If you do not know the martial dimension of Taijiquan, you would have missed the essence of this wonderful art, and would probably have practised it as a dance. Even if your main intention of practising Taijiquan is for health reasons, you would have missed the best health benefits of Taijiquan if you do not practise it as a martial art.
This is because if you practise Taijiquan as a dance, the most you can get are the benefits a dance can give such as flexibility, elegance, loosening muscles and blood circulation. The proverbial good health of a Taijiquan master, including his internal power, remarkable stamina and mental freshness, is obtainable only if you practise it as a martial art, i.e. if you train yourself to become a formidable fighter whereby these health features are essential.
Amongst the various dimensions of Taijiquan, those of internal force cultivation and combat application are necessary if you train Taijiquan as a martial art. Without internal force a Taijiquan exponent would have no stamina to last a fight and no striking power to subdue an opponent; without knowing how to apply Taijiquan techniques to combat he would be helpless when attacked.
Manifesting the yin-yang principle of the Taiji unity, internal force and combat application compliment each other. If a Taijiquan exponent has only internal force but no combat application, he may be able to give impressive demonstration of his power, such as taking punches without sustaining injury or sending a demonstration partner flying backward, but he would be unable to defend himself in a real fight.
If he has only combat application but no internal force, he may be able to discuss the wonderful combative techniques of Taijiquan intellectually or perform some pre-arranged sparring elegantly, yet when involved in a real fight he may be easily defeated by a clumsy but mechanically stronger opponent. Internal force cultivation will be explained in another webpage; this webpage explain some combat applications of Taijiquan. All styles of Taijiquan are effective for combat; the examples illustrated here are taken from the Yang style.
The Flowing Movement of Taijiquan
Some students may have heard that the First Patriarch of Yang Style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan, defeated all his challengers and he used only one Taijiquan pattern known as "Grasping Sparrow's Tail". Although many people may find it hard to believe, it is true that if you have sufficient internal force and are skillful in combat application, you can successfully employ just this one pattern, "Grasping Sparrow's Tail", to overcome virtually any forms of attack, irrespective of whether the attacks are punches, kicks, throws or holds!
Photos 1 to 4, illustrate how this pattern may be used to counter a thrust punch, then fell the opponent onto the ground. In Photo 1 the opponent (illustrated by Goh Kok Hin) attacks with a thrust punch, which is a very common form of attack.
The exponent (illustrated by myself), beginning the Grasping Sparrow's Tail pattern, shifts his body backward slightly to avoid the punch. Without any break, he wards off the thrust punch with the <em>peng</em> technique, Photo 2, then grips the opponent's throat and follows through with the <em>li</em> technique.
Continuing smoothly in the same flowing movement, he fells the opponent onto the ground, Photo 3. Notice that the exponent's grip is still on the opponent's throat although the latter is already on the ground, Photo 4. If the exponent lets go his grip and walks away, the opponent could jump up and continue fighting, possibly striking the former from behind.
In a life-death struggle, which fortunately are extremely rare nowadays, the exponent could maim or even kill the opponent by gripping hard at the latter's throat and tearing out the Adam's apple. But Taijiquan exponents, in line with the Taoist reverence for life, usually stop short of this fatal move and let the opponent go, after demonstrating his combative superiority.