How to Use Tai Chi Principles Against Verbal and Emotional Abuse


Wuji (pronounced “woo-zhee”) is an important concept in Taoism and Chinese culture. It is a state of absolute balance — perfect peace and harmony. It is limitless and infinite.

When everything begins moving and you lose balance, you also lose wuji.

In the Taoist view of the universe, if we were to look at it from a modern scientific view, the universe was in a state of wuji just before the Big Bang. There was a state of perfect peace and then all hell broke loose. Things separated into yin and yang. Dogs and cats living together — MASS HYSTERIA! (Sorry, I watched Ghostbusters a lot when my daughters were little)

When you see someone performing Tai Chi, they begin in a relaxed stance, standing with their feet together. This represents wuji. They step out with their left foot and stand with their feet shoulder-width apart, then they relax again. I’ve done this with Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, whose ancestor created Tai Chi. When he’s leading a group of students in a form, and he has moved to this first position with feet shoulder-width apart, he says very slowly, “Calm down.” This is also wuji. Once the form begins, things are moving up and down, opening and closing, becoming empty and full — the body is following the yin and yang and seeking to return, at the end of the movements, to wuji.

Many people don’t realize that Tai Chi is a powerful martial art. When using Tai Chi for self-defense, the goal is to maintain wuji — balance and harmony; to remain centered. When someone attacks, and you must adapt and change to deal with the force, your goal is to return to wuji — the state of balance you were in before the attack.

The goal is to greet force by relaxing, adapting, neutralizing the force and putting your opponent off-balance, making him vulnerable for a counter-attack.

I enjoy working with people who have never studied Tai Chi. Almost every time when a newbie is working on a self-defense technique, their bodies contort and twist and bend and go so off-balance that there’s no way they could defend themselves in a real-life violent encounter.

One of the reasons Chen Tai Chi (the original form of Tai Chi — the style that I practice) is so strict about body mechanics and structure is this quest for wuji. If you train yourself to recognize when you’re in a state of balance, then practice the techniques that allow you to maintain balance while throwing your opponent off-balance, you will eventually achieve skill. In a state of balance, you can defend from all directions.

One of the things I’ve been working on with my students lately is the ability to relax when attacked. Our first reaction when force comes toward us is to tense up. That comes naturally — we’ve done it all our lives. It’s a very difficult habit to break. We become stiff and unyielding (too “yang”), when the best course of action is almost always to relax, yield, and then overcome — a combination of yin and yang.

One day in Chicago, I did push hands with Master Chen Bing, one of the best young Tai Chi masters in the world (he’s in his 30s). Every time I pushed at him, he relaxed and I couldn’t find a target. My hand would slip off. Before I knew it, he would make a small movement that would cause me to lose my balance.

This also applies to verbal and emotional attacks. At work, at home, even on the street or in traffic, some people will attempt to attack you with words or actions. Often, they are intentionally trying to push your buttons, or throw you off-balance either because of their own imbalance or for their own benefit. Your goal, then, is to regain wuji as quickly as possible and be at peace. Don’t give your attacker a target. Their allow their verbal and emotional attacks to find a place to land.

How do you do this? One effective method is to detach from the emotion that normally happens in this type of situation. Instead of letting yourself get angry, relax, calm down and feel sorry for the person. Consider how unhappy their life must be to cause them to lash out this way. This is the best way to deal with people who act crazy on the highways. Instead of reacting with anger, try relaxing and calming your mind and body instead.

It isn’t always easy to react with calmness when someone at work is behaving in a way that can threaten your income and security. In those instances, you must often take action, as you would against a physical attack, but focus only on the behavior of the person, with a calm and clear explanation of how damaging it is to you and the company. Explain it to them, letting them know you won’t accept it, and if necessary, take it to their supervisor.

I was the news director at a TV station when an egotistical reporter behaved very badly and treated the assignment editor with disrespect in front of the staff. I sat her down, with the assignment editor as a witness (he was her supervisor), and explained to her why such rude behavior wasn’t acceptable. Her reaction wasn’t pretty — she exploded with anger. I gave her 30 days to either behave more professionally or leave.

After the meeting, the assignment editor said, “That was classic! Every time she exploded, you calmly steered the conversation back to her behavior. You didn’t let her control the situation.” She failed in her efforts to put me off-balance. She was off-balance, because in the past, before I was her manager, she had gotten away with bad behavior.

This isn’t always possible when the person behaving badly is your boss. I once had a Senior Vice President call me and shout, “Your job is to SERVE!”

No one in upper management wanted to deal with this person, so I decided to begin looking for another job and within a few months, I found one. I returned to a balanced state of wuji.

This is also an important concept at home. Spouses can sometimes become angry — it can’t be avoided anytime people live together. Your reaction to that anger is crucial. I have learned by following the principles of Tai Chi to react with calmness instead of tension, and remain centered while my wife lets off steam.

It’s when you react with anger that tension escalates. With practice, however, you can learn to remain calm and centered, react by returning to balance, and becoming the safety valve that lets the steam escape. Inevitably, the person who is angry calms down and even apologizes for their behavior.

If you have a spouse who enjoys pushing your buttons in a destructive way, that’s a different story. You should still remain centered, but you may never find real balance unless the spouse changes or until the relationship changes.

Whether it is a physical attack or an emotional one, your life and health will improve when you use the principles of Tai Chi to maintain a state of balance and harmony, and when you don’t give the attacks a place to land. In this way, you can maintain or return to a state of wuji.


Source by Ken Gullette

1 Comment

  1. Reading your article has greatly helped me, and I agree with you. But I still have some questions. Can you help me? I will pay attention to your answer. thank you.

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