Five Steps to Victory

Daoist theory can lead you to victory
The martial art of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is based on the "13 Postures". Despite what many believe, these "postures" are not 13 prototype fighting techniques – the term refers to 8 methods of expressing power (Jin) and 5 footwork methods and strategies. In this article, I will be looking into the 5 footwork methods, and how their strategy is to be applied against an opponent.

The martial art of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is based on the ‘13 Postures’. Despite what many believe, these ‘postures’ are not 13 prototype fighting techniques – the term refers to 8 methods of expressing power (Jin) and 5 footwork methods and strategies.

In this article, I will be looking into the 5 footwork methods, and how their strategy is to be applied against an opponent.

As an ‘internal’ martial art, the theories, strategies and concepts of Taijiquan stem from Daoist tradition. The 8 expressions of power relating to the Ba Gua (8 Trigrams), and the 5 footwork methods relate to the Wuxing (5 Elements).

According to Daoist theory, the world around us is made up of five elements: Metal, Earth, Water, Fire and Wood. The elements all relate to each other, either via a creative path:

Metal creates Water,
Water creates Wood,
Wood creates Fire,
Fire creates Earth,
Earth creates Metal,

or a destructive path:

Metal destroys Wood,
Wood destroys Earth,
Earth destroys Water,
Water destroys Fire,
Fire destroys Metal,

Also, in the creative path, each Element will destroy the Element that creates it, for example; Water will destroy Fire via the destructive path, but can also be used to destroy Metal by reversing the creative path.

Each of the 5 stepping methods is thus related to an Element, which means that for any step your opponent makes, you have two steps you can make that will put you into a superior position, or two steps that can put you into an inferior position.

We’ll start by looking at which Element relates to each step:

Metal – Forward
Wood – Backward
Water – Left
Fire – Right
Earth – Center (non-movement)

wu xing - 5 steps

So, by relating these footwork methods to the 5 Elements, we can see that:

1) Forward Movement (Metal):
Is Strong Against – Maintaining Centre (Earth) & Backward Movement (Wood)
Is Defeated By – Left Movement (Water) & Right Movement (Fire)

2) Backward Movement (Wood):
Is Strong Against – Maintaining Center (Earth) & Left Movement (Water)
Is Defeated By – Right Movement (Fire) & Forward Movement (Metal)

3) Maintaining Centre (Earth):
Is Strong Against – Left Movement (Water) & Right Movement (Fire)
Is Defeated By – Forward Movement (Metal) & Backward Movement (Wood)

4) Right Movement (Fire):
Is Strong Against – Forward Movement (Metal) & Backward Movement (Wood)
Is Defeated By – Left Movement (Water) & Maintaining Centre (Earth)

5) Left Movement (Water):
Is Strong Against – Right Movement (Fire) & Forward Movement (Metal)
Is Defeated By – Maintaining Centre (Earth) & Backward Movement (Wood)

You see how this works, yes?
By implementing this theory, a fight can start to become less random, and begins to feel more like a fast (possibly dangerous) game of chess.
Try this out in some gentle partner drills. Have an opponent make a movement in a direction, and try moving in the various ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ movements to see how they work out. When you feel comfortable in gentle practice, begin to work it into your free-sparring practices, and see if you can keep one step ahead of your partner.

I hope this can be of interest to martial artists of any style.

 

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Comments

Chaleira's picture

Well written article... I've always heard about the 5 Elements in relation to martial arts, but never had it explained in this way at all. I understand it even less now... I guess that is due to the fact that I don't read as much about Eastern arts and Philosophy as I use to when I was younger and more crazy about Asian arts, kung-fu in particular... Thanks for sharing
clouddragon's picture

Well put together Medway :)
Tim-Bo's picture

Medway great stuff
Tim-Bo's picture

This is almost Pagan Philosophy and i meen that in a positive way, balance...
kvnsq's picture

That is a very creative and insightful way at looking at something we can easily take for granted, well done.
decker dude's picture

Well done james. Interesting post yet again.
Karate Kitty's picture

This is brilliant man. Opens up a person's mind to see things in a different light. Will definitely take this to heart and share with my fellow karatekas.
1844thx's picture

is the left movement referring to when your opponent moves to YOUR own left? or when they move to their left??
Medway Tai Chi Society's picture

Either/or. One movement begets another - so from our point of view, and opponents left move looks like our right move, and so on.
Chris Li's picture

Very interesting - recently put up a couple of articles about the 8 expressions of power from the perspective of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba: http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-03-21/aikido-and-the-structure-of-the-universe and... http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/archive/2012-04-01/aikido-without-peace-or-harmony Best, Chris
cris donovan's picture

at my level of training i am just starting to have these points spoken of around me via dripfeed, i'm not concerned about that, but i really appreciate having these principles expanded upon now as i'm paying more attention to them at training, thank you.