5 step path by Dan Docherty
Before being able to apply the tactics of Tai Chi Chuan in combat, we must first understand the strategy which governs their use. In the Song of Tai Chi Pushing Hands it is written 'a force of only four ounces can overcome a force of one thousand pounds'. This approach means we must rely on skill and intellect rather than brute force; it also requires us to follow a set path of five principles
We must maintain contact with our opponent, remaining sensitive to his every action. Thus we are able to detect his attacks and sense his weak points.
Our reactions to any attack should follow the principle that as soon as our opponent moves (attacks) we move (counter) before he can complete his movement. Defence and counter-attack are a series of smooth, unbroken movements.
Softness- right time and place
When applying the principle of adherence, we should maintain only a soft or relaxed contact with our opponent. The sensitivity thus developed enables us to detect any changes in our opponents intentions. It is an early warning system. Our softness also makes it difficult for our opponent to detect our own intentions.
Once we have detected the direction of our opponent's force we must go with it, not against it. This is the key to the Tai Chi tactic of using `four ounces of force' to divert even the fiercest attack into the void. While our opponent is using all his energy to attack us we are able to conserve ours.
Rejection of Brute Force
Arm contact with our opponent must be both soft and continuous. We must neither withdraw the arm nor let it become tense. This constant soft contact enables us to detect change and to make spontaneous response without unnecessarily wasting energy.
By adopting the strategy of the Five Step Path we are able to achieve the ideal of using the minimum amount of force necessary to produce the maximum effect.
To sum up, we must intercept any attack in a relaxed manner, adhering to it while we use only a minimum force necessary to guide it gently away from its original target, and to the void. By doing this we can detect any changes that may occur in the attack and respond to them accordingly.
This would be impossible if we used brute force to block the attack. Our actions must be harmonious and continuous. One of the special characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan is the emphasis placed on diverting attacks and using our opponent's own force against him. This is why we adhere to the strategy of the Five Step Path.
Adherence is useless without softness as we can only be sensitive to our opponent's changes if we are relaxed.
Yielding is useless without adherence as we can only monitor our opponent's movements and know when to counter-attack if we keep in contact with him.
Brute Force used against our opponent's force will prevent us from detecting his weaknesses and this runs against Tai Chi Chuan principles which demand that we know the opponent as well as we know ourselves.
This then is the strategy we must follow when applying the Tai Chi Chuan combat tactics. These tactics are practiced when we do the `Pushing Hands Exercise' which is the first step towards developing our ability to apply in a practical way the fighting tactics of Tai Chi Chuan.