The 3 Martial Applications In Tai Chi Chuan

by | September 19, 2019

The Tai Chi form, whatever form you may practice, is filled with movements that can be interpreted as self-defense or martial applications. These range from the obvious, such as a punch and a kick, to the not-so-obvious, such as the movements named ” Grasping the Birds Tail’, or “Apparent Close-up.” In truth, each movement has a variety of martial applications.

Though, there are any number of martial/self-defense applications for a movement, these application can be ascribed to one of three categories of purpose, and sometimes more than one (with a little imagination and ingenuity). These martial application categories are as follows:

  1. Takedowns
  2. Joint Manipulation (and Breaking)
  3. Strikes

We shall discuss each in turn.


A number of techniques fall into the category of “Takedowns”. These include uprooting techniques, throws, unbalancing techniques, and bouncing the opponent away. Takedowns often involve causing the opponent to fall or stumble to the floor, or potentially lose their balance.

Joint Manipulation and Breaks

This category can also be referred to by its Chinese name, “Quin Na”. Quin Na involves damaging the ligaments, tendons and muscles by placing a joint or extremity (usually an arm) in an overextended position, or in a position counter to, or beyond its normal range of motion. Joint Manipulation is used to control an opponent, at it’s most yin, and to snap bones, at its most yang, and everything in between.


Strikes refer to using any of the bodily weapons to attack a vulnerable area or point of the body. This includes striking the cavities of the body and various acupuncture points. Bodily weapons include: punches, palm strikes, claps, finger jabs, pulls and grabs. These are attacks accomplished with the hands. Elbow strikes, shoulder bumps, various kicks, knee strikes, and even headbutts (though headbutts are not a common striking weapon in Tai Chi) are also bodily weapons.

Often a particular movement within the Tai Chi form can be interpreted to be used for all three purposes. More on this in the near future.