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Why isn't Tai Chi considered a martial art?


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Aw, hell. I'll poke the hornet's nest.

 

As far as I can tell, when Taiji is used for fighting it's like what the video shows. It's a kind of wrestling that relies on the tuishou, the push hands. Can be effective against a resisting opponent. When not used for fighting, it's an effective form of tendon-conditioning that gets you moving and promotes overall health, with a great deal of potential to remain challenging even into old age.

 

The trick, it seems, is in how it's taught and how it's trained. If you train to figure out how to use that stuff in fighting, then absolutely it is a martial art. You can make that out of anything - can be capoeira, can be aikido, can be kajukenbo, can be anything that most of the MMA crowd would dismiss as 'bullshido.' If you have the mindset that you're going to use that stuff in a fight, and you train to figure out how it works against someone who doesn't want it to work, you can make just about anything martial. It applies in reverse, too: learning kata and taolu can be a lot of fun for to show off with, and can be the basis of one's motivations for learning.

 

Definition is imperative, then. Lots of people take arts like taiji, capoeira, aikido, etc. for a lot of different reasons. It can be for fun, or for spiritual development, or for social reasons. In other words, there are a lot of motivations for martial arts that aren't necessarily 'martial,' but are definitely artistic.

 

And, I mean, come on. There are boxing gyms that are not about fielding fighters. They're about their own special form of chronic cardio. They charge an arm and a leg for circuit classes that basically have students wailing on a bag for an hour. No technical education, no real effort there at all. See also a significant portion of Krav Maga classes. I'll even go so far as to say that there are places advertising themselves as MMA and Muay Thai places that are absolutely not martial in the slightest way. I promise you that the students of these places do not care, because they want 1) an aerobics class that doesn't look like an aerobics class and 2) the feeling of prestige of saying that they take this art or do this thing.

 

If the question is about why taiji isn't considered a martial art on this forum, the answer as far as I can tell is that most people are interested in it more for the cultivation of self than the cultivation of violent ability. It's problematic, of course: even if you take it for new-agey reasons, it's still considered a martial art, and students are stuck with the vague feeling that they should be able to fight with this stuff. When it fails them, they don't understand why, and hence we have these heated, spirited discussions on internet forums (where everyone is 6'10", benches 350 lbs for reps, and was a Navy SEAL before they hurt their leg).

 

So, yeah. Let unreasonableness commence! :D

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-Snip-

 

So, yeah. Let unreasonableness commence! :D

 

No reason to be unreasonable - that was completely awesome and true in every possible way. Seriously, this probably sums up how I feel about it, but written a lot better than I ever could. Also, it was way more nuanced than I am.

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To me, that's almost like asking why yoga or pilates aren't martial arts. Is it really martial, as in, would you learn it and take it with you to war? I can see how aspects of it would benefit a warrior, but it's not like ancient warriors would learn Tai Chi and go take it into battle against Kung Fu. It might be an aspect of training, but it's not a martial art, just as yoga may be an aspect. 

tl;dr is how I roll

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Actualy, Tai Chi has a VERY martial aspect to it and yes, it was taken into battle to great effect.  There are two paths with Tai Chi; the martial and the meditative. While the martial aspect contains both, the meditative does not.  As legend has it in The Old days Tai Chi masters were the most feared martial artists in ancient China.  In our school you (when I was still practicing there) you could easily pick out the students who were working hard at both the Kung Fu and the Tai Chi forms.  They are complimentary and at a higher level (4th degree and above) there is no difference as they fuze into one path.  At least that's what I've seen in my experience anyway.

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http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=58040

is an interesting read on the subject.

 

Bob Feldman: You started learning Taijiquan as a child from your father and grandfather, and you also learned and taught within the official Wushu establishment. How different was your family's traditional training from modern training that Taiji students now receive?                                                                                                                                                     Yang Fukui: It was quite different. Traditionally, we do not train by long sequences of forms. We concentrate more on developing gongfu. 

 

Basically what he's saying is that if you want to use Tai Chi as a martial art, you should go and do Kung Fu.  <_<

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"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." — Robert Heinlein

 

 

 

 

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http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=58040

is an interesting read on the subject.

 

 

Basically what he's saying is that if you want to use Tai Chi as a martial art, you should go and do Kung Fu.  <_<

Yes. Imo, true Kung Fu is so incorporated into and with Tai Chi as to be indistinguishable at higher levels.  In the beginning it can stand alone though, and by beginning read the first year or two.  This timeframe usually weeds out those students who are not serious or dedicated to take it to a higher level.  We can have a debate about what portions, types, styles, etc of Tai Chi is relevant/needed in a different thread.  The base principal is sound though.

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  www.firstchevalier.com

 

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http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=58040

is an interesting read on the subject.

 

 

Basically what he's saying is that if you want to use Tai Chi as a martial art, you should go and do Kung Fu.  <_<

 

I don't think that's what he means, though.

 

It sounds like he distinguishes between Tai Chi the exercise and Tai Chi the martial art.  He spends a good amount of time talking about how he was trained in Tai Chi AS an art, so the long sequences of forms that's generally expected to be "Tai Chi" in the west was basically thrown aside in favor of shorter, more explosive and rapid combinations meant to apply immediately in a fight.

 

Basically, instead of focusing on constantly doing the long forms (24, 48, 88, etc) slowly, they'd work on individual techniques/forms at a more "violent" speed, strength training, push hands, and sparring instead.

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I've had the luck to train with a Yang-style teacher who claimed : "I cannot teach you this properly without explaining you the martial idea behind evry move".   It was a bless.  Now, would I survive a pub-brawl after 5years of training? probly not, i believe i would get my ass kicked in any fight.   I did however experience a 60year old woman(she was a teacher training with my teacher) send me flying back 1,5meter with a nudge of her hand.

The problem with Tai-Chi is, you get allowed to 'pushing hands' after years of training.  While evry other martial arts begins with sparring.  Take for example Aikido, which is rumoured to be the japanese version of Tai-chi.  They can't teach you anything without a partner.

 

to sum it up :

Yang-style teacher: 95% chance the idea is 'walking meditation'  (which works really good; should try this if you have problems with classic meditiation)

Cheng-style teacher; probly more the idea what we Western people mean with 'martial arts'

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I thinks it's more of a question of styles. Tai chi is most easily associated with the yang style competition forms of slow controlled movements that are very artistic but has had their martial effect diminished. Digging deeper there are 5 main branches of tai chi, yang being the most popular and chen being historically the most powerful. The philosophy behind tai chi is harmony and so it takes a long time to train the correct mentality and internal strengths required for tai chi. If you're training tai chi for the sake of health and weight loss, most likely you're training mostly the competition style forms. These encompass most if not all of the various actualy fighting moves but are not generally taught as such. What it does teach is the importance of breathing and associating breath with motion. This is a similar concept to yoga where it also links breath to motion. If you are lucky enough to find someone who is truly immersed in a traditional chen tai chi learning style you'll find a lot more of the moves associated with self defense, you'll also get a chance to push hands and practice these moves. Like any other martial arts you have to practice these moves enough until they become muscle memory for it to be of any real use in a fight situations.

 

So in summary, if you're looking for combatative tai chi, look for chen tai chi. If you're looking for just health benefits try your hand at yang style. Either way, it's a pretty steep learning curve and there are certainly other martial arts styles that could get you up to a combatative level faster.

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I want to add my two cents in here, but I feel like I'll just repeat what everyone else is saying.

 

What I will say is, my Sensei has studied Karate for roughly 45 years, and Tai Chi(along with a boat load of other styles) for another 25.  When you reach black belt in his dojo you're required to study Tai Chi once a month with him(as well as Shiatsu and other pressure point work) to help develop your understanding.  He's also stopped classes to ask our black belts what Tai Chi stance/movement is going on and they'll break down the movement and figure it out.  So, in my opinion, Martial art. Yes. Great self defense? No so much, at least not without 40 plus years of training.
 

I will also say that I think that they should all be studied in tandem with one another.  If you study a hard style, Karate, Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, Hapkido, etc.  You should also be studying Tai Chi and Chi Kung.  They go hand in hand with one another and complement each other very well.  Also, you should be studying weapons as well, but I digress.

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It has been my experience as a chronic dabbler that internal and external styles are as different as slow-cooking a roast and microwaving a burrito.

 

Most Westerners find "the best" martial arts styles to be external styles in which the most violent and explosive techniques are used as demos and where the "result" is front-loaded. This makes external arts, which have an early focus on combative motions and tactics, extremely attractive to martial arts enthusiasts in the West, because you get a sort of instant gratification and a gentle learning curve.

 

By contrast, most Westerners find internal arts to be either completely useless, or suitable for everything except combat. T'ai Chi Chuan, for example, has been sold in the West as an meditation for young children and the elderly, a way to calm ones mind and grow the spirit. Internal arts have a steeper learning curve and less "immediate" results, because they focus on things that aren't necessarily as flashy or showy as foundation techniques. This makes most (not all, mind you) Westerners assume they're useless for combat, because they can't see anything coming out of their early training. 

 

I think the problem with this Western viewpoint is that it completely eschews the "dynamic balance" of Taoism--internal and external arts deal with two different halves of the same whole of Self. They're basically named for the part of you they focus on most; the external is more visible and flashy, and very Yang, whereas the internal focus on a building of subtle strength and power, and are more Yin-aspected. Neither is better than the other in general, and in fact, they work very well together. The only 6 months of my life where my lower back didn't kill me 24/7 was when I was taking t'ai chi, and between the relief of that pain, and the new, fluid footwork I learned in my t'ai chi class, I started performing better in fencing, as well. I honestly believe that nobody should study an external art very long without finding a complimentary internal style as "cross-training."

 

A sifu once told me that, if a person trains in them long enough, they will see the focus of the external art shift inward, and the focus of the internal art shift outward. He said that change comes with understanding that we must be whole, inside and out, to be effective combatants, for if our knowledge of self is imperfect, so will our fighting be also.

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This is similar to discussions of Aikido and its usefulness in today's defense, or is it just an outdated tradition that folks hang on to. I have found that in my studies, both are useful, if used in their proper environments. 
I have been to the CSAtlanta school, many years ago, and met Master Michael Reid. I was unable to attend the school at that time, but found him to be knowledgeable of both Kung Fu and Tai Chi disciplines. 
Tai Chi was designed as a combat art, used to kill on a battlefield. Since there are very few uses for a killing art now days, and if you teach a killing art full speed, you kill off your prospective students. Not a good thing. Teaching the principles of body positioning, proper breathing techniques and timing, mental positioning, and confidence in your skills, will allow you to use your knowledge automatically when it is needed. 
If you are grounded, and study tai chi, you can use your push techniques immediately, upon command. 
I do not think 1 art is perfect. Take what works from whatever you have in your arsenal, at the time it is needed. If it needs a front kick, use it. If it requires a firearm, club, blade, and you have it, use it. 
Just my .02 cents.

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Depends on definition of martial art;

 

If you mean something that can destroy joints, cause massive blunt force trauma and kill people, yes, taiji is a martial art. very few study it that way mind.

 

If you mean can be used effectively in the ring, probably better off doing muay thai or bjj

 

If you mean practice for 6 months and save you when the guy pulls a knife... well, that doesn't matter what art you do. That depends on your teacher, your circumstances, and how well you've prepared for that. Plus luck :tongue: lots of luck  (I have a feeling the krav maga people are going to jump down my throat on this one :) )

 

If you mean be able to beat someone up with it, you obviously have more pushups to do.

 

Let's face it; taiji has been turned into a modern day health and aerobic exercise program. Even if you cover the martial aspects, most people train it for health. Not that it's wrong to do it that way. Just you are what you train.

 

Also, food for though; isn't it great when your enemy underestimates what you train? :D

 

little tidbit: trained with an Israeli paratrooper, was trained in krav maga. He said one of the most dangerous people he ever met was a Chen Taiji practitioner. 

 

another tidbit: I write it Taiji because it isn't about Chi.  å¤ªæžæ‹³ (Tàijí quán)  Also, chi is a relationship between two things. Go ask your TCM specialist why.

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If you mean practice for 6 months and save you when the guy pulls a knife... well, that doesn't matter what art you do. That depends on your teacher, your circumstances, and how well you've prepared for that. Plus luck :tongue: lots of luck  (I have a feeling the krav maga people are going to jump down my throat on this one :) )

 

*jumps*

 

While not exactly on topic, this is a common misconception. A knife is a good force multiplier, but if you're in a fight against a guy with a knife, it's not the end of the world - nor is it the end of your life. That doesn't mean you're not going to get cut and/or stabbed. You will get cut and/or stabbed - it's a knife fight after all. A cut/stab is, most of the time, not fatal. There are a great deal of techniques meant for disarming or defending against a knife, but no matter how good you are, you're probably going to get cut. Luckily for us, getting in a fight releases adrenalin, so you won't feel the pain until the fight is over.

And of course it depends on who is attacking you: a random junkie or a highly trained Escrima practicioner?

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That's actually one of the key lessons our Krav instructor likes to communicate to us regularly. Fighting sucks. You get hit, you bleed, you'll wake up sore for days or weeks afterwards. There isn't a magical method where you just step round his technique, poke him in the eye and he falls over. Krav is about limiting the damage you take whilst maximising your attackers pain so you can leave quickly.

 

I've found Krav practitioners (at least the ones I've trained with) to be very grounded in this sense. They don't get their yellow belt and learn a kata with 4 strike points and decide that they can now fight 4 guys. 

 

Last night we spent an hour doing reaction drills. So the defenders stand around the room facing various ways with their eyes closed. You get punched in the chest, get that guard up because here comes the next shot and pile into whatever combo pops into your head. Worst thing you can do (it earned me a nicely bruised rib in about my 3rd week) is to freeze at this point and go "sorry that's not the right technique can I try again" because by the time you've gotten the sentence out you've been hit 3 more times.

 

Anyway, I think I may have digressed. Someone find my point amongst that lot!

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That's actually one of the key lessons our Krav instructor likes to communicate to us regularly. Fighting sucks. You get hit, you bleed, you'll wake up sore for days or weeks afterwards. There isn't a magical method where you just step round his technique, poke him in the eye and he falls over. Krav is about limiting the damage you take whilst maximising your attackers pain so you can leave quickly.

 

I've found Krav practitioners (at least the ones I've trained with) to be very grounded in this sense. They don't get their yellow belt and learn a kata with 4 strike points and decide that they can now fight 4 guys. 

 

Last night we spent an hour doing reaction drills. So the defenders stand around the room facing various ways with their eyes closed. You get punched in the chest, get that guard up because here comes the next shot and pile into whatever combo pops into your head. Worst thing you can do (it earned me a nicely bruised rib in about my 3rd week) is to freeze at this point and go "sorry that's not the right technique can I try again" because by the time you've gotten the sentence out you've been hit 3 more times.

 

Anyway, I think I may have digressed. Someone find my point amongst that lot!

 

i like your krav maga teacher. he sounds like my tai ji teacher. a lot :P

 

we get those reaction time drills. usually he does it when we are tired as hell, worn out, and ready to go home. nothing like them. yup. punched in the face. again please, brother

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i like your krav maga teacher. he sounds like my tai ji teacher. a lot :tongue:

 

we get those reaction time drills. usually he does it when we are tired as hell, worn out, and ready to go home. nothing like them. yup. punched in the face. again please, brother

 

The worst he had us do was right at the end. Half of you grab pads. Attackers pin defenders against the wall with the pad. Rule is that the attacker can not move his feet forward. So defenders have to get out from behind the pad. Elbows, hammer fists etc and then drive the pad back until the attacker is against the opposite wall and then you swap. 

 

What I do love about it though is that I've been training for 3 months now. That big reaction session proved it last night. If I get in a fight then I will probably get hit a couple of times but there are about 4 or 5 sequences that I've got hard wired now. So if I can protect my head and take the least amount of damage possible the bad guy will throw that right eventually and I'll rain hell down upon him and then leave quickly. I assume you know the level of retention I'm talking about where you don't even think "he's punching me with his right" you just sort of react and before you've thought about it you've done a 360 defence, counter elbow to his jaw, grabbed the wrist, wrapped the back of the neck, kneed him twice in the crotch and then run. Which btw is my favourite sequence against a high punch.

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I've never been a big fan of Krav but I recognize its value.  I'm not dismissing it as a style in the slightest.  On the contrary, it has an attitude I like that is akin to the Marine Corps' approach to knife fighting (that translates well into any kind of fighting).  The point is, if you get into a knife fight, you ARE going to get cut.  Just come to terms with that and your brain moves passed that part on to keeping yourself alive.  Fighting in any style is very similar.  If you get into a fight, you ARE going to get hit. The best defense against any blow is to not be there when it lands and the easiest way to do that is to avoid the fight in the first place.  I've always viewed martial arts as the technique of last resort for a fight, but I want to be the best one in the room at fighting if/when that time arises.

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What?!!? Tai Chi isn't a Martial Art? WTF? Of COURSE it is a martial art!

 

Ok, ok. Now unfortunately Tai Chi has suffered some dumbed down attempts to make it more appealing to a wide range of people solely for health benefits, but the Yi - the INTENTION that informs the movements needs to be coming from the martial - fighting aspect. All the moves in Tai Chi are derived from throws, joint locks, blocks, etc.

 

Here's a true story - happened to a guy in my Chen Style Tai Chi class- he's 70+ years old and suffered from a neurological disease that gave him shakes. So, he's been practicing Tai Chi and push hands for a number of years. One day he's at home in his apartment in NYC when his wife answers the door to a push in robber armed with a knife. My classmate used his TAI CHI to defend himself and wife and disarm the robber. Was able to get the robber back out of the apartment and lock the door.

 

Tai Chi is most assuredly a martial art. It is an Internal Martial Art, not an external. For more on this subject, check out anything by BK Frantzis. "The Power of Internal Martial Arts" is a good one.

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Because of the inward focus of Tai Chi (not to be confused with the deliciousness of chai tea) it cannot technically be considered a MARTIAL art since Martial refers to war or warlike. I have always considered it as one though albeit not for practical self defense. I consider it more in the realm of yoga or Qi Gong

 

Tai Chi is a martial art and it started in Chen Village and they trained at first in full armor and with a ton of weapons. It lost the weapons and Styles like Wu became more specialized, but it is still a martial art. It should be in the Monk area. I practice Tai Chi sword also, just like I practice Western fencing and Iaido. I practice empty handed Tai Chi, just like I practice karate and judo. Having Tai Chi in the Druid area is wrong. It belongs in the Monk area.

 

Is there anyway to move it to the monk area? That is the only reason I am at odds about joining the Monks vs the Druids. Everything I train from Chi Running, Judo to Iaido is to push my Tai Chi to the next level. Who has the authority to change that?

 

EDIT: Look at my freaking username! I belong in the Monk area…. 

We do not rise to the level of our expectations in a fight.

 

We fall to the level of our training.

 

 

 

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Tai chi chuan is for sure a martial art , its akin to capoeria in that its many things at once, depending on the practitioners intent and there are tons of Tai chi chaun folk who compete in san shou as I did. My sifu jon  i certified under was clear  in his thoughts that if you didn't  at least rudimentary understanding martial applications then you would  be able to project your intent and therefore you would not  grasp the full health benefits of  the practice 

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