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Do Tai Chi Players Fight As Slowly As They Do The Tai Chi Form?

Do tai chi martial artists fight in slow motion? The answer: no. There is much confusion about it being practiced slowly for health and also being able to use it as a martial art. A lot of people are misled and believe that you can fight with it as slowly as you most often see it practiced. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The reason that it’s practiced so slow, is to develop a beyond-normal state of awareness – not just awareness of movement – but also awareness of thought and feeling, much like intuition. Going fast covers up a lot of sensory information, while going slow allows us to “see” and “feel” things that are usually below our sensory threshold. Going so slow forces us to really understand what we’re doing, and not doing, and with later practice, it lets us gain the same information about our opponent.
Think of virtuoso musicians. There are areas in their musical pieces that they study to deeply understand it. Even if the music is meant to be fast-tempoed, the master musician will first read it over carefully and play it slowly to understand every nuance and how to best express it. The over-eager novice musician, on the other hand, will just want to race through the complex areas of the musical piece. Playing fast can even cover up mistake to most untrained ears. Unfortunately, most people do not understand that tai chi chuan is very much like an artful, expressive piece of music.
Its nickname is “shadow-boxing.” This is a good moniker. In combat, the idea is to shadow the speed of your opponent. The Tai Chi Classics which are sadly hardly ever studied anymore, specifically advise the practitioner: “Fast responses to fast actions and slow ones to slow actions. Although the changes are numerous, the principles remain the same.” That quote is attributed to one of the great masters, Wang Zong Yue, of the mid 15th century in China. Actually, in advanced stages of combat, you want to be a very tiny step ahead of your opponent. This is a very high level skill in which you no longer shadow your opponent, but rather, you are the one leading the shadow.
Whether you decide to use this art for its martial arts application or to fight the enemies of everyday life: aging, illness, stress… Make sure you perfect your skills and awareness by first going as slow as possible. That alone will build tremendous stamina and inner peace while developing your awareness.
That’s how practitioners use slowness as the gateway to swiftness. Enjoy your journey!
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