So What is Tai Chi
By Erle Montaigue

What thoughts come to mind when you think about the gentle art of tai chi? Probably, like just about 90 percent of the western martial "arts" community, you will be contemplating on words like, peaceful, running brooks, soft music, ballet, yoga, calm, Taoism philosophy, non-violence. If those words did come to mind, then you, again like most of the western martial arts world would be dead wrong.

Sure, Taijiquan has the above aspects simply because the body must be relaxed, or as the Chinese put it, in a state of sung, but for the most part, Taiji is a very violent martial art. In fact, I always tell people when they are looking for a Taiji class, to look for violence in that class. If it is not there in the advanced classes, then leave that class.

I say in the advanced classes when talking about what is tai chi because everyone must first of all learn the katas or forms and in learning, and thinking, there is not much violence. Even those people who come only for the great healing benefits that Taiji can impart, also must go through the violent stages of the art. We think of healing someone as being calm and beautiful, but healing, using Taiji/energy has also got to be violent. How much more violent can you get, fiddling with someone's internal energy, you are violating their body while you fix them. The intent for the healing art of Taiji and the intent for the fighting art of Taiji are exactly the same, its only the physical manifestation that is different. We learn about things like affecting someone's energy flow, or being able to balance out the acupuncture meridians in someone's body by learning about the violent nature of Taijiquan. Its much easier to learn about violent fighting and then use that same energy to heal, rather than go straight into the healing art of Taiji. The art of Paired Meridian Balancing is a type of Taiji massage where the practitioner is able to simply rub the patients meridians without actually touching the skin, while the balancing hand is placed upon the balancing point.

What is Tai Chi: Balancing the Meridians

This balances out the meridian pairs in the body. There are 12 main acupuncture meridians in the body and these each have a partner meridian, making for six pairs of meridians. If one side of any one pair is out of balance, then a physical or mental illness occurs. It is the job of the Taiji healer to re-balance these pairs so that the amount of yin or yang energy within each meridian is exactly the same. Only then will the body come back to a state of balance.

In order to make a balancing affect upon the patients energy (Qi) within the meridians, we must know about energy and how to use it. The easiest way is to learn the violent part of what is tai chi as this is where we learn about energy and the transference of it and the ability to drain, upset, add to or disrupt someone's Qi.

This is also exactly what we wish to do when we are healing someone of an illness. The only difference is that instead of hitting someone in a vital point and putting adverse Qi into that point, we touch the vital point with positive energy in order to heal.

What is Tai Chi: Meridian Balancing

Paired meridian balancing is an extremely affective way to balance the energy flow in someone's body. I have had personal experience with this. Now, we have practitioners of acupuncture, massage, shiatsu and other alternative healing arts who are using this method of healing and are achieving great results. I even have a surgeon as one of my students who is using this method to calm patients before surgery.

What is Tai Chi: The Heart/Small Intestine pair

The Heart/Small Intestine pair are the major fire pair. This pair will control what all of the other pairs do. So it is this meridian that we begin with. This pair also have an affect upon laughing and happiness. So, at a lesser healing level, if someone simply is either too happy, laughing hysterically, or is never happy and never laughs, then they will have an imbalance in this meridian pair.

What is Tai Chi: Self Therapy

The above is what the practitioner actually does to the patient. However, there are other matched postures from the Taijiquan form that are used as qigong movements so that the patient can go home and continue the therapy by themselves. Obviously, someone comes to be healed and they are hysterical, you cannot give them a qigong to do by themselves as they are not capable of even listening to you. So you as the practitioner must firstly balance the appropriate meridian pairs so that they will come back to a more normal mind level. Then, they are able to be taught the appropriate qigong. In the case above of heart/small intestine imbalance, the particular qigong from the Taiji form are the movements called Brush Knee And Twist Step then into Parting Horse's Mane. There is a specific way of getting from the first posture into the next, and the way that we do these two postures sends us in a circle, repeating the movements eight times.

What is Tai Chi: Lung/Colon

If a patient has extreme difficulty in simply learning things and they have an abnormal amount of grief with weeping all the time, then they need to have their lung/colon meridian pair balanced. So, the practitioner would firstly balance the meridian pair, then the patient would be taught the Taiji group of postures called grasping swallows tail.

What is Tai Chi: How Many Sessions

Each healing can take anything from only one session to ten sessions to completely balance a meridian pair. The beauty of balancing the meridians is that the associated physical illness will also be cured. Of course, if someone is working in a deadly chemical production plant and is breathing in carcinogenic fumes all day, then there is little we can do to help as the root of the affect is continually being helped.

So, we go through all of the six meridian pairs in this way until the patient is completely cured. However, in order to teach someone how to do this healing, they must firstly either already be well versed in energy movement throughout the body, or they must have practiced Taijiquan as a fighting art, but not as the fighting art that 90% of all Taiji instructors teach. The soft, mystical, move out of the way type of Taiji. Learning this type of Taiji will not give any self defence, nor will it impart the ability to heal others. The Taijiquan must be learnt at its most violent level.

What is Tai Chi: The Violence

To explain this violent level, I will explain for instance how Taiji is used to help someone defend themselves against one of the hand orientated attackers, a boxer for instance. There are only two types of attacker, hand and foot, or grapplers and Taijiquan has answers to both of these. But boxing is something that most westerners can understand about. At one of my workshops, I had a young man along who was a boxer. He came into the class in the middle of one session and had not taken any of my classes previously.

What is Tai Chi: Showing How it Works

So when he saw me simply explaining about some type of fighting method by having someone hold their arm up for me, he asked about how it would work against boxers who do not leave their arm there for me to do something with. They generally come in, throw a few punches, then get out of there for fear of getting hit themselves, this is the nature of boxing. All one can really do is to try and punch the opponent before he punches you. So I asked this young man to attack me when he wished. Before he even lifted his hands, I rushed at him and poked him in his neck at a dim-mak point. He then said, Oh, but I didn't punch yet! I didn't say anything to this, just allowed his mind to catch up on what was happening. This was not a tournament fight, it was simulating reality where there are no rules and no ring for protection and no gloves. He thought for a while and then said that if this were for real, he would simply move backwards as I attacked. This time I had to say something. There is something wrong with this scenario, he is moving backwards and I am moving forwards. Who is the fastest? The best athlete in the world cannot move backwards faster than any normal person. So I again demonstrated this by allowing this chap to know when I would attack and he could not retreat as fast as I rushed forward. This is one of the areas that martial arts schools fall down in. We do one step sparring, where someone attacks and the other retreats and defends. We do not make account for when someone is rushing at you violently, explosively so that you cannot possibly retreat in defence.

What is Tai Chi: Coming Forwards

You must always come forwards, this is your only defence in the street, come forward violently and attack violently. Your attacks must become reflex through many hours of training, so that when attacked, you will just react, violently, then walk on, as if the attack did not happen. This is the way of Taijiquan fighting. And healing. So when you are looking for a Taijiquan class and you are told that you will be able to defend yourself and not get your hands dirty, or you will not have to actually do anything, just yield to the attack, walk out of that class! Find a class where real Taijiquan is being taught, a violent, dirty way of fighting, this is the only way that will help you to stay alive on the street.

What is Tai Chi: Push Hands

Of course, if you wish to enter into push hands competitions, and test your skills against others of a like mind, then do so, but do not think that because you are mildly good at push hands that this is any kind of ruler as to your self defence ability. You should not even have the thought of 'being good' at push hands, in fact there is no such thing as 'being good' at push hands. This practice is only a tool to help us understand the principles of Taijiquan and should never be used as a competitive sport! Your own martial ability and your ability to defend yourself will go backwards if you engage in competition push hands. If you wish to know how to fight, then fight! If you want to know how to push hands then push hands, simple.