How Tai Chi Helps You Handle Aggressive People

Forget about your preconceptions of tai chi and create a blank slate to absorb this: Tai Chi is a martial art. It's practiced slowly for precision and accuracy, or, as some might say, "perfection." The graceful movements flow seamlessly either in offensive or defensive positions. It's a system designed to be technically effective for avoiding painful attacks and striking to end the conflict as quickly as possible. Tai Chi uses force when appropriate, this depends on a number of factors, including correct footwork, angles of approach, direction of power, intent and redirecting an attack.

When we physically practice controlling our forceful energies, our mental energy follows the same patterns. We then gain the skills we need to avoid arguments altogether, remain calm, give ourselves mental space to distance ourselves from the issue, then address or attack it when we're strong.

It's suitable for anyone who desires to learn how to better equip herself in a hostile situation. For example, when taking negative criticism from a boss or partner, we need to convey emotions without becoming aggressive. A tai chi practitioner would immediately recognize the criticism as a form of attack. The aim is to yield significantly enough not to let this cause deep emotional damage, as opposed to physical damage.

Be mindful that the attacker is actually at her weakest point also, because she's opened the channels of negative criticisms. This may prompt you instantly think of something unkind to say to them! The moment you open your mouth to attack them is how every argument starts.

The key, then, is to choose your first words very carefully, as this will set the pace. Any good tai chi practitioner will first think about all the factors of engagement: positions, angles, intent, power and tactics. Once attacked, you can choose either the fight response or the flight response. The points below will highlight how to defend in a tai chi style.

1. Body position

  • Keep your hands unclenched, with fingers together.
  • Relax the shoulders and loosen the arms so that they swing freely (if you're tense, you and everyone else will notice it).
  • Breathe deeply and slowly as you listen to what the other person says.

2. Angles

  • Your feet should be planted firmly on the ground with toes pointing towards the person whole body side on
  • Know your space well and distance yourself off if they come in closer or you feel yourself drawing in.

3. Intent

  • Try to understand what their motivation is; if it is malicious or unkind, fuelled by jealousy or insecurity you need to be clear of the cause. Ask a question.
  • The first thing you say and HOW you say it is critical. It must be calm, so disperse any anger internally do not unleash it on them!
  • Aim to alleviate tension in yourself first and then the other person

4. Power 

  • Attack: The best tactic might be to surprise them with a question about their own behaviour at that moment. It takes all the focus off of you for a moment and to them.
  • Maintain stance: do not lean or slouch to make yourself smaller, this is a weak and vulnerable position.
  • Defend: If you apologize or agree you give them power. So be cautious how you use these as they may run you into the ground further accepting it as defeat. This is your yielding manoeuvre, it opens them up to what you say next.

5. Tactics

  • Plan what you say next; you may decide that the other person is totally right and you need to change something. Agree on how to change.
  • Tone and pitch of your voice will determine your power and intent. Keep an even, low voice and speak clearly. If the other person raises her voice, lower yours.
  • Aim to finish the conflict as quickly as possible without rushing through it.

As with learning any new skill, the foundation knowledge must be regimented into the mind first. Practicing tai chi means that you're continuously attacking or defending yourself with every movement. However because it’s done slowly and seamlessly it flows from the body to the mind and spirit.

The mental freedom we may associate tai chi comes from a deep understanding of ourselves and accepting that we're connected to everything and everyone. How we maintain that positive mental attitude and do battle throughout our lives is totally up to us.

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