Can Tai Chi Be Used For Self Defense?


On Sunday mornings I usually go to a local park with friends and practice tai chi for exercise and relaxation. This peaceful healthy exercise is typically not thought of as a fighting martial art but it can be a critical skill for defending against attackers.  In reality, each movement in a tai chi form can be used as a fighting application that can be used against an opponent.

The best way to start thinking of tai chi as a martial art is to focus on one of the moves in the form you are practicing in your tai chi form. For example, I practice Chen style tai chi and one of the movements is a circular move with both hands circling around my face.  This is repeated several times in the form.  For years I thought of this as simply a stretching exercise until one day I was shown the fighting application.  It turns out each time my hands pass in front of my face I am blocking an incoming punch.  This is followed by a knife hand strike to the opponent’s neck and then a palm-heal strike to the opponents nose.  In reality this simple move is an amazing self-defense technique.

Unlike western fighting or many other types of martial arts, the strategy of tai chi is to flow around obstacles and to redirect the energy of an incoming attack back outward. Tai chi gives practitioners a way of dodging an attack and then responding to incoming punches or kicks.  Tai chi teaches us to remain grounded, balanced and calm.  The relaxed, circular approach of tai chi can be an extremely effective way to defend oneself regardless of a person’s size, sex, age or strength.  If you are willing to make a commitment to learning tai chi as a martial art you will be able to use these skills even in your senior years.

Photo by Richard Barton – 

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