Don’t be fooled by the gentleness of Tai Chi Chuan, it is a devastating art. Its slow practice pace hides the real benefits of this art. For those who know the combat application of each posture, the art is ruthless.
The key element of Tai Chi is waist power. Of course, this is true with all martial arts. However, in Tai Chi, this is the foremost rule. The waist drives all the other limbs. Nothing moves unless the waist initiates movement.
Once you’ve internalized this keystone element, you can distill Tai Chi theory into six characteristics. All six must be maintained in order to execute the transitions between postures correctly. To violate any one of these characteristic-rules would decrease the effectiveness of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi’s Six Characteristics
- Circular - All parts of the body, such as shoulders, waist, hips, knees and elbows, travel along circular paths. There are no locked out joints nor straight limbs. All movements travel in horizontal and vertical circles.
- Relax - Maintain the concept of softness versus hardness. One must be relax at all times. Relax does not mean falling asleep, rather it means minimal effort, yet stay alert.
- Calm - One must calm the mind and the body.
- Continuous – There should be a clear and continuous interchanging, or transitions between Yin and Yang. One movement flows into the next, but each steps is executed fully.
- Intent - One must have the mental intent to perform each step and transition.
- Energy - There must be the manipulation of energy in each movement.
Each body part is held in along circular paths. This is a structurally sound and biomechanically correct method of maintaining power. In Kempo, you never lock out your joints. This creates circularity in your limbs. The blocks from the Palm Set are a great example of this characteristic.
Being relaxed allows the mind to operate. Breathing allows the body to relax. In Kempo, you utilize breathing to keep you relaxed and cool. A relaxed body can generate the power in one’s strikes. All Kempo tricks (waza) are done in a relaxed state.
By being in a state of calmness.
Kempo attacks lead the opponent into the next volley of attacks. Continuity and flow are the hallmarks of Kempo. The volley of attacks to the opponent are best represented by many of the advanced combinations, waza and Hon Suki.
Without the intent to do it, nothing would get done. This is also true with executing Kempo techniques. The desire to hit provides the full body commitment to the attack. Do not confuse this with the over-commitment of defensive assets to the attack. This intent is the conscious decision to perform an action. A great example of this is breaking. Without the intent to break a board or brick, you wouldn’t put enough “umph” behind your strike to be successful.
There must be a spark of spunk in all your movements. This is similar to intent. Many would argue that this characteristic is dealing with chi specifically. Kempo utilizes chi in its attacks. Chi gung sets and breaking are all examples of the application of energy.
You may have noticed that these characteristics are interrelated. They are, in fact, dependent on each other. The goal is to maintain a harmony between all six characteristics in all your techniques and kata.
Slow down and understand how these characteristics will affect your Kempo. Waist power is the hidden power. It drives your attack. Arm power is wasted effort. Relying on your physical strength is a dangerous thing to do. Cover your openings by using these fundamental rules in your Kempo.
Bow Sim Mark’s Chinese Wushu Research Institute http://www.taichi-arts.com