October - December 2009

Illusive Pugilism: Merging the 13 Postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan with Western Methods of Fighting
(Part 2 - Peng and Lu)

ai Chi Movement-joining hands

In our first Illusive Pugillism article, we discussed the Eastern strategic and Western tactical applications of the elements (Metal, Wood, Fire, Water and Earth). These last five postures are called the Five Steps of Tai Chi Ch’uan. The conceptual merging of Eastern and Western concepts of martial arts begins with relating the 13 postures or forms with Western patterns of combative techniques. Forms and techniques in this sense should be regarded as potential offensive and defensive initiatives and responses disposed to allow the pugilist to neutralize an opponent’s ability to effectively fight.

Western associations of tactics must be paired with these Eastern concepts of form, which carry discernable energies. The life-work project art of Assi Ben-Port is used in this article because the essential concepts of these energies are presented in illustration. His illustrations of form matched against the technical illustrations of the Western fighting disciplines allow us to see the potential impact the merger of these perspectives bring to the art of Western Tai Chi Ch’uan. This potential impact has significance for the Illusive Pugilist when studying the following:

The contributions of each of these scholars provide the functional distinction between form and technique, Eastern fighting strategy and Western fighting tactics.

  • Strategy requires the training of ubiquitous forms to create a fighting situation that negate the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of an opponent.
  • Tactics require the training of specific techniques to react to fighting situations that are meant to thwart an opponent’s initiative

In this article we will add this knowledge to the first two postures of Tai Chi: Peng (ward-off) and Lu (rollback). We will also discuss the Taijitu of tactics and strategy, the philosophical core of Western Tai Chi Ch’uan. Tactic or strategy, form or technique, constructs the Taijitu (Yin/Yang) of Western Tai Chi Ch’uan and, although strategic initiative is preferred over tactical response, these opposites (or dualities) are unified in function for the Illusive Pugilist.

  • From Chang San-feng we discover the intellectual understanding of Chang Ching (Long Boxing) as continuous, uninterrupted movement from the beginning to the end of each of the 13 individual forms
  • From T'an Meng-hsien and Wu Yu-Xiang, we get the spirit of how the first eight postures create situations and how they should functionally feel when applied with the five steps (elements)
  • From Wang Tsung-yueh we become empathetic with the opponent and begin to conceptualize how to transition from one form to the other. Through empathy we now get a better sense of how to analyze an opponent by following rather than leading him/her
  • Finally, from Li I-yu we get the physical application of Tai Chi on an opponent and how the practitioner can self-correct him/herself

After studying these treatises you will find that the 13 postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan are indeed strategies of initiative veiled by tactics of submission, allowing the Illusive Pugilist to know himself and his opponent.

Wang says it best:
The opponent does not know me; I alone know him. To become a peerless boxer comes from this: Know yourself and know others: in one hundred battles you will win one hundred times.”

Song of Peng (Heaven)

File:Yin yang.svg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5e/Garde_mixte1.jpg/105px-Garde_mixte1.jpg Tai Chi Form- Ward off LeftTai Chi Form- Ward off Left http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/82/Garde_basse2.jpg

First sink the ch'i (air) to the tan-t'ien (point 2 to 3 fingers below navel),
then hold the head as if suspended from above
opening and closing in a very quick moment.
Even if the opponent uses a thousand pounds of force,
he can be uprooted and made to float without difficulty.

Peng (Heaven) may hold the key to the first character secret by understanding that with Calm Mind follow the intent of your opponent. All of the other postures contain this strategy as a foundation for them. This posture is translated as the ward-off associated with the energies Jie & Nian Jing (interception and sticky energy). Furthermore, it is associated with the principles of Wu Chin or Bu Tiu Bu Ding, Jie Ren Zhi Li. (These are the five energies which are to Adhere, Link, Stick, Follow, and No Resisting No Letting Go).

Wu Chin

image ai Chi Movement-joining hands imageai Chi Movement-joining hands image021

This is to follow your opponent's posture and adapt to it so that it is ineffective. When executed effectively your stance is maintained in a relaxed manner (without tension) while in a tight or loose clinch with an opponent. Through Nian Chin, Ting Chin (or listening to energy, the senstivity to detect the opponent's strength), is developed.  Wu Chin or the Five Energies are expressed beginning from this posture.

Jie & Nian Chin

image23Tai chi movementhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c9/Absorb_low2.jpg/150px-Absorb_low2.jpgtai chi dancehttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/Devie_genou.jpg/150px-Devie_genou.jpg

The strike’s origin, trajectory, magnitude and component vector are normally directed in a linear fashion and is met with a curved movement. Through touch your opponent’s use of the 13 postures can be efficiently ascertained and negated by covering, parrying, swallowing or intercepting. Your fighting stance should feel to the fighter that he/she is able to spring in any direction based on the intent of the opponent. Moreover, you apply force by tracing the direction of your opponent’s attack using your hands in a smooth and circular movement upward and/or sideways causing him to lose his balance, and thus uprooting him/her. In Western terms of combat this would be the method of how you hold your ground (staying in the center of the cage or ring while learning the intent of the enemy).

As a striker or grappler, if a fighter can learn to attack offensively immediately after causing an unbalancing of an opponent, that fighter will begin to develop a tremendously effective technique. This technique will make the opponent aware of that fighter’s ability to merge offense and defense into one continuous motion.  Fluid movements from one elemental step to another causes that fighter’s nature to appear capricious and, as such, dangerous.      

For a fighter, awareness of your nature and the nature of others is invaluable. If you know the nature of a thing you can know its capabilities. Know yourself well enough through your fighting experiences (training or otherwise) to recognize the resolve of your opponent to employ a particular style and recognize your own resolve to neutralize it. Within such resolve are contrasts or dualities that exist between fighters and within them. The manipulation of how these dualities are perceived and used dictates the winning or losing of a match. If the fighter on either side of the match does not realize this fact then they cannot foresee their own weaknesses. This is the key to their demise: If you know the essential nature of a thing, then you can grasp its capabilities and its limitations within you and upon you, by you, and by others.

Song of Lu (Earth)

File:Yin yang.svg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/25/Pas_de_retrait.jpg/105px-Pas_de_retrait.jpg Tai Chi Movement- Roll BackTai Chi Movement- Roll Backhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4b/Spin-back-fist.jpg/99px-Spin-back-fist.jpg

Lu (Earth) may hold the second character secret by understanding that with agility comes the idea of substantial and insubstantial movement to overcome double-weightiness of the feet. You must be able to shift your full weight from one side or leg to the other. The weighted side (substantial) is immovable and the un-weighted side (insubstantial) is irresistible force. The posture is called the roll-back and is associated with the following energies:

  • Jie Jing
  • Nian Jing
  • Hua Chin (attraction into emptiness)

Hua Chin

  • Tai Chi Form- Brush Kneeimage42Tai Chi Form- Separate Right FootPas_de_retraitpakua

Hua Chin holds a beckoning energy towards the opponent, enticing him/her to advance to a position appearing deceptively accessible during attack, only then for the opponent to find empty space, imbalance and the attack redirected or neutralized. It uses force in a sideways direction, intercepting and parrying a forward directed attack to the side, thus to the void. The curve seeks the straight line so that the greater the force of his attack, the greater the loss of the opponent’s balance. This is the pivot when an opponent presses hard on your side and you empty that side in an inside or clinching situation, or a wider and fluid circling movement when an opponent is trying to overwhelm you with a torrent of strikes. Humans are symmetrical in structure and as such are blind if a strike or approach comes from 0, 90, 180, or 270 degrees, making contact or evading from a 45 degree angle towards their bodies.

A striker and a takedown specialist prefers to make contact with this knowledge and the roll-back water or fire (see Peng) makes for a successful encounter. An offensive roll back or pivot is done when you are the aggressor and require an evasive maneuver from a strike before landing a strike of your own. Sink, then make a front foot pivot outward as your rear leg steps forward and to the side of the opponent. Then turn or pivot into your opponent’s blind side (normally over the shoulder). If you are grabbing an appendage, shift your weight (with bent knees), roll the lead foot, and release when the opponent is struggling to find his balance.

Often an aggressive opponent is surprised by this move and is counter-struck from a blind direction, thrown to the floor or wall due to a lack of footing. This is why an aggressor should strike-approach from one direction, circle-strike with a jab or lead-leg front kick or knee, and then pivot towards another and attack. This strategy takes the initiative away from a superior counter-striker, clincher, or takedown artist. In the guard position, on the ground, allow the opponent to place his weight fully to one side, then control the head and slide to the opposite side. This places the opponent in an off-balance position, allowing an opening of escaping, reversing, or attacking (with arm submission) the opponent.

The Press and the Push

In the next article, we will discuss the strategy and tactical application of the next two postures: The Press (Chi) and the Push (An).

Visit part 1 of this article: Illusive Pugillism, Part 1

Master Singh

Master Gurjot K. Singh’s recent work, Western Tai Chi Ch’uan: The Supreme Ultimate & Sweet Science of Boxing with 10 Limbs, will be published with Strategic Book Publishers in 2009. He has studied various disciplines in the martial arts since 1971. Most of his martial arts skills in grappling, Tai Chi, boxing and kickboxing were acquired during his 20 (+) years of government service. Singh recently received his status as a Master of Kickboxing from Grandmaster, Dr. Ibraham Ahmed and the World Martial Arts College Graduate Review Board in 2009, on the three-year anniversary of the re-opening of Angel’s Gym.

Western Tai Chi Chuan book

Master Singh’s system of fighting has produced amateur fighters who have been recognized by All-Army Boxing Selection Committee, True Fighting Championships Promotions, International Kickboxing Federation, The United States Amateur Athletic Union in Wrestling and United States Amateur Boxing Association. Within this time-frame the system has helped produce one All-Army Boxer, two 82nd Airborne Smoker Champions, three MMA Entertainment Event Winners, four Regional and NC State Full-contact Kickboxing/Muay Thai Champions, three NC State Wrestling Championships, two Submission Wrestling Champions and five City Boxing Champions.

Simply stated: The system works because the fighter has the heart to persevere in a training regimen that mentally, emotionally, and physically prepares them for the opponent they can’t beat… Not the one they can!

To Illusive Pugilists “… the mind is the greatest weapon and the heart the greatest shield.”

For more information on Master Singh and Angel’s Gym, see his website.

Special thanks go to the Angel’s gym trainers and fighters, the World Martial Arts College, the International Kickboxing Federation, NC USA Amateur Boxing Association, AAU Wrestling, the North American Grappling Association, Tai Chi Scholar Lee Scheele, Joe Palmer Photography, the tremendous clip art of Assi Ben-Port.


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