Martial Tai Chi™

Martial Training Association

Fighting to Restore
Tai Chi's Martial Reputation

Joanna Zorya passed away peacefully on Sunday 6th March 2011.
Her memory lives on through this website, through her articles and videos,
and in the hearts, minds, and movements of her students and her friends.


I dedicate this website to my brother who died Dec 2010 and to my mother who died Oct 2008. Between them they raised and shaped me and for that I shall be eternally grateful. G_d bless you both - I look forward to meeting you again in the world to come, kicking off our shoes, unfurling our hair and having a riotous dance.

What is Martial Tai Chi™?

Real, traditional Tai Chi is nothing less than and nothing more than a fighting art. Like any fighting art, it is a systemisation of combative physical skills, principles and strategies. Any other claims made for the art are embellishment, fantasy or deception.

"Emphasise Practicality, Renounce Embellishment, Shun Superstition"

Everything we do can be explained in rational, physical, biomechanical, psychological and emotional terms. The protoscientific notion of "qi" "ch'i" or "chi" is wholly obsolete and ideas that attempt to connect archaic or new-age spirituality to Tai Chi are irrelevant and diversionary. Muscular relaxation is important to the aims of the style, the concept of so-called "universal life force energy" is not.

Positive Feedback

Click here to read some web feedback - 19th May 2010.

No Delusions

PLEASE NOTE that we are not out to promote a materialist atheist agenda - religious beliefs within our ranks are varied. We just firmly hold that practical, strategic, physical disciplines such as martial skills are not helped by any blurring of boundaries between physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, moral and even artistic considerations. It isn't that such matters may not be discussed at all, just that separate issues need to be kept distinct for the sake of clarity and precision.

Great New Deal - Free Private Lessons For All School Members

In the interests of rewarding rather than penalising commitment, until further notice, any member of our school who can get to my house can enjoy the benefits of free private tuition. Please go to class info page for contact details.

martial 1

Nothing But The Truth

This website is devoted to telling the truth about Tai Chi and smashing the myths, popular as they are. Tragically, the phrases "Tai Chi", "T'ai Chi", "Taiji", "T'ai Chi Ch'uan", "Taijiquan" etc. (along with "Bagua" and "Xingyi") have all been hijacked and reinvented by charlatans and non-martial artists. As a consequence, the arts have drifted a long way from their martial origins, their names having taken on quite different meanings and associations within the public mindset.

Martial™ Trademark™!™

To distinguish the real from the fake, we purposely distance ourselves from the mainstream by giving our Tai Chi a distinctive name: Martial Tai Chi™. By placing the word "Martial" at the beginning, we aim to convey that our art is solely for martial purposes - we know of no other Tai Chi school that takes our approach. The trademark symbol at the end is intended to further show that our style is distinctive enough to be considered a unique entity. There's also an element of tongue-in-cheek about our using the trademark symbol, but we would appreciate it if people would honour it nonetheless. Thanks folks.

Self Defence and Protecting Others

So far we have established that Martial Tai Chi™ is Tai Chi that is practiced for the sole purpose of developing fighting skills. We do this so that we can defend ourselves and protect others from harm.

Nothing Misty

But there's more: something else that sets us apart from the mainstream. We practice and teach our martial arts in an entirely practical way, with absolutely no mystical or spiritual packaging. Whatever mythology has grown up around Chinese martial arts in recent times, from a historical perspective, practicing them as purely martial disciplines remains truest to the origins of the arts; created, developed and practiced as they were by soldiers and bodyguards, not by mystical, misty mountain-top monks.

New-Age Occult Sex Therapy or A Good Old Fashioned Scrap?

It is not uncommon for a heresy or derivative to become more popular than the orignal version of a thing and this is precisely what has happened in the health, spirituality, virility and occult-obsessed Tai Chi mainstream. All too often the truth is not popular and popular notions are not true. We may be a minority voice, but the truth is that we have just taken Tai Chi back to its entirely non-seedy martial roots.

Download our Martial Tai Chi™leaflet in PDF format.


Martial Tai Chi™ students are taught to develop sound body mechanics and tangible physical skills, along with a conceptual and tactical understanding of the art. To achieve this, all of our students practice hands-on fighting techniques from their very first lesson and every lesson thereafter. There is no better way of developing martial skills than to practice them directly.

Martial Tai Chi™ is not practiced as a method of relaxation, therapy, healing, meditation or spirituality. It is not a way of attaining enlightenment, immortality, supernatural or superhuman powers of any description.

"Pain Is Joy... Pain Is Joy..."

Martial Tai Chi™ is not a sport, a pastime or a hobby. As with any Kung Fu / Wushu style, Martial Tai Chi™ training requires dedication, determination, practice, regular attendance and pain. It is not to be undertaken lightly, because it is not easy and it is not always pleasurable - proper martial training is frequently gruelling and even painful. You MUST push yourself way beyond your comfort zone in order to progress. That said, if you throw yourself into it, it is a lot of fun and will bring you a great many benefits. Lots of people will lie to you about this matter and claim that "Tai Chi" doesn't ever have to cause you any discomfort, but quite honestly if it sounds too good to be true it is because it is. Self-development is an arduous undertaking and you will only get out what you put in. If you never get around to conquering your limitations they will simply remain unconquered and you will remain self-deluded while you think otherwise. See our Articles page for further information.

martial 2

We also make instructional DVDs (available to buy on this site) that are highly regarded internationally for the quality and quantity of useful martial material they contain. School members may purchase these at half price.

Click here for details of our upcoming seminars

Universal Martial Training™

As well as teaching Martial Tai Chi™, we also practice and teach our own, no-nonsense Martial Xingyi™ and Martial Bagua™ styles, along with something we call Universal Martial Training™, or UMT. UMT is a practical and coherent combative synthesis of the three arts as well as drawing on all the useful martial knowledge we have encountered in other styles. UMT draws on the movement and strategic principles common to all authentic Chinese Kung Fu / Wushu and arguably to all good quality martial arts. As well as serving as a complete system in its own right, UMT provides an excellent, systematic and rational martial foundation from which students can learn more about the traditional styles if they wish, whether they are looking to specialise in a given style or adopt a more mixed approach. Please note however, that our aproach is quite different from that of most MMA type schools in that our training focuses on real life self-defense and the protection of other people, rather than on sparring and sporting contests.

Nothing Less

It is vital to understand that, despite the hype that has grown up around the martial styles people call "internal arts", our UMT synthesis is in no way LESS of an art or LESS of an "internal style" than the traditional styles we practice. Students are taught EVERYTHING they need to generate all of the power and skills found in the so-called "internal" styles. In actual fact, we teach these skills considerably MORE effectively, MORE quickly, MORE completely, MORE scientifically and MORE systematically precisely BECAUSE we avoid all of the esoteric distractions. Seriously - forget all the unsubstantiated elitist nonsense you've heard about the super-advanced "internal styles" that allegedly take decades to master - you can learn how to fight straightaway and lose nothing. In fact, you will progress FASTER AND BETTER with us, and that's a promise. Don't put it off any longer.


If you want to learn how to generate powerful martial skills, based on sound, rational biomechanics from day one, instead of just fantasizing about magical abilities being promised some time in the future, train with us. You will only progress on a scale that is proportionate to the work you put in, but if you are prepared to practice reasonably dilligently, there is no reason at all why you could not be developing effective martial skills WITHIN MONTHS RATHER THAN YEARS.

I Promise

Seriously - I promise you that you could be generating powerful authentic Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua skills within months, not years.

Sometimes it feels like we can't give this stuff away because so many people seem to want the myth MORE than they want the real thing. I suppose the real thing just doesn't seem as special - well in fairness it could never live up to the hype anyway. Plenty who come and check us out never get as far as joining in because what we do doesn't match their "idea of Tai Chi". Well, tough luck, we know perfectly well what REAL Tai Chi is and you don't read about it in leisure magazines.

What Do You Think? fact, you rarely read about real Tai Chi anywhere other than this website. The layers of cloudy-headedness surrounding Tai Chi are legion: it's just a good scrapping method. My family motto springs to mind here:

"You can think too much you know."

Click here to visit our Universal Martial Training™ website and here to download our Universal Martial Training™ leaflet

What's With The "Martial"?

In an ideal world, prefixing arts like Tai Chi and Bagua with the word "Martial" would be unnecessary because no one would be in any doubt that combat skill was the purpose of their practice. But sadly so many schools who claim to practice these arts also make outlandish and unwarranted claims pertaining to ideas such as enlightenment, immortality, longevity, invulnerability, enhanced virility and even ridiculous comic-book powers to heal or harm other people without touching them! For this reason, we wish to make it absolutely clear that what we do - absolutely all we do - is teach practical, physical fighting skills that in no way claim to stretch the boundaries of reality.

Consequently, we see Martial Tai Chi™ as a unique identity in its own right. It is not the same thing as Tai Chi, T'ai Chi, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Taijiquan, Taiji Boxing, Practical Tai Chi Chuan, Combat Tai Chi or any other form of Tai Chi, because they have invariably become adulterated with other, immaterial considerations. "Martial" is the word we use to describe our style of Tai Chi and we place it firmly at the beginning to show that it comes first. Our Tai Chi is solely and completely Martial from start to finish - we have no other purposes or aims for our art. This is the meaning behind our Martial Tai Chi™ logo. Everything we do emanates from and returns to boxing technique and so we coninually relate the art back to its true Martial origins.

Martial Tai Chi logo

Historical Accuracy

Our logo is based on an earlier rendition of the Tai Chi / Taiji (or Yin-Yang) symbol than the more widespread version of the symbol in popular use today (with the spot of black in the white half and vice versa). This version of the symbol again reflects our determination to take Tai Chi back to its Martial roots. The symbolism of the sign focusses on the expansiveness or centrifugal nature of the concept of Yang, crisply contrasted with the contracting or centripetal nature of the concept of Yin, both emerging from and returning to a common source. Here they are shown emerging from and returning to the fist in the middle, showing how everything must be informed by and relate back to the fist.

This, That and a Horde of Others in Between

The fist is depicted in a vertical orientation, showing an ability to twist either towards a palm-downwards or a palm-upwards orientation. In other words, the vertical fist has versatility - it is not already fully committed in a single direction, showing the concept of balance within the state of differentiation. This process of differentiation is meant to be useful to us, so it is not generally helpful to let distinctions remain at face value and go no further. The measure of how Yin or how Yang a thing is relates to everything else, so a potentially infinite spectrum exists between any two defined opposing phenomena.

What's In A Name?

The original name of the art, "Tai Chi Chuan" ("Taiji Quan" in modern Pinyin or T'ai Chi Ch'uan in the older Wade-Giles spelling) clearly places the word "Chuan" (meaning fighting style) as the noun, with the term "Tai Chi" being the adjective - the phrase describing the most prominent characteristics of said fighting style. In much the same way, the phrase "red car" describes a car that happens to be red. Everyone knows what the object is - you couldn't drive around in a "red" and in much the same way, a person cannot simply do "Tai Chi".

Real And False Dichotomies

The words Tai and Chi ("Tai" and "Ji" in modern Pinyin or "T'ai" and "Chi" using Wade-Giles spelling) literally mean "Greatest" and "Extremity" respectively, so the best translation of the name of the art should be something like "Greatest Extremes Boxing". Here then is a fighting style based on profoundly dynamic expressions of Yin and Yang - starkly contrasting hard and soft, fast and slow, shrinking and expanding, smooth and explosive, adhering and evasive movements. The list of clearly differentiated opposing qualities could go on and on, but another important distinction is the division into Yin and Yang itself, one destructive the other creative, held in a dynamic balance. We therefore need to think about unity and consolidation as well as about differentiation: The Tai Chi symbol is neither solely about contrast nor solely about harmony, but about contrasting and harmonising both factors in correct proportion to each unique combat event. In truth, this makes a mockery of the idea of "Tai Chi" as a certain kind of style in any fixed sense. Martial Tai Chi™ is an explosive, dynamic and unpredictable combat art of great power, versatility and adaptability. The art cannot confine itself solely to hard OR soft tactics; to smooth OR explosive movements; to sticky OR slippery; to evasive OR aggressive... And because such concepts must have something tangible to relate to in order to make any sense at all, we place the image of the fist proudly in the centre of our logo, showing that for us the "Tai Chi" concept coherently relates to and revolves around something specific, real and wholly martial. While our position may be seen by some to be an extreme perspective, it is really just a matter of historical accuracy - a fact borne out by the name of the art since its inception. Dropping the Chuan (Ch'uan or Quan) cannot alter that history. We've put ours back and we've put it first so that no one can be in any doubt.

Because so many Tai Chi practitioners refuse to relate the art to combative considerations, at least in any credible way, they have painted themselves into a corner whereby they have to contrast the art as a whole with a million and one other things. So they say that Tai Chi is a "soft art" and Karate and "Kung Fu" (whether generic or a specific style) are "hard arts." This is both historically and physically innacurate. Most martial styles contain degrees of muscular hardness and softness because there is an undeniable physical range of muscle tonus throughout which movement can occur: to either side of this spectrum, movement ceases to be possible. Most martial styles contain a number of attacks and defenses that cover a range within this spectrum - no style is unique there. Other false dichotomies include describing the art as a yielding art to Xingyi's attacking approach, use of so-called "energies" as opposed to force (a meaningless statement), its allegedly being a "healing art" and so on and so on.

Who can do Martial Tai Chi™?

Martial Tai Chi™ requires a degree of emotional maturity as well as physical and mental co-ordination. It is open to anyone aged 14 or over, that instructors consider to be mature enough to cope responsibly with all aspects of martial training and with any conflicts that might arise in everyday life.

We actively embrace the spirit of equal opportunities, so no one over 14 will be excluded on grounds of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or age. Reasonable adjustments will be made for students with disabilities.

martial 3

Rather than seeing Chinese martial practice as an opportunity to immerse ourselves in China's cultural and religious history, we endeavour to make our classes as culturally neutral as possible to make training accessible to people from all religious backgrounds, or none at all. Techniques, tactics and concepts are explained in English, so as to avoid misunderstanding or vagueness, and critically to prevent any degree of the mystique or esoteric wooliness that so often accompanies Eastern martial practice from creeping in. Any cultural concepts we discuss are of a purely practical nature, relating solely to fighting theories.




We do not practice bowing to the room, to each other, to teachers, pictures, altars or idols. We do not practice any kinds of chanting or meditation methods. Martial Tai Chi™ requires concentration so that you can perfect your martial techniques and training exercises, but we see supplementary meditation practices as an unnecessary, undesirable and untraditional commercial adjunct, or in plainer speak, just something to amuse or entice the tourists and those disenamoured with materialist culture, whether they be Western or Chinese. Such esoteric aspects are largely modern crazes posing as tradition.

Frankly, no one else dares to be as outspoken as we are on these issues because every other teacher and school relies, to some degree, on the fake but popular "health and spirituality" Tai Chi to sustain their classes. We refuse to compromise. See our Classes page if you think you might like to train with us.


martial 4

Martial skill - the only true and original purpose of these arts - is sadly missing from the vast majority of schools claiming to practice them. Even the majority of schools that claim that fighting techniques will be taught at some point in the future, never actually deliver. Invariably, even those who do teach applications also persist in weaving a highly erratic blend of archaic mystical superstitions and new-age concepts into their practice. We exist to teach people practical self-defence and combat skills from day one, and that is all.

Often, other Tai Chi schools that do teach martial applications teach unrealistic and ineffective methods, often focussing far too heavily on soft "push hands" skills such as yielding and neutralisation instead of teaching full speed attacks. Authentic Martial Tai Chi™ is a very versatile and effective combat art that contains a great many powerful and explosive strikes and kicks as well as grappling and locking skills. Such skills are crucial to any practical self-defence art. Real life attacks are fast and furious - think about it - no real life attacker is going to invite you have a nice, friendly game of "push hands" with him.

Something I find rather dubious is when more martially inclined Tai Chi schools claim that Tai Chi Chuan / Taijiquan is chiefly a grappling art. This is evidently incorrect. Quite aside from the fact that the name of the art describes it as a boxing style (as opposed to terms such as Shuai Jiao for fast wrestling and Qin Na for seizing and locking) and aside from the many kicks and punches in the forms, the eight fighting methods at the core of the art are not remotely grappling-orientated techniques. Warding off and diverting (peng and lu respectively) deal with incoming strikes and are often used to imbalance or uproot an opponent prior to a counter-strike. Squeeze and press (ji and an) are both strikes, typified by close range power release (fajin). Sweep (lie) can be variously interpreted as any lateral action or else as a specific parallel shearing / chopping or rending manoeuvre. The remaining methods are very telling - "cai" means to pluck, taking its name from the short sharp twist used to pick the tips of the tea bush. This short, sharp, jolting method is quite different from the holding, locking and subduing techniques of the wrestler. The very purpose of cai is not to hold on, but instead to momentarily shock and uproot the opponent with a whiplash effect, letting go again quickly so that the snatching hand can be used for another purpose. As Tai Chi is considered to be a martial art that enables smaller and weaker people to defeat bigger and stronger ones, the last thing that a Tai Chi fighter wants to do is get entangled with an enemy in a wrestling match. Wrestling is the domain of the strong. If a small, fast fighter remains mobile and remembers the Tai Chi commandments to "move second but arrive first", and to "lead the opponent into nothingness and then strike". If he remembers to yield to oncoming force before "charging back to reclaim the victory", he may come out on top.

The two remaining methods of Tai Chi are zhou (elbow strike) and kao (shoulder barge). I think this only reinforces the fact that Tai Chi is or was originally chiefly a striking art. It is a genuine shame when people who have not been trained to use it as such try to reinvent the art in their own watered-down image. Yes, Tai Chi is a well-rounded style and can be used for grappling and subduing too, but to try to limit the style to such techniques is quite far from the truth. As a genuine self-defence art, I would say that Tai Chi, like most real fighting styles, is a good 80% punches and kicks.

I strongly suspect, to be completely honest, that Tai Chi fighters who claim that the art is chiefly a wrestling art do so because they are themselves physically inclined to be bigger and slower and perhaps because they have supplemented their highly watered-down sporting Tai Chi push hands training with Shuai Jiao and Qinna. Really it isn't terribly impressive if the art that claims to be able to use weakness to defeat strength and smallness to defeat largeness is actually typified by big, fat, lumbering wrestlers.

A big problem amongst a large number of Tai Chi schools that DO teach martial techniques is that they are not genuine Tai Chi fighting techniques, but techniques lifted from other martial styles. While we don't condemn cross-training at all, we do think that if you claim to teach Tai Chi for fighting, your Tai Chi fighting techniques should come from Tai Chi. Such schools often claim that Tai Chi forms (katas or movement sequences) exist only to teach "principles" instead of literal combat techniques. This makes little sense if you think about it - why would anyone in their right mind spend hour after hour practicing movements that bear little or no relation to the actual fighting techniques they plan to use? Any sporting coach should be able to tell you that this would be a highly ineffective way to train. And if the movements of a Tai Chi form are not intended to be used for combat, why do they have names such as "deflect, parry and punch" or "turn and chop with fist"? No, in reality, THIS NOTION THAT FORMS DO NOT CONTAIN LITERAL FIGHTING TECHNIQUES IS JUST A COVER FOR THE FACT THAT THE TEACHER DOES NOT KNOW THEM. In fact, as each movement contains a great MANY potential techniqes, no teacher should be unable to show you how a movement might be executed martially in several different ways. You will ultimately be aiming to become almost entirely improvisational in combat, having learned how to generate power with a variety of combative shapes, strategic positions and tactics. Your repertoire will increasingly allow you to subtly alter shapes, timings and physical movement qualities as your understanding of movement deepens, BUT this ability must be built on the foundation of a repertoire of specific fighting techniques: techniques that are practiced within the forms.

Something we advise you to steer VERY well clear of are Tai Chi schools that claim to teach what they call the "martial aspects" of Tai Chi, but insist that you learn lengthy form sequences first. FACT: It is not possible to practice a form sequence correctly until you understand the original martial purpose behind its movements. Teachers who make you learn forms prior to contact training only succeed in getting you into physical habits that can take you many years to unlearn and correct - wasting your time and money while at the same time seriously jeopardising your progress and safety. "Form first" schools will probably teach any fighting applications they do know at an unnecessarily slow pace to cover up the fact that they don't know very many and to cover up the fact that they can't apply them very reliably. They are actually banking on serious-minded martial artists who could present them with any kind of realistic physical challenge getting bored and going away, or else gradually being pacified into expecting very little beyond a few unrealistic tricks from their art. In short, martial standards are very, very low in Tai Chi - much lower than would be tolerated in any other martial style. Furthermore, this bad habit of practicing forms in a purely abstract way is a relatively recent invention, only coming about in the 20th Century. Second generation Yang family practitioner Yang Jianhou (1842-1919) stressed the importance of knowing martial function first when he said "principle first, movement second".

With us, students get to see and most importantly feel whether the art is martially realistic from the outset, before they have invested time and money learning it. Training is technical and very precise, so many will decide along the way that the art isn't for them. Many find the style too demanding and training with us too painful, but all will have had the opportunity to experience first hand whether or not it works. Real martial skills are important - they could save your life or the life of someone else. Beware of the fantasy and false promises of the mainstream Tai Chi schools. Beware of imitations.

See my articles How Taiji Lost Its Quan, The Rise And Fall Of A Martial Art and T'ime To Get T'ough.

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

A fairly common perception is that Chen style Tai Chi is somehow innately more martial in its content than other lineages. Judging by the dynamism of many of the forms, this might seem like a fair conclusion to arrive at. Sadly, I have found this not to be the case. After diligently practicing a number of Chen style forms for 3 years, I attended a publicly advertised Chen Style Tai Chi Martial Applications seminar by a fairly prominent and apparently high ranking Chinese teacher. The session consisted of 4 hours of form practice and little else. One martial technique was briefly discussed, though none of the students got to try it out, despite my requests.

I well remember when I was trying to find a good martial style of Tai Chi, I was definitely of the opinion that I didn't want to study the Yang style and least of all the Zheng Manqing sub-style. However, very much to my surprise, I found this lineage to have by far the most useful and street effective martial content and accurate movement knowledge. Obviously a lot depends on the teacher (I've attended Zheng Manqing style applications workshops that were lacking in martial content too), but this lesson taught me not to judge a book by its cover. Years on, even after having had access to more martial Chen style material, I keep returning to the principles I learned in the Zheng style because I invariably find them to be the most effective and foolproof. I should add that those principles differ from the public form as it is usually practiced, requiring the serious martial student to practice the form differently and risk being branded unorthodox, but as I have found those principles to be flawless, it is my form practice that has had to change.

The Martial Tai Chi™ Association and the Martial Training Association

Martial Tai Chi™ is practiced by the Martial Tai Chi™ Association, which consists of instructors Joanna Zorya, Julie Hinder and their students. Joanna and Julie set up this organisation after Joanna left the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain in 2006. The Martial Tai Chi™ Association was set up as a group of teachers and students practicing Martial Tai Chi™ and also to act as a quality governing and regulatory body specifically for Martial Tai Chi™ instructors. The Martial Tai Chi™ Association has also produced a number of widely respected instructional DVDs.

In 2008 the regulatory branch of The Martial Tai Chi™ Association changed its name to the Martial Training Association in order to better promote links and cross-training and development between different martial disciplines and also because it was apparent that our unique ethos was needed not just within the discipline of Tai Chi, but in the martial arts world generally. The Martial Tai Chi™ Association remains as a branch of the The Martial Training Association, to provide information about Martial Tai Chi™ and to continue producing instructional DVDs.

The Martial Training Association is an independent governing and regulatory body for any martial styles that have an entirely self-defence / combat-orientated focus. The MTA trains solely in practical fighting skills - completely rejecting superstitious and outlandish notions about mystical energies, magical abilities, nebulous and esoteric philosophies; and similarly rejecting more modern charlatan practices such as NLP and hypnosis that seem to be currently in vogue within martial arts circles. We are committed to the merits of simple, physical martial training, nothing more and nothing less. For more information, please visit

Martial Morality

Being a moral person is a very important aspect when becoming a martial artist. We ask our members to live by the fairly universal moral / religious values of benevolence, bravery and truthfulness in thoughts, words and deeds.

An important motto of ours is "Safeguard Yourself, Protect Others". A martial artist should never deliberately seek trouble or pursue vengeance, but it may sometimes be necessary to fight to defend ourselves or protect others from harm. When doing so, it is important to use an appropriate level of force. The more skillful a martial artist becomes, the more he or she is able to finely control their level of violence and tailor it appropriately to the encounter at hand, rather than accidentally using too much or too little force.

Tai Chi Swindle
Martial Tai Chi™ association