Tai Chi Fighting Strategy
One of the common misconceptions about tai chi fighting strategy is that it is indirect – that it is a purely yielding and passive “defensive” strategy. This misconception may be inspired by the fact that tai chi solo training appears soft, gentle, and full of large circular movements. Even in the two person training exercises, we often see large rolling circles that follow the opponents attack rather than intercepting it. Here, one must learn to distinguish between training methods and the practical self-defence skills which are developed by those training methods. These gentle flowing exercises are actually training the students to find the most direct route to the opponent’s centre.
Another impression that many people have is that the tai chi strategy is to just keep yielding until the opponent gets tired or falls down of their own accord. While this might happen if the attacker is incompetent, it is not to be relied upon as a prudent strategy.
The strategy of tai chi is not passive. It is the aggressive search for balance and victory. Experience teaches us that efficient victory is never achieved through aggressively attacking the opponents’ strengths, or by directly resisting the attackers onslaught. Remember the Spartan strategy at Thermopylae.
We use circles as way to achieve directness, just as we use softness to achieve power, and slowness to achieve speed.
In the solo practice we use softness and relaxation to help develop a direct alignment with the centre of the earth with no lateral pressure or superfluous tension. This enables us to form an internal structure which is capable of withstanding an opponents direct pressure to our centre. But the purpose of this structure is not to resist the attack but to enable us to meet it without tension. The absence of tension allows us to neutralize the attack without yielding or resisting. We don’t try to take anything away from the force of the attack, we simply add to it the energy that will suit our purpose.