by Gu Ruzhang
[translation by Paul Brennan, Aug, 2013]
TAIJI BOXING ILLUSTRATED IN DETAIL CONTENTS
Portrait of Gu Ruzhang
Preface by Guo Qifeng
第一章 太極拳之理論 上篇
Chapter One: Taiji Boxing Theory – (The Upper Section)
1. A Bio of Taiji Founder Zhang Sanfeng
2. Examining the Origin & Development of Taiji Boxing
3. Explaining the Taiji Symbol
Part 4. Explaining Taiji’s Generative Principle
5. The Taiji Boxing Classic of Wong Zongyue of Shanxi of the Ming Dynasty (with commentary)
6. The Taiji Boxing Treatise (with commentary)
7. An Overview of the Thirteen Dynamics
8. Thirteen Dynamics Song
9. Understanding How to Practice the Thirteen Dynamics (with commentary and songs)
10. Essentials of Practicing the Taiji Boxing Art
11. Taiji Boxing’s Five-Word Formula
12. The Trick to Raising & Releasing
13. Essentials in Practicing the Solo Set & Playing Hands
14. Taiji Boxing’s Playing Hands Song (with commentary)
15. Experiences of Practicing Taiji Boxing (two parts)
16. Things That Must be Understood in the Application of Taiji Boxing
17. Added Prescriptions
Chapter Two: Taiji Boxing Solo Set Explained in Detail (including photos) – (The Middle Section)
1. List of Taiji Boxing Posture Names
2. Breakdown of the Entire Set, From Posture 1 to Posture 103:
1，名稱 Name [About half the time, the explanations for the posture names are mostly copied from Yao Fuchun & Jiang Rongqiao’s 1930 manual.]
2，練法 Practice Method
5，姿勢（附圖） Posture (photo)
Chapter Three: Taiji Boxing’s Pushing Hands Methods (including photos) – (The Lower Section)
Taiji Boxing’s Pushing Hands Curriculum
Pushing Hands Method for the Four Primary Techniques:
Warding Off, Rolling Back, Pressing, and Pushing Down (including both pushing down inward and pushing down outward) – their function and practice method.
Pushing Hands Method for the Four Secondary Techniques (known as Large Rollback Pushing Hands):
Plucking, Rending, Elbowing, and Bumping – their function and practice method.
Other Pushing Hands Methods:
A. Single Hand vs. Single Hand – its function and practice method.
B. Double Hand vs. Single Hand – its function and practice method.
C. Facing-Step Double Hand vs. Double Hand – its function and practice method.
D. Twisting-Hand Pushing Hands – its function and practice method.
E. Three-Person Double Hand vs. Single Hand on Both Sides – its function and practice method.
Postscript by Tang Qixian
Portrait of Gu Ruzhang [including his signature and stamp]
GENERAL COMMENTS [text for the first six items mostly copied from Sun Lutang’s 1921 Taiji manual, also copying from Sun’s 1915 Xingyi manual for seventh item]
- This book is separated into two parts (an “upper section” and a “lower section”): the first part goes through the solo set, from its beginning posture to its closing posture, while the second part goes through each of the pushing hands postures, which throughout show two people doing the exercises, marked A and B, or the initiator and the responder. [There is no proper theory section in Sun’s book beyond a meager appendix supplying the Li Yiyu texts, thus there are indeed only two sections in Sun’s book, but in this book there are explicitly three – theory, set, pushing (an “upper section”, a “middle section”, and a “lower section”). Also, this book has not merely a Person A and a Person B as in Sun’s book, but an A, B, and C. Therefore to plagiarize these particular comments from Sun’s book seems somewhat inattentive.] From its beginning position, there is advancing and retreating, extending and contracting, transforming in various ways, explained in step-by-step detail. When pushing hands, each movement is also a stillness. In this way, you will prevent yourself from being disordered. Thus the ways of this art as a whole will bring you very close to the Way.
- The first part of this book is concerned with solo practice, with moving in a flowing way, combining movement and stillness, getting your upper body and lower body to be coordinated with each other, and making inside and outside become one. This is called “practicing the essence”, and is the practice of knowing yourself. The second part of this book is concerned with partner practice, with rising and lowering, advancing and retreating, working both sides, moving freely and staying connected, and changing endlessly. This is called “practicing the function”, and is the practice of knowing the opponent. An ancient man said [Sunzi – Art of War, chapter 3]: “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” This is the idea.
- The boxing art in this book values naturalness rather than vigor, and thereby will not diminish the strength you have developed. It is especially “good at nurturing (your) noble energy” [Mengzi, chapter 2a].
- Use this book with particular attention toward self-cultivation. We are all compatriots, no matter where we come from. Man or woman, young or old, all can practice this art. The overly meek can become mighty and the overly tough can be softened. It is for those whose bodies are very weak or debilitated by diseases, and it is for those who seek to train in a martial art that is not quite so vigorous as others. Anyone can practice it. It will tame your temperament and bring it into harmony. Your vitality will become solid and your spirit will naturally become full. Disease will be prevented and life prolonged. These results are guaranteed.
- This book presents the boxing theory with added commentary, and the boxing usage with the names of the postures and the sequence of the movements in step-by-step detailed explanations, so that those students with a willingness to study will be able to know the subtlety within the art of there being a single energy running through it all.
- With all the postures in this book are included pictures made from photographic printing plates, presented without error in brightness or angle. This means the Taiji Boxing postures are presented more reliably so that you can achieve the art’s spirit and become capable with its skills. But you should know that each posture is connected to those surrounding it, joined together as a single unit, and that throughout there is to be no discontinuity between the postures.
- As the purpose of this book is to promote martial arts, it only discusses the genuine benefits of this art, explaining them in a common and shallow style so that they will be in language easy to understand. The posture descriptions are concise, striving to be effective rather than being pompous, happily unrestricted by literary expectations.
- Because this book is a response to an urgent need, it was hurriedly published. Inevitably there are errors, and I hope all those in the nation who understand these things will not hold back in pointing out its flaws. In a future edition, there will be an emphasis on making corrections, and I am eagerly looking forward to it. [Alas, such a future edition never happened. The following year the Japanese invaded, then shortly after the Japanese surrender was resumed the conflict between nationalists and communists. The progress of martial arts publishing had been considerably distracted for twelve years, and then not that long after things at last settled down, Gu died. The closest thing to a future volume of this specific material was his student Long Zixiang’s 1952 manual, but as it is comparatively reduced in content, it probably does not really amount to the revised edition that would have originally been hoped for.]
Taiji Boxing was handed down from Wudang. It is deemed an internal style of boxing. The key to the art is softness. Within its softness lies its strength. When practicing the solo set, slowly is best. Slow does not mean posing in each posture one after another, for that would only train hesitation. It should be a continuous flow from beginning to end, connected and unbroken, adhering together without interruption.
We constantly observe external stylists trying so hard in all their jumping and shouting. Such training only ingrains a habit of excessive effort. The art of Taiji Boxing does the opposite. To emphasize anger makes one stiff, and to emphasize effort makes one clumsy. How could we talk of nimbleness in such cases? When practicing the solo set, it should be completely natural and not have the least bit of strenuous effort.
This art is not only for the young and strong to practice. It is particularly suitable for the old and weak, because after practicing over a long period, it has the special result of preventing disease and prolonging life, which it does much better than external styles. This art also repels bullies and defeats opponents, but it excels at these extra benefits. Whenever I find spare time, I delight in practicing the solo set. It can be done in ordinary clothes or long robes, either way, and so it is especially suited for sophisticated citizens who want to train in martial arts.
During 1936, I have been frequently traveling to Yangshi [an army barracks about 75 miles northeast of Guangzhou], where Commander-in-Chief Chen Jitang has appointed me as instructor. The students there asked me to put together a book on Taiji Boxing for them to train from. Being fully occupied with teaching the lessons, there really has been no time to write, and half a year has slipped by. Then after I enlisted the help of my student Tang Qixian, this volume has been brought to completion.
In the old days, teachers and their colleagues wrote these things down in a very disorganized way. Yet we do not presume to add anything to the essence of the art, and are only passing down the theories of the forefathers. With each posture is included a photo to help you find your way as you practice the solo set. Students who are earnestly interested but have no time to take formal classes will be able to train themselves in this way. Our purpose is to give this research to the public so as to help boost our martial arts.
– written by Gu Ruzhang of Jiangsu at the Guangzhou Martial Arts Society, 1936
PREFACE [BY GUO QIFENG]
Martial arts are a single entity which divides into two schools, internal and external. It is commonly said that the ancestor of the external was Damo, and it is called the Shaolin school, while the ancestor of the internal was Zhang Sanfeng, and it is called the Wudang school. Examining their veracity, their names are different but their source is the same: when power is applied in these arts, they do not go beyond the principles of nature and naturalness.
To reveal is a feature of the external, to conceal a feature of the internal. And so Zhang Sanfeng has handed down to us what is called Taiji Boxing, which moves according to pure energy. People do not scrutinize sufficiently, saying that the external is all about hardness and the internal is all about softness. Though while we must not overstress this distinction, we also should not ignore it.
Our nation’s martial arts were the earliest to be developed. Over the centuries, they were transmitted orally, the methods kept secret instead of being written down for future generations, yet those who discuss martial arts all venerate what has been passed down. It is beyond the capacity of rustic verse to record the theories in detail, and so practitioners are usually not able to address the material exhaustively. Furthermore, many who transmit these arts hold back their deeper essence, and though they talk about them, they are unwilling to discuss the theory, making it that much harder for pupils to be able to delve into them.
But now the director of the Guangzhou Martial Arts Society, Gu Ruzhang, has made an intensive study of the art of Taiji Boxing, and fearing that over time the art will die out, has written an exceptional book focusing on it, complete with annotations and photographs so as to provide for our comrades. He explains the movements and makes note of their applications.
With this art, regardless of whether you are a man or woman, a wife or child, or an aging person, all can practice. It lacks agonizing vigor and contortionism, as well as postures of jumping high and leaping riskily, and can be done in casual attire. Those who enjoy this art will gain unique skills, and readers who are able to pay careful attention will come to realize clearly and will not have difficulty progressing toward illumination on their own. I am not clever and I do not presume to be contributing great words. I have not yet had a breakthrough in this art, and so my comments here may be rather superfluous.
– written by Guo Qifeng of Gushi [in Henan] at Yangcheng [older name for Guangzhou]
CHAPTER ONE: TAIJI BOXING THEORY
I. A BIO OF TAIJI FOUNDER ZHANG SANFENG [text mostly copied from Chen Weiming’s 1925 manual, influenced in part by the version in Yao Fuchun & Jiang Rongqiao’s 1930 manual]
Zhang Sanfeng, given name Quanyi, and called Junbao, Xuanxuan, or Kunyang, was from Yizhou, beyond the eastern end of the Great Wall. He was born with an unusual nature. He had white hair and the body of an immortal. His face was long and he was very tall, more than seven feet. His beard was like a trident and his hair was rolled into a bun on top of his head. He often wore a crescent-moon cap or a bamboo hat and patchwork monk’s vest. He could not be bothered to adjust his clothes to suit winter or summer in their peak, and everyone called him “Zhang the Slob”. He would be satiated after eating no more than a bowlful, and go several months without eating and never look hungry.
He obtained Lu Chunyang’s Natural Way and Zheng Liulong’s Uppermost Way. While the Yuan Dynasty was drawing to a close [ending in 1368], he dwelled at Golden Tower View in Baoji. In 1366, ninth month, twentieth day, he said he was going to die, then passed away while chanting. The scholar Yang Guishan placed him in his coffin, and saw him buried and then saw him resurrected. In this year, Zhang was a hundred and thirty years old.
Later Zhang went to Sichuan, and upon arriving at Mt. Taihe [Wudang], he built a hut at the Jade Void temple. He would often dwell under the five ancient tree trunks in front of the temple, but he was never harmed by wild beasts nor attacked by birds of prey, to the surprise of everyone. It was often being said by the locals: “This mountain has received the royal command from Emperor Yongle to be embellished.” Zhang then mixed himself in with the rest of the laborers and nobody could recognize him. The elixirist abbot of Wudang, Sun Biyun, received many of Zhang’s teachings. The emperor heard about this and repeatedly summoned Zhang, but still he would not attend upon the emperor, and poetry was applied for Sun to try to win Zhang over with. Later he passed the art on to the Daoist priest Qiu Yuanjing. We do not know where it went from there, but the Taiji boxing art that has been passed down to us came from Zhang Sanfeng.
It is also said [from the memorial tablet for Wang Zhengnan]: “Zhang was a hermit of Mt. Wudang. Emperor Huizong summoned him, but his route was blocked and he could not get through. That night in a dream, the first Song Emperor gave him the boxing method. The next day he single-handedly killed over a hundred bandits.” His skill could be described as rare indeed. When he was young he was a Confucian scholar, versed in poetry and essays, good at calligraphy and painting. Then in the first year of Kublai Khan’s reign , he was appointed to tend the abundant hills of the central mountains. But he wanted to improve himself and find the truth, so he instead went to Golden Tower View at a mountain in Baoji to be a hermit and cultivate himself. There the mountain has three peaks, and because of this he’s called Sanfengzi [“Triple Peak Master”]. Thus those who practice Taiji Boxing today call Zhang Sanfeng the founder.
II. EXAMINING THE ORIGIN & DEVELOPMENT OF TAIJI BOXING [much of the text copied out of Yao Fuchun & Jiang Rongqiao’s 1930 manual]
China’s boxing arts have many names, but amount to no more than the internal skill and the external skill. The ancestor of the external is Shaolin. Its movements are all magnificently expressed. Since its principles have been spelled out by many previous generations, they do not need to be repeated here. The ancestor of the internal is Wudang. Its strength is stored within, such as in Taiji Boxing. Its power not being outwardly displayed, it instead has a pure naturalness. Like an unending circle, its movements are lively. And so it is deemed internal and is different from Shaolin.
Taiji Boxing’s origin can be separated into five versions:
1. Xu Xuanping of the Tang Dynasty taught something called Thirty-Seven Postures. It had only thirty-seven movements, hence the name. Later it was passed on to Song Yuanqiao.
2. The Yu family taught something called Innate Nature Boxing. It was received from Li Daozi of the Tang Dynasty, who taught Yu Qinghui and others.
3. What Han Gongyue taught to Cheng Lingshen [Lingxi] was later transmitted to a descendant of his, and it was called Cheng Bi’s version. The name was changed to Small Highest Heaven, and it contained a total of fourteen hand techniques.
4. What Yin Liheng taught was the Acquired Nature Method. He taught it to Hu Jingzi, who then passed it on to Song Zhongshu, and it contained a total of seventeen postures.
5. What Zhang Sanfeng taught was of the Wudang branch (because he was living in the Wudang mountains), and it was known as the “internal school” of boxing. This version had the highest number of movements yet. Again the name was changed, now to Taiji Boxing, and it went down two paths:
 Zhang Songxi, Zhang Jinquan, Wang Zhengnan, Gan Fengchi, and so on – this is the southern school.
 Wang Zongyue, Jiang Fa, Chen Changxing – this is the northern school.
Zhang Songxi taught it to Ye Jinquan, who then taught it to Wu Kunshan, Zhou Yunshan, Dan Sinan, Chen Zhenshi, and Sun Duancha. Wu Kunshan then taught Li Tianmu and Xu Daiyue, who then taught Yu Zhongbo, Wu Qilang, and Chen Maohong. Zhou Yunshan taught Lu Shaoqi. Chen Zhenshi taught Dong Fuxing and Xia Zhixi. Sun Duancha taught Seng Er, Seng Wei, Yao Shimen, and Chai Yuanming. Dan Sinan taught Wang Zhengnan, who then taught Gan Fengchi.
In the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, it was transmitted to Wang Zongyue of Shanxi. Several generations passed that we have no way of examining, but later it found its way to Jiang Fa of Henan, as well as Chen Changxing. Chen Changxing taught his sons, Jixin and Gengxin, and to Yang Luchan of Guangping, Chen Gengyun, Li Baikui, and many others. Yang Luchan also taught his sons, Banhou and Jianhou, as well as Wang Lanting and others. Yang Banhou taught Wan Chun, Quan You, Hou Lingshan, Chen Xiufeng, and others. Yang Jianhou taught his sons, Zhaoxiong, Zhaoqing, Zhaoyuan, Zhaolin, Zhaoxiang, as well as Li Jinglin, Liu Shengkui, Zhang Yi, Xu Yusheng, and others. Yang Zhaoxiong, called Shaohou, taught Tian Shaolin [a confused combination of Zhaolin and his other name Shaoxian], You Zhixue, and others. Yang Zhaoqing, called Chengfu, taught his son Zhenming, as well as Dong Yingjie, Chen Weiming, Wu Huichuan, Chu Dexin, Niu Chunming, Yan Zhongyan, Chen Nongxian, Xu Tiaoxue, and others. Quan You taught [his son] Wu Jianquan and many others. Wu Jianquan taught Chu Minyi, Xu Zhiyi, and others. Li Jinglin taught Gu Ruzhang, Guo Qifeng, Bai Zhixiang, and others.
[Another northern branch:]
It is well-known that Chen Qingping of Henan, a direct-lineage descendant of the Chen family village, named his art Agile Step Expand-Contract Taiji Boxing. The movements are different from the solo set as practiced by the Yang family, but the boxing theory is identical, and the pushing-hands exercises are also the same. Thus it has the same credentials. It started from Chen Qingping, who taught it to Wu Yurang [Yuxiang], who taught it to Li Yiyu, who taught it to Hao Weizhen, who taught it to Sun Lutang. Sun Lutang taught Gu Ruzhang, Bai Zhixiang, and many others.
These are just the people we know about, to give a general idea. To cover every person who has received it and make a clear survey of the prominent practitioners of each generation, that will have to wait for a future edition. More will be added later so that future students can know about the source of their art.
III. EXPLAINING THE TAIJI SYMBOL
It says in the “Explanation to the Taiji Diagram” [This paragraph does not actually quote from Zhou Dunyi’s famous Explanation to the Taiji Diagram, nor is Zhou’s diagram even pictured in this book, but instead quotes from Lai Zhide’s commentary to the Book of Changes, although not including his particular taiji symbol either.]: “Energy houses the spirit, and the body houses the energy.” It also says: “Benevolence joins us to the universe – it is called Humanity. All things are blurred together without distinctions – it is called the Grand Polarity. The emptiness is limitless – it is called the Grand Void. Perfection lies not in twoness – it is called the Grand Oneness. Evolution operates unnoticed – it is called the Grand Creation.” It also says: “Sky is high above, ground just below, joined together in surrounding us. These two energies merge in dense mist, so we can no longer tell them apart. Twisting, stretching, rubbing, shaking, they transform without pattern. Things are thereby manifested and take form to fill up the vastness between the two.” Looked at in this way, the universe is two things merged into one. A person receives the essence of both and is brought to life. A man is a small universe himself. Therefore sky, ground, and mankind are called the “three substances”, and the human body is the achievement of [all three blending into] a single energy.
traditional double-fish taiji diagram 1
traditional double-fish taiji diagram 2
[Much of this paragraph is copied from Yao Fuchun & Jiang Rongqiao’s 1930 manual.] The two drawings above are common ways to display a taiji diagram. Within each is drawn a pair of fish linking at the mouths, representing passive and active interconnected. The condition before skyness and groundness become distinct from each other is called the Grand Polarity. These drawings depict the concept of the primal murkiness before there were such distinctions. It is said in the Book of Changes: “Nonpolarity generated the Grand Polarity, the Grand Polarity generated the dual aspects, the dual aspects generated the four manifestations, and the four manifestations generated the eight trigrams.” When my mind is silent, without wants or worries, even all good things making no voice, this is called Nonpolarity. When active, when there is movement, this is like the Grand Polarity. But when passive, when there is stillness, this is like Nonpolarity. When movement starts, then the active aspect is generated. When movement reaches it limit, then the passive aspect is generated. As stillness begins, there is softness. As stillness peaks, there is hardness. Therefore, whenever you practice Taiji Boxing, all the way through to moving step pushing hands, it is by always following this central principle that you will seek out the secret. In the first drawing above, the white part is the active aspect and the black part is the passive aspect. The dots are the active within the passive and the passive within the active. We can see passive and active surge around the middle, and these are the passive and active energies of Taiji Boxing.
depiction of the primordial state
depiction of Nonpolarity generating the Grand Polarity
Of the two drawings above, the first is a depiction of the primordial state, a circle in which passive and active are giving rise to each other, circulating endlessly. This is Taiji Boxing’s yielding energy and sticking energy, the sum of which is neutralizing, the yielding energy being the passive energy and the sticking energy being the active energy. The second drawing is a depiction of Nonpolarity generating the Grand Polarity. The passive and active aspects are contained within, constantly approaching each other. At the center of the circle is Nonpolarity, which is the governing principle. Passive at its limit generates the active, and active at its limit generates the passive. This is the flow of energy. Herein lies the meaning in Taiji of “use mind to move energy”.
depiction of the Grand Polarity as the Three Substances:
From the three diagrams above, we can see that sky, ground, and mankind all make a grand polarity by way of the space between two energies filling in: a person receives the energies of both sky and ground and is given life. Unless this is the case, there is no Grand Polarity.
IV. EXPLAINING TAIJI’S GENERATIVE PRINCIPLE
Taiji’s generative principle: Nothingness generates Somethingness, Somethingness generates Everythingness, Everythingness generates the dual aspects, the dual aspects generate the three distinctions, the three distinctions generate the four manifestations, the four manifestations generate the five elements, the five elements generate the six arteries, the six arteries generate the seven ingenuities, and the seven ingenuities generate the eight trigrams.
The “Nothingness” [wu ji – “without polarity”] is: no image or shape, no movement or stillness, no thoughts or cares, no patterns or methods, everything mixed together as a whole.
The “Somethingness” [you ji – “with polarity”] is: having patterns and methods, having movement and stillness, having shape and idea, having spirit and emotion, having emptiness and fullness, having quickness and leisure, having softness and hardness, everything pure and natural, a single flow throughout.
The “Everythingness” [tai ji – “grand polarity”] is the integration of the whole, for everything is generated from Everythingness, all principles transformed by its essence. With each position and stance, each exiting and entering, each movement and stillness, each technique and posture, all methods obtain unification.
The “dual aspects” are your two hands separated into the roles of passive and active, forward and behind, left and right, above and below, contrary and straightforward, exiting and entering, extending and withdrawing, gathering and releasing, leisurely and quick, empty and full.
The “three distinctions” are your head, torso, and legs. They divide above, between, and below into the “three levels”, “three sections”, or “three bodies”. The three levels should have the qualities of crispness, craftiness, liveliness, and unity. Advancing and retreating should be crisp. Movement and stillness should be crafty. Dodging and extending should be lively. Bending and straightening should be combined.
The “four manifestations” are the close attentions paid by your whole body to the front, back, left, and right. In advancing and retreating, go forward attacking and backward defending, rushing forward to protect behind [and rushing back to protect in front]. In looking left and gazing right, dodge to the left to be looking to the right [and dodge to the right to be gazing to the left].
The “five elements” are: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth; heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys; forward, back, left, right, and middle; as well as: 1. protecting your head, 2. protecting your elbows, 3. protecting your center, 4. protecting your kidneys, 5. protecting your knees.
The “six arteries” are the six unions: mind united with intent, intent united with energy, energy united with power, hand united with foot, elbow united with knee, and shoulder united with hip [the “arteries” being the imaginary conduits by which they unite]. They are also six kinds of drills that are to be merged together into a single flowing method: 1. Expanding and contracting, come and go. 2. Concentrate your spirit to intimidate the opponent. 3. Sink, roll, rub, and twist. 4. Connect, cover, push, and lift. 5. Chop, drag, shovel, and carry. 6. Draw him in to land on nothing.
The “seven ingenuities” are the clever ways of transforming: 1. transform at your waist, 2. transform at your wrist, 3. transform at your elbow, 4. transform at your shoulder, 5. transform with your torso, 6. transform at your hip, 7. transform with your step. The term is also applied to seven ways of moving: 1. advancing, 2. retreating, 3. side-stepping, 4. continuous stepping, 5. zigzagging, 6. spinning around, 7. shaking.
The “eight trigrams” are ☰, ☵, ☶, ☳, ☴, ☲, ☷, and ☱, which are also called the “eight gates”. The techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push correspond to those placed in line with the cardinal compass points, while pluck, rend, elbow, and bump correspond to those to the corner compass points.
Additional: COLLOQUIAL VERSES ABOUT THE TAIJI BOXING ART [text mainly copied from Chen Ziming’s 1932 manual, where it is a poem within a section discussing perseverance]
Since the theory is limitless in scope,
the most important thing in learning the art is sincerity.
Over the course of years do not get distracted,
instead stay intent upon it and keep your spirit concentrated.
Begin by learning from a teacher who is enlightened,
then continue by seeking out colleagues who excel.
With both guidance and encouragement,
step by step you will start to understand.
After peeling away one layer, delve deeper and find another,
layer upon layer, on and on forever.
One level starts up where another left off,
beginning and finishing trading places with each other.
It draws me in and captivates me so,
even if I wanted to quit, I could not.
The better you seem to be getting,
the more you need to work at it.
One day your mind will awaken,
and suddenly all will become clear.
V. THE TAIJI BOXING CLASSIC OF WANG ZONGYUE OF SHANXI OF THE MING DYNASTY – WITH COMMENTARY [by Chen Weiming – text copied from his 1925 book] (Taiji Boxing is also called Long Boxing or Thirteen Dynamics)
Taiji is born of wuji, and is the mother of yin and yang.
Yin and yang [the passive and active aspects] are generated from taiji [the grand polarity], which comes from wuji [no polarity]. In Taiji Boxing, every part of your body divides into either empty or full, i.e. passive or active. That is why this boxing art is called Taiji.
When there is movement, the passive and active aspects become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable.
When my body does not move, it is a taiji all over. Once it moves even a little bit, then passive and active become distinguishable.
Neither going too far nor not far enough, comply and bend then engage and extend.
When connecting and sticking to an opponent, adapt to his movement and act according to it. When he bends, I extend. When he extends, I bend. I closely join with him, neither running away nor crashing in. Do not let yourself even slightly commit the errors of either going too far nor not far enough.
He is hard while I am soft – this is yielding. My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse – this is sticking.
If he is hard and I am hard, then we are both resisting each other. If he is hard and I am soft, then we are not obstructing each other. Unobstructed, there is yielding and neutralizing. When I yield and neutralize, his power goes off center and his energy turns coarse, while my posture remains centered and my energy stays smooth. By sticking to his coarse energy with my smooth energy, then even if he has strength, he will have no access to it.
If he moves fast, I quickly respond, and if his movement is slow, I leisurely follow. Although there is an endless variety of possible scenarios, there is only this single principle [of yielding and sticking] throughout.
My speed depends on his. When it does not come from myself, I am automatically able to stick and connect continuously. But if my arms are not fully relaxed, and if I am not keeping myself from allowing the smallest bit of awkward effort, then I will not be able to follow him and thereby skillfully close on him. If my arms use effort, then I am getting distracted by the pleasure of acting from myself and will be incapable of letting go of myself to follow him. Because the movements change their direction and speed, “there is an endless variety of possible scenarios”. Although they are different, my sticking and following is a constant principle.
Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will work your way toward something miraculous. But unless you practice a lot over a long time, you will never have a breakthrough.
“Ingraining the techniques” means practicing the solo set to train the essence and the pushing hands to apply it. With “a lot of practice over a long time”, you will naturally come to identify energies and then become miraculous.
Forcelessly press up your headtop. Energy sinks to your elixir field. Neither lean nor slant. Suddenly hide and suddenly appear.
Regardless of practicing either the solo set or the pushing hands, in both cases you must have the intentions of forcelessly pressing up your headtop and of energy sinking to your elixir field. To “neither lean nor slant” means to stand straight and balanced rather than leaned or slanted. To “suddenly hide and suddenly appear” means your emptiness and fullness are not constant and that your changes are unpredictable.
When there is pressure on the left, the right [left] empties. When there is pressure on the right, the left [right] disappears. [Due to the different contexts of “empty” and “disappear”, this section is referring to facing an opponent with your right side forward, left foot behind.]
These two sentences expound upon the concept of “suddenly hide and suddenly appear”. When sticking hands with an opponent, if I feel some pressure on my left side, then the place on my left side where he is sticking to me promptly changes to become empty. The situation on my right side is the same, but to “disappear” means that he cannot figure out what I am doing. When sticking with an opponent, I go along with his intention and neutralize it. I must not even slightly resist but instead make him always land on nothing, and then there is nothing he can do.
When looking up, it is still higher. When looking down, it is still lower. When advancing, it is even farther. When retreating, it is even nearer.
When he looks upward, he perceives me to be still higher, like touching the sky but having difficulty reaching it. When he looks downward, he perceives me to be still lower, like facing an abyss and fearing falling into it. When he advances, he perceives me to be even farther away and cannot get to me. When he retreats, he perceives me to be even nearer and cannot get away from me. All of these words are about my ability to stick and follow without disconnecting, making the opponent unable to use his power.
A feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land. The opponent does not understand me, only I understand him. A hero is one who encounters no opposition, and it is through this kind of method that such a condition is achieved.
“A feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land.” These words describe the idea of being without resistance. Once your skill is refined, you can be like this. When your awareness and sensitivity are extreme, the slightest contact will tell you everything about the opponent. When you can get your skill up to this stage, your movements will be nimble and you will naturally have the quality of “he does not understand me, only I understand him”.
There are many other schools of boxing arts besides this one. Although the postures are different between them, they generally do not go beyond the strong bullying the weak and the slow yielding to the fast. The strong beating the weak and the slow submitting to the fast are both a matter of inherent natural ability and bear no relation to skill that is learned.
These words address external styles of boxing arts, of which there are many different branches. They do no more than use strength and speed to win. If I try to win by way of strength and speed, then when I face someone stronger and faster than me, I will lose. It would all come down to a matter of natural ability rather than skillful ingenuity as in Taiji Boxing’s non-reliance on strength and speed to be able to overcome opponents.
Examine the phrase “four ounces moves a thousand pounds”, which is clearly not a victory obtained through strength. Or consider the sight of an old man repelling a group, which could not come from an aggressive speed.
Taiji Boxing’s ingenuity lies in the use of four ounces to move a thousand pounds. Even if the opponent has a thousand pounds of force, my energy is smooth while his energy is coarse, rendering his thousand pounds useless. Although his speed is generated by his own actions, if he encounters an expert in the Taiji boxing art, the hands will be sticking to him so much that when he wants to take action he cannot, and being unable to act he certainly cannot act very fast.
Stand like a scale. Move like a wheel.
To stand like a scale means to have the quality of forcelessly pressing up your headtop. To move like a wheel means to use your waist to control the movement. With every part complying with your waist, the movement will be rounded.
If you drop one side, you can move. If you have equal pressure on both sides, you will be stuck.
What does this mean? If you stick to the opponent with equal strength on both sides of your body, then once he opposes your strength, you will be resisting each other. This is what is meant by being equal on both sides. Being equal on both sides, you will freeze up each other’s movement and winning will return to a matter of who is strongest. If your strength on both sides is equal but then one side is loosened, this is the meaning of dropping one side. If I let go on one side, then even if the opponent has strength, he can do nothing with it and I can neutralize him.
We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations and is generally under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood.
If you have practiced hard for many years but still make the error of double pressure, then you will inevitably sometimes be under the opponent’s control, incapable of neutralizing fast enough.
If you want to avoid this error, you must understand passive and active. In sticking there is yielding and in yielding there is sticking. The active does not depart from the passive and the passive does not depart from the active, for the passive and active exchange roles. Once you have this understanding, you will be identifying energies.
If you want to avoid the error of double pressure, you must understand passive and active, i.e. emptiness and fullness. If you slightly sense double pressure is happening, promptly drop one side. The empty area is passive. The full area is active. Although passive and active separate into distinct areas, there is still no disconnecting with the opponent, and thus you are able to stick and to yield. “The active does not depart from the passive and the passive does not depart from the active” means that when the opponent is full I am empty, and once he becomes empty I change my emptiness into fullness. Therefore passive changes into active and active changes into passive, passive and active exchanging roles without any solid pattern, and always changing due to observation of the direction of the opponent’s intention. If you can go along with the opponent’s intention and then respond with emptiness or fullness without at all mistaking which one fits where, you are then accurately identifying energies.
Once you are identifying energies, then the more you practice, the more efficient your skill will be, and by absorbing through experience and by constantly contemplating, gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want.
Once you are identifying energies, it can be said that you have graduated kindergarten. But you must not rest on your laurels and give yourself a break from it, but must instead continue to practice every day, contemplating every part of it. As you come to grasp it more and more, absorbing the experience of it into your mind, then mind will act and body will comply, all will happen as you will it, and your skill will daily improve.
The basic of basics is to forget about your plans and simply respond to the opponent. We often make the mistake of ignoring what is right in front of us in favor of something that has nothing to do with our immediate circumstances.
In Taiji Boxing, you do not act from yourself but always according to the opponent. Since his movements will be in some direction, I go along with him in the same direction and send him away along it instead of even slightly resisting against his direction. Thus his attack lands on nothing and he stumbles away all because he himself has used too much power. When you are intent on using a particular technique and are consequently not aware of and not going along with the opponent, this is what is meant by ignoring what is right in front of you in favor of something that has nothing to do with your immediate circumstances.
For such situations it is said: “Miss by an inch, lose by a mile.” You must understand all this clearly.
In Taiji Boxing, when you stick and connect to the opponent, you will respond to the area that you are most closely connecting to, and so it is said that you are not to “miss by an inch”. To slightly separate is to be greatly separated, for you then lose connection with the timing.
This essay contains one crucial sentence after another and does have a single word that does not enrich and sharpen its ideas. But if you are not smart, you will not be able to understand it. The founder did not lightly teach the art, not just because he was discriminating over accepting students, but also because he did want to go to the effort only to have it wasted.
Taiji Boxing’s refined subtleties all manifest in this essay. From the notion that unless you are a smart person you will be incapable of making sense of it, it is apparent that this art cannot be looked upon as just a skill.
Taiji Boxing is also called Long Boxing. Long Boxing: it is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly. It is has been left to us by the hermit Zhang Sanfeng of the Wudang Mountains. He wanted all the heroes in the world to live long and stay young, not merely gain skill.
VI. THE TAIJI BOXING TREATISE – WITH COMMENTARY [by Chen Weiming – text again copied from his 1925 book]
Once there is any movement, your entire body should be nimble and alert. There especially needs to be connection from movement to movement.
If you are not using habitual crude effort, your whole body will naturally be nimble and alert. To be connected is called “continuous without interruption”. If your movements do not connect, there is interruption between them. When there is this interruption, your opponent can take advantage of the gap and get through. Therefore the movements should connect.
Energy should be roused and spirit should be collected within.
When the energy is roused, there are no gaps. When spirit is collected within, there is no confusion.
Do not allow there to be protrusions or pits anywhere, breaks in the flow anywhere.
If there are areas of your posture that stick out or sink in, or if there are moments in which your movement comes to halt and has to start up again, in both cases you cannot be rounded and full. Places where you stick out or sink in are easy for the opponent to manipulate, and the time between halting and starting over is easy for the opponent to take advantage of. Both will be a source of failure.
Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process, and whether advancing or retreating, you will then catch the opportunity and gain the upper hand.
Zhuangzi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 6]: “An authentic man breathes with his heels [as opposed to most people who breathe only with their throats].” In Taiji Boxing, the breathing is deep and long. You can either breath up to your head or down to your heels. Therefore when you move, start from your foot. From your foot it goes up through your leg, from your leg up to your waist, and from your waist up to your fingers in a fully continuous process. Therefore in Taiji, when your fingers are used to send away an opponent and he falls, it is not only due to the strength of your fingers, it is power that was undetectably initiated from your heels. Above are the hands, below are the feet, and in between is the waist. When all are coordinated with each other, you will naturally be able to catch the opportunity and gain the upper hand.
If you miss and your body easily falls into disorder, the problem must be in your waist and legs, so look for it there.
If you do not catch the opportunity and do not get the upper hand, it must be that your hands are moving but your waist and legs are not moving. If your waist and legs are not moving, your hands will use that much more effort, causing your body to fall that much further into disorder. Therefore to keep from using effort anywhere, you must make sure to be moving your waist and legs.
This is always so, regardless of the direction of the movement, be it up, down, left, right, forward, back. And in all of these cases, the problem is a matter of your intent and does not lie outside of you. With an upward comes a downward, with a forward comes a backward, and with a left comes a right.
If you want to go up, down, forward, back, left, or right, you must always move your waist and legs, and then you will be able to do as you please. Yet even though you move your waist and legs, inside you have to know yourself and know your opponent, for therein lies the meaning of adjusting according to the situation. If you have no intent, then even though you move your waist and legs, it will be merely a disordered movement.
If your intention wants to go upward, then harbor a downward intention, like when you reach down to lift up an object. You thereby add a setback to the opponent’s own intention, thus he cuts his own root and is defeated quickly and certainly.
When sparring, I adjust according to the situation, constantly and endlessly, so the opponent cannot figure out what I am doing. This will cause him to either watch only himself and cease paying attention to me or to watch only me and cease paying attention to himself, both of which will naturally lead him into being disordered. Once he is in disorder, I am free to issue power.
Empty and full must be distinguished clearly. In each part there is a part that is empty and a part that is full. Everywhere it is always like this, an emptiness and a fullness.
When practicing the solo set, empty and full should be clearly distinguished. When sparring, empty and full must still be clearly distinguished. Although empty and full should be clearly distinguished, you also should be completely aware of the way you are being attacked so as to deal with it properly. When he is empty, I am full. When he is full, I am empty. Fullness suddenly transforms to become emptiness. Emptiness suddenly transforms to become fullness. He does not understand what I am doing but I can understand him, and thereby I always win.
Throughout your body, as the movement goes from one section to another there is connection. Do not allow the slightest break in the connection.
The connecting of the movement through your whole body from one section to another indicates the ability to empty and dissolve, and thereby no sections will jam each other up. In this way he cannot affect my movement and I will be as stable as Mt. Tai. Although you empty and dissolve and no sections are getting stuck to each other, when you move you can nevertheless connect all sections and have them cooperate with each other. It is like the snake of Mt. Chang: “Strike its head and its tail responds, strike its tail and its head responds, or strike its middle and both head and tail respond” [Art of War, chapter 11]. This is the epitome of being nimble and alert.
Think of an iron pole weighing a thousand pounds. Every bit of it is heavy, but if you are very strong you can lift it up with one grab. Then consider an iron chain weighing only a hundred pounds. Even if you are very strong you cannot lift it up with one grab because it is separated into many sections. Now although it is separated into many sections, they are still connected, and practicing Taiji Boxing is the same as this idea.
VII. AN OVERVIEW OF THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS
The thirteen dynamics are: warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping – which relate to the eight trigrams:
and advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center – which relate to metal, wood, water, fire, and earth: the five elements. These combined [8+5] are called the Thirteen Dynamics. Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing correspond to ☵, ☲, ☳, and ☱ in the four principle compass directions [meaning simply that these are the primary techniques]. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping correspond to ☰, ☷, ☶, and ☴ in the four corner directions [i.e. are the secondary techniques]. Advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center correspond to the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Although these are archaic terms to learn, the Taiji Boxing practitioner must understand them.
VIII. THIRTEEN DYNAMICS SONG
Do not neglect any of the thirteen dynamics,
their command coming from your lower back.
You must pay attention to the alternation of empty and full,
then energy will flow through your whole body without getting stuck anywhere.
In stillness, movement stirs, and then in moving, seem yet to be in stillness,
for the magic lies in making adjustments based on being receptive to the opponent.
In every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention,
for once you achieve that, it will all be effortless.
At every moment, pay attention to your waist,
for if there is relaxation and stillness within your belly, energy is primed.
Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop,
thus your whole body will be nimble and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.
Pay careful attention in your practice that you are letting bending and extending, contracting and expanding, happen as the situation requires.
Beginning the training requires personal instruction,
but mastering the art depends on your own unceasing effort.
Whether we are discussing in terms of theory or function, what is the constant?
It is that mind is sovereign and body is subject.
If you think about it, what is emphasizing the use of intention going to lead you to?
To a longer life and a longer youth.
Repeatedly recite the words above,
all of which speak clearly and hence their ideas come through without confusion.
If you pay no heed to those ideas, you will go astray in your training,
and you will find you have wasted your time and be left with only sighs of regret.
IX. UNDERSTANDING HOW TO PRACTICE THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS – WITH COMMENTARY [by Chen Weiming – text again copied from his 1925 book]
Use mind to move energy. You must get the energy to sink. It is then able to collect in your bones. Use energy to move your body. You must get the energy to be smooth. Your body can then easily obey your mind.
“Use mind to move energy” means that the energy arrives where the intent goes. The intent should sink, then energy can collect in your bones instead of moving around. With the energy collecting in your bones, if you work at it for a long time your bones will daily become heavier and the internal power will grow. “Use energy to move your body” means that your body moves when the energy moves. The energy should be smooth so your body can easily obey your mind. Therefore as the movements change and go back and forth, they all obey your will without your mind at any point being obstructed.
If you can raise your spirit, then you will be without worry of being slow or weighed down. Thus it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song]: “Your whole body will be nimble and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.”
By forcelessly pressing up your headtop, your spirit will automatically be able to raise, and with your spirit raised, your body will automatically be nimble. It follows then that if you do not raise your spirit, your body will be clumsy and require effort to be moved around, incapable of moving with spontaneity.
Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the qualities of roundness and liveliness. Thus it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song] that you are to “pay attention to the alternation of empty and full”.
When sticking with an opponent, you must go along with the situation to adjust your intent, which amounts to nothing more than clearly distinguishing empty and full, and then you will automatically have the qualities of being rounded and lively, alternating empty and full with constant efficiency.
When issuing power, you must sink and relax, concentrating it in one direction.
When issuing power, it is necessary for the whole body to relax completely. If you do not relax completely, you will not be able to sink. If you are heavy and relaxed, you will naturally be able to send the opponent far. “Concentrate it in one direction” means that you are to go straight out along the direction of the opponent’s movement. Follow along with his momentum. If he is trying to attack high, look up. If he is trying to attack low, look down. If he is trying to attack far, look far away. Where your spirit goes, your energy arrives. It is has entirely nothing to do with exertion.
Your posture must be straight and comfortable, bracing in all directions.
When your headtop is suspended, you will automatically be upright. When you are relaxed, you will automatically be comfortable. When you are as stable as Mt. Tai, you will automatically be able to brace in all directions.
Move energy as though through a winding-path pearl, penetrating even the smallest nook, meaning the energy is everywhere in the body.
The mention of the winding-path pearl is used to describe the roundness and liveliness of the energy. Through your limbs and bones, everywhere it is like a rounded ball, everywhere a taiji circle, and thus you will have power that can never be neutralized.
Wield power like tempered steel, so strong there is nothing tough enough to stand up against it.
Taiji does not use exertion. Instead it develops internal power, which can go on without limit. This power is like steel folded hundreds of times, nothing tough enough to stand up against it.
The shape is like a falcon capturing a rabbit. The dynamic is like a cat pouncing on a mouse.
“A falcon pouncing on a rabbit.” This means to circle unpredictably. “A cat catching a mouse.” This means to wait for the opportunity then act.
In stillness, be like a mountain, and in movement, be like a river.
“In stillness, be like a mountain.” This means to sink rather than float. “In movement, be like a river.” This means to flow ceaselessly.
Store power like drawing a bow. Issue power like loosing an arrow.
“Store power like drawing a bow.” This has to do with completeness. “Issue power like loosing an arrow.” This has to do with suddenness.
Within curving, seek to be straightening. Store and then issue.
Curving is when you neutralize the opponent’s power. Once it is neutralized, you must find a straight line in his direction so your power can issue.
Power comes from your spine. Step according to your body’s changes.
Contain your chest and pull up your back to store your power. When issuing energy, the power comes from your spine, not merely from the strength of your hands. Your body moves and your steps go along with it, the posture changing unpredictably.
To gather is to release and to release is to gather. Disconnect but stay connected.
Although sticking, neutralizing, and attacking are three distinct concepts, they cannot be separated. Gathering is sticking and neutralizing. Releasing is attacking. When you send the opponent away, the power seems to almost come to an end but the intent of it does not finish.
In the back and forth [of your arms], there must be folding. In the advance and retreat [of your feet], there must be variation.
Folding means the transformation between empty and full, which is extremely subtle. Taiji Boxing’s stopping power often makes use of folding. Outwardly it looks as if you have not moved while inwardly there is folding already going on. When advancing and retreating, there must be variation in the footwork. Even in retreat there is still advance.
Extreme softness begets extreme hardness. Your ability to be nimble lies in your ability to breathe.
Laozi said [Daodejing, chapter 43]: “The softest thing in the world [referring to water] wears away the hardest thing in the world.” To achieve softness is therefore to achieve hardness. When performing the postures, energy will be gradually sinking down, naturally giving rise to nimbleness. Inhaling is lifting and gathering. Exhaling is sinking and releasing. This kind of breathing is the manner of breathing you were born with, the opposite of the breathing habit you have learned. With it you can lift the opponent and send him away.
By nurturing energy with integrity, it will not be corrupted. By storing power in crooked parts, it will be in abundant supply.
Mengzi said [Mengzi, chapter 2a]: “I am good at nurturing my noble energy… until it is vast and strong. I use integrity to nurture it and do not corrupt it, and thus it fills up the world.” Taiji Boxing is a matter of nurturing the energy you were born with rather than wielding the energy of habits. Other methods of wielding energy are big frauds, but in nurturing energy you are going along with what is natural. Practice every day, nurturing it, but do not be overly aware of it. After several decades, so much emptiness will have been amassed that it turns into fullness, “vast and strong.” Then when you make use of it, your crooked parts will store power and standby to issue. Upon issuing, it will be so abundant that no one would be able to resist.
Your mind makes the command, the energy is its flag, and your waist is its banner.
Your mind is the commander issuing orders. The energy is then the flag which conveys the orders. Your waist is the large banner that stands straight and does not tip over, and thus does not signal to the army that it has lost the battle.
First strive to open up, then strive to close up, and from there you will be able to attain a refined subtlety.
Regardless of practicing the solo set or the pushing hands, in either case first strive to open up, which gets your hips to be always moving when there is even the slightest action. Once you have become skillful, strive to close up, big circles turning into small circles turning into no circles, as it is said [preface to “Zhong Yong”]: “Sent out, it fills the world. Shrunk back, it hides in subtlety.”
It is also said:
First in your mind, then in your body. Your abdomen relaxes and then energy collects in your bones. Spirit comfortable, body calm – at every moment be mindful of this.
In Taiji, it begins with your mind and ends with your body, as it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song]: “Mind is sovereign and body is subject.” When your abdomen relaxes completely, not retaining the smallest amount of habitual effort, then energy will collect in your lower back. When the energy is collected in your lower back, you will realize the strength of it. Your spirit should be comfortable and your body should be calm. When this is the case, then you can adapt in an orderly and effortless manner, entirely free of confusion.
Always remember: if one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.
When inside and out are as one, you will then be capable of this. There is also the intention of your upper body and lower coordinating with each other.
As the movement leads back and forth, energy stays near the back and gathers in the spine. Inwardly bolster spirit and outwardly show ease.
These words have to do with playing hands. While the movements lead back and forth, it is necessary to contain your chest and pluck up your back, which makes the energy stick to your back and collect in your spine where it waits for the opportunity, and once the moment comes, it issues. If you can get the energy to stick to your back and collect in your spine, then you can get the power to come from your spine. But if you cannot, you will only be using the strength of your hands and feet. With your spirit bolstered and your body at ease, you will be without confusion.
Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk.
This is the manner of moving continuously without interruption and the intention of waiting for the moment to issue power.
Throughout your body, your mind should be on your spirit rather than on the energy, for if you are fixated on the energy, your movement will become sluggish. Whenever your mind is on the energy, there will be no power, whereas if you ignore the energy and let it take care of itself, there will be pure strength.
Taiji Boxing is all about the movement of spirit and does not emphasize the physical effort of acquired habit. The energy of letting energy maintain you is innate from birth. The energy of moving energy around is an acquired habit. The acquired energy keeps finishing, but the innate energy goes on and on.
The energy is like a wheel and your waist is like an axle.
Whereas the energy being a flag and your waist being a banner describes the still aspect, the energy being a wheel and your waist being an axle describes the moving aspect. Your waist is the pivot for your whole body, so if your waist moves, the innate energy will be like the moving of a wheel. It will be as it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song]: “Energy will flow through your whole body without getting stuck anywhere.”
Additional: A SELECTION OF SONGS
Ward-off, rollback, press, and push are the four cardinal directions [i.e. the four primary techniques].
Pluck, rend, elbow, and bump are the four corner directions [i.e. the four secondary techniques].
They are associated with the eight trigrams – Qian, Kun, [Kan, Li,] and [Sun,] Zhen, Dui, [Gen].
Advance and retreat, stepping left and right, and staying put – these are associated with the five elements.
From extreme softness, extreme hardness comes naturally.
When the movement is like drawing silk, at every point there is clarity.
Through opening up then closing up, you will gain a refined subtlety.
Await the moment, then make your move, stepping like a cat.
Focus on your elixir field to smelt internal skill.
Within “heng!” [when expanding] and “ha…” [when contracting], there are endless subtleties.
With passive and active dividing in movement and blending in stillness, bend and extend.
Responding slowly to slowness and quickly to quickness, the theory will be realized.
Move lightly and nimbly, spirit gathering within.
Show no interruption in the movement, for it should be continuous.
When your left has to do something, your right also has something to do, for empty and full have their places.
When your upward intention contains a downward, bad habits return [i.e. it brings stiffens to the opponent’s posture].
Extend your neck and draw up your headtop, your arms both loosening.
Strongly bind energy downward, bracing it upward at your crotch.
Sound it from your gut when you express power, beating with your fists.
While your toes grip the ground, your upper body bends like a bow.
X. ESSENTIALS OF PRACTICING THE TAIJI BOXING ART [dictated by Yang Chengfu, recorded by Chen Weiming – text again copied from his 1925 book]
1. FORCELESSLY PRESS UP YOUR HEADTOP
By “press up your headtop” is indicated that the appearance of your head is upright and spirit penetrates to your headtop. You must not use exertion. If you use exertion, your neck will be straining, and energy and blood will be unable to flow through. There must be an intention of being forceless and natural. If you do not have this quality of forcelessly pressing up your headtop, then spirit cannot be raised.
2. CONTAIN YOUR CHEST & PLUCK UP YOUR BACK
To “contain your chest” means your chest is slightly shrugged inward, causing energy to sink to your elixir field. Your chest must not stick out. If it sticks out, then energy will swarm to your chest area, resulting in your upper body being heavy and your lower body being light, and your heels will easily float up. To “pluck up your back” means energy sticks to your back. If you can contain your chest, then you will automatically be able to pluck up your back. If you can pluck up your back, then you can issue power from your spine and be invincible.
3. YOUR WAIST MUST LOOSEN
The waist is the controller of the whole body. If you can loosen your waist, then your feet will have strength, and your stance will be stable. The transformations between empty and full all come from the turning of your waist. Thus it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song] that the “command comes from your lower back”, and if you do not have the advantage, the problem “must be in your waist and legs, so look for it there”.
4. DISTINGUISH CLEARLY BETWEEN EMPTY & FULL
In the Taiji boxing art, clearly distinguishing empty and full is of prime importance. If the weight is on your right leg, your right leg is full and your left leg is empty. If the weight is on your left leg, your left leg is full and your right leg is empty. If you can clearly distinguish between empty and full from each other, movements will be light and nimble, not at all strenuous. If they cannot be clearly distinguished, your steps will be heavy and sluggish, your stance will naturally be unstable, and it will be easy for an opponent to pull you off-balance. Can you afford to be incautious?
5. SINK YOUR SHOULDERS & DROP YOUR ELBOWS
To “sink your shoulders” means your shoulders loosen and hang down. If they cannot loosen and hang, they will end up lifting, then energy will also follow them upward, and your whole body will have no strength. To “drop your elbows” means an intention of loosening your elbows to drop them downward. If your elbows are lifted up, neither will your shoulders be able to sink, and you will not send the opponent far. It would be more like the interrupted power of external styles.
6. USE INTENTION, NOT EXERTION
A Taiji Boxing essay [Li Yiyu’s Five-Word Formula] says: “This is entirely a matter of using intention, not exertion.” When practicing Taiji Boxing, your whole body should be loosened. If you do not allow there to be the slightest bit of clumsy effort clogging up the spaces between your muscles and bones, vessels and meridians, and which would tie you up in knots, then you can be nimble and adaptable, rounded and unhindered. You may ask: “If one does not exert oneself, how can one get stronger?” A person’s body has energy channels like irrigation canals. When a canal is unblocked, the water can move, and when the channels are not closed off, energy can flow. If your whole body is stiff, it is as though the channels have been filled in, and thus the energy and blood become stagnant, the movement becomes awkward, and your whole body will be affected by but the tug of a hair. If you use intention instead of exertion, then wherever your intention goes, energy will arrive. If energy and blood are flowing, for days and months coursing through, circulating through your whole body without a moment of stagnation, then after practicing for a long time, you will obtain genuine internal power. Another Taiji essay [Understanding How To Practice] says: “Extreme softness begets extreme hardness.” This is the idea. One who is skilled in Taiji Boxing has arms like cotton wrapped around iron and they feel very heavy. When practitioners of external styles use exertion, it is obvious they are exerting themselves, and when they do not use exertion, they are very light and floating. It can be seen that their strength is an external and superficial strength. The strength of external styles is the easiest to take advantage of, therefore do not esteem it.
7. YOUR UPPER BODY & LOWER COORDINATE WITH EACH OTHER
The meaning of this is stated in the Taiji Treatise: “Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process.” And so your hands move, your waist moves, your feet move, and even your gaze also goes along with the movement. If it is like this, then you can say your upper body and lower are coordinating with each other, but if there is one part that is not moving with all the rest, then you are in disorder.
8. INSIDE & OUT JOIN WITH EACH OTHER
Taiji training is all about the spirit. Therefore it is said [in an earlier version of Understanding How to Practice]: “Your spirit is the general and your body is the army.” If your spirit can be lifted, naturally the movement will be nimble. When practicing the solo set, there is nothing more to it than emptiness and fullness, and expansion and contraction. Expansion is not only a matter of the hands and feet. The intention also expands. Contraction is not only a matter of hands and feet. The intention also contracts. If you can merge inside and outside into a single unit, there will be entirely no distinction between them.
9. THE MOVEMENTS ARE LINKED TOGETHER WITHOUT INTERRUPTION
In external styles of boxing arts, their strength is only the clumsy strength of acquired habit. Therefore there is a start and a stop, a continuing and an interrupting. It is when old force is spent and new force is not yet initiated that is the easiest moment for an opponent to take advantage of. Taiji Boxing uses intention, not exertion, and so from beginning to end, it is continuous without interruption, recycling endlessly. As it is said [in the Classic]: “It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly.” It is also said [in Understanding How to Practice]: “Move energy as if drawing silk.” These words describe a continuous flow throughout.
10. WITHIN MOVEMENT, SEEK STILLNESS
External styles of boxing arts look upon jumping and posing as ability. Practitioners spend all of their energy, and therefore after practicing are always panting for breath. Taiji uses stillness to control movement, and although moving, seems yet to be in stillness. Therefore when practicing the solo set, the slower the better. When it is slow, your breath will be deep and long, energy will sink to your elixir field, and there will naturally be no excessive rise in heart-rate. Students who are attentive and realize through experience will all get the idea.
The ten essentials above are indispensible to the practice of Taiji Boxing. Every movement must have the ten essentials within them, otherwise it does not count as practice. I hope you will pay attention to them and refer to them.
XI. TAIJI BOXING’S FIVE-WORD FORMULA [by Li Yiyu]
1. The mind is CALM.
If your mind is not calm, it will not be focused, and each movement of your hands, be it forward or back, left or right, will not be in any definite direction. Therefore your mind should be calm. At first your movement will not yet be able to come from yourself, and so you should clear your mind and let your body intuit, going along with the opponent’s movements. Bend and then extend, neither coming away nor crashing in, and do not expand and contract on your own. When the opponent has power, I also have power, but my power beats him to the punch. When he has no power, I also have power [no power], but it is my intention that beats him to the decision. You should constantly pay attention. Wherever the opponent nears you, your mind should go there. You must neither come away nor crash in, and then you will be able to analyze what is going on. After doing this for about a year or so, it will become natural part of you. This is entirely a matter of using intention and is not a matter of using strength. Over time, you will reach the point in which you can say “he is under my control and I am not under his”.
2. The body is LIVELY.
If your body is sluggish, advancing and retreating cannot be done smoothly. Therefore your body should be lively. When moving your hands, there must be nothing resembling hesitation. When the opponent’s force hinders even the hairs on my skin, my intention instantly enters his bones and my hands are bracing him, all as one event. If he puts pressure on my left side, I empty my left side and my right side goes forth, or if he puts pressure on my right side, I empty my right side and my left side goes forth, the energy like a wheel. Your whole body should be coordinated. If there is a lack of coordination anywhere, your body will then be disorganized, and you will then have no power. Seek for the problem in your waist and legs. First use your mind to command your body, and follow the opponent rather than yourself. Later your body will be able to follow your mind, yet this moving from yourself will still depend on following the opponent. If you act from yourself, you will be sluggish. If you follow the opponent, you will be lively. If you can follow the opponent, your hands on him will detect in finer detail, weighing the size of his power and being accurate to the smallest measure, assessing the length of his attack and not being off by the slightest bit, and you will advance and retreat always at the right moment. The more you work at it, the more perfected your skill will be.
3. The energy is COLLECTED.
If your energy is scattered, then it will not be stored, and your body will easily fall into disorder. You must cause the energy to collect into your spine. Inhaling and exhaling penetrates and enlivens, influencing every part of your body. Inhaling is contracting and storing. Exhaling is expanding and releasing. Since with inhaling there is a natural rising, take the opponent up. Since with exhaling there is a natural sinking, spit the opponent away. This is the use of intention to move energy, not the use of exertion to force energy.
4. The power is COMPLETE.
The power of your whole body is trained to become a single unit, distinguishing clearly between empty and full. To issue power, there should be a source of it. Power starts from your heel, it is directed at your waist, and expresses at your fingers, issuing from your spine. With it there should also be a rousing of all your spirit. When the opponent’s power is about to be come out but has not yet issued, my power connects with and invades his instantly, neither late nor early, as if my skin is a burning fire or as if a spring is gushing forth. I advance and retreat without the slightest disorder, and seeking the straight within the curved, I store and then issue. Thus I am able to be effortlessly successful. This is called “borrowing his force to hit him with”, the technique of “using four ounces to move a thousand pounds”.
5. The spirit is GATHERED.
With the four above prepared, finally spirit gathers. Once spirit is gathered, then energy is tempered, and this smelted energy then reinforces spirit. Energy is ready to move and spirit is concentrated. Expand and contract are decisive. Empty and full are distinct. When left is empty, right is full. When right is empty, left is full. Empty does not mean you are in that area completely weak, but that energy should there be ready to move. Full does not mean you are in that area completely stuck, but that spirit should there be concentrated. It is crucial that changes are within your chest and waist and are not external. Force is borrowed from the opponent. Energy is expressed from your spine. How can energy issue from your spine? It sinks downwards, going from your shoulders, gathering in your spine, and concentrates in your waist. This energy going from above to below is called “contracting”. Then it goes from your waist to your spine, spreading to your arms to be applied at your fingers. This energy going from below to above is called “expanding”. Contracting is gathering. Expanding is releasing. When you can understand expanding and contracting, then you will understand passive and active. When you reach this state, then daily work will yield daily refinement, and gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want and everything will happen as you imagine.
XII. THE TRICK TO RAISING & RELEASING [by Li Yiyu]
Raise, draw in, relax, and release.
I get the opponent’s body to rise up and I borrow his force. (This has to do with “lively”.)
Once I have drawn him in front of me, my power begins to store. (This has to do with “collected”.)
I relax my power, but I do not allow it to collapse. (This has to do with “calm”.)
When I release, it comes from my waist and legs. (This has to do with “complete”.)
XIII. ESSENTIALS IN PRACTICING THE SOLO SET & PLAYING HANDS [by Li Yiyu]
An earlier teacher said: “If you can draw the opponent in to land on nothing, you can then use four ounces of force to move his of a thousand pounds. If you cannot draw the opponent in to land on nothing, you cannot use four ounces to move a thousand pounds.” These words are rather vague and a beginner would not understand them. I will explain further so that those who want this skill are in a position to begin and then after much regular training get to possess it:
If you want to draw the opponent into emptiness and use four ounces to move a thousand pounds, you first must know both yourself and the opponent. If you want to know both yourself and the opponent, you first must let go of your plans and just respond to the opponent. If you want to let go of your plans and just respond to the opponent, you first must be in the right place at the right time. If you want to be in the right place at the right time, you first must get your whole body to behave as one unit. If you want to get your whole body to behave as one unit, you first must get your whole body to be without cracks or gaps. If you want to get your whole body to be without cracks or gaps, you first must get your spirit and energy to be ready. If you want your spirit and energy to be ready, you first must rouse your spirit. If you want to rouse your spirit, you must first keep it from being distracted. If you want to keep your spirit from being distracted, you first must get your spirit and energy to gather and collect in your spine. If you want to get your spirit and energy to gather and collect in your spine, you first must get the front of your thighs to have strength, get your shoulders to loosen, and get your energy to sink downward.
Power starts from your heel, is transferred through your leg, stored in your chest, moved at your shoulders, and controlled at your waist. In your upper body, your arms are connected with each other. In your lower body, your legs are coordinated with each other. Power is transferred from within. Gathering is contracting. Releasing is expanding. When becoming still, everything becomes still. Stillness refers to contracting. When contraction finishes, there will be expansion. When there is movement, everything moves. Movement refers to expanding. When expansion finishes, there will be contraction. Then when there is contact, you can turn smoothly and will be strong everywhere. You will then be able to draw the opponent in to land on nothing and use four ounces of force to move his of a thousand pounds.
Whenever you practice the solo set, it is the practice of knowing yourself. Before moving through the postures, make sure your whole body is in accord with the principles as stated above. When the slightest part is off, immediately adjust it. To facilitate this, the set should be done slowly rather than quickly. Playing hands is the practice of knowing the opponent. His movement and stillness must be firmly comprehended. Still examine yourself as well. If I am in good order myself, then when the opponent comes near me, I do not need to act upon him at all, but take advantage of his momentum to find a way in. Connecting firmly to his power, I let him cause himself to fall out. If you do not have a strong position, this is simply a case of double pressure rather than neutralization, and you should seek within passive and active, or contracting and expanding, to fix it. It is said [Art of War, chapter 3]: “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.”
XIV. TAIJI BOXING’S PLAYING HANDS SONG (playing hands meaning pushing hands) [with commentary by Chen Weiming – text again copied from his 1925 book]
Ward-off, rollback, press, and push must be taken seriously.
With coordination between above and below, the opponent will hardly find a way in.
I will let him attack me with as much power as he likes,
for I will tug with four ounces of force to move his of a thousand pounds.
Guiding him in to land on nothing, I then close on him and send him away.
I stick to him and go along with his movement instead of coming away or crashing in.
[line 1] “Taken seriously” means that the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push are all to be in accordance with the standards of the teaching as it has been passed down, precise to the smallest detail.
[line 2] Do a lot of playing hands every day. By working at it over a long period, you will automatically be able to have coordination between the upper body and the lower. When one part moves, every part will move.
[line 3] Even if he comes in to hit me with a lot of power,
[line 4] I slightly tug on his movement with a little extra, and so my “four ounces” can move his “thousand pounds”. Although he uses a lot of power, he will inevitably be extending far and straightening his joints, and so when he applies such power he will be incapable of altering his direction once he has started along it.
[line 5] I follow his direction and tempt him farther along it. His attack thus lands on nothing.
[line 6] But it is essential that I stick to him and move along with him rather than pull away from him or crash into him, for only then will I be able to draw him in to land on nothing with four ounces moving a thousand pounds.
It is also said:
If he takes no action, I take no action, but once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted. He seems relaxed but not relaxed, about to expand but not yet expanding. When my power finishes, my intent of it continues. When the lotus stalk is snapped, its fibers are still connected.
During playing hands, if he takes no action, I take no action and calmly await his action. If he takes the slightest action, his action will assuredly be in some direction, so my intention will move ahead of his action by going along the path he wants to take, and I will then take the initiative before he does and he will consequently stumble away. “He seems relaxed but not relaxed, about to expand but not yet expanding.” – these are words concerning monitoring the opponent’s energy. Be poised to act and await the opportunity, then when the moment comes, release. When you release, the power seems to finish but the intent of it does not finish.
XV: EXPERIENCES OF PRACTICING TAIJI BOXING – Part 1 [Though credited to Bai Zhixiang, the text below was plagiarized from Sun Lutang’s essay in chapter 8 of his 1924 manual.]
I have practiced boxing arts since my youth. I had heard every teacher say that these boxing arts are Daoist arts. I was doubtful whenever I heard this until I had progressed to training the hidden energy. Hardness and softness had merged into one, movement felt miraculous, and it became spontaneous and natural.
Discussing it with my fellow students, we each knew something about it. However, once I had moved on to training the neutral energy, the quality of discussion about my new internal condition had changed. Those who understood the experience were often less willing to talk about it, and those who knew nothing about it would not stop talking about it. For that reason, I have put pen to paper in order to reveal it to my fellows. For those of you who have passed through to such a condition, by sharing with each other we can mutually achieve perfection.
When I trained to develop the neutral energy, at the finish of each day’s practice of postures I would stand straight and think of my spirit and energy settling. Each time, I felt something down in my root chakra. It was like a plant sprouting, and in the beginning I did not pay it much attention.
In my daily practice, there were times when the sensation would be there, other times when I felt nothing at all. In the course of time, there were occasions when the sensation lasted very long, as well as other times in which there was again no sensation. Gradually, once in the finishing posture and thinking on settling, it seemed like it was there but on the verge of going away. I thought of what the Elixir Book says about seated meditation: “Your true active aspect activates.” I made use of this idea, which to elixirists is a matter of movement within stillness.
Among those who practice seated meditation, there are a great many who understand the idea of seeking movement within stillness. In the case of boxing arts, what is sought is stillness within movement, but I am not sure how that can be communicated. I also thought upon this phrase from the Boxing Classics: “Always the exercise is to be maintained and never allowed to slip away.” I trained every day, never skipping a day.
Eventually in the training, from the moment I was in the finishing posture my whole body went into a condition of emptiness. My true active aspect would also activate, but would be on the verge of going away. Such a state is what Sun Lutang [Sun’s original text: “Such a state is what Liu Huayang...”] meant by “returning to a sense of the true primordial state”. I became aware of my body’s smallest movement, and I dared not to move at all, for if I moved it would go away.
I thought if I returned to the method in the boxing, it would adjust the situation. My intention within was of sinking naturalness down to my elixir field, while underneath also using an intention of naturalness to lift up my rectum. The idea inside and out was now just like when practicing the boxing. Then the moment my intention focused on my elixir field, the active aspect promptly shrank in upward and resprouted there. My whole body was now pleasantly warm and stayed so continuously.
I did not yet know about the principle of rotating the dharma wheel, but it was all going on there within my elixir field, like two things in a state of competing with each other. [A dharma wheel rotation is the active energy moving up the Du meridian in the back and the passive energy moving down the Ren meridian in front, and the elixir field is where the exchange of passive and active takes place.] Then after four or five hours like that, finally they were at peace.
It seemed to me that the cause of such stillness was that from when I was practicing the boxing, the essential breath had remained in my elixir field. Even when I was not practicing, despite even the breathing of conversation, the true breath within was not hindered at all. Indeed I was not trying to deliberately cause such an effect, but there was no moment when it was not so. Zhuangzi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 6]: “An authentic man breathes with his heels.” This is essentially the idea, and this engine of there being breath without my mind being on the breath drove the activity of the active aspect to be absorbed and to smoothly reach to every part of my body.
I thereafter repeated the process as before, again rousing my elixir field, again going through my practice routine of boxing postures. With my inside and outside always a single continuum, I slowly and leisurely practiced, not allowing the slightest bit of unevenness anywhere. As I practiced, within and to my extremities it was harmonious, a continuous emptiness, and then the situation once I was standing in the finishing posture was no different from before.
There were times when I would go through my practice routine and then feel nothing, times when I would go through my routine twice and still feel nothing. But subsequently when there was something happening, I would again lift it to my elixir field and then use the boxing’s internal breathing to rotate the dharma wheel, my intention focusing on my elixir field.
Breathing mindfully, I rotated the wheel along its course from my tailbone, to my spine, to my head, to my headtop, and then back down, same as in seated meditation practice, back down to my elixir field. At times I could do only two or three rotations and then the feeling would stop, at times only three or four rotations and then the feeling would stop. The degree of my intent was matched in both cases, the amount of rotations I could manage and the amount of boxing practice I had put in.
Later when I was not practicing, whether I was just sitting, standing, or walking, inside I was still using the breathing of the boxing practice. My body while walking could still process it. Later on it happened even when I was sleeping deeply. There would be a sudden stirring within, which immediately woke me. I again used the breathing from practicing the boxing to absorb it. I then slept soundly, and inside there was no movement. Inside and out, my whole body to its extremities suddenly felt like a void. My whole body was as harmoniously contented as if I was taking a bath.
Sometimes when this situation happened in my sleep, I was able in my dream to mindfully breathe and thereby absorb it. After I woke up, I was aware that it had happened and had been dealt with in my dream.
After practicing the boxing, I slept soundly and there was stillness within. Eventually I only had to fall asleep for my inside and out to suddenly slip into a period of emptiness. During the day, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, my limbs also experienced periods of such emptiness, and the sensation within my body was extraordinarily comfortable. Every evening, I practiced the boxing, and then while I was asleep in the night, my body often slipped into a state of emptiness. Although if I did not practice in the evening, the emptiness during sleep would occur less regularly.
Later on I understood that elixirisism has an energy which dispels ailments. My own personal experiences and observations of internal and external conditions were that typical human problems become inconsequential, all illnesses are cast off, and vitality is increased. After doing seated meditation in this way and practicing the boxing in this way, I finally understood that boxing arts and elixirism share the same principles.
This has been my personal experience, internal and external, of practicing boxing arts. I have written it down for the purpose of further clarifying for my comrades.
– written in Yangshi by Bai Zhixiang of Hubei, May, 1936
“Younger Brother” Bai is addicted to martial arts, and is especially good at healing injuries. Xingyi, Taiji, Bagua, Shaolin, Cha Boxing, and many other martial arts – he knows them all. But in the area of Taiji, he in 1930 received extra pointers from Yang Chengfu. Yang was appointed as an advisor to the Jiangsu Martial Arts Institute, Bai having been appointed as an instructor. From the convenience of being in the same building, he so often got instruction that he reached a very deep level. This little additional note is just to supply fellow enthusiasts with reference information.
– note by Gu Ruzhang
XV (Cont.): EXPERIENCES OF PRACTICING TAIJI BOXING – Part 2
In my practice of the Taiji boxing art, I have felt it to be different from other boxing arts. In the external school, the energy of every technique in the practice sets is separated, whereas in this art it is required that there be an intention of continuousness that must run all the way through it. Therefore I often explain by way of these words from Confucius [Lun Yu, 4.15]: “All my doctrine has a single unifying thread running through it.” Although you must distinguish between empty and full in every posture, it is like a string of prayer beads, the way they are not actually connected one to another but are connected because of a string that runs through them, and it is this string that is the idea of continuousness.
Tradition has it that Zhang Sanfeng was indoors reciting scriptures when he suddenly heard a snake and a sparrow fighting outside in the courtyard, and he then imitated the general idea of what they were doing and it became Taiji Boxing. Beginners will not yet be able to understand its concepts but after many years will reach the point of practiced skill, gradually inclining toward softness.
When practicing the boxing set, I feel there is an intention of a snake body wriggling – [Art of War, chapter 11:] “Strike its head and its tail responds, strike its tail and its head responds, or strike its middle and both head and tail respond.” The movement goes on and on without end, transforming without limit. As you go through these changes, you will gain marvelous effects from it, yet you must focus your attention on the work of nurturing your energy. Mengzi said [Mengzi, chapter 2a]: “I am good at nurturing my noble energy.” His energy was the grandest and most indomitable. The way of nurturing energy in the school of Taiji Boxing is the same idea as his.
Cultivating your “noble energy” is a daily task. When practicing the boxing set, spirit should gather within, energy should sink to your elixir field, and you should loosen your shoulders and drop your elbows. In the movements of each posture, you must not break apart the integration of mind and intent. Rouse your outward energy so it fills into every part of your body until there is no part unfilled. It says in the Boxing Classics [Understanding How to Practice]: “By nurturing energy with integrity, it will not be corrupted.” This is exactly the idea.
I now present various principles of practice, described individually below:
Loosening is the prime essential in practicing Taiji Boxing. Its intention is not the same as scattering, which is like sand grains going every which way, unconnected to each other, and thus it is a common thing to say “like sand scattering”. But with loosening, there is the intention of not disconnecting, making it more like the hundred and eight Buddhist prayer beads. Although they can be seen as separate beads, there is a thread running through them and so they are not dispersed from each other. Therefore while practicing Taiji Boxing, we must start from loosening our shoulders, then elbows, then wrists, after which every part of the body must be loosened.
Opening means to spread open, as if drawing a bow. In Taiji Boxing there is opening and closing, emptiness and fullness. It says in the Boxing Classics [Understanding How to Practice]: “First strive to open up,…” During moments of opening while practicing the boxing set, striving to open must be done with an intention that wants to keep on opening. In this way, your sinews will then naturally be stretched, and with your sinews lengthened, the strength of your intention will be developed. That is why it is said that opening is like drawing a bow. Movements in the boxing set such as DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE, WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS, and SINGLE ROD all exhibit the quality of opening, but must not be overdone to one side, for regarding what is in front without considering what is behind is something very important to avoid.
Extending continues from opening. Extending is like unrolling a painting scroll until it is fully spread. Movements in the boxing set such as RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY and RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE both contain the intention of extending.
Tightening is the best cure for slackening, but does not have the intention of being tense. The phrase in the Boxing Classics continues: “… then strive to close up.” Generally when training in boxing arts, not only Taiji, we must initially seek to open up and extend in order to develop our sinews and bones. Once we have achieved success in that regard, we will put out our hands with more compactness to prevent the opponent’s ideas of making surprise attacks.
Slackening is the prime thing to avoid in practicing Taiji Boxing. If you are slackening during practice, your spirit will be unable to lift up and it will feel frustratingly slow and sluggish. When you are intent upon it but your spirit is not involved, practicing is no better than not practicing. Or if you get only halfway through the boxing set and take a rest, and then do not come back to it, that is also a display of slackness. Beginners are especially prone to it as it blankets over skill-building with its influence. And so I say: “If you’re not practicing the art, then that’s that.” But if you are practicing with mindfulness, you must not slacken in your resolution, and then you will be able to progress toward achievement with each day.
To go slow means to not be in a rush. It is an indispensable feature of practicing Taiji Boxing, which should be done slowly and evenly. But the postures must not come to a halt due to the slowness, for they have to be continuous, and you will then be able to obtain the true essence of the art. Practicing the solo set is the foundation of the system and is the practice of knowing yourself. Pushing hands with a partner is the application training and is the practice of knowing the opponent. And so it is said [Art of War, chapter 3]: “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” For the hands to be moving slowly and evenly is difficult for beginners to achieve, even more difficult to do with the legs. It says in the Boxing Classics [Understanding How to Practice]: “Step like a cat.” The feet should come down with delicacy and must not make a sound. In this way, after a long period your upper body and lower will naturally become capable at coordinating with each other, and energy will be reaching to your elixir field.
The list of principles above is my own experience of practicing Taiji Boxing, which I have recorded to share with my comrades. Because time is short, and I had to hurry up and finish the book for the printers, I have related only a little bit, but students will glean much from the little that is here. When practicing, be guided by the theory within the art. If you memorize and ponder, it surely will not be difficult to proceed to mastery.
XVI. THINGS THAT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD IN THE APPLICATION OF TAIJI BOXING
In Taiji Boxing, emptiness is the foundation. The art is really no more than the refining of both spirit and energy. Use pure energy to create the movements throughout your body. In every bowing and raising, bending and extending, each resembles your spirit. Make body and mind merge into one. It is through opening and closing, rousing and stirring, exhaling and inhaling, advancing and withdrawing, that we refine energy, and it is through the ribs contracting [another way of saying tucking in the tailbone] that we quicken the spirit, causing the Taiji theory and function to come together.
BODY METHODS [by Wu Yuxiang]
- Contain your chest.
- Pluck up your back.
- Lift your headtop.
- Suspend your crotch.
- Suddenly extend.
- Always be ready.
ESSENTIAL [TARGETS] OF FINGER JABBING
鎖項 兩脇上中下 節末。
- to the throat
- both flanks (high, middle, low)
- the ends of the limbs
擎心掌 貫耳掌 撲面掌 托肚掌
- palm striking to the solar plexus
- palm covering the ears
- pouncing palm to the face
- propping palm to the belly
搬攔捶 指襠捶 撇身捶 肘底捶 栽捶 頂心捶
- Parrying-Block Punch
- Punch to the Crotch
- Torso-Flung Punch
- Punch Under the Elbow
- Planting Punch
- Punch to the Solar Plexus
PLAYING HANDS RELEASINGS [by Wu Yuxiang]
掤平聲 業入聲 噫上聲 咳入聲 呼平聲 吭平聲 呵去聲 哈上聲
“Peng!” “Ye!” “Yi!” “Hai!” “Hu!” “Keng!” “He!” “Ha!”
XVII. ADDED PRESCRIPTIONS
ginseng – 50 grams
cinnabar grounds – 15 grams
Once it is all powdered, use 1.5 grams of it at a time.
sweet wolfberry fruit – 200 grams
grass-leaved sweetflag – 200 grams
polygala – 100 grams
tuckahoe with pine – 25 grams
powdered straw – 15 grams
CHAPTER TWO: THE TAIJI BOXING SOLO SET EXPLAINED IN DETAIL (INCLUDING PHOTOS)
LIST OF TAIJI BOXING POSTURE NAMES
TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE
SIT & TWIST, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
RAISE THE HANDS
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
HOLDING THE LUTE
LEFT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
RIGHT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
LEFT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
HOLDING THE LUTE
TWISTING STANCE, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
SEARCHING THE SEA, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
RAISE THE HANDS
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
FAN THROUGH THE ARMS
WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
RIGHT CROUCHING TIGER & KICK TO THE SIDE
LEFT CROUCHING TIGER & KICK TO THE SIDE
TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK
LEFT & RIGHT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH
TURN AROUND, WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
RIGHT DIAGONAL PRESSING KICK
LEFT DRAPING-BODY CROUCHING TIGER, WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
RIGHT DRAPING-BODY CROUCHING TIGER, METEOR PUNCH
CROSSED HANDS, CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
TURN AROUND, RIGHT PRESSING KICK
DOUBLE WINDS THROUGH THE EARS
RIGHT DIAGONAL PRESSING KICK
TURN AROUND, RIGHT PRESSING KICK TO THE SIDE
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
STEP FORWARD, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
CROSSED HANDS, CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
SEARCHING THE SEA, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
DIAGONAL SINGLE ROD
LEFT & RIGHT WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
TURN AROUND, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE TAIJI
MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
SINGLE ROD, LOW POSTURE
LEFT & RIGHT GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
RAISE THE HANDS
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
FAN THROUGH THE ARMS
WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, CHANGING TO THREADING PALM
TURN TO THE RIGHT, PRESSING KICK (KICKING WITH THE OPPOSITE HAND FORWARD)
COME DOWN, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
STEP FORWARD, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
SINGLE ROD CONTINUING INTO LOW POSTURE
STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER
RETREAT TO SITTING TIGER POSTURE
TURN AROUND, SWINGING LOTUS KICK
BEND THE BOW TO SHOOT THE TIGER
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
MERGING WITH THE GRAND POLARITY (CLOSING POSTURE)
Name: WUJI POSTURE
This is the preparation posture. There is no movement at all. Wuji (“without polarity”) is a metaphor for a state of complete emptiness within your mind, all thoughts cleared away, all emotions in stillness. There are no shapes, no forms, no distinctions, no distractions, your spirit is concentrated, and the six harmonies are returned to being just one [i.e. the three dimensions are now as if none – there is but space, a void], thus the name.
For the footwork in the opening posture, stand facing south, your feet parallel with each other and spread apart to shoulder width. Your gaze must be forward and level. Your arms hang naturally. Your mind is empty and your energy is mild. Inside there is nothing thought of and outside there is nothing shown. Your body stands straight, energy sinking to your elixir field. Contain your chest and pluck up your back. Without these qualities, even if you practice every day, you will train in vain, and any nimbleness in your movements will only look like drunkenness.
Practicing this posture can nourish your spirit. It is the same kind of thing as Buddhist seated meditation.
This posture has everything in it, its functions numerous. The idea is to wait for whatever the opponent wants to surprise me with so that I will respond according to the situation.
For this posture, see photo 1:
Name: TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE
This posture is the beginning movement when practicing the Taiji boxing set, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, staying where you are, your hands slowly lift forward until level, the tiger’s mouths facing upward, lifting until at shoulder level, and must not be too high or too low. Your elbows are slightly bent, should not be extended straight, and they have an intention of sinking. When your hands lift up to be level, you must use intention to lead them. You especially should loosen your shoulders and press up your neck. Without these qualities, you will not be able to obtain the subtlety within this posture. Taiji is born of the Nameless, and from this posture then sprouts a continuous flow.
This posture trains in your arms the abilities of both carrying and expanding, and can further increase such powers. It also can relax and enliven your blood vessels so that your circulation is smoothly switching roles between going from and going to your heart in an unobstructed flow. There is a natural dynamic throughout the set of the movements opening and closing smoothly, suddenly expanding, suddenly contracting. Practicing with great dedication, you can obtain the subtlety of contained energy. All effects will begin from this posture.
If an opponent skillfully uses both fists to attack me, I connect to his elbows and carry them. I especially must observe his direction of force in order to stabilize it and make him unable to do anything, causing him to feel stupid.
For this posture, see photo 3 [photo 2]:
Name: SIT & TWIST, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE
In this posture, the footwork is front foot emptying, rear foot filling, the weight of your whole body going onto your left foot. Your palms are facing each other as though you are holding a taiji sphere, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your body turns to the right, your right arm going along with the turn, elbow bent like a crescent moon, palm downward about eight inches from your chest. At the same time, your left hand turns inward from below to be palm up, facing the right palm above, making a yin/yang shape, as if your hands are holding a ball. Once your right foot has turned, it must be pointed straight, your left knee behind appears to crouch, and your right knee in front must be diagonally vertical. Your chest is upright and must not be leaning forward or back, but your belly seems to hollow, and thus you will be able to gather energy.
In terms of its results, it can strengthen your kidneys and help nourish balance within them, making you tough and invincible. In terms of its function, an opponent will surely use a great force to attack me, but I will then use only the slightest force and it will be sufficient to deal with it. It is like the edgelessness of a ball, for once contact is made, he easily slips off.
If an opponent punches toward my chest, I use both hands to connect with it and carry his fist, sending it outward and unable to strike my body.
For this posture, see photo 3:
Posture 4 (part 1)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
The idea is that a bird is taking flight and I then lift up to catch it at its tail. The intention is that when an opponent attacks me, I then catch his fist. This posture contains the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push, which are the most important elements in Taiji Boxing.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot withdraws so the toes are close to your right foot, then takes a step to the forward left as your left hand spreads away horizontally, your right hand withdrawing to the rear with an intention of slowly pulling, palm down. Your left hand is at shoulder level, tiger’s mouth up, your gaze toward the tiger’s mouth. Your legs are making a bow stance. Your waist should be straight.
As for its result, every part of your body is developed in a balanced way, therefore it can strengthen your physique and increase internal power. As for its function, If I have obtained the authentic teachings and understand in detail, then when an opponent suddenly attacks me, my response will send him away, but otherwise it would be like trying to shake a great tree. If you work hard in your practice, you will be almost there.
Application of ward-off:
If an opponent uses his right hand to strike me, I then use my right hand to connect to his wrist while stepping forward into a left bow stance, and use my left hand in a ward-off to his ribs.
For this posture, see photo 4:
Posture 4 (part 2)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand turns over so the palm is upward and goes upward from your waist, passing the outside of your left elbow, and warding off outward to the right. Your right foot at the same time withdraws and then extends to the forward right, making a right bow stance, your left hand going to the rear with an intention of slowly pulling, palm down. Your gaze is to your right tiger’s mouth.
See part 1.
If the opponent then uses his right hand to grab my hand, and while retreating his right foot he uses his left hand to attack my chest, I then squat my body, withdrawing my right hand, using my left hand to grab his left hand, advance into a right bow stance, and use my right hand in a ward-off to his ribs. Due to his attacking momentum, this can cause him to lean forward and stumble away.
For this posture, see photo 5:
Posture 4 (part 3)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand turns outward, your left hand coming forward, until they are about a foot from each other at half body width. Your hands then go along with your body, which goes downward to the rear and sits on your left leg, and both palms turn from facing outward to now be left palm upward, right palm downward, one passive and one active, slowly withdrawing. Your elbows should sink, your shoulders should loosen, and your waist should have a sinking energy. Your gaze is to your right hand. This is the rollback technique.
See part 1.
Application of rollback:
After the opponent used his fist to attack my chest, I then hollowed my chest and pulled down with both hands, withdrawing my right hand and using my left hand to connect to his hand, stepping forward into a bow stance and using my right hand to do a ward-off to his ribs. If his aggression is not yet spent and he again punches to my chest, I then hollow my chest and use both hands to connect to his hand, following his momentum outward with a pull, causing his great force to be overturned and sent outward, without using any force of my own. The application would be the same on either side.
For this posture, see photo 6 [which shows the palms-outward moment at the beginning of the rollback instead of the completed rollback]:
Posture 4 (part 4)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand then turns to be thumb upward, palm inward, your left hand going along with the movement, palm correspondingly turning downward and outward, and with the palm about two inches from your right pulse area, both hands press in unison to the west. Your waist must advance with the movement. Your right leg becomes full, left leg empty. Your hands are at shoulder level. Your gaze follows the direction of your hands, looking level. This is the press technique.
See part 1. Additionally, this movement trains the pressing push. But when pressing outward, your lower back and your mind must go along with the movement. During the beginning of ability in this technique, it will be like pushing away something very heavy from in front of your chest.
Application of press:
If the opponent connects to my elbow area, I then use my other hand to assist my elbow and seize the opportunity to forcefully press outward. Or if he advances while I am rolling back his arm, I roll back further, and then once he retreats, I press and send him away. The application would be the same on either side.
For this posture, see photo 7:
Posture 4 (part 5)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, when your hands have pressed out to their limit, your left hand wipes the back of your right hand as they slowly separate to shoulder width. Your shoulders at the same time loosen and there must not be the slightest bit of awkward effort within. Your gaze is forward and level. Both palms are facing the ground. Your feet are in a bow and arrow stance.
See part 1.
Application of the rending technique:
Unnoticed by people who are only aware of the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push within Posture 4, there is also the rending technique. If the opponent uses both hands to seal off both of my hands by catching my elbows, I take advantage of the moment by spreading my hands apart. At this time, both palms must lift so the fingers are level, palms downward. In preparing to seal off the opponent’s hands, I can take advantage of the opportunity and return a strike. Even if he wants to escape, he will not be able to.
For this posture, see photo 8:
Posture 4 (part 6)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, your body sits back, your hands shrink back, stopping in front of your shoulders, palms forward, and your right foot has its heel touching down. The posture does not pause there. Your hands push out forward, and your feet, staying where they are, again make a stance of right bow and left arrow. When the push has reached its limit, there is an intention of pushing down from above, pushing down for about two or three inches until at shoulder level. When pushing down, you must only use intention, not forceful effort. Again you must be loosening your shoulders and dropping your elbows, and your body sinks down. Your gaze is forward and level.
The energy of pushing down can lead energy to your elixir field. When pressing outward toward the opponent, take advantage of the opportunity and push downward. When pushing down, you must be focused and solid rather than light and floating. You should always use your mind to express power, coursing it through to your palms and fingertips.
Application of push:
When the opponent’s hands press mine, I sink both hands into a push, causing him to naturally stumble away.
For [the first half of] this posture, see photo 9 [and look ahead to photo 28 for the second half]:
Posture 4 (part 7)
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as above)
Continuing from the previous posture, when the push has reached its limit, your hands pull across to the left. During the movement, use the strength of your lower back to lead the movement of your hands. Your right hand is in front, left hand behind. Your left arm is bent in front of your chest, palm outward, right arm straightened at an angle, tiger’s mouth upward. Once your body has turned to be squared with the starting posture, your right hand is extended level, left hand slightly lower. You are making a bow stance. Your waist and hands move in unison, not your hands first or waist first, otherwise the body standards will have been discarded.
This posture can enliven your whole body and bring robustness to your belly, waist, and shoulders.
If the opponent moves across from right to left, I grasp his arm by the elbow and push him, or I pull him to the rear and use the technique of pushing him diagonally.
For this posture, see photo 10:
Name: SINGLE ROD
In this posture’s movement, one palm extends forward and the other hand makes a hook shape to the rear. It is like a porter carrying objects with a yoke placed across his shoulders, thus the name. [The word 鞭 covers both soft “whips” and hard “whips”. In English, we would deem a “soft whip” to be a “whip” while a “hard whip” would be considered to be more along the lines of a “rod”. A soft whip explanation could be used to explain the movement, but the hard whip explanation describes the final posture, either with both arms nearly forming a single line like a rod or with the image of a shouldered pole being grasped from underneath by the front hand while the rear hand wraps lazily over the top of the pole behind.] It is also said the meaning is that it is like a single hand striking the opponent. [In this case it would be translated as “whip”. It is thoughtful of Gu to supply this whip explanation along with the rod explanation, but since he seems to emphasize the rod explanation, it is appropriate for us to translate the term as “rod” in his case.] These are the intentions and methods of whip/rod.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot withdraws, the toes closing inward toward your right sole, then once more extends outward. At the same time, your left hand goes to the left, downward, wraps in, [as in the first photo below,] goes upward from your elixir field, passing in front of your right shoulder and face, all the fingers loosely spread, palm bent inward. Your right foot was pointing to the west, and has turned on the heel to make the toes point south. The weight of your whole body is sitting on your right leg. Your right [left] foot now slowly extends to the east, toes slightly inclined to the west [southeast]. Your right heel now turns the toes slightly to the southeast, and the weight is on your right [left] leg. Your left hand goes along with the movement by turning outward and extending to the east to make the SINGLE ROD posture. To express power with your left hand, you must use your elixir field and the strength of your waist and back to twist the hand around and send it forward. It is particularly important for your waist and hand to arrive in unison, for they must not be acting unevenly with one before the other. See the second photo below, with the left leg in a bow stance.
This posture is outwardly hard and inwardly soft. It has the effects of clearing and lubricating the lung energy, freeing up your breath. The lungs are the key to it all [the “imperial canopy”]. If you obtain a means of keeping them clear and moist, there will be no unhealthy blockage or dryness and your spirit will be abundant. And so it can be said therefore that external hardness is enough to strengthen the body, but internal softness is what will nurture the energy.
If an opponent attacks me with both fists, I use my right hand to hook his left hand, then seize the opportunity to go inward and outward to block him, taking advantage of the moment to return a palm strike to his shoulder. If he then wishes to kick, I then turn my body away to evade it. Advancing, I can attack. Retreating, I can defend. The technique is very lively, mixing emptiness and fullness. If you do not go deeply into it and work hard, how can you offer it to others? I hope that all who study will make an effort.
For this posture, see photos 11 & 12:
Name: RAISE THE HANDS
Your hands raise up as though they are lifting something heavy, but not necessarily to carry it.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left heel turns to point the foot to the south, your hands at the same time extending forward, palms about eight inches away from each other, going along with your waist’s movement of turning to the southwest, left hand slightly more forward than the right by about three inches, the palms facing each other. Sink your shoulders and drop your elbows to loosen and settle in a natural manner. You must not use excessive force or you will fail in your purpose. Your right hand [foot] must during the movement lift to the southwest, gently touching down with the heel. Your gaze follows the direction of the movement. Your left leg sits full and your right leg stands empty. Things you should pay particular attention to are: your head should press up, your neck should be straight, your arms, waist, legs, and spine should all be flexible, and your elixir field should have an energy of drawing back. If you do it in this way, then you will be on your way to obtaining the subtleties within it.
This posture is outwardly soft and inwardly hard. Within it lies stillness stabilizing chaos. As for its function, you must distinguish between empty and full, and you must have the skill of rotating to fend off the opponent. You will thereby possess the skill of doing as you please, naturally managing everything without effort, and will have no worry of failing.
If an opponent uses both fists or a single fist striking from above, I use both hands, or a single hand, to prop up and prevent his fist [or fists] from coming down. If he also uses his leg to kick to my groin, I retreat a half step, leaving his kick to land on nothing and have no effect, while I can borrow his force and take advantage of the opportunity to seal off his hand and then return a push to send him away. I thereby exhaust his force and reverse the situation to occupy the superior position. From the first action, the rest will fall into place, and so it ought to be intuitive for you.
For this posture, see photo 13:
Name: WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
This posture’s movement is like a bird diagonally stretching out its wings, your arms spreading apart. Your right foot sits full and your left foot is empty, in the manner of a bird standing on one leg. Your right hand extends diagonally as your left hand pushes down. It is like a white crane unfurling its wings, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left [right] foot slightly lifts to the rear then advances a half step and flattens out, pivoting to point to the southeast, and your whole body sits onto your right leg. Your hands arc along with your waist, right hand arcing downward, palm forward, left hand arcing upward, palm downward, the two hands diagonally facing each other as if holding a ball. Then they spread apart, right hand on the inside and slowly lifting, left hand on the outside and slowly lowering, left palm downward throughout [but finishing by facing to the rear, going by the photo]. This posture must contain an intention of lightness, and then you are conforming to the [name of the] posture. Your body and hands are orderly, and then the movement is elegant. Go from stiffness to liveliness, and then you will be able to be skillful.
This posture is outwardly hard and inwardly soft. With emptiness in the center, energy is gathered and spirit is concentrated. With mildness above and below, there is no stagnation anywhere. For responding to an opponent, there is then a point of stability for this technique of chopping away. It can also exercise your right leg, as well as the ability of your waist and arms, can make your body nimble, strengthen your hips, open up your chest and lungs, and get power to be always contained within your elixir field.
If an opponent attacks me by kicking while punching with his opposite hand, I use my left hand to block his right leg and my right hand to block his left hand, forcefully lifting it up, and he must as a result lean and stumble away. Because he uses force too aggressively, I “use ease to await his exhaustion” [Art of War, chapter 7]. How then can his technique succeed? What is meant by kicking while the opposite hand is punching is that his left fist attacks my face while his right leg attacks my groin.
For this posture, see photo 14:
Name: BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
To “brush the knee” means to use your hand to brush past your knee. A “crossed stance” is a kind of stance resembling a twisting stance in that your left hand and right foot are forward, or right hand and left foot are forward. There are also people who call it LEFT & RIGHT BRUSH KNEE STANCE.
Continuing from the previous posture, your body twists to the left, your right hand pushing down, palm down, as your left hand, palm up, props up to shoulder level. It is like the first photo below. Then your body twists to the right, your left palm above deflecting downward, your right hand propping upward and extending. Your left hand is in front of your right shoulder. Your left hand is passive and your right hand is active. Your feet twist but stay where they are. Then your left foot withdraws to come close to your right instep, making an empty step. Your body slightly turns to face to the left, first stepping into a left bow stance, your left hand brushes to the outside of your left knee, and your right palm extends from beside your right ear as if striking an opponent, but the elbow should not be too straight. It is like the second photo below.
This posture exercises your ribs on both sides, as well as the pushing and brushing energies for both hands, and can stretch both arms and loosen your chest.
If an opponent uses his fist to attack me from behind, I use my left hand to grasp his fist and use my right hand to prop up his elbow, which can cause it to dislocate. The application is the same on either side. If an opponent in front of me then uses his foot to kick, I use my left hand to brush aside his leg and use a palm to return a strike. Once his foot has been brushed aside, he will lose his attacking momentum. It is rare for this not to result in the opponent leaning and stumbling away.
For this posture, see photos 15 & 16:
Name: HOLDING THE LUTE
In this posture, your hands are left hand above and right hand below, forward hand extended and rear hand withdrawn, in the manner of a musician holding a lute. Your [right] hand waves as if plucking a string, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your torso staying in its original space, your right foot lifts to come down slightly forward, and your right hand goes along with your body’s lowering momentum and withdraws to the rear as your left hand goes along with your body and lifts forward, the palms facing each other as if holding a lute. Your arms loosen and slowly prop up, but must not have a squeezing energy. The weight of your whole body lowers onto your right leg. Both elbows are slightly bent and must have a sinking intention. Your gaze is forward and level.
This posture exercises the ability of your arms in both closing inward and pushing downward, and can improve the flexibility of your arms, the use of your waist as a pivot, and the standing up of your hands.
If the opponent punches toward my chest, I use my right hand to grasp his fist and my left hand to prop up his elbow. Or I take advantage of the momentum to throw him by causing him to lean to the side and fall away.
For this posture, see photo 17:
Name: LEFT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
This posture is the same as in photo 16, except with only one twisting stance. In this posture, step forward with your left foot and use your left hand to brush past your left knee, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your body twists to the right, your right hand deflects downward and extends upward, making a horizontal line, and your left hand deflects from your face to your right shoulder. Your right hand is active and your left hand is passive. Your left foot withdraws to come close to your right instep, making an empty step. Your body turns slightly to the left, your left foot extends a step to the left, making a left bow stance, your left hand brushes downward until to the outside of your left knee, and your right palm extends from your face, deflecting [issuing] to the left with a palm strike to the opponent.
See the explanation in Posture 8.
If the opponent in front of me uses his foot to kick, I then use my left hand to brush aside his foot and then also use my right palm to return a strike.
For this posture, see photo 18:
Name: RIGHT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
This posture is different from the previous posture in that the twisting stance is like in photo 15. In this posture, step your right leg forward and use your right hand to brush past your right knee, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot steps forward, your left heel turning so the toes point to the northeast, your right toes coming close to your left instep, your body twisting to the left, your right hand deflecting downward to the left from your face, the palm getting close to your left shoulder, and your left hand lifts up until at shoulder level, extending straight. Your left hand is active and your right hand is passive. Then your body turns to the right, your right foot extends a step forward, making a right bow stance, your right hand brushes downward until to the outside of your right knee, and your left palm pushes out from the shoulder, but must not be too straight and must have a bend in the elbow, which has an intention of hanging down.
See the explanation in Posture 8.
See the explanation in Posture 10.
For this posture, see photo 19:
LEFT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Same as Posture 10.
HOLDING THE LUTE – Same as Posture 9.
Name: TWISTING STANCE, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE
In this posture, the knee bends into a twisting stance and your palms face each other as though holding a taiji sphere, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your torso turns to the left, your feet staying where they are and making a twisting stance. Your left hand is above, palm down, right hand below, palm up, as if holding the taiji symbol. Your left foot is in front, right foot behind, and your body slightly sits. Your body must be straight, energy sinking to your elixir field.
This posture exercises your waist’s ability to be like a round ball spinning indefinitely. When an opponent gets near me, he promptly slips off outward and is unable to harm me in the least.
If an opponent punches toward my shoulder, I promptly sit and twist (If he was striking to my right, I would evade on my right side, and if he strikes to my left, I will evade on my left side.), causing his energy to go outward and unable to reach me. At the same time, my hands come together to carry his fist, causing him to be unable to escape, and I use my elbow to return a strike. Both hands are like they are holding the taiji symbol.
For this posture, see photo 20:
Name: STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
This is one of the five punches in Taiji Boxing. To parry means to change the position. To block means to impede. Advancing makes easier the act of parrying and blocking.
Continuing from the previous posture, your waist then turns to the right as your right foot steps forward to make a bow stance, and your right hand turns over so the palm is up, thrown out forward as your waist turns, but must not do so with effort, then pulls back with the center of the fist upward, stopping at the right side of your waist. As your right hand withdraws, your left hand reaches out forward. When your right hand twists over, slowly extending, it should have an energy of pressing down. Loosen your shoulders and sink your elbows. Your elixir field should contain power and your mind should be orderly. Your gaze is straight ahead.
This is the best posture for enlivening the muscles of your whole body so that the energy and blood will flow unobstructed. When there is no stagnation, the energy is sufficient every day, and your body’s nimbleness can be assured. It also can neutralize an opponent’s attack or parry aside his sudden strike. Apply it smoothly and thoughtfully, but be sure not to lean forward or you will give the opponent something to exploit.
If the opponent punches toward my chest, I use my right hand to parry and press it down, then advance with my left [right] foot, continuing by using my left palm to seal off his arm, causing him to be unable to do anything. This technique is especially subtle.
For this posture, see photo 21:
Name: ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
This is one of the five punches in Taiji Boxing. In this posture, your right fist makes a direct attack to the opponent’s groin. But it must be connected with the previous posture as a single flow, and when teaching the two postures, they cannot be separated.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot then steps forward to make a bow stance, the knee bending, and as your right leg straightens, be sure there is no use of clumsy effort or a stiff pressing energy. Your waist must have a sinking energy. Your feet are about two and two-thirds feet apart. At the same time, your right fist strikes, extending slowly, using the strength of intention. Your left palm is above your right arm, withdrawing toward your body, and the palm must be upright, wiping along your right arm until in front of the shoulder. The tiger’s mouth of your right fist is up. Your gaze is forward.
Practice this posture until you are skillful at it, and then weakness will have become strength and softness will have become hardness. These are indeed not exaggerations.
If the opponent attacks me with a right punch, I promptly use my left hand to fling away his hand, stepping my right foot forward, and use my right fist to strike to his groin. Such a threat to his body should make him too busy panicking to have any energy leftover with which to attack me further.
For this posture, see photo 22:
Name: SEALING SHUT
The meaning is to seal off and lock up the opponent. Or it is said that your right hand withdrawing and your left hand blocking to the side constitutes sealing, and then the forward push with both hands constitutes shutting. The appearance of this posture’s movement is what gives it its name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand threads under your right armpit, palm up, follows straight along your right elbow, and comes out forward and across. At the same time, your right fist becomes a palm and withdraws from over your left hand until in front of your chest, both palms outward. At the same time, sit onto your right leg, making it full, with an intention of slightly retreating. It is like the first photo below. Then your hands push forward in unison. At the same time, your left knee bends, making a left bow stance. Your gaze is forward and level. Your hands are shoulder width apart, but must go no wider. Your waist and head must both be upright. It is like the second photo below.
This posture has the skill of getting purified energy to rise up and the bravery of a fierce tiger leaving its cave. If you practice it for a long time, your legs will not end up becoming weak. It can also exercise your waist and hips, the flexibility of your arms, and is a tonic for your health.
If the opponent grasps my right hand, I use my left hand to rend it aside from below, then take advantage of the opportunity to seal him off and push him out. Or if he advances to strike, my right hand withdraws and I use my left hand to block sideways, knocking away his attack, and upon sending him outward I then take advantage of the opportunity to push forward with both hands. I strike or push with his chest as target, as in the second photo below.
For this posture, see photos 23 & 24:
Name: CROSSED HANDS
Both arms cross, one on the inside and one on the outside, making an X shape, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot twists in to point its toes slightly south, almost making a ninety-degree angle with your right foot, while your hands go upward and spread apart to the sides, making a circle which goes upward, then joining to make an X shape, palms forward, right hand in front, left hand behind, both hands having an embracing energy. Your left leg has straightened and your right knee is bent. Your feet are about two and two-thirds feet apart. Your gaze is level to the right. Extend your neck and draw up your headtop. You must not scatter your spirit, then you will be doing it right.
This posture exercises your wrists, making them lively and nimble, and can restore your “triple warmer” to bring harmony to your body’s core [i.e. it can reset your metabolism].
If an opponent uses a fist to attack my head, I then cross my hands and put them upward as an intercepting rack, making his attack unable to reach me. I then can take advantage of the opening and attack his vital areas. At this moment, he will not be able to escape even if he wants to.
For this posture, see photo 25:
Name: CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
In this posture, your hands go down from above, both embracing toward each other, as if embracing a tiger. Imagining the opponent to be a tiger, I use an embracing posture to capture him, then seize the opportunity to push him away, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands go down from above, spreading apart, then they both carry in front of your belly, as if holding a large ball. At the same time, your right foot withdraws, toes touching down about a foot from your left instep. Your hands should have an embracing energy. Energy sinks to your elixir field and your body slightly squats down. The weight of your whole body is on your left foot. Your legs are bent, but not so much that they bulge out. Your gaze is level to the right.
This posture has the dynamic of embracing a person, the capacity of uprooting a tree, and the manner of stillness taking control over movement. It also can exercise the ability of your arms in both pushing down and propping up, as well as loosen your leg muscles, strengthen your lower back, and benefits your arms and wrists.
If the opponent uses a hang-his-face kick to attack my face, I then sit lower, using a hand to connect to his front foot, and using the other hand to pick up some gravel or some other object and throw it in his face to injure his eyes. Or if an opponent attacks me with a punch, I then lower my body to evade it, using my right hand to push aside his fist and my left hand to pull his leg, causing him to lean and stumble away. Or taking advantage of the moment he lifts his leg [to kick], my left hand connects to his leg, and my right hand presses an acupoint [It is not specified which or on what area of the body.] or returns a strike through a gap in his guard, both of which are suitable.
For this posture, see photo 26:
Name: SEARCHING THE SEA, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
In this posture, one hand extends downward toward the ground and the other strikes toward the opponent’s face. Your right hand is in the manner of examining the ocean, unaware of its depth, and has an intention of slowly going downward to find out, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right leg first extends to the right side, making a pouncing stance, your left knee slowly bending. Your right hand slowly sinks and brushes past your right foot, then goes to the right rear to be placed beside your right hip, your left hand extending forward from beside your left ear as you change to a right bow stance. Your gaze is forward to the corner, looking level.
This posture contains the pressure-point skill. If you practice it for a long time, you will be well-versed in the technique, but you must understand its special characteristics and its basic idea of how to deal with an opponent. It can also improve your pushing power and train the ability of your palm in deflecting aside, which resembles a boat’s oar going through the water.
When the opponent wants to escape, I then make my right leg empty and extend it outward, and then if he attacks with a kick, I use my right hand to hook his leg and take advantage of the momentum to strike his face with my palm, which in this case causes him to look down rather than up. It will be rare for an opponent not to fail because of this.
For this posture [first part of the movement], see photo 27:
Name: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – See Posture 4, part 1.
Continuing from the previous posture, both feet staying where they are, your right hand beside your right hip draws a circle going upward from the rear, then downward, passing beside your right ear, and slowly pushes out. At the same time, your left hand slightly withdraws to the rear. Your right hand is now in front, palm down, left hand behind, palm up, palms facing each other, and they must have an intention of a downward rollback. The rest of the movements [of Posture 4] are as before, and so will not be explained again here.
See Posture 4, part 1.
Same as in Posture 4.
For this posture, see photo 28 (as well as the other photos for ward-off, rollback, press, and push in Posture 4 [photos 6-10, with photo 28 fitting between photos 9 & 10]) [It is not explained why photo 28 is not placed with part 6 of Posture 4 in the first place.]:
Name: GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW
For this posture, it is said your fist is concealed below your elbow, thus the name. It is one of the five punches in Taiji Boxing. The intention of your fist being under your elbow is that of guarding a doorway, protecting against an opponent’s sudden attack.
Continuing from the previous posture, first perform half of the SINGLE ROD posture as a transition, up to the point that it looks like the first photo of Posture 5. Your right hand loosens to hang straight down and the fingers slightly bend to almost make a hook. Your left foot slightly lifts, coming down with the toes close to your right instep, and your left hand becomes a palm, stopping in front of and slightly below your right shoulder area, palm up. This is half of the SINGLE ROD posture. Then extend your left foot to be about two feet from your right foot. At the same time, your left hand deflects to the left side in a half circle. Your right hand at the same time grasps into a fist and goes from the upper right to the lower left while your left palm threads up from below. When threading, your right hand is on the outside, left hand inside. When the posture has reached its end, your left hand is a palm and your right hand is grasped into a fist placed below your right elbow. Your right foot has slightly lifted then lowered to make a left T stance, your left heel touching down. The weight of your whole body sits on your right leg. Your elixir field has an energy of containing. You must also be containing your chest and plucking up your back. Your gaze is forward and level to await the moment of the opponent’s sudden attack and then respond to it.
This posture exercises the pulling ability of your arms and can train the pressing up of your headtop, but because your waist and thighs are at the same time pushing, your whole body exhibits nimbleness and there is a continuous flow throughout. When an elderly person practices this technique, the results are even more pronounced.
If an opponent uses his fist to attack from the side, I use my left hand to neutralize it aside. If he then uses his fist to attack again, I use my right hand to press down from above, my left hand at the same time parrying inward then extending straight from my chest to suddenly strike to his lower jaw. This posture is also called TIGER PICKS AT ITS TEETH.
For this posture, see photo 29:
Name: RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
This refers to nimbleness and agility. A monkey is good at pouncing on a person. If a monkey and a human fight, the human is no match for it. [This explanation implies the monkey is large enough that we probably ought to refer to it as an ape, but I will leave it as the conventional “monkey” for the time being.] And so I retreat from the opponent, withdrawing a hand and extending my other palm with a strike to his head, rendering him unable to advance and harm me.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left palm staying where it is, your right fist becomes a palm and draws a circle upward from the lower right. Your left foot at the same time withdraws, the toes coming close to your right instep, then retreats to the left side, in a zigzag to the corner. Your left leg is bent, right leg straight. At the same time, your right palm extends from the ear, and upon reaching your left palm, your left palm then becomes active (palm up) as your right palm stays passive (palm down) and slowly extends forward. Your left palm at the same time withdraws to the left rear, palm up, until it reaches its limit and has become the palm that is behind. With this movement, if you are in a spacious area, you can continue five times or seven times, but the minimum is three times, always finishing with your right hand and right foot forward to conveniently link to the following posture. This is the right side version.
This posture exercises your organs, hips, legs, and the ability of your arms to push forward and down. If you practice it for a long time, the result will surely be a robust body and sturdy legs, and the strength of your arms will also be daily increased.
This is for pretending defeat to seal the opponent off. If he attacks with a punch or kick, I then retreat while using my hand to push down his hand or foot and seal off his attack, rendering him incapable of harming me in the slightest. Or when I retreat, I first use my front hand to neutralize his force, then use my rear hand to extend a strike to his face or throat.
For this posture, see photo 30:
For the left side version, it is not very different from the right, only that now your left hand and left foot are forward and your right foot retreats to the right rear corner. The explanations for the name, effects, and application are all the same, and so they are not explained again here. Your hands and feet should move in a continuous flow, and your lower back should have an energy of being upright, and then it will be harmonious.
For this posture, see photo 31:
Name: DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
It is said that the movement for this posture is like a bird spreading its wings while turning to take flight, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your legs stay where they are in what is like a sideways bow stance. Your left palm goes forward to again be right in front of your chest. Your left hand is above, palm down, and your right hand turns over to be palm up, propping up beside your waist until in front of your belly, the palms facing each other as if holding a ball, about seven or eight inches away from your body. At the same time, your right foot withdraws, heel lifted. Both knees are bent, body slightly squatting, weight on your left foot. Your gaze is level to the right. It is like the first photo below. Then your torso turns to the right and you take a large step, making a bow stance. Your waist must have a sinking energy. At the same time, your right hand goes up from below, going along with your right foot by rending forward and across, as your left hand puts all its energy into extending to the rear. The height of your right hand is nose level. Loosening your shoulders and sinking your elbows, the palm is standing slightly sideways, and harbors an intention of propping up. Your left palm is facing to the rear. Your arms put all their energy into extending forward and back, as it is said [in Understanding How to Practice]: “First strive to open up.” It is like the second photo below.
This posture can enliven your waist and hips, as well as the muscles of your legs, and can at the same time exercise the strength of your shoulders and arms.
Application for part 1:
This posture is somewhat similar to TWISTING STANCE, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE, but is different in the legs [empty stance rather than twisting stance]. If the opponent attacks me with a fist, I then turn my waist sideways to avoid it. If he attacks with a foot, I then use my right hand to drag toward the ground, destabilizing his footing and making him naturally lean and stumble away.
Application for part 2:
If an opponent attacks me from behind, I use my left hand to grasp his fist, and while stepping forward I use my right hand to do a ward-off to his ribs, then suddenly go sideways using my shoulder and body to knock him away.
For this posture, see photos 32 & 33:
RAISE THE HANDS – Same as Posture 6.
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Same as Posture 7.
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Same as Posture 8.
Name: NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
It is said that the intention in this posture is of trying to find a needle under the water, but there are also people who call it NETTING UNDER THE SEA, meaning a fishing net thrown down into the water which a moment later will be hoisted up, analogous to the technique [as it continues into the following posture, whereas the name NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA is simply describing the look of this posture alone].
Continuing from the previous posture with your right hand forward, your right leg does not change its position but must bend, and your right hand goes along with your waist and withdraws, then also goes along with your waist and sinks downward, as if pinching rice, palm down [fingers down according to the photo]. At the same time, your left foot withdraws, toes touching down, heel lifted about five inches from your right foot. The weight is on your right foot and your left hand is still where it was. Your gaze must be forward.
This posture exercises your spine, getting blood to flow through the muscles and enliven the whole area, thereby relieving lower back ache.
If the opponent attacks me with a punch, I seize the opportunity to connect with his hand and lead him downward, causing him to lose his stability and naturally lean and fall.
For this posture, see photo 34:
Name: FAN THROUGH THE ARMS
For this posture, it is said your arms fan open like a bird spreading its wings, but some people say it refers to the arm extending upward from the shoulder.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot stays where it is while your left foot steps forward into a bow stance, your hands go along with your waist and lift up, and your body leans forward to the upper left. Your hands press up from below in unison, your right hand about a foot above your headtop, palm outward, your left hand lifting to your chest area and then extending forward. For this part of the movement, your left hand and left foot must advance together. The weight is on your left leg and the tiger’s mouths are facing each other along a diagonal line. Your gaze follows forward.
This posture works both sides of your ribs and both of your arms, can stretch your muscles and joints, and can exercise the power of your spine, getting it to course through your arms.
If when the opponent attacks me with a punch and I pluck him down, he has not yet fallen forward, I then lift my body, using my right hand to prop up his elbow, and use my left hand to push, flinging him away. When an opponent punches me and I apply this technique, the action of my left hand never occurs independent of the action of my waist. Or if an opponent suddenly attacks me, my right hand first lures his wrist upward to neutralize his attack, then my left hand attacks his flank or chest.
For this posture, see photo 35:
Name: WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
For this posture, it is said that one hand goes up while the other hand bends in, your body turning with an arm rolling, to be like a snake raising its head and flicking out its tongue, thus the name. [The usual Yang style usage of this name would be applied to the following move, the right fist clearing downward to the right and which upon pointing forward flicks open to become a palm, somewhat in the manner of a snake tongue flicking. In the second set of the ten sets of Northern Shaolin, the system Gu is most famous for, the name applies to a forward threading-palm finger jab, exactly in the manner of a snake tongue flicking. Equipped with these other two choices, it seems peculiar that Gu would here choose to apply the name to the hand going over the head, an action which hardly resembles a snake tongue flicking.]
Continuing from the previous posture, turn around to the right (turning your head), the weight still on your left leg. Your waist has a sinking energy. Your left leg is bent, right leg straight. Your left palm extends over your headtop, the palm facing upward. At the same time, your right palm becomes a fist and is placed in front of your abdomen, the center of the fist facing downward. Your gaze is forward and level.
This movement exercises the sinking energy of your waist and the bracing ability of your arms. It can stretch the muscles of your whole body and can bolster your spirit. It is like a tired man stretching his back.
If opponents attack me from front and rear, I use my left hand to prop up, and turn to use my right hand to ward away, preparing against his punch toward my waist. I then turn my right hand over so the palm is downward and use my forearm to deflect his fist aside, while my body moves back so his punch lands on nothing, and then I send my left palm, lowering from my headtop, aiming straight to his eyes.
For this posture, see photo 36:
Name: TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
This is one of the five punches in Taiji Boxing. For this posture, it is said that a punch is being flung out from beside your torso. When your right punch is flung out, your left palm follows with a strike. Your torso is folding in, your spine sticking out. But there are also some people who say that “flinging torso” means dodging with the body.
Continuing from the previous posture, your feet stay where they are but your body moves forward to make a bow stance. Your hands arc to the west, your right hand going along with your waist as it loosens downward, stopping beside your right hip with the fist center upward. Your left hand is coiling around your right fist and then pushes to the west, fingers up. Your right fist then goes to the rear and loosens, fingers spreading open, lowering from in front of your right ear, drawing a circle. Your left hand turns to be palm up and with an intention of grasping and pulling down and in, it lowers with your right hand, your body sitting back. Your left leg is now carrying the weight of your whole body. Your gaze is forward and level. Your hands go along with the movement of your legs. The most important thing to avoid in this movement is any stagnation.
This posture exercises the ability of your elbows to press down, as well as the ability to parry and shrink back, the secret of which lies in the liveliness of your spine.
If an opponent attacks me with a [left] punch and [right] kick at the same time, I then withdraw my right leg [contradicted in the practice method by “feet stay where they are”], causing his kick to land on nothing, my right hand pressing down his fist, my left hand pushing down on his arm, and my right hand then takes advantage of the opportunity to strike. If he then attacks with his right fist, I then use my right hand to turn over downward from above my head and press down his fist, and then I may use my left fist, going up from below, to strike to his face. [The application from this point is for the following posture] If he then attacks again with his left fist, I then withdraw my right fist and use my left palm to push down on his wrist, sealing off his power and causing him to be unable to do anything with it.
For this posture, see photo 37 [which shows the first half of the posture]:
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH
Same as Posture 15, but this time to the opposite direction and following from TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH. For this movement, you must lift your right foot and turn the toes toward the right, and then when the foot lowers, the movement of your hands is the same as in Posture 15, thus there is no additional photo.
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
Same as Posture 16, and so will not be explained again here. You may refer to the earlier explanation to more easily understand. For this posture, see photo 38:
Name: ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (see Posture 4, part 1)
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot stays where it is and your right foot steps forward, your left hand goes up from below, palm up, extending level with your left shoulder, no higher or lower, while your right hand goes left from right, passing in front of your face and lowering, palm toward the ground, stopping in front of your left arm. Your gaze is to your left hand. Then your right hand goes up from below, palm up, extending level with your right shoulder, no higher or lower, while your left hand goes right from left, passing in front of your face and lowering, palm toward the ground, stopping in front of your right arm. Your gaze is to your right hand. Continuing into the rest of CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL, your hands turn over to be right palm toward the ground, left palm up, so that ward-off, rollback, press, and push are performed in succession as before.
Same as in Posture 4, part 1.
Same as in Posture 4.
For this posture, see photo 39 [followed by photos 6-9, 28, and 10]:
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5.
Name: CLOUDING HANDS
For this posture, it is said your hands are to be so agile as to resemble the endless fluctuations of clouds, suddenly going left then suddenly right, and must not be predictable. But there are also people who say the hands go side to side with revolving strikes like clouds in a whirling cyclone, going back and forth unceasingly, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your feet at first stay where they are, your right hook hand becomes a palm, goes to the lower left and up, palm facing upward, stopping below your left elbow, your right elbow slightly bent. Your left hand extends straight without changing its position, palm downward. At the same time, your right foot shifts to be beside your left foot, knees slightly bent. Your body squats down but must not overly sway. Your gaze goes along with the clouding of the hand going outward and upward [i.e. your left hand at this moment], looking level. It is like the first photo below. Then your right hand passes in front of your face, clouding across and extending to the right side, palm down, while your left hand goes from below and wraps upward to the right side, palm up, stopping below your right elbow, your left elbow slightly bent. At the same time, your left foot steps sideways to the left, your right foot staying where it is. Your gaze goes along with the movement, turning to look toward your right hand. It is like the second photo below. These two movements form one posture. When practicing, you must do it at least three times, or you may do five, seven, or more, however many or few not being important, as long as it is an odd number. When doing CLOUDING HANDS, the hand passing in front of your face must have its palm toward your face, the back of the hand outward. Your gaze goes along with it, looking level, and there must not be a case of the hand arriving without your gaze arriving too.
This posture exercises your head, eyes, shoulders, waist, and can strengthen your brain, thus keeping you free from dizziness and blurry vision.
If an opponent uses his left fist to attack my right ear, I then use my right hand to grab his wrist and my left hand to stop his elbow, which can cause his elbow to break. The application is the same on both sides, and the only difference is the direction.
For this posture, see photos 40 & 41:
In this posture’s movement, your hands go back and forth like moving clouds and must not be sluggish. Regardless of which hand it is when the clouding takes it downward, I imagine there is an extremely heavy thing blocking its way, and I apply the strength of my shoulder wrapping in to send the thing away outward. But you must absolutely avoid trying to brace upward, for your hands, feet, eyes, and power must have a continuous flow. The posture will otherwise not be orderly and the energy will be in disarray.
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5, and so will not be explained again here.
Name: RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
If you want to ride a horse but do not know if its character is good or bad, you reach out to it before climbing onto it. Additionally, this movement has a withdrawing step, a tall body, and a reaching out forward, which is also like getting up onto a horse by reaching with your body, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hook hand becomes a palm, your shoulders put their energy into loosening, both palms go inward in a circular shape, [left hand] driven by your ribs to the forward left, [right hand] extending to the right rear, palms up, right hand slightly higher. At the same time, your body sits back, the weight on your right leg, your left foot making a T stance. Your gaze is to your right [left] hand. It is like the first photo below. Then your left foot withdraws, toes touching down about five or six inches from your right instep, as your body squats down, both knees bending, and you use your right hand, palm down [forward, according to the photo], to push out over your left arm. At the same time, your left hand withdraws until by the left side of your waist, palm up. Your right foot stays where it is. Your gaze is still forward and level. It is like the second photo below.
This posture trains the ability of your arms to extend and circle, and it can develop your shoulders, enhancing the build of your body.
If I am attacked by opponents in front and behind, I send out my hands to jab to their throats or eyes. If the opponent to my left then attacks, I send my [left] hand in an arc to press down his elbow, at the same time using my [right] palm to jab to his throat area. Or if an opponent pulls on my left hand, I shrink it away downward and lift it up behind to neutralize his force while extending my right hand with a palm strike. Either of these scenarios will work.
For this posture, see photos 42 & 43:
Name: RIGHT CROUCHING TIGER & KICK TO THE SIDE
In this posture, there is an intention of the palms pulling downward to the rear and has the appearance of a crouching tiger, and your right foot kicks to the right side, and so there are also people who call it KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE. It is like Shaolin Boxing’s “double kick”, but the double kick usually involves a fast step, a high jump, and a slap to the foot, whereas here there is a slow rising and a slow lowering, making hard and soft distinct.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot stays where it is while your left foot retreats a step, making a bow stance, your torso turning to the right. Your hands are facing each other, right palm down, left palm up, right hand above, left hand below. They go along with your waist from right to left, arcing downward with a rollback. It is like the first photo below. [The photo shows right palm up, left palm down, indicating a ward-off moment at the beginning of the rollback.] Then with your right foot at first staying where it is, your torso turns to the left, your feet seeming to make a twisting stance as your hands go along to the northeast and slowly upward, continuing upward from below until coming together as if carrying something. Your gaze must be level to the southeast. Your left leg becomes full, right leg becomes empty, and your right foot lifts, toes down, then extends to the southeast with the top of the foot flat. Your hands at the same time spread apart to the sides, right hand to the southeast, left hand to the northwest, left palm upright, right palm sideways. It is like the second photo below.
This posture can give exercise to the larger muscles of your legs, making them thicken, can liven your hip bones, and can also improve agility in stepping.
If an opponent punches toward my face, I then use my right hand to block him while using my right foot to kick him in the area of his waist or ribs, causing him to stumble away.
For this posture, see photos 44 & 45:
Name: LEFT CROUCHING TIGER & KICK TO THE SIDE – Same meaning as in Posture 39. The difference is the reversing of left and right.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot lowers and makes a right bow stance while your hands again have an intention of a downward rollback, left hand extended, right elbow bent. Then your feet twist, your hands go up from below as if carrying something, palms up, and spread apart in unison with your [left] foot [kicking]. The orientations are more or less a reversal of the previous posture, and thus this posture is easily realized.
Same as in Posture 39.
Same as in Posture 39. The difference here is that it is your left hand that blocks and your left foot that kicks.
For this posture, see photos 46 & 47:
Name: TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK
In this posture’s movement, your body’s method is a leftward turn, but as for your foot’s kicking method, if the back of the foot is flat and straight, it is simply called kicking, as in KICKING TO THE SIDE, but if the toes are pulled up, it is called pressing, the sole outward and pressing straight, and since here the kicking technique is like this, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture without stopping and without your left foot touching down, turn around to the left (turning your head). You must not lean forward or back. The weight is entirely on your right foot as your right heel pivots to point the foot to the north, your left foot slightly hanging, toes down. At the same time, your hands come together to make an X shape, then spread apart in unison, right hand to the west, left hand to the east, as your left foot presses out, sole outward, toes up. In this posture, although your torso is square to the north, your gaze goes along with the movement, looking level to the west (looking toward your left hand). Your hands in this posture are both upright palms, right hand slightly higher, left hand at shoulder level. Your elixir field contains power, energy sinking down. This posture must be connected to the previous posture as a single flow.
Practicing this posture will strengthen your legs. If you can practice it often, then you will turn around nimbly, without dizziness and without awkwardness in your legs.
This posture’s method of application is the same as in KICKING TO THE LEFT & RIGHT SIDES. If I encounter an opponent striking me from behind, I use the turning of my body to neutralize his power and avoid it, causing his attack to land on nothing, then use my foot to strike him with a pressing kick. This technique is a forward attack to the opponent’s flank, waist, chest, hip, abdomen, or such areas. At the same time, my hands spread apart to neutralize the opponent’s circular attack and set things up for me, and can simultaneously protect my foot against his grabbing it.
For this posture, see photo 48:
Name: LEFT & RIGHT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
The movement of this posture is Postures 10 & 11 turned around to the opposite direction, but the movement is no different from those two postures, and so they will not be explained again here [in their entirety].
Continuing from the previous posture, after your left foot presses out, it then withdraws, and its toes must hang down. Your whole body is sitting on your right leg. Your left foot slowly steps forward, your left hand brushes past your left knee, and your right hand pushes out. It is like the first photo below. Then switch steps. Your right foot steps forward, your right hand brushes past your right knee, and your left hand pushes out. It is like the second photo below. The rest is the same as in Postures 10 & 11, except there is no HOLDING THE LUTE posture in between them [following them].
Same as in Postures 10 & 11.
Same as in Postures 10 & 11.
For this posture, see photos 49 & 50:
Name: ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH
This is one of the five punches in Taiji Boxing. Your left foot advances and your right fist suddenly strikes straight down from above, similar in intention to planting an onion.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot turns to the southwest [northwest], your left hand brushes past your left knee as your left foot advances a step, making a left bow stance, and your waist has a sinking energy. At the same time, your right hand goes from beside your waist to strike with suddenness outward and downward, the arm going downward along a diagonal line. Your arms must evenly loosen, your elixir field draws back, and there must be an intention of containing your chest and plucking up your back. Your gaze goes along downward to look toward your right fist. Your body must not extend too far forward, you should use strength from your lower back, your spirit must rise, and the movement is to be a consistent flow, and then you will able obtain the subtlety of it.
This posture exercises your left leg, as well the sinking power of your right arm’s downward punch and the pressing energy of your legs. It must not be too vigorous and then your breath can be harmonious.
If the opponent attacks me with a right punch or right kick, I use my left hand to push aside his right hand [or right leg], then advance and return a right punch to his abdomen. Or if he obstructs my right wrist [in the previous posture], I then use my left hand to wipe off and neutralize his hand, and use my right hand to suddenly strike to his elixir field and injure him.
For this posture, see photo 51:
Name: TURN AROUND, WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
Same as in Posture 30, except for the orientation. There is the movement of turning around (turning your head), thus the name. [No explanation is given as to why this posture has the turning around in its name while Posture 30 does not, even though Posture 30 also has us turning around.]
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot stays where it is, but it turns to point the toes to the north, the weight on your left leg, your left hand bending at the elbow and arcing upward to the east, your right hand bending at the elbow and arcing to the west, stopping in front of your abdomen. Your left palm is up, right palm down. Your gaze turns to the east. The rest is the same as in Posture 30, and you may refer to the earlier explanation to more easily understand.
Same as in Posture 30.
If an opponent suddenly attacks me from behind, I turn my body, widening my step, and use my right hand to neutralize his attacking hand, and then I may use my left palm to push down, injuring his head. [Instead of the left hand jabbing to the opponent’s eyes as in his earlier white snake explanation, Gu now seems to be having one of his famous iron palm moments.]
For this posture, see photo 52:
TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH – Same as Posture 31, except the orientation is reversed.
This was not originally one of the postures, but there are some people who when they practice have added it in, therefore it is mentioned here. But it is not very important and does not matter either way.
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH – Same as Posture 32, except in the opposite direction.
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH – Same as Posture 33, except the orientation is reversed.
Name: RIGHT DIAGONAL PRESSING KICK
In this posture, the direction you press your right foot is to the corner instead of straight ahead, thus the name. The rest of the meaning is the same as in Posture 41. You may review it above to more easily understand.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right arm rises up in front of your left arm to make an X shape, palms toward yourself, halting about seven or eight inches in front of your chest. Your waist must maintain a sinking energy. Your right [left] heel pivots to point the foot to the west [northeast] and the weight of your whole body shifts to your left leg. Then your hands turn over so the palms are outward and promptly spread apart as your right foot lifts and presses out toward the corner. When pressing, the toes must be drawn upward, the heel going forward with a pressing energy. Your left elbow is slightly bent, your right hand extended, palm again toward the ground. Your gaze is level to the corner. Your body must stand like a balanced scale and must not lean forward or back or have a noticeably crooked shape.
This posture also is for training power in your waist and legs, the rest basically the same as in Posture 41.
For this posture’s method of application, I imagine I am dealing with an opponent directly in front of me when suddenly another makes a surprise attack from the corner. I promptly lift my foot to the corner and kick him, causing him to be unable to advance. The rest is the same as in Posture 41.
For this posture, see photo 53:
Name: LEFT DRAPING-BODY CROUCHING TIGER, WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE
In this posture’s movement, your body leans and crouches down, like a tiger crouching. Your palm going up from below is the same as in Posture 30, except in this posture it arcs lower, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot withdraws, and when it lowers, it does a stealing step behind your left leg. Your left hand goes to the right, and then in unison with your right hand goes along with the step and your waist downward, to the left, then arcs upward as your right hand grasps into a fist, palm down. Your left palm goes from the left side of your body in an upward arc until above your head, palm up, elbow slightly bent. The weight shifts to your left leg when your left leg shifts sideways to the west, making a bow and arrow stance, your right leg straightening. The paths of the movements would form an X shape [in that the lines would appear to cross when your left hand moves upward to the right over your head while your right fist moves downward to the left beside your ribs]. Your gaze is forward, looking level toward your right foot.
This posture trains the strength of your legs and hips, and seems to give exercise to your waist, and thus it can liven your waist and thereby reduce stiffness in your torso. It can also strengthen your lower back and make your arms flexible.
This posture uses both plucking and rending. If an opponent uses his left fist to attack me, and at the same time kicks with his left foot, I then use both hands to grab his wrist and forcefully pull down with a plucking intention. Sitting my body low to the rear so his foot cannot harm me, I quickly use my left palm to hit his head while my right fist is used to guard against him and stays where it is.
For this posture, see photo 54:
Name: RIGHT DRAPING-BODY CROUCHING TIGER, METEOR PUNCH
This posture’s orientation is opposite to the previous posture, your body going to the right to lean and crouch, again in the manner of a crouching tiger. But your fist goes up from below to then resemble a falling star, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, first withdraw your right foot, bringing it close to your left foot, your body slightly squatting. Then your right foot extends back to where it was, the knee bends, and your left leg straightens, the weight shifting to your right leg. At the same time, your hands go along with your waist, arcing to the right, to the southeast, with a plucking intention. Your left hand continues to arc to the right from below, grasping into a fist, and stops about five inches in front of your right ribs, palm down, elbow bent, while your right hand meanwhile arcs up from the lower right until above your head, palm up, its orientation opposite to the previous posture. Your gaze is forward, looking level toward your left foot. Your waist maintains a sinking energy, energy sinking to your elixir field, and thus the posture will naturally be nimble and stable.
This posture trains the ability of your legs to pull in and the ability of your arms to raise up. If you practice it for a long time, it can reset your metabolism, and this is indeed no exaggeration.
If an opponent attacks with a punch, I then use both hands to grab his wrist and go downward with a plucking intention. If he were to lean and fall, I would then take advantage of the opportunity by using my right fist to strike down from above.
For this posture, see photo 55:
CROSSED HANDS & CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN – Same as Postures 18 & 19.
TURN, RIGHT PRESSING KICK – See Posture 48, which is basically the same. For the practice method, your right [left] heel pivots to point the foot to the north [northeast], your torso turns along with it, your hands come together to make an X shape, the weight sits fully on your left leg, and your right foot presses out, again to the corner. For the rest, see the earlier explanation to more easily understand.
Name: DOUBLE WINDS THROUGH THE EARS
In this posture’s movement, your fists come up from the sides directly toward the opponent’s ears, and the movement of both fists is as fast as wind. It is also said that the fists are to be striking in unison to the temples, the intent like a bee flying into a hole [i.e. stinging the acupoint]. [The characters for bee 蜂 and wind 風 have the same pronunciation, inevitably leading to some confusion over which was meant to be in the name.]
Continuing from the previous posture, after your right foot presses out, bring it back in but do not yet put it down, the foot raised with its toes hanging down. Your left heel slightly pivots to point the foot to the northeast [east], and your hands come together, palms up, arcing inward until by your right knee. Then they spread apart to the sides, palms gradually turning upward [downward], and go outward and forward to point toward each other, arcing until in front of your face. Your hands have also grasped into fists, the center of the fists facing outward, about four or five inches apart at temple height, and your arms are slightly bent. At the same time, your right foot lowers, and the knee bends as your rear leg straightens, making a bow stance. Your gaze is toward the backs of your fists. Your body must not lean forward but instead maintain a sinking energy. Your shoulders have a loosening energy, your elixir field has an energy of containing, your head presses up, and your neck is straight. If you can do it like this, your body will naturally be nimble.
This posture sends your fists and elbows outward then strongly inward. When your fists come inward toward each other, it can make the muscles of your shoulders and back stronger, and get energy to circulate through your whole body.
If the opponent strikes straight to my chest, I lower my right foot, my hands going along with it downward and then spreading apart to block away his hand. If he then uses both hands to strike me, I take both my hands downward to push aside his hands, then take advantage of the momentum to return punches to his temples and dizzy him.
For this posture, see photo 56:
Name: LEFT PRESSING KICK
In this posture, press out with your left foot. The explanation of the name is the same as in Posture 41, and so will not be explained again here.
Continuing from the previous posture, both feet staying where they are, both fists become palms and spread apart from above, palms outward, until your hands are hanging down, at which point they quickly turn upward and your hands come together as though they are carrying something, stopping about half a foot in front of your chest. Then your hands turn over so both palms are downward and spread apart to the sides as your left foot presses out, toes drawn upward. The weight of your whole body is on your right leg. It is like a posture of a white crane standing on one leg.
Same as in Posture 41, and so will not be explained again here.
If the opponent tries to seal me off so I cannot move freely, I take advantage of the opportunity to kick forward to his chest or abdomen, or go across [with my right hand] to pluck his groin. The rest is the same as in Posture 41, but the direction of the kick is different.
For this posture, see photo 57 [unfortunately merely a repeat of photo 47 and thus not exhibiting the uprightness of the toes]:
Name: TURN AROUND, RIGHT PRESSING KICK TO THE SIDE
In this posture’s movement, after you have turned around, begin another pressing kick with your right foot spreading away to the side, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot lowers, your body turning around to the right, and your left foot closes up with your right foot. At the same time, your right toes, staying in the same place, slightly pivot around to point to the north. Also at the same time, your hands go upward and circle downward to again come together, palms up as though carrying something. Then they again spread apart to the sides, palms down, as your right foot lifts and presses out forward. Your gaze is level toward your right hand. When kicking to the side, your body must not sway. This is extremely important.
Same as in Posture 48, and so will not be explained again here.
For this posture’s method of application, the difference with the previous posture is the turning around. If in the previous posture I could not connect to the opponent with my foot and he takes advantage of the moment I lower my foot to make a sudden attack, I quickly step to switch my feet and turn around to again press out, now with my right foot. The use of my right hand has already been addressed in the previous explanation.
For this posture, see photo 58 [unfortunately merely a repeat of photo 45 and thus not exhibiting the uprightness of the toes]:
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH – Same as Posture 15.
STEP FORWARD, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH – Same as Posture 16. (Note: [Though it is called] “advance” [in Posture 16] and “step forward” here, they are the same movement.
SEALING SHUT – Same as Posture 17.
CROSSED HANDS, CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN – Same as Postures 18 & 19.
From Posture 1 to Posture 59 constitutes the first half of the set.
SEARCHING THE SEA, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE – Same as Posture 20.
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Same as Posture 21.
Name: DIAGONAL SINGLE ROD.
This posture’s movement is the same idea as in Posture 5, except here the direction is slightly changed and its footwork is diagonal toward the right, thus the name. The rest is the same as in Posture 5, and you may refer to the earlier explanation to more easily understand.
Continuing from the previous posture, its transition is the same as in the explanation for the first photo in Posture 5, and so will not be explained again here, but after your right hand makes a hook and your left foot closes toward your right foot, your right toes are slightly shifted from their original position [to point slightly more toward the west], the weight of your whole body sitting on your right leg. This much is the first part of DIAGONAL SINGLE ROD. Then your left foot steps out forward [to the southwest], making a line with your right foot, into a bow stance. At the same time, your left palm goes from your right shoulder to be directly above your left foot, twisting around to push out forward, making a semicircle. Your left hand must be upright, its tiger’s mouth should be rounded, and it is in the same direction as your left foot. Your right hand maintains its hook shape. Your gaze is forward, looking level toward your left hand. The two movements in this posture must be without interruption or stagnation.
Same as in Posture 5, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in Posture 5, but this time employed to the corner.
For this posture, review photo 11 and see photo 59:
Name: LEFT & RIGHT WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE
This posture is divided into three movements. Your hands will spread apart to the sides, your arms opening and closing, just like the mane on a horse’s head going from side to side, and so it is called a wild horse, and the intention is to adopt its manner of playing freely.
Continuing from the previous posture, it will be the same “triple-line” stance [the line one foot stands on, the line the other foot stands on, and the line running between the feet] of DIAGONAL SINGLE ROD, except the orientation is different [the lines running toward the northwest]. Your right hand goes along with your waist to the left and closes together with your left hand, your right hand below, palm up, left hand above, palm down. The weight of your whole body sitting on your left leg, your right foot lifts and extends to the northwest. Your right hand below goes along with your right foot by spreading away to the northwest, your left hand above at the same time spreading away to the southeast. Your right palm is still up, left palm still down. The weight is now on your right leg. Your gaze is level to the northwest. The posture’s movement is similar to DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE, except the stepping is not the same [advancing rather than turning], and when practicing, you must continue so that it is performed three times – right, left, right – and it must be a continuous flow throughout. Your waist, hip, hand, and foot should all extend nimbly.
Same as in Posture 4, parts 1 & 2, and so will not be explained again here.
If an opponent does a coiling strike to my left side, I then use my right hand to go along with him and tug him to the left [by blocking to the left – the closing action of the arms], and I advance my left foot to confuse his legs, at the same time using my left hand to carry across toward his lower ribs [with the opening action of the arms]. This is the application for the left side. On either side it is the same, except the orientation is different.
For this posture, see photo 60:
[Posture 63’s Method of] Switching Sides
Same as above, and so will not be explained again here.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand goes along with your waist to the right and closes together with your right hand, your left hand below, right hand above, left palm upward, right palm downward. Your left foot lifts and extends to the southwest. Your left hand below goes along with your left foot by spreading away to the southwest. Your right hand above at the same time spreads away to the northeast. Your gaze follows along to look level to the southwest. The rest is mostly the same as in the above explanation (and so will not be repeated here).
Same as in Posture 4, parts 1 & 2. You may refer to the earlier explanation to more easily understand.
Same as the above explanation, and so will not be repeated here.
For this posture, see photo 61:
After you have performed this side, the first side repeats, making the third part of this posture.
Name: ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
Same as in Posture 4.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot extends a half step forward, your left hand going along with your left foot by propping outward to the south, your right arm slightly bending its elbow, palm down. As your left hand extends, there is an intention of slightly dropping the elbow. [The photo below shows the posture up to this point.] Then your left hand goes to the left rear, wraps upward, palm up, your right hand slightly arcing to the north, palm down, and arrives in front of your left arm. At the same time, take a step forward with your right foot, your gaze level toward your left hand. [At this point, the posture is now as in photo 39.] Then the movement reverses, your right hand returning to the right, and continue with ward-off, rollback, press, and push to complete CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL.
Same as in Posture 4.
If an opponent punches toward my chest, I slightly hollow it to the rear while using my left hand to prop up his elbow and my right hand to push down his fist, causing him to be unable to advance and harm me. If I use any force at all, his elbow will be dislocated. The rest is the same as in Posture 4, and so will not explained again here.
For this posture, see photo 62 [followed by photos 39, 6-9, 28, and 10]:
This posture is also called HALF STEP FORWARD.
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5.
Name: TURN AROUND, HOLDING A TAIJI SPHERE
This indicates your body’s action of twisting around to the right while your palms face each other as though holding a taiji sphere, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your torso turns to the right, your feet making a twisting stance. At the same time, your left hand goes down and wraps upward to be palm up, stopping about five or six inches in front of your elixir field. Your right hand is above, palm down, level with your right shoulder, stopping about five or six inches in front of your chest. Your palms are facing each other above and below. Your knees are slightly bent. Your body must be upright and your waist have a sinking energy. Extend your neck and draw up your headtop. Your gaze is forward and level.
Same as in Posture 14, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in Posture 14, and so will not be explained again here.
For this posture, see photo 63:
Name: MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE
This posture’s movements are separated into four parts oriented to the four corners, filling the four corner compass points, turning around in all directions, coming and going without pause. Your body’s method is nimble, like the actions of threading a shuttle, recycling without interruption, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your torso turns to the left, your right [left] foot steps forward to the southwest, making a left bow stance. Your feet are about two and two-thirds feet apart. Your waist has a sinking energy. At the same time, your left hand goes from below, twisting over to prop up above your head, palm up, stopping about a foot from your forehead, and your right palm strikes directly forward from your chest, palm outward, tiger’s mouth up, and should be at shoulder height. Your arms are bent into crescent moon shapes. Your elixir field has an energy of drawing back. Your gaze is forward and level.
This posture exercises your chest and organs, as well as the energies of both propping up and pushing out. Practicing it daily can keep you free from stomachache.
If an opponent attacks with a punch, I promptly use one hand to block him upward and the other hand to return a strike to his face. [From here is described the application for part 2:] If an opponent suddenly strikes me from behind, I twist my body around and twist my hand over to neutralize his energy, then take advantage of the momentum to advance with my left [right] foot and extend my palm to prop up and reverse the direction of his wrist or arm while my other palm is doing a pushing strike to his chest.
For this posture, see photo 64:
The orientations for the footwork of these four movements is as below:
MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE (part 2)
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot gathers in, the toes nearing your left instep. At the same time, your hands withdraw so your palms are facing each other above and below as if carrying a ball, left hand above, right hand below. The weight of your whole body sits on your left leg. Your body turns around to the southeast and your right foot steps forward, making a right bow stance. Your right hand goes from below, twisting over to prop up above your head and halts there, palm up. At the same time, your left hand strikes directly forward from your chest, palm outward, tiger’s mouth up. The rest is the same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here, except this time the orientation is different.
For this posture, see photo 65:
MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE (part 3)
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot gathers in, the toes nearing your right instep. At the same time, your hands withdraw so the palms are facing each other above and below as if carrying a ball, right hand above, left hand below. The weight of your whole body sits on your right leg. Your left foot steps forward, to make a left bow stance, your torso turning to the southwest [northeast]. Your left hand goes up from below, twisting over, until above your headtop, palm up. At the same time, your right hand extends outward straight from your chest, palm outward, tiger’s mouth up. The rest is the same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, except the orientation is different.
For this posture, see photo 66 [merely a repeat of photo 64 and consequently a reversed profile of this particular posture]:
MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE (part 4)
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot gathers in, the toes nearing your left instep. At the same time, your hands withdraw so the palms are facing each other above and below, left hand above, right hand below, as if carrying something. The weight of your whole body sits on your left leg. Your body turns around to the northwest. Your right hand goes up from below, twisting over, until above your headtop, palm up. At the same time, your left hand extends outward from your chest, palm outward, tiger’s mouth up. The rest is the same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, and so will not be explained again here.
Same as in part 1, except this time the orientation is different.
For this posture, see photo 67:
When practicing these four movements, it must be a continuous flow without any stagnation. You will then be able to be nimble and lively, like the idea of running a comb through your hair without any hindrance.
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – See Posture 4, except you must first take a half step forward (as in photo 62), then ward-off, rollback, press, and push follow as before.
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5, and so will not be explained again here.
CLOUDING HANDS – Same as Posture 36, and so will not be explained again here.
Name: SINGLE ROD, LOW POSTURE
The completion of this posture’s movement is called LOW POSTURE. Your left hand sinks down and your body sits down at the same time, putting all its energy into dropping, and thus it is a “lowered posture”.
Continuing from the previous posture, after making the SINGLE ROD, your body goes to the rear, putting all its energy into withdrawing, then sitting down. The weight is on your right leg, knee bent, and your left leg is extended forward, as in a pouncing stance. At the same time, your left hand goes from above, withdrawing in the same direction as your left [right] leg, slightly pauses in front of your left hip, then extends over your left leg, pausing as it is about to reach the anklebone. Your right hand’s hook does not move. Your body must not lean forward and your head should have an energy of pressing up. Your gaze is forward and level.
This posture can cause energy to sink down and can erase the maladies of uneven breathing or holding your breath until you are red in the face. The rest is the same as in the SINGLE ROD posture.
If an opponent attacks me with a punch, I then use a hand to grasp his wrist and sink down his attack diagonally, causing him to fall forward. This application is the same as NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA. Where it is different lies in that posture going straight down while this one is at a slant. If the opponent goes to the rear, throwing off my grab, I take advantage of the opportunity and strike forward. He will have no defense and inevitably stumble back.
For this posture, see photo 68:
Name: LEFT & RIGHT GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG
In this posture, one foot is suspended while the other stands on its own in the manner of a rooster or crane, both of which have the ability of standing on one leg. Bending an elbow and extending the palm makes it also like a golden rooster spreading a wing, and as the movement is done on both sides, it is therefore called LEFT & RIGHT GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG.
Continuing from the previous posture, your body advances. Advancing, it rises, and your right hand goes along with your body upward, the elbow bending and with an intention of coordinating with your right knee. At the same time, lift your right knee until at waist level, toes slightly hanging down. Your right palm is facing toward the left. The weight of your whole body is on your left leg. The fingers of your right hand are at shoulder level. Your head is slightly tilted forward. Your left leg is also slightly bent. Your left hand has an intention of hanging curved, pausing by your left hip. Your gaze is forward and level. It is like the first photo below. Then your right leg lowers, your torso slightly sitting back, causing the weight of your whole body to sit on your right leg. Your left hand goes along with your left foot and lifts, as your left knee lifts up to hip level, coordinated with your left elbow, toes slightly hanging down. Your left palm is facing toward the right, fingers up and level with your left eyebrow [shoulder]. Your right hand at the same time has an intention of hanging curved, pausing beside your right hip. Your gaze is forward and level. It is like the second photo below.
Practicing this posture trains balance and stability, and the issuing and storing of internal power, keeping you from swaying to the sides. It can also make your waist more nimble, can strengthen your leg muscles, is good at dispelling numbness, and will get the energy of propping up to be equal for both hands.
If the opponent attacks with a chopping palm, I use my right hand to prop it up with the intention of carrying aside his hand. At the same time, I use my right foot to kick to his groin or my knee to smash his belly, either way. Here lies the knee strike in Taiji Boxing. The application on both sides is the same.
For this posture, see photos 69 & 70:
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY – Same as Posture 23.
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE – Same as Posture 24.
RAISE THE HANDS – Same as Posture 25.
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Same as Posture 26.
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Same as Posture 27.
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA – Same as Posture 28.
FAN THROUGH THE ARMS – Same as Posture 29.
WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE – Same as Posture 30.
TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH – Same as Posture 31.
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH – Same as Posture 32.
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH – Same as Posture 33.
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Same as Posture 34.
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5.
CLOUDING HANDS – Same as Posture 36.
SINGLE ROD – Same as Posture 5, and so will not be explained again here.
Name: RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, CHANGING TO THREADING PALM
This posture is also called LEFT & RIGHT RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, for the idea is to link them together, thus the name. Beyond the two movements in Posture 38, adding the threading palm brings the total for this posture to three movements.
Continuing from the previous posture, beyond the first two movements, which are the same as in Posture 38 and so will not be explained again here, your right foot stays where it is and your left foot extends a step forward. Your left hand at the same time threads forward over the back of your right hand, palm up, and your right hand stops below your left armpit, palm down. The posture changes to left bow stance. Your gaze is over your left hand, looking level. The rest is the same as in Posture 38, and you may refer to its explanation to more easily understand.
Same as in Posture 38, except here there is a threading palm, which simply improves the skillfulness of your [left] arm.
Same as in Posture 38, until the threading palm. If the opponent comes forward to strike me where I have left a gap, I then use my right hand to press down his fist and extend my left hand to attack his throat area.
For this posture, see photo 71:
Name: TURN TO THE RIGHT, PRESSING KICK (KICKING WITH THE OPPOSITE HAND FORWARD)
This posture’s movement is the same as in Posture 40, photo 48, except here your torso is squared to the front, whereas in the other you were squared to the rear, so it is not identical. The rest is mostly the same [apart from left and right being reversed], thus there is no further explanation here, and you may refer to the earlier explanation to more easily understand.
Continuing from the previous posture, sit fully on your left leg and turn around to the right (turning your head), your right hand threads out from below your left arm, palm down, as your left hand draws back toward your right side, also turning its palm down, so they are now making an X shape. Then the palms turn outward, go above your head, and spread apart to the sides. At the same, your right foot lifts and presses out in the direction you have turned your head. The weight of your whole body is sitting on your left leg. Your gaze is to the west. Your [left] toes at the same time are turned to point to the south. When turning around, absolutely avoid swaying. This is incredibly important.
This posture trains stability in turning, as well as developing the energy of extending and pressing outward in your hands and feet.
If an opponent tries to punch me from in front [behind], I promptly turn around and use my right hand to push aside his right hand, making his attack land on nothing, while using my right foot to press his waist or flank.
For this posture, see photo 72:
Some people call this posture KICK WITH THE OPPOSITE HAND FORWARD because after turning around, they use their right [left] hand to audibly slap the top of their right foot. But many when practicing rarely slap the foot. Whether you slap or not does not really matter, but keep it in mind for the sake of others who are studying.
COME DOWN, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH – This posture comes down with the foot turned out, continuing into the parrying-block punch, but the rest is the same as in Posture 15, and so will not be explained again here.
STEP FORWARD, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH – Same as Posture 16, and so will not be explained again here.
ADVANCE, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Same as Posture 84.
SINGLE ROD CONTINUING INTO LOW POSTURE – Same as Posture 71.
Name: STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER
In this posture’s movement, your fists cross to make an X shape, stopping in front of your chest, and your right foot steps forward, toes raised. In martial arts, this is called the Big Dipper posture, and in Shaolin it is called “stepping into the central palace”. [This comment is slightly puzzling. In Northern Shaolin’s ten sets, the several mentions of a Big Dipper pose apply only to the posture of the arms and have nothing to do with the stance. Also, there seems to be no mention in Gu’s Shaolin curriculum of a “central palace” technique, and so it may be possible he is describing something from a broader Shaolin perspective that he did not necessarily represent in his teaching, but that may have been familiar to other Shaolin practitioners to whom he was now teaching Taiji.]
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands become fists, your right hand going up from the lower rear to the outside of your left wrist, your left hand on the inside as they cross to make an X shape at shoulder level. Your elbows are both bent and the fist eyes are toward yourself, about a foot away. At the same time, your right foot steps forward to make an empty stance, heel touching down, toes up. Your body is sitting back, the weight of your whole body on your left leg. Your gaze is forward, looking level toward your fists. Your waist maintains a settling energy, causing energy to naturally sink to your elixir field.
This posture exercises the strength of your legs and hips, as well as the skill of propping up with both fists.
If the opponent attacks me with a punch, I use both fists to make an X shape, propping upward to obstruct him. At the same time, I lift my right foot with a countering attack to his leg.
For this posture, see photo 73:
Name: RETREAT TO SITTING TIGER POSTURE
This posture continues from the previous posture by retreating a step, your body sitting to the rear, your hands spreading apart. The shape resembles a sitting tiger. The retreat is coming from the posture of STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER, but the retreating posture is called SITTING TIGER POSTURE.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot retreats a step, your left foot changes from full to empty, your right leg bending, and the weight of your whole body sits on your right leg. At the same time, your hands lightly strike your right thigh, then spread apart above and below, right hand above, palm outward [although the photo is showing palm inward], left hand below, palm to the rear, and your body is spreading open along with them. Your gaze is forward and level. Your right arm is bent, the hand level with your head. Your left arm is hanging down, pausing beside your left hip at a slight distance from it. Your elixir field has an energy of containing, your head presses up, your neck is straight, and your body must not lean forward.
This posture exercises mental awareness and the dodging ability of your waist, as well as training sinking energy.
If the opponent attacks me with a kick, I then use my [left] hand to deflect his leg aside while retreating, causing his kick to land on nothing. This is an evasion technique.
For this posture, see photo 74:
This posture’s movement is similar in shape to Posture 7 – WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS [and in fact the same photo was reused for this posture], but the movement is not the same.
Name: TURN AROUND, SWINGING LOTUS KICK
This posture turns, meaning your body turns around. By “swinging lotus kick” is meant that your hands and feet connect while swinging outward, thus the name. (But this is the swinging lotus kick turning around, so instead of facing forward and lifting your foot then bringing it down, turn to again face forward and then swing your foot outward with a kick.)
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot takes a covering step to the right, your left hand props up to the left rear and your left [right] hand pushes down, palm down, your right toes turning to point southwest. Turn your whole body around in a complete circle, coming down to face directly forward, and sit on your left leg. Your hands go along with your body’s turn, right hand propping up, palm up, left hand pushing down, palm down, and during the turn, come together. You are now facing east. Your right foot lifts and swings from left to right. Your hands at the same time go from right to left. Right when your hands and foot meet, your hands audibly slap the foot in quick succession. Therefore some people call it TURN AROUND, DOUBLE-SLAP SWINGING LOTUS KICK.
This posture works your [right] hip joint and your foot’s ability in spinning.
If an opponent attacks me by wielding a weapon such as a spear, saber, or staff, I use a swinging lotus kick to kick his wrist, injuring him so he is unable to grasp his weapon. Or if an opponent attacks me from the side, I retreat my left foot and withdraw my left hand, turning my body to evade it, and taking advantage of the momentum to lift my [right] foot and kick across to his ribs.
For this posture, see photo 75:
Name: BEND THE BOW TO SHOOT THE TIGER
In this posture, your right hand is in front of your right ear, left hand extended forward, in the manner of our nation’s ancient warriors when they drew a bow to fire an arrow, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, when your right foot is about to come down, step it down to the side into a right bow stance, left leg pressing straight. Your hands go along with your waist, going forward and downward with an intention of pulling in, then from below again arc upward, arcing toward the northeast (which is now directly in front of you). Your hands then grasp into fists, your left fist goes forward with the intent of a pushing energy, elbow slightly hanging down, tiger’s mouth upward, and your right hand at the same time arcs until about seven or eight inches above the right side of your forehead, the center of the fist upward [to the right]. The weight is on your right leg. Your gaze is forward and level. Both arms are bent, the forward arm pushing and the rear arm pulling, both using a concealed energy. It is like the intention of drawing a bow.
This posture exercises the bracing outward of the right side of your waist and back, and the flexibility of your legs. It also can strengthen your body and erase the maladies of backache and weakening legs.
This posture is a neutralizing technique. If I am about to grab the opponent, he will want to throw it off, so I take advantage of his center of balance as he leans outward in doing so, seizing the moment and applying power as he is about express his. He will inevitably stumble away. If he then grabs my left hand, I vertically apply my upper fist to counter with a punch, my body and hands advancing in unison. Even if he wishes to escape, it will already be too late.
For this posture, see photo 76:
STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH – From the SHOOT THE TIGER posture, your right hand loosens to the rear, palm up, and your left hand loosens to the right, palm down, your hands coming together and going to the rear with an intention of drawing in. Then from the rear they circle forward as you step forward with your right foot turned out to perform STEP FORWARD, PARRYING-BLOCK PUNCH. The rest is the same as in Posture 15, and so will not be explained again here.
ADVANCE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH – Same as Posture 16, and so will not be explained again here.
SEALING SHUT – Same as Posture 17, and so will not be explained again here.
CROSSED HANDS – Same as Posture 18, and so will not be explained again here.
CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN – Same as Posture 19, and so will not be explained again here. [There is no explanation provided for why these two postures are again divided into two when in 51 and 59 they were combined, nor is there any explanation for why they would be either divided or combined in the first place. A more natural movement count for this set would perhaps be 105 or 101 rather than 103.]
Name: MERGING WITH THE GRAND POLARITY
This is the closing posture. Its movements continue from the preceding posture. After CAPTURE THE TIGER, your hands then push down, making the final posture in the set. The performance concludes by returning to its original condition, and there is also the idea of essence, energy, and spirit merging with each other, thus the name.
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands embrace upward, palms up, propping up in front of your chest. Your hands then turn over so the palms are downward and your right foot shifts over a half step so your feet are shoulder width. Your body at the same time has a rising intention. Up [goes your body] and down [goes your hands], they must move simultaneously. It is like the first photo below. As soon as your body is standing straight, your hands are hanging straight, fingers down, halting beside each hip. Your gaze is forward and level. Energy going into your elixir field, your mind again emptying to have no thoughts or considerations, returning to its original state. It is like the second photo below. This is the closing posture.
Same as in Posture 1.
Same as in Posture 1.
For this posture, see photos 77 & 78 [78 a repeat of photo 1]:
From Posture 60 to Posture 103 constitutes the second half of the set.
AFTERWORD [TO THE BOXING SET]
Always when practicing the Taiji Boxing solo set, from start to finish your spirit must not disperse nor energy leak away, and then you will be able to obtain its subtleties. The explanations above for its practice methods, effects, applications, and so on, are only brief words for conveying a general idea. Fighting skill is a matter of transforming limitlessly and cannot be condensed to such descriptions. As the saying goes: “Practice makes perfect.” It is also said: “The essence of the endeavor is work.” If you practice with constancy and study diligently, then you will naturally get a lot from a little. Here ends Chapter Two.
CHAPTER THREE: TAIJI BOXING’S PUSHING HANDS METHODS
1. TAIJI BOXING’S PUSHING HANDS CURRICULUM
The training method in the Taiji boxing art can be divided into two parts: practicing the solo set and practicing the pushing hands. Pushing hands is when two people, or even three, are pushing each other with their hands. Once you have become skillful in the practice of the solo set, you should then continue your study with pushing hands in order to identify energies and reach the level of practical application. For an analogy, you have to practice writing in order to learn how to read well. Training the solo set is the practice of knowing the self. When pushing hands, it is the practice of knowing the opponent. Sunzi said [Art of War, chapter 3]: “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” This can be seen in any example of pushing hands. Since it occupies such an important position, how can it be overlooked?
Pushing hands did not originally have fixed postures. It came from the techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, push, pluck, rend, elbow, and bump, constantly transforming, going round and round without end like a limitless circle. While it is not like other kinds of boxing arts, it is comparable in that it has fixed methods. During the beginning of learning pushing hands, the methods in this book should be complied with, practicing according to the sequence. On no account are steps to be skipped, and then in the course of time, skill will naturally develop.
When we teach beginners pushing hands, we must first clarify its contents. What is ward-off? What is rollback? If an opponent attacks using press or push, what technique or method must be used to neutralize it? By taking time to deeply ponder, twice the effect will be gained for half the effort. It is not appropriate to be just willfully issuing power.
Beginners must endure being thrown, which will keep them from being fearful and hesitant to go forward, and this is the whole point of the widespread practice of martial arts. When the day comes that their pushing training has built up a sufficient foundation, discuss how to issue power and have them experiment with it, no matter how long it takes. If we do not proceed in this way, we will be unable to spark the interest of students. My comrades, am I not right?
Therefore when practicing pushing hands, the parameters of Taiji Boxing’s theory must be complied with, and students are not to just do whatever they feel like, which would create bad habits. Once someone has achieved skillfulness, it is best to work with someone else who is at the same level, for they will then refine each other to bring about the most benefit. If they casually rub circles with their hands, energies will not be distinguished and they would cultivate the bad habits of sliding and blocking. This brings me again to Taiji Boxing’s theory, which I will use as a means of analyzing in detail as I explain the required standards below.
STAGE ONE OF EXAMINING ONE’S PUSHING HANDS: THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF THE PREREQUISITES FOR WORKING TOWARD IDENTIFYING ENERGIES
A. OPEN & CLOSE, PASSIVE & ACTIVE
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Taiji [grand polarity] is born of wuji [nonpolarity], meaning it is the moment when stillness becomes motion, and gives rise to the passive and active aspects. When there is movement, the passive and active aspects become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable.”
This is a sufficient description of the essence of Taiji Boxing. It comes from wuji, and thereby it does through non-doing. It contains within it the manifestations of movement and stillness. If there is stillness within movement, it can calm your mind and harmonize your energy, in order for you to differentiate the opponent’s energies. If there is movement within stillness, it can convert essence to energy to spirit, in order for you to transform the opponent’s energies. When there is movement, there is spreading out, opening, attacking, and outward reeling of silk. When there is stillness, there is rolling in, closing, defending, and inward reeling of silk.
Therefore in every movement in Taiji Boxing, there is no departing from these two kinds of functions. When you open and close with your body, you must have the skill of passivity/activity, which embodies the functions of emptiness/fullness, gathering/releasing, slackening/expanding, and so on. The two opposites must correspond to each other in order to transform in all ways. If you lack either one, no matter how good the other may seem to be, both will be rendered useless.
Thus is explained the “great pole” generating the two polarities, as described above. If you think you will be able to accomplish this without needing to practice the solo set, that these effects have already been trained into you, you will be wrong. And if you think that through practicing only pushing hands you will be able to bring about these functions of open/close and passive/active, you will utterly lack these principles.
B. STICKING, ADHERING, CONNECTING, AND FOLLOWING
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Neither going too far nor not far enough, comply and bend then engage and extend.”
This has to do with Taiji Boxing’s partner work. Each person has to be functional at passive/active and movement/stillness. Both must also neither overreach in their postures nor stop too short. In carrying out techniques upon the opponent, you must take the right opportunities. When you see the appropriate moment, then you can use lightness to control heaviness.
In accordance with all of this while dealing with an opponent, you must:
 “Neither go too far…” – This refers to sticking energy. If you go too far, that is the error of crashing in.
 “… nor not far enough,…” – This refers to the error of coming away. If you can go far enough, that is adhering energy.
 “… comply and bend…” – This refers to connecting energy. If you cannot comply and bend, you will make the error of collapsing.
 “then engage and extend.” – This refers to following energy. If you overextend, that is the error of resistance.
These four kinds of skills are obtained entirely through doing pushing hands, and will only come to you if you work hard for them. Once these four are a reality, you must then possess the two conditions (C & D) which follow.
C. HARDNESS & SOFTNESS, SMOOTHNESS & COARSENESS
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “He is hard while I am soft – this is yielding. My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse – this is sticking.”
The situation here is: the opponent attacks with hardness and I respond with softness. When softness encounters hardness, it must not crash into it [i.e. respond by likewise becoming hardness], nor come away from it [i.e. become too soft], for soft energy particularly needs to have ward-off energy stored within it. Having ward-off energy, as well as neither coming away nor crashing in, then you will be able to yield. When softness without ward-off energy encounters hardness, it will collapse, being insufficient to respond to hardness, and that certainly could not be called yielding.
If you can use smooth energy when dealing with an opponent, then you can compel him to use coarse energy, causing him to be unable to get into a good position. If you are not sticking to him, you will not be able to do this. Sticking verges on attack, which is hard. Yielding verges on softness, which is defensive. It is commonly said that yielding is an energy of flowing out and sticking is an energy of filling in. Because both people have the ability to stick and yield, then each has the ability to harmonize with the other’s energy. Not generating any instances of coming away or crashing in, you can then stick and adhere to each other as one. If these are the case, then movement and stillness can respond to each other and you will be able to sense the state of the opponent’s energy.
D. QUICKNESS & LEISURE, STICKING & YIELDING
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “If he moves fast, I quickly respond, and if his movement is slow, I leisurely follow.”
With this concept, although you can use yielding to intice the opponent to enter and use sticking to cause his root to break, you still have to regard his speed and pursue him in accordance with it. Thus the skill of “if he moves fast, I quickly respond, and if his movement is slow, I leisurely follow” can then obtained. If quickness and leisure cannot generate each other, then sticking and yielding will not be able to respond to each other. How then would you be able to sense when the opponent’s energies are changing between movement and stillness?
Keep an eye on the four themes above. If when practicing the solo set you are unable to have a habit of open/close and passive/active in the energy of the exercise, or to distinguish between hard and soft when gauging your movement, then you will be unable to have the skill of acting quickly/leisurely. How could you then get any results from sticking, adhering, connecting, and following? If you wish to be doing pushing hands starting from sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, and from that point work toward open/close, passive/active, hard/soft, quickness/leisure, smooth/coarse, would that not then go against commonsense?
Furthermore, this is an exercise between two people, and so each person has the same things in mind. Often you will be unable to control the opponent, which is a matter of your ability in sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, or an issue of faulty technique during them. If your sticking and yielding is not putting you in the right place at the right time, how can you acquire any functionality in your Taiji Boxing? Therefore if you want to work toward identifying energies, you must first possess the requirements for identifying energies.
Once in possession of all these parts, then through frequent practice of pushing hands you will obtain further by way of experience, and then genuine sticking, adhering, connecting, and following will be generated. But when learning this part of Taiji Boxing, you must not try to rush ahead through the process. Although this passage is about sticking and yielding – “There is an endless variety of possible scenarios, but there is only this single principle [of sticking and yielding] throughout. Once you have ingrained these pushing hands techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will work your way toward something miraculous. But unless you practice a lot over a long time, you will never have a breakthrough.” – this is the process in the pushing hands training of working toward identifying energies.
In accordance with the above, the first stage of learning pushing hands should be examined through these questions:
Do you have the energies of open and close? Do you have in every movement the energies of reeling silk outward and inward?
Are you distinguishing between passive and active? Are you in every movement distinguishing between empty and full?
Do you have the skill of quickness/leisure? Do you have in every movement the ability to be fast/slow?
If you have all of these things, your pushing hands training can move on to the skills of sticking, adhering, connecting, and following.
STAGE TWO OF EXAMINING ONE’S PUSHING HANDS: THE POSTURE & SPIRIT OF STICKING, ADHERING, CONNECTING, AND FOLLOWING
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Forcelessly press up your headtop.”
When working toward sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you must have in yourself the ability to be extremely light, then you can know the opponent’s power. Therefore your headtop is to be effortlessly suspended, and then there is ward-off energy all the way up to your headtop. Because of this, spirit can be lifted up, and so there will then be no worry of the movement being late or sluggish, and instead changes will be natural and lively.
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Energy sinks to your elixir field.”
When working toward sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you must have in yourself the ability to be extremely calm, then you can control the opponent and not be controlled by the opponent. Therefore energy sinking to your elixir field is the skill of a downward ward-off energy. In using mind to move energy, you must be calm so as to get it to gather into your bones, and then when pushing hands, it will not result in the movements floating.
BEING CENTERED RATHER THAN LEANING
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Neither lean…”
In working toward sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you must have the skill in your body of being centered and not leaning so as to be able to brace in all directions. When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your body should be centered in order to twist, and then when advancing or retreating, you will maintain effortlessness, presenting no place for the opponent to attack, not committing the error of drawing him in to try and neutralize him but then neglecting to spread him away.
NEITHER SLANTING NOR DIGGING IN
The Classic continues: “… nor slant.”
In working toward sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you must not send forth your own energy, but instead rely on the errors of the opponent’s body or hands. Do not use your own body and hands, but instead make use of the opponent’s error of digging in. If you were to lean against him at that spot [where he is digging in,] you will simply replace his digging-in energy, which would unavoidably make you lose your chance to identify his energies. Your body would easily float up, your heel would easily disconnect from the ground, and the opponent would have a way in. Slanting and digging in are both vehicles for the error of resistance.
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Suddenly hide and suddenly appear.”
In working toward sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your own energy should have the ability to be sensitive and lively. When you are able to “hide”, that is a matter of softness and lightness. When you are able to “appear”, that is a matter of hardness and heaviness. If you are able to have hardness and softness transform into each other, to have lightness and heaviness alternate with each other, to be sensitive and decisive, and to cause your opponent to have nothing to perceive, then you will have the method of easily being able to read him while keeping him from reading you.
If you are capable with the five themes above, it will usually be the case that your arms will work in tandem to release in a specific direction and later be able to take turns dexterously. [The Taiji Boxing Classic says:] “When there is pressure on the left, the right [left] empties. When there is pressure on the right, the left [right] disappears.” Once you have this level of sensitivity:
 If the opponent moves upward toward you, he is made to go higher because you are sticking to him. [“When looking up, it is still higher.”]
 If he moves downward toward you, he is made to go lower because you are adhering to him. [“When looking down, it is still lower.”]
 If he advances, he is made to reach farther because you are connecting to him. [“When advancing, it is even farther.”]
 If he retreats, he finds himself nearer to you because you are following him. [“When retreating, it is even nearer.”]
With these four being the case, the skills of sticking, adhering, connecting, and following will thus be obtained. With keen sensitivity it is as though “A feather cannot be added and…” with nimbleness of body and hands as if “… a fly cannot land.” The Classic continues: “The opponent does not understand me, only I understand him. A hero is one who encounters no opposition, and it is through this kind of method that such a condition is achieved.”
In accordance with the above, the second stage of learning pushing hands should be examined through these questions:
Do you have the quality of leading upward to suspend your headtop – the skill of lightening?
Do you have the quality of energy sinking to your elixir field – the skill of becoming heavier?
Is your body centered instead of leaning?
Are you committing the error of bracing against your opponent’s hands?
Can you alternate fluently between hardness and softness, lightness and heaviness?
If you possess these five skills and are without error, then it can be said you have obtained both the posture and spirit of pushing hands. You also then do not need to worry that the skills of stick, adhere, connect, and follow are not developing, for these four skills will have already been obtained. Working toward identifying energies will now be natural and easy, and the method of controlling opponents will be obtained without seeking it.
STAGE THREE OF EXAMINING ONE’S PUSHING HANDS: METHODS OF WORKING TOWARD IDENTIFYING ENERGIES
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Stand like a scale.”
In working toward identifying energies, you must stand like a scale. When awaiting the opponent, your body appears as a flat scale. Your head is like the uppermost point above the hinge, your hands making the trays to each side, your arms bound to each other to make the horizontal balance beam, your waist the platform base, and going down through the base to your tailbone, there is the supporting post holding everything up. Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop, making a single line up and down. Equipped will all these things, you can then weigh the size of the opponent’s energies. Whether there is the slightest bit of lightness or heaviness, floating or sinking, they will all be revealed with precision. This is the method of identifying the lightness or heaviness of energies.
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “Move like a wheel.”
In working toward identifying energies, although you now have “stand like a scale” in your body, you still need to install a wheel-like property. Because people and things are different, the two parts are to be put together as a scale-man, but we are not to entertain the notion of a man-scale, for we must add the scale quality in the context of the body and cannot do it the other way around. [In other words, while your body must adopt some scale-like attributes, you should not try to imitate a scale so exactly that you cease to function like a person when facing an opponent.] Therefore you must treat energy as a wheel and your waist as the axle, your arms united in service of each other. When your wheel is turning horizontally, your upper body and lower will be coordinating with each other, the wheel rotating on a vertical axis. When you feel the slightest touch, then in going up or down, left or right, forward or back, rotations will be smooth, and then it can be the case that the scale quality has been achieved by your body. This is the method of identifying the direction of energies.
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “If you drop one side, you can move. If you have equal pressure on both sides, you will be stuck.”
In working toward identifying energies, if you are identifying the direction that the opponent’s energy is coming or going, and are identifying the weight and size of his energy, then it can already be said you have obtained the method of identifying energies. Having in yourself the centered and unleaning quality of standing like a scale, as well as the upper and lower body coordination of moving like a wheel, then once the opponent adds some energy, you feel the direction it is going and sink toward that side, and can then follow along with it based on the direction his energy is now sinking. This is letting go of yourself to follow the opponent. If his energy is coming toward you, then turn like a wheel and draw it in to land on nothing. Once his energy has passed you, then tug on his action with four ounces [of extra weight] moving [his initial weight of] a thousand pounds. [The equivalent English idiom to “four ounces moving a thousand pounds” is therefore “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.]
This drawing-in energy is the indispensable energy in pushing hands. What creates the drawing-in energy is your body possessing the skill of sinking to one side. If the opponent adds energy, you still must adjust by getting it to sink to one side. If you can rotate his original force, it is always with the wheel slightly sinking away to one side and at a single point, whether left or right, up or down, forward or back. Because there is this irregularity in slightly sinking, the wheel tugs at his movement by rotating. If the wheel has equal pressure to the left and right, or forward and back, this is the error of double pressure. With the power equalized in this way, it would inevitably change the situation by impeding your wheel so you cannot move. [i.e. The wheel is being pushed to both sides at the same time and is thus held fast. If we translate “double pressure” as “double weighted”, the image is then of the scale’s trays being held level with each other rather than one side dropping and the other side rising.] But if you go to one side too far, your wheel will be overturned, and how can you then have the energy of a scale-man? Therefore this sinking to one side depends on being done slightly rather than with exaggeration.
The three themes above are methods of working toward identifying energies. You must possess qualities such as scaleness and wheelness, and both of these things are to accompany your body always. With these qualities together, you have a method of controlling the opponent’s movement, but you must have ability to draw him in for there to then be a pushing action.
The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations and is generally under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood.” The meaning of that particular term is: an inability to draw the opponent in. “If you want to avoid this error, you must understand passive and active.” – meaning emptiness and fullness, lightness and heaviness – which has to do with rotation. You also must understand sticking and yielding – meaning hardness and softness, smoothness and coarseness – which has to do with transforming.
The Classic then goes on: “In sticking there is yielding and in yielding there is sticking. The passive does not depart from the active and the active does not depart from the passive. Sticking and yielding correspond to each other, for the passive and active exchange roles. Once you have this understanding, you will be identifying energies. Once you are identifying energies, then the more you practice, the more efficient your skill will be, and by absorbing through experience and by constantly contemplating, gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want.”
The third stage of learning pushing hands should be examined through these questions:
As to the strength or weakness of the sensitivity of your scale, do you feel inside the slightest differences and can you make distinctions?
As to your rotating like a rubbered tire, are you sufficiently inflated within [so that you rotate rather than collapse]?
As to your ability to draw the opponent in, can you do as you please and change with liveliness between lightness and heaviness?
As to your mental acuity when pushing hands, are you dull-witted or are you sharp?
If you attain these four things to a high level, then you have the skill of identifying energies and will undoudtedly succeed. If you can identify the opponent’s energies, then your upper body and lower will be coordinated with each other, and to the left and right you will achieve what you intend, effortlessly issuing and precisely on target. But you will have to pay attention when working toward identifying energies.
Although this has to do with the principle of letting go of yourself and following the opponent, in following him you will naturally have a sense of how far to do so and must not be following along blindly. When following him, you especially need to have a specific spot that you are following and must not be following him randomly. If you want to follow him, it should be at a spot close to you that you are sticking to. Once you are sticking firmly to that spot, then however it turns, do not come away from it. Regardless of how he adjusts, remain with that spot, staying focused upon it. Follow only one spot at a time, not two, and following only one that is close to you, not one that is far. Because I am following a point that is close to me, the fulcrum of the lever lies within me, and it is easy to release at the right moment and in the right position. Because I am following only one point, the result will not be opening a door to capture a shadow or looking to one thing while losing sight of another.
In this way, you are working toward identifying energies. In paying attention intently to the spot at which you are firmly sticking, you will be utterly incapable of ignoring your immediate situation in favor of what has nothing to do with it. The Taiji Boxing Classic says: “The basic of basics is to forget about your plans and simply respond to the opponent. We often make the mistake of ignoring what is right in front of us in favor of something that has nothing to do with our immediate circumstances.” This is the concluding point in the Taiji Boxing Classic. You should pay it great attention.
The material above and the two included checklists below will serve as a means to inquire and verify of yourself when studying on your own.
SOLO SET CHECKLIST
1ST STAGE – [six things to check]:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
身 是否中正安舒 有無前俯後仰左傾右斜之病
 body – Are you centered and comfortable? / Or are you bowing forward, yawning back, slanting away to the sides?
形 是否活潑貫注 有無呆板盲目之病
 shape – Are you lively and absorbed? / Or are you stiff and unaware?
腰 是否如車輪大纛 有無如直棍或扭絲之病
 waist – Is it [rotating] like a wheel and [poised] like a flag of command? / Or is it merely twisting like a bit of string and standing like a stick?
頂 是否虛虛領起 有無埀頭挺項之病
 headtop – Is it forcelessly guided to lift? / Or is your head drooping, your forehead sticking out?
脊 是否牽動氣貼脊背 有無脊背不生影嚮之病
 spine – Are you leading movement with the energy sticking to your spine? / Or does your spine have no influence on the movement?
步 是否如貓之行 有無笨走實邁之病
 step – Are you stepping like a cat? / Or are you walking clumsily and falling weighted onto your foot?
2ND STAGE – four things to check:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
運 是否旋轉如抽絲 有無直行手不打旋轉之病
 wielding – Are you rotating like reeling silk? / Or are your hands moving straight and not attacking with rotations?
按 是否有意上寓下之摺叠 有無硬接折斷之病
 pushing down – Are you folding with an upward intention that contains a downward intention? / Or are you being hard and brittle?
蓄 是否加强如開弓 有無匾折而收之病
 storing – Is it as powerful as a drawn bow? / Or does it collapse and shrink in?
發 是否迅速如放箭 有無軟放及無彈性之病
 issuing – Is it fast as an arrow? / Or are you timidly releasing like a bow with no elasticity?
3RD STAGE – four things to check:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
順 是否順遂以抽絲 有無週轉不圓之病
 smoothness – Are you reeling silk both inward and outward? / Or are your rotations not round?
輕 是否有上掤勁 有無虛浮無主之病
 lightness – Do you have an upward ward-off energy? / Or are you floating aimlessly?
沉 是否有下掤勁 有無滯重不活之病
 heaviness – Do you have a downward ward-off energy? / Or are you stagnant and sluggish?
靈 是否靈敏以變換 有無牢守不化之病
 nimbleness – Are you nimbly transforming? / Or are you holding your ground inflexibly?
Use the three stages above to examine yourself. They all have to do with training the skills in the solo set. All who learn this boxing art should personally investigate it, inquiring into every technique. Thus when practicing the solo set, you will be able to follow a standard instead of veering off course.
PUSHING HANDS CHECKLIST:
1ST STAGE – seven things to check:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
開合 是否外抽以開裹抽以合 有無雙直開合之病
 open & close – Are you drawing outward to open and wrapping inward to close? / Or are you opening and closing in straight lines?
陰陽 是否處處有虛實 有無過虛過實之病
 passive & active – Is there everywhere an emptiness and a fullness? / Or are you being overly empty, overly full?
粘黏 是否無過不及 有無項丢之病
 sticking & adhering – Are you keeping yourself from going too far, not far enough? / Or are you crashing in, coming away?
連隨 是否隨曲就伸 有無匾抗之病
 connecting & following – Are you complying and bending, then engaging and extending? / Or are you collapsing and resisting?
剛柔 是否忽隱忽顯 有無專柔專剛之病
 hardness & softness – Are you suddenly hiding, suddenly appearing? / Or are you fixated on being soft, fixated on being hard?
順遂 是否變化婉轉 有無方走稜角之病
 smoothness & coarseness – Are you transforming smoothly? / Or does your yielding have edges and corners?
急緩 是否速慢相生 有無遲緩如一之病
 quickness & leisure – Are speed and slowness generating each other? / Or are your equating leisure with sluggishness?
2ND STAGE – four things to check:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
輕沉 是否頂勁虛懸與丹田墜 有無不分輕沉之病
 lightness & heaviness – Do you have the qualities of your headtop being forcelessly suspended and your elixir field sinking? / Or are you not distinguishing between lightness and heaviness?
中正 是否中正不偏 有無俯仰傾斜之病
 being centered – Are you centered instead of leaning? / Or are you yawning backward, bowing forward, or slanting off to the sides?
倚墊 是否獨立不羣 有無支架擱置對方身手之病
 slanting and digging in – Are you standing independently? / Or are you bracing against your opponent’s body or hands?
靈敏 是否遇現卽虛遇虛卽沉 有無牢守如一之病
 sensitivity – Are you emptying when encountering substance and sinking in upon encountering emptiness? / Or are you stubbornly guarding against everything in the same way?
3RD STAGE – three things to check:
類別 功 病
(classification – indicator of skill / indicator of error)
平凖 是否權衡畢顯感覺靈敏 有無掤勁折斷不生感覺之病
 scale-like quality – Are you judging fully whether you are perceiving with great sensitivity? / Or is your ward-off energy stopping before sensing what it encounters?
車輪 是否上下左右旋轉自如 有無車輪濡滯之病
 wheel-like quality – Are you turning up and down, left and right, smoothly? / Or is your rotation sluggish?
牽引 是否微沉卽動 有無遲重不靈之病
 drawing in – Are you sinking slightly with your movement? / Or is your movement slow, heavy, and awkward?
Use the three stages above to examine yourself. Although you have these points to check during pushing hands, the foundation is still the solo set. Apart from the skills of sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, and such errors as slanting and digging in, which can only be addressed through pushing hands, all the other skills are gained through practicing the solo set.
PUSHING HANDS METHOD FOR THE FOUR PRIMARY TECHNIQUES:
Warding Off, Rolling Back, Pressing, and Pushing Down (including both pushing down inward and pushing down outward) – aligning with the four cardinal compass points [of the eight trigrams].
Pattern 1: PREPARATION POSTURE
For two people, A and B, to practice, they first stand facing each other squarely, at approximately the distance at which they are able to touch each other’s outstretched hands. The standard is that there should be no sensation of strenuous effort, and so they should be neither too far from each other nor too near, for otherwise it will not be easy to achieve either the positioning or the timing.
A [to the right in the photo] first steps forward with his right foot, his left foot staying where it is. B also at the same time steps forward with his right foot, his left foot staying where it is. They both have the same foot forward. If they otherwise had the left foot forward and right foot behind, they would also be in a same-step position.
Both people at the same time lift both of their hands to chest level, right palm facing themselves, left hand with its fingers upward and lightly pressing down on the pulse area at their own right wrist, both arms slightly bent into semicircles. Their bodies should be erect and must not be either bowing forward or yawning back. The gaze is forward toward the opponent. This posture is as in photo 1:
Pattern 2: TAIJI DOUBLE-FISH TOUCHING-HANDS POSTURE
Continuing from the previous posture, both people still standing as they were, they close in on each other with both hands, making the double touching-hands posture, which resembles the taiji double-fish diagram. [When looked at from above, the fish are swimming the counterclockwise version in the case of right hand forward, clockwise in the case of left hand forward.] Both people are observing the hands so as to adapt according to the situation.
A [still to the right in the photo] is using his left hand to push on B’s right elbow, his right hand sideways at an angle in front of his own left shoulder, palm toward his own body, sticking to the back of B’s right hand. With both arms curved, the shape looks like a 9 [if seen from above from B’s side]. At this time, he must sink energy to his elixir field, loosen his torso, waist, and shoulders, and have a downward sinking intention. If it can be done in this way, then the breath will not become strained and all harmful errors will be avoided.
B’s action is the same as A’s. He is using his left hand to push on B’s right elbow, his right hand sideways at an angle in front of his own left shoulder, palm toward his own body, sticking to the back of A’s right hand. With both arms curved, the shape looks like a 6 [as seen from above from B’s side]. The rest is the same as with A, and thus need not be repeated. See photo 2:
Both of their shapes being brought together makes the two passive/active fish, which together form the circular taiji symbol. It is the same idea as in the Boxing Treatise: “When there is movement, the passive and active aspects become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable.” [In the case of this pushing hands position, if both just stand there holding the shape, neither fish is either passive or active, but if A pushes forward, his is now the active fish while B’s has become the passive fish.] Movement and stillness are as they are explained in the Book of Changes: “Passive and active [hardness and softness] rubbing against each other, the eight trigrams stimulate each other into being.”
The beginning movements for all of the pushing hands exercises below are these two patterns above.
Pattern 3: WARD-OFF – Its Function & Practice Method
Continuing from the previous posture, B takes the opportunity and sends his right arm (with the elbow bent) pressing out forward toward A’s body, the palm facing his own body. His feet still standing in the same place, his right leg bends to make a bow stance, left leg straightening, body slightly leaning forward. His left hand is placed at his own right wrist, the palm facing outward, his gaze in B’s direction.
A [still to the right in the photo] sees B’s press coming, so his body goes to the rear and sits on his left leg (both his feet still standing in the same place), changing his forward leg to be straightening, becoming empty, while his rear leg slightly bends and becomes full, the weight on the left leg. At the same time, he hollows his chest and plucks up his back, bending both arms so the elbows are hanging down, and uses his left hand to ward off B’s right elbow, his right hand still sticking to the back of B’s right hand. Both hands seem to have an intention of carrying upward to keep B’s press from reaching A’s chest, although the purpose of this technique is to neutralize B’s pressing technique. See photo 3 :
There are two ways off applying ward-off: level ward-off, as here in Pattern 3, and high ward-off, as mentioned below [in Section 6b], which circles around with both hands and then prop upward as described above, rendering the opponent’s power useless.
Pattern 4: ROLLBACK – Its Function & Practice Method
Continuing from the previous posture, both people are still standing in the same place. A [still to the right in the photo] sees B’s hands coming in with a press and seals off B’s left elbow [with his right hand], still hollowing his chest and sitting back so as not to allow B to get close to his body. He first turns over his left palm and uses it to stick to B’s left hand, sticking to each other with the backs of the hands, and then releases his right palm [from sticking to B’s right hand] and turns it over to prop up B’s elbow and prevent him from striking with it. At the same time, A’s elbows and hands roll back in a single action to the left corner with the intention of getting B to lean out and fall down. When rolling back, A’s left hand draws in and his right hand takes advantage of the momentum and pushes out. If done in this way, an opponent would be caused to lose his balance (i.e. lean forward) and would rarely not fall. See photo 4 :
If B were to gain the upper hand, then A would instead seal over from his chest downward with both hands and rend apart to both sides. The effect of this would be the same as rolling back [i.e. B losing his balance and falling], but the neutralizing is different, leaving the opponent with no method of pushing.
Pattern 5: PRESS – Its Function & Practice Method
Continuing from the previous posture, both people are still standing in the same place. B [still to the left in the photo] is being rolled back by A and is about to lean outward. He takes advantage of the momentum and uses his right hand to push on his own left forearm to press out powerfully toward A’s body as in Pattern 3, but with his left palm facing his own body and his right palm facing outward. Both arms are curved, the weight is on his right leg, and his body slightly leans toward A. His gaze is toward his own left [right] hand.
A sees B’s press coming. There is no hope for his posture and he is about to be leaned back until he falls down, so he immediately sits back, hollows his chest, and sends his hands pushing downward with a sinking energy to thus be able to transform danger into safety. See photo 5:
The warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing within the Pushing Hands Method for the Four Primary Techniques resemble the two-person exercise in Xingyi of the five elements generating and overcoming each other, the general concept being the same.
Both people start by giving each other a ward-off posture. When B pushes A with his ward-off, A then hollows his chest and sits back, sending B’s right forearm to the right side with a downward rollback, neutralizing B’s ward-off energy. When B is being rolled back, it seems his position is hopeless, but then he quickly turns, using his right forearm to attack A with a press. A sees B’s press coming, so he then changes to the push technique, going to the left, lowering his body, and hollowing his chest, pushing down with a sinking energy to neutralize it. B, having been neutralized by A’s pushing technique then returns to the ward-off posture [on the left side, from which he will then roll back A’s soon-to-be-incoming press].
In this way the movements exchange, recycling indefinitely, both people going back and forth without limit. The exercise is the same for both left and right sides. If A starts by rolling back to his left, then B will respond accordingly [by pressing with his left forearm]. This description has just been of the general idea, but once the method has been fully understood, it will then be a part of you.
Pattern 6a: [INWARD] PUSH DOWN – Its Function & Practice Method
Two people, A and C, stand facing each other squarely at a distance of being able to reach each other’s outstretched hands. C [to the right in the photo] starts by stepping out his right foot. His left leg straightens, staying where it is, making a right bow stance, his body also slightly leaning forward, the weight on the right leg. At the same time, both his palms push out toward A’s chest (palms outward, fingers upward). His gaze is in A’s direction.
A sees C’s double-palm push coming and also steps out with his right foot, the leg straightening, making it the empty foot. His left foot does not move from its location but the leg slightly bends, making it the full foot, the weight on the left leg. As C’s push is about to arrive in front of A’s chest, A hollows his chest and plucks up his back, while sending his hands as flattened palms to push away downward on the backs of C’s palms to keep him from invading forward. A’s elbows are hanging down two or three inches away from his ribs, or can be flattened out while the hands are pushing down. His gaze is toward C’s palms. This movement is C pushing down outward and A pushing down inward, also called “inward push down”. See photo 6:
Pattern 6b: [OUTWARD] PUSH DOWN – Its Function & Practice Method
Continuing from the previous posture, both people are still standing in the same place. C [still to the right in the photo] sees he cannot get his push to land on A, so he decides to withdraw his palms. A takes advantage of the momentum and sticks to C’s wrists with both hands, rotating them [under and] upward. (A’s palms are now on the inside and C’s are on the outside, and A’s are turned over so that the fingers are upward to make a ward-off the same as in part 6 of CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL.) He seizes the opportunity to reverse in C’s direction, pushing out with both palms, while his right leg bends and his left leg presses straight to make a left [right] bow stance, his body slightly leaning forward. His gaze is in C’s direction. See photo 7:
As C sees A’s double-palm push coming, he hollows his chest and sits his body back, his right leg straightening and becoming empty, his left leg slightly bending and becoming full, the weight shifting to be on the right leg. At the same time, his palms now stick to the backs of A’s wrists and he pushes downward with a sinking energy to keep him from being able to advance. Then he too [takes advantage of A’s withdrawing] and turns his palms over and upward, the posture changing to again be as in photo 6.
Reversing toward A, he pushes out, and in this way the exercise recycles indefinitely. This movement [for photo 7] is A pushing down outward and C pushing down inward, also called “outward push down”. To further investigate this pushing hands scenario, it relates to the movement change in part 6 of CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL.
PUSHING HANDS METHOD FOR THE FOUR SECONDARY TECHNIQUES (KNOWN AS LARGE ROLLBACK PUSHING HANDS):
Plucking, Rending, Elbowing, and Bumping – aligning with the four corner compass points [of the eight trigrams].
Pattern 7: LARGE ROLLBACK – Its Function & Practice Method
Large Rollback Pushing Hands is the “four corners” pushing hands method. Its footwork travels to the four corners (i.e. diagonal compass points). It compensates for the limitations of the four primary techniques. The movements begin in the same way as in sections 1 & 2, and so they will not be repeated since you can easily understand by reviewing them above. [The twelve-movement description below is copied from Yang Chengfu’s 1931 manual, having itself copied the text from Xu Yusheng’s 1921 manual.]
 A steps his right foot diagonally to the northwest corner, making a stance between a horse-riding stance and a bow stance, and with his right arm level and bent, his right hand pushes on B’s right wrist, while his left arm bends at the elbow and uses the middle area of the outer forearm bone to roll back B’s right arm diagonally to the northwest corner, causing him to lean outward. See photo 8. [Photo 8 can be used to show the situation described here only with the roles reversed, and so it is shown further down with movement 11, where it more appropriately fits.]
 B [to the left in the photo] then takes advantage of the momentum and steps his left foot across forward and outward [to the left], moving his right foot to step forward between A’s legs, making a stance between a horse-riding stance and a bow stance. At the same time, his right arm extends downward, his shoulder going along with A’s rollback energy, and bumps forward toward A’s chest with his left hand assisting by touching the inside of his own right arm. Both people are again facing each other [with B looking toward the northeast]. See photo 9:
 A uses his left hand to push down on B’s left wrist and his right hand to push down on B’s left elbow, plucking down. At the same time, his left foot goes from the outside of B’s right foot to step between B’s legs.
 B goes along with A’s plucking energy and withdraws his right [left] leg to the southwest, making a horse-riding stance, and with his right [left] arm level and bent, his left hand touches A’s left wrist, and his right arm bends at the elbow and uses the middle area of the forearm bone to rollback A’s left arm diagonally to the southwest.
 A takes advantage of the momentum and steps his right foot forward, moving his left foot to step forward between B’s legs. At the same time, his left arm extends downward, his shoulder going along with B’s rollback energy, and bumps forward toward B’s chest, with his right hand assisting by touching the inside of his own left arm. Both people are again facing each other [with A looking toward the southeast].
 A’s left arm wants to lift up. B then goes along with A’s lifting energy, his left hand doing a palm strike toward A’s face while his right hand pushes on A’s left shoulder, diagonally rending downward.
 A goes along with B’s rending energy and withdraws his left foot a step to the northeast, his left hand touching B’s left wrist, his right arm bending at the elbow, and rolls back B’s left arm to the northeast.
 B takes advantage of the momentum and steps forward with his right foot, moving his left foot to step forward between A’s legs, his left arm going along with A’s rollback energy and using his shoulder to bump forward toward A’s chest, his right hand assisting. [The direction B is facing is northwest.]
 A uses his right hand to push down on B’s right wrist and his left hand to push on B’s right elbow, plucking down. At the same time, his right foot goes from the outside of B’s left foot to step between B’s legs.
 B goes along with A’s plucking energy and withdraws his right foot to the southeast, his right hand touching A’s right wrist, and with his left arm bent at the elbow, rolls back A’s right arm diagonally to the southeast.
 A [still to the right in the photo] takes advantage of the momentum and steps forward with his left foot, moving his right foot to step forward between A’s legs, his right arm going along with B’s rollback energy, and uses his shoulder to bump forward toward B’s chest, his left hand assisting. [The direction A is facing is southwest.] [See photo 8:]
 A’s right arm wants to lift up. B then goes along with A’s lifting energy, his right hand doing a palm strike toward A’s face while his left hand pushes on A’s right shoulder, diagonally rending downward.
[1 repeating] A retreats his left [right] leg, and with both hands rolls back B’s right arm at the wrist and elbow area.
Both people have returned to the taiji “double fish” posture of crossing their [right] hands. This completes one series of plucking, rending, elbowing and bumping. If you wish to continue to practice from this point, the rest is as before. This is called the “pushing hands method for the four secondary techniques”.
Explanation [for how to switch roles]:
[Instead of continuing from the above into B performing movement 2 and then explaining A’s switch in movement 3, the explanation here confusingly picks up from B having performed movement 8 and A’s switch happening in movement 9.] A [still to the right in the photo] releases his left hand from its usual downward pluck and changes to “flashing”, which is the palm strike, to B’s face, and A now does not step [from outside to between B’s legs]. See photo 10 :
B [to the right in the photo] now lifts his left arm, withdrawing his left foot to be next to his right foot, then quickly retreats his left foot a step to the left rear corner [southwest], turning his body and sitting onto his rear foot. While using his right hand to roll back A’s left hand and using his left hand to pluck A’s right hand [elbow], A then goes along with B’s first step [of feet together], and as B retreats [stepping back to the southwest with his left foot], A then chases a step forward. A has lifted his left foot in the rear and brought it forward to be next to his front foot [meaning both people have the feet-together moment in unison], then when B has retreated, A has advanced a second step by quickly shifting his right foot, advancing a step to the right forward corner [southwest], then quickly steps his left foot forward between B’s legs, also putting his right [left] shoulder close to B’s left arm [chest], bumping outward [to the southeast]. This is: advancing three steps [for A], retreating two steps [for B], and centering with one step [for both]. Once both of A’s feet are standing next to each other, he must then step out forward with the other foot. See photo 11 [10 – reverse view]:
[Rather than continuing with a clarifying “B will now perform the role of plucking while A has switched to doing the rending”, this “note” is actually not a comment on the above at all, but is instead a slightly misplaced intro to Part 4 below.] The Taiji boxing art exercises the limbs and enlivens the body. But it will be at its most effective if you also work toward its practical application. Unless you simultaneously train in pushing hands, you will not become skilled, for it is through learning pushing hands that you can make your whole body abundantly aware.
There are many methods, dividing into double-hand pushing and single-hand pushing. Both people, A and B [and sometimes in this book also A and C], particularly need to be consistent with each other’s stepping, advancing and retreating as one, as they are sticking and connecting to each other continuously, circling endlessly. They follow and bend, then engage and extend, emptiness and fullness making use of each other as both people go back and forth.
If you practice the pushing exercises frequently over a long period, then your sensitivity will become very keen as you stick, adhere, connect, and follow. All will happen as you intend due to repeating the exercise over and over, recycling it ceaselessly. The most important aspects of it are the sticking energy of your hands and that your stepping has a great nimbleness.
OTHER PUSHING HANDS METHODS
A. Pattern 8: SINGLE HAND VS. SINGLE HAND – Its Function & Practice Method
Both people, A and C, start by stepping forward with their right foot to make the same-step position, left foot staying behind. Then in unison each extends his right hand (as a palm), the backs of the hands sticking to each other. The left hand is also a palm, holding the left side of the waist, elbow bent to make the arm into a triangle.
A [to the left in the photo] begins by sending his right hand in a horizontal arc, pushing out toward C’s chest, keeping in mind that the palm is upward before turning over into the push, arm straightening but with an intention of slightly bending, elbow sinking down. His gaze is in C’s direction. His right knee bends to make a bow stance, body slightly leaning forward, the weight on the right leg. Energy passes through to the elixir field, then to the lower body to stabilize it.
C sees A’s palm coming in with a push, so he immediately hollows his chest and sits his body back, his right leg becoming empty, left leg slightly bending and becoming full, the weight on the left leg. At the same time, he withdraws his right hand, elbow hanging down, to draw in A’s energy to the right side of his own body, getting A to miss rather than letting him even slightly approach directly. But when he draws in with his hand, he must draw in toward the center to more easily turn his palm upward, then go toward his right side to lead A into missing. But if when drawing in A’s hand he waits until it is only a few inches from his chest, then there will be no way he can neutralize A’s incoming force. See photo 12:
Continuing from the previous practice-and-application scenario in which C escapes A’s incoming force by taking it to the right side, C [still to the right in the photo] then seizes the opportunity to send his right hand (palm upward) forward with a push toward A’s chest, elbow hanging down. The weight slightly inclines forward, his right leg changing to make a bow stance, left leg straightening behind, left hand still holding at the waist. His gaze is in A’s direction.
A sees C’s palm going from right to left [left to right], coming in with a push, and immediately hollows his chest and sits his body back. The rest is the same as in C’s case above, A also drawing in C’s power to the right side until it misses. His gaze is now toward C’s hand to observe his changes and thereby respond to them. See photo 13:
In this pushing hands pattern, both people are pushing against each other in a level circle, as with the taiji double-fish shape, one issuing, the other neutralizing, recycling the movement endlessly. If you frequently practice this exercise over a long period, hard work will naturally produce achievement.
乙 第九式 「雙手推單手」之使用及練法
B. Pattern 9: DOUBLE HAND VS. SINGLE HAND – Its Function & Practice Method
For this practice pattern, A and C are again in the same-step position. C [again to the right in the photo] begins by sending his hands forward with a push covering both sides of A’s body, his right hand pushing on the back of A’s right hand, left hand pushing on A’s right elbow, the fingers of both hands upward. His left leg is straightening behind, right knee bending to make a bow stance. His gaze is forward and level in A’s direction.
A sees C’s hands coming in with a push to the left side to seal off his right arm, so he immediately hollows his chest and sits his body back, right leg in front slanting away and straightening, becoming empty, left leg behind slightly bending, becoming full. His left hand is holding the left side of his waist, with the hand, shoulder, and elbow forming a triangle. At the same time, he sends his right arm (elbow bent) toward C to receive and ward away, dealing with both of C’s hands as they press in close. See photo 14:
B has issued energy and his push is on its way, so A quickly twists his waist, sending his right hand, shoulder, and elbow across in front of his own body to the right side, drawing in outward so C’s force misses and is neutralized. Sinking his elbow down, he rotates his arm upward from below (drawing an arc), then reverses toward C with a push, his right leg changing to make a bow stance.
C sees A’s push coming, and so he hollows his chest and sits back. His movement is then the same as A’s above, except without his left hand on his waist. When he sees the opportunity, he again pushes out toward A, and A again neutralizes.
They practice in this manner, forming a [vertical] figure-eight, continuously rubbing in a double circle, pushing against each other over and over indefinitely. It is the same as in Pattern 8, but is distinct by way of its double-handedness. Also, the movement of this pattern focuses on training the maneuverability of A’s shoulder. It must be practiced equally on both sides so as to not result in the error of a lopsided aptitude for facing an opponent.
C. Pattern 10: FACING-STEP DOUBLE HAND VS. DOUBLE HAND – Its Function & Practice Method
A [to the left in the photo] and C face each other standing straight, their feet on parallel lines shoulder width apart. This is the facing-step position. Their bodies are straight, balance stable, and their gaze is level toward each other. As for their distance apart, they should be able to connect with both hands. The movement begins with both hands making the ward-off posture, same as in Pattern 2, the only difference being the stance. See photo 15 :
Continuing from the scenario above, both people are still standing in the same place. They use the pushing hands method for the four primary techniques, warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing each other, with the intention of recycling the movements continuously. Review its description above to more easily understand. But this time it is A [still to the left in the photo] that initiates. As he pushes toward C, if C is standing straight and not moving, he will inevitably be pushed out by A. Therefore C in this moment twists his waist and hollows his chest, his body turning to the right and sitting back, his right leg straightening outward, becoming empty, left leg bending behind, becoming full. The toes have turned but both feet are still standing in the same place, the weight on the left leg. By turning in this way, A’s incoming force is completely dispelled, and so A will have to go along with the turning movement, turning his body to the right and sitting. A and C are now facing each other along a diagonal, both in the same posture, and their gaze is level toward each other. See photo 16 :
The second position of both people is thus:
↑ ╲ ↓
↑ ╲ ↓
Continuing from the scenario above, once C [still to the right in the photo] has dissolved A’s incoming force, he then seizes the opportunity to push out toward A. A imitates C’s method of twisting his waist and hollowing his chest to escape C’s incoming force. The toes have turned [to the left] but both feet are still standing in the same place. It is mainly the same as above, the only difference being that A and C twist in opposite directions. Their gaze is toward each other. See photo 17:
The third position of both people is thus:
↓ ╱ ↑
↓ ╱ ↑
During the course of these movements, the CLOUDING HANDS posture emerges. The exercise focuses on training the waist, hips, and thighs. If it is practiced over a long period, it can make every part of the body nimble, and you will be able to control an opponent and not be controlled by him.
D. Pattern 11: TWISTING-HAND PUSHING HANDS – Its Function & Practice Method
A and B are practicing. B [to the right in the photo] begins by warding off A’s right arm with both hands as [C did] in Pattern 9. A sees B warding off his arm, and that he is about lean out, so he quickly uses his left palm to push on B’s right elbow. At the same time, he twists B’s right hand (so the palm is upward) and powerfully presses down while going forward a step with his left foot to make a left bow stance, stepping behind B’s legs. His gaze is in B’s direction. B’s feet are still standing in the same place and have not moved, but his body is slightly leaning out to the rear and his left [right] arm is hanging down. His gaze is likewise in A’s direction. See photo 18 :
Continuing from the scenario above in which B’s arm has been twisted by A [to the right in the photo] and his posture is about to lean, he then applies the strength of his shoulder and elbow to retract upward, counter-grabbing A’s right fist and drawing it in toward his own body, arcing upward, also using his right palm to push down on A’s right elbow. In unison, each turns out his right toes, heel remaining in the same spot, and each lifts his left leg. The knee must be slightly higher [than the thigh], and the toes are pointing down. At this moment, their hands are again in the double-hand ward-off posture, their hands and feet merging to form the taiji double-fish shape. They are looking straight toward each other, each standing one-legged on his right foot, body slightly bending forward at the waist. This is a method of transition from the above scenario. See photo 19 [reverse view]:
Continuing from the scenario above without pausing, B [still to the left in the photo] lowers his left leg, bringing it down straightened and empty behind A’s legs. B’s right leg is bent, and the weight is on it. At the same time, his left hand pushes down on A’s right elbow while his left [right] hand twists to turn over A’s [right] hand (so the palm is upward) and powerfully presses down. His gaze is in A’s direction. Now being pushed down by B, A seems to be in a hopeless position, his body leaning out to the rear. His gaze is likewise in B’s direction. The movement is mainly the same as with photo 18 , the only difference being the orientation [a snap of the reverse profile]. In this manner they twist each other over and over indefinitely [and the exercise is of course the same on the other side]. See photo 20 [18 – reverse view]:
Some people call this exercise Dropping-Hand Pushing Hands due to the intention of dropping down and turning over the opponent’s hand. There are also some who call it Seizing-Hand Pushing Hands due to the intention of seizing the opponent’s hand and pushing him.
E. Pattern 12: THREE-PERSON DOUBLE HAND VS. SINGLE HAND ON BOTH SIDES – Its Function & Practice Method
This pushing hands pattern is for practicing with three people. A is in the middle, making a posture of double hand vs. single hand on both sides, and so the movement is mostly the same as in Pattern 9.
C [to the left in the photo] begins by seizing the opportunity, pushing down toward A’s body, his right leg bending to make a bow stance, left leg straightening behind, the weight slightly inclining forward. His right hand is pushing on the back of A’s right hand, left hand pushing on A’s right elbow, and he has an intention of pressing downward. His gaze is toward A’s hand.
A sees C’s push coming, and so he immediately hollows his chest, twists his waist, and sits his body back, his right leg slanting away and straightening, becoming empty, left leg bending, becoming full, making C unable to approach his body. His gaze is toward C’s hands. At the same time, he also presses out toward B with his left hand.
B [to the right in the photo] sees A’s push coming, as a pressing posture, and also that C is using both hands to ward off the back of A’s left hand and his elbow, so he immediately hollows his chest and sits back to avoid the incoming force [and also has an intention of rolling back diagonally outward]. While being pushed, his right leg must straighten in front, becoming empty, and his left leg bend behind, becoming full. A is now in a same-step position with C and a facing step position with B. See photo 21:
Continuing from the previous scenario, B [still to the right in the photo] now takes advantage of the momentum and pushes down, his right leg bending to make a bow stance, left leg straightening behind, the weight slightly inclining forward, and he has an intention of pressing downward. His gaze is toward A’s hand.
A sees B’s push coming, and so he immediately hollows his chest, twists his waist, and sits his body back, his left leg slanting away and straightening, becoming empty, right leg bending, becoming full, making B unable to approach his body, and switching into a bow stance toward C. At the same time, he also presses out toward C with his right hand. His gaze is toward C’s hands.
C [still to the left in the photo] sees A’s push coming, as a pressing posture, and also that B is using both hands to ward off the back of A’s right hand and his elbow, so he immediately hollows his chest and sits back to avoid the incoming force, and also has an intention of rolling back diagonally outward while his right leg straightens in front, becoming empty, and his left leg bends behind, becoming full. His gaze is toward A’s hands. A is now in a facing-step position with C and a same-step position with B. See photo 22:
When B pushes down to neutralize A’s press, A then at the same time presses out toward B. B then also pushes down to neutralize A’s press, so A reverses and presses out toward C. [A] must follow and bend [on one side] while engaging and extending [on the other], getting into the same-step position back and forth, twisting his torso and hollowing his chest. For it to be done lively and smoothly depends on practicing it over and over. All three people must move in unison [for the person in the A role] to be able to obtain this exercise’s marvel of neutrality. Always when pushing hands, you must use every part of your body in a unified and complete action for it to be effective. If on the other hand it is a sloppy mess, it will not be easy for you to push opponents away.
The performers in these pushing hands demonstrations are:
Person A – Gu Ruzhang
Person B – Bai Zhixiang
Person C – Tang Qixian
SUPPLEMENTARY COMMENTS [ABOUT FOOTWORK]
In Taiji’s pushing hands, there are many methods, ever-changing and cycling endlessly. Its footwork is particularly significant, such as same-step pushing hands, facing-step pushing hands, moving-step pushing hands, opposite-step pushing hands, rapid-step pushing hands, one step with three techniques, and so on. They are all generated from the techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, push, pluck, rend, elbow, and bump.
What is called same-step is like in Pattern 8.
Facing-step is like in Pattern 10.
Moving-step is when both people move in their steps at the same time (there being three steps, which are actually two walking steps and one planting step.) If A is advancing, B is retreating, and vice versa. But it can also be switched to same-step or opposite-step.
Opposite-step is when both people are stepping on the same side, for instance if A’s right foot is forward, left foot behind, then B’s left foot is forward, right foot behind. From opposite step, it can change to moving-step or same-step.
As for rapid-step, it focuses on practicing the stepping with agility and increased energy, advancing and retreating without a specific plan, whether one is pressing and the other pushing, or A is warding-off and B is rolling back, exchanging according to the moment and circling without pause.
One step with three techniques is when both people push each other three times, then A takes one step forward, B taking one step back [and vice versa].
Each of the methods above are using the Pushing Hands Method for the Four Primary Techniques (i.e. double-touching hands), complying to warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing as they go in sequence through their transformations. You may refer to their explanation [Patterns 3-5] for ease of understanding, for the footwork is the only thing here that is different.
This volume on Taiji Boxing was recently written by Gu Ruzhang mainly because he has been busy teaching it and was urged to make an authoritative text for the students to compare their lessons against. Examine it for its rich contents, its comprehensive annotations, and its postural standards. It is a sufficient model for students, making it easier to learn the fundamentals.
The art of Taiji Boxing is descended from Wudang, coming from the internal school. Its movements emphasize slowness. It can use stillness to control movement, softness to overcome hardness, ease to await exhaustion. Its essence is simply to make use of one’s natural energy. From the elixir field, it reaches to the extremities, as is said in the Taiji Classics [Understanding How to Practice]: “penetrating even the smallest nook”.
Its movements are indirect and changing, causing the opponent to have no idea what is happening. Its issuing is sudden, like a thunderclap or lightning flash, giving the opponent no chance to know what to do. Its method of dealing with opponents is to take advantage of an opponent’s position and make use of his force – “four ounces moving a thousand pounds”.
Yet if you do not diligently work at it, you will not be able to attain such a level that softness becomes strength, or that sickness is prevented and life extended, which are its special byproducts. There are a great many advantages to the art, and practicing it is a case of benefits without drawbacks. It is indeed a marvelous method of nourishing your health. I hope these slight statements of its grand meaning might serve as an adequate coda.
– sincerely written by your student, Tang Qixian, at the Guangzhou Martial Arts Society