Occasionally, I get questions and this one was a good one, so I thought I’d post my answer here. The question was: Is Judo or BJJ a better compliment to Taijiquan?
“It’s an interesting question! BJJ has less rules about what you aren’t allowed to do, and is therefore closer to self defence, but it depends on the school you go to – Judo is pretty much the same everywhere you go. I’d say both are good. My personal preference is for BJJ because it isn’t as hard on the body and I prefer ground work to throws. If you’re more interested in throws then do Judo.
If you want something that is Chinese, then Shuai Jiao would be a good compliment to Taijiquan, however, it’s hard to find outside of China. There are some online courses available.
But I think my real answer is that it’s not the art that matters, it’s the teacher. Find a teacher you like who is skillful at something, and learn whatever they have to teach you is my advice. I think in the long run that matters more than what art you choose.”
6 thoughts on “Which is a better compliment to Taijiquan – Judo or BJJ?”
Mike wrote, “the mechanics of the ‘same technique’ will be quite different.”
Yes, on point again, although sharing similar roots, the evolutionary paths of the taijiquan and other styles ultimately were very different. The result is that the mechanics of Chen taijiquan and other northern Chinese martial arts tend to be quite different. We could call this internal and external, but biomechanically, I attribute it, broadly speaking, to methods of rotation (silk reeling) and kinesthesia.
Richard wrote: “At some point, they further developed, and, in some respects, reversed, internal aspects of the art.” That has me at the edge of my seat, so to speak. What are you referring to, in terms of “internal aspects” that might be reversed?
A lot of the discussions about “Chen’s Taiji uses the same techniques as Wun Hung Lo’s and Tongbei style and Qi Jiguang’s techniques are, in my estimation meaningless. Take any given technique, qinna, etc., found throughout most Chinese martial arts (and there are many) and compare, for instance, Hung Gar’s application of the technique and Chen Village’s technique: they’ll be quite different because Chen Village is going to use Chansijin and Hung Gar is not. I.e., the mechanics of the “same technique” will be quite different, so to focus on the technique itself is a red herring.
Yes, Mike, thanks for the clarification. I did say the translations and meanings had become confusing. And, some interpretations have become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Yes, exactly. Dating back to at least the Tang Dynasty (618–907), some training systems began to compile many types of techniques and skills into a composite form, which was necessarily longer in terms of the number of movements. These became known as long boxing, Changquan.
Taijiquan has little or nothing to do with modern Northern Longfist, except possibly a few common ancient roots, Song Emperor Longfist (Taizu Changquan), Red Fist (Hongquan) and Cannon Fist (Pao Chui). These were all some of “village styles” extant in northern China from the Yuan Dynasty forward and recorded as being practiced, at least in part, in the Chen Village. From the early Ming Dynasty, their evolutionary paths are quite different, although that is something of a generalization as Changquan took many paths that were made to converge in modern times.
The Chen family further refined their training methods. They retained training at a variety of distances and the variety of types of techniques. At some point, they further developed, and, in some respects, reversed, internal aspects of the art.
However, modern Changquan, taking the “long” to heart, specialized in long-distance techniques, especially striking and kicking. They lost most of the variety in types of techniques and distances, especially in China. Considering their art to be a hard, external style, their training methods and philosophies are very different than those of Taijiquan. Further, they either lost or never fully developed internal aspects of their arts.
So, yes, Taijiquan is not a type of or descendant of modern Northern Longfist (Changquan).
Richard, I often think that there is a misunderstanding about “Changquan” as it relates to CMA’s. The first, long form of most Chinese martial arts is usually called “Changquan”. So when people indicate that Chen’s Taijiquan came from “Longfist”, they’re mistaking a general statement to mean a specific art. Taijiquan didn’t come from Northern Longfist, etc. 😉
I agree, “ …it’s the teacher” that is the most important when studying martial arts. It’s not as difficult to find the teacher of a given art as it was a few decades ago. Distant teachers have made themselves more available through seminars and online. However, if one cannot find a teacher in the art they dream to study or if the local teacher of said art is not good, it is better to find the best teacher in whatever art is available.
In my book, “best” means, has a skill set in which I want to become proficient, is ethical and upright, and does not promote a cult-like following. This philosophy led me to study bajiquan, piguazhang, and baguazhang for several years. This was a rich experience that broadened my horizons. I also studied BJJ for a while but left because of an unethical teacher.
I also agree with Mike’s observation that Chen taijiquan has a lot of potential takedowns in it. It is also a good foundation for ground fighting, though taijiquan teaches to get off and not to stay on the ground.
At least one teacher told me that this was the definition of Long Fist (Changquan). Long fist forms are broad spectrum arts touching on many aspects of fighting, strikes, kicks, takedowns, clinch fighting, joint locks, ground fighting, and so on. Chen taijiquan has it all, and so do other styles. On the other hand, Short Fist forms focus on one skill or combinations of a few skills.
It’s unfortunate that official translations call these long-range boxing and short-range boxing. It is misleading and can be very confusing.
Shuai Jiao is such an intrinsic part of real Taijiquan that when Chen Villagers go off to college they’ll take Shuai Jiao as a natural complement to their normal training. Then too, one of my teachers was a professional government martial-arts teacher and he made the comment once that “every Chinese martial art has some Shuai Jiao in it” … meaning that there are throws and takedowns in all CMA’s.