Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 10, 2010

Static Vs. Dynamic Tai Chi

I like fooling around with friends who don’t practice tai chi, but may be a bit adept at other martial arts or just can handle themselves well. Most of the time, when I show them something tai chi related, I have to encouage them to relax and soften up and go with the flow so that i can actually demonstrate the move. This gives the appearance that tai chi is fake and full of it. I then encourage them to stiffen up and use their muscle to resist the move. More often than not, this results in the particular tai chi move being totally ineffective(it should be ineffective because it does not entail using muscle against muscle, strength against strength), again, leading people to the false conclusion that tai chi is bull when it comes to martial application.

On the rare occasion, the person will get wise and actually put some oomph into what they are doing, thinking they can really have a good laugh and show up tai chi chuan. This is when it gets fun! The other day, a well meaning acquaintance grabbed my arm and said, “but what if I do this…” and pulled me with all his might. I went with it completely, and let him pull me into his chest while I did a “kao” or shoulder bump in full tai chi form. This is when tai chi works, when it is no longer a static situation, but becomes dynamic. This is where it gets its energy from. If I had resisted the pull, we would have gotten into a tug of war and he eventually would have won. But because I went with it, I was able to gain the upper hand/shoulder. It is important, of course, that I stayed within proper tai chi posture, otherwise we might have both ended up rolling on the floor.

I remember another incident many years ago, I was playing/sparring with a high school wrestler who was really built. He had a great love of martial arts, and was quite advanced in certain forms of karate. As the time wore on, he decided to have some fun, and ended up picking me up and lifting me over his head. I let him, and if it were a real fight situation, his entire head was very vulnerable to some serious attacks. Of course, I opted not to seriously injure him, and the laugh was on me.

So, the point of the post, I guess, is that if we practice tai chi, we have to trust tai chi, and practice leting go and not resisting. In static situations, tai chi does not reveal itself, but in dynamic situations(which most of life is), is springs forth spontaneously and creatively and very, very effectively.



  1. If you’re going to learn something from someone, like tai chi, it only makes sense to set aside whatever your own ideas are, empty your cup and do it their way.

    Similarly, if you’re setting out to learn tai chi, then it only makes sense to do tai chi.

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