Taijiquan, Tai Chi Chuan

Taijiquan is an internal martial art

Question 1

What do you mean by saying that Taijiquan is an internal martial art?

— Juan, Spain


There are three factors in the statement that Taijiquan is an internal, martial art -- namely internal, martial and art.

Taijiquan is internal. This means that its effectiveness and benefits are due to internal force, not muscular strength. As internal force is not dependent on size, age and gender, a tiny woman of sixty can effectively fell a young, muscular man of thirty. The tiny elderly woman has the benefits of good health and vitality besides longevity, whereas the young muscular man may be sick and tired.

Taijiquan is martial. This means that the tiny, elderly woman can use her art for combat. If a Karate or Taekwondo black-belt, for example, were to attack her, despite the attacker's size and strength, the woman can effectively handle the attacker.

Taijiquan is an art. To be skilful as well as to derive benefits from the art, a Taijiquan practitioner has to practice and practice what he has learned. If he just learns and learns but does not practice, he may not be skilful and may not enjoy its benefits.

If any one of these three factors is missing, then it is not Taijiquan. If practitioners practice merely Taijiquan techniques but have no internal force, their art is not Taijiquan.

If practitioners cannot apply what they practice for combat, it is not Taijiquan.

If practitioner is knowledgeable about the subject but does not practice it as an art, then it is not Taijiquan.

Question 2

What is the difference between gentle physical exercise and chi kung?

— Carolina, Spain


The main difference is energy flow.

When someone performs gentle physical exercise, there is no energy flow. When someone performs chi kung, there is energy flow.

It is energy flow that gives the benefit of chi kung, not the techniques he performs. For example, if a practitioner overcomes his illness, or attain good health and vitality, it is due to his energy flow, not due to the chi kung techniques he performs.

As gentle physical exercise does not result in energy flow, it does not overcome illness, or give practitioners good health and vitality irrespective of for how long and how beautifully he has performed the chi kung techniques. This, indeed, is the situation with more than 80% of people all over the world who say they practice chi kung. What they have practiced is gentle physical exercise, not chi kung, though they have employed chi kung techniques, and most of them do not realise it.

How is it that if they have employed chi kung techniques, they still do not have the benefits of chi kung, like overcoming illness and attaining good health and vitality? It is because they do not have energy flow. In the same way, a lot of people today practice Taiji techniques, but they do not have the benefits of Taijiquan. It is because they do not have internal force and combat application. Actually they have not practiced Taijiquan, which is an internal martial art, though they think they have; they have practiced only external Taiji forms. Similarly many people have not practiced chi kung, which is an art of energy, though they think they have; they have only practiced gentle physical exercise.

chi kung and gentle physical exercise

There is much difference between chi kung and gentle physical exercise

Question 3

When practicing the Five-Animal Play, can I change from one Play to another?

— John, Ireland


Yes, you can.

You don't have to follow the order of the Five-Animal Play. You can, for example, start with the Money Play, then change to the Bird Play. You can change to another play when you have just started the first play, are half way through the play, or when you have completed the Play.

You can also practice one or more other chi kung exercises besides one or more of the Five-Animal Play, and in any order. For example, you may start with the Deer Play, next change to Carrying the Moon, and then Bone Marrow Cleansing at the Muscle level. Or you may start with Double Dragons of 18 Jewels, then change to the Bear Play.

The techniques of chi kung are a physical mixture, like making coffee with milk. You can put coffee powder first, then sugar, add hot water and then milk. Or you can put in milk first, pour in hot water and add sugar and coffee power. You can make coffee with milk in any way and any order you like.

Question 4

We know we can still improve at applying the foundation skills under any circumstances. When we have seen other people in the school spar and operate in different parts of their lives we see this is true for other people as well.

— Sifu Tim Flanklin

Sifu Tim's other questions can be accessed at April 2016 Part 1 of the Question=Answer Series.


Some people become agitated when sparring, and most people become panicky in real fights. In such stressful situations, they throw away all they have learned in combat application. In this respect, our kungfu students have done quite well. If they can remain relaxed in sparring or even real fights, they can be relaxed in most other difficult situations.

chi flow in sparring

Chi flow can be fruitfully employed in sparring or in our daily life

Question 5

We would like to use the Summer Camp 2016 Chi Kung courses to remind people that this is something that can be aspired to, as it was in the past with Shaolin masters, perhaps called "Applying the foundations of Chi Kung at the highest levels".


Our kungfu students can have such training in free sparring. But our students who only practice chi kung from us do not have this facility. As mentioned earlier, we may create simulated situations for their training.

Being relaxed in difficult situations is not the highest level of chi kung training. In fact it is at a basic level. All chi kung students, if they practice genuine chi kung, should be able to do this, although in reality many cannot.

At the risk of being boastful though we are not, our students have done very well in this respect. This is because our students practice genuine chi kung, where they must be relaxed in order to generate an energy flow. In other words, if they have practiced our chi kung for six months, they would have learned how to be relaxed for six months. Most other students may be tensed or stressful as they do not practice genuine chi kung; they only practice gentle physical exercise but using genuine chi kung forms.

Being relaxed is not at the highest level. In fact it is the most basic level. If a practitioner cannot be relaxed, he cannot perform genuine chi kung or any internal arts. In the past, any student practicing a genuine internal art would know how to be relaxed. However, today most practitioners, including some masters, cannot relax

Question 6

As a result of doing this course a student, regardless of his current level, will be better able to apply a smooth flow of energy in combat during the Kung Fu course that follows. In fact, we could say that this skill is essential in effectively applying internal skills at a highest level.


Yes, anyone during our chi kung course during the UK Summer Camp, regardless of his current level, will be better able to apply a mooth flow of energy in combat during the kungfu course that follows. This skill of being relaxed is essential in internal arts at any level, including the most basic level. As mentioned earlier, if a practitioner does not have the skill to relax, he just cannot perform any internal art at any level, even when he may be performing the techniques correctly.

This is a remarkable discovery I made in my teaching. In my earlier years even as a teacher, I did not realize this fact, though I had internal force. Many real masters today also do not know this fact although they have internal force.

Then how did these masters have internal force when they did not know the fact that being relaxed was essential in any internal art training, including the development of internal force. They developed their internal force through their sheer dedication of practicing techniques for years, and occasionally when conditions became ideal, they were relaxed and thus developed internal force despite their not knowing the fact. But when we know this fact, we become extremely cost-effective.

chi kung, qigong

Attending any UK Summer Camp course will surely enrich one's daily life

Question 7

Whether a person is a beginner or a teacher he will benefit from doing this course. We know he will. As a result he will increasingly embody the Shaolin scholar-warrior nature.


Irrespective of whether a practitioner is a beginner or advanced, he will benefit from any course in our school, thus furthering his scholar-warrior nature.

When advanced practitioners are present in a class, beginners will benefit more than if the advanced practitioners were not present. But those who benefit the most are the advanced practitioners! This is a special feature in our school.

Question 8

The Summer camp will highlight the Shaolin journey in modern day life: How to circulate and build energy and how to apply this smooth flow of energy in Chi Kung, Kung Fu and everyday life, regardless of the pressures and stresses faced.


This contributes to a rare feature of our school, which is to apply what we learn to enrich our daily life.

If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at stating your name, country and e-mail address.


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