The deadly reputation of tai chi

Discussion in 'Internal Martial Arts' started by robin101, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. robin101

    robin101 Working the always shift.

    Hey guys

    firstly forgive my ignorance on the subject, I have never done an internal martial art, and have next to no knowledge on the subject.

    I was reading a book the other day where they were going through the types of martial arts and what they were about, and when it got to tai chi it said something along the lines of

    "mainly used for exersize but if trained properly by the right teacher and it can be the deadliest of the martial arts"

    I did some more reasearch and it seems that this was a prevalent thought in the general martial arts consiousness. Now I understand the reputionation of something like ninjutsu being deadly ( true or not), the ninjas were assasins etc so that sorta has some connection there.

    But my question is where did Tai Chi get the reputation for deadlyness? and where does that stem from?
  2. Wooden Hare

    Wooden Hare Banned Banned

    Once upon a time in China, the "Supreme Ultimate Fist" was a well-respected hard fighting style.

    Today, Tai Chi is largely diluted and has lost a lot of effective training routines in favor of the traditional Daoist-styles of slow movement and breathing exercise that are pop culture.

    Tai Chi instructors/schools where you can learn the old school fighting applications, AND that will provide an opportunity to practice/spar with them in non-compliant fashion, are extremely rare.

    Deadly? No. No styles are "deadly", ie routinely cause death. Dangerous, sure. But there have been more boxing deaths than Tai Chi deaths in the last 100 years.

    For a style to be "deadly", you need to find a stylist known to actually kill people, which is nearly impossible until you go back to the late 19th/early 20th century.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  3. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Ya, as Wooden Hare says.

    Also, I think the 'deadly' idea is as a result of stories/legends about founders of various styles. Nothing really verifiable. For example:'an#The_Legend_of_Yang_Wudi

    There are a few, good Tai Chi people around these days who can do some impressive stuff, but they don’t generally compete in any combat sports as far as I know, so again most likely non verifiable (unless you go see for yourself, if you can find them) and not tested on a professional combat sports stage unless I missed it, which I doubt.

    So basically, no idea. In general and overall, I would say it’s just marketing.
  4. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member


    You remember Sami 'The hun' Berick ?
    He was trained by Neil R, one of my teachers, you know of him. But yea, not many people from the trad arts go pro... Ameteur combat sports perhaps a lot more.

    As for "deadly", yeah that's the way people thought about MA back in the 70's.. Count Dante lives long!!
  5. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian


    Yang LuChan, fore-runner of Yang style Tai Chi, was employed as head instructor of a team of imperial body-guards in the late 19th century. His sons, Jianhou and Banhou, I believe also held similar positions.

    Nowadays, as has already been said, the vast majority of Taijiquan/Tai Chi Chuan is watered down, and taught/practiced as a method of health/wellness cultivation. (Not neccessarily a bad thing, depending on what you want from practice, and as long as you can honestly assess what is being taught, and how).

    I'm starting to notice a resurgance of interest from the public in Taiji as a fighting art. As more current practitioners become aware of some of the dishonest practices that have been prevelant in recent decades, it seems that the standard may slowly be rising - this can only be a good thing!

    The irony is, that Taiji as a health art works best when practiced as a complete martial art, since it was a lot of the conditioning and basic exercises that promote health, rather than learning linked forms!

    If you're interested in trying some martial tai chi, let us know where abouts you're located, and maybe someone can point you in the direction of a good teacher?
  6. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Yeah, I thought of that guy, his background is on the link below, I wouldn’t really class him as strictly Tai Chi though, MMA if anything, plus I understand that he competes out of an MMA/BJJ gym.

    Nevertheless, it’s still just one guy with a not very impressive record.

    But as you say, not many traditional people go pro. I don’t think there is really a clear pull to Tai Chi for anyone wanting to become a professional combat athlete.

    Unfortunately, the Tai Chi guys who do have skills, don’t feel the need to show this or validate it on a professional sports combat stage, in fact if anything they generally tend to hide themselves away. Though I do recall Paul Whitrod (not strictly Tai Chi, if at all?) was gonna have an MMA bout, but as far as I know it never happened. Could have been interesting.

    And yeah, perhaps 'the deadly' is a throwback from the 70's. It was all deadly back then... but I guess translations like grand ultimate fist don’t really help either, especially if people are interpreting it literally.
  7. robin101

    robin101 Working the always shift.

    Thanks but no , not interested in taking tai chi at all, just wondering where the reputation comes from as it doesnt seem to be all that viscious or encorage sparring or that kinda thing.
  8. Wooden Hare

    Wooden Hare Banned Banned

    Sorry, can't help myself.

    Link removed, as it's against the ToS to post full movies for copyright reasons.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 7, 2014
  9. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Dan Docherty is known to throw the odd knuckle or two

    My own Sifu is a disciple of Arnold Tayam in Yang and Chen style (though Singh claims Chen as his primary) and Singh can fight like Satan on Bath Salts - he attributes a lot of his ability to flow to his Tai Chi
  10. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    That's cool :cool:

    I think a lot of the issues with the Tai Chi that can be 'seen' is that it generally only shows a pretty form, or some light push-hands, or choreography set applications..

    Any videos that show more than this, tend to get ripped apart by infighting; those claiming that it isn't tai chi because it's too violent, or the demonstrators were not skilled, etc..

    As I mentioned before, the real skill comes from the foundation work - having a pretty form just means that you've got a pretty form.
  11. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Very true. Example:

    So few Tai Chi schools take a martial approach that it becomes a controversial topic within this general community. Likewise, there is a lot of disparity between what is considered martial etc, not to mention the disparity in interpretation of terminology, particularly the more classical stuff.

    I think this is in part due to vast amounts of schools and people teaching it, and is further amplified by a lack of physical competition which allows for the amount of practitioners with no martial skill to increase as they can get by without being tested by peers or gullible students whom accept their teachers claims as facts without questioning.

    I think this problem can be resolved and all this diversity can also be a good drive for progress, but first some big changes need to take place. I reckon if you could get some sort of body together which would standardise the skill set and goals of practice then license the schools according to some criteria, I.E. Tai Chi for health, recreation, martial art etc. As well as hold modern progressive events and competitions, you could,potentially separate the good from the odd and encourage innovation and development. As things are now, it's really very hard to find a good teacher amongst the vast amounts of schools. It should not be that way, though I suppose this is an endemic problem in traditional martial arts.
  12. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Agreed - I hereby declare you chairman of the Association of Percussive Chinese Line-Dancers. I'll be treasurer, YouKnowWho will be chief international events organiser, and Cloudz can be in charge of the minibar. :hat:

    Admission to the APCLD will be dependant, primarily, on the amount of liquor donated to the association.
  13. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    I demand ceremony! :D
  14. m1k3jobs

    m1k3jobs Dudeist Priest

    Question for y'all.

    I've turned 60 this year and I'm finding the submission grappling and BJJ just taking to much of a toll on me. I currently coach youth wrestling (Kindergarden through 2nd grade) and have an decent weight lifting program.

    Would it be possible that I could get some benefit from a TC school, even if it was kind of hippy-ish. Some light push hands and working the forms?


    Oh yeah Hannibal, isn't it time for a Wang vid? (I think it was Wang you have the man crush on.)
  15. Wooden Hare

    Wooden Hare Banned Banned

    There was decent British Medical Journal study (2011) differentiating fact from fiction with regards to Tai Chi benefits....correlating Tai Chi with improved balance, falling prevention, psychological health, stress/tension relief, and general physical health as age progresses.

  16. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant


    As you can probably see from the comments in this thread, the benefit you could gain is largely dependent on quality of instruction which can vary greatly. Some generic Tai Chi may offer some benefit in terms of relaxation and mobility, but at a quality school you could get a real awareness of your body and it's structural and mechanical nature which can help improve your posture, balance and mobility.

    In my opinion, the main benefit health wise comes from an even balanced structure and mindfulness of breath and by default mood/mental state and the relationship between these. This in turn effects the comfort and mobility of your body and your state of mind.

    Specifically, the structure is a matter of allowing the skeletal system to take a more supportive role, which depends in large to the balance between opposing muscle groups. When this balanced is improved, the structure can rely more on the bones and their position in relation to other bones and gravity. As a result the muscles can maintain a more relaxed elastic state as they are less engaged (tense) in any position due to a balanced stacking (centre of gravity over centre of gravity) of the skeletal structure. This sort of work has an effect on releasing conscious and subconscious tension as it makes such imbalances more easier to identify and helps correct postural and mental habits which can act to deform your natural structure, balance and movement.

    It's basically the process of centrally aligning/stacking your bodies various centres of gravity (head, upper torso, lower torso) through a central path that is as close to each individual centre and in as straight a line as your natural shape allows which in turn is aligned 90 degrees to the force of gravity (perpendicular to the ground). Thereby releasing tension required to maintain a more off balanced structure (leaning back or forwards). This postural refinement can work on an ever smaller scale and consequently transfers your posture from relying more on muscular tension to keep you upright, to relying more on the natural action of your skeleton and bones and soft tissue, resulting in greater relaxation and mobility.

    The breath ties in to the above process too. Generally the more rough/uneven your breath is, the more tense your body. Whereas if you can breathe in a continuous smooth and slow, soft manner, which requires a certain amount of relaxation, you can relax the muscles of the rest of the body to a greater extent. One of the main aspects here is the balance of the pelvis and the muscles surrounding your trunk, basically your core, which in the right condition allows for your diaphragm to move smoother (due to less tension) thereby positively affecting your breath by making it more effortless.

    All of these activities are meditative in nature in that they require attention, awareness and mindfulness, thereby producing a meditative impact on the mind which has its own benefits and further reinforces the whole process.

    Hope this makes some sense and this is of course only my take on it and not very detailed at that so for sure other people will have their own ideas and likewise there are probably many things I neglected to mention.

    If you want to try some preparatory exercises which are based on these ideas you can check out the Chinese marital arts section in Articles, I posted some instructions there a while ago. It's pretty easy and simple stuff.

    In any case, I would not recommend a random school, you can easily pick up negative habits from erroneous instruction/practice, so you may as we'll go for the best you can find in your area, if you can do that of course. On top of that, you will want something which has contact, as the external pressure in training is essential feedback for your other practices as it allows you to see how force acts in relation to changes in your structure and so forth allowing you to refine your structure and it's balance to a greater extent. I understand some of this is probably obvious to you coming from a wrestling background, but I thought its worth a mention.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014
  17. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Someone give that man a pint!

    ITS; best ima/taiji post of the year so far!
  18. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Interesting articles!

    I wonder; could the contradictory nature of the results be down to a difference in what was actually taught to the subjects (as well as by whom)?

    As we're all aware, the quality of tai chi instruction can vary so much; could this have impacted the results?
  19. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Thanks DB, it was actually the result of a few pints :D
  20. Wooden Hare

    Wooden Hare Banned Banned

    I think most of the contradictory results were due to claims of Tai Chi being good therapy for ALL conditions, but it was found to either be ineffective or even counterproductive for specific ones.

    The inflammation finding is very interesting; it would suggest that Tai Chi might actually be bad for certain inflammatory conditions associated with aging, such as arthritis, back issues, etc.

    It makes sense. Improving balance, maintaining strength is all well and good, but movement is movement and moving inflamed body tissue is usually a bad idea.

    For THOSE kinds of conditions, the seated Daoist/Buddhist practices make more sense. I imagine that for myself, there will be a time for Hung ga, a time for Tai Chi, and finally a time for just sitting and breathing, before passing silently into the Dao that cannot be named. :meditate:
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014

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