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Medical Tai Chi

The Internal Martial Arts, An Overview
Medical Tai Chi
By Erle Montaigue

I have always put forth the view that the "Internal Chinese Martial Arts" such as Taijiquan and Baguazhang are among the most deadly martial arts ever invented. Along with the practice of "Qigong", these arts also represent the very tip of the mountain as far as self healing and medical healing goes. But, looking around at what most people put forth as being representative of these arts, I wonder about this. At one time, Taijiquan for instance was regarded as the supreme ultimate boxing system of China. Now, we see men playing little boy's games, dressing up in funny suits that have not been worn for centuries in China, all trying to show how good they are at their art, and how better they are than everyone else. They all go to the same meetings and competitions, to show their wares, they all write the same articles in magazines as to how these arts should be used, they all have the same serious expressions on their faces, and all take themselves and their arts very seriously. But not many, if any, have a clue as to the true nature of the internal martial arts.

The internal martial arts rise high above the way most people practice and propagate these once great arts. Real martial artists do not have to be seen to be serious martial artists, they are just normal people, confident in their art, caring for others, not having to show off at parties etc. Dim-mak is one of these great internal martial arts, one that was almost extinct, leaving behind only a shadow of its former glory in the form of Taijiquan or T'ai chi.

Once a great fighting art of self defence, Taijiquan in particular took a beating when it entered the modern western world. The "new age" era almost caused real Taijiquan to become extinct. Only a handful of instructors kept going, trying to reveal the true nature of this art. Now, in the later part of the 20th Century, Taijiquan and Medical Tai Chi, due to the dedication of a handful of teachers, is being revealed for the first time in modern history as the great fighting, self defence and healing art that it once was.

Most people only ever get to see a fraction of the first area of Taijiquan and medical tai chi, i.e.., the "self healing" area, the slow movements we have become familiar with. Few people ever see the real martial arts applications and even fewer ever get to see the "medical" area.

All great martial arts used to have three areas of excellence. The first was the self healing area. Obviously one has to be healthy in order to practice a self defence art. In this area, we practice the forms and the pushing hands movements. There are slow forms, medium paced forms and explosive forms in medical tai chi. There are two person fighting sets, also for self healing and medical tai chi. At its highest level, the original Yang Style of Taijiquan, founded by Yang Lu-ch'an which was called "Hao Ch'uan" or loose boxing, becomes an explosive set of movements causing the practitioner to take on the appearance of a rag doll, with "fa-jing" shakes taking place all throughout the set of movements. Later, as Yang's grandson took over the school, he changed the form leaving only the slow movements.

In order to become healthy through movement, we must have slow graceful movements as well as explosive, powerful movements, this gives us a complete set of movements based upon the yin and yang theory and medical tai chi.

The second area of Taijiquan is the martial arts area. Not that which is presented by most Taijiquan instructors where we block and evade, then re-attack etc. But the extremely deadly use of dim-mak, or death point striking. But it's not just the fact that we strike to very dangerous points, it's the way that we strike to these points, and the explosive method that we use to attack an attacker before he has even the time to react to our defence. No forms are practiced in this area, although the original forms from the self healing area are important in giving us timing and co-ordination. In the self defence area we practice "training methods". These methods give us the ability to react at a reflex level whereby the attacker is attacked rather than defended against.

There have also been so many mis-translations handed down over the years, so we just don't get the true meaning of the "classics", a bunch of sayings by old masters and documented so that we might have a better understanding of Taijiquan. For instance, the "classic saying" of; "if he moves up, you move up, if he moves down, you move down, if he moves forward, you move back, if he moves back, you move forward". The last two parts of this classic saying have been mis-represented in that the first two give us the idea that we do exactly the same thing as the attacker is doing, and this is correct. However, the translation then goes on in the second part to say that we do exactly the opposite to what the attacker is doing! The second part of this saying should read; "if he moves forward, you move forward, if he moves back, you move back". If he moves forward, he is expecting you to move back, so he is in his element, but if you move forward, doing something completely different to what he expects, then you have the advantage. And if he should move backwards, you do not wish to follow him right into his attack! You should move back so that he has then to move forward into your attack as he cannot harm you if you move back as he moves back. Another mis-translation as to the very way that we practice Taijiquan comes in the classis saying; "move like the great river". Most people have translated this as being that we move slowly and calmly as a gently flowing river. But when the Chinese talk about the "great river", they are talking about the Yellow River, which is parts is almost unnavigable because it is so wild and explosive. So, yes, we must perform the Taijiquan forms like, the great river, sometimes slow and calm flowing, sometimes explosive and dangerous.

Taijiquan, when done at its original level, deserves the modern name of "The Supreme Ultimate Boxing", but done as some sort of health dance or mystical experience, cannot be called Supreme Boxing.

The third area of one's training in the internal martial arts, is the medical tai chi. I regard this area as the highest level of one's training. When I say medical tai chi I mean that the practitioner of Taijiquan can actually use the postures on someone to affect a healing. Not just giving the person a posture that will heal some ailment, but actually doing something to that person. This area takes many years to master and then some more. However, all one has to know are the self defence applications at a dim-mak level in order to use medical tai chi in this way. This is why the healing area should never be taken away from the martial area. In order to know how to use medical tai chi for healing others, we simply have to know the martial for two reasons. The first is that in doing Taiji at its upper levels, such as dim-mak, we develop an internal energy which attaches us directly to the ground via "energy (Qi) roots", these roots then direct what is called "ground energy" up through our own body and into the body we are trying to heal. But this expertise is only gained through training in Taiji at its highest levels of martial art.

The second reason for knowing the martial art, is that all we have to know, movement wise, are the dim-mak applications. If we know how to use for instance the posture known as "P'eng" , where we firstly take an attack using a low damaging block to our right side damaging his heart/lung meridian, thus draining energy from his body, then we further drain Qi (energy) from the heart/lung meridian by hammering onto wrist points of "Heart 5 and Lung 8" using a violent grab with our right palm. Then we strike to his "mind point" on the side of his jaw using our left back-fist thus causing him to lose consciousness through the action of the strike causing his central nervous system to stop sending signals to his brain. Then, to further the damage, the left wrist attacks to a point called "Conceptor vessel No. 22", thus causing death.

In order to use the above method for the medical tai chi, all we have to do is that exact self defence method, only at a healing level and not of course at a martial level as we would kill our patient instead of healing him.

We can use this exact self defence method to heal someone of low energy, listless etc., and also to heal someone who has emotional problems caused through some childhood trauma, like sexual abuse or abuse etc. I am in the process of writing a book on Medical Taijiquan which will show all of the applications from Taiji used in this way. The method for this healing involves still striking, very lightly the heart and lung meridians.

This is done only lightly though. Then there is the light grab on the wrist followed by the left palm scraping over the patient's left cheek and out over the head.

The Medical Tai Chi area is the highest level of one's martial arts training but sadly most systems nowadays have left this area out and I believe I am the first person in modern history to be taught this area and more importantly to document it for future generations. No other modern martial art including all of the karate styles has this area in their system, as the Chinese just didn't teach it to the various masters who took what they learnt in China and invented their own systems. The main reason for this is simply that those people didn't stick around long enough to be ready for this information, or to be ready to use it as the Qi was not at a sufficient level. Another reason is the Chinese simply didn't want anyone else to have this information. So, why does a western person from Australia have this information? I have been taught this by some of the very best Chinese teachers, I have begged, borrowed, bought (mostly) and stolen (mostly) this information. I have done 'favours' for Chinese masters, like my main teacher, Chang Yiu-chun, himself one of only three (I believe), disciples of the great Yang Shou-hou, the son of Yang King-hou, himself the son of Yang Lu-ch'an. Just recently (May 1995) I was invited to become the first westerner to be taught the original Wudang Shan (Wudang Mountain) original style of "Qi disruption", which involves nine brief katas or forms that are said to have been the original forms invented by Chang San-feng. It took me nine years of correspondence since my last tour of China to finally be invited back to learn these forms of fighting and healing. Even so, I actually did it the hard way having to fight my way up to the master, Liang Shih-kan. Previously in 1985 I became the first westerner to be given the degree of "Master" directly from China.

The man who invented Taijiquan, or rather the forerunner to Taijiquan, as the name Taijiquan was not even invented until late last century (19th), was an excellent martial artist in the true sense of the word. Chang San-feng was also a great acupuncturist and healer. It was Chang who combined both of his talents to invent the very deadly point striking art of dim-mak, which later became known as H'ao Ch'uan or "Loose Boxing". Many years later, that name was changed to what we now know as Taijiquan. In collaborating with masters of acupuncture, I have combined my knowledge of dim-mak with their knowledge of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in general. In doing so, I believe that I have re-discovered what Chang San-feng originally invented.

You cannot take the healing art away from the martial art, to do so, you only get half of a great art. Many styles of martial art have, over the years tried to only take the deadly part of dim-mak thus lessening the greatness of this martial art. Sadly, most schools of martial art nowadays, only look upon the more spectacular movements and even leave out completely the healing side of their art.