Outside Looking In: How to choose an application

This is one of the most common questions I am asked: When you are doing Taiji, how do you decide which application to do?

The simple answer is, “You don’t. Your opponent does.”

This is true for most arts, but even more so for an art that focuses on yielding.

When your opponent attacks you, you will perform your yielding entry. This will put you in a particular position in relation to your opponent. Let’s look at a common entry:

Opponent Attacks

You yield into Hold the Ball.

[I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the pictures; I am living a long way from any students or training partners who I can beat up, so I am forced to use electronic mannequins.]

This position will come up very often in an art like this. You are outside your opponent’s arm, facing the arm. We’ll call this “Outside Facing In”.

There are dozens of applications that you can generate from here. I can think of 20-or-so off the top of my head. However, we are here to learn yielding, so we’ll continue with correct Taiji applications.

If your opponent’s forward momentum continues, you can simply go with it or lend it a little energy by turning to your right and doing a Straight Arm Bar:

(Side View)

On the other hand, your opponent might want to pull back. You only need one hand to do Hold the Ball, and in this case your left hand is free. If your left hand is on top of your opponent’s arm…

…you might want to do the Scissor Throw application from Single Whip:

DO NOT DO THESE APPLICATIONS: If you hold onto your opponent’s arm something in their arm will break. If you let go of your opponent’s arm, they will land on their head. Do not attempt these applications without a qualified instructor.

If your left arm is under their right arm, you may still want to do this application:

However, your opponent may elbow you in the face, either deliberately or accidentally, so you might want to do Diagonal Flying instead. Lower your right hand so their elbow is across your chest, and do the whip diagonally upward.

As you can see, your opponent chose how you would react. Your job in Taijiquan is to have an answer to each question your opponent hands you — one that says “Thank you for what you are giving me.”