Tai Chi - the Most Misunderstood Martial Art

May 3 10:43 2008 Ken Gullette Print This Article

Tai Chi is the most misunderstood martial art in the world. Millions of people practice tai chi, but very few understand that every movement is a powerful self-defense technique.

I was taller and heavier than the little tai chi master who stood in front of me in my basement. He held out his right hand. I did the same and our wrists touched. But when I took a step at him,Guest Posting I suddenly was thrown to the floor--hard. We both laughed.

I stood up and we touched wrists again. I stepped at him and again found myself on the floor, looking at my carpet in a whole new way.

I was on the receiving end of a tai chi master's skill and power.

Centuries ago, Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing's ancestor created tai chi. He visited my home for a week and I spent quality time finding out first-hand why so many people misunderstand this powerful martial art.

Tai Chi was not intended to be used in slow-motion by elderly people all over the world. Tai Chi is known as a "soft" martial art, but in reality, there is nothing soft about it. Every movement in tai chi is a self-defense technique.

The art was created in the 15th Century by Chen Wangting, a retired warrior in Henan Province, China. His family still practices it as a martial art. They say you have to "eat bitter" to develop tai chi skill. Real tai chi training, especially with the Chen family, involves pain.

The idea of tai chi is to break your attacker quickly and end the fight. Tai Chi is practiced in slow motion so students can develop the body mechanics and structure to deliver the self-defense techniques powerfully. To the average observer, tai chi appears relaxed and fluid. Underneath, the body structure gives it an iron-like strength.

I studied tai chi for a decade before being introduced to the real art, and I was stunned at its power. In the years since I began studying the Chen style, as my skill has increased, I've met many tai chi students who have been in the art for over 20 years but they don't know the proper way to move. Most teachers don't understand the "secrets" of the art. As a result, students don't learn real tai chi.

The power of tai chi and other "internal" arts has nothing to do with "chi": these are physical skills that take years to develop. Too many teachers focus on developing "chi," a mysterious energy they claim is circulating through the body. The more that students focus on developing chi, the more they miss the skills that will make them powerful.

This lesson was driven home to me in my basement as Grandmaster Chen kept throwing me to the floor while he remained relaxed. I began to realize what he was doing, and the subtle way he was making me lose just enough of my balance that I could be easily thrown. It was a valuable lesson. After he left my home, I was more determined than ever to keep practicing so I could develop higher-level skill in this very hard "soft" art.

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About Article Author

Ken Gullette
Ken Gullette

Ken Gullette has been studying martial arts for 35 years. His instructional DVDs explore not just movements and techniques, but also the body mechanics that make the internal arts relaxed but powerful. His website is http://www.kungfu4u.com .

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