Tanuki: The New Official Mascot of Tai Chi?

Platypus swimming
Platypus: The Unofficial Mascot of MMA
Sporting a duck’s bill, otter’s feet and beaver tail, the platypus is considered by some to be the greatest combination of all animals.
Photo credit: striatic

While many Chinese martial arts take inspiration from animals—Tibetan Crane Kung Fu, Monkey’s Fist, Dragon Style, and White Ape Boxing are just a few popular examples—Tai Chi Chuan uses dreary references to binary arithmetic. Small wonder, then, that most people consider Tai Chi boring. It has a serious image problem.

To remain competitive with the thrilling spectacle of mixed martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan should adopt a provocative animal mascot. But what kind of animal best embodies Tai Chi’s unique qualities?

Let’s look to the classic Tai Chi manuals of Wong Chung-yua and Wu Yu-hsiang for inspiration.

When practicing Tai Chi, doing too much is the same as doing too little.

Internally, the spirit should be controlled; externally, appear calm and comfortable.

The Tai Chi principle is as simple as this: yield yourself and follow external forces. Instead of doing this, most people ignore such obvious and simple principles and search for a more remote and impractical method.

Our ideal totem animal is not too clever, maybe even a bit lazy by nature…

In Tai Chi, being very soft and pliable leads to being extremely hard and strong.

…and can transform itself instantaneously from soft to hard, and back again…

Cultivate internal energy in a direct way only, and you will do yourself no harm. Store internal power in an indirect way only, and you will build great reserves.
When condensing the internal power, it should be like the pulling of a bow; when projecting the internal power, it should be like the shooting of an arrow.

…accomplishing these transformations through its tremendous store of potential.

A few possibilities come to mind. The mythical Qilin can walk on grass without bending the blades; similar stories were told of Tai Chi master Yang Lu-Chan. The Chinese dragon has strong potential–though it seems disinclined by temperament to employ the Tai Chi strategy of “following and extending”.

Photo credit: James Kilfiger

No, I think our ideal animal is the shape-shifting, hard-drinking, mischievous and strangely well-endowed Tanuki.


  1. Ive always loved this little CoonDog as I call him,,,Im with you. This is the ideal animal to represent Tai Ji,,,”Tanuki”

  2. Tanuki is awesome. I have one of him on my bookshelf. But I don’t think you’ll see a big adoption of him in America.

    American sensibilities would find his enormous testicles offensive. And he has nipples. Nipples are bad. Also, if people knew that was a jug of sake in his hand they’d find that offensive too. No one want to think of grandma getting her exe4rcise under the watchful eyes of a well-endowed, naked drunk.

  3. Dig? No way. The reality-based platypus is scientifically proven to be effective! 😀

  4. Ninpo has walking methods that allow one to walk on grass and not bend the blades, it takes practice and knowledge of the proper angles.

    It hardly seems like a story to me, in reference to Yang Luchan. But some conflate it with magic, this is not so, it is technique.

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