The One Principle of Tai Chi

For me the most striking and consequential information in Bob Amacker’s book, The Theoretical Basis of Tai Chi Chuan, is this:  there is a major overriding principle present when Taichi is done with a training partner or when fighting an opponent. When learning Taichi, both partners must cooperate to discover how to ‘feel’ The Principle and how to apply it in a constantly changing situation.

When fighting with Taichi the trained person has but one goal: to apply The Principle to each emerging situation even if the individual he/she is fighting has never even heard of The Principle.

Although I have been doing Taichi for over 45 years and have studied with many prominent teachers, the first time I had ever heard of this Principle was when I read Bob Amacker’s book and this opened my eyes to an aspect of Taichi I did not know.

How could I have trained diligently for over 45 years and never heard of this before?

According to Bob, often high level Taichi practitioners began training as children and because they learned how to apply the The Principle early and naturally they don’t necessarily know how to describe or teach it. Nevertheless they still feel it and use it. Also, the vast majority of schools teach Taichi for health and don’t focus on developing high level push hands skills which require partner work to effectively train how to use Taichi Chuan as a martial art.

I have always wanted to learn Taichi as a martial art, so the revelation that there is one Principle that is applied to every situation was frankly ‘mind blowing’.

So, what is the The Principle? Simply put, you work on making Taichi’s. But, what is a Taichi?

Well, as Bob explains it, a Taichi occurs when an object rotates around its center creating a Yang side and a Yin side. Imagine a short stick on the ground. If you kick one side of the stick perfectly it will rotate around its center point. As the stick continues to rotate, the side you kicked moves away from you, and the other side will move toward you.



What happens if you kick the stick in the center? Then it does not rotate but moves across the floor as one piece without rotating (translation). This Bob describes as being ‘double weighted’, there is no separation of the Yin and Yang sides which results in a movement (translation through space) without the separation of Yin and Yang. (translation of the object is when the center moves).


The possibility also exists that the incoming force on the Taichi will not be perfectly aimed at one side or another but between one side and the center point. In this case you will see both a rotation and translation.

When training, both partners try to balance the yin and yang points around the center of the Taichi. Imperfect balancing leads to changes and the techniques of Taichi flow from the changes.

This is a simple description of  The Principle. Bob describes applying the principle through 3 fractal levels that he has named the metal ball, wooden ball and air ball and The Principle is applied at all these levels

How to apply this to an interaction with another person is more complicated. It involves understanding the structural dynamics of Yang Style Taichi created to facilitate the application of the The Principle through one human body interacting with another human body in time and space.

Find out more about how this is done in Bob Amacker’s book, The Theoretical Basis of Taichi Chuan.

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