More on the debate —Tai Chi for health, Tai Chi for self-defence

John Mills’ lengthy editorial in the July issue on the debate of Tai Chi for health, or Tai Chi for self-defence was very interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. John has made some good points about the martial aspects and how the principles of applying them can deliver better health benefits.

True, Tai Chi practitioners, if they are to understand the form fully, need to practice and familiarise themselves with the bow stance, and one way of doing this, is to play push hands. Yes, push hands is a real eye opener, and many students would, I believe, see and feel the benefit.

However John, the ‘average’ new student would not relate to push hands, or greater emphasis on martial, as they are (usually) trying to acquaint themselves with key points such as posture, relaxing, balancing, letting go, feeling better etc. It is only later that advanced students can appreciate the key martial aspects of strong bow stance, sinking, and how many moves actually relate to a martial art application.

As I said in the previous newsletter, I don’t emphasis too much martial art to new students, instead endeavouring to promote the health aspects and learning how to relax.

As we know, many of our students can be middle-aged/elderly, so they may not want to enter the martial arena just yet.

I always try to put myself in the place of the new student, and how I felt when I first joined a class. I remember I didn’t want to have too many things to take on board, and wanted to get a ‘feel’ for the skill. As the student continues his/her journey, they then may explore the deeper, enriching aspects of our skill, and this is something I will always try to develop in a student, if they show an inkling towards deeper understanding.

Remember ours (teachers) is a journey also, and we can learn much from our students enquiries/approach to what they are trying to learn.

There’s that saying I mentioned before: "if the student wants to talk martial art, talk martial art; if they want to talk health, talk health; if he/she wants to talk philosophy, talk philosophy", and so on.

John says in his article "that despite our differences, ultimately we all have to learn to live with each other", and I hope that will be the case. I believe it to be too much of a generalisation to say that "the ‘health’ Tai Chi players have such immense difficulty recognising that there are other levels of Tai Chi".

By way of John’s footnote in the July newsletter, where he writes of forming a group to discuss push hands, I would like to lend my support to such a group. I believe it would be a good idea.

Brian Gregson (Tamworth)


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