Compliance vs. Aliveness in Tai Chi & Martial Arts

I recently got in a discussion with someone who had a strong emotional reaction related to considering degrees of “compliance” in a martial arts video.

Compliance, and its opposing concept of Aliveness are two critical factors in any martial art training. Indeed, both are required to earn progress when it comes to preparedness for real self defense and fighting. To understand each, obviously a good start is to define them.

[Compliance] vs Aliveness in Martial ArtsCompliance vs [Aliveness] in Martial Arts

Compliance in Martial Arts Training.

Compliance’s dictionary definition has to do with “complying” or doing “what you have been asked or ordered to do.”[1] In other words, someone in a state of compliance will …

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Arguments Against Reality: Tai Chi Stereotypes

If you’ve spent much time in the internal martial arts world (or the Chinese martial arts world, or the “Traditional” martial arts world in general)… you might have noticed that many people refuse to relax their grip on heated – and ultimately fruitless – arguments against reality.

Arguments Against Reality: Tai Chi StereotypesArguments Against Reality: Tai Chi Stereotypes

People want things to be a certain way, even when they’re not.

People want to be more powerful, more adept, more skillful, and more privy to secret knowledge than everyone else. Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you have it.

Just because you believe you’re a badass fighter, doesn’t mean you are.

There is no invincible style. Nobody wins them all.

The …

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Tai Chi & MMA - Part One: What Is MMA?

MMA & Combat Sports in general have a mixed reputation in what I will refer to as the “Traditional Martial Arts” (TMA) communities, and the relationship between tai chi & MMA is no different.

Tai Chi & MMA - Part One: What Is MMA?Tai Chi & MMA - Part One: What Is MMA?

I have heard all the rhetoric: MMA isn’t a “real” martial art, our techniques are too deadly for the ring, sport fighters are barbaric, fighting for sport is against the tao, MMA is too external, it is consumerism at its worst, it is corrupting our children, etc…

I’m not going to agree …

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The Taijiquan of Departed Master Li Jingwu

While there are many Taijiquan Grand Masters who are well known in the West … there are also many of the greatest adepts of this internal martial art who are almost completely obscured. Even masters from more recent years, of whom there is plenty of video & photographic evidence demonstrating their skill, are often totally unknown to English speaking Western Taijiquan practitioners.

Li Jingwu TaijiquanTaijiquan Li Jingwu

The departed Great Grandmaster Li Jingwu (1912-1997) is one such example. Master Li was an expert at both Wu style taijiquan as well as Chen style taijiquan … and studied with some of the most preeminent masters in these styles of his day.

Born in Shandong province, and raised in Harbin (of Heilongjiang province), it was not until he moved …

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Tensegrity and Taijiquan (Tai Chi Ch'uan)

No matter what school, style, or lineage of taijiquan you may encounter, it is likely that over the course of studying this internal martial art … you will at some point be forced to totally reconsider the way you think your body works.

Tensegrity Structure AnimatedTensegrity Structure :: Human Body

The above spinning image (left) is an example of a structure being held together by the force of tensegrity or tensional integrity. In other words, the rigid green “beams” are never touching, but are suspended in their shape by the interconnected flexible red “strings.” The structure in the black and white image (right) is a symbolically simplified model of our skeleton & muscles to display that the …

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The Zen of Taijiquan

When people think of taijiquan — as a martial art or as a spiritual discipline — the first association is with the principles of the Tao. The classics of Taoism are tai chi chuan’s philosophical foundation, and without them, any consideration of our beloved art is missing its most essential cornerstone.

Zen and Taijiquan

The history of Taoism and Zen (Cha’an in China) are intertwined in too many ways to count, but for the sake of the Zen of this article … we’ll save the history lesson for another time.

As I have heard from one of my teachers:

“All explanations are wrong. Correct taijiquan is a feeling.”

It is here, at this intersection of feeling & explanation, that I would like to examine the “Zen” of Taijiquan.

As I understand it, Zen, too, is a feeling.

I have heard it referred …

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Tai Chi Movements: Fu Zhongwen's Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan

Fu Zhongwen (1903-1994) is one of the most renowned, accomplished, and important figures for today’s Yang style taijiquan (and for the world tai chi community in general).

Fu ZhongwenFu Zhongwen Yang Style Taijiquan

Zhongwen was born in the village of Guanfu in Yong Nian County, Hebei Province … the birthplace of Yang Lu Chan & the cradle of Yang style taijiquan. Grandmaster Fu was apprenticed to Yang Lu Chan’s most famous grandson, Yang Chengfu, at the tender age of 9 (in 1913). It was with Great Grandmaster Yang Chengfu that Zhongwen travelled around china, to Hong Kong, Tianjing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Beijing, and more. During these travels, Yang Chengfu would teach & Fu Zhongwen would demonstrate. Fu Zhongwen would also …

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