top of page

the original MMA

advanced body method

chen style taijiquan


No fighting system can ever be complete, but Chen Taijiquan is perhaps the closest things to a complete system that has ever been developed. It is over 400 years old, yet the system includes striking, clinch fighting, take-downs and take-down defense. The large majority of martial arts, from both the east and the west, have focused almost entirely on either striking or grappling. And only since the 1990s and the advent of MMA that people have started to 'mix' the martial arts, cross training in various disciplines to build a well rounded skill set that covers all aspects of fighting.


Thus Taijiquan can truly be called the original form of Mixed Martial Arts, having recognized the importance of different fighting distances and phases. However, even to called it 'mixed' is not quite accurate. It is a single martial art, with the same body method used to develop both striking and grappling skill. This body method is developed and refined through the practice of a traditional syllabus.

In Chen style the focus is always on potentially fighting multiple opponents, staying standing, and on being able to 'finish' the fight as rapidly as possible. 


Chen style incorporates a full suite of strikes, including fist, open palm, wrist, elbow, forearm, shoulder etc. In fact, at a high level of skill, almost any part of the body can be used.


The system also includes kicks, which are primarily thrusting kicks to the lower half of the opponent's body.

clinch fighting

It is perhaps in the clinch that Chen style has the biggest advantage. Strong root, plus ting jin sensitivity makes very difficult to control.


most other systems' 'engines' for generating power can't function well in close quarters. Che style is different.  


Chen style utilises various takedown techniques, including sweeps, trips, arm drags, throws, tosses etc.

Traditionally it does not use 'sacrifice throws' for the same reason stated above. Chen style never evolved into a sport, so the aim has always been to stay standing.

chen style


The foundation training of Chen style will develop significant strength, particularly in the lower body. 

Further strength-specific training is also done, but not at the early stages of training. This is because in Chen style, strength is considered the easiest and quickest skill to learn, and building the muscles can get in the way of the relaxation and sensitivity that needs to be developed to gain good skill.

For this reason specific strength training is not part of the syllabus for the first few years, and is only started later on.

beyond MMA

advanced body method

As described above, Taijiquan develops many of the same fundamental fighting skills as other martial arts - striking, clinching, take-downs and defense etc. However in Chen style, and internal arts more generally, the mechanics behind these skills come from the development of a quite different 'body method'.

There is more detail about the characteristics of the internal arts' body method on the internal arts page. Here I will just a brief overview of some of the fighting outcomes of this type of training. 

healthy training

Something that all internal martial arts share, is that the methods of training do not degrade and damage the body in the same way as for external styles.

So while wrestlers, boxers etc have often done considerable long term damage to thier bodies through the process of reaching a good level of skill, this is not the case for Taijiquan. 

the Chen style 'engine'

The unique engine for generating power, is one of Chen style's greatest skills. It allows for release of full body power over a short distance. Also this engine enables release of power in unusual directions, in multiple directions at once, and when not ideally balanced. 

At the high levels of skill, it also allows for some very powerful throwing skills.

Also develops 'shaking' energy, where the strikes vibrate on impact, causing additional internal damage.

elements - elastic pwer, sequentia lfiring, tensegtiry, spring.


'listening' skills or ting jin is the ability to feel into another person's posture and feel where the weaknesses, or stiffness is. 

These are skills that I'm sure 'external' wrestler and grapplers start to develop later in their development. But internal arts practice these skills as a central part of the skill set, and develop them to a higher level than other systems. 

supplemental training

beginners' mentality


While Chen style is certainly the most complete single system I have ever come across, that is not to say it is perfect, or has nothing to learn from other systems. Here are some of the additional aspects someone could train if they wanted to complement and build on the skills learned in Taijiquan.

sparring and bag work

While Chen style traditionally includes competitive wrestling practice as part of the training, it doesn't include sparring or hitting the heavy bag. 

This type of training has been incorporated into more modern internal systems such a Yi Quan. While excessive sparring is certainly not a good idea due to the obvious potential health consequences of frequent hits to the head, a limited amount of sparring may be a good thing in the modern context if someone wants to develop self defense skills

Similarly, once good striking mechanics have been developed through the traditional practice of the form, it can also be useful to train with the heavy bag, to get used to the feeling of impacting an object. 

ground fighting

When considering modern sport MMA as a demonstatio nof the varius skill needed to fight effectively, the main component that is lacking in Chen style is ground fighting. As Chen style was devised for battlefield combat, and true lifesaving protection of the village, this element was not a focus for the same reason many people will not advocate ground fighting for a street fight. That being that you make yourself very vulnerable by tying yourself up with another body on the ground. That's fine if there is a rule set that the fight is one-on-one, but in live situations there is no guarantee of thi

As mentioned Chen style does not traditionally train ground fighting, so this is an area that is deficient.

The 'listening' skills learned in Taiji, will enable dramatic and rapid progress in say BJJ, due to the high levels of postural sensitivity that are developed


The Chen style training focuses, foot work is somewhat lacking. 



progression of training

intenral methos

As stated above, the internal Chen style body method is different to other marital arts in body progression and outcome. Here I will outline the progression

1. Develop type 1 muscles fibres through slow training. 

1. Train body method and whole body connection through fascia tissue

1. loosen joints and muscles for efficient energy transmission

1. improve postural alignment and sequential firing for energy transmission

1. Develop balance and postural awareness

2. develop type 2 muscles fibres for power and explosiveness

2. further develop balance and postural sensitivity through push hands

2. develop tendon strength through heavy weapons

3. learn specific applications

bottom of page