Application Drills

Practical self-defence applications exist for all the movements of the Tai Chi Hand Form – in our martial classes we drill these movements repeatedly to develop them as reflexive responses. This practice can be done slowly to develop technique, and later more energetically to simulate a realistic self-defence situation or for pushing hands/sanshou competition training.

Martial Class Hand Form

After an energetic training session in our martial classes, we cool down by performing the Tai Chi hand form.

Taking 15-20 minutes to perform in total, the slow movements effectively perform the function of a therapeutic warm-down, encouraging the muscles and joints to move through their range of motion while operating at a reduced intensity. Meanwhile, one gains all the other benefits of practising the hand form – one works through an efficient template of the style’s martial movements while training balance, co-ordination and focus.

The tiredness experienced after expending energy in pushing hands practice and sparring also helps encourage relaxation and use of minimum muscular tension, which also benefits one’s practice of the form.

Below are some photos taken during a martial class (photography by Steve Musselwhite).

Padwork – University Class

As well as training strong and efficient punching technique, practising Running Thunder Hand (continuous punching) in pairs using gloves and focus mitts trains holding a protective guard (shoulder muscles) and, since punching should involve the whole body – legs, core and arms – this acts as a general stamina conditioning exercise as well.

The video clip below shows two members of the student class working on some striking combinations (punches, knees and elbows) using pads.

Yang overcomes Yin

While much is made of using Yin (softness) to overcome Yang (hardness) in Tai Chi literature, the converse is also true.

When the opponent’s defence is weakened, the Tai Chi practitioner can take the initiative to attack strongly (Yang) to overcome the opponent’s weakness (Yin).

Below is a short clip of Oxford Wudang student Chris taking part in a full-contact sanshou competition and demonstrating this concept…

Sparring (SanShou)

Tai Chi is well-known as a health system. However, it is also an effective martial art and was once taught to the Manchurian military which occupied China at the time of Tai Chi’s explosion into prominence.

oxford-tai-chi-2113Traditionally, martial artists in China tested their skills against other styles at “lei tai” events, where fighters would compete on a raised platform – similar to modern combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests. Originally these contests would have been no-holds-barred, however nowadays rulesets have been introduced to ensure the safety of competitors while still maintaining a realistic level of contact. Modern “san shou” / “kuo shu” competition rulesets can be broadly compared to kickboxing mixed with stand-up wrestling. Groundwork, although popular in modern MMA tournaments, was not in favour in traditional Chinese society, likely as a combination of traditional values (seeing it as “ungentlemanly”) and practical concerns (seeing it as inadvisable to be on the ground in situations with multiple attackers, weapons, etc).

oxford-tai-chi-2155The lineage of Oxford Wudang has preserved the Tai Chi fighting heritage, and our club has had many members who have competed in full-contact competitions, including national champions.

This level of training is not for everyone; those who are willing to put in the effort and commitment can participate in sparring sessions during our martial classes, beginning with light contact and moving up to full-contact training as skill and conditioning progresses. All other aspects of the training – forms, pushing hands (grappling) training, practical applications drills, padwork &  conditioning training – feed into and inform this live training practice.


Below is a slideshow album of photographs taken during a recent sparring session (Photography by Steve Musselwhite).  Due to the fast-paced nature of bouts it’s very difficult to capture moments perfectly on film, so we’re grateful that Steve has managed to take some very good photos here…!