within the Microuniverse
It is doubtless one of the martial arts suited to our
time; adopted by the new age together with other pratices and gentle techniques
as a vehicle of wisdom, relaxation and illumination
As it becomes
ever more familiar and diffused, among those who do not make up the hard
core of experts, its very popular image, in turn, stands for an inevitable
feedback mechanism which deforms the art.When in fact, eighty per cent
of possible pupils come expecting only a method of relaxation, it is difficult
to propose, at least on a commercial level, a solid and weighty martial
And this is, indeed, a pity, because Tai Chi Chuan has been and can be
a really effective martial art, and with a rather deeper dimension than
the usual punch and kick methods.
But how can we find this type of martial Tai Chi Chuan, and how can we
feel our way in this micro-universe of styles, books, articles, which
range from Tai Chi for cleansing the tendons, to the Chinese competitive
forms; how can we re-discover something original, authentic, valid, which
can, not only ring the meditation bell, but also trigger off our rational
capacity and our common sense?
Being an exponent and above all a student, of this authentic and concrete
martial Tai Chi, I thought I would write a few words that might act as
guidelines and workable instruments for those whom Vezzoso called "daring
seekers", in order to orientate themselves with more attention and
awareness in the world of Tai Chi.
Let us begin with some bibliographical information. The majority of books
and articles in circulation about Tai Chi, are, as working and learning
instruments, quite useless and even off-track. Apart from some classical
works whose consultation is practically a must, as for istance The Classics
of Tai Chi by Waysun Liao, almost all the others are made up of photographic
manuals of little use, Chinese tales about Chan San Feng and foggy incomprehensible
texts which speak of I Ching, theory of the five elements, refinement
of chi, cleansing of the bone marrow and similar obscurities which certainly
do not help to find a good school and to perform even the simplest of
exercises; however the entire pseudo- martial new age population browses
off this literature and with such fantasies justifies the time spent in
playing at Tai Chi.
The only really valid, informative book that I can recommend is Complete
Tai Chi Chuan by Dan Docherty, a Scottish master of the Wu Tang Style,
who in this little work has tackled all the aspects of Tai Chi in great
depth, with accurate research and a critical spirit.
As for the articles in circulation, they reflect in miniature, the unhappy
literary panorama: the best i have read in the past few years are, in
my opinion the interviews with the last founders of the schools of the
Chen and Yang styles, which have appeared in Samurai.
And now to some very general observations on the principal aspects of
Tai Chi Chuan, as well as the differences within the varying styles. I
must point out however that with regard to Tai Chi I shall deal only with
the classic styles; in fact, even if there are still some simple-minded
souls who are searching for the real Tai Chi in Chinese physical education
centres and in the modern forms, enough is known at this point to relegate
such commercial institutions and exercises to the category of gymnastic
and sportive centres without further pretence.
So we can begin by saying that every style of Tai Chi, or rather martial
art in general, has two aspects; a technical martial one and an energetic
one. In other words, the movements of Tai Chi Chuan, respond both to patterns
of martial application and to patterns which stimulate the energetic structures
of the human body.
It must also be said that, to a certain extent, these two aspects are
inversely proportionate to one another: the more one movement privileges
a precise and economic logic of martial application, the less is it easy
to use for increasing sensitivity and growth at an energetic level.
Now these two aspects hold, within the various schools, more or less weight,
but in general it can be said that all the more usual styles, such as
Chen and Yang, at the moment give preference to the energetic aspect and
often have totally lost the martial logic.
The ample, choreographic movements, the long and open positions, the useless
and superflous embellishments, certainly do not corrispond to the same
logic of movement for combat that can be seen, for example, in Win Chun
Kung Fu, in Shaolin Mon Karate, in English boxing.
And while these function in combat, that structure in Tai Chi cannot function.
Where, however, what is lost in practicality, is gained in energetic structure,
and those same very large movements constitute, if correctly learned and
put into pratice, a wonderful system of Chi Kung and they together with
other internal techniques, can prepare the body for fa chin, or explosion
of energy. Although, of course, fa chin is not a logical and natural consequence
of a wide, slow training, but a difficult technique that must be learned
through hard work.
Usually the Chen style is considered more martial than others because
its forms contain fa chin, but every style seeks a martial application
must train for fa chin in all the techniques. It can be said that, on
the whole, Tai Chi as in every internal style,bases the developements
of explosive energy on three successive stages: static position, slow
movements, and fast movements with fa chin: any style that does not contain
these three elements, will not lead to the goal of putting it to pratical
Then there is the aspect of tui shou: tui shou is an important element
for the learning of martial techniques, but it must not be forgotten that:
1. It is a conventional pratice aimed above all at sensitivization.
2. It does not prepare one adequately for combat at a distance.
The Pratice of tui shu therefore has to be integrated with exercises at
a distance, which teach the fundamentals of time, space and rhythm of
A last note on an aspect whici appeared recently and often in print regarding
Tai Chi: dim mak.
Every time I read articles on dim mak. I am very puzzled and I wonder
if the authors have, I won't say practised combat, but ever really done
any boxing or Karate or Kung Fu free fighting.
On this subject, I should like to quote a few words by Wang Hsiang Chai,
the creator of I Chuan: "For centuries people have wanted to regard
the theory of strikes on vital parts as if this were something miraculous.
Some say the attacks should be directed at particular channels on which
the points for acupuncture can be found, others that the vital points
change according to the time of day. All this is fact disgusting nonsense.
Because in real combat, the two parties are on a par. It is difficult
enough to even touch the opponent, let alone strike him on a particular
I would like to add a personal anecdote: a few years ago when we were
younger and less aware, I and a friend of mine, both karate black belt,
since we were studying the relationship between tameshivari and combat,
decided to try out an unusual experiment: we tied a piece of flat pine-wood
two centimeters thick to our chests and began sparring, each trying to
break the piece of wood of the other. After trying for half an hour without
results, we realized that Wang Hsiang Chai wes right: it is almost impossible
in real combat to strike the adversary in a precise point and with precise
force. I may add that at that time I was third dan and my friend was described
by Master Kase as the best karate practioner in Europe. So the theory
of strikes on vital points can function only with an immobile, (and unguarded)
opponent. But if the opponent is immobile I am fairly sure to succeed
in killing him even without a knowledge of dim mak.... so let us go on
to more serious things.
We shall now try to identify the cardinal points of Tai Chi Chuan as an
extremely efficient martial art, and from there go on to an operative
proposal relating to a style with a martial basis.
The first point is that Tai Chi Chuan, thanks to internal methods and
integrative use of the body, develops the previously mentioned capacity
to express a particular explosive energy called fa chin. Such an energy
can spring from strikes together with a short sprint or even from zero
distance - watch out then for the wide, whipping movements of the Chen
style: - the appearance can be deceptive! - and has the peculiarity of
being a vibratory, non percussive energy: in this way it can penetrate
the target without stopping on the surface.
The second point which is linked to the first, is that Tai Chi, through
the integrated and total use of the body (and here a technical digressionis
necessary that would take too long) leads to the expression of movements
which at every point are full of an enormous dynamic energy (demonstrated
by the famous pushes).
The third point is that relaxation, linkage and the circular structure
of the movements, allow for the striking of the adversary with a series
of long and very fast punches, kicks and elbow strikes, and so on. A concept
similar to that of Win Chun, which however works on a preference for direct,
central attack, while Tai Chi follows a circular trajectory as well.
The fourth point is that internal training for relaxation and perceptive
and energetic sensitisation leads the body to a much faster and more refined
capacity for reaction than normal, and this is further re-enforced by
the pratice of tui shou exercises.
Lastly, the fifth point, which is connected to the previous one, is that
this type of sensitisation, together with the appropriate exercises, allows
for the capacity to absorb blows on the trunk and legs.
We have therefore outlined some of the characteristics of good Tai Chi
relaxed but with a very fast reactive capacity, lightning follow-ups of
explosive strikes even at minimal distance, full, potent movements, and
a great capacity for the absorption of blows.
And now let us look at a Tai Chi style that can lead to these results.
The Tai Chi Chuan of Wang Shu Chin.
The form of Wang Shu Chin, sometimes called Cheng Tsung, of the real synthesis,
or Wu Tang, consists of 99 movements done slowly using a basic stance
similar to that of Hsing-i, with the weight on the back leg. Every single
movement is directly and clearly applicable in combat as Master Kenji
Tukitsu well knows, having chosen this style for the form of Tai Chi in
his own school.
This style, then, apart from being extremely interesting from a martial
point of view, being a compendium of the principal styles of Tai Chi together
with essential elements from other internal schools, is probably the best
one for whoever practices Hsing-i, Pa kua or I Chuan.
Personally, after having studied the Yang and Chen styles, I can say that
in my opinion the style of Wang Shu Chin is simpler, more technical (in
the sense of precise martial functionality) and much more directly applicable
for combat, and furthermore constitutes a perfect complement for whoever
is studying the other internal styles. From the point of view of its shortcomings,
the composed, economical and precise movements take longer for sensitisation
and energetic developement to come about, and are less agreeable to the
Nonetheless, the fundamental point that i learned through studying this
style, is to shun mystification and vagueness in order to concentrate
on obtaining concrete sensations and efficacious techniques: with the
magic of internal styles, but verification on the martial testing ground.
if we study Tai Chi Chuan with the illusion or the desire to practice
an efficacious art of combat, we would do well, after some years of serious
training, not to take refuge in annecdotes on Yang Cheng fu or Chen Fa
Ko, but to ask ourselves with sincerity if we are capable, with a push,
of sending someone of our own weight flying, for a distance of at least
two metres, if we can receive a blow to the body without too much discomfort,
if we can accomplish a strike from zero distance, and above all, if we
are capable of sustaining realistic combat with a serious opponent, while
using the techniques of our Tai Chi.
If to the contrary it would be a good idea to analyse our practice, and
recognize it for what it is: gentle physical training, a way of meditation,
or a game.