How Combat Tai Chi Uses Traditional Chinese Medicine Part I: Meridians and Pressure Points
Chinese civilization has studied both medicine and the martial arts for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. It would be surprising if a blending of these traditions had not taken place. Behind the graceful movements of Tai Chi practice lies a combat art that is as sophisticated as it is deadly.
Combat Tai Chi relies on meridian theory elaborated by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Running through the body, there are pathways of energy. The energy or qi that runs through the body is not a mystical substance. Instead, chi can be understood in western scientific terms in light of physics and biology. Meridian theory is one of the building blocks of of acupuncture, Qigong and other Chinese healing arts.
Tai Chi is best-known for its health benefits. Many people in the United States practice Tai Chi in order to live healthier lives while paying little attention to the martial aspects of the art. In order to fight well, a martial artist must be in good health in general. Among many other health benefits, Tai Chi develops the health of its practitioners through encouraging good flow of chi through the meridians of the body. This basic level of health is a foundation on which other aspects of the art are built. Tai Chi enables its practitioners to direct qi or energy in a combat setting in order to do damage against opponents.
There are many different meridian lines in the body. For example, the kidney meridian runs from the bottom of the foot in the middle up through the kidney area up through the top of the chest area to the underside of the back of the tongue. In some places, the meridians are deeply buried in the body and are therefore hard to access for a health professional such as an acupuncturist or for a martial artist.
However, in other places, the meridians run right underneath the surface of the skin. These easy access points to the meridians are pressure points. You might have had a friend or a massage therapist press hard on a pressure point spot in order to release tension. This technique is actually using the meridians of the body.
In the United States, pressure point strikes are the most well-known (though not very well understood) martial application of Chinese Traditional Medicine. A martial artist hits a specific point or combination of points on the body yielding a knockout or some other dramatic effect. Tai Chi uses these kinds of hits in many different ways.
Pressure point strikes can be used to accomplish a wide variety of goals. Some of them can cause the muscles or tendons on an opponent to seize up or even displace bones. Others directly affect the meridians of the body. There are pressure point strikes that can cause blockages in meridians or reverse the flow of chi. Others can even reverse or close off the flow of blood through veins or arteries.
In part II: Tai Chi and Traditional Chinese Medicine team up for deadly force with Dim Mak or Death Touch.