An article in 1821 words by Erle Montaigue
April 11, 1989

The words, 'martial art' in most people's minds is synonymous with self-defence. When one mentions that he or she is a 'martial artist' it conjures up in people's minds the invincible Bruce Lee type who in a battle seems to have eight arms and legs. People immediately move to the corners of rooms at parties upon being told by the proud host that so and so is a martial artist.

But this idea is about as far from the truth as Elephants are to mice. There is a huge difference between someone who is a martial artist and someone who is able to defend him/her self. In fact there is a huge difference between the martial arts and the self defense arts. The martial arts should only be used as a tool to gain a self defense art or to be able to street fight. This applies to all martial arts whether they be wing chung, karate or T'ai chi.

When we learn a martial art we learn about timing, co-ordination and balance, three pre-requisites of any martial art without which we would never gain a high level of the self defense art. So the martial arts training is an important part of one's self defense training but should not be considered to be a self defense art on its own.

Learning any martial art involves learning movement, how to move the body in a co-ordinated way and how to gain power and speed. We usually gain these items from training is some form or kata. In T'ai chi we have many forms which give us these aspects of the self defence art. We firstly have the basic form, the foundation that gives us the very basics of balance and timing but which should not be confused with fighting. Although the forms from one's T'ai chi style are based upon fighting techniques, this is all they remain, techniques. And techniques will not win a life or death confrontation. Even the more advanced two person forms of push hands, pauchui and san-sau will not give one absolute street defence, they are still forms. The ideal analogy is of one taekwondo exponent who trains his whole life in gaining perfect kicks. That same expert is decked in the street because although he knew how to kick, he did not know when to kick and there-in lies the rub. We can train in a martial system for thirty years putting all of our faith in our teacher's words of; "Just train in the style and it will all come to you in the end". If we do not have some training method whereby we are able to gain the state of 'no mind' then our martial art will never become a fighting or self defense art.

Self defense arts not only involves learning certain techniques, it also involves mind training. When these are combined, we have a great self defense art. The great masters who invented the various styles of T'ai chi through trial and error gave us something which I consider to be the 'pearls of wisdom' from China. A series of training exercises, which will give us this 'no mind' state and all we have to do is to train in these exercises. This is not to say that one must give up one's initial training as the forms and push hands, da-lu and san-sau give us the grounding that we need to be able to gain much from the training of 'Long Har Ch'uan' a T'ai chi training method which gives us the no mind state, being able to simply react to an attack with anything at any time. The body will learn to act as a motor so that the mind is unsullied from thoughts of hatred and aggression. The parallel to this training method in Japan was the greatest of all fighters, the samurai. Even as late as the mid 1920's there was a law in Japan which stated that if a registered samurai warrior cut someone into four parts then he would be exonerated because it was his body that did the grievous act and not his mind. This is the state that we must strive to achieve in the self-defence art of T'ai chi if we are to ever use it to defend ourselves and families successfully against waves of animal aggression.

The training method of 'Long Har Ch'uan' (dragon prawn boxing') was founded by successive generations of masters until today it has been refined to a sharp edge to give us great fighting skills. Taken from the Shaolin boxing method of 'squid boxing', the exponent makes like a squid (or prawn) with his palms as the feelers and using a concave body so that he is able to attack the opponent but the opponent is unable to reach him.

The whole method is based upon only four training methods. The vertical method: The lateral method: The attacking method and The continual method. These four are in turn based upon four postures from the basic T'ai chi form. Grasping Swallow's Tail; Apparent Close Up; Step Forward, Parry and Punch and Sit Back Attack And Block; (from the 'Old Yang Style.)

Self Defense Art No. 1 (The vertical method)

Your partner attacks you with a front jab. You should block this with a 'controlling right (or left if it is a left attack) palm'. This means that you do not push his fist too far away but rather control his fist to your right just far enough so that he does not have time to react. Photo No.1. As soon as you have blocked the attack, your left palm now is able to come underneath your right wrist to take over the block now that the sting has been taken out of the attack by the much stronger leverage wise, right palm. Photo No.2. You have turned to your left slightly. Now your partner attacks with a left hook to your lower right rib area. Your right palm is now free to slam his inner arm damaging it. Photo No.3. Your left palm is now able to attack his face. Photo NO.4. NB//. We slap each other in the pectoral area so that we do not hurt each other and this also builds up strong plates across the chest.

Self Defense Art No. 2 (The horizontal method)

The horizontal method of the vertical method involves your partner bringing in another face attack of the hook variety. So, instead of blocking down as before we simply block outward and then attack his face. Photo No.5 for the second block. This is done on both sides and eventually your partner is able to attack on any side at any time while moving and you will be able to react to this attack accordingly with no mind.

Self Defense Art No. 3 (The Lateral Method)

This method takes care of the sideways movements. Your partner attacks again with a right (or left) jab. You should block using a left knife-edge block as your right palm immediately comes up underneath palm down to take over the block. Photo No.6. You turn your body thus taking the first attack to your right, he then throws another jab with his other hand so you turn your left palm over and block over to your left and simultaneously attack to his face with your right palm. Photo No.7. This happens very quickly with the attacks eventually coming in on all sides. NB// If your partner doesn't throw his second attack in either of the above methods, you still must do the final block and attack, don't wait for his second attack.

Self Defense Art No. 4 (The Attacking Method)

This method comes from the Taiji posture of 'step forward, parry and punch'. Your partner throws a lower attack to your heart area with his right fist. You should step slightly to your left with your left foot and simultaneously slam his forearm with your right backfist. Photo No.8. Your left palm has also moved in to be near your right fist. Now you must simultaneously scrape his right arm downward with your right fist as your left palm slips upward to attack his face and your right heel attacks his right knee. Photo no.9. This begins again with your partner immediately attacking with his left fist. You should place your right foot slightly to your right and slam his left forearm with your left backfist and the whole thing happens again, then back to the other side etc.

Self Defense Art No. 4 (The Continual Method)

As your partner attack with left fist, you should slam it downward stroking his arm thus pushing it away using your right palm, your left palm has come up ready to take over. Photo No.10. Now, your left palm takes over and slides down his arm thus displacing it further to his right as your right fist attacks to his face. Photo No.11. Now your right palm slips down and controls as your left palm attacks to his face. Photo No.12. Then your left controls as your right attacks etc. this can go on for six or seven punches all in the time of around 2 seconds.

In all of these self defense art methods we must never regard them as actual techniques as this would be getting back to the adverse qualities already mentioned. We must train these self defense art methods only as training methods to gain 'no mind'. Within the framework of each of these four methods we have every type of attack and defence known, although we might not train directly in certain types of attack. They become abstract and therefore subconscious defensive techniques. We learn to attack the very instant that an attacker even so much as lifts his fist, we do not know what technique that we will use no do we want to, it just happens and after we walk away with a calm mind. It doesn't matter whether there are ten or only one attacker; the principle is the same. Very rarely are we ever actually attacked simultaneously by two or more attackers, there is always a very short time between attacks from two or more people, or there should be if our footwork is adequately gained from performing the basic forms and push hands etc.

There is a great difference between fighting and the martial arts. Just because you learn a martial art does not mean that you will be able to defend yourself, however, the martial arts will certainly give one a decided edge in one's self defence training over someone who has not trained in the martial arts. Some people only ever wish to train in the martial arts for it's aesthetic value or for it's great health benefits etc, this is all right as everyone who takes up the martial arts does not necessarily wish to learn the self defence arts.