Today we look at a combative consideration in the application of Tai Chi from the Classics. Here the verse describes the process of ‘severing the root’ of the opponent so that they can be defeated quickly and certainly. Lets explore how we can interpret this guidance.
Alternating the force of pulling and pushing
severs an opponent's root
so that he can be defeated
quickly and certainly.
When looking at how to apply Tai Chi in ‘fighting’ we should first consider what the overarching unique tactical approach of the style is. This is something that I have considered for some time, thinking about the various experts of the style I have met who could really fight. It is the first foundation to be laid, the first thing to understand as without clarity in this one point, what we do may not be correctly defined as specifically Tai chi.
So, I boiled the approach down to an initial and easy to understand overarching strategy.
“To off-balance the opponent such that one can apply a fight ending technique.”
This strategy, I believe, encompasses the entirety of the Martial approach of Tai Chi. In all of the interactions I have seen or felt where Tai Chi exponents were legitimate fighting specialists this sentence aptly describes the process. We are aiming to take the opponent out of balance, physically or mentally, and then finish the fight, by either removing their will to fight or their ability to continue to fight.
This is to be covered in much more detail in the Combat Module for the Tai Chi academy of course. But here, we are able to fit this verse from the classics into that context for a better examination.
Off-balancing the opponent.
The verse deals with one side of the combat equation initially, the off balancing of the opponent. More precisely the off balancing caused by the severing of their root, which is only one of the ways that we can off-balance or un-balance our opponent. The root in this instance could be described as their ability to brace against your forces, use the ground to push on to generate their own forces or even simply to effectively move around on the earth. To remove all of these parts of an opponent’s arsenal is to diminish their ability to fight substantially if they are reliant on root for their fighting approach.
Of course, many styles do not have this focus on ‘rooted’ power so we would need another solution to the problem of those individuals. However, the severing of the root, for those whom may rely on it, remains a highly effective approach to the first part of the combat equation.
When someone is uprooted they are naturally unbalanced. This means that they must then ‘recover’ their balance to enact more actions, be that defence or attack. This is what I call the ‘recovery phase’ and is perhaps the most important part of the application of Tai Chi to Fighting.
The Recovery Phase
The recovery phase is the point at which someone is ‘recovering’ from an action. It could be the MMA fighter who has just thrown a flurry of unsuccessful shots, it could be an aggressor who’s balance has just been disrupted, it could be the result of a faint to draw the partners attention. All of these things will involve a ‘recovery phase’ after the action and it is in this moment that the next part of the fighting equation can be most successfully applied. In any fighting medium we can see an attack on the opponent that is recovering in some way will have a larger effect than that towards someone who is balanced centred and ready.
In this verse the direction is to ‘Alternating force between pushing and pulling’ to sever the root. This is a blunt description of the process I believe it is trying to describe.
The key word here is ‘alternating’ as this hints towards a specific tactical approach where we move someone out of balance, allow them to begin their recovery and then help them on their way to create a larger off balance.
In fact we can say that ‘push’ could be thought of as the initial force vector, then ‘pull’ is an action applied within the recovery phase of the partners motion which will, in turn, sever the root. Once severed a second recovery phase appears and a definitive culmination technique can be applied, be that a control, a KO strike or a throw.
It is important to note that it is in the ‘second recovery phase’ of the process, in this instance, that the concluding technique is applied. There are, of course, methods of applying fight ending attempts within the first recovery phase.
This is an interesting topic that will be explored more in the ‘Combat Module’ in the Tai Chi Academy, which will be open to all academy members with a consistent 6 months of membership.
For now, I hope this has given you a couple of interesting ideas to play with in your own practice.