Is Tai Chi (Taijiquan) really a martial art? And does it have any real a martial value? Duh! Of course it is. And of course it has. Tai Chi is a very useful Chinese martial art. And as I explained in an earlier post, without the martial aspect, you can’t really called it Tai Chi. Or at least, without it, the art is not complete.
In this country where I live, Tai Chi was introduced as a gymnastic exercise for elderly people. Here, Tai chi was not known for the public until the very end of the 80s. But not even for many years after the was recognized people started to get a clue that it had something to do with martial arts. We did of course as I and others were fortunate to discover Tai Chi from the beginning as a traditional martial art. The first book written in my language showed the 24 movement form, but it didn’t even mention the word martial art. But duh! The name: T’ai Chi Ch’uan or Taijiquan means that it has to do with martial arts. In Chinese ch’uan or quan means boxing (It’s the character of a fist).
Later on some people got the idea that this old people’s exercise was developed from martial arts. But still, it took many years until even a small bunch of people who didn’t practice it to know that it could still be used and still practiced as a martial art.
So yes, Tai Chi can be a martial art and it can have martial value. But solo Tai Chi practice does not automatically has a martial value. I know teachers who say that you learn self-defence by practicing form. This is nothing but bullshit. But there are many Tai Chi bullshitters out there who claims all sort of stupid things.
Common Tai Chi practice is stuff like this:
- Form practice
- Solo drills and Qigong
- Push Hands (Tui Shou) drills
- Solo weapon forms
But for understanding and using Tai Chi as a martial art you also need to practice things like:
- Free Tui Shou
- Tai Chi punching mechanics
- Attacking strategy
- Finishing strategy
You need to understand Tai Chi principles from a martial perspective, practice them for combat. You should also know that Tai Chi Ch’uan is a complete form of Ch’uan, or boxing. It’s a complete martial art. Yes, Tai Chi principles even things like yielding and relaxation has functional use. This means that you don’t need to add anything from another system for Tai Chi to be an effective martial art. Everything is allready here. But you need a good teacher who teach it all.
But still, you should know about other arts, maybe even learn some basics so you can understand how other martial arts do things. And preferably you should practice sparring against people from other styles. The more people you meet, practice with and fight friendly against, the better you will understand how Tai Chi works in combat situations. But then again, regardless what style of Tai Chi you practice, your Tai Chi should have everything you need for your art to make it a highly effective martial art.