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  • The Spiral; Understanding Nature and Martial Arts
    I have been studying Tai Ji Quan, 太极拳, for 13 years. I have been a devoted student, I have attended seminars, I have read all of the classics, competed in multiple tournaments, found new teachers and listened to 100s of hours of lectures on the subject.
    I branched out quickly and also absorbed teachings from Wing Chun, Taijutsu, 3 types of Karate, Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jutsu, Boxing and even Systema. Every style, every teacher had similar ideas on body mechanics, alignment, weight shifting, structure, muscle vs technique, etc.
    Through all of this training, I had a great knowledge of human anatomy, tons of similar and different concepts, forms/katas, techniques, applications, but I knew deep down in my core, all of the various martial arts are unified via the natural human body.
    I asked myself, "How does understanding the natural human body teach me the ideal way?"
    I had an epiphany while practicing; All punching techniques are simple; put the fist in the opponent.
    Wing Chun developed the fastest and weakest punch, Karate developed the slowest and strongest punch.
    The only difference between them is how each employ the Spiral, the rotation of the joints which generates true power.
    In Wing Chun, the Spiral starts from the legs, moves through the hips, the spine, the shoulder, the elbow then forces the fist forward and contacts at the bottom three knuckles.
    In Karate, the Spiral starts from the legs, moves through the hips, the spine, the shoulder, the elbow then forces the fist forward and finally continues through the wrist and contacts at the top two knuckles.
    Both techniques use the Spiral to generate speed and power, but change the last point to focus on higher speed or higher power.
    Tai Ji uses both Wing Chun and Karate punches.

    Tai Ji is the unification of martial arts. The only concept one must understand is how employ the spiral to change the body. Every attack can be intercepted and brushed away like a feather; 4 ounces can defeat 100 pounds. Every grab can be slipped with a small twist.

    The secret is to see and be capable of manipulating the Spiral.

    A quick aside; Tai Ji is based on Taoism. Taoism is explained by the Yin Yang; the symbol is ubiquitous yet poorly understood.
    The Circle represent the One, wholeness, infinity. The White is the Yang which represents External, Outside, Expansion. The Black is the Yin which represents Internal, Inside, Contraction. The Spiral line divides the 2 inside the 1 which represents the dualistic nature of existence. You may notice the White in the Black and the Black in the White; this represents how the Yang has or gives rise to Yin and the Yin has or gives rise to Yang.
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      Bill Emmes Hello Andrew,

      Great post! I have been a student in Ju- Jitsu for over 30 years and changed just 4 years ago to Tai chi (Yang Style) and Hung Gar Kung Fu. your explanation on the relative similarities are correct. As for the spirals, this has been a key component in my current training along with coiling and circles.

      The incorporation of various body area is a key to completion of these spiral movements and along with chi, can make so many defensive or offensive movements seem so effortless. I have learned to use my shoulder as my wrist which actually draws in additional parts of my body to manipulate techniques and be successful in thwarting an attack. Over time, my consciousness of what body part is actually involved is becoming easier and much clearer to me as the physical efforts are fading from my practice.

      I have found this art to be most fascinating in the fighting sense as it is in the spiritual sense as well.

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