Throws, Trips and Takedowns in Tai-Chi. A bit of a break today from the various writing related subjects to look at martial arts, and specifically the more traditional martial arts. They’re sometimes characterised as less than useful these days compared with more modern systems, but there can be some very interesting ideas there if you look closely and are prepared to experiment.
As an example, I’d like to make the point that every style of kung fu theoretically has a full range of trips, sweeps and other takedowns to go with the more usual trapping, kicking and striking. This is even true of tai chi. Getting it is just a matter of looking at the forms you do in more open minded ways, and then actually using these things in genuinely interactive ways.
With forms, two of my most traditional former teachers (one in Okinawan karate, the other in bagua/tai chi/hsing yi) stressed the same thing, which is that each movement in a martial arts form is just a movement. You can use that movement any way you like. In fact, both of them had me taking simple movements (such as karate’s downward ‘block’) and using them in as many different ways as possible.
For trips and throws, think about what you’re doing with your legs. With any step, you could be stepping on someone else’s leg, or sweeping it away. With any extended ‘stance’, it could in fact be there so that it goes behind a leg in a trip. Turning body movements could pull someone over your hip, shoulder or leg. Downward forces could be pressing an off balance opponent to the ground. There are too many possibilities to list, and in any case, I don’t think it’s about listing individual options.
What it is about is taking whatever you find and trying to apply it against an intelligently resisting opponent. That is the most important thing, and one that far too many tai chi people neglect, which is a real pity.