Tai Chi Chuan is one of the Chinese martial art systems. It has multiple functions such
as being efficient in self-defense, benefiting health maintenance and improved moral
character and temperament disciplines. Tai Chi Chuan created by Taoist Zhang San
Feng was based on the teaching from the book "Tao Teh Ching", which was written
by Lao Tzu. The most translated book in the world today. Following are some of
the concepts in Tai Chi Chuan that one can easily trace them back to
A. Soft overcome hard
Tai Chi Chuan as a system of Chinese martial
art. It has distinguished combat characteristics, one of which is soft
overcome hard. What is this meaning of soft overcome hard? It is a condition of
static overcome dynamic, weak overcome strong and slow overcome fast. In the
Tai Chi Chuan Classics, "Four ounces overcomes 1000lb" does not solely rely on
power. We see many senior practitioners of this art can easily overcome younger
practitioners throughout history. The concept of "soft overcome hard"
originated from Tao Teh Ching. Lao Tzu pointed out in his book in Chapter 76
"Strong is death, weak is alive. Therefore, a strong army is death, a strong
wood is breakable." Generally, things that are weak have potential. Things that
are strong have reached their maturation and no more growth potential.
Therefore, things that are weak have potential, and room for more. Things that
are strong expose everything. They showed all the negatives. Things that are
weak will last longer. Things that are strong only last for a short time.
Tai Chi Chuan application is similar to practice the solo form. It guides by
the concepts of relaxation, soft, circular and even. It is only when a posture
is natural, relaxed and soft, the qi can circulate profoundly and the power
supporting the posture. Tai Chi Chuan applies the concept of "softness"
distinguished from many Chinese martial art systems which emphasis on
"hardness". This "softness" can be interpreted into four areas in Tai Chi Chuan
practice and combat strategies.
- Tai Chi Chuan does not use physical power. All emphasis is on the intent.
- Apply the concept of "static overcome dynamic". When confronted by an
opponent, one maintains soft, relaxed and tranquil at all time.
- Apply the concept of soft overcome hard. One does not used physical power
to control the opponent.
- Apply the concept of weak overcome strong.
What is the concept of leading? It is the act of
actively disrupting the opponent's balance so that one has a better chance to win
in confrontation. The concept of leading is based on the concept of "weakness".
When confronting the opponent, it projects a misconception and perception. This
results in the opponent's improper reaction and exposes the weakness. This is an
active role to lead the opponent to destroy oneself. One can find this concept
in Chapter 69, "I am afraid to be a subjective but objective. I am afraid to make
one inches forward but retreated one foot." "To be a visitor is not for a
visitor alone. Retreat a foot is not for retreat alone." To be a visitor and
retreated a foot are tactics and strategy. The objective is to create illusion,
misconception and perception so that one can end up at an advantageous position.
Although the words visitor and retreat spoken by Lao Tzu in his book appear to
be secondary and hospitality, it is actually an active method to master the
confrontation initiation. The "softness" and "weakness" concepts deployed in
Tai Chi Chuan served a similar function.
In order to be able to apply the concept of "leading" properly and correctly,
one must have a sharp sensitivity. For this, formed practitioners had developed
Push Hand Exercises for future practitioners to train and develop this
sensitivity. In order to be in an advantageous position in confrontation, one must
constantly change positions and maintain balance. Therefore, one must move
before the opponent and be careful. The emphasis on the opponent's reactions
can be found in "Observe small daily will clear" spoken in Chapter 52. "Clear" is
referring to understand and "observe small" is referring to pay attention to all
The second requirement in "leading' is tranquil and storage. In Chapter 61,
"Ordinary calmness to overcome strongness. The softness in female with calm mind
can overcome the strong in male." The soft and flexible characteristics of
"leading" without a calm mind, it is difficult to function. When a practitioner
is not calm, one cannot concentrate, very easy agitate, make mistakes and
executed incorrect response. When one is calm, one paid attention when observing
and analyze the opponent's movements, body language and find out the weakness.
Therefore, calm is a very important component of one's skill. The nature of calm
is storage and hidden. It can neutralize the opponent's power with patience so
that one can apply the technique of "leading". In Chapter 28, "Know the male,
concentrate the female. It is the universal behavior". Lao Tzu wanted people to
understand that the strong characteristics of male, original came from the soft
characteristics of female. One should have the patience and tolerance to stand up
to all obstacles for this happened only in a short time. They are based on Lao
Tzu's teaching of initialization of weak and soft which can be found in "Weak is
the application of Tao" in Chapter 46.
The concept of following is one of the critical
criteria to win in combat confrontation. It is a response based on
information gathering and analysis then, apply difficult methods to confused,
manipulated without the opponent's awareness and end up in a threating and
disadvantageous position. Generally, in order to be in an advantageous position and
completely control the opponent, one has to given up on oneself and follow the
opponent's every movement.
Given up on oneself, it is an act of unselfishness. It is also based on the
concept of "soft". Although it appears passive, it is active all the time, in
every movement and ready to respond and manipulate the opponent's movement.
The concept of given up on oneself and following the opponent have two
meanings according to Lao Tzu:
a. Following: "Apply strategy unexpected" in
b. Given up oneself: "Transport in unity" in Chapter 10
Following is referring to the condition of manipulation deployed and given up
on oneself is referring to the actuality.
When two parties are engaging in confrontation, if one party has a lot of
fire power, the second party has to avoid the strike and seize the opportunity to
counter strike. This is similar to when one confronts with thunderstorm and
rain and get wet, one's immediate reaction would be to look for shelter to
shield from the rain until it stops.
When the opponent's strike is fast and powerful, this generally cannot last
long. One should look for the weakness and imbalance. However, if the opponent
is patient, conservative, one should initialize the strike and apply tactic and
strategy to pretend to expose the weakness to invite the opponent to strike.
Given up on oneself required a skill of forget oneself and be unselfish. This
philosophy is not only benefit in martial art discipline; it is also a
philosophy recommended in one's daily life practice. This is the philosophy of
the martial art promotes into tao as explained by Lao Tzu in "Tao is daily
given" in Chapter 48. A true condition of given up on oneself is to choose and
live a simple life free from a materialistic plentiful society and temptation.
To pick up the simplest rule among wide ranges of rules in life. It is the rule
of nature. The objective of given up on oneself is so that one can be in an
advantageous position. In life, it is the condition of intention and body movement
into one united. In combat confrontation, all movements based on the opponent's
action. The result of this condition according to Lao Tzu as "nothing enter into
nothingness" in Chapter 43.
Given up on oneself and to follow the opponent is the essence in Tai Chi
Chuan teaching. The obvious of this teaching is demonstrated and interpreted in
the concept of "Four ounce overcome 1000 pound".
Tai Chi Chuan and Tao Teh Ching's teachings are inseparable. To improve the
Tai Chi Chuan skill, a practitioner must pay attention to the information
presented in the book "Tao Te Ching".