Zhao Bao Taiji Applications and Martial Efficacy

I’ve tended to consider Zhao Bao Taiji as a subset of Chen taiji, but with a very different and distinctive flavor. Actually, I must admit when I first saw it, I thought it was rather “flowery” and kinda weird with just lots of waving hand movements. I still kind of feel that way, but the more I see references to zhao bao, the more I see those references in conjunction to applications.

To see some zhao bao applications in action, check out this 21 minute video of Zhaobao Taiji by Song Yunhua [via]. I guess this video kinda put my “flowery” label down the drain on this sucker. I kinda wish more videos would come out like this for ALL THE TAIJI FORMS. Sure… some folks say that training the applications lock oneself in the “physical” realm of taiji focusing on patterns instead of working at the energetic level, but at my current stage in development, I say that’s phooey. I admit, I like seeing applications and it gives me perspective. How else can I “do the form like I am fighting someone” if I don’t kow what some of the applications could be? I don’t feel the apps are really that obvious, but perhaps I don’t have the trained eye.

I really think it’s all a bunch of philosophy mumbo jumbo when people say that you have to do the form like you’re fighting, yet fight like no one is there, yet never really show any applications. When I do a movement, I want to know the purpose of that movement and how it applies, not only in isolation, but in sequence. Is that too much to ask when I tell myself I train in a legitimate martial art? I don’t just want to be shown push hands patterns, which are nice to learn, but I want to be shown and have the application for each and every movement demonstrated ON ME, where I can feel and really discern if this is a plausible application.

My first wushu instructor would easily oblige me if I asked about the application. I would say, “Sifu, why do we do the form like this? What’s the application?” He would step back, switch to his piercing eye stare and tell me to attack him. I sh*t you not. This is old school and even though he taught contemporary wushu with some traditional shaolin and lama thrown in the mix, he was definitely not scared to throw down. So I did what he said and I attacked him, maybe not at 100% but enough to the point that if I hit him, we would here a smack. In fact, he’s the one that taught me that I would not really learn defence and how to block something unless I knew I could get hurt. Needless to say, I had quite an eye opening in our 3 hr private lessons in the basement of his house.

In the 9 yrs I regularly trained with him, I only learned 4 forms, but I also learned the applications for the movements, the spirit and the intention of the set. This was not your typical Mc Dojo setting of handing over the dollar, getting the movement and come back next week for more.. this was the learn 2-3 movemement and their apps in class, go home and practice them, then show him what I learned next class. If it was not good enough or up to his satisfaction, I was not taught anything new! He was so old school, that he’d generally only show a movement 3 times and then it was left to me to try and pick things up. Was this hard?? Yes, but I learned a lot about body movement and dependent biomechanics for structurally sound applications.

But I digress.. the point is, I wish there were more resources available in terms of applications. I personally don’t buy the idea of practicing form forever until the form is right before an application is shown or demonstrated. To me, that’s kinda Mc Dojo-ish and I’m not after a quick value meal. I want at least the 3 course meal: show me the move and discuss the body harmony aspects, show me the application and why it’s effective, then test me if I can do the move/application. For that, I’d be happy to pay extra, not just in money, but also in time.


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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2 Responses to Zhao Bao Taiji Applications and Martial Efficacy

  1. Kazan says:

    When I studied William Chen’s form, Paul Olivas took the following approach. First we study the move and tried to imitate him, then he shows us the purpose of the form move. That was very good because it was the application of the moves what gave life to the move itself, it was its context. I met a few people that just move and move and have no idea of what is all about. Of course, I forgot all about and I am still on training. Paul taught us that in the whole of tai chi fighting is contained in Grasp Sparrow’s tail. He might be write as long as we do not need to kick.

  2. wujimon says:

    Hi Kazan. I agree with your point that showing the application gives life to the movement. I believe Yang Jun was referring to the same thing (see my other post).

    I’ve also hear that all of taiji’s principles and application can be found within the grasps swallows tail sequence. While this may be true, I feel it’s more fun to practice more than just this sequence 😉

    Thanks for the comment.

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