The Strategy

Although many people today practice Tai Chi Chuan as a health maintenance exercise, a large number of them do not realize that Tai Chi Chuan is a martial arts system as well. It employs a very sophisticated combat strategy. Here are a few of its main principles:

1. Softness overcomes hardness
Tai Chi Chuan practitioners often hear or read about the concept of softness overcoming hardness in combat situations. This concept appears to be difficult to believe. We know that everything that exists in this world is based on survival of the fittest. The strong win over the weak. Then how can one be expected to win if one is always on the defense? The answer is obvious. In Taoist philosophy, all things evolve from Yin/Yang theory. The two are always in struggle to overtake each other. Therefore, the two components never remain the same. We can see this principle applied in war or other confrontation. Often, when two parties confront each other, it appears that the party being invaded is generally the weaker party. However, the invaded party often comes out victorious. There are usually three reasons for this outcome.
  1. When the weaker party is being invaded, it can easily mobilize for more support.
  2. When it comes to invasion, nobody likes the invader.
  3. The invader has to come up with an excellent explanation in order to get any support and justify the invasion.
The soft overcoming the hard and not striking first are concepts in Tai Chi which reflect its the influence of Taoist philosophy. Lao Tzu believed that the softest of all things is water. The hardest of all things is metal. However, given time, metal will slowly be rusted and weakened by water. The same is true of the hardness of rock and stone in the ocean which is slowly changed and shaped by seawater. The concept of not striking first also enables one to examine one's self, evaluate all weaknesses, and make corrections and improvements so that all mistakes will be corrected and skills refined. If the opponent is proud of his skill and does not make any corrections, the result is obvious. When one does not strike first, he is calm, careful and patient. This indicates one has self control, courage, confidence, and a clear and calm mind to observe the opponent's every action and look for a weak spot. Therefore, to not strike first is a winning strategy.

2. Get there first
Although one should not strike first and it is recommended that one get to the target first. The Tai Chi Chuan Classics supports this by saying that "...if the opponent does not move, I do not move. If the opponent moves, I am already there." The concept of arriving first is an interesting strategy that is difficult to execute. When the opponent moves, one has a chance to observe the opponent's weakness and formulate a response. In addition, when the opponent initializes the strike, one is inactive. This inaction confuses the opponent and he does not know how to strike because no weakness can result from no action. Therefore, to strike second is actually to strike first. It is a good strategy to finish the confrontation quickly.

3. Neutralization
Tai Chi Chuan also puts emphasis on neutralizing the opponent's strike, and not directly going against the opponent's strike. "Going against" refers to not to letting go in any confrontation, being overcome with power, or any double weighted situation in which direct confrontation happens and leaves both parties exhausted. Neutralization refers to avoiding any confrontation or conflict. It is recommended to look for alternatives and options to solve any confrontation or conflict. In any confrontation, when the opponent strikes, one applies circular motion to neutralize the strike, resulting in an advantageous position and the opportunity to follow with an action to finish the confrontation.

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