There are some general advice regarding Tai Chi application practice that I would like to share, some things that have been important for my own development in the art. These are general advice for all styles. But of course there can be different kind of exemptions for different styles, depending on what kind of application you practice. I would say that there are some things different schools do that I personally don’t agree with. Often applications practice become more or less like any another martial art’s practice like Jujutsu or Shaolin qinna. But this kind of practice without the study of Tai Chi principles is not true Tai Chi practice.
Let’s say that we practice a simple thing like parrying a straight fist, in the same matter you go in to a “holding a ball posture”, like the very start of “Ye ma fen zong” (parting the wild horses by their mane). Sounds easy, right? But in the beginning, you need to think of many different details. After time, all of these details will become second nature. Everything that is hard in the beginning will eventually become a part of your “shenfa”, or body method.
what you need to think about when you parry/deflect that incoming punch:
Adjusting distance and angle.
Through the whole movement, be aware about the distance between his and your body. If you need to move your body, attach your distance to him. Don’t let him dictate the distance or angle. Lead the game by not giving any gaps or let him closer than what you have decided the distance to be.
Maintain a firm stance.
Stand comfortable, bend the knees slightly and relax so you sink the strength down to the feet. This will be better understood as you develop rooting.
Maintain the integrity of zhongding.
Your centerline is a most essential point. Stand firm and straight. Turn around the centerline with weight transitions and the waist like a wheel. This means that when the punch comes, you cannot flinch, you cannot bend spine backwards. You can try to have a slightly forward lean, or at least the feeling (intent) of going forward. Maintain this feeling for the whole defensive action.
Don’t go against his force.
Don’t resist by using force, try to keep as light pressure as possible, follow and direct his movement by following his own his own force. Move in the exact same speed as he does. Use your limbs to feel the speed. Don’t think, feel.
Stick – tie.
Sticking, or “tie”, is important in Tai Chi. Slightly twisting the arm/wrist at the contact point will do the trick. Twist as you move together with his force. Twist in the same speed and move slightly against his arm. If you are very relax and follow his speed and movement, your arm can stick to his with very little pressure. You can follow his change by changing or adding twisting movements.
And yet there is more…
Indeed, there are many other details we could get into. But I think the ones above are a good start. You must try to feel the posture, your own body, at every part of the movement. Try to feel your posture, your feet, the legs, movements of the waist, the centerline, the upright turning movements of the zhongding. Get everything of this and the above correct and together at every single second of practicing the movement. All together, all at once.
At the beginning, practice slowly to get everything together. Later, add speed and power to the punches and continue to get everything together.