Martial arts are known as “external" or “internal" arts. Karate and taekwondo are external arts. Movements are tense, muscular, with a lot of screaming. Tai Chi is an internal art because movements are a combination of soft and hard, slow and fast, graceful and powerful.
When an attacker punches at an external martial artist, the punch may be blocked with a very muscular, hard block designed to do injury to the attacker.
When an attacker punches at a tai chi master, the punch will not find a target. Often, the punch will be deflected by a relaxed move, causing it to miss its target and causing the attacker to go off-balance.
In tai chi, this technique is called “leading into emptiness. " In the old Kung Fu TV show that inspired me to begin studying martial arts back in the early Seventies, they said (about a Shaolin priest), “When reached for, he cannot be felt. "
As a tai chi artist, my goal is to maintain my mental and physical balance at all time, even when I'm attacked. The American Tao philosophy that I developed holds this as its primary principle.
This philosophy is useful in self-defense situations when you lead a punch into emptiness, but it can also be applied at work and at home when you find yourself being attacked emotionally, verbally, or even through nasty emails.
Most of the time, when someone says something insulting or rude to you, it's a form of control. They want to push your buttons and get a reaction. They want to control your behavior.
Try leading their comments into emptiness and see what happens. Try to remain “balanced, " mentally and physically, and don't respond to the bait.
The Internet has spawned millions of people who enjoy flaming others anonymously. When I find myself the target of these people, I lead them into emptiness. Their emails are allowed to vanish into nothingness. There is no response-their attack finds no target. This is an excellent way to maintain my mental and physical balance. Sooner or later, the attacker gets frustrated and seeks out someone else for their misguided messages.
When someone attacks me verbally or emotionally in person, I use different techniques depending upon the circumstances. Sometimes it's best to confront them directly and let them know you aren't going to be a target for them. Other times, leading them into emptiness works-simply not acknowledging their attack.
Think about the type of verbal, email, or emotional attacks that you experience in your life. Visualize how you could lead the attacker into emptiness and try it next time. You just might find it an excellent way to maintain your mental and physical balance, while throwing your opponent for a loop.
Ken Gullette is an internal arts teacher and tournament champion who began studying at age 20 in 1973. He produces highly acclaimed instructional DVDs in Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua at his website - http://www.kungfu4u.com