Each of the moves in the hand form has at least one self-defence application. Sometimes the name of the style itself tells you the intended application - an example of such a move is Step Up, Parry and Punch. But more often the names of the styles are poetic rather than informative - for example Parting the Wild Horse's Mane. In such cases it is important to have a teacher who understands the application of the moves and can demonstrate their practical use.

Tai Chi Chuan, as a form of self-defence, has been described as "the art of overcoming hardness with softness". This is a very difficult concept to grasp and master since, in many cases, it runs against our natural instincts. If someone pushes you, it is your natural reaction to resist the push. However, pushing hands practice shows us that if we do not resist, but instead move with the push, and absorb and redirect its energy, then we can defeat the aggressor with relatively little expenditure of energy. Sifu Cameron sometimes describes Tai Chi as "the art of letting your opponent have his own way", and it is through the continual practice of the applications from the form that we learn to overcome our own instincts and learn to apply the theory of Yin and Yang in self-defence.

Softness can overcome hardness because, in remaining soft, you remain relaxed, and in remaining relaxed, you can respond more swiftly and can avoid futile trials of strength.