Zhan Shou

by Richard Johnson on 2008/04/10

Taijiquan as self defense can be ruthless and lethal. The fighting method of Taijiquan is called Zhan Shou (Cut Hand).

“Shou” has the idea of “SHOU fa,” meaning a method of doing something.  “Zhan” comes from the four characters saying “ZHAN-cao-chu-gen”, which literally translates “to cut the weeds and dig up the roots.”  That is, to stamp out the source of trouble.  Zhan shou refers to the skills that can destroy the root of a problem, which means your opponent is not able to fight back and give you more trouble.

Alternately, zhan shou can mean “(to) chop off (his) hands,” which means the aim of Taijiquan is to fight in such a way that your opponent cannot retaliate.  That is, his hands are chopped off, figuratively speaking.  This can mean that the opponent is injured and cannot retaliate, but it can also mean that the opponent has been manipulated into a position where retaliation is ineffective.  This concept demonstrates that the original design of Chen Style Taijiquan is to destroy with every move.

In both meanings, the opponent is unable to fight back.  One is never more vulnerable than when one attacks.  Taijiquan capitalizes on this vulnerability when defending, often using the opponent’s own force to make a retorting attack.  It neutralizes the opponent’s ability to counter or retaliate when launching an attack.  Often this is done with a single touch.  This principle is a primary consideration in Taijiquan.

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