A Powerful & Unpredictable Weapon-Shoulder Copyright@2009 Master Xiaotong Huang 1

A Powerful & Unpredictable Weapon – Shoulder

- Combat Tai Chi (2) –

Xiaotong Huang, Unlimited Tai Chi Group

How often do we use shoulder as a weapon for fighting? Why is a shoulder a powerful and unpredictable weapon in Combat Tai Chi. In order to answer these questions, firstly, we need to look at our shoulder structure.

As we know, shoulder joint is one of strongest joints in our body except hip joint. There are four aspects in a shoulder: top (acromion), side (greater tubercle of humerus), front (lesser tubercle of humerus) and rear (spine of scapula). In Combat Tai Chi, each aspect of the shoulder is a powerful weapon.

How do we use a shoulder as a weapon? Shoulder knock is the answer.

Traditionally, Shoulder knock is called Jian Khou in Chinese. It is one of the eight basic methods of Tai Chi, and it is an explosive strike delivered at close range.

Shoulders knock usually is applied to target on weak or soft areas such as sternum, rib cages, elbows, or face. The strike consequence can be significant after using a shoulder to effectively knock these areas.

However, we can only apply these shoulder knock techniques effectively after we master its principles including timing, body integrity and footwork. Specific training on shoulder knock is required as well as solid foundation from Tai Chi practice.

Well, now I would like to give a few application examples of using Tai Chi shoulder knock for fighting.


Using the Top of Shoulder to Knock 


In the movement of Buddha’s Warrior Attendant

Pounds Mortar (Jin Gang Dao Zui), when

someone throws a right punch toward my face,



1. I quickly use two hands to make an upward

arc to redirect the punch, and then right step

forward between his legs.

2. meanwhile, I bend my upper body forward

to protrude my right top of should to knock his

rib cage or stomach promptly and heavily



This is a typical example of using the top of shoulder to conduct a shoulder knock.

Using the Side aspect of Shoulder to Knock

The side of shoulder is applied very often in Combat Tai Chi, it can be used in different situations including anti-holding and catching.

One of my favourite movements is from Move and Hider with Elbow (Ban Lan Zhou).

When a right straight kick is coming toward my groin or stomach, I use two hands to make a downward arc to and borrow force through deflecting his right leg. Simultaneously, I step leftward quickly and utilise left aspect of shoulder to knock his right rib cage or stomach.


Another example is from the movement of White Crane Spreads Its Wings (Bai He Liang Chi).

When a person uses his left leg kick my right thigh, I quickly move my right leg backward to form a empty stance, simultaneously, I use right hand to direct his kick move rightward pass over my right leg, and then I quickly step my right foot forward as close him as possible, at the same time, I use my right aspect of shoulder to knock his left rib cage heavily.

Using the Front aspect of Shoulder to Knock

In this example, the movement I chosen is from Walk obliquely and twist step on both sides (Xie Xing Au Bu).

Still if a right punch toward my face, I use my right hand to bring his right arm down and quickly I make a right step forward to close this person. At the same time, I quickly move right hand along his right arm toward his neck and also hold and bring his neck toward my right shoulder side. Simultaneously, I turn my right front aspect of shoulder forward and knock his face with pulling his head forward using my left hand.



In addition, I often use front part of shoulder to against chest grabs. If someone grabs my chest by the use of his left hand, I use left hand to hold his hand on my chest, and then quickly I make a right step and use right front shoulder to knock his left elbow firmly.


Using the Rear aspect of Shoulder to Knock

A very interesting application example for the use of rear aspect shoulder is from Tai Chi Form Two - Cannon Fist. Its name is Wrap Crackers (Guo Bian Pao). In this movement, I twist and shake both side of rear aspect of shoulders to knock a person who bear-hugged me at the back.

Power can be generated by constantly twist and shake the shoulders to hit the person’s chest even face. This movement, Wrap Crackers, is very effective to against rear bear-hugging if it is applied timely and appropriately.


Shoulder knock is a unique and special offensive technique in Combat Tai Chi. It is a very practical, explosive and unpredictable short range weapon, and it can cause serious injury. It should be applied judiciously with wearing appropriate protective devices during a free sparring.


Master Xiaotong Huang

Unlimited Tai Chi Group (UTCG), Sydney

E-mail: hxtagf@hotmail.com


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