Here's the deal: most percent of people who take a martial arts class are never going to get into a fight on the street. You are not going to head out of your first Tai Chi class and go pick a fight in a bar to test your skills. What is going to happen is that slowly over time, you'll become more confident in your dealings with your physical environment. Whenever I'm faced with a challenging task (most recently it was breaking very thick sticks for kindling at the cottage without an axe or chainsaw), I think about the most efficient way to do it using Tai Chi or Qigong technique. This is a huge boost and it means that I can do what I need to do without risk of physical injury. It is much harder for life to break you down when you know you can handle your day to day tasks.
What learning Tai Chi as a martial art does mean is that you will receive training in how to use the moves for what they are: strikes, blocks, and kicks. You'll learn how to apply your strength effectively, and do it all in a very relaxed manner. You'll learn that you don't have to use all your muscular strength in order to deal with someone else's force. You'll learn how to spar, and you'll practice dealing with an opponent's energy.
(I should say that this is how I teach, and in my experience the more a teacher knows about the martial art aspect of Tai Chi, the more satisfying the class will be for the participants, but there are lots of Tai Chi classes out there for those who want to emphasize gentle movement without learning about the martial arts aspect.)
Here's the other deal. You probably do fight others in real life, frequently. Think about that person in your life who does not share your point of view and blocks you at every turn. Or that fussy co-worker you have to deal with. The petulant neighbour / customer / client / whoever who always makes your life difficult. Those people always seem to know exactly where your buttons are. Learning Tai Chi can help you to become much more aware of how those people get under your skin, and how to stop letting them do that. I've written more about Tai Chi and the emotions here if you want to learn more. Go here to learn more about Tai Chi for self-defense.
This post is part of a series called What Tai Chi and Qigong Can Do for You. Look for more parts in the coming weeks, or click "What Tai Chi and Qigong Can Do for You" at the bottom of this post.
I offer weekly classes and occasional workshops. For my class schedule and information about fees, click here. For upcoming workshops, click here.