This was the question one of my new Tai Chi students asked after class earlier this week. My answer was “That depends on how you train.” Both Tai Chi and Karate forms / kata comprise of excellent self-defence techniques. But… you can only hope to make the moves effective if you understand what the move is in relation to an attacker and then continuously practice those moves in scenario-based partner drills. After all, we only get good at what we practice.
I love Tai Chi forms and I love Karate kata. There are tremendous health benefits to practicing for both body and mind. That said, it’s the partner work: bunkai, sparring, and various exercises we do in our karate classes that turn the kata into effective self-defence.