Combat Tai Chi – Does it Work?

Most students new to the martial arts will overlook Tai Chi Chuan as a practical form of self defense. Combat Tai Chi components will not be always obvious to you when starting out.  Indeed the self defense and combat side will not usually be taught until your body and mind have been made strong. Unless you have been taught correctly it will be of no use trying to apply your movements in a self defense situation.

Combat Tai Chi
Combat Tai Chi

Combat Tai Chi Chuan has much the same to offer as all the other mainstream martial arts. Your mind and body will be encouraged to remain relaxed and focused. Your body will eventually be honed to such an extent that it will flow and move as one complete sound unit. Indeed because Tai Chi involves whole body movements, utilizing your waist it is not only health promoting but an extremely powerful fighting art.

You will initially be taught to move slowly which will encourage free flowing correct bio-mechanical movements. In time these same movements can be done at a lightning fast pace. But, be very patient as it takes many years of dedication and practice to achieve this goal.





Your movements will include all the skills necessary for applied self defence:

  1. Punches, kicks and striking techniques
  2. Joint locks and grappling
  3. Take downs, sweeps and throws
  4. Escapes from holds.
  5. Knife defense and even floor self defense

Main Aims for a Realistic Approach to Self Defense

  • If your aim is for learning to use your moves in real situations then really dissect each of your movements and throw away what is ineffective.
  • If a movement does not look effective it does not mean that it is not, practice it and try to apply it for your combat situation.
  • Practice with other martial art styles and practitioners of all sizes to ensure that you are not relying on strength alone. This will help to hone your martial skills to great effect.
  • Apply the principles that you have been taught, first slowly and then try each move a little faster. Until you can effectively apply your movements in a relaxed and coordinated fashion at speed.
  • Use your opponents’ oncoming force against them to devastating consequences.
  • Tai Chi Chuan is founded on strong science, studied over many generations, so respect the knowledge that has been fostered by your forefathers.


Your mind is a strong motivating force to achieving a very high level in Tai Chi. Ensure that when you are practicing your forms that you utilize your mind behind every movement. This will help you to foster a strong relaxed, spirit, which is essential in self defense. ‘Imagination’ and ‘awareness’ is the key, without these your movements will be an empty vessel.

  • Ask yourself a realistic question like, how does this work for me? If it can’t then discard it.
  • Movements can sometimes fail if your imagination is not utilized correctly.


Practice everything, but study a couple of favorite techniques in every conceivable situation which can form a cornerstone to your self defense. It is not possible to excel at every movement, so develop a few favorite movements; it could save your life!!


Practice, practice and more practice is the key to doing well at anything in life. We cannot all be naturals so practice is essential to improving.

Do as much partner work as possible for effective combat Tai Chi. Ensure that your partner tests you in all situations and tries to exploit your weaknesses.  Use as many different partners as is possible from a range of martial art backgrounds.

Develop strategies for all situations with relevant applications for locks, holds, strikes etc.

Keep humble and practical for your combat Tai Chi to be really effective.

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