasted journey.

   By mudstep (Unregistered Guest) on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 09:09 am: Edit Post

Paul Crompton wrote a fantastic book (I do not have it to hand at the moment) but it was all about achieving viable techniques of self-defence. It was praised by military personnel globally (it's quite old now) and was based around the premises of punching/pushing/throwing your attacker so you could r u n a w a y. Some could do well to remember that all the muscle building and ground work in the world won't help you keep up with someone that can do the 100m in 13 seconds eh? :-)

   By Pete on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 08:09 am: Edit Post


That 'over-rated calligrapher who achievd his reputation because of political connections' was a student of Yang Cheng Fu and successfully trained a number of successful and respected martial artists in the far east.

His reputation, in my opinion, comes more from the work he did to bring taiji to the west (especially America). Whatever the cause of his reputation, however, does not negate his skill as a taiji exponent, writer and teacher.

   By Russell on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 08:23 am: Edit Post


I agree. The thing about Cheng is that he practiced in living memory. We have accounts by R W Smith and Wolf Lowenthal of his skill, as well as his own writings and video clips (

If people want to dismiss someone as over-rated, I would be interested to know why? I don't know anything about caligraphy but respect the actual evidence we do have for his taiji skill. To my mind, these writings and accounts of witnesses is the closest we have to the 'source', before taiji went off in all directions.

   By spot (Unregistered Guest) on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 08:49 am: Edit Post

I'm glad you recognised him from my description.

I meant that his tai chi was over-rated and he achieved his fame because of the political connections and prominence that his calligraphy brought him.

Tai chi had already "gone off in all directions" principally because of people without a complete understanding or ability of the art who were trying to find a market. This is not a phenomenon new to the west.

Yang Cheng Fu's position seems to be due to his father's reputation and his tai chi is, depending on your viewpoint, either a subtle refinement of his father's tai chi, or a watered down version necessitated by the fact that he was overweight and died of ill health in his fifties.

   By Russell on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 04:27 pm: Edit Post

Spot, it's true that Cheng also died relatively young - we're all human after all. I think his motive in bringing taiji to the West was as a cultural ambassador rather than any commercial aim. As for political connections, that's something I don't know about though I suppose he couldn't have avoided it given the dire circumstances in mainland China and the flight to Taiwan.

Do you have any good references for Cheng's life apart from his taijiquan? I would like to read more about it. (I have Mark Hennessey's translations of his works on calligraphy and so on but little biography.)

   By Stephen Ott on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 12:23 am: Edit Post

Chen Man Ching was an unknown guy until Robert Smith found him through his various martial arts connections in Taiwan. Smith maintains that Chen Man Ching is the best martial artist he ever saw. Smith's a very pracitcal guy( ex CIA), and hardly would have risked putting Chen Man Ching up as some monumental artist if he wasn't. I do believe that Chen Man Ching is pretty universally respected in serious martial arts circles as well.

   By Cranky Curmudgeon (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 02:08 am: Edit Post

Chen Man Ch'ing was not "unknown"!!! He was Chiang-Soong Meiling's Tai Chi teacher (and if you dont know who she was, read "The Soong Dynasty" by Sterling Seagrave). Everything in Chen Man-Ch'ing's later career makes sense in terms of his relationship to this woman: the CIA connections, the move to New York, the cooperation with Henry Luce to popularize Chinese culture to the American masses as some kind of weird quasi-Christian neo-evangelical spirituality, etc.

BTW, the raw pracitcality of CIA intelligence is on display right now in Iraq. Kind of makes you wonder who came up with that "Invest in loss" slogan, dont it?

   By Pete on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 04:05 am: Edit Post

Russel, If you want to know more about Cheng Man Ch'ing's life I'd recommend 'There Are No Secrets' by Wolfe Lowenthall. He was one of his senior students in America.

Spot, if you think Cheng Man Ch'ing and Yang Cheng Fu's taiji were overrated I'd be interested to who you would consider to be an example of a good taiji practitioner. Or maybe you think taiji has been a dead art for the past 100+ years, but a great marketing tool?

As for investing in loss (or 'giving up yourself to follow others' for that matter), I think it's pretty safe to say that this isn't a concept that the CIA and American government has much comprehension of, nevermind inventing it!

   By Russell on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 07:30 am: Edit Post

Pete, thanks - I have that book. Together with Robert W Smith's accounts there seems to be something there we ought to listen to.

Cranky, thanks for the book reference - I'll check it out.

   By spot (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 09:15 am: Edit Post

I certainly don't think tai chi is a dead art.
I think the watered down versions presented of the art have caused damage to its reputation and resulted in a number of dead ends, but I think respectable versions of the art still exist.
One morning, several years ago, I was training with someone in a local park and we had moved onto throws. We were joined by someone doing a tai chi form nearby which, despite moving very slowly, he completed in about 5 minutes. He walked over to us to say hello and asked if we were doing jujitsu. I told him we were doing the same as him and he refused to believe us. I then showed him the part of his form when the application came from (I can watch and throw at the same time). He tentatively agreed that the form came from the applications, but still couldn't accept that we were doing tai chi.
I could have said that I couldn't accept that was he was doing was tai chi, but sometimes you just feel that life is too short.

   By Pete on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 11:06 am: Edit Post

Spot, I'd agree with you that there's a lot of poor taiji about, which does little to promote the true nature of the art. I'd still be interested to understand your definition of 'watered down' versions or examples of good taiji masters if Yang Cheng Fu and Cheng Man Ch'ing don't make the grade.

You seem to be suggesting that shorter forms are inherently worse (watered down) than longer forms? Personally I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why longer forms are better than short ones. Surely the quality of someone's taiji is more to do with the quality of the teacher and the dedication of the student than the specific form being practised?

   By spot (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 12:35 pm: Edit Post

No, watered down forms are inherently shorter.

   By Stephen Ott on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 01:36 pm: Edit Post

Cranky, I'm all for critical thinking, and admire your skeptical eye, but regardless of the cloak and dagger stuff you're referring to, Chen Man Ching and Smith are both well respected figures in the martial arts world by their reputations and actions. I had a chance to meet Smith and speak with him at length, and I'm convinced of his integrity. And if you've heard him speak or read his articles, you know very well what he thinks of the CIA. Chen Man Ching was the real deal.

   By Pete on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 03:30 pm: Edit Post

But is a shorter form inherently watered down?