The Five Step Path is Tai Chi Chuan's tactical use of applying the principle to combat.

The first step of which is Pushing Hands. Learning to "listen" through touch, to detect the direction of a force and any changes in the opponents intention. If any of the Five Steps are missing, then Tai Chi disappears. None of the five steps are separate from each other, there is a continuous thread running through them.

1.Adherence; One of the characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, is the idea of maintaining contact with an opponent. This requires sensitivity of touch to detect not only an opponents intentions, but also his weaknesses. To adhere is to use the principle of softness. Even when taking hold of an opponents arm, the grip remains soft. This allows you to follow his movements, rather than fight with them, as you would do if you gripped too hard. When there is bodily contact, then the body itself has to be sensitive enough to feel the movements of your opponent. When someone is attempting a hip throw for example, by feeling the intention, a slight shift of weight can neutralize it.

2.Spontaneity; It means in this context, reacting to an attack or to danger, that any reaction has to be instantaneous, and before the attack has gained any kind of momentum, it is dealt with. It also means, that it is not about thinking. Spontaneity reflects a persons training, and the degree to which the principle of Tai Chi Chuan has been absorbed. The point has to be reached that there is no gap between thought and action. In other words, it reflects the moment, and the response is from a place of stillness. "Stillness overcoming movement" refers to the mind. If the mind is confused or upset, then spontaneous response cannot happen. Only if there are no "waves," to disturb the still mind, can spontaneity be expressed.

3.Softness; This is the principle of soft overcoming the hard and is perhaps the most difficult aspect to achieve. To adhere is only possible if you keep to the soft. To be soft is also to be alive, and responsive. To stay soft is not soft in the ordinary sense of the word. It is the state of being alert and ready to move, without tension. Any touch on the opponent is to detect his intention, so it has to be soft enough to feel this. It is the art of doing just enough, or seeing how little is needed, rather than how much.

4.Yielding; Once contact is made with an opponent, one must go with and "follow," the direction of the opponents force. This is leading him into the void. Whether pulled or pushed, you have to go with. This is to allow the opponents force to be returned and used against him. Yielding is "not contending," neither is it "giving in," it means the force of the attack has been neutralized and has nowhere to land. It is leading an opponent to a point of weakness, or destroying his centre, and sensing this weakness through touch and adherence.

5.Rejection of Brute Force; This is saying, it is skill that is important, and not hard strength. Using hard strength is a poor way to use the energy of the body, and is not Tai Chi Chuan. Being soft and relaxed, and not indulging in a trial of strength is the best way to conserve energy. Always having something left. Tai Chi Chuan applications, just like the hand form, are smooth and continuous. Tai Chi is the training of relaxed power.


A word about training the above. When training to develop the ideas and techniques mentioned above, the key thing to keep in mind is, it is training, not competition. It is absorbing these concepts into your practice, and nothing to do with winning. There is a mutual aspect to training with a partner. Of course you train hard with them, but it is about how much you learn from training. If pushed, learn from it, if he is pushed, he learns from it. If you push, was it good Tai Chi or just force? That is where the real winning is.


Ian Cameron Five Winds Tai Chi Chuan