Thread: Taijiquan (ATTN: Boyd)
12/23/2007 10:05pm, #1
Taijiquan (ATTN: Boyd)
0. This is going to be "TL;DR"
1. There's no groundfighting in taijiquan. This is a problem shared by many fighting systems, including respectable ones, like boxing and Muay Thai. Anyone who steps forward to write, "taiji is useless because, you know, submission grappling" can better use his time by going to Strikeistan to call the boxers and kickboxers over there a bunch of pussies.
2. Most schools that teach "Tai Chi" are teaching a very mild form of yoga. There's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't the least bit martial, and it shouldn't claim to be. It also has nearly nothing to do with the taiji about which I'm writing.
3. I'm going to write about a particular flavor of taiji with which I have some personal experience, the Chen family version. All my statements here about "taiji" should be taken to refer to that flavor.
4. We're going to assume for the sake of this conversation that the taiji in question is being taught at a fight gym by sensible persons who have practical experience competing in the ring under san da rules and who have fought outside of the ring from time to time. Anyone who talks about qi development in this thread will leave it with a bloody nose.
Taijiquan is a system of fighting. It's not only a set of techniques, but also a fight strategy that concentrates on certain phases of combat and a set of skills that work within that phase. This is not unusual -- BJJ has the same properties, though it focuses on a different phase of combat, and thus a different set of techniques.
The techniques of taiji are focused on (more or less) dirty boxing and standing grappling -- elbows, knees, punches, palm slaps, and, most of all, nasty throws pulled from shuai jiao. There are very few kicking techniques in the system, most of which are low kicks (knee level and lower) used as entrances to reach the clinch, or as trips when closer. Although kicks are scarce, there are a great number of kick catches in the system, presumably because other systems that involve kicking were common at the time of taiji's development.
The taiji fight strategy is to either preemptively close the distance to clinch range with a low-line kick, trip, step (footwork) or grab, or more often, to employ a "counter-punching" approach -- i.e. wait for him to attack, then attack/enter via the opening he leaves. Once in the clinch, strikes, kuzushi and throws are used to pound and sledge the opponent.
Now, it should be obvious to any informed reader that this same set of skills can be developed by combining boxing, dirty boxing and no-gi Judo or Greco. I think that's a fine road to take. The bonus in using taiji for this purpose is that the way the techniques work together, how the strikes set up the throws, how the entrances set up the clinch work, &c, has already been worked into a fairly tidy package with some decent progressive training methods for putting it all together.
As for why one would choose the above approach over the techniques and strategy of, say, Muay Thai, that depends on many things, including body type.
For example, I happen to be of average height with the thick-necked, muscular build of a wrestler and short legs. This means that I'm almost always shorter than guys my weight, and anyone my height or above is likely to have reach on me, thus kick-catch/clinch/punch/throw is much better for me than, for example, trying to stand at range and exchange round kicks with a Thai boxer who's 3-4 inches taller than I am.
[ Aside: I already knew how to box and wrestle when I started training for san shou/san da. What I got from CMA was kicking, kick-catching, and a way to integrate it all into a game plan that worked for me. I think this kind of integration is what a good TMA should offer -- and probably what Judo would have done better than any other system if they'd valued strikes and ne-waza more. ]
Last edited by Jack Rusher; 12/25/2007 8:34am at . Reason: Clarification, re: Judo“Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
12/24/2007 12:53am, #2
Good post. Doubt it will grow into a useful thread, unfortunately.
12/24/2007 6:36am, #3
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Good write up. Perhaps you should have mentioned the emphasis on body mechanics and lu, an, ji etc
12/24/2007 9:09am, #4
Could you elaborate a bit more on what types of clinch Taiji uses?Captain's Log: Just a little update for all my TRUE and HONEST friends out there:
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12/24/2007 9:44am, #5Originally Posted by seanyseanybean
Likewise, the systematic description of leveraged pushing and pulling (lu, an, ji, &c) is just another way of teaching grip and kuzushi. I honestly don't feel there's anything unique in the techniques themselves, just in the way they're described. This vocabulary is, I think, much of the problem. The Chinese call "base" "root," "off-balancing" "uprooting," and so on, which prevents us from having reasonable conversations between disciplines.“Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
12/24/2007 10:30am, #6
Good point re: Greco. I've noticed that wrestlers, particularly greco wrestlers develop a type of sensitivity that is similar to taiji which serves them well in MMA. I think that wrestler's stamina has less to do with their conditioning, but rather the nature of their training. Not every wrestler can pull that off... it seems to be mainly the top-tier wrestlers in MMA.
I'm not sure how peng, lu, an, ji, etc. compare to other arts, because I know too little about other arts. But, if taiji ever has something to offer the world of modern martial arts, those elements be a big part of it.Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
12/24/2007 10:31am, #7Originally Posted by Boyd
The best examples on video (that I know of, anyway) are from this video of a lei tai event at Chen Village in '98. Unfortunately, I can't find any footage online at the moment.
Basically, it's like a dirty version of this sort of shuai jiao:
Well, damn, embedding is turned off for some reason. Click through to YouTube to see the vid.
Last edited by Jack Rusher; 12/24/2007 10:35am at .“Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
12/24/2007 12:26pm, #8
There are two things that I really like about clinching in tai chi. Why yes, I will tell you about them. Bless you for asking.
One is that you're encouraged not to hold on in a static way. Static positions are really kind of a big no-no. As a result, you're constantly trying to exaggerate any instabilities in your opponent's structure and move them in that direction. I personally really like this emphasis on dynamic movement.
Some people will take this to the extreme and say that you should never ever grab anything. I generally assume that these people are either douches or are working hard to get people out of the grab and squeeze real tight mentality.
The second is what I consider to be a fairly sophisticated set of tools for maintaining grip pressure sans gi. Once again, the application is rooted in movement, not locking down. Sometimes the pressure you create moves around a person's centre of gravity -- orbits, really -- as it never strays far. You usually apply pressure at the top of the neck (T-1-ish), or around the waist and push toward their centre of gravity on the ground before slicing obliquely to initiate.
Sometimes the pressure you create comes from literally bouncing your opponent (this can exploit muscular tension in a push-pull sort of way) or even use gravity by hanging off your opponent, dropping your weight and then using the energy from the small bounce you've created to initiate something new.
There are a bunch of these things, but the ones described above (splitting and plucking, respectively) are probably my favourites.
12/24/2007 1:59pm, #9
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I would be inclined to ask:
Who are the top 10 or so tai chi fighters?
What events do they compete in?
Do they train Tai Chi exclusively?
This is not meant to be a prick. I have many years of experience in Chinese martial arts and have met only a handful of tai chi folks who could actually fight, and ALL of them crosstrained in various other arts. Tai chi has some interesting focus on skills. But, as a stand alone will not prepare anyone for a violent conflict in my opinion. However, I think that is also true for any art/school/style that doesn't encourage its practitioners to test themselves in formal competition.
12/24/2007 2:03pm, #10
I'm pretty sure they are going to be Sanshou (CUllion's school) and Sanda (cross trainers) in the US.