It is a wondrous thing to practice within a tradition.
Our system consists of different aspects which should be regarded as an integrated whole. Although clearly defined within themselves, each part nourishes the others and makes Tai Chi Chuan a unique way of training. With time each part flows into the others. In this way there is always something to work on and progress in. Tai Chi can be practiced at many levels. It is like peeling an onion. There is always something to refine, layer by layer…
Dao Quan 太極拳法 – Handform
The Handform is probably what most people associate with Tai Chi. This is a predetermined routine of slowly flowing movements. The movements in the routine are a “library” of self-defense techniques, meant to develop proper biomechanics, balance, focus, intention, strength and relaxation. This type of training has been described as meditation in motion, and is perhaps best known for its therapeutic action. Regular exercise affects the autonomic nervous system and can have a significant effect on blood pressure, balance, healing abilities, blood and energy circulation, presence of mind and focus.
Bing Qi 兵器 – Weapons; forms and applications
There are 3 traditional weapons in our lineage – Sabre, Spear and Straight Sword.
Each weapon has it´s own characteristics and develops different skills as it is trained. Part of the weapons practice is done solo – in forms. These forms are more physically demanding than the Handform and are an excellent way of training strength, stamina, mobility, flexibility, resilience and mindset.
Similar to the Handform, all techniques are also trained in application with partner(s) as well as sparring. Practical weapons training requires very different standards from the practitioner for example regarding perception, reactions, and understanding distance. Usually the weapons practice starts after the student has a base in the Handform and unarmed applications.
Tui Shou 推手 – Pushing Hands
“No drills – no skills”. This means different types of partner exercises. The exercises develop qualities and create awareness of reaction patterns, timing, positioning, mobility, footwork, rooting etc. Traditional exercises are for example Seven Stars Step Pushing Hands, Da Lu, Fu Yang. Exercises can be predetermined or spontaneous, fixed or in full motion. Pushing Hands is also one of the disciplines at Tai Chi competitions.
San Shou 散手 – Applications/Self Defence
Traditional Tai Chi Chuan is an effective and proven method of self-defense. The way we practice this is by working with techniques from the Handform according to correct principles. We train one on one or against multiple opponents. Sparring is an important part of the training as it develops the ability to get the techniques working under pressure.
We work with the following tactical distances/principles;
– Die Pu/Da Ti – 跌撲 Punching/kicking distance. Immediate follow-ups.
– Qin Na – 擒拿 Grappling/locks/breaks. Seizing & holding. Control.
– Shuai Jiao – 摔角 Throws, sweeps & takedowns.
– Dian Shu – 點穴 – Vital points/nerve points.
Nei Kung 內功 – Internal Strength
Nei Gong / Nei Kung can be considered as the backbone of the system and is part of what is called “inside the door training”. It means that this is not taught in open classes, but is knowledge and training obtained and performed on individual basis only after the pupil has attended a formal ceremony of initiation – Bai Shi – with the teacher. The student then becomes Men Ren – an “inside the door person,” which could be translated as a disciple of the teacher. Our Nei Kung consists of 24 exercises – 12 Yin and 12 Yang – which are of importance in self-defense, but they also have a therapeutic effect and contain elements of meditation. Regular and continuous training has effects on the central/autonomic nervous system, and consequently affects a variety of functions of the body and mind.
Below is the full formal syllabus of Wudang Practical Tai Chi Chuan as left by my sifu Dan Docherty.