Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Tigers & Porcupines

 Tigers are beautiful and mysterious, powerful and deadly, and many martial artists wish to become like a tiger amongst the livestock of the human population. Many martial arts give the impression that they can turn out tigers through the process of their teaching. I am of the opinion that one is either a tiger or not, and, as in nature itself, there are fewer around than we think. There are lots of mynah birds who can do a good impression of a tiger call, or a few cats which, when viewed from a distance, look a little tigerish ( as happened in Essex, England recently.) but very few actual tigers and the first you'd probably know about them is when they knock your head off with one swipe. I have realised that my training, and the art in which I train, is not one that will magically imbue me with ferocity and the killer instinct. It is much more a case of being unappealing prey, much like a porcupine or a sea urchin. When and if someone chooses to attack me, I want them to very quickly get the impression that 1) it hurts to attack me, 2) that attacking me will not be a casual thing which they can end quickly in their favour and 3) there are much safer bets for preying on. The ego, of course, can raise real objections to all this, because really we want to be tigers and not porcupines. Perhaps there will be times when a pre-emptive strike is needed, and perhaps a porcupine won't be much good at that. But my life isn't so violent, and the likeihood for such an incident small, so I train according to my life.


  1. I used to worry a bit about being attacked. I expended a fair bit of energy in precautions. Then I heard the concept that the greatest defence is no defence.

    'Crazy!', I thought, but somehow it caught hold, and as I realised how much energy was no longer wasted, I had more to give other people.

    And Life provided me with perfect proof.

    I was on grass on the Steine in Brighton, doing my Tai Chi, facing the sun, aware of a group of drunks quite a way off, but with my eyes closed. One of the drunks decided he would run at me, shoulder down, and knock me for six. The traffic was heavy, my eyes were closed, and I only became aware of him the moment before impact, too late to respond.

    In spite of this, the drunk 'just happened' to connect with me at the precise moment when my body was so solidly anchored that he bounced back 6 feet, while I was totally unmoved. So much so, that when my eyes opened, they did not swivel by as much as a millimetre, as they looked deep into the man's soul, completely unfazed by his attack.

    He immediately turned-tail, and left.

    For myself, having never once practiced contact Tai Chi, it was a perfect demonstration of a practical concept.

    The best battle won, is that where the sword never leaves the scabbard.