An apology for Taijiquan

Tim's Discussion Board: Tai Ji Quan : An apology for Taijiquan
   By Apologist (Unregistered Guest) on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 03:35 pm: Edit Post

I have been training for a about 12 years in a Yang Taijiquan tradition that is neither devoid of martial content nor solely focused on it. I would say that we have about equal emphasis on the martial, health/meditative (chi kung), and philosophical (perhaps spiritual to some) aspects of the art. While many on this forum lament the apparent loss of martial validity in many Taijuquan classes (which I agree with), some seem to lament the presence of the health and philisophical aspects and to blame the decline of the martial art of Taiji on their presence. Not all of you, I know, but some...

I would like to defend their presence, and to say that the decline of the martial in Taiji does not mean that the other aspects are not valuable or valid. The health/meditative side of Taiji and the philosophical (and to me, personally, spiritual) aspects of the art have enriched my life in ways that I will spare you going into here, but that I am personally very grateful for. Most of these benefits would not aid me in self-defense (except against ill health and lack of enjoyment in life), nor help me survive in the octagon--but I do treasure them.

I have also been in two serious self-defense situations over the last few years. In the first, the mental equanimity that I have gained (though I have a long way to go in that area) helped me avoid an actual physical attack, and, in the second, I used skills directly derived from my practice of Taijiquan (I have no other martial practice) to down the larger attacker (no, he was no Chuck Liddel)and escape.

Had I been training for MMA, doing Crossfit, and studying under a Zen monk for all of these years, I have no doubt that I would be happy now and have handled the self-defense situations at least as well, but I love Taiji, and who has the time for so many things (some do, I don't)? I have heard the philosophical aspects of Taiji called "conceptual ovelays" and the chi kung called "chi hugging" (and there is some scary chi hugging going on, I know, I know--I've seen it), but that does not mean that they do not have their place or that they are negative unless taught or approached incorrectly or deceptively. I like their presence in Taijiquan and think that they do many people much good--as long as the teacher understands and teaches the martial content or is honest if he/she doesn't know it. I personally would not like a teacher who ONLY knew the martial content (if that is possible, I don't think that it is).

Nuff said--thanks for the forum, Tim.

   By Tim on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 08:21 pm: Edit Post

Good post.

   By Me Vince (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, May 19, 2006 - 02:00 am: Edit Post

"While many on this forum lament the apparent loss of martial validity in many Taijuquan classes (which I agree with), some seem to lament the presence of the health and philisophical aspects and to blame the decline of the martial art of Taiji on their presence."

I lament the loss of philosophical/spiritual aspects of martial arts in almost all martail training.

   By Apologist (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, May 19, 2006 - 11:25 am: Edit Post

Well, I was speaking only of Taijiquan--I don't see why there should necessarily be philosophical content (beyond strategic/psychological)in an art, say, like Krav Maga (though I don't know a lot about Krav Maga, I could be wrong--I just used that art for an example).

I'm just saying that I'm glad that the philosophical content usually is present in Taijiquan, since I have personally derived great benefit from it, and that it's presence does not preclude good martial content. It's presence doesn't guarantee good martial content either.

   By Duong Dai Vu on Friday, May 19, 2006 - 05:26 pm: Edit Post

I personally think a little philosophical content is a good thing when teaching any art (not just martial arts), especially when you are teaching an art of a foreign culture. It gives you background infomation and cultural perspective. Many times, I see things taken out of context or misunderstood because not enough background information is given.

But when studying an art, of course what should be focus is the core components of that art. And any addional information should be supplied as needed to meet that goal.

   By Jamie on Friday, May 26, 2006 - 04:48 pm: Edit Post

your first post is cool. I too share on your journey of Yang Family Taiji.
My teacher (see profile) had me learn the classics via calligraphy of each character and the deeper and philosophical meanings of the art he passed down to me. He emphasised this method especially while teaching the sword saying "sword and brush-same energy".
As mathematical as it all is in theory only mat time and "investing in loss" has improved my self-defense.
As I age and my past and current injuries ache more on cold days than others I see the longevity and philosophical aspects as attractive and useful in my personal hygiene of mind, body, spirit connection.
This being said I do not think much of Taiji as health practice (I consider more hygienic) if I am sick I go to a western Physician.
I think the best use for Taiji is its use as a martial art in the even somebody attempts to take my good health away from me. It is this use that makes TaijiQuan "quan" anything can be Taiji-afied. Taiji Chair, Taijiqigong. So if the art is labeled Tajiquan it must have some application (good, talented or useless practitioner) based in the physics and theory behind its usefulness as a Martial Art. If it is taught for some other reason then lets be honest and clear and call the class Taji Moving Meditation and be real.


   By Apologist (Unregistered Guest) on Saturday, May 27, 2006 - 09:27 am: Edit Post


Thanks. I think it's all a bout being sensible. Doing moving meditation as PART of you Taijiquan practice does not mean that there is no viable martial content anywhere in your training. Also, there is no question that the practice of Taijiquan is good for your overall health--that does not mean that you should try to use Taijiquan to dissolve a brain tumor instead of going to a doctor. Just as philisophical/health content and martial content are not mutually exclusive, doing Taijiquan and going in for your regular prostate exam are not mutually exclusive either. As I said, it's all about being sensible...

   By Jamie on Saturday, May 27, 2006 - 09:42 am: Edit Post

I agree -non of the components exclude the other when being emphazised.

now if the world would just be sensible.

your apologist position requesting forgiveness sounds more apologist as in an apostle for Taijiquan.

Jamie just tryin' to make sense of this crazy world

   By ima dude (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, June 02, 2006 - 11:50 am: Edit Post

Taijiquan is a good martial art.

   By Stephen Ott on Friday, June 02, 2006 - 10:18 pm: Edit Post

I think at some point in the past, Tai Chi was just a fighting style. But when the Taoists got a hold of it, they added all their philosophy and their health tricks. So now we have this awesome art with all these wild elements.

I think its great no matter why someone learns the art. As Bob Smith says, studying tai chi simply for the love of it is great. To diminish any of its parts is kind of ridiculous.

I studied with a Wu guy who told me that until I learned the philosophy and the principal, the art would not make sense to me, because the Tao was all around us anyway. I was like, "Whoa."

Apologist, we practice a great art and your post is great, no need to apologize!

   By Rich on Sunday, June 04, 2006 - 12:54 pm: Edit Post

I seem to lament on the health side of Tai Chi Chuan... luckily I was taught the best part of being healthy... is not getting your ass kicked!

   By ima dude (Unregistered Guest) on Monday, June 05, 2006 - 12:35 pm: Edit Post

Hey Jaime, my e-mail is down... is the tsubaka dojo still open? do you still go?

   By Chad Eisner on Sunday, June 11, 2006 - 02:18 pm: Edit Post

Good posts all,

While I do not feel the need to “apologize” for the current state of the art, I will defend its non-fighting components. There are of course a wealth of ridiculous claims made by a vocal minority, cultural misconceptions, and wild misconceptions of what Taiji actually is. This is understandably frustrating for those of us that study it as a martial art, have a deep and realistic knowledge of it, or just simply a love of the practice. This being said, it is usually foolish to take a plainly reactionary stance on any topic, idea, or issue.

As far as the health benefits go (and by extension the focus on health improvement etc.), the fact is that Taiji training is definitely good fro you health. Just as any exercise is beneficial. The thing that sets Taiji, Qigong, and other Martial art and health practices of Asia from the much of the western paradigm is accessibility, integration, and functionality. The fact that Taiji is a martial art dictates that the methods of training, conditioning, and principles are designed to prepare the body to deal with forces meant to do serious injury. If one practices Taiji with these principles in tact, one can prevent injury and maintain a healthy body above and beyond the norm in this day and age even if the cultivate no fighting skill what-so-ever. This is the advantage to all martial art training. But, Taiji is accessible to considerably more people than many other martial arts. The elderly can benefit from it because the requirements for practice are extremely low impact and relatively gentle. The focus on proper body alignment, movement, and application of force is relevant to almost all walks of life.

Secondly, times are changing and martial art and it’s practice occupy a different place in society than they did even a mere century ago. As such, the practice will inevitably change and evolve, spawning new directions (of varying degrees of value and popularity) and ways to approach the art. The recent tendency toward martial sport is good example. From K-1 and UFC type events to Olympic Wushu, martial art is being integrated into the sport culture with increasing frequency. This is often decried as ruining or something akin to blasphemy to many. The idea being that if it is a sport it cannot be real. Putting aside the subjectivity of the word “real” in this context, one can look at boxing and say that it is both sport and applicable in real life situations. Wushu also comes under fire a lot of the times being looked down upon because of it’s more gymnastic and “flashy” with no regard for the fact that the physicality developed by the athletes, just like gymnasts, is astounding and has many real world benefits. The focus of the sport is different, that’s all. (Incidentally, I have recently had the opportunity to study some Wushu with Coach Ma Chao of the Beijing Wushu team and I can say Wushu is a whole heap of fun as well as being terribly challenging exercise.)

Well, enough of that. Just the way I look at it at least.

   By Jim Dixon on Thursday, December 21, 2006 - 12:59 pm: Edit Post

Interesting posts.

Seems to me it depends on your goals.

If your goal is to become as close to an ultimate fighter or a CIA assassin as you can get, or to have the absolute best possible hand-to-hand self-defense possible, then even good, complete Tai Chi alone (or as a primary form of training) probably isn't for you. It could be a great supplimentary training, though.

If, however, you just love the art and the benefits that you get from it, and you are satisfied with whatever level of self-defense being trained in Tai Chi gives, then that seems valid to me, as long as you aren't stupid enough to step in the Octagon and you're ok with the fact that your self-defens isn't all it could possibly be.

As long as your goals and reality line up, you're fine and it's valid as far as I'm concerned. I train pretty hard, but my goals aren't purely combat effectiveness--I find some things fun to train that are not "high percentage" by anyone's standards.

But... You'd need a gun to get me into the Octagon with anyone, and I know my skills might get me out of a scrape (which I hope to avoid if possible) and they might not. Training is fun and keeps me fit and helthy. I'll take it.


   By Jim Dixon on Thursday, December 21, 2006 - 01:05 pm: Edit Post

Oh! And don't try to cure cancer by only doing Tai Chi--but practicing Tai Chi is very good for you.

   By Tim on Thursday, December 21, 2006 - 01:17 pm: Edit Post

"As long as your goals and reality line up, you're fine"

Beautiful statement. It seems so simple put that way.

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