There is a lot of buzz in martial arts circles recently concerning a video from China showing a challenge match between an amateur MMA fighter and a Tai Chi master.
If you have seen the video you will quickly agree that the young MMA fighter dominated the Tai Chi master. What isn’t clear is really what was going on in the cognitive of the Tai Chi master as he was receiving the beating that he did. Was he thinking that his skill would eventually ‘kick-in’ and save his hide? Now I can’t actually tell you how the Tai Chi practitioner trains; however, based upon this evidence it would appear that he was not prepared for the realities of the engagement.
So what went wrong? The ‘master’ clearly had no idea of how to manage and control the distance with the MMA fighter. His response appears to be one of backing up while flailing the arms. He gave a typical response once on the ground from the initial onslaught of punches. That is, he appears to instinctively try to protect himself by avoiding being flat on his back and ultimately goes belly down to protect his face from further damage. I say instinctively because it would appear that he was loosing consciousness towards the end of the engagement. The aftermath of this shows a wounded ‘master’ wiping the blood from his face.
Now we also can’t really know how confident the Tai Chi master was in his abilities. However, would he have not taken the fight if he truly thought his practice was useless? If there was just one thing that I have learned in all of these years of study and in my military service it is this: you have to train as you fight. And by that I mean that you have to train with aliveness. Matt Thornton highlights three things that make up his concept of aliveness. Those are: timing, energy, and motion. By energy, he means resistance. If you don’t have those elements as a part of your usual practice then you may be engaged in a fantasy martial art or self defense system.
I am sure that there is some value to Tai Chi and other related internal and Chinese systems. I am also certain that there are some that may practice some level of aliveness. However, it is clear that the Tai Chi man in the above video was woefully unprepared for the confrontation, and he paid the price.
If your intent in practice is health…great. If it is to preserve and ancient system…great. However, if you plan to be able to save your ass…train functionally and with aliveness.
More on aliveness from Matt: