The Deadly Soft of Tai Chi

Tai Chi is one of the more deadly self defense methods out there.

Unfortunately it’s also one of the most misunderstood.

Softness is one of the key reasons Tai Chi is so deadly.

The Power of Soft

Soft is power. Any tension in the body cuts off power.

If your lower back is tense it cuts off the power from your legs and you’re left with only the power of your upper body.

If your shoulder is tense it cuts of the power of your body and you’re left with just your arms strength.

The softer you are the more power you can get to the end of your strike.

Take a Hit

Tai Chi assumes the attacker is younger, stronger and faster.

This means they might hit you.

Softness lets you take that hit without any damage.

Wherever you hold tension is where the force of an impact will do damage.

When you can be truly soft the force of a strike will be dispersed and you can take tremendous hits without any injury.

(Make sure you have the skill down well before you try this.)

The softer you are the less damage your opponent can do.

Listening (Secret to Advanced Dim Mak)

Ting Jing (listening skill) is your ability to feel or perceive.

The softer you are the more you can feel.

When you are soft enough to feel tension in the opponent you can direct the force or your strikes to their tension.

When you are soft enough to feel their heart or kidneys then you can attack their heart or kidneys with your strikes.

This is advanced Dim Mak.

The ability to direct the force of your strikes anywhere inside your opponent from any point of contact.

It requires softness.

Softness to feel the target…

…and softness to get the power of your strike to the target.

Remember any tension will cut off your power and at best your strikes will cause bruising, tearing, crushing type damage on the surface.

They might not like this but if you’re 90 and they’re 25 it won’t stop them quickly enough.

Dissolve Your Center

Dissolving the center is one of the key skills of Tai Chi.

It’s one of the principles that separates Tai Chi from Bagua or Xing Yi.

It’s an advanced skill that takes some time to fully develop.

And it requires extreme softness.

But you can start working on it right away by learning how to use softness to hide your center and divert the opponent’s force away from your center.

Know Your Opponent. Do Not Let Your Opponent Know You…

… is one of the key strategies of Tai Chi.

And Softness is a critical part of that strategy and a skill that leads to many other advanced internal skills.

Without understanding soft, intermediate and advanced skill in the internal arts is impossible.

That’s why we start teaching you how to use softness as quickly as possible.

You can learn these ‘secrets of soft’ in the Internal Combat Arts Course.

This 16 week study of Kuntao Silat, Xing Yi, Bagua, Tai Chi & Qigong is a powerful way to learn how these arts fight…

…So you can get started on the right track, build skill quickly and get results.


  1. taoist immortal says

    this is foolish… u can’t really believe all this can u?

    • No belief is required.

      Most of what I wrote about above can be learned in your FIRST Tai Chi class.

      And you should have a basic FUNCTIONAL level of ability with these skills within the first MONTH.

      Lets be clear:

      If you come to our live classes twice per week, in LESS THAN one MONTH (8 nights of training,)

      …You will HAVE the skills I wrote about. You will be able to USE them if you need to.

      (The basic version of the skill. Obviously the advanced versions will take longer.)

      If you’re training long distance this time-frame could be longer or shorter depending on how hard you work at it, your previous experience and whether you have a training partner or not.

      But let’s drill down into the specific skills I talked about:

      1) Softer = More Powerful

      This is a lifelong study. You’re skill with ever increasing softness to deliver more and more power will continue to grow as long as you work on it.

      At a basic level you can noticeably increase your power in a couple hours (1 class) with the right softness drills.

      Some folks may require a few weeks to undo bad habits before they can use this in a functional way.

      2) Softer = Less Vulnerable

      Again, a lifelong study with ever increasing skill.

      However, basic FUNCTIONAL skill can be developed in a single class.

      …and a few weeks will see even greater improvement.

      3) Softer = Better Ting Jing

      Easy to demonstrate in the first class or two.

      4) Ting + Soft allows you to direct the force of your strikes from any point of contact to anywhere inside their body.

      So obviously the advanced version will take a little while to develop.

      But again, the basics are Day 1 stuff.

      All it takes is a couple hours and a few drills and you’ll be doing this at a basic level.

      5) Dissolve the center

      Ok, this one is a more advanced skill. You’ll need to spend time building the fundamentals of softness before you try to tackle this.

      6) Hide your center

      You can learn how on your first day.

      Actually doing it depends entirely on the difference between your ability to hide and your opponents skill with Ting.

      7) Divert the opponent’s strike away from your center

      One class & a few drills is all it takes to use this at a basic level.

      If you put even more time into it there’s even cooler stuff you can do.

      If there’s something I left out please let me know so I can address it.

      • Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I’m a student of the Cheng man Ching form and this is exactly what they tell us. You have given me a bit more however and I’m grateful. I’m slightly more than 1/3 through the form and feel pretty good about it. Do you offer any seminars on Fa-jing or any combat apps for Taiqi? Again, thanks.

  2. Daniel feldman says

    Good read. Ultimately, its yin VS yang, soft overcomes hard, just takes time to do. Thanks for the article.

  3. Tension will block Qi…all things in agreement but to call Taiji soft is possibly deceptive.

    • There are, of course, other areas of study in Tai Chi.

      …but Soft is such a core component…

      It’s an essential pre-requisite to almost everything else and it’s such a deep body of study.

      Not only does the practice and cultivation of Soft never end… the study of soft, seeking out and acquiring new and more advanced information on the skill, is an ongoing process as well.

      To mislabel Soft as something else would be misleading.

      I agree that Softness itself is often deceptive because it doesn’t always feel soft to the opponent.

      …but I think that only makes it more urgent that we call it what it is and educate people on true nature of Softness.

      There are already far to many Tai Chi folks out there who will collapse at the touch of a feather or who lack power because they don’t have a basic understanding of Soft.

      • Soft may just be the wrong explanation…

        The description of ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ styles misleads where the power comes from…as does the use of the term ‘yield’.

        If you had ever trained with my old instructor Erle Montaigue or his son Eli you would use a different word to describe the power of Taiji.

        You are right in the comment that there are far to many Tai chi folks who collapse at the touch of a feather… rather than redirect.

        Tai chi was previously known as ‘Loose Boxing’…never soft boxing.

        It is easy once you understand the dynamics of power and movement to watch a video with “trained” students falling at the push of their instructor…shameful really isn’t it.

        • I think maybe you misread or misunderstood.

          I’m not offering Soft as an explanation for Tai Chi’s power. There are many ways to generate power in Tai Chi. Where the power comes from will be a number of places depending on which combination of methods you happen to be using at any given moment.

          …But this article is not about power.

          This article is about Softness.

          So power is mentioned briefly because of the close relationship between the two. …But power is only discussed in terms of how it relates to softness.

          Because this article is not about power. It’s about Soft.

          I haven’t called Tai Chi ‘soft’ or described it as a ‘soft style.’

          (because Tai Chi is both yin and yang, soft and hard, at the same time.)

          I have described the skill of Softness itself.

          Because it’s important for folks to understand some of what the study of Softness involves and a few of it’s martial benefits.

          Ideally as early as possible in their training…

          …because the study of Soft opens up the doors to so many intermediate and advanced Tai Chi skills.

          (There are also many short term uses of softness that I talked about earlier.)

          …and without that early education in the true nature of Softness it’s very easy for folks to spend years trying to cultivate it incorrectly and end up with little power and no substance…

          OR, on the flip side of the coin, they dismiss it and never unlock the doors it opens.

          Either one creates a stumbling block that will at some point cause a plateau in development because this body of information is missing and must be filled in.

          One of the goals in the design of our programs, and the content we publish online, is to remove as many of these stumbling blocks as possible so that our students can learn as efficiently as they are able.

          …hence the attempt in this article to introduce folks to some aspects of softness and emphasize it’s importance. So those who are interested in unlocking this area of study can start with a few steps in the right direction.

          • Yes…misreading is easy to do. The written word can be difficult to comprehend at times.

            Good luck with teaching softness…hopefully it will produce the results you and your students desire.

          • Thank you, We’ve had excellent results over the years.

        • To put it simply,
          float like a butterfly and sting like a bee
          ~Muhammad Ali

  4. Ronald Nettles says

    To Ben Sterling:

    You are right on base when speaking about “softness,” “tai chi being the most deadly form of martial arts.” and “the misunderstanding factors concerning tai chi.”

    Why any person may misinterpret your article is…maybe because they have never taken tai chi lessons (with no disrespect intended.)

    I was blessed to have had a tai chi instructor for 6 weeks who was hired by the Physical Therapy Company my insurance company paid for as a part of my physical therapy after undergoing 2 major spinal surgeries back in year 2002. I don’t remember my tai chi’s instructor’s name other than Shawn being his first name. I wish I could reconnect with him because I now wish to take tai chi classes again and learn every aspect of this art along with other forms of martial arts associated with tai chi, “all this combined together an opponent cannot defeat, (unless your opponent has the same training.)” “Tai Chi is primarily an offensive technique, but if used as a defensive technique cannot be defeated,” my past instructor Shawn said. My past instructor Shawn was also a master in several other forms of martial arts besides tai chi. But here, you are addressing softness and not offensive or defensive techniques.

    My tai chi instructor Shawn in 2002 said word for word what you state in you article about softness, tai chi being the most deadly martial arts form, and the misunderstanding about tai chi.

    From your article I now have more insight about tai chi after reading it completely several times. Thanks!

    What we all have to remember before responding to an article is, How much do we know about the topic? Have we had any further education other than reading. Have we had lessons? Do we now have experience verses knowledge by itself? Do we trust our Tai Chi Instructor? If so, then we MUST also trust his/her words as being true and/or factual along with the actual physical lessons of tai chi, as in this case.


    Ronald Nettles


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