Martial Tai Chi™

Martial Training Association

De-programming the Brainwashed

T'ime to get T'ough Campaign

time to get tough

Welcome to the page dedicated to Taiji / T'ai Chi practitioners and clubs that are committed to putting Taiji's martial reputation back on the map. While we would not condone any acts of violence over the issue, we do think that it is time to start telling the complete truth about Taiji, without pulling our verbal punches.

We aim to reclaim the name of Taijiquan / T'ai Chi Ch'uan and even plain old "T'ai Chi" and radically change public perceptions of the art. Our own findings are that no matter how strongly we state the martial nature of our Taiji classes, the vast majority of our new students (over 86% of 224 students between Aug 05 and May 06) either had "no idea that Taiji was a martial art" or specifically thought that it wasn't! Now please bear in mind that these people have all come to us via our own publicity which explicitly describes the martial nature of our classes.

The other 14% contained many people who were unsure about whether Taiji was a real martial art or not, or had had previous experience of supposedly martial Taiji classes, but had learned virtually nothing of a martial nature there. Luckily they were prepared to give our classes the benefit of the doubt. Only 6 people (less than 3%) stated unequivocally that yes, they knew that Taiji was a martial art before they started coming to our classes.

Our study reveals just how much misinformation and bad practice is out there. If we are to change Taiji's public profile, we have got a real fight on our hands.

Obviously we'll never know how many people have tried Taiji after reading about its highly acclaimed martial efficacy but given up on the hope of finding a proper martial class, or given up on the art altogether and found another martial style. Given the standard of most so-called Tai Chi classes, I would personally prefer that people who were unable to find a martial Taiji class did go and find another martial art, and I have often advised this course of action.


putting quan

We wish to create a climate here in the West where teachers will be able to run regular martial Taiji classes without having to constantly struggle to re-educate the public as to the true and original purpose of the art.

Most of the misinformation is coming from existing "Tai Chi" teachers, so our re-education has to start by re-educating them. Almost all of what is popularly taught about T'ai Chi / Taiji (at least here in the West) is completely and utterly wrong. Most of what is said is, in the words of Sun Xikun, "wasteful lies".

The problem is only getting worse as with its current reputation, Tai Chi often attracts people who actually have quite a strong aversion to martial arts. When such students go on to be teachers the cycle continues...

Click here to read "How Taiji lost its Quan"

An end to the "broad church" approach

The time has come to completely distance ourselves from new-age "Tai Chi" practitioners and reclaim the art for the ordinary martial artist. We also need to destroy the idea of T'ai Chi as a form of "gentle therapeutic exercise" or as some kind of "cure-all". As a martial arts instructor it is not for me to be making claims about healing people. "Tai Chi" is currently marketed as anything and everything from a form of spiritual healing to a method of relationship counselling; as "a path to enlightenment" or even as a beauty treatment. With so much mis-information around, no one needs to feel silly for having been mis-led, but we must now wage war on the charlatans who perpetuate the T'ai Chi mythology and reveal them as the frauds they are.

There is nothing magical, mystical or even innately spiritual about T'ai Chi Ch'uan / Taijiquan - it is a fighting art, plain and simple. We would like for anyone interested in learning Taiji to be able to find a local class that will simply teach them Taiji as a realistic and useful martial art without any fuss, nonsense or lies. We want Taiji to earn the same kind of reputation that Karate and Ju Jitsu enjoy.

At the moment, most Taiji students would not have a clue how to deal with an attacker because even if they have been told some of the martial theory, if they haven't trained to respond to full speed attacks, their reflexes will not be fast enough. Practical "hands-on" martial training should be a part of every Taiji class. We aim to make real Taiji the rule rather than the exception.

What's with all this health stuff anyway? Have you seen the average "Tai Chi" person?

The truth is that most Taiji people have a total aversion to exertion of any kind which results in their becoming considerably less healthy than people from other martial styles. The proper way to achieve health with Taijiquan is to forget about all the mystical stuff and restore controlled fighting practice from the outset of training. Realistic applications should be practised in good, sunk, solid, martially-effective stances to build physical stamina and whole body strength. My students get genuinely fitter and healthier - developing stronger and stabler joints, better functional flexibility and powerful co-ordinated movements. Their applications wouldn't work otherwise.

With regard to "relaxation," it has been my experience that Taiji practitioners can train relaxed and ethereal form routines for years and years, but that relaxation soon goes out of the window when you throw a punch at them and they have no idea how to respond.

Conversely, my own students quickly learn to be at ease with throwing each other and being thrown and knocked around. This teaches them to stay relaxed, calm and in control during stressful, intimidating or even dangerous situations. And that is when we most need to stay calm.

What's wrong with calling the martial stuff Taijiquan and the non-martial stuff Taiji? Won't that make everyone happy?

Firstly we should point out that however people wish to spell it (Taiji or T'ai Chi), non-martial Taiji is fake - a popular modern invention. Please be under no illusions - non-martial Taiji really is just a figment of recent history. For over 300 years the art was simply seen as a Chinese fighting style like any other. Non-martial Taiji has nothing whatsoever to do with Taijiquan's authentic tradition.

Some people argue that "non-martial Taiji practice is still Taiji, it's just not Taiji quan", however without the quan (fighting techniques) the exercise can no longer be called Taiji. Taiji means "greatest extremes" and the art has traditionally involved both contact and non-contact training methods, both fast and slow practice, both soft and hard physical qualities (each playing a different role) and crucially an awareness of and ability to execute both defensive and attacking techniques. The modern habit of practicing linked Taiji forms purely as a slow, smooth, "dance-like exercise" has had all of its contrasting elements removed so it can no longer be called Taiji. Even when more dynamic movements are present, form routines that are practiced without an acute awareness of martial techniques are still devoid of meaningful or accurate differentiation.

Yang Jianhou (son of Yang Luchan and father of Yang Chengfu) firmly stated that martial principle and intention should drive every single movement. He said that one should never practice "empty form", even when first learning movements. To do so inevitably results in an unnecessary and arduous re-learning process when (or if) the martial principle is later discovered.

Taiji (greatest extremes) is simply an abbreviation for Taijiquan (greatest extremes boxing), just as Bagua is an abbreviation for Baguazhang and Xingyi is an abbreviation for Xingyiquan. No one would suggest that Bagua was the "non-martial branch" of Baguazhang, nor that Xingyi was the "non-martial branch" of Xingyiquan, so we (martial practitioners) should make the non-martial practitioners give us back our shorthand - we did have it first, after all.

The matter of simply adding or dropping the quan / ch'uan is complicated by the fact that some teachers have realised that they can cash-in on the culture of ignorance by claiming to teach Taijiquan / T'ai chi ch'uan as a martial art, but then shrouding the actual issue of applications in mystery with talk of first needing to "develop internal chi power" and misleading statements like "the less that is happening on the outside, the more that is occurring inside".

This is sometimes accompanied by an unwillingness to demonstrate applications on anyone other than a handful of trusted students, under the pretense that anyone else would suffer too much damage. Such teachers will often make students wait for years and years before finally deeming them to be "ready" to learn applications. Prospective martial students first need to be able to demonstrate that they are gullible enough to fall for fake displays of "internal energy" and magical powers...

...and gullible enough not to notice that any real "applications" bear little or no relation to the art they've been practicing for the last ten years because they've actually been stolen from other martial arts.

I've actually heard of one school purposely teaching their students flawed techniques prior to a public martial demonstration so that the students couldn't make their teacher look bad by perhaps gaining the upper hand or by being resistant to their teacher's techniques. The fact that students are prepared to put up with this kind of unscrupulous behavior is a clear indication of how desperate they must be to learn some actual martial techniques.

To be honest, most of the classes that I have visited where applications are meant to be practiced have never gone beyond the talking stage. Applications may have been alluded to or maybe even described, but no actual physical practice has taken place. Any physical activity has still been limited to copious quantities of solo form practice and often unrelated qigong / ch'i kung exercises. And I can tell you now that actually hitting your partner during push-hands training is not generally welcomed. Sometimes the students seem to be more motivated by misguided notions of their own martial superiority rather than by any genuinely inquiring martial spirit. Wildly delusional notions of what is martially credible abound - pit them against a bunch of Karate students and they'd get eaten alive. Please someone, pit them against a bunch of Karate students.

My own Taiji martial journey has largely been a matter of piecing together snippets and fragments from a number of different sources and then trying it all out with the other martial artists I know to see what actually works. It has been a labour of love, but I have found the quest downright frustrating and genuinely demoralising at times. My work has subsequently been highly acclaimed by some very knowledgeable authorities.

I will pre-empt any critics by saying that I sincerely hope that I have "reduced" the art to "mere fisticuffs" - although I prefer to think that I've simply stripped away all the garbage. Frankly, I don't much care whether I'm being a traditionalist or a moderniser, but I personally believe that I have simply taken the art back to its roots and in so doing made it accessible again for ordinary people.

While I would never claim to be the greatest fighter in the whole world, I can fight very well and I can use real Taiji / Taijiquan to do it. Most importanly, I can teach others to do the same, without resorting to qigong mind games, deception or self-deception. Whether people like it or not, Taijiquan is subject to the same natural physical principles as the rest of the world, and like any other martial art, it relies on body mechanics, timing and skillful tactics to work. I teach my students practical fighting skills from their very first lesson and I think that it is time for all Taiji teachers to start doing the same, whether their students want them to, or not!

Our core values

All Taiji (T'ai Chi) teachers should fully understand and teach Taiji in plain martial terms. All non-martial teachers should stop teaching immediately (yes, I'm absolutely serious). If such teachers wish to learn and teach real Taiji, they should re-train with an open and competent teacher until they properly understand and can apply the art they are practicing. It is not possible to practice the art correctly without knowledge of martial purpose and it is erroneous to even try. People interested in Taiji for health-cultivation would do well to remember the words of Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man Ch'ing): "Taiji practice that ignores functional application bestows health benefits that are artificial at best."

Click here to read "The Case against T'ai Chi for Special Needs and Falls Prevention"

Taiji students should practice martial applications all the way through their training. Effective martial application should inform form practice just as much as accurate form practice improves fighting ability. Such cross-referencing should be considered essential in the development of a good martial artist.

It is crucially important to remember that originally there were no linked forms - only fighting techniques. Flowing linked forms are just lots of individual techniques (or forms) strung together. To understand a linked form sequence you must understand its component parts, just as to fully appreciate a poem you have to understand the words.

With so many different form variations around, even within the distinct major lineages (depending on who your teacher's teacher trained with and at what stage in their teaching career), I think that the only way to decide which methods are best is to research the martial purpose behind the movements and try them out. A good application should work on just about anyone, irrespective of size or strength differences, providing everyone involved in the practice is moving in a martially realistic way. The best way to ensure this is to test at as close to full combat speed as you can, i.e. with commitment and momentum. You should also try to remember that a technique might have a greater element of surprise against a real attacker than against a class-mate who knows what you are about to do. Keep it challenging, in range, on-target, and realistic.

No exceptions

Taiji teachers must refuse to compromise on the issue of genuine martial practice, with absolutely no exceptions. People wishing to practice "Tai Chi" who are not interested in martial training should be guided in the direction of non-martial pursuits such as yoga, dance or aerobics. Despite the hype, teaching a bit of "low-impact gentle exercise" is simply not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to teach effective fighting skills to anyone interested in learning them.

From our experience, older and differently abled / disabled students often find proper martial Taiji a lot more accessible and rewarding than trying to learn great long choreographed movement (form) sequences. Some of my most martially adept students find learning form sequences pretty impenetrable, but being less good at feats of memory and floor gymnastics doesn't and shouldn't prevent them from being competent fighters.

From a health perspective, careful practice of martial applications gives the body a much more complete physical workout than exclusively performing slow motion choreography. Furthermore, learning self-defence skills can be of the greatest benefit to those who could be seen as potentially more vulnerable.

In fact, our approach is actually more accessible for lots of people. The majority of people will definitely find real martial Taiji a lot more fun and interesting than "new-age" Taiji which, as far as I can gather, is chiefly concerned with patronising & acquisitive orientalism, consumer-spirituality and ethereal barefoot dancing.

The mythology

In spite of such stories being discredited long ago by reputable Chinese martial arts historians (such as Tang Hao back in the 1920's and 1930's), many people are taught that Taiji is an ancient, soft, slow, yielding, Daoist Internal style that was created by the Daoist monk Zhang Sanfeng on Wudang mountain and that this contrasts sharply with the ancient, hard, fast, attack-orientated, Buddhist External Shaolin Kung Fu that was brought into China by the Boddhidarma. Such classifications are pure myth.

Firstly, none of the Chinese martial arts around today can be described as particularly ancient because, although based on styles that have gone before, all have continued changing or evolving through subsequent generations up to the present day and will no doubt continue to do so. While sometimes martial artists actively embrace new ideas, at other times they focus on trying to restore classical methods to prevent certain skills from being lost. Change is in itself neither good nor bad, but it is certainly inevitable.

Many of the distinctions that are popularly made within the field of Chinese martial arts (e.g. the division into "internal" vs "external" styles; Shaolin vs Wudang origins; Buddhist vs Daoist religious beliefs) are simply founded on the desire to separate "us" from "them", and find "them" to be lacking. Meanwhile, the real essential differences important to all effective martial styles (division into attacking and defensive strategies; strikes and throws; locks and escapes etc.) are often overlooked.

The danger is when a style become typecast or stereotyped within a specific limited martial mindset. Classifications such as: "this is a very attacking style", "this is a purely defensive style", "this is a circular style", "this is a linear style" etc. etc. can be very detrimental to a fighter's skill and often lead to a martial artist feeling compelled to learn a variety of different styles just to become a well-rounded fighter.

Regarding the almost universally accepted division of Chinese martial styles into either "external" or "internal", here "external" is usually thought to refer to the simple use of physical strength while "internal" is associated with the use of "energy". In plain terms, "energy" means the use of sophisticated martial concepts along with refinement and precision of physical skills and correct martial intention. A very prevalent and downright dangerous myth that I have frequently encountered is that an "internal" martial artist should never use any strength, never build or tone muscles, never exert themselves (or "release power"), never exhale through the mouth, never move quickly and in fact never do anything to quicken the heartbeat or accelerate the breathing. Sounds like a quick route to a heart attack to me.

Although it is sometimes suggested that Taiji is a purely soft (yielding) style, no effective fighting art can be restricted to a single strategy or training methodology and all styles should seek to refine both technique and physical health as much as possible. To my knowledge, all martial arts embrace the goal of skill refinement and no one will win any medals for pointedly remaining unfit. Any competent martial artist seeks to maximise their physical efficiency and fitness while at the same time reducing the effort required to execute techniques by refining their skills. Any martial style that identified as a purely external style (presumably thereby shunning the use of skill) or as a purely internal style (refusing to indulge in anything tiring or strengthening) would be of no practical use whatsoever.

The truth

Taijiquan is a dynamic and highly effective fighting art that was devised and developed by several successive generations of the Chen family. The art is in a state of constant evolution and development and has probably only been recognisable as the art we now call Taijiquan since the 17th or 18th century. A number of other branches have subsequently emerged from these common roots, sometimes having absorbed additional influences from other martial styles.

Taijiquan is a boxing style that uses taiji (yin / yang) philosophy within its methodology. The whole point of the taiji symbol is to show yin and yang (instigation and receptivity) alongside each other in perfect balance and to show that nothing is exclusively yin nor exclusively yang. By extension it illustrates the dynamic interplay of reality, showing that what is currently yin is destined to become yang and vice versa. The Taiji practitioner seeks to harmonise with the flow of events within the martial arena in way that is strategically more opportunistic than forceful and more adaptable than stubborn. That said, the art traditionally embodies the whole taiji symbol and the Taiji fighter should embrace all that is martially possible, rather than fixing on selected aspects or employing a single predictable strategy.

The current situation

The current situation is truly awful. Along with a number of my students, I have experienced the following:

a) If we have mentioned martial applications when enquiring about class details from any number of teachers, our e-mails have simply been ignored.

b) Upon asking about applications in classes, the other students have shuffled around uncomfortably and we have been made to feel like to ask such questions is (at best) incredibly rude, or (at worst) a revealing and utterly damning indication of how little we understand the true nature of T'ai Chi.

c) At seminars that have been publicly advertised as Taijiquan Applications seminars, there has been (guess what) lots of form practice, some "qigong", a vague fleeting allusion to a single martial application (often wildly inaccurate), and no actual martial practice whatsoever.

d) To be absolutely honest, I have found the atmosphere in most Taiji classes to be rife with people who are possessed by totally unfounded notions of superiority. Egos are generally propped up by trying to make you feel small and by inferring that you are somehow completely missing the point should you let them know that you are simply an inquiring martial artist. Typical put downs might include: "oh, that's so external" or "don't use strength, try to feel my energy". Energy my arse.

The fact is that the vast majority of so-called Taiji teachers and students simply don't know any Taiji applications. Not one. Just think about that for a moment - how many other martial arts would tolerate such a dire situation?

As most of the people who consider themselves to be Taiji practitioners are not even martial artists at all, even if they do learn a few isolated applications they generally can't apply them with any reliability, because they don't consistently do any martial practice. Put simply, their hearts are not in it.

Most non-martial teachers (at least here in the West) are probably unaware that they are part of a bogus tradition. Unfortunately, attaining such information rarely stops them from continuing to perpetuate the mythology once they've discovered how lucrative it can be.

Some so-called Taiji / T'ai Chi teachers and organisations are actively aware of their charlatanesque behaviour and happily exploit people's gullibility and desperation to the hilt, with hyped up health claims and / or cult-like mystical trickery and deception to dupe their students and indoctrinated instructors.

Many high-ranking people within the Taiji mainstream are happy to play along with the continuing misappropriation of Taiji's name because "health" and "spirituality" are way more profitable than martial arts.
great swindle image


The great T'ai Chi swindle

In the semi-autobiographical Sex Pistols film "The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle" released during the 1970's British Punk explosion, Pistols manager Malcolm Maclaren proudly declared that a band that couldn't play music was better than a band that could.

It would seem that the majority of teachers within the current British T'ai Chi orthodoxy would similarly like us to believe that a martial art that can't be used in combat is better than a martial art that can.

As a footnote, it might be worth mentioning that when the Pistols reformed, they publicly declared their motivations by naming their new album "Filthy Lucre". In the words of front-man John Lydon (a.k.a Johnny Rotten), "Did you ever get the feeling you've been cheated?!"

never mind

The popular "Tai Chi" movement has everything in its stable from cheap nasty copies to full-blown cynical parodies. "Tai Chi" is big business. Hyped to the hilt, it has allegedly become "the world's most widely practiced martial art." But is it really? How many of its followers are really practicing a martial art?

Click here to read "The Rise and Fall of a Martial Art"

You think that people would have had enough of silly health claims

I look around me and I see this isn't so. Obviously people will believe what they want to believe, but here's my perspective on the health stuff, for what it's worth.

Much is made of the supposed "health benefits" of so-called Tai Chi / Taiji practice, generally in reference to the performance of slow motion movement sequences which are based on the linked forms of the more modern Taijiquan styles (such as the Yang style). But just because you see a bunch of people moving slowly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are doing Taijiquan. If they are visualising themselves to be fighting off imaginary opponents then they are; if they are just going through a set of motions that they don't understand, then they are not.

The oft-quoted "health benefits of Tai Chi" include: improved posture, strength, balance, physical control / co-ordination, better mental focus and reduced stress. I dare say that you could probably get the same kind of benefits from playing an imaginary slow-motion tennis match. In fact, if playing imaginary tennis made the difference between your understanding the movements you were performing and not understanding them, the benefits would probably be greater. You would certainly be able to get a lot more engaged and you'd almost certainly be able to practice the movements with far greater accuracy. Who knows, it may actually prove to be a lot less perplexing than having to try and remember whether you are on your third or fourth rendition of Single Whip.

To be honest I believe that the health benefits of so-called Tai Chi have been way over-stated and the modern health studies that surround the practice may actually be asking the wrong questions.

Firstly, it should be pointed out that there is a lot more to authentic Taijiquan than merely moving slowly. Slow motion shadow boxing is just one training method employed by Taijiquan stylists. So how many of the people involved in the Taiji health studies are actually doing Taiji at all?

"...just because you see a bunch of people moving slowly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are doing Taijiquan. If they are visualising themselves to be fighting off imaginary opponents then they are; if they are just going through a set of motions that they don't understand, then they are not."

Secondly, how much of the credit for those reported health benefits should go to "Tai Chi" and how much should really go to the simple act of getting the participants up on their feet and doing some kind of developmental exercise?

Thirdly, I'd be the first to point out the benefits of good postural alignments, providing the practitioner carries those postural habits over into their everyday life, but how many people actually bother to do so? A problem of purposely keeping Tai Chi movements abstract and woolly is that it makes it much harder to relate the actions to everyday dynamic activities that would really benefit from good structural alignments.

Fourthly, if the health benefits of performing purely slow sequences are good, aren't the more aerobic and dynamic routines of the original Chen style better again? Shouldn't anyone pursuing health benefits really be aiming to progress to the more physically challenging Chen style routines? Considering the advanced age many Chen style Masters have reached, it certainly seems that getting older needn't be a barrier. Alternatively, you could try performing your regular form sequence at full combat speed. Obviously, you wouldn't be much use in a fight unless you were capable of moving rapidly and powerfully.

Finally, while health improvement is a necessary and desirable benefit of martial practice, health maintenance should probably not be your primary motivation for learning a fighting art. You would probably derive greater benefits from doing some other pastime that ignited your enthusiasm more fully and inspired greater dedication to practice.

Sick man of the West?

In his 19th Century book "Renxue" (humanity study,) the Chinese revolutionary Tan Sitong commented "if we examine the physical appearance of the Chinese, they are the very image of impending calamity. ...Those who are radiant, comely, imposing and carry themselves with an impressive bearing are one in a million."

If we look at the general state of health in the UK and US today, we might just as easily say the same thing about our current Western civilisation. Sedentary lifestyles and decadent habits from drink and drugs to junk food, have led to a rapid rise in extremely poor health and widespread obesity. Only in such an unfit society can badly performed, purely soft and slow form sequences be considered to be a great boon to health. "Gentle health benefits" might seem enough to some people within our "booze and burgers" culture, but surely no one can doubt that the health of the nation really needs a hearty kick up the backside.

Modern T'ai Chi might suit our tremendously unfit modern age, but with standards so low, just getting someone to stand up properly for 5 minutes would be seen as a great achievement. And only if you set such low standards will you be satisfied with such small results.

The traditional Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Ch'uan), still practiced by a tiny minority of hardy and robust souls (some of whom are quite elderly, but far from infirm), gives the body a complete workout. The dynamism and impact of martial contact work - performing strikes and throws and importantly being knocked and thrown around - such exercise brings true health benefits. T'ai Chi pays careful attention to maintaining correct joint alignments and has some other good ways to practice applications while avoiding excessive or unnecessary injuries, but it was never meant to have all of its martial content removed.

The modern "T'ai Chi" brigade have not only stolen the name of our martial art, they have also stolen its reputation for health improvement. But by removing all the rough stuff, their watered down, non-martial exercise has very little left in the way of genuine health benefits.

The health benefits come from physically applying the self-defense techniques of the art. In the words of Zheng Manqing “Each of Taiji's postures has a particular application, just as every object casts a distinct shadow. Taiji Form practise that ignores functional application bestows health benefits that are artificial at best.”

Real T'ai Chi means Real Self Defence Skills & Real Health Benefits.

A load of qigong?

Taiji teachers should eradicate all irrelevant training methods (e.g. unrelated qigong / ch'i kung practice), or anything else they don't really understand the point of. For example, the reeling silk exercises that are practiced by many Chen stylists have a clear purpose - they help you focus on the reeling silk movement method and drill the quality of smooth, steady rotation into your body. If you are a Yang stylist and you practice these exercises, carry the reeling silk quality over into your Taiji form practice too, or maybe take up Chen style, if you like it.

From my experience, many so-called T'ai Chi classes practice a total hotch potch of qigong sets and exercises from here there and everywhere without any care for its relevance to Taijiquan or any knowledge of what the exercise is meant to actually do other than allegedly being "good for you".

A lot of qigong is derived from martial practice but has become sub-standard as a result of losing its martial focus. Such exercises generally serve only to confuse your body because they often move in ways that you wouldn't normally advocate (such as lifting your rear heel or moving without reeling silk). Keep your training relevant by keeping it martially useful and explainable in plain terms.

Click here to read "A Practical Guide to Qi"

All in the mix

Keep any standing postures or supplementary "neigong" exercises relevant to the style you practice too. Don't practice a Wu style warm up followed by the Yang style long form, then stand in some Bagua postures and cool down with some Yiquan exercises. Hey - it happens all the time!

If you must draw influences from a myriad of different sources, at least have the good sense to consolidate everything and devise a coherent teaching syllabus. Think about what you're doing and take ownership of it, rather than just copying someone else.

Is there anyone we do like?

Yes - but they are currently few and far between in Taiji circles. We like anyone who presents Taiji as a plain and simple martial art without any fluff, filler or fantasy. We like open minded and open hearted martial artists.

Please be assured that we are not in the business of being bolshy or irreverent for the sake of our own egos and we are not simply out to smash all of the competition. This is not about individuals, personal success or glory. It is about restoring the name of Taiji, which we happen to think is a very fine martial art and well worth saving.

To achieve this goal we have to attract martial artists to the art. I have studied quite a few different martial styles and generally found the atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support in no-nonsense martial arts classes to be a life-changingly positive experience.

Rather than the cultivation of fighting skills turning people into monsters, my experience is that it has had the exact opposite effect. On the other hand, filling people's heads with misguided notions of their spiritual or occasionally even their martial superiority based on the idea that simply doing T'ai Chi somehow elevates one to a higher plane of being, creates real monsters - believe me.

Gong Baozhai once said "The purpose of studying martial arts is simple. It is to change useless people into useful people." This has certainly been my own experience. Being re-born as a martial artist can utterly transform your life for the better and anyone can decide to join the warrior tradition at any time.

A matter of opinion?

Not all points of view are equal. We are right, regardless of how outnumbered we are or who says different and regardless of their lineage. The only true lineage of Taijiquan lies in its practice as a full-blown martial art. Anyone who says different is either lying or deluded. Statements pertaining to reality and truth are falling out of favour in our increasinlgy relativistic times, but there is no getting away from the fact that the truth is true even when no one believes it and a lie is a lie even when everyone believes it.

End note

joanna sword

We are aware that simply presenting the facts will not win us the battle. Many people would probably rather believe the fiction and to be honest this may well be as true in many other martial disciplines as it is in Taiji. Promises of "effortless power" and closely guarded mystical or even spiritual secrets may always appear more glamorous than the plain old truth that all you need to succeed is a sincere commitment to arduous practice and a willingness to drill martial applications in to your body day after day, week after week, year after year. In other words - you just have to be a regular martial artist that is prepared to suffer bruises to both body and ego. There are no short cuts and no alternatives. Now that we've got that settled, who's for a spot of Taiji? It is actually a whole load of fun.

Joanna Zorya

Join the T'ough Campaign

If you agree with our point of view, please join our campaign by e-mailing to let us know. To join the T'ough campaign you should teach and practice martial applications in every lesson and insist on martial practice for all students. Remember that non-martial T'ai Chi is fake T'ai Chi, so you should never practice or teach the art in a non-martial context.

Below we intend to provide a list of links to websites or other contact details for any teachers or clubs who join our campaign (you don't have to be based in the UK).

To keep things equal, we can't actually vouch for any of the listed clubs - the system will be based on trust. Please fulfill your end of the bargain by upholding our campaign values and refusing to teach T'ai Chi for any non-martial purposes.

Declared allies of the T'ough campaign

Jason Muwin Whitney, Eagle Bear School, Monmouth, Maine, USA

Rob Poynton,

Barrie Jehu, Shetland Tai Chi Assoc (Dynamic Balance Boxing)

Bernie Nash, Northants Tai Chi Chuan, Kettering, Northampton

Blue Siytangco, Blue Dragon Kung Fu

American Tao - Internal Arts with Ken Gullette

Please note that the allies of this campaign do not necessarily share our exact views on qi and qigong.