The Taijiquan Punch (Techniques From The Tao Chuan)
Over the last ten years or so of teaching Tai Chi Chuan, I have met several students who were surprised to discover that Tai Chi combat happened to involve striking the opponent with a clenched fist from time to time. This belief that Tai Chi self defence consists of open handed techniques is quite common I have found. Once a youngish student decided to quit a course of instruction due to my inclusion of punching as a method of practical self defence.
I personally consider striking with the fist or any other part to be essential and unless gifted with incredible grappling ability should be considered a valuable solution to dealing with a violent attacker. Chuan means fist or boxing so the use of strikes are essential for any system of boxing to be effective.
Perhaps the way Tai Chi Chuan is advertised and promoted as an only system of relaxation and callisthenics is partly to blame for the lack of knowledge of the martial aspects of the art. Many only know of the Tao Chuan (Hand Form) and have seen it as a slow moving meditation popular with the elderly. However simply watching the hand form one can see there are many times where an open hand becomes a clenched fist.
For this article I shall discuss a few of the punches or fist strikes within the pattern of the Tao Chuan. The techniques I shall talk of are contained in the Wu Cheng tin-hung/Dan Docherty lineage, often referred to as Wudang Tai Chi Chuan or Practical Tai Chi Chuan. I won't be discussing techniques from auxiliary training or those contained in the 24 Tai Chi Nei kung exercises as these are known as "inside the door" methods.
"Step Up Parry Divert And Punch";
Here we have an application suitable to deal with a high or low attack or even against two punches consisting of one high and one low if the correct footwork is applied. It consists of a diversion and a counter punch to the ribs. The top two knuckles are used for a Tai Chi punch and the aggressor tends to walk into the strike with his own force behind it.
"Fist Under Elbow";
There are variations for this one and one is to strike upwards at the opponents joint as he launches his attacking strike. First the wrist joint, then the elbow joint followed by a straight punch to the ribs.
"Turn Body And Swing Fist";
One use for this is to step and duck under a punch, seize/take control of the attacking arm and in the same circular movement issue an upper-cut to the opponents chin or lower to the ribs whichever is the better opportunity.
"Tiger Embraces Head";
This can be used on the inside or outside of an incoming punch whether it be a hook or a straight attack. The strike is diverted and with the same motion a counter is released to each side of the attackers head/chin/temples.
"Step Forward And Plant Punch";
This can be used against a straight or a roundhouse kick, the defender steps/evades and catches the kick releasing a downward punch around or to the side of the knee joint itself. This punch can be used at the end of any technique where an opponent has been thrown, swept, pulled or pushed to the floor and you follow up with a downwards punch to the nearest available effective target.
"Box The Ears";
This involves a double punch to the temples using the top two knuckles of each striking fist.
"Swing The Fist";
The defender diverts a low punch to the abdomen and then counter strikes with a back fist to the face followed instantly with an open palm strike.
"Beat The Tiger";
An opponents force is diverted and he/she is pulled to the floor for a counter strike. This consists of a hammer fist to the back of neck/head.
Tai Chi Chuan contains many more punching techniques other than those mentioned above and my brief article is simply to shed a little light on an internal art that some believe to be an open handed wrestling/grappling system or indeed simply a method of callisthenics and moving meditation.