Tai Chi for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
There is a very good reason for the commonly held belief that tai chi players can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.
It is true!
The majority of tai chi students care little about the art’s famous martial history. Most are in it for the well documented health benefits. Even so, while the martial aspect is hard to find, it is worth the search.
If you want to learn what tai chi can contribute to your MMA toolset, you don’t need to change styles or teachers. But you just might be very surprised by what tai chi can offer.
Why do so few tai chi players develop the art’s legendary skills?
In the late Qing Dynasty, tai chi was taught to people who had already been doing martial arts for much of their lives. Most were already masters of other styles. They were not so much students as they were fellow teachers. Together they developed what was referred to as “Internal Arts.” This was not so much a martial style as it was a way of thinking. They refined the subtle principles of alignment, sensitivity, power, and strategy. While “internal” referred to the resulting power and awareness they achieved, it also referred to the fact that only advanced students were able to grasp the true meaning of the lessons. What this meant was that future generations of students, who learned these advanced principles for the sake of their health, might develop advanced martial skills, but they could never use these skills in a real fight because they lacked any previous martial arts foundation.
It’s like having a Ferrari but not knowing how to drive.
Why so slow?
If you can’t maintain ideal alignment and connection while you are moving slowly, you won’t be able to do it quickly. However, once you can do it slowly, speed is the easy part.
When do you speed it up?
Hardly ever. Even at the most advanced levels, the greatest improvement is achieved by moving even more slowly, or not at all.
How does that help in a fight?
A fight is all about balance and the integration of mind and body. If you don’t have balance, you have nothing to defend. If you have true balance, the fight is already won.
“The fastest way to reach a destination is to already be there.”
– Ian Sinclair
IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL
Mid-range skills are difficult to master and often frightening to practice. It is a range where everything is possible. That is why so few can use mid-range skills and why those who can are proven to have such a great advantage.
We recognize that techniques don’t work if the method of application is incorrect. The method of application will not be effective if the structure and alignment of the body is not balanced and fluid. The structure will not be balanced and fluid if it is not relaxed. The structure cannot relax if the legs are not cooking. If, however, you can fry eggs on your thighs and relax the rest of the structure, we call it “having a solid root.” If you have a root, then technique is incidental.
Then you will be able to “stick and follow in a circle” (stay on target without letting the opponent find us). Next, we harmonize attack and defence and achieve a state called “no enemy.’
“I was just looking for the part of your mind that wanted to get knocked over.”
– Vicky Hall
The greatest appreciation of the combat applications of tai chi usually comes from black belts and experts of other styles. Even tai chi students often fail to see how this training will help them defend themselves. Tai chi training includes conditioning, technique, method, and strategy, as well as weapons and “free hands.” The goal, however, is to transcend all of that and to see victory as a perpetual state of being rather than seeing it as feat to accomplish from time to time.
Each movement or part of a movement has three types of application:
Strike, Throw, and Lock
Each position contains potential for 8 energetic qualities:
- “folding” (elbow or knee)
- “against” (usually shoulder or hip)
Each of these 8 qualities can be expressed in five ways:
The missing Element!
The ability to “stick & follow in a circle” is practised with an exercise called “tuishou” (pushing hands). This skill has uses in all ranges, but is most effective in the midrange. With extraordinary mid-range skill, an athlete can find a noticeable advantage over those who lack it.
“ First we learn to stop fighting ourselves…
Next we learn to stop fighting the opponent…
Then we KICK BUTT!”
– Xin Yian AKA – Ian Sinclair