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During the quarantine I have started doing some Tai Chi before going to bed. It really helps as a form of meditation and I love that it has a fighting aspect to it as I am fascinated by the parallels and differences in martial arts. However, since the effectiveness of Tai Chi in a real fight is limited, I was wondering if there are other more effective martial arts that also focus on meditation and where the movements are slow and require balance. Maybe something more modern that focuses on real fighting situations. Preferably a martial art that is famous enough, such that I can easily find basic forms on Youtube. Is there anything that matches this description?

So, to summarize in order of priority:

  • Meditative with slow movements requiring balance, like Thai Chi
  • Easily accesible beginner forms on Youtube or comparable medium
  • Effective martial art with real life applications, like Krav Maga
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    What's wrong with Tai Chi? Have you ever watched tai chi sparring competitions? As with all martial arts it's more about the practitioner than the art. – JohnP Apr 30 at 13:03
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    So, to be clear is the consensus among clearly more experienced people that Thai Chi is the martial art that best suits my needs? – Emiel Lanckriet Apr 30 at 13:20
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    You can't learn Tai Chi (taiji) for real from video. You'll need to get with a competent instructor. And even then, only about 1% of the instructors out there know taiji for real. And by "for real", I mean understanding internal mechanics. Being able to fight using taiji is a 10+ year endeavor. Most people never are able to get to that point, because they lack a good instructor. If all you want is to move slowly, to breathe while moving, and to look like you're doing something martial, then yes learning from video will get you that. – Steve Weigand Apr 30 at 14:50
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    Thanks, as an amateur it is sometimes really hard to estimate how hard something is and how effective. But all comments here helped me realize that the level of mastery is more important than the type of martial art. I think I will just do some casual Thai Chi to relax knowing that in this way I will likely never become a better fighter like this, but will be able to get a glimpse into the culture of Chinese martial arts. – Emiel Lanckriet Apr 30 at 15:11
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Meditative with slow movements requiring balance

Qi gong (chi kung) exercises from many Chinese martial arts have these elements, but taiji uses this style of exercise more than any other system I am aware of.

Self learning a martial art over the Internet

Forget about being able to do this. Success is not guaranteed even with a teacher in person for meditative martial arts such as taiji. Without instruction this will fail.

Effectiveness, time to effectiveness, duration of effectiveness

Although the prevailing sentiment on this site is that you should select a martial art based on the teacher and not the art, this cannot be the whole story. When a teacher knows multiple martial arts, which art do they choose to teach their students?

If you need to learn to fight quickly, taiji is not for you. This quotation is from The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan by Wong Kiew Kit suggests that Thai boxing is a much faster way to learn fighting.

In my opinion, practising Tomoi or Siamese boxing is probably the fastest way one can learn to fight, but I nevertheless prefer Tai Chi Chuan to any other martial arts except Shaolin Kungfu because of the many other wonderful benefits it brings.

Taiji is very difficult to learn, requiring many years of dedicated practice. If a teacher is not experienced in fighting, do not expect that their students will be able to fight, but success is not guaranteed even with such a teacher. The tradeoff is that it's possible to retain fighting effectiveness for a long time; it's an experience to meet masters in their 70's and 80's who are physically weaker but can control you easily.

Taiji's health benefits are more accessible than its fighting skills, which is why it is so popular today.

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You really do not really need to choose a different style of martial art for gaining martial effectiveness. What you generally need is a different way to practice Taijiquan.

The big mistake is that most people unfamiliar with Taijiquan blindly believe half-truths, lies and fairytales of those practitioners of Taijiquan who have not either due to lack of training or character learned the martial aspects of Taijiquan.

Sometimes they are not to blame for they’ve themselves fallen for the same fairytales by their teachers and now perpetuate the lie that Taijiquan is not a fighting art.

Unfortunately, since the focus on softness and meditative aspects are easy to teach and do not require any physical exertion, it has become rather popular form of the art to only focus on meditative, medicinal and choreographic aspects of the training, ignoring everything else.

In truth, Taijiquan is and can very well be just as effective as any other martial art so long as you put in the training necessary to develop martial skill. This means including practice of martial applications and free sparring and some general body strengthening and endurance building exercises in the curriculum. It also means learning to use proper amounts of softness and hardness, generating power when necessary and letting go of tension when tension is not needed.

It also means you need a teacher who can set you on your path and correct your mistakes and a partner to practice those things with and offer you a proper resistance.

It also means they you need to test your martial skill with other martial artists regularly. Preferably against representatives outside your immediate training group. You need this because they give you important feedback that your group can not. And you need to learn from your mistakes and integrate this into your Taijiquan.

It is possible and getting some basic level of martial effectiveness does not take years or decades as the popular legend around Taijiquan seems to suggest. Sure, you won’t reach a master level effectiveness in years to come, but same is true for any other martial art, so why would Taijiquan be any different.

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    Thanks, I don't I am invested enough to actually get good, but I am now following the Youtube series of Nick Oscipzcack and it feels like he can explain the basics really well. It is interesting how different it is from the intros to different martial arts that I've learned at school. – Emiel Lanckriet May 12 at 8:01
  • I agree with all of this except: "Sure, you won’t reach a master level effectiveness in years to come, but same is true for any other martial art, so why would Taijiquan be any different." Because it's harder to learn to fight without relying upon muscular strength and speed. – mattm May 12 at 12:23
  • @mattm this is why you need a teacher - to keep you on the track and remind you all the time to improve the technique. – Roland Tepp May 12 at 13:39
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    That said, the use of “muscular strengt/speed” is not really all that antithetical to Taijiquan as it is being portrayed to be. One does need to employ muscles to move one’s body - there’s no way around that. No amount of Qi power will be able to replace that basic body mechanics still need to apply. The important part is to keep the proper balance between soft and hard and keeping the ability to switch immediately between the two. That training is important part of martial training but efficient use of basic techniques can be mastered long before external softness and sensitivity gets there – Roland Tepp May 12 at 13:40
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    @mattm A taiji teacher who says their body mechanics are more esoteric and difficult than that of judo or boxing has a high likelihood of not knowing how to fight. The idea that taiji is more focused on relaxation than other combat sports is just plain false — we can look at the historical record to see when it arose purely as a marketing tactic. – Dave Liepmann May 13 at 13:53

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