Practical tai chi, also known as Wudang tai chi chuan, is a Chinese martial art that focuses on self defense and the overall health of the body. In almost every form of tai chi chuan, there are two aspects: the yin and the yang. While the yin focuses on slow movements, overall health and solo practice, the yang is more about active self defense. Practical tai chi is primarily about the yang of this martial art rather than the yin, although fitness and solo practice are utilized.
The term practical tai chi was given to this martial art by several journalists in Hong Kong, who noted the form's focus on self defense. Derived from the ancient Chinese belief system of Taoism, practical tai chi enables its practitioners to learn how to survive by not only teaching self defense but overall health. The deep breathing practiced during practical tai chi increases blood circulation and also causes the diaphragm to massage the intestines, which aids in digestion and the overall health of the internal organs. It is also thought that the slow, steady movements of practical tai chi can teach self control and even-temperedness.
The literal translation of tai chi chuan is "Supreme ultimate fist", which is exemplified in practical tai chi. While tai chi is commonly broken down into two forms, solo (yin) and pushing hands (yang), practical tai chi focuses more on the pushing hands, which is the fighting form of tai chi chuan. This form teaches the student to rely on his or her opponent’s movements to dictate the actions of the student, effectively teaching the student to take control of the opponent’s center of gravity. This provides the tai chi student with the upper hand in almost any battle.
This active, self-defense stage of tai chi relies on sparring and open-handed strikes rather than punching. This style of trapping, locking and breaking are a means of self defense rather than a way to harm the attacker. Following the mastering of these skills, more advanced students are often taught about acupressure points, which allows them to debilitate their attacker if absolutely necessary. Practical tai chi also places great emphasis on how certain strikes affect the receiver, utilizing the striking of different parts of the body in different ways.
Although this martial art places a strong focus on the fighting forms of tai chi chuan, it still aims to instill the primary values of tai chi in its students. The core value is wu te, or heroism, which is a code of morals that allows the use of these ancient fighting methods only in cases where it is needed, and always taking the safety and health of the attacker into consideration before acting. While practical tai chi is a fighting form at heart, it is still a gentle and thoughtful means of exercises and self defense.