TAIJI BOXING (WU JIANQUAN STYLE)
by Xu Zhiyi
[published July, 1958]
[translation by Paul Brennan, July, 2018]
Chapter One: The Merits of Taiji Boxing
Chapter Two: Psychological Function in the Practice of Taiji Boxing
Chapter Three: The Physiological Effects of Taiji Boxing’s Particular Type of Movement
Chapter Four: The Basis in Mechanics for Taiji Boxing’s Martial Skills
Chapter Five: Principles to be Given Attention When Practicing the Boxing Set
Chapter Six: Principles to be Given Attention When Practicing Pushing Hands
Chapter Seven: On the Names of the Boxing Postures
Chapter Eight: Fundamentals of Movement
Chapter Nine: Explanations for the Boxing Postures
Chapter Ten: Pushing Hands Explanations
Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Treatise
Wu Yuxiang’s Taiji Boxing Treatise
Thirteen Dynamics Song
Understanding How to Practice the Thirteen Dynamics
Playing Hands Song
The boxing postures presented in this book are those of the Taiji Boxing master Wu Jianquan. However, of the photographs of Wu’s postures that have been left to us, I have only been able to obtain just over sixty, not at all a complete set, and furthermore, some postures have not had photos of transitional movements added, making it very difficult for beginners to understand. Because of this, his student Zhao Shoucun has been photographed performing an additional fifty movements. These supplementary photographs are often transitional movements linking between postures rather than the completed postures themselves. Due to my own lack of experience, there are still some gaps among the posture photographs and in some places do not entirely conform to the final postures, things for which I deeply apologize. I hope that when you read through these explanations, you will go beyond giving attention to the text and will also want to frequently consult Wu’s boxing postures. You should not only study his posture, you should especially observe his spirit. In this way, you will be able to learn the material even better.
I have made explanations for the boxing theory and techniques that Wu taught, according to my meager experience. Limited by my level of attainment, these explanations are very likely to be incomplete in places, for which I alone am to blame. Regarding the scientific principles in this book, my scientific knowledge and insight are inadequate. However, because of my forty years of practicing Taiji Boxing, I have since long ago had personal experience of its medicinal effects and thus I eagerly hope for scientists who practice boxing arts to study and elaborate upon the scientific principles of the art. In recent years, there has been quite a bit of research into Taiji Boxing. For example, Dr. Qu Mianyu [of the Beijing Medical School’s “Medical Athletics” Research Department] has made a deep study of the art and has published articles to prove its health effects. To this day, I still harbor the same wish, and thus even though I may invite the ridicule of experts, I will attempt to “toss out a brick to draw forth jade” [i.e. present a mediocre work to try to inspire others to do a better job]. In case this piece of brick really can get some fine jade to come to us, then it would be a great blessing not only to myself.
Wu’s Taiji Boxing was taught to him by his father, Quan You, who first learned the boxing art from Yang Fukui (called Luchan, from Yongnian County, Hebei) and then later on was included among the students of Yang’s second son, Banhou. Xu Yusheng’s Taiji Boxing Postures Explained  contains this account: “While Yang Luchan served as instructor at the Manchu barracks, three people who got instruction from him were Wan Chun, whose power was hard, Ling Shan, who was good at flinging opponents away, and Quan You, who was good at neutralizing, and so it is said that three people each obtained one of his qualities. When he physically declined, [he then told them all to do obeisance to Banhou as their teacher, and hence they are said to be Banhou’s disciples.]” Based on my own experience of learning from Wu for many years, his Taiji Boxing does indeed prioritize neutralizing, therefore this book cannot help but discuss Taiji Boxing principles and techniques from the basis of neutralizing, but just to make it clear, this is not meant to deny the other ways of training in the art. Regarding the issue of the origins of Taiji Boxing, it is still discussed to this day. As I myself have done no further research into it [since Chapter Two of his 1927 book], I therefore do not address it in this book.
In the course of making this book, I received enthusiastic assistance from one of my elders and many of my fellow students, such as Zhao Shoucun, who performs the postures in the supplementary photographs, and Wu Yaozong [also known as Y. T. Wu], who performs with Zhao in the pushing hands photographs. My fellow student Chen Zhenmin gave me the priceless and only existing photos of Wu performing the boxing postures [which had been made for his 1935 manual co-authored with Ma Yueliang, the “only existing” not counting the photos that appeared in Chu Minyi’s 1929 manual, which Xu was perhaps unaware of]. Beyond this, my senior Zhang Danquan, as well as my fellow students Guo Qitong, Sun Runzhi Yang Bingcheng, Yang Xiaowen, Ding Jinshan, Ding Deshan, Cheng Xifu, Chen Juewu, Zhu Lianxiang, and Zhou Yuanlong all supplied me with valuable suggestions, causing this book to have fewer errors than it would have. I extend my sincere thanks to them all. But due to my own level of skill being so inadequate, there are surely still many errors that I have missed. If, dear reader, you would point them out to me, I would feel blessed indeed.
- sincerely written by the author, Xu Zhiyi, March, 1958
CHAPTER ONE: THE MERITS OF TAIJI BOXING
The various practice sets in martial arts all have their own particular goals and requirements. Because a martial art’s training goals are confined to certain aspects, it will of course be unable to attend to other aspects, and therefore whatever the martial art, they all have their merits and they all have their defects.
Taiji Boxing is a type of soft martial art. On the basis of its training methods, it thus promotes healing and develops the skill of neutralization, and so it indeed has its advantages, though for expanding the muscles and developing external strength, it is naturally not as effective as martial arts that emphasize hardness. Therefore to say that Taiji Boxing has merits does not at all mean that it has no flaws, nor even that these merits are exclusive to Taiji Boxing. But it is undeniable that Taiji Boxing has its own special characteristics, and I will explain its merits below in accordance with these characteristics.
A. ITS MERITS AS A FITNESS EXERCISE
It trains the whole body.
There are several extremely important characteristics of movement in Taiji Boxing, such as softness, slowness, connectedness, moving in arcs (i.e. roundness), and the principle of “when one part moves, every part moves” (from the essay “Understanding How to Practice”). These are all principles that must not be ignored in your training. They will each be explained in more detail in the chapters that follow, but here I will only highlight the principle of “when one part moves, every part moves” to demonstrate that the art trains the whole body.
Everybody knows that swimming is an exercise that requires moving the hands, feet, and body in unison, and so it is already acknowledged as being an exercise that has the effect of training the whole body. While practicing Taiji Boxing, whenever any part is able to move, they all have to be participating in the movement, hence “when one part moves, every part moves”. Although it requires less energy than swimming, it actually has an even greater degree of harmoniousness and fine detail in its whole-bodied movement, and so obviously Taiji Boxing has the merit of training the whole body.
It gives equal attention to internal and external aspects.
When practicing Taiji Boxing, it not only livens the muscles with all sorts of mild movements, it also exercises the breathing, working the diaphragm, and improves the function of the heart, lungs, intestines, stomach, and the other internal organs. Additionally, every movement is guided by intention, causing your mind to focus and not give rise to distracted thoughts. The more you practice, the more you will achieve pure stillness (meaning that your state of mind is unusually calm), and thus it can also cause your central nervous system to function more smoothly.
This kind of practice method has two aspects, one being that it has the benefit of using ordinary movement to work the muscles, the other being that it also has the benefit of having absorbed the meditation methods of regulating the breath and nourishing the spirit, and thus it is able to have the advantage of giving equal attention to both what is external and what is internal.
It is highly enjoyable.
Taiji Boxing’s movements are all rounded arcs. In the beginning of practicing the boxing set, it is not so easy to make rounded movements, and so naturally it may be somewhat less enjoyable at that stage. But with more practice, the movements will become more familiar, and you will continuously get better at making smoother arcs, which will produce greater delight.
Within making rounded movements, you will eventually develop the skill of switching between emptiness and fullness, and the skill of regulating the breath, and from then on it will become ever more enjoyable. (This is also true for the pushing hands exercises). Because it is so enjoyable, it can improve your mood while practicing, which will have an enormous influence toward improving your health, and so this is one of the definite advantages of Taiji Boxing.
It sculpts the temperament.
Taiji Boxing’s movements strive for both mildness and nimbleness, to be imbued with a mentality of “stillness within movement, movement within stillness”. This attitude can imperceptibly influence practitioners, be they impatient [by bringing a sense of stillness to their movement] or too patient [by bringing a sense of movement to their stillness], rectifying their original habits.
Because Taiji Boxing focuses on sensitivity, it can cause a person to become more aware, and because it also focuses on calmness, it can cause a person to restrain rashness. When two people of equal skill are pushing hands, but one of them is more combative, he will end up being the one who is receiving most of the attacks or the most powerful of the attacks, and this experience can subtly influence him to be less of a brute.
It is therefore clear that Taiji Boxing has the merit of cultivating a better temperament, a point that is based in both theory and fact.
Everyone can practice it.
Taiji Boxing’s movements are soft and slow, and its postures are not really difficult to learn. The height of the postures, and the amount of effort they would thus require, can be adjusted to suit one’s own physical ability.
Because the amount of energy one puts into it can be increased as well as decreased, not only can the old and weak practice it frequently without any harm, it is just as suitable for the strong and athletic.
Pushing hands is a method of martial training for two people, but because Taiji Boxing emphasizes sensitivity and neutralization, provided neither person uses any stubborn strength or aggressive force, it will never lead to accidental injuries.
These are each good reasons why Taiji Boxing can be practiced by everyone.
It functions as medicine.
Energy-intensive sports consume more of one’s strength than a weak person can handle, and are quite unsuitable for people who are ill. Among Taiji Boxing’s various characteristics is that it suits the needs of sick people (except for those who are already spitting up blood or hemorrhaging internally), able to achieve remarkable results when it comes to aiding recovery and enhancing mobility.
Long ago, when illness occurred, it was described as: “Energy and blood are not in harmony.” I used to think that this phrase was beyond my comprehension, but then I realized it is just worded in an old-fashioned way, a mode of thought that uses “heart” instead of “brain” and “energy” instead of “nerves”, and thus does not easily link up with our modern ideas. Based on my own experience, this phrase contains the idea of the nervous system and cardio-vascular system not being fully integrated into coordinated functioning. When medicines are applied in traditional Chinese medicine, it is always to spark the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Physicians who use acupunture, moxibustion, or deep massage are all using methods of either stimulating or suppressing nervous function in order to bring about a cure.
Taiji Boxing is an effective method of movement for exercising the muscles of the whole body (which of course also means exercising the nervous fibers within them), and is also a method of using deep breathing to regulate heart function and improve blood circulation. Moreover, it uses intention to guide movement, causing a person to discard distracting thoughts and focus one’s attention, which puts one into a very peaceful mood over the course of the practice, and this adds up to causing improved function to spread throughout the entire nervous system, activating one’s ability to heal oneself, or simply improving health generally.
Using exercise as treatment has become a new field of study in modern medicine, but I am certainly no expert when it comes to medicine, be it Chinese or Western, and so this brief presentation of this particular merit of Taiji Boxing has been based only on my own meager experience.
B. ITS MERITS AS A MARTIAL ART
It uses softness to complement hardness.
Taiji Boxing emphasizes softness over hardness not only because of the principle that softness can overcome hardness, but mainly to keep practitioners from committing the error of “double pressure”. Some people think that “double pressure” means that both legs are supporting the weight at the same time, and so they avoid performing any horse-riding stances. This is so incorrect that it will make practitioners neurotic.
I will leave it up you whether you want to perform the horse-riding stances in the boxing set, since the concept of double pressure instead has to do with pushing hands. It is an unwillingness to use “yielding energy” (“When the opponent is hard, I am soft.”) in order to draw the opponent in to land on nothing, as well as an ignorance of how to take advantage of the situation by using “sticking energy” (“My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse.”) in order to obtain the superior position, only knowing how to respond with force when the opponent uses force, both people struggling to win. If your small strength loses to his greater strength, or your slow hands lose to his quicker hands, this has nothing to do with his skill being higher, but is instead trouble that you are bringing upon yourself.
Wang Zongyue’s “Taiji Boxing Treatise” makes this point with extraordinary clarity, enabling students to grasp the concept of double pressure on their own, but I fear that the misunderstanding of the term has grown so ingrained that I must take this opportunity to give some further explanation. The error of double pressure is simply the error of only knowing how to use hardness and not knowing how to use softness.
It has to be understood that when both people are using hardness, the one with less strength will inevitably be under the control of the one with greater strength, or both will end up getting hurt [if they have equal strength]. Taiji Boxing always discusses neutralizing, prioritizing the avoidance of this kind of unnecessary or disadvantageous clashing. However, if you only know how to evade and not how to attack, you are not conforming to the principles of “softness and hardness complimenting each other” or “using softness to overcome hardness”.
The reason Taiji Boxing is called “taiji” [which represents a balanced state between opposites] is mainly due to its use of energy: “There is hardness within softness and softness with hardness.” This idea is equivalent to the taiji concept of “the active does not depart from the passive and the passive does not depart from the active.” I once heard someone say that those who focus on neutralizing will not know how to send opponents flying (not the same idea as “issuing energy”). This is a misunderstanding of the concepts of neutralizing and issuing, and an ignorance of the principle of “hardness within softness and softness within hardness”.
The reason Taiji Boxing’s movements have to make arcs is to make it easier to switch from softness to hardness or hardness to softness. During the exercise, hardness and softness alternate endlessly. Going back and forth in ordinary straight-line fighting motions is completely different. Someone may ask: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to beat slower hands with faster hands and weakness with strength? Why do we need to make these cumbersome arcs?” It should be understood that each person believes only in his own speed and strength, and never expects that his opponent might be faster or stronger, a subjective outlook that enables one to take risks. He might win through sheer luck, but he might also end up utterly defeated, and without any guarantee for his own safety.
Taiji Boxing always uses soft energy, first of all to avoid sacrificing yourself just for the sake of crashing against the opponent, or to send out a hand only to put yourself in a worse position, but also in the act of neutralizing to be able to gauge the opponent’s state of emptiness or fullness, his strength or weakness, then gain the superior position through such knowledge and immediately counterattack. In this way, even if you do not successfully counterattack, you will at least not end up getting hurt.
Moving in arcs may superficially appear to be slower than moving in straight lines, but because arcing movements can change direction to go anywhere, they can sometimes actually be faster than straight-line movements, providing the basis for the idea of “leave after but arrive before”. This martial principle of “with hardness and softness complementing each other, attack and defense are both fulfilled” is Taiji Boxing’s most fundamental merit. You should give it particular attention.
It uses stillness to await movement.
Although Taiji Boxing’s method of neutralizing has the advantage of being useful for both attack and defense, if you cannot catch the opponent’s timing or his targetting, you will not be able to grasp what he is doing, much less win. Because of this, you should use the principle of “using stillness to await movement”. This phrase makes it clear that Taiji Boxing’s method of defeating opponents does not at all advocate an approach of “he who acts first will win”, but instead one of “listening” to what is happening. (What the art calls “listening” has to do with your level of perception while sparring, using the sensitivity of your body and hands to “listen” for what direction the opponent’s energy is moving.) Once you have ascertained the true direction of the opponent’s movement, use the method of “leave after but arrive before” to counterattack.
This kind of fighting method requires first of all that you be extremely calm, allowing the opponent to be the first to move and to express power. You must not be in a panic and you must wait for his power to come out in order to then send it back at him. If his incoming force is fierce, you can use neutralizing energy to draw it in to land on nothing, for which you can apply the techniques of either rolling back or rending. If you want to keep him from getting close to you, you can take advantage of the moment before he arrives by using the technique of warding off to stop him in his tracks. Or during the moment when his first attempt has finished and his second attempt has not yet started, you can take advantage of the gap by issuing power to attack him.
In short, the key is to make use of the instant when the opponent has not yet adapted to the situation or has fallen into a bad position and to attack him right away. The “Playing Hands Song” says: “If he takes no action, I take no action, but once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted.” This is the same idea as “using stillness to await movement” or “to leave after but arrive before”. The effectiveness of this principle will mainly be demonstrated through these two points: 1. Wait for the opportunity to most easily attack the opponent. 2. Reducing your chance of missing depends on the opponent being in a disadvantageous position and on not giving him a chance to counterattack.
It uses the smaller to overcome the larger.
This is a principle in Taiji Boxing that is based on the science of mechanics, using a kind of movement (what would be called in martial arts a “technique”) in which you add your own force to the opponent’s movement. Or you might reduce your force from his movement. (This means that you suddenly switch from having some force to having none, what is called “emptying force”, with the purpose of causing the opponent to lose his balance. What laymen describe as “hitting someone with empty force” is not the same thing.) In either case, you cause the opponent’s balance to wobble.
Or perhaps you will start by neutralizing him and then sticking, compelling him to fall into a disadvantageous position, then seize the opportunity to attack. Whatever the case, you will never attack or advance using a technique that involves hardness. The phrase “four ounces moves a thousand pounds” mentioned in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise is by no means an exaggeration. Once the opponent’s balance is extremely unstable, a light deflection is all that is needed, and so it is not necessary to use a large amount of force. Sometimes even just a loud shout can startle him enough to make him topple.
Because the human body is an object, it cannot help but be influenced by its balance. But it is also capable of moving itself, so take advantage of the opponent’s own movement and attack him simply by adding to it. He will thus lose his balance even more than an inanimate object would. This theory is based in the science of mechanics, which proves that the potential for a small force to overcome a large one is certainly not a mystical trick in this boxing art. And so if a weak person wishes to learn some martial arts principles, it is most appropriate for him to learn Taiji Boxing. The way this principle is related to the science of mechanics, touched upon here only briefly, is explored further in a later chapter [Chapter Four].
It uses retreat as advance.
Although Taiji Boxing applies energy in endlessly changing ways, there are really only two major things happening: yielding and sticking. (See Wang’s Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Treatise in the Appendix.) Yielding is a method of neutralizing the opponent to ensure your own safety. Sticking is a method of following upon neutralizing by taking advantage of the opportunity to advance in order to control the opponent. However, these two methods should actually be applied as two parts of a single method. You have to understand this principle (from the Treatise): “In sticking there is yielding and in yielding there is sticking.” Then your technique will be fully effective.
At the same time, you still have to be cultivating the habit of moving in arcs. You need to understand that the basis of all rounded movement is: “yielding turns into sticking and sticking turns into yielding”. As your skill deepens, the arc will shrink until you reach the point that you will only have an arcing intention and then arcing as a movement will hardly be noticeable any longer. This kind of method is described (in Understanding How to Practice) as: “Within curving, seek to be straightening.” It may look crude and slow, but it is actually the key to the principle of “leaving after but arriving before”.
The alternating between yielding and sticking can basically only be taught through doing pushing hands. You first have to go along with the direction of the opponent’s incoming force, using yielding to draw it in so that it lands on nothing instead of crashing into you (thus keeping yourself from getting injured), then once you have neutralized his technique, immediately use sticking to restrain his ability to adapt, putting you in the superior condition of “my energy is smooth while his energy is coarse”.
If he still wants to force his way in at this point, then the more you stick to him, the more he will become tightened up, causing him to lose his balance. If you then take advantage of the opportunity to issue power, his inferior position leaves him with no way to send out his hands to deal with it, and it will be very difficult for him to escape your attack. If your sticking fails to restrain the opponent, then you must not rashly issue power. You should let him adjust while you continue to use yielding and sticking, until you have created a superior position from which you can indeed issue.
A practitioner with a high level of skill will of course need only one action of yielding and sticking to be able to attack the opponent with precision. When practicing, you should constantly strive to be skillful by cultivating the habit of “using retreat as advance”, and then you will always win when you apply techniques, or at least you will have the guarantee of going away uninjured if you happen to lose. Compared to the much riskier method of attacking with hardness, it is not difficult to see that using retreat as advance is indeed of great advantage in martial arts.
This chapter is primarily meant to explain Taiji Boxing’s characteristics and what makes it interesting, not at all to glorify it as some all-powerful martial art. As was already explained in its first paragraph, soft styles of martial arts tend toward self-cultivation, and they simply do not compare to hard styles if what you want is bodybuilding. This is a point that students of martial arts have to understand.
CHAPTER TWO: PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTION IN THE PRACTICE OF TAIJI BOXING
No matter what kind of exercise you engage in, every movement requires some exertion. But unless intention is transmitted through the central nervous system, you could not make any movement at all. Every martial art emphasizes the mimicking of fighting movements, although they vary in their degree of hardness or softness, quickness or slowness, and so on. Each individual has different personal goals during their practice, and yet they are all using intention as they imagine each movement’s martial function.
It is clear from this that practicing any martial art requires “using intention” and that this is not a principle that only Taiji Boxing attaches importance to. That being the case, why does Taiji Boxing put so much emphasis on its special characteristic of “use intention rather than exertion”? This is because Taiji Boxing’s exertion is different from the exertion of other martial arts, and therefore to “use intention” seems to be that much more important.
Let us first discuss the link between movement and intention. Taiji Boxing’s movement is a kind of soft and light slow movement, completely different from movement that is hard, forceful, and fast. Practitioners of these two kinds of movement each have their own purpose. Since there is a huge difference between hard and soft, and fast and slow, even if they aim at practicing the same movements, what they visualize in relation to the movement will not be working from the same mentality. Those who emphasize moving hard and fast will naturally proceed from a strategy of “attack him before he attacks you” for their visualizations, whereas those who emphasize moving soft and slow will naturally proceed from a strategy of “first neutralize, then attack” for their visualizations. They both have their own reasoning and cannot easily be made to change their minds.
However, there is a more important reason that Taiji Boxing’s slow movements are controlled by intention. Hard and forceful fast movement moves so fast from its starting point to its ending point that intention can be put in control over the movement only when it is already reaching the target. (i.e. It has to issue fully or withdraw fully, no time in between to change course.) But because Taiji Boxing’s movements are soft and slow, not only can intention be in charge of movement from its starting point to its ending point, it can lead movement into stillness or stillness into movement at any time. Thus if you want to halt, you can halt at any point, or if you want to advance, you can advance at any point.
This kind of training method has two main martial functions: 1. to teach you to not stop visualizing as you go through the exercise so that your martial skill can be heightened to the level of the miraculous, or in other words, make use of mental strength (i.e. psychological function) to encourage your body through all sorts of training, and 2. to cultivate a habit of not acting rashly, so that when you are sparring, you will not end up mindlessly making movements that have no function at all.
Above I have focused on explaining differences between two kinds of martial movement. Below I will discuss the theory of how mind influences the body, just a brief introduction to the subject in order to provide beginners with reference material.
There are countless examples of the mind being able to affect the body. The most commonly seen is when a person with willpower faces difficulties in their job or daily life without ever showing any fear, struggling on through all setbacks. The most remarkable is the willpower of people who are fully committed to a cause, who endure through many hardships, or even great physical suffering, without ever surrendering their ideals. Both of these examples demonstrate that the power of the mind has mighty effects indeed.
On a smaller scale, a person in moments of unusual happiness finds everything he sees to be delightful and his appetite increases. During times of tragedy, it is the opposite effect [i.e. everything is displeasing and he cannot bear to eat]. Both of these examples demonstrate that one’s psychological state has an influence upon one’s physiological state. This is because our nervous system has a ubiquitous presence, from our core to the tips of our extremities.
When the body touches against some external object or receives some kind of stimulation, the first sensation is at the nerve endings, though it is a general sensation that does not have the ability to identify the object. But as soon as there is this sensation, it sends pulsations from the nerve endings, through the nerve fibers, and at last to the nerve center, which is then able to generate visualization, and thus the object is identified. This process is called “consciousness”.
Our consciousness is the source of all our ideas, but our ideas and our motive center are intimately connected. For instance, sometimes we get a sudden thought to grab an object, and the hand is already reaching out to it before we have even fully decided to grab it. Or when we see a plum, we start salivating before even tasting it. Both of these examples demonstrate that ideas spark action in the motive center, thereby leading to the development of reflexes.
It is said of movement that practice will lead to skill, but that is actually this development of reflexes that I just mentioned. Furthermore, psychotherapists who are able to use hypnosis to treat illness or correct bad habits are making use of one’s own psychological functioning to achieve medical results. Sometimes we do not even need hypnosis and all that is required are some words of encouragement to produce an effective remedy. For instance, I recently read this in an article (published in the Shanghai New People News, an abridged translation of a piece from the foreign magazine Neva):
“There is a twelve-year-old girl who long after recovering from a serious illness was still unable to walk. The main thing that was keeping her from walking on her own was that she simply did not believe she would ever be able to stand and walk again. Eventually, due to the persuasion and encouragement of those around her, she finally made an attempt to walk, with the result that she was able to walk after all. Instead of performing any kind of surgery, her doctors applied psychotherapy to restore her confidence in her own ability to walk…” This story is quite compelling evidence (though I have supplied here only a paraphrased version to give the gist of it, not the original text of the article).
I also recently noticed this piece of news in a sports periodical: “Foreign specialists are doing research into the possibility of using hypnosis on athletes. It is already being used in the training of ski jumpers.” This demonstrates an intimate connection between psychological function and athletics. It is necessary to grasp this principle early in your study of Taiji Boxing, and then you will be capable of more deeply understanding the concept of “using intention rather than exertion”.
It says in the beginning of Understanding How to Practice: “Use mind to move energy.” And: “Use energy to move your body.” Although this is a very important training principle, beginners usually do not comprehend it. Everyone assumes correctly that “use mind” should be interpreted as “use intention”, in accordance with the use of “intention” in Wu Yuxiang’s “Taiji Boxing Treatise” as well as the “Thirteen Dynamics Song”.
What makes it confusing is simply the issue of “moving energy” and “using energy”, and what exactly this “energy” is. This is because the previous generations who produced these texts did not really have any understanding of the body’s nervous system in terms of its material substance – nerve center, nerve fibers, nerve endings – nor of how it actually works. They always thought that a person’s movement was generated internally by a kind of “energy” or “spirit”. The common notion of “the internal training of essence, energy, and spirit” is based on such an understanding.
However, based on our knowledge of physiology, this use of “energy” has nothing to do with the breathing of air [氣 meaning either “energy” or “air”, as well as a few other things, depending on the context] and is instead a matter of the nerve fibers and nerve endings throughout the body. The movements of the body, as well as the actions of the organs, take place after receiving commands from the nerve center. Clearly to “use mind to move energy” simply means to use intention, and then when we add “use energy to move your body”, we can say that intention and movement have a master-and-servant relationship.
Previous generations considered “energy” to be something beyond the nervous system, and therefore they divided the process into two parts [mind moves energy and then energy moves body, instead of just mind moves body] as a method of explaining how movement occurs. This is a point that needs to be clearly understood right from the start.
The text of this chapter has so far affirmed the importance of psychological function in the practicing of Taiji Boxing, but we have to go into more detail about how it is actually integrated with the movement. From Chapter One, you have already learned that there are many special characteristics of movement in Taiji Boxing. By carrying out your training with these characteristics in mind, you can indeed gain excellent results in terms of both health and martial skill. But the founders of Taiji Boxing considered mental training to be equally as important as physical training, and sometimes it was even seen as the more important of the two.
Because previous generations strongly believed in the theory that the mind can control the body, they made “use intention rather than exertion” the most supreme principle in their training method. When the movement is continuously being influenced by intention, this can produce greater strength of spirit, thereby heightening the effect of the exercise. After saying “use mind to move energy” and “use energy to move your body”, Understanding How to Practice continues with: “If your spirit can be raised up, then you will be without worry of being slow or weighed down.” And: “Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the qualities of roundness and liveliness.” Both of these statements describe mind having an influence upon movement.
Consequently, when practicing Taiji Boxing, it is not just a matter of fulfilling the principles related to movement and posture. You also have to add in a certain amount of visualization. Moreover, you should firmly believe with each visualization that it can produce an expected effect on the movement. Thirty years ago, I once gave this method a name, calling it “taking it for granted” (using the more common meaning of the phrase rather than the original meaning of the words [“wanting what comes naturally”], by which I meant that every visualization will have a definite effect.
Take for example the two phrases “use mind to move energy” and “use energy to move your body”. Both of these actions are invisible and so there is no way they can be shown to you. We only get instructions from the boxing texts, and then we have to make our own visualizations to get actual results. The phrase “use mind to move energy” is followed by: “You must get the energy to sink.” Since Taiji Boxing does not allow any use of exertion, this means we can only visualize sinking within the movement in order to be in accord with this instruction from the text. Then there is also: “Energy sinks to your elixir field.” And: “Energy should be roused.” These ideas can indeed be of great assistance to the movement. But when you are practicing, you still should not be forcing the energy to be roused or to sink, only using intention to visualize these things.
To “visualize” sounds simple, but it is not actually something you will be able to do right away. You must engage in constant practice with constant visualizing, causing your mind to become almost hypnotized by the activity, and then your psychological state will be able to have a definite influence upon your physiological state. The Thirteen Dynamics Song says: “In every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention, for once you achieve that, it will all be effortless.” And also: “Mastering the art depends on your own unceasing effort.” Both of these statements verify the theory that if you practice this art for a long time, you will naturally see skill develop.
For martial purposes, Taiji Boxing depends on this kind of training method to build the nerve center’s reflexes. During pushing hands, you then only have to rely on sensation or visualization rather than having to go through the process of consciously analyzing what is going on, and thus you will be able to take the right action and achieve victory. This describes a level of technique that some have been able to develop to the point of astonishing ability, and it is due to this very principle.
Because “use intention rather than exertion” is one of the most important principles in Taiji Boxing, I have given it extra attention. But this principle is not easy to explain thoroughly and I cannot really do it justice due to my own mediocre level of understanding.
CHAPTER THREE: THE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF TAIJI BOXING’S PARTICULAR TYPE OF MOVEMENT
The previous chapter discussed psychological effects. Although this chapter will discuss physiological ones, they can be included within the parameters of that chapter’s same theme: “use intention rather than exertion”, which is Taiji Boxing’s most noteworthy characteristic. As it needs more analysis, I bring it up again in this chapter, but not at the expense of the other characteristics.
Taiji Boxing’s various characteristics are sometimes a matter of movement, sometimes a matter of posture, and all of them are important standards of training. They will be given extra explanation further below within the discussion of practice methods [in Chapters Five and Eight], and so in order to avoid repetition, this chapter will only briefly introduce the physiological effects of these characteristics for your reference.
A. IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTICS OF MOVEMENT
Among martial arts, there are those that focus on training hard energy, and there are also those that start by training hard energy and then train soft energy (such as Xingyi Boxing, which has its stages of obvious energy, hidden energy, and neutral energy), and then there is Taiji Boxing, which from beginning to end emphasizes training soft energy, and is therefore a “soft” martial art.
The benefit of softness is that it uses less exertion and thereby does not cause the muscles to become excessively tense. For expanding muscles and enhancing physical strength, it is less effective than other exercises, but it does not result in rapid breathing or overly deplete one’s strength. For those with weaker bodies or those recovering from illness, it therefore suits physiological requirements as an exercise for building health that does not produce any harm on the way.
To train hard energy, or “obvious energy”, in the movements always requires speed and strength. Training softness may also use quick movements, but Taiji Boxing emphasizes slow movements, therefore “slowness” is also a special characteristic of the movement in Taiji Boxing.
When moving with slowness and softness, they work in close cooperation with each other. They play a more active role in regulating the breath, and at the same time supply an effective means of moderating the depleting of physical strength. Additionally, in order to develop the quality of “using intention to guide movement”, slowness serves a vital function, and it is for this reason that Taiji Boxing requires the use of slow movement.
Looking at Taiji Boxing from the point of view of health care, it is a means of training “the simultaneous cultivation of meditation while exercising” [i.e. a “moving meditation”], or what is called in the art: “seeking stillness within movement”. Consequently, when practicing the boxing set, you must never allow the slightest stiffening of the neck, glaring of the eyes, sticking out of the chest, curling of the lower back, or agitated tension.
Not only do the most linked parts of the movement – wrist, arm, shoulder – first have to loosen, but in your chest, belly, waist, and back, there also has to be no place that is not loose, and then it will be correct. (As your lower limbs have to support weight, they cannot really seek looseness, but they should strive for naturalness.) In this way, you can firstly prevent the exercise from leading to agitated emotions, and secondly keep your abdominal breathing and the movement of your diaphragm from being impeded by them, thereby giving rise to even greater effectiveness.
Combining this quality with softness and slowness, the three qualities become a single quality that is the foundation of every movement in Taiji Boxing and is the key to why practitioners can gain such health benefits from such generic postures.
Most martial arts pay particular attention to having harmonious movement, commonly using the terms “three internal unions” and “three external unions”, together making the “six unions”, and Taiji Boxing is no exception. But for the harmoniousness needed in Taiji Boxing, these things are required:
- Your whole body, every part, from head to foot, has to be able to act in close coordination with your hands, achieving the condition of “if one part moves, every part moves” and thus functioning as a complete unit.
- Whether advancing or retreat, rising or lowering, moving upward or downward, left or right, not only should all parts be working in harmonious unison, your breathing and intention should also in each posture be able to coordinate with the changes of emptiness and fullness, movement and stillness.
The function of harmoniousness is firstly to get all the parts of the body to be moving in unison, secondly to take advantage of this quality of completeness to promote abdominal breathing (what is meant in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise by “energy should be roused”), and also to be in proper accordance with the three fundamental principles above [soft, slow, loose], thereby developing an extreme naturalness. Because the harmoniousness required in Taiji Boxing is different from ordinary harmoniousness, it therefore becomes a significant characteristic of its movement.
This means that all of the postures throughout the Taiji boxing set, or the movements within any given posture, have to be linked together in succession and must not show any pauses or interruptions between them (not counting the almost invisible moments when you are using intention to express emptiness or fullness, lightness or heaviness), making sure that all of the movements are connected together and continuous, as though a “single breath from beginning to end”.
When people perform specific calisthenic exercises or isolated martial arts movements, they always finish one posture and then do another, the postures not linked together, exactly the opposite of this principle. This characteristic mainly has to do with connecting the harmonious movements within the postures to make a kind of natural rhythm that will improve the effects of the movements. It says in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise: “It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly.” This statement indicates this kind of state.
Moreover, this kind of rhythm of continuous movements, due to the movements being performed with unusual meticulousness, will captivate the practitioner with ever increasing enjoyment, which can enhance one’s emotional state and thereby induce better physiological functioning.
6. Roundness of movement
Ordinary exercise almost always involves moving in straight lines, but every movement in Taiji Boxing should be making arcs. Because the movements continue from one into another, the arcs link together and naturally give a circular shape to the movements.
The advantage of rounded movements is not only that they invigorate the functioning of the principles listed above (for without roundness of movement, you will not be able to achieve harmoniousness and connectedness), but also that the harmonious whole-body performance of round movements, no matter how large or small, obvious or hidden, will enable the muscles, bones, and ligaments to have the proper evenness of movement. Therefore the result of such training is superior to any exercises that move only in straight lines.
Of course, this principle has to work in conjunction with the others above in order for the effects of practicing Taiji Boxing to be fully realized, and otherwise you will just be making a bunch of round movements.
7. Using intention, not exertion
This means that when you practice the boxing set, you should always use intention to influence the movement instead of relying on strength to seek results. (It is actually impossible to entirely use no exertion at all, but you can certainly use less.) As for this principle’s physiological effects and its importance, these things have already been explained in detail in the previous chapter and so they do not need to be repeated here.
B. IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTICS OF POSTURE
1. Suspend your headtop and relax your neck.
To “suspend your headtop” is described in the art as “your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended”, and is also said as “forcelessly press up your headtop”. This means that your headtop should maintain a vertical line in relation to the ground, as though there is a cord attached to the top of your head. In this way, your head can be naturally vertical and not end up drooping forward, lolling back, or tilting to either side. However, suspending the headtop is not the same as pulling it up, as indicated in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise by “forcelessly press up your headtop”, instructing you that you should not be deliberately pulling up [i.e. pushing up] your headtop.
Relaxing the neck is entirely the opposite of tightening the neck, indicating that the neck area should have no exertion and should instead be naturally loosened, and thus the idea of the head being suspended is appropriate. Taiji Boxing requires that the whole body be able to loosen. As the head is the headquarters of the central nervous system, it in particular should not have any tension. According to the theories of the Soviet physiologist Pavlov, which we can indeed put our trust in, any method that has a beneficial influence upon the central nervous system (which needs to be kept in a state of calm rather than agitation) will have the effect of causing the nervous system to then have a beneficial influence upon the rest of the bodily systems and the organs. Consequently, the position of the neck in Taiji Boxing should not only stay vertical, but should also be kept naturally relaxed. Together with having your head in its correct position, this will have an enormous influence on the posture of your whole body.
As for the look on your face, here are some pointers for maintaining its naturalness:
1. You should not have an angry look in your eyes (nor a vacuous one), otherwise you would not be conforming to the statement in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise that “spirit should be collected within” [since with angry eyes it would be projected outward (and with vacant eyes it would be internally empty)], and would also be causing the eye muscles to stiffen and slow down the movement of your eyes.
2. You should not close your mouth too tightly, and should especially avoid gnashing your teeth. Because it is healthier to be breathing through the nose, you should have your mouth closed, but if you are applying any strength to the act of closing your mouth, this will then lead to the error of holding your breath. (While practicing the boxing set, if your breathing becomes too tense, you should let your mouth open and slowly exhale through it.)
3. Your tongue should be touching your upper palate, which causes your salivary glands to secret more. This will not only enable your throat to stay moistened while practicing, thereby preventing your breathing from creating a dry throat, it will also mean that more saliva is getting swallowed into your stomach, thereby boosting digestion.
2. Hollow your chest and round your back.
In terms of physiology, the strength or weakness of the body as a whole is intimately connected to the strength or weakness of the muscles. However, there is a distinction between voluntary muscles and involuntary muscles. Voluntary muscles are connected to bones and are under your conscious control, able to lengthen and shorten as you please. Involuntary muscles are wrapped around organs and are not under your conscious control, lengthening and shortening on their own.
You can infer from this that if the exercise is biased toward the limbs, the involuntary muscles would obviously only be able to receive an indirect or very negligible effect from it. But if you wish for them to gain greater and more immediate results, it cannot be done without the addition of suitable actions for the torso to perform. Taiji Boxing’s “hollow your chest and round your back” is a major postural principle for achieving such a purpose. Hollowing the chest is the exact opposite of sticking the chest out. Whereas sticking out the chest causes the chest to bulge forward, hollowing causes the chest to gather in. Both of these actions would obviously have completely different functions.
In Taiji Boxing, training deep breathing (expressed by the phrase “energy sinks to your elixir field”) is one of the main aspects of the exercise. Hollowing the chest can give the diaphragm better opportunity to expand downward (The hollowing adjusts along with the movement and is not really a fixed position.), putting the diaphragm in a very natural position for deep breathing. When inhaling, your abdomen can naturally contract, and when exhaling, your abdomen can naturally expand, similar to reverse breathing as it is used in qigong for recovery from illness.) The expanding and contracting of the diaphragm will at the same time be causing a tightening and releasing of pressure upon the abdominal cavity and liver, thus improving the transporting of blood and promoting better liver function, a wonderful physiological effect indeed.
As for rounding the back, it automatically accompanies the action of hollowing the chest, the back naturally making a position of arching. So if you can hollow your chest, naturally you can round your back. Its primary function is to cause the spine (specifically the area of the thoracic vertebrae) to be able to adjust from making a forward bow shape to making a bow shape toward the rear. Its secondary function is to get the muscles of the shoulders and upper back area to stretch out further. The martial principle of “power comes from your spine” is based on developing this habit.
The action of your diaphragm during the breathing described above will surely have an influence upon the physiological function of the other organs, but as this book does not have room for such a specialized study, I will not go into further detail about it here.
3. Rotate the wrist and forearm.
Long ago, I considered “sinking the elbow and dropping the shoulders” to be one of the special characteristics of Taiji Boxing, but it turns out that “do not have chilled shoulders” (meaning the shoulders are lifting up as though in fear of cold, the opposite of sinking the shoulders) and “drop the elbows to shield the ribs” are common rules in ordinary martial arts, and so they can only be deemed to be essential characteristics rather than special characteristics. Of course Taiji Boxing’s principle of “sink the elbow and drop the shoulders” still has its particular martial function, but it will only affect the way the posture is applied, not do anything unusual to the posture itself, and therefore I have not included it among the principles listed in this chapter.
To “rotate the wrist and forearm” is a piece of terminology of my own making rather than something said in the boxing classics. However, Taiji Boxing’s movements make arcs, and in the majority of movements performed with the upper limbs, we can see detailed aspects of movement such as “the wrist going along with the rotation of the palm” and “the forearm going along the rotation of the wrist”, things that perfectly live up to having “roundness” of movement. This is manifestly different from the movement of the upper limbs in ordinary hard-style martial arts (in which the wrist is strongly fixed in place, and the forearm bends and extends but rarely rotates).
Consequently, we have grounds to consider it to be a special characteristic. As a martial element, it is a means of heightening the effectiveness of neutralizing, and also promotes greater kinesthetic awareness by improving the integrated coordination of wrist, elbow, arm, and shoulder. Both of these qualities are results that cannot be obtained through ordinary straight-line movement.
4. Extend the fingers and stick out the palm.
Taiji Boxing is known as a “boxing” art, but actually it rarely involves making fists and frequently uses palms. Methods of training the palms typically involve the fingers being held tightly together, but Taiji Boxing does the opposite, seeking for the fingers to be spread naturally rather than forcefully pressed together or stubbornly straightened.
When you extend an arm and send out a palm to its final position, especially when it is a movement of pushing forward with a standing palm, the center of the palm should have a hidden energy of slightly protruding. (Without this hidden energy, deliberate intention will show through.) This will cause the fingertips to become sensitive, as though energy is being concentrated there, and at the same time, the muscles in your forearms will become slightly alert.
Both of these postural points may be rather minor details, but extending the fingers has the effect of loosening the shoulders, and sticking out the palms is intimately connected to abdominal breathing (coordinating with deep exhalation). There are some boxing arts practitioners who only give attention to extending the fingers and think that sticking out the palms is unimportant, but that seems incomplete to me.
5. Flatten your lower back and tuck in your buttocks.
Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise has the phrase “directing it from your waist”, and the Thirteen Dynamics Song says “the command comes from your lower back” and “at every moment, pay attention to your waist”. Taiji Boxing clearly attaches great importance to the actions of the waist.
We previously discussed Taiji Boxing’s roundness of movement, but this roundness is not at all just a matter of the hands drawing circles. The waist must also have rotational movement to complement or guide the movements of the other parts of the body, and then you will be performing in accordance with roundness. Once you understand the principle that the movement of the waist should be closely connected with all other movement, it will not be difficult to understand the phrases above from the boxing classics.
To “flatten your lower back” means to sit your waist. It is also called “collapsing the waist”. Whenever you sit down, your waist loosens downward, causing your lower back to have a posture of filling outward, entirely the opposite of curling your lower back, which would cause your lower back to have a posture of shrinking inward. This action coordinates with hollowing the chest, and is the posture of sitting meditation.
To “tuck in your buttocks” is a natural result of flattening your lower back, and is entirely the opposite of the ordinary posture of the lower back shrinking in and the buttocks sticking out. The function of flattening the lower back and tucking in the buttocks primarily has to do with getting energy to sink, increasing the strength of the diaphragm’s breathing actions. It secondarily has to do with maintaining the position of the sacrum area (i.e. the tailbone, at the lower end of the spinal column) so that it is naturally centered. (When the buttocks are sticking out, it is easy for the curving away of the buttocks to have a constant affect of drawing the tailbone out of alignment.) Additionally, the body’s center of gravity will be slightly lowered, which will be an enormous aid in helping you to stay balanced throughout the movements.
6. Bend your knees and sit with your legs.
In ordinary martial arts movement, when in a stance involving one leg being extended behind, the leg should deliberately straighten and should not be bending. However, Taiji Boxing emphasizes being more natural in moments of straightening, and is usually in a posture of “bending knees and sitting legs” anyway, something that is seldom seen in ordinary martial arts. Its function is mainly related to sinking energy.
Adopting this kind of posture throughout the movements causes the muscles and ligaments of the knee and hip joints to gain greater flexibility. The effects of the training will be very noticeable (evidenced by the experience, in the beginning of the training, of feeling that your legs have hardly used any effort and yet they are already becoming sore). Additionally, this kind of posture involves one leg being empty and the other leg being full, and switching these roles throughout the exercise, thereby easily avoiding the problem of both legs becoming fatigued at the same time.
This postural principle has gone unnoticed, never considered to be a special characteristic, but actually it is intimately connected to hollowing the chest and flattening the lower back. It is a principle of posture that is of the utmost importance, indeed the most indispensable in Taiji Boxing, and therefore I include it in this list for beginners to study.
This chapter briefly introduces the special characteristics of Taiji Boxing movements and the ways in which they affect health, in order to supply you with study material. As for other basic qualities of movement, they of course also have the effect of improving the fitness of the body, but as they are all typical of martial arts in general, they are not explained here.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE BASIS IN MECHANICS FOR TAIJI BOXING’S MARTIAL SKILLS
Whether using your fist to strike an opponent or using your palm to push him, the impact of the force on his body can shift him from his position. Sometimes you may miss or he may be already prepared for you and you will not obtain the result you expect. Looking at it purely from the perspective of the study of mechanics, no matter what effect your attack may produce, it will most certainly conform to the laws of motion. Consequently, no matter what kind of martial art you are using, be it a hard style or a soft style, provided the force you are using to attack the opponent is an actual physical force, a situation of action and reaction will be generated between you, and you will both be governed by the laws of motion.
It is therefore obvious that these laws of motion are not exclusive to Taiji Boxing. More than that, there is no kind of magic to the art by which it can create its own laws of motion or violate the laws of motion, it is simply that practicing it for a long time will produce enough skill at applying it that you will be able to more or less grasp the laws of motion, and this will then cause your use of power to be in accordance with your needs at any moment.
Because there are nowadays still some people who view Taiji Boxing’s martial skills as something mystical, I will start by briefly introducing some basic mechanics theory in the hopes that those who love Taiji Boxing will all be able to know what is real. Taiji Boxing’s martial techniques are transforming endlessly, and so I cannot possibly make a mechanics-oriented analysis of every single technique. Therefore within this chapter, I present just a few key essentials, explaining a number of principles based on my own personal experience.
1. It conforms to the principle of duration of force causing alteration of speed.
When a practitioner of an external boxing art makes a fist and strikes an opponent, he sends out his hand fast and powerfully, but the effect is only that the area of the opponent’s body that is hit receives pain or damage. Unless the power that is applied is especially mighty, it is difficult to get the opponent’s whole body to be launched away or dropped to the ground. This is primarily because the goal of a punch is mainly to cause an opponent pain or injury, and thus there is only a desire to hit the target, but basically no intention to get the power to continue through it. At the same time, he is also worried that his arm might get injured by the opponent while it is extended, and so he usually withdraws his hand very quickly, with the result that he immediately disperses all the applied force that he used to hit the opponent once he feels the reacting force bouncing back from the opponent’s body. The natural result of this kind of striking method is that it will only cause the opponent pain and will not be able to move him from his position.
In Taiji Boxing’s striking method, although the speed that the hand goes out and the amount of force that is used depends on the situation, the hand is not immediately withdrawn once it connects with the opponent. Instead there is a deliberate continuing of force in the direction of the opponent’s body, prolonging the amount of time that force is applied, and thereby generating acceleration in the opponent’s body, which will then naturally be carried along the direction of force, and he will have been moved from his position.
This is entirely in accordance with Newton’s Second Law of Motion, which tells us that “a change in motion is made in the straight line of the direction of an outside force”, and also with the principle that “momentum equals force multiplied by time”. This explains why in Taiji Boxing power is always issued by first connecting with the opponent’s body and then extending your arm. So that you can better understand how duration of force affects speed, refer to the two examples below:
1. Put two objects of equal weight on the trays of a scale so that the trays are both level, then use a small glass tube to hit down quickly on top of one of the objects (just like when striking an opponent and withdrawing the strike right away). The balance of the trays will not be influenced by this, but if you instead place the glass tube on top of the object, that side will then drop slightly, ruining the perfect balance of the trays.
2. Strike a large square stone block with a sledgehammer. If you are swinging at the block holding a hammer that has a hard handle [i.e. a metal handle], you will shy away from the shock your hands will receive by loosening your grip as you approach the moment of impact. Consequently the duration of force will be shortened and you will only be chipping at the surface of the block rather than smashing it apart. But if you switch to a hammer with a softer handle (such as rattan or bamboo [or wrapped in rubber], which will reduce the shock to the hands), and swing with the same amount of force, or even less, you only have to let the hammer swing through heavily so that the block receives the full shock (thereby increasing the duration of force), and the block will be split in two. The “internal power” in Taiji Boxing is similar to this kind of striking method, in that it is not actually a matter of the nature of the force that is applied, simply the duration of force.
2. It conforms to the principle of inertia.
According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, “unless influenced by an outside force, an object will not change its original state”. We know that an object at rest will stay at rest and that an object in motion will maintain its particular motion. The term in mechanics for this property is “inertia”. Furthermore, Newton’s Third Law of Motion tells us that “for every action, there is a reaction of equal size in the opposite direction”, or perhaps we could phrase it as “the interaction of two objects is always of equal size and in opposite directions”. For example, when a bullet exits the chamber of a gun, the gun rushes backward. This is the reacting force that is created. As for an example of inertia, if you are standing in a trolley and it suddenly comes to a halt, you will continue forward, swaying to the point that you may even stumble. This would be a way to demonstrate inertia.
In Taiji Boxing, when sending out a hand, it is always the case that the less exertion you use, the better. Do not be so willing to immediately use a great amount of force to strike the opponent. In this way, you are first of all preventing an excessive reacting force from coming back to your own body. Second, when you add force to the opponent’s body after you have connected with him, if he uses a great amount of force to resist against it, you can very naturally loosen your hand right away to reduce his force or dispel it altogether, thus putting his body under the control of inertia, and he will not be able to keep himself from continuing forward and losing his balance. You can then take advantage of the opponent’s instability by immediately issuing energy to attack him.
If his forward movement is not really very aggressive, he may still be in a position to struggle against you, and so you can again add more force to his body in the direction he was going. If his forward movement is very aggressive, you should then add force to the left or right or in the opposite direction. In either case, he will be very easy to launch away or knock down. If the opponent has no understanding of Taiji Boxing, and he is not willing to go along with the momentum and shift the position of his feet, the action of bodily inertia will cause his upper body to lean forward instead of his whole body moving forward together, thereby affecting his center of gravity. In this kind of situation, a practitioner of Taiji Boxing has to step in order to maintain his balance. Similarly, in the example of the trolley car, when you are in a trolley car that suddenly comes to a halt, you should go along with the forward momentum by taking a step in order to avoid stumbling. This is the same idea.
3. It conforms to the principle of net force.
Taiji Boxing’s method of attack is always to let the opponent attack first, for it is forbidden to forcefully resist against him. You should mostly go along with him in the same direction he is attacking and add force to his force in order to generate an even greater net force, thereby causing his body to lose its balance, and he will fall into a disadvantageous position. This method of fighting emphasizes using softness and smoothness. It is nothing like methods of striking with hardness or using hardness to advance, and thus the result is greatly different. When two people are sparring, if they are both using methods of hardness in striking and advancing, then although the one with faster hands and greater strength will defeat the one with slower hands and less strength, he will not necessarily be able to avoid getting injured.
Because of this, the instinct of Taiji Boxing practitioners is always to await movement with stillness and never to try to be the first to attack. You may send out your hand first, but only to induce the opponent to send out his hand in order to make contact with him so that you can feel the state of his emptiness and fullness, and then take advantage of whatever opportunity arises. If there is no opportunity to take advantage of, promptly switch to a different hand technique, for it is better to change and change again, to just keep neutralizing without attacking, than to become impatient and attack recklessly.
Those who have a deep level of skill can of course simply connect with an opponent’s hands, instantly zero in on his weak points, and send him stumbling away, but in general you should always be making use of net force to affect the opponent’s center of gravity. To “add force to his force” is sometimes a matter of neutralizing [when he is coming forward], the goal being to get him to shift his center of gravity, and sometimes a matter of issuing [when he tries to back off], in which you must make use of the moment when his balance is unstable. Basically you have to go along with the direction of incoming force and then add force to it, the net force of both enhancing the effect of your attack. This is the method of borrowing the opponent’s force in order to fuel your own technique, and it is the key to Taiji Boxing’s ability to use a small force to defeat a large force. In order for you to better understand the principle of net force, study the several diagrams below. [To better understand these diagrams, familiarize yourself with these simple characters: 左 (left), 右 (right), 前 (front), 后 (rear), 上 (above) 下 (below).]
In diagram 1, the line from A to B is the direction of force of the opponent sending a hand forward. The line from A to C is the direction of force of an ordinary blocking action to the side [knocking his attack toward his right]. The sideways force of the AC line added to the forward force of the AB line gives the net force for the opponent’s attack, the direction of this overall force being shown by the diagonal line from A to D. See diagram 1:
In diagram 2, the line from A’ to B’ is again the opponent’s forward force (the same as the AB line in diagram 1). The line from A’ to C’ is the act of the Taiji boxer going along with his force and diverting it diagonally (the same force as the AC line in diagram 1, but in a different direction [absorbing more than blocking]). The direction of the net force that the opponent ends up with is shown by line from A’ to D’. See diagram 2:
In diagram 3, the line from A” to C” is a diagonal force that is even more slanted than the A’C’ line in diagram 2. The direction of the net force that the opponent ends up with in this case is shown by line from A” to D”. See diagram 3:
Notice the pattern shown by these three diagrams: the net force of the AD line in diagram 1 is smaller than the net force of the A’D’ line in diagram 2, which is in turn smaller than the net force of the A”D” line in diagram 3. This is corroborated by this explanation of net force in the science of mechanics: “If the sizes of two forces do not change but the angle between them shrinks, their net force will be greater, and if the angle between them grows, their net force will be smaller.” It is clear that Taiji Boxing’s fighting method conforms to the principle of net force.
Sometimes when fighting, you will not really need a very large net force, and so you can apply less force in the AC line. In diagram 4, the AB line is the same, but the AC line is shorter, resulting in the net force in the line from A to D’ being equal to the AD line in diagram 1. Therefore according to principles of mechanics, it can indeed be proven that Taiji Boxing uses a small force to produce a large effect. See diagram 4:
The four diagrams above depict examples of the opponent attacking you. Examples of how you then send out your hand to add force to his body are depicted in the three diagrams below, giving a more complete study of Taiji Boxing’s fighting method:
In diagram 5 below, The line from E to O is to the opponent’s chest area. The line from A to B is the force of your palm pushing straight forward toward his chest. This kind of forceful push may result in his chest sending the same amount of reacting force back at you, or if you stubbornly push forward, he may stubbornly resist you. When both people are unwilling to yield, they will typically end up stuck in a stalemate. Or if the opponent is stronger than you, you will end up being moved back. To act in accordance with the principles of Taiji Boxing, if you do not want to withdraw your palm, you will then have to use the methods shown in diagrams 6 or 7 in order to deal with the opponent.
In diagram 6 below, the AB line is again the force of your forward push. The line from A to C is your palm and fingers then adding an upward frictional force to your forward push (i.e. the “lifting” energy of “like when you lift up an object” from Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise). The forward and upward forces together make the net force of the line from A to D, causing the opponent to receive a larger pushing force. This net force also has the effect of causing his toes to lift up and his body to lean back, both of these things putting him in a disadvantageous position.
Sometimes you will encounter an opponent who will sink his body down in response to this. Your addition of an upward force will then not be able to get him to lift up, so you should go along with his action by switching to adding force downward (creating a frictional force by wiping downward with your hand). If his right leg is bracing his body from behind, you should add force downward to your left, or if his left leg is behind, you should add force downward to your right. In diagram 7 below, the line from A to D is the net force of the AB line (forward) and the AC line (diagonally downward), its direction going along with the direction of the opponent’s sinking body, making it easy to push him.
After employing the method in diagram 7, the opponent might again resist getting pushed, in which case you should deliberately add a little more force along the AC line [i.e. downward] in order to compel him to use force to resist upward, and then immediately switch to adding force upward (as in diagram 6), or just suddenly releasing the strength in your hands altogether (making use of inertia), causing the opponent’s force to go nowhere. If he does not understand methods of stepping to adapt to the situation, or in the abruptness of the moment it is too late for him to save himself by stepping, his body will then lean forward and he will be standing unstably. If now you again add force to his body, you will thus be able to achieve the result you wanted in the first place.
4. It conforms to the principle of coupled forces.
Whenever two parallel forces of equal size are moving in opposite directions, the term in mechanics for this is “coupling”. Coupled forces cannot produce net force, but can cause objects to turn. Within Taiji Boxing’s fighting method, if an opponent uses his right hand to attack your left shoulder (or uses his left hand to attack your right shoulder), your left shoulder should go along with the direction of his incoming hand, your body turning to evade it, so that his force cannot find your body and continues forward. At the same time, immediately use your right hand to attack his left shoulder, and without needing to use a large amount of force, you can thereby cause his body to turn. See diagram 8:
The line from A to C is the opponent’s hand extending to attack your left shoulder while his right shoulder at the same time is receiving force. When the opponent strikes at you, turn your body to evade it (only by moving your waist, not stepping), causing his force to continue forward and his body to be lured in, and then immediately go along the direction of the line from B to D with an attack to his left shoulder. His shoulders are now receiving the effect of line AC and line BD, two parallel forces moving in opposite directions, and so he will have to turn his body (shown by the dotted OE line), thus producing an unstable position. If he feels the instability and immediately withdraws his right hand, the force from A to C will of course vanish, generating another force from A to C’ toward his right shoulder. See diagram 9:
Because the force from B to D still remains, the opponent’s reversal of direction means that he is now receiving the effect of line AC’ and line BD, two parallel forces moving in the same direction, the net force being the line from O to E. Since he is now receiving an even greater force, he has to step back (in the OE direction) or he will fall down. This is a situation of coupled forces being changed into net force. (In order for the explanation above to be easier to digest, I have used only the shoulders to illustrate the idea.) This is an example of Taiji Boxing’s “rending” technique (explained in Chapter Ten), which functions on the basis of the principle of coupled forces, one of the opponent’s arms being neutralized while the other is being attacked at the same time, causing his body to be leaned away. You may then take advantage of the situation by adding force to his body.
5. It conforms to the principle of equilibrium.
Objects have three states of equilibrium: stable equilibrium, unstable equilibrium, and adaptive equilibrium.
This cone structure is in a state of stable equilibrium. As long as it is not overly tipped from its base, then even though its center of gravity is rising up, the vertical line of its center is not passing over the boundary line of its base, and it very quickly can return to its original condition. See diagram 10:
This cone is in a state of unstable equilibrium. It only needs the slightest tilt for the vertical line of its center to immediately pass over the boundary line of its base, and even though its center of gravity is lowering, it cannot avoid tipping over. See diagram 11:
This cone is in a state of adaptive equilibrium. Regardless of how it is pushed around, its center of gravity is neither rising up nor lowering, and the vertical line of its center always stays within the boundary of its base, and hence it is “adaptive”. See diagram 12:
It is clear from these examples that if you want an object to have a very strong stability, it will not work unless you both lower its center of gravity and widen its base. When a person stands straight, his center of the gravity is in the area of the navel, and so unless he is aided by an outside object or outside force, it is impossible for him to have a strong stability. For example, a tightrope walker has to carry a long pole. The weight at each end causes the tips of the pole to be lower than his feet, bringing his center of gravity all the way down and enabling him to walk freely on top of the rope.
Martial arts practitioners will usually do stance training (most commonly the horse-riding stance), some of them going further and training to sink their energy. When applying techniques, such training can indeed stabilize or lower your body’s center of gravity. But the base that your feet are forming will have width in one direction and a narrowness in another direction. When your feet stand with one foot forward and one foot back, there is width to the front and rear, but narrowness to the sides. When your feet stand with one foot to the left and one foot to the right, there is width to the sides, but narrowness to the front and rear. If you are attacked at an area of narrowness, the vertical line of your body’s center of gravity can very easily be made to pass over the boundary line of your base. It is clear from this that if a martial artist only relies on his center of gravity being low and does not understand how to remedy the defects of his base, it will be very difficult to maintain his stability.
Therefore the most important part of Taiji Boxing’s fighting method is that when you issue power, you first have to upset the opponent’s center of gravity so that the vertical line of his center passes over the boundary line of his base and he loses his stable equilibrium. It is also crucial to always maintain the stable equilibrium of your own body, but the way to do this is by no means a matter of simply squatting down and sinking your energy in order to prop your body up. You have to understand that since shifting the weight of the whole body to be supported on one foot [i.e. an empty stance] is one of the most basic positions in Taiji Boxing, a base involving just one foot is even narrower than a base with two feet, and so when you get hit, the vertical line of your center of gravity would be made to go beyond the boundary line of your base that much more easily, a very obvious fact. Why then can the body’s stability be maintained better this way?
The only means of fulfilling the body’s requirements of stability is entirely a matter of your feet switching between emptiness and fullness according to the situation. To “switch between emptiness and fullness” just means that the moment one foot becomes unstable, immediately shift the weight onto the other foot, causing your body to return from a state of unstable equilibrium to one of stable equilibrium, your base changing along with the changes of your center of gravity. In this way, you will naturally be able to let your vertical line slip beyond the boundary line of your base for a brief moment because it is being brought into the boundary of the base made by your other foot.
Although this is somewhat different from the adaptive equilibrium of the cone, it is effectively the same result. The martial concept of “seeking stillness within movement” also contains this idea. Returning to the example of the tightrope walker above, when skillful walkers walk along a shorter steel wire, they can do so without the aid of the long pole, and this is because their feet are so good at such switchings. Otherwise the principles of mechanics would be violated and they would fall off.
This chapter is meant to demonstrate how Taiji Boxing’s methods of expressing power are in agreement with the laws of mechanics mainly in order to keep beginners from getting lost in otherwise mystical explanations. Alas, my own level of knowledge on the subject is inadequate, and so I very much regret that am in incapable of providing a lengthier and more insightful treatment of mechanics theory.
CHAPTER FIVE: PRINCIPLES TO BE GIVEN ATTENTION WHEN PRACTICING THE BOXING SET
The Taiji Boxing practice routine is commonly called the “set”. To “practice the set” means to perform the boxing postures. Because Taiji Boxing is a kind of martial art that emphasizes intention rather than shape, not only have many variations of the postures been passed down, but once practitioners have attained a deeper level of skill, despite being taught the same postures by the same teacher, their own individuality will draw them into being less and less identical in spirit and shape.
This is a similar situation to learning calligraphy. A student will begin by striving to imitate some standard version of the character shapes. Once he eventually has a solid grounding in drawing these shapes, he will then act in accordance with his own experience and personal taste, focusing on developing more expressiveness of spirit. After a long time, drawing words in this way will naturally lead to a shift in their shape. Practicing the boxing set goes through the same process.
Furthermore, the Taiji boxing set can take into account differences of individual strength level and height. Whatever the version of the postures, the set can be practiced in three sizes: large frame, medium frame, or small frame. The large frame can be done smaller, or even extra large. The small frame can be done larger, or even extra small. It is best to start with an expanded frame and then shrink it later, as is said in Understanding How to Practice: “First strive to open up, then strive to close up.”
The size of the frame also has to be consistent through the entire set. However, the size of the posture affects the size of its movement. The larger the posture, the larger the movement. The smaller the posture, the smaller the movement. Therefore the instruction to “first strive to open up, then strive to close up” may not actually be appropriate for practitioners with weaker bodies. In the beginning, you must do what you can actually do and not force yourself to do what you cannot.
Since the boxing set is a tool for training martial skill, other books tend to also describe applications. But this chapter focuses simply on Taiji Boxing’s methods of movement, and so the principles I present further below address only its requirements as a health exercise. Taiji Boxing’s martial skills and health benefits are in fact two outcomes of the same methods of training. If you are intent upon regarding each movement as a martial technique, this will of course enhance your martial skill, but it will not at all reduce its effects as a health-building exercise. Or if you instead want to focus on its health-building aspect, naturally you will be able to gain noticeable and even abundant results in this regard, and yet you will also be imperceptibly developing a foundation for martial skill. But unless one has previously studied martial methods, not every practitioner will be able to make use of this foundation. These two aspects should be clearly understood by beginners right from the start.
Below I have arranged, according to my own opinions, which principles are most important in the practice of the boxing set, dividing them into three stages of development.
In the first stage of learning Taiji Boxing, regardless of whether you have trained in any other martial arts, you should not attempt to plug the various principles into the postures all at once as you go through the set, which would be too many things at a time to think about and you would not get much benefit from the exercise. Therefore I present only the four principles below as a standard for your initial training in the set.
It says in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise: “Once there is any movement, your entire body must have lightness and nimbleness.” This is a standard for those who have already developed some skill in Taiji Boxing, but beginners should start with lightness and do not need to be in a hurry to strive for nimbleness. Based on my own experience, practitioners who have trained in other martial arts generally have more nimble bodies and hands, but because they are already accustomed to moving vigorously, they usually have more than enough nimbleness and yet insufficient lightness. Likewise for those who have never participated in sports, it is for most of them easy to learn nimbleness but more difficult to learn lightness.
When I started learning Taiji Boxing, I had the idea in my head that “practicing a martial art will surely require some exertion”, and so I was always giving attention to nimbleness and never to lightness. But when I later understood the special characteristics of this art, my opinion turned around. It has to be understood that the practice of Taiji Boxing is mainly a mental cultivation of awareness and sensitivity, and is not really focused on a physical quest for nimbleness of body and hands. The former uses only a small amount of exertion, but the latter uses a large amount.
Using too much exertion will certainly affect your sensitivity. (For example, when arms are clashing against each other, or you are tightly clenching your fists, these things are liable to diminish your sensitivity.) Therefore in the beginning of the training, the attitude should be: the less exertion the better. Give lightness the priority and make nimbleness of movement secondary. Once lightness has been established, then you can move on to training nimbleness, but certainly not the other way around.
Wang Zongyue’s Treatise describes a high level of sensitivity: “A feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land.” Although achieving this kind of sensitivity does not come entirely from training lightness, lightness is nevertheless the initial step toward developing it. You should furthermore be aware that training lightness of movement is just the foundation for skills that will be trained later (and you should not look upon the foundation as the goal). For one thing, with lightness of movement established, you will be able to reduce your attention upon it and instead allow yourself to act with naturalness. For another, once you are also training heaviness, you will then not be making rash and clumsy actions that would otherwise send you down the wrong path.
Everyone knows that the movements of Taiji Boxing are supposed to be slow, but is it really a case of “the slower the better”? This is a worthwhile question to examine. It says in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise: “Once there is any movement, your entire body must have lightness and nimbleness.” And also [from Wang Zongyue’s Treatise]: “If he moves fast, I quickly respond, and if his movement is slow, I leisurely follow.” It is clear from these statements that Taiji Boxing is by no means restricted to slowness and never allowed to move quickly.
It says in Understanding How to Practice: “If your spirit can be raised up, then you will be without worry of being slow or weighed down… Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the delight of being rounded and lively.” This further demonstrates that Taiji Boxing should be nimble rather than sluggish. The extra section of Understanding How to Practice has this phrase: “Move energy as if drawing silk.” This could be considered the basis of the requirement to move slowly, but its original purpose was to instruct people to move energy with the same kind of continuousness as a single thread of silk, and that they must not use sudden or fast movements, which would interrupt the energy. If we make “the slower the better” our motto, then it will contradict the phrases above.
Based on my own experience, Taiji Boxing’s movements should be slower than those of ordinary martial arts, obviously, but especially in the beginning stage we have to deliberately seek to be slow, therefore for that stage we can indeed say “the slower the better”. By practicing in this way means: 1. It is more suitable for those who are physically weak. 2. It can prevent sloppiness in the movements and thereby encourage correctness of posture. 3. Cultivating a habit of slow movement in the beginning can gradually increase nimbleness while still maintaining a slow speed instead of only when speeding up.
Therefore slowness, like lightness, is a fundamental skill, a foundation to build more things on, things that can wait for the time being. Those at a higher level are focused on seeking stillness within movement. Their movement is changing from a state of nimbleness back to a state of simplicity, but they can keep their movement at whatever speed is appropriate to their individual tendencies instead of deliberately seeking slowness. This is because the intention is then only on seeking stillness and not on seeking slowness, and thus they will be working on a kind of “slowness” that is not the same slowness beginners seek.
In Taiji Boxing, whatever the movement, they all have to travel in arcs and must not travel in straight lines. Even when your skill has become very deep, it is still the case that without making arcs it will not be right. However, in the beginning of the training, you should strive for your postures to be opened up at the same time that you are making your movements deliberately slow, and therefore you will have to make larger arcs to suit the size of the postures and movements. As your skill deepens over time, the postures will gradually become more compact, and the arcs will shrink along with them. There is of course no need to make your arcs overly large while you practice the set, but even very small movements should still maintain a quality of arcing, an aspect that must not be changed.
There are currently some teachers who try to make things easier for beginners by breaking down each posture into many smaller movements, with the effect that its overall movement ends up not showing any arcs. It has to be understood that this is only a method of giving instruction, and not at all taken as indicating that the movements of Taiji Boxing can be performed without arcs. Consequently, after learning the boxing set in this fashion, the movements that have been broken down have to be linked back up and converted into arcing movements. In the course of practicing, you will then wipe away every hint of a pause between the movements. (This is what is meant by this statement in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise: “Do not allow there to be breaks in the flow anywhere.”) You will thereby be able to finish the first stage of the training.
Although making arcing movements is not difficult, achieving naturalness and appropriateness in doing so is not easy. Because it is intimately connected to whole-body movement, it is impossible to reach this condition quickly. Therefore in the beginning, you should primarily be concerned with cultivating the habit of making arcing movements with your hands, then over time your whole body will coordinate with your hands and naturally you will be able to make the arcing movements more complete.
Taiji Boxing pays particular attention to this idea: “Within movement there is stillness, and within stillness there is movement.” Movement and stillness transform into each other and alternate back and forth, and it is arcing movement that makes this happen. From this can be seen that the function of roundness is very important. I hope that right from the beginning of the training you will take this concept of roundness seriously and work at it, so that you will learn from experience that its purpose is not just a matter of mechanically copying movements.
Reviewing the points explained so far: 1. lightness has to do with the strength of the movement, 2. slowness has to do with the speed of the movement, and 3. roundness has to do with the path of the movement. Let us now discuss: 4. the evenness of the movement.
The motion of the hand, however fast or slow it is moving, should stay at a consistent speed throughout the movement. Ordinarily when we reach out a hand, it very quickly arrives at its destination because the amount of time needed to get there is an extremely short moment, and we do not need to have any notion of how consistent its speed is during such an action. However, Taiji Boxing moves slowly, and so beginners have to give great attention to the way we can easily slip into the error of speeding up or slowing down through the course of the movements. The movement may become faster or slower when performing a particular posture, or some postures may end up done faster or slower than other postures over the course of the set as a whole.
As has already been explained, practicing Taiji Boxing requires that your use intention to control your movement, but this is usually a more difficult concept to understand. Because of this, you first have to put your intention into having evenness of movement, and then as you progressively understand each of these principles, you will be building the right foundation to work from. The method of practicing evenness, in brief, is to treat each extending of your hand as a connecting of points along the way (like a dotted line), rather than just as a movement that has a starting point and a finishing point (like a solid line). In this way, you can cause your movement to imperceptibly contain a sense of moving along a string of points, and then after practicing in this way over a long time, it will have become habitual, and the movement of your hands will naturally be able to proceed at any speed without losing a quality of evenness.
Then once your skill has deepened, you will have to give attention to the transformations of empty and full. Although the speed of every movement is not strictly identical, when you extend your hand at whatever speed, you will have to maintain a consistent speed (i.e. move along a string of points), otherwise you will be violating the requirement of “move energy as if drawing silk”, and your movement will also end up generating the error of floating.
The four principles above all have to do with building a foundation in Taiji Boxing, and therefore I have listed them as standards for the first stage of training. Every person’s circumstances are different, and so it is up to you as to which of the four you want to work on at any given moment. It is not necessary to try to implement them all at once. However, before you have developed a foundation with the first stage, it is better not to start working on the principles from the second stage. By progressing stage by stage, you will achieve greater results.
In the first stage, you should focus on the four principles of lightness, slowness, roundness, and evenness while practicing each movement. They are mainly for building a foundation, and therefore pertaining to the set they can only be treated as preparatory training. According to my own experience, the more you practice those preparatory skills, the more your movement will appear constrained, but this is simply a part of going through that stage, and you must not worry that such an appearance of stiffness means you are doing it all wrong.
However, due to this effect, it is necessary in the second stage to adopt several additional principles in order to progress in your practice. If in the first stage the goal is to perform your movements correctly, then in the second stage you should be training to make your movements flow. But you have to understand that flowing is a quality added on top of the foundation of doing the movements properly, and then all of the movements will be kept from veering away from the proper standard. If instead you first practice flow and then try to get the movements to be correct, it would be hard to avoid a situation of getting half the result from twice the effort. Presented below are the four principles for this stage.
Since Taiji Boxing uses slowness of movement as its foundation, the kind of nimbleness that it requires is not just a matter of movement, but of spirit, and so it should be reserved within and must not be excessively expressed. Also, sensitivity is important in Taiji Boxing, but within this stage, you should first be focusing on having a quality of nimbleness in your movement. If you are trying to understand nimbleness and sensitivity at the same, you will only end up getting confused. Because of this, I have here included these three points for you to give your attention:
1. If you have already developed sufficient extension in your practice of the boxing set, you should then think about shrinking it a little so that it will be in accordance with the necessary degree of compactness.
2. As for your speed, you do not need to be obsessive about seeking slowness. You should let the movements of your hands be more natural, or just generally slightly quicker.
3. When moving, you should not move only your limbs and not your body. Furthermore, you should put your waist in the position of controlling the movement. (This is what is meant in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise by “directing it from your waist”.) In other words, using the movement of your waist to guide the movements of your hands and feet is a crucial principle, and I hope you will give it particular attention.
In the beginning of the training, you should progress on the basis of these three points, but without violating the principles from the earlier stage, and then you will obtain a natural harmoniousness. Thus you will be able to be in accord with the level of nimbleness that is needed in Taiji Boxing.
The idea of this principle is basically that every part of the body is loosened, not even the smallest part holding you back. This is of course closely related to lightness and nimbleness. Beginners sometimes start with looseness. This does not actually violate the learning process, it is just that in their quest for lightness and nimbleness, they are first seeking looseness as a means to achieving them, viewing looseness as something lesser than those other qualities. However, when beginners train looseness first, they tend to try too hard to be loose, and then their movement can become too relaxed and affect their speed, causing their movements to end up as just a bunch of useless floating. Therefore you would probably be better off going through the steps of these stages as written.
In the beginning of learning Taiji Boxing, you will often experience the condition in which the more you do not want to use exertion, the stiffer your limbs become anyway, and so you might as well have just let yourself be stiff in the first place. This is an issue of whether or not you have emotional tension. Provided you have no emotional tension, you will naturally be able to loosen your muscles. It says in Understanding How to Practice: “Spirit comfortable, body calm.” This indicates their relationship in terms of cause and effect.
As for the method of practicing looseness, you should first get your emotions to stop interfering with your naturalness of movement, then your body should loosen not only at the neck and waist, but every part of the body, so that all parts can be coordinated without even the smallest part holding you back. You will then be able to conform to the requirements of looseness and also make use of its effects.
You have to understand that Taiji Boxing’s movements do not really stop at the qualities of lightness and nimbleness, but must progress to the level of sinking. While moving continuously through the postures, you will then be able to improve in the fundamental skill of sinking energy to your elixir field. This “sinking” is not really a matter of adding some more strength to the movements, the key to it being that the quality of looseness is coursing through the whole body in order to get the movements to be naturally heavy. According to this reasoning, it is apparent that the purpose of loosening is primarily to obtain a quality of sinking rather than gaining lightness and nimbleness, and that is why I have explained it after addressing those principles.
Regarding the loosening of the whole body, someone once suggested that the abdomen probably ought to be tensed in order to be in accordance with the statement [from Wang Zongyue’s Treatise] that “energy sinks to your elixir field”. However, Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise also says that “the energy should be roused”, indicating that the abdomen should have both a tension and a looseness, not just a tension. I have added this extra remark here to prevent beginners from misunderstanding.
While explaining the characteristic of harmoniousness in Chapter Three, I discussed completeness already, and so I will not repeat what I said there. What I will say here about the concept of completeness is just an ordinary hint: I simply hope that you show every part moving as one part. As for the internal coordination of breath and intention, you can leave them aside for now and then train them in the next stage.
In the beginning of the training, treat slowness of movement as being very important, but if you become too obsessive about it, you may be unable to obtain a quality of completeness in your movement. This has caused people who have practiced the set for many years to still have difficulty getting their hands and feet to move in unison. The most obvious example is when the feet have finished their movement but the hands are still slowly moving into place, clearly an overabundance of slowness and an insufficiency of completeness.
This is contrary to this statement from Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise: “From foot through leg through waist, it must be a continuous process.” (The context for that statement is established by the sentence that precedes it: “Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers.”) It also violates this principle from Understanding How to Practice: “If one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.” How to Practice also says: “Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk.” This is a further hint that the hands and feet should move in unison. You therefore in the first stage have to do your very best to get your hands and feet to begin together and finish together, conforming to the principle of completeness. (Coordinating with the movement of the waist was already mentioned in the first principle for this stage [nimbleness], and here I have only given emphasis to the hands and feet.)
This principle has already been explained in Chapter Three and does not need to be analyzed again here. However, there is a further point that has to be given attention: in the beginning of the training, you must not let the quest to connect the movements cause you to speed them up. You must understand that there is a relationship between connecting the movements and performing them with roundness. If your speed is not kept under control, it will be difficult to prevent the error of excessive nimbleness, which will corrupt the proper development and desired results of the rest of these essentials (also including those in the third stage). You have to be mindful of this point.
In the previous stage, the chief aim in your movements was on building a full and firm foundation, in accordance with the sequence described in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise: “Once you have ingrained these techniques [1st stage], you will gradually come to identify energies [2nd stage],…” In this final stage, there are several principles, explained below, which will be indispensable aids for taking you further: “… and then from there you will gradually progress toward something miraculous [3rd stage].”
Although the Treatise focuses on discussing martial skills, the practice of Taiji Boxing emphasizes intention rather than exertion. Wu Jianquan once said: “Progressing toward something miraculous doesn’t really depend entirely on practicing pushing hands. You still have to keep practicing the boxing set to get high-level skills.” From this can be seen that the final stage in Taiji Boxing is a stage in which you can regard its health-building and martial aspects separately and yet cannot separate them, for these principles relate to both. When consulting the Treatise, you should view it in the same way.
1. Distinguishing between emptiness and fullness
In the previous two stages, your movement is dominated by slowness and evenness, though the rest of the principles have to be given attention at the same time. In the second stage, you can practice with a greater sense of liveliness than in the first stage, but because you are still building your foundation, there remains more restriction about how you move and less of a feeling of moving as you please.
But now in this stage, your foundation has already been built, and so you should progress to another method, the goal now being to move on from complex principles and instead focus on simpler ones [i.e. the more specific principles of the first two stages being replaced by the more general concepts of the third stage]. While moving, you have to distinguish between emptiness and fullness, which is an idea that fulfills that goal, because when you practice, you can thus ignore the points from the previous stages (meaning only that you no longer need to focus on them, not at all that you are to be altering the movements) and just concentrate all your attention on how the movement is empty or full.
Distinguishing between emptiness and fullness starts with giving attention to the emptiness and fullness in the hand. When sending out a hand, from the beginning of the motion to the end, you should look upon this as going from emptiness to fullness. The palm should gradually become less concave until it is slightly sticking out by the end of the motion, thereby expressing “fullness” (or “fully active”). When withdrawing the hand, you should look upon this as going from fullness to emptiness. (This is described as: “When active ends, passive begins.”) The palm should be gradually returning from sticking out to being more concave. When making a fist and sending it out, it gradually goes from loose to tight. When withdrawing the fist, it gradually goes from tight to loose. These are not really cases of being only tight and not loose at all, nor being only loose and not tight at all (unless you are focusing on developing emptiness and stillness [explained in principle 4 below]).
The next step is for your torso and legs to move in a way that corresponds to the emptiness and fullness of your hand. For example, your chest gradually expands as your hand withdraws. Or, as your legs go forward into a bow stance or back into a sitting stance, they should match the speed of the hand as it moves likewise. Also, when a foot steps [forward], it should come down first with the heel, then the rest of the foot gradually comes down as the hand correspondingly finishes [its forward movement]. And when withdrawing a step, you should borrow momentum for the stepping foot by gradually withdrawing it in unison with the emptying of the hand.
This principle is an essential point that is strongly related to the regulation of the breath. Because you can realize its relevance from the following explanation, there is no need to address it in the midst of this one.
2. Regulating the breath
Taiji Boxing’s martial aspect focuses on using neutralization to defeat opponents rather than physical strength, and so of course its cultivation aspect is focused entirely on nourishing one’s energy. The concept of “energy sinking to your elixir field” has to do with gentle and harmonious movements, forming natural shapes, and is never a matter of forcing anything to happen.
In the description of the previous two stages above, there was no discussion of Taiji Boxing’s breathing methods. However, since Taiji Boxing’s movements should be slow and even anyway, this will automatically prevent your breath from being shallow or short, and it will in fact be quite natural to gradually develop a habit of breathing very evenly and deeply.
If your breath can be even, this will not only help you to regulate your breath and nourish your energy, it will also serve as a means of “calming the mind and focusing the will”. If your breath can be long, it will not only increase the effect of “expelling old air and taking in fresh”, it can also improve blood circulation and organ function. Therefore you should look upon breathing as the more important type of movement, and then you will be able to gain even greater effects from the exercise.
This concept of “regulating the breath” means training the breath to last longer, or “evenly and deeply” as mentioned above. The standard in Taiji Boxing is natural breathing rather than any particular way to breathe with the movements. Therefore at appropriate moments, you should allow the movement to guide the breath, thereby causing the breathing itself to become an exercise, which can in turn heighten the health-building effects of the exercise as a whole.
When practicing the boxing set, your movements are sometimes large and sometimes small, but your breath should always be even and long. Someone may say that every little movement is supposed to be coordinated with each breath you take, but that would be impossible and is also unnecessary. Because of this, you only need to get the alternations between emptiness and fullness within a posture to coordinate with the natural circulation of the breath. In other words, within each posture, you should seek to be able to breathe in the following manner:
When a hand’s movement switches from empty to full, exhale with the same intention and speed, and then as the hand finishes with the palm slightly sticking out, you have correspondingly exhaled enough and your abdomen below the navel has slightly bulged [i.e. filled]. When a hand’s movement switches from full to empty, inhale with the same intention and speed, and then as the movement finishes, you have correspondingly inhaled enough and your abdomen above the navel has slightly withdrawn [i.e. emptied].
This bulging and withdrawing of your abdomen is Taiji Boxing’s principle of “movement coordinated with abdominal breathing”, or what Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise means by “your energy should be roused”. So long as you are practicing in this way, there is no need to force anything to happen, and after a long time you will naturally be able to gain the skill of sinking energy to your elixir field (which lies below your navel).
Regulating the breath in this way is indeed quite difficult to do. Therefore in the beginning, there will only be a few postures throughout the set that will work like this with any naturalness. But as time passes, testing it with maybe just one movement at a time, you will be able to gradually progress at this. All that matters is that every time you go through the set, you are able to make this work with a third or even just a quarter of the postures, and then you will be able to receive excellent results from the exercise. It is not necessary to expect to be able to do this with every single posture. If at certain times the breathing does not make sense, you should nevertheless not force it to happen in a particular way, thereby keeping the exercise from having an adverse effect upon your natural breathing.
3. Using intention
When learning the postures in the set, although you are using intention to do the movements, the intention you use at that time can only be focused on whether or not you are doing the movements correctly, and so there is no extra intention that can be put into how the movements are to be applied. The use of intention in this new stage is therefore of a higher quality, mainly based in the Taiji Boxing principle of “use intention rather than exertion”, in which you will imagine the movements being applied as you are doing them. This will furthermore give you a boost of fascination when practicing these otherwise unremarkable martial movements. Below are a couple of points that explain this concept:
1. When moving, you should use intention more and exertion less, thereby enriching the meaningfulness of the movement, enhancing aspects of it such as its lightness and nimbleness. Throughout the course of a movement, every action of hand or foot should always be regarded as countless little movements, always using intention to deliberately guide them, causing even the slightest instances of movement or stillness to not get ignored. Such a constant use of your imagination will cause your movement to become ever more refined, and you will naturally be able to heighten your skills of lightness and nimbleness. For example, if you wish to train sinking, you should visualize the sinking of energy while you are moving energy around, rather than simply adding more arm strength. By analogy, this principle can then be extended to any of the movements.
2. In every movement’s emptying or filling, expressing or relaxing, you have to use intention to visualize either its martial function or its health-building effects, so much so that your visualization should be exaggerated. Because our kinesthetic awareness constantly influences our psychological functioning, which can in turn govern our physiological functioning, the effect on our quality of movement is that it can be heightened without our even noticing. As I already presented this concept in Chapter Two, it is there for you to study and does not need to be elaborated upon here.
4. Seeking emptiness and stillness
This art is a training method for seeking emptiness within fullness and of seeking stillness with movement, hence “seeking emptiness and stillness”, which is one of the more difficult skills to develop in Taiji Boxing. Although the previous principle focused on using intention in your movements, the imagination was occupied with their applications. Thus the essence of the movement in that case was only on movement, not on a quality of stillness. Such descriptions of fighting skills are based on trying to win by way of movement, not by way of stillness. This is a far cry from Taiji Boxing’s highest level of “using stillness to await movement” and “although in motion seeming yet to be in stillness”, and therefore the art’s martial aspect and cultivation aspect both adopt “seek emptiness and stillness” as the ultimate principle.
Although seeking emptiness and stillness also requires using intention, it is for a different purpose. First consolidate all thoughts into a single thought, and all movements, no matter what they are or what they are for, into a condition of there being only a question of a sense of movement or a sense of stillness. Then on the basis of this condition, focus on going from movement to stillness, i.e. from fullness to emptiness (movement having to do with fullness, stillness having to do with emptiness), causing your intention to be focused only on seeking stillness, unaffected by changes of movement. In this way, you can train your movement to have more and more a quality of pure stillness (which is a matter of intention rather than shape), and your spirit at the same time will naturally achieve a greater sense of serenity through the exercise. This kind of training method is thus an excellent means of treating nervous tension and high blood pressure.
However, apart from ridding yourself of distracting thoughts, you also have to be able to find a quiet place to train your solo exercise so that you will not be disturbed by anything while you are practicing. Furthermore, as for the principles explained above – “distinguishing between emptiness and stillness”, “regulating the breath”, and all the rest of them – once you are training to seek emptiness and stillness, you should ignore all of them and not let them draw your attention, keeping your focus from being pulled away.
The explanations above are merely a simple introduction to these principles based on my own studies and experience, and so it is very possible that there are many points on which other people may have rather different interpretations, as well as many points that were not addressed at all.
For example, when training lightness and nimbleness, you cannot simultaneously be focusing on developing heaviness within a single movement, but as you go through the whole set, the focus is sometimes on training lightness and sometimes on heaviness, ideally focusing on lightness during movements that go from fullness to emptiness, and focusing on heaviness during movements that go from emptiness to fullness. This is a point that I did not touch on above.
There was also no mention that when the hand grasps into a fist, it should do so in the context of the emptiness and fullness of the movement, and only the action of extending the fist was discussed. Nor was there any mention that when bending the arm in the TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH, the fist is slightly grasping (while going into the bow stance).
Examples such as these reveal that some things here have not exactly been discussed in exhaustive detail, but if you carefully study the material in the following chapters, you will be able to flesh out such details based on your own intuitions.
CHAPTER SIX: PRINCIPLES TO BE GIVEN ATTENTION WHEN PRACTICING PUSHING HANDS
Pushing hands is a method of partner practice, also called “playing hands”. The Playing Hands Song included in the appendix is the secret formula for pushing hands. Although this method of partner practice prioritizes the study of the art’s martial aspect, if practitioners treat it like a game, not only will it be more enjoyable, it will also be an appropriate sport for both strong and weak alike. As for the practice of it, it is easier to learn than the boxing set, as it does not involve moving around in large steps, for it requires only a space of five feet across, which is sufficient for two people to work in. As for popularizing this art, this exercise has enormous advantages. Those who only look at it as a method of martial training miss its effectiveness as physical education. We should nowadays reverse this view.
Long ago, pushing hands training began with continually reaching out in the single-hand touching-hands posture, the purpose being to liven the arms and eliminate stiffness, although actually this is only a supplementary exercise. Pushing hands has a variety of formal exercises, but they are mainly based on different kinds of footwork, the most common being fixed-step pushing hands, moving-step pushing hands, large rollback, and “flower-trampling” [i.e. free stepping].
Moving-step pushing hands has only a simple stepping pattern, designed for the beginning stage of learning how to step during pushing hands. Large rollback is a more advanced exercise, but still uses a choreographed pattern. Only the flower-trampling stepping is not restricted to a pattern, with both people moving as they please while still listening to each other. Only at this point is it truly “lively stepping” pushing hands. If one person’s skill is at a higher level, his stepping will be so lively that the other person will not be able to follow along. Because this kind of lively-step pushing hands does not focus on a particular pattern, it should only be practiced once you are at the level of identifying energies. With gradual practice, you will reach the point that you able to make everything go your way, but to increase your skill, you will have to practice every day.
When I began learning pushing hands, I started with fixed-step pushing hands. At that time, the only thing about it that I understood was the two-handed push posture. With one foot emptying and one foot filling, two people look as though they are sawing a board, going back and forth, trading double-hand pushes. Without changing the activity, there is no identifying of energies, and this was simply the habitual action described as “drawing circles”, which we had to do for ten minutes at a time. Although drawing circles is not very interesting, it is nevertheless a very comfortable exercise that builds one’s health. In the winter, it only takes three to five minutes for this to warm the body up. This is why many people who have already achieved the level of identifying energies are still very fond of drawing circles.
When Wu Jianquan taught pushing hands, he did not discuss “energy” right away. He only made us reach out with our bodies and hands to push at each other, letting us learn no further than the “sitting body” posture (i.e. front foot emptying, rear knee bending) in order to receive the opponent’s push and then go along with it to neutralize it, but we were not allowed to use strength to resist or even any energy to deflect. We had to wait for the moment when there was no other way to neutralize, and then we were allowed to retreat. If a half step was all that was needed, we only backed off a half step, and were allowed to go no further than that. The retreat always had to be just right, not so much that we disconnected from the opponent.
After practicing in this way for a while, our motion of sitting back was both stable and large, and the experience of the exercise had made the opponent’s advance into something so routine that we were no longer afraid of it. This then was the first stage of the pushing hands training. Most people are not very fond of this fundamental stage of the training and typically want to discuss energies from the start, hoping to get into identifying energies and putting it to use. They may appear to make rapid progress, but actually their ability to neutralize is very low and they have only developed a habit of issuing without neutralizing, which will end up having an effect on them that hinders further progress. This was always the way that Wu instructed us. Perhaps it was because he was such an expert at neutralizing that he came to this kind of understanding of the material.
Wang Zongyue’s Treatise describes the practice method as being divided into two stages: 1. “Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies,…” 2. “and then from there you will gradually progress toward something miraculous.” The first stage requires guidance from a teacher. The second stage depends on your own work ethic, which no teacher can instill you with. As is said in the Thirteen Dynamics Song: “Beginning the training requires personal instruction, but mastering the art depends on your own unceasing effort.” Consequently, this chapter addresses several principles that have to do with only the first stage, the main ones being the five points presented below:
1. Do not crash in.
When moving your hands to meet an opponent’s forceful attack with immediate resistance against it, this is a kind of instinctive response, what was long ago described [in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise] as “a matter of inherent natural ability that bears no relation to skill that is learned”. But after learning the skills well, your attacks or counterattacks can undeniably be faster, more precise, and more powerful. Taiji Boxing pays particular attention to neutralizing first and then attacking. Before attacking, you should also make sure to put yourself in a state of “my energy is smooth while his energy is coarse”, and then you will be able to take advantage of the situation and attack without needing to use much force. The highest level of this method of attack is called “four ounces moves a thousand pounds”.
Because of this, what you should be training is not to act on instinct, which will only make you speed up and use more force, but to restrain your instinct, which will cause you to act more appropriately and thereby more effectively. To not crash in is an important means of fulfilling this requirement. Some people think that it is not really difficult to train the quality of not crashing in, that it is just a matter of keeping your hands from putting forth any exertion and then you will succeed no matter what the opponent does. This is not entirely true. The opponent’s attack would put you into a disadvantageous position, and so to not be crashing in means that you are deliberately adapting to his movement.
Therefore when pushing hands, you have to be able to receive the opponent’s attack and at the same time “listen” clearly to his movement (“listen” being a special term in the art meaning “to understand”), and then your own movement will adapt to his. If the opponent advances an inch, give him an inch, or he advances a foot, give him a foot, (always remembering to yield with curving motions rather than straight ones). Never give too little or too much. If too little, you will end up committing the error of crashing in, and if too much, you will commit the error of disconnecting, getting it wrong in both cases.
It can be seen from this that to not crash in is not simply a matter of using less exertion, but to use a smaller amount of force in order to draw the opponent forward until he loses his balance and then switch to attacking him. During pushing hands, due to both people being aware of this principle, it is often the case that neither one is willing to risk attacking. Apart from the “drawing circles” exercise, you should not be so timid, for it has to be understood that if one person is unwilling to attack, the other person will not be able to train the skill of not crashing in. And so it is better if both people are taking turns attacking.
An additional point is that while remembering to not be crashing in, you also have to be moving from your waist and not just responding with your hands. Your hands and body have to be functioning as a single unit. If your hand withdraws but your body does not, you will only end up giving the opponent the opportunity to ignore your hand and attack your body.
2. Do not come away.
To not crash in has to do with actions such as: “he advances and I retreat”, or “he uses hardness so I use softness”. To not come away has to do with this action: “he yields and I follow him”, as well as the process of going from neutralizing to attacking. Although these two kinds of action are opposite in terms of both direction and function, they make a circular movement, meaning that they are actually both opposite and complementary, a continuous action involving a first part and a second part.
To “not come away” means to not disconnect, but it is not as simple as that. To not be crashing in requires sensitivity, and it also requires drawing the opponent in to make him lose his balance. To not be coming away requires sticking to the opponent’s arm. Your arm is following his, but is at the same time also slightly sending it away, causing him to fall into a position in which he has neither advantage nor even stability. If he is now already incapable of struggling against you, you can express power and send him away. If he stubbornly tries to struggle against you, you can use the hand method of “loosening the reins in order to tighten them”, sticking to him (“sticking” meaning to draw him upward) and then issuing. In this way, you can send him away even farther. This is a very simple method. When pushing hands, we have to act according to the moment and the position in order to find this kind of opportunity. You should practice to the point that you are hardly using any exertion at all and yet are able to flow into smothering the opponent, and then you will be doing it right.
Although the techniques in Taiji Boxing are constantly changing, they never depart from these two actions – neither coming away nor crashing in – and the way they reinforce each other. It says in the Playing Hands Song: “Guiding him in to land on nothing, I then close on him and send him away. I stick, connect, adhere, and follow, neither coming away nor crashing in.” This indicates their importance. Some people take 頂 [crashing in] by its other meaning of “headtop” and interpret “neither coming away nor crashing in” as actually meaning “not veering away from the principle of keeping your headtop pulled as if suspended”. While it is indeed important to maintain the principle of your headtop being suspended, the principle of neither coming away nor crashing in is more important in the context of what is being discussed here.
Because to not come away has to do with “sticking” and to not crash in has to do with “yielding”, they are two very important energies within sparring. The first half of “I stick, connect, adhere, and follow, neither coming away nor crashing in” – the four terms of “stick”, “connect”, “adhere”, and “follow” – points out the keys for applying these two energies. It says in Wang Zongyue’s Treatise: “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.” From these words, we can understand even better the importance of these two energies.
3. “First strive to open up.”
To “guard your door” means preventing the opponent from attacking, but a martial artist of higher skill sometimes opens his door to lure the opponent farther in. If when pushing hands you are only able to close your door and lack the skill of opening your door, you will come across a situation in which your door is opened by the opponent, and this will make you panic. Therefore to develop skill, it is always the case that you should “first strive to open up, then strive to close up.” However, these two stages must not lack either one, nor can they be reversed in order, because to train the habit of closing up and then seek to open up is much more difficult. Taiji Boxing’s pushing hands practice requires that you first train to open up, and there are two major reasons for this:
1. By working from larger movements, you can work on “neither coming away nor crashing in” within a larger range. Once your skill has deepened, your sensitivity will be more acute and your listening energy more keen. The more you progress, the more you can shrink that range. This is the most organic way to train “closing up”.
2. By practicing larger movements, both partners will reveal larger gaps and will more easily act upon opportunities. In this way, both partners are given more opportunity to practice their skills of attack and defense. This is a method which is very easy to comprehend, and so long as beginners are not overly focused on winning, they will naturally be able to achieve it.
4. Do not start by moving your feet.
When applying Taiji Boxing, the emphasis is on not being the first to act. But when practicing pushing hands, you should not do it in this way, for if both partners are using stillness to await the other’s movement, there would be no way to practice the techniques. Therefore in the beginning of the training, you should agree to take turns initiating, and then once your skill has deepened, you can do whatever you want. This method of taking action is commonly called “asking energy”, in which one can receive a question [as in “what will you do if I attack like this?”] and then give the right answer. This is a means to achieving a standard skill level in pushing hands.
The call to “not start by moving your feet” is not really just a matter of one person “asking” and the other person “answering”. Because the one provoking a response is moving into a bow stance, his body advancing, and the one responding is moving into an empty stance, his body sitting back, it is therefore easy for the asker to stand stably, whereas it is difficult for the answerer to avoid the temptation to step away [instead of discovering how far back he can go without needing to step]. This means that the exercise not only encourages both people to cooperate with each other, but that it will also keep you from slipping into a condition of being able to yield but not able to stick.
To “not start by moving your feet” simply means that when it is time to “answer” a “question”, you should do your best to yield by using your waist rather than yielding by stepping. Do not retreat unless it is absolutely necessary. This is a method of teaching people to practice better waist movement. By making stepping a last resort, you will unexpectedly move your waist, and then the skill of your waist will automatically improve.
This is a training method for beginners. It may be rather tedious, but once you have trained it well, you will have imperceptibly already ingrained the habit of “listening for the need to step”, and then when practicing moving-step pushing hands, you will not have to go through as much footwork training in order to be able to do it. It says in Understanding How to Practice: “Step according to your body’s adjustments.” This means that when applying the art, your body and step should be working in unison, and so you must not step randomly.
5. “The power finishes but the intent of it continues.”
This is referring to a moment during pushing hands when, due to power being expressed either too much or not enough, both people’s arms suddenly disconnect. Instead of starting over to reconnect once your hands have disconnected, continue by focusing on the principle of neither coming away nor crashing in, so that the arms of both of you operate from a condition of power finishing but intention continuing, and thereby you can restore your original state of being connected together as before. When pushing hands, this kind of opportunity happens very often. You must practice seriously and never give up.
After you have trained to a good level, you will move on to sparring (involving two people using “asking” energy without already touching) or to working on applications, both of which are very important skills to develop. Because in pushing hands there is contact first and then use of asking energy, while in sparring there is no contact but already action taking place, if you do not know how to connect to the opponent’s energy without contact, you will often be controlled by him. Only when you see his hand attacking will you be able to evade it, and so it will be very difficult to avoid every attack.
Sometimes when one who has a deep skill meets one who has a shallow skill, he will use a feint. The latter will reach out a hand to connect only to then be sealed off by the former, who has switched hands and is now attacking with the other one. This is the kind of skillfulness that will result from such training. When practicing the boxing set, its martial movements often use the visualization of power finishing but intention continuing, which can enhance the skill of connecting, as well as the skill of neutralizing and attacking without first being connected.
The principles above are all things to pay attention to when practicing pushing hands. As for the pushing hands techniques, such as warding, rolling back, pressing, pushing, and so on, those are other things that will be explained further below [in Chapter Ten]. During pushing hands, you should also be applying postural principles, such as hollowing the chest, sinking the shoulders, bending the legs, sitting the body, and so on, as well as movement standards, such as lightness, roundness, connectedness, completeness, and so on, all of which are the same as in the boxing set. Further such principles not mentioned here can found in other chapters [Chapters One, Three, Five, and Eight].
Within the study of pushing hands, there is also the method of “pushing-the-ox” energy. Both people are using a large amount of force in the midst of drawing their circles and are “asking” each other. ([They are both using the same level of force.] It must not be a case of one using a large amount of force and the other using a small amount of force, otherwise the one using more force will end up standing unstably.) The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the skill of the waist and legs, and also for your arms to experience a sense of firm energy.
This kind of training is focused on preparing for what it will feel like when encountering opponent’s who are physically much stronger than you. If you are already physically strong yourself, you do not really need to practice it. If you want to practice this exercise, you should follow it by continuing into practicing pushing hands using lightness in order to keep you from forming a habit of using firm energy. Because Taiji Boxing’s techniques emphasize neutralizing, your movements should emphasize nimbleness. This is a point that you need to aware of.
CHAPTER SEVEN: ON THE NAMES OF THE BOXING POSTURES
The names of the Taiji Boxing postures have some variation not only from style to style, but even within Wu Style itself. Although we are all doing the same movements and in the same order, each person’s rendering of the names has not been identical, owing to both the way the art was passed down and how it was recorded. This has easily led to confusion about which movements belong to which postures, and so there is also a lack of consensus about the defining moments of exactly when one posture turns into another. Because I explain each of the postures in a following chapter [Chapter Nine], I have to first make a list of their names and point out where there have been different interpretations, thus supplying beginners with a text to refer to on this subject.
This posture was originally not named. When I long ago wrote Simple Introduction to Taiji Boxing (to be referred to for the rest of the chapter simply as the 1927 book), I did not list it as one of the postures. When Wu Tunan wrote his Taiji Boxing [or A More Scientific Martial Art: Taiji Boxing] (to be referred to for the rest of the chapter simply as the 1931 book), he called it BEGINNING POSTURE, giving it a meaning of being in stillness and not yet moving, making it an appropriate name. When Chen Zhenmin and Ma Yueliang wrote their Wu Jianquan Style Taiji Boxing (to be referred to for the rest of the chapter simply as the 1935 book), they called it TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE and had it continue into a posture which they called REACH OUT THE HANDS. In this book, I simply want to find the common ground on the purpose of this posture, and therefore since this posture has no movement (of fingers, hands, or feet), I dub it PREPARATION POSTURE. [It is not clear why Xu did not also include Chu Minyi’s 1929 book and Li Xianwu’s 1933 book in this analysis of the postures names.]
TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE
I have not changed the name since my 1927 book. The 1931 book leaves it out, but makes its movement the first movement of the following posture – CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL. The 1935 book calls it REACH OUT THE HANDS as well as TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE. I do not advocate changing the original name, and therefore that is what I have used.
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
RAISE THE HAND
These three posture names are the same in each of the books, except that the 1931 book includes the movement of TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE as part of CATCH THE SPARROW, and so it is slightly different in that regard.
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
This is the original name of the posture. It is the same in each book, except that the 1935 book switches “shows” to “dries”. To show wings or to dry wings involves in either case a movement of spreading wings, so either version is acceptable.
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
PLAY THE LUTE
These two names are the same in each book, except that the 1931 book adds the character for “posture” to PLAY THE LUTE.
STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
Each book calls this ADVANCE, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH, but because this posture goes forward only one step, I have changed it to “step forward”. If I linked this posture’s stepping with the two steps from the previous posture, then it would be an “advance”, and this is what makes the distinction.
This name is the same in each book, but is not always applied to the movements in the same way. The 1931 book does not consider its small beginning movement [of the left hand going under the right arm] to be a movement in its own right, and the 1935 book considers its third movement [pushing forward] to be the first movement of LEOPARD PUSHES THE MOUNTAIN. In this book, I do not use the name LEOPARD PUSHES THE MOUNTAIN or call any part of this posture CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN. I keep the posture as three movements in order to more fully express both a sealing off and a closing shut.
Long ago, the posture that followed SEALING SHUT was called CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN, as was used in the 1927 and 1931 books. The 1935 book changed CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN to LEOPARD PUSHES THE MOUNTAIN. I feel that this posture is comprised of only two [three] movements, and that considering the shape of the posture, CROSSED HANDS is more fitting than CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN or LEOPARD PUSHES THE MOUNTAIN. Consequently, I follow the sequence of names in Xu Yusheng’s 1921 manual, calling this posture CROSSED HANDS and taking the following posture to be CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN.
CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
In my 1927 book, I abbreviated the postures that follow CROSSED HANDS to simply BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE. The 1931 book took both CROSSED HANDS and BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE and called them CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN. The 1935 book acknowledges that this posture will face two opposite directions by breaking it into two postures, called DIAGONAL BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE and TURN AROUND, DIAGONAL BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE. In this book, I feel that these two BRUSH KNEE movements are continuous and also that the look of the movement is closer to “capturing a tiger”, and so I again follow Xu Yusheng’s 1921 sequence and the pattern in the 1931 book, calling it CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN. But I do not absorb CROSSED HANDS into this posture, and in this way it is different from the 1931 book.
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP
GUARDING FIST UNDER THE ELBOW
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
RAISE THE HAND
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
FAN THROUGH THE BACK
These ten names are the same in each book, but the 1927 and 1935 books use a variant character to represent “drive away”, and the 1931 book uses “mountain” instead of “ fan” and “treasure” instead of “needle”. Despite these different wordings, the movements are still the same.
As this movement turns the body only ninety degrees, I feel that the name said in this way is sufficient, but in the 1927 and 1935 books, the name is TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH. The addition of TURN AROUND is unnecessary, and therefore I have followed the version in the 1931 book.
WITHDRAWING STEP, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
This is the original name, the same in both the 1927 and 1935 books. The 1931 book uses RETREATING instead of WITHDRAWING, which would seem to be a more common way to describe it, but this posture goes from bending forward to withdrawing to the rear, which would actually make it two steps, the movement being that you are first reaching forward with your body and then retreating, making it different from an ordinary retreat, and therefore in this book I call it WITHDRAWING.
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
These four names are the same in each book, although the 1931 book indicates “step” with a different character.
RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT
These are the original names of these postures, maintained in the 1931 book. In my 1927 book, I presented this part as four names: LEFT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE, RIGHT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, KICK TO THE LEFT SIDE. In the 1935 book, it is presented as six names: LEFT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, LEFT DRAPING THE BODY, KICK WITH THE RIGHT FOOT, RIGHT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, RIGHT DRAPING THE BODY, KICK WITH THE LEFT FOOT. In both cases, they are named according to the breakdown of the movements and are inconsistent with the original names. Between the KICK TO THE LEFT and the KICK TO THE RIGHT, there is another REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, but once you have practiced the set to familiarity, you may simplify this by making a smaller movement instead of making the REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE posture. Because of this, I go by the original names in this book instead of naming every part of the movement breakdown.
TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK
Same in each book.
ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH
This is the original name of the posture, kept the same in the 1931 book. In my 1927 book, I added BRUSH KNEE to the beginning of it, and the 1935 book added BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE as a preceding posture. But they are continuous advancing steps, and so you can advance with continuous BRUSH KNEE postures, or you can simply make the two hand movements of brushing while advancing. The focus is on the planting punch, meaning the advancing steps and the planting punch are two parts of a single technique, and therefore in this book I use the original name.
TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
Same in each book.
STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
The name originally did not include STEP FORWARD, as it was in the 1931 book. In my 1927 book, I added the STEP FORWARD. The 1935 book says ADVANCE, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE. In this posture, the left foot steps forward, the right foot staying where it is. This is different from “advancing”, so I call it STEP FORWARD.
DRAPING THE BODY, KICK
Long ago, this posture involved a jumping action, and hence it was called a DOUBLE-LIFT KICK. The 1931 book calls it a TURNING-BODY DOUBLE KICK. In my 1927 book, I changed it KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE. The 1935 book changed it into two postures: LEFT DRAPING THE BODY and KICK WITH THE RIGHT FOOT. With the jump gone, there is nothing left but a draping movement and a kick. As it no longer a performance of kicks in succession, I therefore do not use the original name of DOUBLE-LIFT KICK.
RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE
In my 1927 book, I added a character that explicitly means “posture”. The 1931 book has a retreating step that flows directly from the DOUBLE KICK, therefore it just calls this posture FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE. In this book, I follow the version of the name in 1935 book.
In my 1927 book, I called this posture DRAPING THE BODY, KICK. The 1935 book calls it KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE. The 1931 book has the FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE performed on both sides, and so it does not include this kick at all. In this book, I feel that this is a follow-up of the kick in Posture 35, and so I call it SECOND KICK as an homage to the original DOUBLE-LIFT KICK.
DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS
Same in each book [except that the 1931 book uses “winds” instead of “peaks”].
TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK
In my 1927 book, I divide this into KICK TO THE LEFT SIDE and TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK, which the 1931 book calls DRAPING THE BODY, KICK and TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK. In this book, I follow the version in the 1935 book because this posture involves turning around and both feet kicking in succession, and thus the name and the action reflect each other.
This is the same as in my 1927 book. The 1931 book does not include it at all. The 1935 book instead uses RIGHT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE. In this book, I feel that since this posture flows into PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH, I should stick with the original name and movement.
STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP
These six postures are all repeats and their differences between the books have already been explained.
WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE
Same in each book.
MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH
This is the original name, the same as it appears in the 1927 and 1931 books. In the 1935 book, TURN AROUND is added for two of the four actions, and WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE is added as a transition into the first and third of them. The movement is the same in each book. In this book, I maintain the use of the original name.
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
This posture is a repeat. The name is the same as in the 1927 and 1935 books, but the 1931 book adds STEP FORWARD to the beginning of it. In this book, the posture does not involve stepping forward, therefore I have followed the older version.
GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
RAISE THE HAND
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
FAN THROUGH THE BACK
STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
These eighteen postures, apart from LOW POSTURE and GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG, are all repeats and are mostly the same in each book. The only differences are that the SINGLE WHIP of Posture 52 is absent in my 1927 book, and the TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH of Posture 62 has TURN AROUND added to the beginning of it in the 1931 and 1935 books. The rest of these posture names have already been explained. The posture names of LOW POSTURE and GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG are the same in each book. As the TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH turns only ninety degrees, the name is sufficient as it is, and so I have not added the TURN AROUND to it.
PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
The 1931 book does not include this, but it does include the posture of REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE that precedes it. In my 1927 book, I too preceded it with REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE. The 1935 book uses a variant character for “strike” and also precedes it with REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE. I include this name on its own because I feel that the “strike to the face” in this way contains an element of waiting for the opponent to try something, thus better conforming to the fighting tactics of Taiji Boxing. (Also, the technique name PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE was commonly used long ago.) As for the action of REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, long ago it was mixed together with the PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE instead of being named separately, and therefore in this book I have decided to leave out this REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE as a named posture.
TURN AROUND, CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK
This posture was originally just called CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK, which is how it is said in the 1931 book. In my 1927 book, I added a character that explicitly means “kick”. The 1935 book adds TURN AROUND, as well the extra “kick” character. In this book, I feel that because the turn is large (turning around a full hundred and eighty degrees), I should follow the example of the 1935 book in order to prevent any mistake about the orientation of the posture.
BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
STEP FORWARD, BIG-DIPPER POSTURE
RETREAT, SITTING-TIGER POSTURE
Of these six postures, 70, 74, and 75 are named the same way in each book, and the other three are simply repeated postures.
TURN AROUND, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
The 1931 book does not include this at all. In my 1927 book, I used a variant character to emphasize the striking. The 1935 book uses the same variant character for “strike” as was mentioned above for posture 68. I add TURN AROUND in this book because of the large hundred and eighty degree turn of the body.
TURN AROUND, DOUBLE-SLAP SWINGING LOTUS KICK
The 1927 and 1935 books both say TURN AROUND, SWINGING LOTUS KICK. In this posture, both hands slap the foot, making it different from the single-hand slap in CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK, and therefore I follow the version in the 1931 book, adding DOUBLE-SLAP to make it distinct from the earlier kick.
BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER
Same in each book.
STEP FORWARD, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
These five postures are all repeats. They are all left out of the 1931 book [which apparently finishes the set with SHOOT THE TIGER]. In the 1927 and 1935 books, the PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE is preceded by STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE. I have now omitted the name REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE for that particular moment (See the explanation for Posture 68.) and put STEP FORWARD at the beginning of PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE in order to avoid leaving out the action of stepping forward that it involves.
Same in each book.
For this treatment of the posture names, I have not subtracted any of the movements of the postures nor rearranged their sequence. Although some adjustments have been made to the names, I have selected to stick with older versions, warts and all, rather than cavalierly inventing any new ones. Consequently, I have only been able to resolve these two issues about the posture names: 1. For each boxing posture, I have given only one name, not splitting a posture into several names based on the breakdown of its movements. 2. There are a few names that do not entirely conform to the posture, and so I found it necessary to adjust which movements belong to which postures. I hope my fellow practitioners of Wu Style Taiji Boxing will put forth any better ideas they have so that I may further improve this analysis of the posture names in the future.
CHAPTER EIGHT: FUNDAMENTALS OF MOVEMENT
Although Taiji Boxing is said to “value intention rather than shape”, I say that beginners should start with emphasizing shape and then later emphasize intention. You have to strive to get the postures to be correct and to solidify the fundamentals of movement, so be sure not to jump ahead to training the spirit before sufficiently training the shape.
Among the fundamentals of movement listed in this chapter, some are very important principles while others are simply standard types of movement. For the sake of avoiding confusion, I have divided them into two respective sections in order to present them more clearly. Part 1 consists of methods of movement for the head, body, and hands. Part 2 consists of the standard types of movement for the fists, palms, legs, and steps. The various principles within Part 1 were for the most part already explained in Chapter Three, but in order to avoid simply repeating myself, I have here made only a few necessary additions to those explanations rather than going through the details all over again.
Part 1 [important principles]:
Suspend your headtop.
In the beginning of the training, this position only requires attention to these principles:
1. You should let your headtop go upward naturally and should not be using strength to extend your neck.
2. Apart from a few postures in which you lean your body or have to slightly bend at the waist,
you should always try to maintain a vertical line from your head to your buttocks, or from your head to the ground.
3. When leaning your body, you should not tilt your head, and when bending at the waist, you should not lower your head.
4. As for the requirement that you “forcelessly press up your headtop”, this can be temporarily ignored. In the beginning, you should first guard against the errors of letting your head droop forward, loll back, or tilt to either side. Later, as your skill deepens, you will then be able to use intention to manifest the effect of forcelessly pressing up your headtop and no longer need to worry about such errors.
(For further explanation, you can refer to Chapter Three [section B, principle 1]).
Have a normal look.
In the beginning, you should maintain a normal look on your face, allowing your facial muscles to relax naturally, and should not try to force any expression of spirit. If your spirit is not comfortable, your body will not be at ease. (It says in Understanding How to Practice: “Spirit comfortable, body calm.”) You should also give attention to these points:
1. Your gaze should be level and must not be an angry glare. While moving, your gaze should follow along with the movements of your hands instead of staring stiffly.
2. Your mouth should be closed lightly rather than gnashing your teeth. Your tongue touches your upper palate, which will increase the secreting of saliva and thereby keep your throat moistened.
3. While breathing through your nose, the breath should be even, deep, and long, but if you feel that your exhale is not smooth, you can open your mouth to slowly release the air (followed by closing your mouth to return to breathing through your nose), for you must not be restraining your air.
Relax your neck.
While moving, your neck should go along with the movement to the left and right. If you use exertion to make your neck position strong, it will influence your turning actions, and will also prevent the principles of suspending your headtop or keeping your head upright from having a quality of naturalness. Relaxing the neck is easy: all you have to do is not use exertion or tension. If you are tempted to use exertion in any movement, it will be very easy to make the error of tightening your neck. If you have been doing such a thing, this will be a fundamental principle for helping you correct it.
Hollow your chest.
To “hollow the chest” not only has an important effect on our health, but is also an important action in fighting. Whenever you do a technique of neutralizing (i.e. yielding), it cannot be done without the aid of hollowing your chest. This action is the opposite of sticking your chest out. Beginners are usually very unaccustomed to it and will hollow the chest too much, which is just as bad for the body as sticking it out. Therefore in the beginning of the training, it should not be overly demanded, and at first the only expectation should be to not stick out the chest, then gradually there can be a slight hollowing to complement the action of sitting back, and then after a long time it will naturally hollow further until it is just right.
But make sure that hollowing your chest is merely a component of sitting back and does not become a requirement in every movement. If you are always hollowing your chest, it is not only unnecessary, but would also become counterproductive toward proper physiological function. Because hollowing should be alternated with not hollowing, then once you are good at hollowing your chest, you will find that there are some postures in which you might as well slightly stick out your chest to complement the postures that definitely involve hollowing. In short, hollowing the chest is not a strict principle and you should not become obsessed about it.
Round your back.
To hollow your chest, your back has to become rounded, therefore hollowing the chest and rounding the back get mentioned together. The actions of the shoulders and upper back are indeed intimately connected. But in the beginning, you will not know how to sink your shoulders, and it will be very difficult to get your back muscles to spread, which may briefly inhibit your practice. If you force it to happen, this will have an adverse influence on other aspects of movement.
Better to wait until you are good at sinking your shoulders before practicing rounding your back, which will make it much easier. Some people have a hard time with this when practicing the boxing set, but come to understand the operations of the shoulders and back when pushing hands, and are then able to put that experience into the set. Clearly this is a somewhat difficult action to get right, but it will become more correct with time.
Flatten your lower back.
If you are training in bodybuilding, you should stick out your chest rather than hollowing it, and to stick out your chest you have to curl your lower back. It can be seen from this that the movement of the chest and lower back should be in unison. Practicing Taiji Boxing requires hollowing the chest, but hollowing the chest will not work without flattening your lower back. To “flatten your lower back” means relaxing your waist and drawing it toward the rear, causing your back as a whole to appear slightly rounded.
This is an aspect of posture that is not difficult to do. You only have to hollow your chest and then you will be able to loosen your waist, and your waist will naturally be drawn toward the rear. In the beginning, you will not understand how to hollow your chest, but you do not need to force your lower back to flatten and can instead start by paying attention to relaxing your waist in order to avoid making the error of curling your lower back.
Tuck in your buttocks.
If you have a habit of curling your lower back, your buttocks will often stick out, giving you an appearance of your belly bulging forward. Once you have practiced to the point that you are flattening your lower back sufficiently, your buttocks will never be sticking out. And so the purpose of this action is mainly to help correct those who are habitually sticking out their buttocks. Tucking in the buttocks is also called “gathering the buttocks in”, meaning that in postures of sitting the body, such as the horse-riding stance or empty stance, you should do your best to tuck your buttocks forward.
I think that this postural principle is the major key to flattening the lower back, because if you cannot flatten your lower back, there is no way for you to tuck in your buttocks, whereas if you are able to flatten your lower back, your buttocks will automatically be hanging vertically. Therefore I used to call this principle “hanging the buttocks”, for you only need to focus on flattening your lower back and then your buttocks will automatically be hanging vertically. It is not necessary to tuck in deliberately, which might lead to a more constricted posture. Because I still use this idea, I also supply you with this other way of saying it.
Your tailbone is centered.
This is something to take note of as a postural principle rather than a movement principle. Previous generations worried that students would twist their buttocks off center and end up corrupting their whole body structure, and therefore they put forward the requirement that the tailbone should be centered. At the same time, there still has to be alignment between the tailbone and the headtop. While moving, it is necessary that “your headtop be pulled up as if suspended”, and so you also have to be able to give attention to centering your tailbone. Your whole body will thus naturally be able to maintain a stable uprightness.
Sink your shoulders.
To “sink your shoulders” is an action of extending the muscles and ligaments of the shoulders, in which you can slightly add some lively energy, causing the muscles in your shoulders to stretch and thereby tug on the muscles at the sides of your back [i.e. latissimus dorsi]. However, when bending your arms, you should focus on loosening the shoulders. If you want to sink your shoulders, you should also use more intention than exertion.
But when you bend your arms and drop your elbows and then extend your arms forward, the process of the shoulders going downward and to the rear and then upward and forward contains a circular movement in which there is a natural sinking of the shoulders, and thus there is no need to even put that much intention into sinking your shoulders. During pushing hands, using your elbows to draw in the opponent’s arms often requires sinking your shoulders to then have a means to express power. When going through the boxing set, you should be naturally loosening and sinking, not using excessive exertion.
Drop your elbows.
When bending your arms in front of your chest, unless you are doing a movement that brings your elbows to shoulder level or higher, generally your elbows should be pointing downward, and they must never be lifting to the sides. This position is crucial in both the boxing set and pushing hands. If your elbows are lifting up, not only will it hinder you from sinking your shoulders, it will also affect your ability to sink your energy, your ribs will be overly exposed, and it will be easy for your elbows to get propped up by your opponent, making it too impractical to try to perform any techniques against him. Therefore in the beginning of the training, you should cultivate the habit of dropping your elbows. The principles of sinking your shoulders and dropping your elbows reinforce each other. During pushing hands, if you often use the elbowing technique, these principles are crucial for it to be effective. Always use them together, for throughout the exercise they must never be separated.
Rotate the wrist and forearm.
This is the requirement that the hand must not stay in the same position as it extends and retracts, but instead the wrist and forearm should exhibit a rotation as it moves. For example, when extending your palm forward [such as in BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE], this begins with the palm facing your cheek, making a “sideways palm” position. Then it slowly rotates as it extends, until it finishes with the palm facing forward, making a “standing palm” position. Thus while it goes forward, it rotates its position. Some teachers nowadays accommodate beginners by having them keep their hand in the same position as it extends and retracts, the advantage being that it is easier to learn it this way. However, these beginners would need to be corrected later in order for their hand movement to improve.
Extend the fingers and stick out the palm.
When your skill in the art has deepened, you will start to pay more attention to emptiness and fullness within the movements. However, even in the beginning of the training, if there is ever a moment in which emptiness and fullness are not clear, this is not actually acceptable. Taiji Boxing’s movements mostly involve using palms, and therefore I point out the requirement of “extend the fingers and stick out the palms”, hoping that when beginners perform movements of extending their arms until their palms are “full”, they will take this principle seriously in order to heighten the quality of the movement.
Additionally, once you have become skillful at doing the movement in this way, it will be much easier in the rest of the fist and palm movements to clearly distinguish when you are going from emptiness to fullness or from fullness to emptiness. The way to perform this action [of extending the fingers and sticking out the palm] has already been described in a section in Chapter Three [Part 2, principle 4], and in the section called “Distinguishing between emptiness and fullness” [3rd stage, principle 1] in Chapter Two [Chapter Five], and so does not need to be repeated here.
Part 2 [standard movements]:
Taiji Boxing’s fist positions are really no different from those in ordinary martial arts. In the beginning of the training, the fist should grasp fully but not too tightly. Once your skill has deepened, you should distinguish between an empty grip and a full one. Emptiness and fullness can be distinguished even in the way you make a fist. The empty grip is looser than the full one. When changing a palm into a fist, or loosening a full fist into an empty fist, the action should be slow, neither grasping too quickly nor loosening too quickly. In this way, you will be able to do the entire movement at the proper speed.
Some people constantly make empty fists instead of full ones while practicing the set, so much so that they end up with a grip that is too loose and loses the appearance of making a fist at all. Although this is the practice of using intention rather than exertion, it will not mean anything unless there is some actual skill. Thus in the beginning of the training, it is more appropriate to always make full fists.
Additionally, in Taiji Boxing there are only five ways of striking with the fist, what have previously been called the “five punches of Taiji”. The various fist usages listed below are based on all of the fist movements in the set, producing a number of terms having to do with the position or appearance of the fist that is not actually limited to five types of punches. These are not standardized terms. I have sought only to spell out the different fist orientations for your reference.
A. UPRIGHT FIST
The fist extends forward or withdraws inward with the tiger’s mouth facing upward. The upright fist rarely uses rotations of the wrist or forearm, and is the only fist position that does not involve such rotations.
B. OVERTURNED FIST
This is a forward position in which the tiger’s mouth is facing downward with the fist at head level.
C. STANDING FIST
The knuckles are facing upward or diagonally upward, the tiger’s mouth facing forward or to the rear, or to either side.
D. PLANTING FIST
The tiger’s mouth is facing forward, the knuckles facing downward. As it is pointing in the opposite direction to the standing fist, it could also be called an “inverted fist”. This fist is only used when striking forward and downward.
E. UPWARD-FACING FIST
The center of the fist is facing upward, the back of the fist facing downward.
F. DOWNWARD-FACING FIST
The opposite of the upward-facing fist, the center of the fist is facing downward, the back of the fist facing upward.
This is different from an ordinary fist, using all five fingers to pinch together to make a position of the fingers pointing downward. Originally simply called a “claw”, it is also called a “hook” or “hooking hand”. After the palm lowers (from being a standing palm), the back of the hand (near the wrist area) is used to strike an opponent, and this is why it is included in the list of fist methods.
In the beginning of the training, you should be extending and withdrawing your palms with naturalness, meaning that the fingers should not be using strength to either squeeze together or spread apart, but also that the palm should not be caving in. Once your skill has deepened, you will already have an understanding of emptiness and fullness, which should then be expressed in the palms.
For example, when your hand extends forward but is not yet fully extended, the palm has a slightly hollow shape, a look of storing up rather than spreading out. This is an “empty palm”. As the hand gradually extends more and more forward, the look of hollowness gradually reduces. This is called “going from emptiness to fullness”. When the hand reaches its final destination, its hollowness vanishes, the fingers slightly extending, the palm slightly sticking out, thereby enhancing the action of extending forward. It is now a “full palm”. When withdrawing the palm, as it gradually returns from extending to storing, it again makes a slightly hollow shape. This is called “going from fullness to emptiness”.
The movement of a palm is just a part of a larger movement, therefore the emptiness and fullness of the palm should be coordinated with the emptiness and fullness of the movement as a whole. But when a movement is not distinctly divided into moments of emptiness and fullness, it is only necessary to move the palm with naturalness, and then you will not need to make the shapes of the palm being hollow or sticking out. It says in Wu Yuxiang’s Treatise: “Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it from your waist, and expressing it at your fingers.” This statement contains the sense of the hand working together with the waist, leg, and foot to perform an integrated movement. The various palm methods, according to the direction the palm is facing and its shape, are described below:
A. UPRIGHT PALM
The fingertips are pointing upward and the palm is facing forward, the wrist making a ninety degree angle.
B. STANDING PALM
The fingertips are pointing upward, or are angled upward, and the palm is facing any direction other than forward.
C. HANGING PALM
The fingertips are pointing downward, or are angled downward. It does not matter which direction the palm is facing.
D. UPWARD-FACING PALM
The palm is facing upward, or is angled upward. It does not matter which direction the fingertips are pointing.
E. SIDEWAYS PALM
The palm is standing sideways with the thumb pointing downward. It does not matter which direction the palm is facing.
F. DOWNWARD-FACING PALM
The palm is facing downward, or is angled downward. It does not matter which direction the fingertips are pointing.
G. OVERTURNED PALM
The palm stands sideways with the thumb pointing downward.
Beyond the horse-riding stance, in which the weight is on both legs, Taiji Boxing’s methods of standing also involve having the weight on one leg or the other. During the exercise, train your legs by bending them to shift the weight rather than using strength to brace with the legs. The lower the leg squats, the greater the knee bends, increasing the strain of the exercise. Therefore beginners or those with weak bodies should all stand taller rather than trying to go overly low, in order to avoid wearing our their legs. Explained below are the various leg methods, each of which have their specific criteria and cannot be learned well in a short time. In the beginning of the training, you may perform them according to your own ability and should not be forcing yourself to go lower.
A. LIFTING THE LEG
Stand with the weight on one leg, which should be slightly bent rather than straight. Lift the other leg until the knee is at hip level, the lower leg slightly reaching forward, toes lifting up. Additionally, your whole body should loosen rather than use too much strength, which will remain true throughout the rest of the leg methods.
After lifting your leg, the lower leg kicks out forward (performed to either the left or right). When kicking, the leg should straighten at hip level. When kicking with the toes, it is called a “snapping kick”. When kicking with the heel, it is called a “pressing kick”. When the foot then comes down, it should come down to the forward left [in the case of the left leg] or forward right [in the case of the right leg].
C. SWINGING LOTUS KICK
This leg technique will be performed only with the right leg and not the left leg. When the kick begins, it is not necessary to first lift the leg, you can simply go right into the kick. With the toes pointing upward, draw an arc with the outside edge of the foot, kicking out to the forward right at hip level. When the foot comes down, it also comes down to the forward right.
D. BOW STANCE
This is a method of filling. The front leg bends to bring the thigh to an angle that depends on your own strength and does not need to become entirely flattened out, though the knee should be aligned with the toes. The rear leg should be naturally rather than forcefully straightened, and the heel should not come off the ground. When the weight goes onto the bent leg, the straightening rear leg should not be using strength to brace you forward.
E. SITTING STANCE
This is a method of emptying. The front leg of your bow stance withdraws a half step, switching you to an empty stance, the weight shifting onto your other leg, which should correspondingly be bending as you sit onto it, hence “sitting”. The extent to which you sit should be in accordance with your own body. In the beginning, you should stand taller rather than bend your knee too much, because that would make the movement more strenuous than it needs to be.
F. SQUATTING POSITIONS
There are two kinds of squatting positions:
1. The “horse-riding stance”: your feet are spread apart, making a ninety-degree shape by pointing the toes outward. Your knees are pointing to the same direction as the toes rather than trying to cover your crotch. The distance between your feet is two to two and a half feet, and should not be too wide. The height of your thighs is similar to the bow stance. To get the best results, you should also hollow your chest and flatten your lower back.
2. The “lowering stance”: Your legs should open wider than for the horse-riding stance, the toes pointing toward the same direction as your torso. Your body should squat down low, your left leg straightening, your right leg bending until the upper leg and lower leg are touching. Your torso should be upright, the weight pressing down onto your right leg. Because the lowering stance squats down so low, those with high blood pressure are exempt and do not need to squat so deeply.
Foot movements are movements of a part of the leg, so these could be included among the leg methods, but for the sake of easy reference, I have put them in their own category.
A. SNAPPING KICK
First lift your leg and stand stably, then slowly kick out with the toes. The back of the foot should be flattened. The direction of the kick is to the forward right in the case of the right foot and to the forward left in the case of the left foot.
B. PRESSING KICK
First lift your leg and stand stably, then slowly press out forward with the heel. The toes are raised, hooking inward, causing the heel to easily express power.
C. KICKING TO THE SIDE
To “kick to the side” is the posture name for the snapping kick in the posture of KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT. If you emphasize flowing from kicking to one side into kicking to the other, the kicking movement can feel more natural.
D. TURNING AROUND ON THE FEET
To turn your body around, you must first turn your feet. When turning around [the turn around in Posture 69 being a good example of the kind of pivoting footwork being described here], your left foot usually pivots on the heel, the rest of the foot slightly coming away from the ground, and your right foot usually pivots on the ball, the rest of the foot slightly coming away from the ground. If turning both feet at the same time, one foot [the left foot in this case] should be full by the end of the turn, for you must not end up empty in both feet.
E. BRINGING THE FOOT DOWN
When stepping forward, you should first touch down with the heel, and when stepping back, you should first touch down with the toes. The rest of the foot will then come down fully. There are a few occasions in which an empty stance will be touching down with the toes of the front foot, depending on the position you are in when advancing or retreating.
F. SWITCHING TO THE OTHER FOOT
When switching to the other foot, first settle your body onto one leg, the knee bending, then lift the other foot and slowly step it forward, back, or in whatever direction. You must not try to simply go right into the step.
Taiji Boxing has several types of stances. Because there is variation in the size of the postures [from one style to another], there is therefore no unanimous agreement about how to perform the stances. The explanations below are all based on Wu Jianquan’s postures, and so it is difficult to avoid having some points of difference from other versions of the boxing set.
A. FILLING STANCE
Your front leg is bent, rear leg straight, both feet flat on the ground. Because one leg bulges out, it is also called a “bow stance”. (See the bow stance explanation above [in Leg Methods].) The distance between the front foot and rear foot can be enlarged or shrunken to suit your own stature and strength, but generally the proper distance between the heel of the front foot and toes of the rear foot is about a foot directly forward and about a foot and a half along a diagonal line between the two points. The sideways distance between your feet should not go beyond a foot and a half, and you should try to get the toes of both feet to be pointing forward.
Whenever you get to a filling stance while practicing the set, you must strictly maintain the proper distance between your feet both forward and sideways. You should step to the two outer ends of the 川 “river” character, and thus the stance is also called the “river-character stance”. [Within the movement descriptions below, this stance is never actually referred to as a “filling stance” nor a “river-character stance”, only as the more universal “bow stance”.] The two circles in the drawing below indicating the foot position [demonstrating the position with the left foot forward]:
B. EMPTYING STANCE
The emptying stance usually occurs as a moment of withdrawing a half step from the full stance,
your front leg going from being a bent in front to being a straightened leg extended forward, with the heel touching down, toes raised. Your rear leg should slightly bend to carry the weight of your whole body. (See the sitting stance explanation above [in Leg Methods].) You should hollow your chest but stand upright, not bending over forward. The distance between your feet both forward and sideways is half that of the filling stance. The two circles in the drawing below indicating the foot position [again demonstrating the position with the left foot forward]:
There is also a version of the empty stance that touches down with the toes, in which the rear leg stands a little taller and the feet are closer together, the distance between them forward and sideways shrinking to just a couple inches. Whether touching down with the heel or the toes, the foot is touching down emptily and should not be forcefully pressing the ground, and it will thus be fulfilling the “empty” part of “empty stance”. Additionally, the toes of both feet should be striving to be pointing forward, rather than forming overly distinct angles of one being straight and the other being diagonal.
C. PARALLEL STANCE
Your feet stand next to each other, toes pointing forward. The distance between your feet is just over half a foot apart, or they can be nearer, but they should not be too far apart. This type of stance is not truly important and you only really need to make a note of it [considering it is not properly a stance at all, but simply a position of ordinary standing].
D. HORSE-RIDING STANCE
Sometimes abbreviated to “horse stance”, it also called “standing like posts”. This stance was already explained above, within the description of squatting positions [in Leg Methods], and so does not need to be repeated here. Some people think that in this stance there should be equal pressure on each foot, but the concept of “double pressure” actually has nothing to do with this position. Furthermore, the addition of some horse-riding stances to the exercise does increase leg strength and aids in the sinking of energy, both definite advantages.
E. LOWERING STANCE
This stance was also already explained above within the description of squatting positions, and that explanation does not need to be repeated here. If a beginner has a relatively weak body, he should not force himself to practice this and can at first substitute it with a movement of only slightly squatting his leg. After a long time, he will then have more ability, and can gradually be squatting down a little more. Those with high blood pressure should especially be mindful of this point.
F. T-SHAPED STANCE
This stance occurs very rarely in the Wu Style Taiji boxing set. It involves turning the body, your left foot turning along with it, and your right foot not yet shifting from its position (this being the reason why it is hardly found within the movement descriptions below [getting mentioned only once, as a transitional position in movement 1 of Posture 3]) so that your right toes are pointing toward the inner edge of your left foot, thus making a shape like a T, hence “T-shaped stance”.
G. OVERLAP STANCE
This is a stance involving your right leg bending in front, your torso turning to the right, and your feet not leaving their original location. When squatting your legs, your right toes are pointing forward [to the right], your left toes are thus pointing toward the outer edge of your right foot [with your left heel raised off the ground], your feet making a T shape [with one foot twisted outward rather than the toes of both feet pointing toward each other as in the actual T-shaped stance], and your right knee is on top, left knee underneath, both knees still in front of you. This stance occurs only once in the Wu Style Taiji boxing set [Posture 39, although it can also be used as an alternate stance in Posture 36, in which the left leg is forward instead] in order to keep you from forming a habit of raising and lowering your body too dramatically. When practicing the set, you can also go so far as to reduce the squat to the point that your legs are almost straightened, emphasizing only the T shape of your feet.
Because the movement fundamentals listed above are only very simple explanations, and also do not have clarifying photographs included alongside them, they will not be easy for beginners to understand right away. However, the posture explanations in the following chapter each make mention of a number of these fundamentals of movement, and so I hope that beginners will refer back and forth between both of these chapters, which will perhaps aid them in understanding these explanations better.
CHAPTER NINE: EXPLANATIONS FOR THE BOXING POSTURES
According to the list of postures in Chapter Seven, the Wu Style Taiji boxing set has eighty-four postures. However, leaving aside the motionless PREPARATION POSTURE, and the beginning and finishing postures (TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE and CLOSING POSTURE), both of which are simple movements that do not count as boxing postures, there are really only eighty-one. And since forty-five of those are repeated postures, we can say that there are only thirty-six essential postures:
CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (which occurs eight times)
SINGLE WHIP (eleven times)
RAISE THE HAND (three times)
WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS (three times)
BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (three times)
PLAY THE LUTE (once)
PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (four times)
SEALING SHUT (twice)
CROSSED HANDS (twice)
CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (twice)
GUARDING FIST UNDER THE ELBOW (once)
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (twice)
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE (twice)
NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA (twice)
FAN THROUGH THE BACK (twice)
TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (five times)
CLOUDING HANDS (three times)
RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (three times)
KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT (once)
TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK (once)
ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH (once)
DRAPING THE BODY, KICK (once)
RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE (once)
DOUBLE KICK (twice)
DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS (once)
WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE (once)
MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (once)
LOW POSTURE (twice)
GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (once)
PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (three times)
CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK (once)
BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH (once)
STEP FORWARD, BIG-DIPPER POSTURE (once)
RETREAT, SITTING-TIGER POSTURE (once)
TURN AROUND, DOUBLE-SLAP SWINGING LOTUS KICK (once)
BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER (once)
Nineteen of these thirty-six postures get repeated. There are versions of RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE in which it is performed on both sides, but in this book it is performed only on the left side. GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG is a posture that could be considered two postures since it is performed on each side, or the version on the left side can be blurred through to the point that it is effectively skipped [with the left leg rising only to step back right away into DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY]. The four postures of BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE, CLOUDING HANDS, WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE, and MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH are each performed on both sides in a continuous series of three or four times, or it could be said that the posture is repeated several times under a single use of the posture name.
In short, it seems appropriate to declare that there are thirty-six essential postures. Consequently, the explanations in this chapter primarily address the movements of these thirty-six. When postures are repeated, unless there are some differences from the original explanation which require additional comments, only the name appears so as to mark the posture’s place in the sequence rather than repeating the whole explanation, thereby cutting down on the length of the book. Below are a few extra points that I feel I should mention:
The explanations below focus only on describing the movements of these boxing postures and do not touch upon their applications. Because Taiji Boxing prioritizes energy over technique, any discussion of technique must also discuss energy. This would be too difficult for beginners because they do not yet have any understanding of energy. Furthermore, although each posture has a specific application, within every angle of movement there is also some variation to be explained as well. If I want to fully explain such things, not only am I limited by my own skill level, but this volume is also limited in terms of length, and so it is better for me to leave out such discussion altogether.
To learn Taiji Boxing, you should undoubtedly start with the boxing postures. However, you also have to practice it well in order to bring its effectiveness as a health-building exercise to its full potential. This means you have to study its theory and principles until you clearly understand what makes it tick. If you only learn the empty shell of the set, it would certainly still be beneficial, but not nearly as much as practicing properly.
Among the movement explanations below are supplementary photos in addition to the photos of Wu Jianquan. Because of the difference in skill level between him and his students [Zhao Shoucun appearing in fifty of the supplementary photos (such as photo 2a), Xu Zhiyi appearing in an additional eight (such as photo 33)], it is difficult to avoid there being some small inconsistencies. Within the explanations, you will also encounter movements and orientations that do not entirely match the photos. Thus you should give priority to the text and treat the supplementary photos only as additional items of reference.
For a view of directions of advance, retreat, and turning of the movements in sequence, you may consult the “Directional Chart of the Taiji Boxing Postures” [included at the end of the book].
NW 西北 東北 NE
W 西 ← → 東 E
SW 西南 東南 SE
Posture 1: PREPARATION POSTURE (photo 1)
This posture involves no movement and is merely a position of standing calmly with your body upright. Your chest should not be sticking out. Your gaze goes straight ahead. Your shoulders loosen and your arms hang naturally. Your fingertips are pointing downward, the backs of the hands facing forward. (The hand position uses hanging palms rather than downward-facing palms, for this is how Wu Jianquan performed this posture in his later years. [Wu’s earlier performance of this posture, using downward-facing palms can be seen in photo 1 of Chu Minyi’s 1929 manual.]) Your feet are a making a parallel stance, legs straightened, knees bent but not sticking out. The explanation for this stance can be found in Chapter Seven.
When practicing the set, the orientations of the postures will depend on your position in the practice space, but to make it easier for readers to know which direction to face, the photos in this book have to have a standard of orientation: in the photo below, Wu is facing to the “south” with his back toward the “north”, to his left is the “east”, and to his right is the “west”. Additionally there are movement lines added: solid lines to indicate the direction of movement for the right hand and right foot, dotted lines to indicate the direction of movement for the left hand and left foot. [See photo 1:]
Posture 2: TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE (photo 2)
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands lift in unison to be placed in front of your chest, left hand on the outside, right hand on the inside, left hand higher, right hand lower, left hand as a sideways palm facing inward, the tip of the thumb at nose height, right hand as a standing palm facing outward, the fingertips below your left wrist. At the same time, your left foot goes out a half step, making an empty stance, heel touching down, toes lifted, as your right leg slightly bends to bear the weight. You are facing to the south. How high your left toes lift has to do with how much your right leg bends. In this side view, the left toes are not lifted very high, and this is because the right leg, the bending leg (or “sitting leg”) is not bending very much. See photo 2a (and 2b below it for a side view):
Posture 3: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (photos 3–6)
This posture is divided into four movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, staying where you are, your body turns to the right as your left foot turns inward to make a T-shaped position with your right foot, coming down fully with its toes pointing toward the west, then the leg slightly bends the weight going onto it, and your right foot lifts, coming down to the forward right of your left foot to make an empty stance with the heel touching down, your feet a half step apart. While your left foot turns, your right hand arcs upward from below, passing your left palm, and reaching out forward as a standing palm, the tip of the thumb at nose level, your left hand at the same time slightly withdrawing inward and downward until the fingertips are close beside your right wrist, the hand also becoming a standing palm, both elbows hanging down. Your gaze is to the west. See photo 3:
Continuing from the previous posture, your stance does not change as your elbows sink down, your left elbow approaching the ribs. As your elbows sink, your hands slowly rotate, your right hand rotating for the palm to be facing upward, your left hand rotating for the palm to be facing downward, the fingertips angled slightly upward. As you sink your elbows and rotate your palms, slightly hollow your chest and sit back further onto your left leg. Your right hand mimics a shape of a ladle scooping water, storing power in preparation for extending the palm in the next movement. The direction you are facing is still to the west. See photo 4:
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands then extend forward, but your right arm should not overly straighten. At the same time, your right foot goes out a half step and switches to a bow stance, the weight going onto your right leg, your left leg straightening. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 5:
Continuing from the previous posture, still in a bow stance, your right hand smoothly arcs across to the right, your left hand going along with it, its fingertips touching your right wrist. At the same time, your waist turns to the right, so that both your torso and fingers are turning toward the northwest. See photo 6a:
Once your waist can turn no further to the right, slowly sit onto your left leg, switching from a bow stance to an empty stance, your right hand at the same time withdrawing in a small circle, the arm bending, elbow hanging, arcing until in front of your right shoulder, the fingertips gradually arcing upward, the wrist slowly rotating to make an upright palm, which then pushes out, your left hand following along below your right wrist, turning to go from being a downward-facing palm to an upward-facing palm, both elbows slightly bending. Your torso is facing to the west and your gaze is forward. (CATCH THE SPARROW is always followed by SINGLE WHIP, and so it can be difficult to decide whether photo 6b or photo 7 distinguishes the shift from one posture to another. Because this book is intended to suit the needs of beginners, I take 6b to be the concluding movement for this posture [as does the 1935 book].) See photo 6b:
This posture involves many waist actions: In movement 1, your waist should turn to the right. In movement 2, your waist should turn to the left. In movement 3, when your hands extend, you reach with your waist. In movement 4, when you sit back and then extend your palms forward, your waist should be driving the entire circular motion. These waist movements are all closely integrated with the hand movements. If in the beginning you can learn to move from your waist in this posture, moving from the waist throughout the rest of the postures will be easier.
Posture 4: SINGLE WHIP (photos 7 & 8)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right knee bends to make a bow stance with your right toes slightly turned to the left, causing your torso to slightly go from facing to the west to facing to the southwest. At the same time, your arms extend to the southwest, but should not straighten, your right palm maintaining its position and pushing out forward, the palm slightly sticking out toward the southwest, your left palm still below your right wrist as an upward-facing palm. Your gaze is forward toward your right hand. See photo 7:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right palm gently lowers, fingertips pointing downward and pinching together to make a claw-fist. As the weight is already on your right leg, your left foot steps to the left rear, turning outward so the toes are pointing toward the southeast, your right toes also turning inward so the toes are pointing toward the south, your knees bending to make a horse-riding stance, each knee pointing toward the same direction as its toes, your torso slightly turning to be facing to the southeast. While your left foot steps out, your left hand comes away from your right wrist with the palm facing inward and switches from an upward-facing palm to a standing palm as it shifts across to the left, the palm rotating to be facing outward once it has passed your left cheek, and continuing by pushing out to the east (and slightly to the south), still making a standing palm. Your head follows your left hand, turning to the left, your gaze going to the southeast. See photo 8:
Posture 5: RAISE THE HAND (photos 9 & 10)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left toes are turned toward the south, then you sit onto your left leg, which supports your weight, and shift your right foot a half step to the forward right of your left foot, making an empty stance, heel touching down, toes lifted and pointing toward the same direction as your left foot. At the same time, your right hand opens its claw-fist and lowers in front of your chest, becoming a sideways palm, the palm facing inward, the whole arm making an encircling shape, as your left hand shifts to the inside of your right hand, nearing the wrist area, remaining a standing palm, the palm facing forward. Your body is slightly leaning forward, your gaze forward (to the south). See photo 9a (which shows the right hand already lifted up, and therefore the forward lean of the body is not as discernible as in the side view in photo 9b below it):
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot comes down fully, then your left foot steps forward to make a parallel stance, both legs slightly bending. While your feet are being placed to stand next to each other, your right hand slowly lifts up, the forearm rotating so that once the hand has lifted an inch or two above your forehead it has become an upward-facing palm. Your left hand at the same time pushes down to be placed beside the hip, the arm straightening but must not overly straighten, the fingertips slightly raising, the palm slightly pushing down. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, your gaze still forward. See photo 10:
Posture 6: WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS (photos 11 & 12)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, without moving your feet, your waist turns to the left, causing your torso to be facing to the southeast, your hands remaining in the same position. Your gaze goes toward the same direction as your torso. See photo 11:
Originally in this posture, before turning the waist it was necessary to first bend the body slightly forward. But sometimes the body was bent forward too far, often causing the head to be lowered, and so Wu Jianquan in his later years omitted this action, keeping only the slightest lean of the body while turning the waist in order to assist the posture.
Continuing from the previous posture, your left arm has gone along with the turning of your waist and now raises up from the left rear (the arm bending once it is at shoulder level), then turn your torso to be facing to the south, your left hand now raising until above and to the left of the left side of your forehead, at the same height as your right hand, both hands making standing palms, the palms facing forward. Then sink your shoulders, causing your upper arms to slightly lower. Your hands are shoulder width apart. Your gaze is to the south. Your legs remain slightly bent. See photo 12:
Posture 7: BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (photos 13–19)
This posture is divided into ten movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your feet turn to the left in unison so the toes are pointing to the east, your foot making an empty stance with the heel touching down, your right leg slightly bent. As your feet turn, your left hand lowers in front of your body, the palm facing downward, fingertips inclining toward the southeast, your right hand rotating to be a sideways palm, placed beside your right cheek, the upper arm at shoulder level. Your gaze is to the east. See photo 13:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your right leg bent, your left foot shifts forward a half step, heel touching down first, then the foot slowly comes down fully as you make a bow stance, your right leg straightening, the weight going onto your left leg. As your left leg lifts and steps forward, your left hand lowers to brush past the knee and be placed to the side of your left leg, the palm facing downward, fingertips pointing forward. As your left hand brushes past your knee, your right hand (as a sideways palm, fingers pointing forward), slowly extends forward from beside your cheek, the forearm rotating while extending so that by the time the arm is straight, the palm is upright. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. See photo 14:
Continuing from the previous posture, as your right arm extends, the palm sticks out a little bit more, then your right hand withdraws in front of your chest, becoming a standing palm, the center of the palm facing to the left, your left hand at the same time going upward from below to be placed above your right fingertips, making a standing palm, the center of the palm facing to the right. As your right hand withdraws, withdraw your waist and sit your body back, your left foot withdrawing a half step to make an empty stance, the weight shifting onto your right leg. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, nor the direction of your gaze. See photo 15:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand lowers and your right hand lifts to be beside your right cheek, same as in photo 13.
Continuing from the previous posture, repeat the posture in photo 14. See photo 16:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand lowers, becoming a downward-facing palm, the fingertips inclined toward the northeast, your left hand lifting up to be placed beside your left cheek, becoming a sideways palm. At the same time, your right foot takes a half step forward from the rear to be placed in front of your left foot to the southeast corner, changing to an empty stance. Your torso is still facing to the east, your gaze still to the east. See photo 17 (the same posture as in photo 13, but with left and right reversed):
Continuing from the previous posture, lift your right foot and shift it forward a half step, making a bow stance, your left leg straightening. At the same time, your right hand brushes past your right knee to be placed beside it, the palm still facing downward, as your left hand extends forward from beside the cheek, the forearm rotating to make it an upright palm. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, nor the direction of your gaze. See photo 18 (the same posture as in photo 14, but with left and right reversed):
Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand lowers as your right hand lifts until beside your right cheek, then repeat the posture in photo 14. The movement is the same as in movement 4, and so the explanation is not repeated here.
Continuing from the previous posture, repeat the posture in photo 14. The movement is the same as in movement 2 or movement 5, and so the explanation is not repeated here.
Continuing from the previous posture, repeat the posture in photo 15, the movement the same as in movement 3. See photo 19:
There are two further requirements to this posture that need to be explained:
1. When your left hand brushes past your left knee, it should first swing across to the right side of your body (your feet not moving, only your waist turning), then as your right hand reaches forward, it slowly rotates to be an upright palm. When your right hand brushes past your right knee, it should first swing across to the left side of your body then as your left hand reaches forward, it slowly rotates to be an upright palm.
2. When making an upright palm (as in photo 14 or photo 18) upon reaching the final position of the movement, the tip of the thumb should be at nose level, and when the palm withdraws (in photo 15), the tip of your left thumb should again be at nose level.
There are currently some teachers who are very lax toward beginners about these requirements, with the result that students become unavoidably deficient when it comes to the roundness of the movement and the evenness of the posture. I am specifically drawing attention to these things in order to make you mindful of them.
Posture 8: PLAY THE LUTE (photos 20 & 21)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot goes forward a half step to make a bow stance, your right leg straightening. At the same time, your palms change their direction, your left hand rotating so the palm is facing outward, right hand rotating so the palm is facing inward, both remaining standing palms, and then after they have rotated, your hands slowly reach out, arcing forward and upward, your left arm becoming straighter than in photo 19, your right arm becoming more bent. Your torso is still facing to the east, your gaze still to the east. See photo 20:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot goes forward to make a parallel stance with your left foot, both knees slightly bent. At the same time, your hands arc upward and slightly withdraw toward your chest, arms bending, elbows hanging, positioned similar to the PLAY THE LUTE posture. The direction you are facing does not change. See photo 21:
Although the movement in this posture is simple, it is usually not easy for beginners to perform well. This is because there is an arcing motion involved in both the extending and withdrawing of the hands, making a continuous elliptical shape. If your waist cannot make a corresponding motion, there will be no way for your whole body to achieve harmonious movement in this posture.
Posture 9: STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (photos 22–24)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot takes a step forward to make a bow stance, your arms at the same time first slightly bending and then arcing to the right and extending forward, both rotating so that your left palm is facing to the south and your right palm is facing to the north, both as standing palms. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, nor the direction of your gaze. See photo 22:
Continuing from the previous posture, your body withdraws to sit onto your right leg, your left foot slightly withdrawing to make an empty stance. At the same time, your hands go along with the movement by arcing to the left, performing a curved withdraw in unison, your left hand withdrawing only an inch or two to finish still in front of your chest, your right hand withdrawing beside you, grasping into an upright fist, withdrawing until beside your hip. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 23:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right fist extends straight forward from beside your hip, the arm straightening, the fist at shoulder level, still as an upright fist, while your left hand slowly withdraws to be placed beside your right elbow, still making a standing palm. At the same time, your left foot slightly shifts forward, going along with the movement by returning to the previous bow stance. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 24:
Posture 10: SEALING SHUT (photos 25–27)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right arm slightly lifts and slightly bends toward the left, still as an upright fist, as your left hand arcs under your right arm to the outside of the arm, still making a standing palm, but with the center of the palm now facing the opposite direction. Your body and stance remain the same as before. See photo 25:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right arm continues to bend to the left, your right fist opening and becoming a standing palm, fingertips pointing to the north, as your left hand goes along the front of your right arm and also becomes a standing palm, fingertips pointing to the south, your forearms now crossed (making an X shape). Your hands then spread apart to the left and right, your forearms vertical and parallel, elbows dropped down, your hands becoming diagonal standing palms, fingers pointing upward, palms facing inward. As your hands switch positions, your body sits onto your right leg and your left foot slightly withdraws, switching to an empty stance. Your torso is still facing to the east, your gaze still to the east. See photo 26 (photographed as a slightly diagonal view to show both hands more clearly):
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands rotate so the palms are facing each other and then facing outward, then they slowly do a level push forward (energy expressing at the palms), your arms straightening, your hands still positioned as standing palms, now facing to the east. As your palms push forward, step forward and return to the previous bow stance. The direction you are facing is still to the east. See photo 27 (again a slightly angled view, in keeping with the previous photo):
Posture 11: CROSSED HANDS (photos 28–30)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your arms lower, staying straight, your palms at first wiping downward and ending up pushing downward, and once your arms are hanging straight down, your hands are placed in front of your left knee as downward-facing palms, fingertips pointing forward. Your stance remains the same as in the previous posture and the direction you are facing is still to the east. See photo 28:
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands spread apart to the sides of your left knee as both feet turn to point their toes toward the south (though the left toes do not actually need to be turned to point anywhere since this movement flows right into the next one anyway, the foot about to step next to your right foot), your right knee bending to make a bow stance, your left leg straightening, your torso turning to be facing to the south. Your hands at this time are continuing to spread apart, now slowly going upward from below until at shoulder level, your right hand slightly higher, left hand slightly lower, both as sideways palms, the palms facing forward. Your gaze is to the forward left. See photo 29:
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands raise beyond head level, then go downward from above, coming together inward to make a crossed shape, your right hand on the outside, left hand on the inside, both as standing palms, the palms facing to opposite directions, to the left and right, your left foot at the same time stepping forward to make a parallel stance with your right foot. Your torso is facing to the south, your gaze also to the south. See photo 30:
Posture 12: CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (photos 31 & 32)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your body slightly shifts to the right, the weight going onto your right leg, then your left foot takes a step out to the forward left, the toes of both feet turned to point toward the southeast, your left leg making a bow stance, your right leg straightening. At the same time, your left hand lowers to brush past your left knee and is placed beside your left hip as a downward-facing palm, the fingertips pointing forward, while your right hand pushes out to the southeast, rotating to become an upright palm. Your torso is facing to the southeast, your gaze also to the southeast. See photo 31:
Continuing from the previous posture, your body shifts slightly farther to the left so that your left leg is supporting your weight, the foot turning so that its toes are pointing toward the northwest, and then your right leg lifts as your torso turns to be facing to the northwest, the foot coming down to the northeast [northwest], toes pointing to the northwest, making a bow stance, your left leg straightening. As your body turns, your right hand lowers to brush past your right knee and is placed beside your right hip as a downward-facing palm, the fingertips pointing to the northwest, while your left hand goes upward from below to be placed beside your left cheek as a sideways palm, the fingertips pointing to the northwest, and then the forearm rotates and the hand slowly pushes out (to the northwest), becoming an upright palm as the arm straightens, the palm facing to the northwest. Your torso is facing to the same direction as your left palm, your gaze also going to the same direction. See photo 32:
This posture was previously called BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE TO THE FRONT & REAR, but now it is single continuous movement called CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN. (See the chapter on the boxing posture names [Chapter Seven].) Furthermore, the orientations of the movements are first to the southeast and then to the northwest, but were previously done as first to the south and then to the north. You may perform it either way, up to you.
Posture 13: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand withdraws in front of your chest and your right hand goes upward from below to be placed above your left hand. It is the same as in photo 3, but in this case facing to the northwest rather than the west. Then continue by repeating the movements in photos 4–6, your torso now facing to the northwest, your gaze also to the northwest.
Posture 14: DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP (photo 33)
This posture is also a repeat, the same as in photos 6–8, but in this case your torso should be facing to the southwest, your gaze to the south, as in photo 33:
Posture 15: GUARDING FIST UNDER THE ELBOW (photos 34 & 35)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, first turn your body to the left, the weight going onto your left leg, then turn the foot so the toes are pointing to the east and bend the leg forward. At the same time your right leg straightens and shifts in an arc toward the south to be placed to the southwest behind your left foot, your footwork resembling this diagram:
This causes your torso to turn to be facing to the east, your right hand at the same time opening its claw-fist, your arms and wrists straightening and shifting across to the left. As they shift across, your left hand slightly slower, your right hand slightly quicker, both palms are facing downward, finishing with the fingers pointing to the east, your arms making parallel lines. Your gaze is to the east. See photo 34:
Continuing from the previous posture, once your arms are making parallel lines, withdraw your body to be sitting onto your right leg, your left foot withdrawing a half step, switching to an empty stance. At the same time, your hands slowly grasp into fists, your left arm bends, the elbow dropping, the fist pointing upward as a standing fist, the tiger’s mouth facing inward, and your right fist withdraws in front of your chest to be placed below your left elbow as an upright fist. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 35:
Posture 16: RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (photos 36 & 37)
This posture is divided into four movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, lean your body forward as your left foot shifts forward a half step and then the leg bends to make a bow stance, your right leg straightening. At the same time, your left fist opens and slightly lowers forward, becoming an upward-facing palm, your right fist still below your left elbow. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 36:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand arcs across to the left rear, the elbow slowly bending, switching from an upward-facing palm to a sideways palm placed beside your left cheek (same as the left hand in photo 17), as your right fist opens and becomes a downward-facing palm (same as the right hand in photo 17). At the same time, your right leg bends, switching you from a left bow stance to an empty stance (same as the leg position in photo 13), the weight going onto your right leg. Then your left leg lifts and retreats a half step, making a bow stance with your right leg bent (as opposed to the bow stance with your left leg bent that you were just in). While you retreat, your right hand brushes downward to be placed beside your left hip, still as a downward-facing palm, and your left hand slowly reaches out forward from beside your left cheek, the forearm rotating to make an upright palm by the time it reaches its final position. The direction you are facing has not changed. This completes the first action of DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY. See photo 37:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left leg bends and your body sits onto it, your right leg switching from a bow stance to an empty stance (same as the leg position in photo 17). At the same time, perform the hand movement in photo 13, your left hand lowering, becoming a downward-facing palm, as your right palm lifts to be placed beside your right cheek, becoming a sideways palm. Then your right leg lifts and retreats a half step to make a bow stance with the left leg bent, your left hand at the same time brushing downward to be placed beside your left hip, still as a downward-facing palm, and your right hand slowly reaches out forward from beside your right cheek, the forearm rotating to make an upright palm. The direction you are facing has not changed. Although there is no photo supplied here, you may refer to photo 14. This is the second action of DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right palm lowers and your left palm lifts, the same hand position as in photo 17, as you switch from bow stance to empty stance, the same leg position as in photo 13. Then lift your left leg and retreat a half step, switching from empty stance to bow stance, as your hands repeat the movement for photo 18, returning you to the posture in photo 37. The direction you are facing is still to the east. This is the third action of DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY.
RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY is a retreating BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE. Before stepping back, you are making a crossed-stance position in an empty stance, then once you have stepped back, you are making a crossed-stance position in a bow stance. This aspect is different from BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE, but the rest of the movement is the same. Additionally, the other books treat the movement in photo 36 as the final movement of GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW, but I follow the older teaching in which it is regarded as the first movement of RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY.
Posture 17: DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE (photos 38 & 39)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your stance not changing, your torso faces slightly toward the right, as your left forearm rotates, the elbow dropping, turning your upright palm over to become an upward-facing palm, your body slightly leaning forward, your right hand staying beside your [right] hip. Your gaze is to the east. See photo 38:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot goes forward from the rear, taking a large step to the forward left of your right foot, the toes turned to point toward the southeast, the leg bending to make a bow stance, your right leg straightening, the toes turning to point toward the south. At the same time, your left hand extends to the left, still as an upward-facing palm, and your right palm pushes down to the southwest in concert with the movement of your left hand. Your torso is inclined toward the south, your gaze toward the back of your right hand. See photo 39:
Posture 18: RAISE THE HAND (photo 40)
This posture is a repeat. Your hands come together in front of your chest, the same as in movement 1 of Posture 5, but your legs in this case switch from a left bow stance to a right bow stance, different from the empty stance in Posture 5. You are facing to the south. See photo 40:
Your left foot will then step forward to stand next to your right foot, making a parallel stance, as your right hand rises up and your left hand pushes down. This is entirely the same as the movement in photo 10, and so its explanation is not fully repeated here.
Posture 19: WHITE CRANE SHOWS IT WINGS (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the posture in photo 10, the movements are the same as in photos 11 and 12, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 20: BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the posture in photo 12, the movements are the same as in photos 13 and 14, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 21: NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA (photos 41 & 42)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, perform the same movement as in photo 15, your gaze to the east. See photo 41:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand goes from a standing palm to a hanging palm (the palm facing to the north) and inserts diagonally forward and downward, your left hand shifting downward to be placed beside your right elbow as a sideways palm (the palm facing to the south). At the same time, your left foot switches to touching down with the toes, your legs going along with the downward inserting of your right hand by slightly bending downward. Your body is slightly leaning forward (though you must not droop your head), your gaze level toward the east. (When your body leans in this posture, it is easy to droop your head too. To avoid this error, you may keep your body upright while inserting downward.) See photo 42:
Posture 22: FAN THROUGH THE BACK (photos 43 & 44)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot steps out to the east to make a bow stance, your right leg straightening, as your arms again lift, your right arm making a straight line at shoulder level, your left palm still beside your right elbow, now as a standing palm. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, your gaze still to the east. See photo 43:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand slowly withdraws and your left hand slowly extends as your left foot turns to point toward the southeast and your right foot turns to point toward the southwest, causing your torso to be facing to the south. Then your left arm straightens, the palm facing outward, still as a standing palm, your right arm bending, the palm withdrawing to be near the right side of your forehead, rotating to become an overturned palm, your legs squatting to make a horse-riding stance. You are facing to the southeast, your gaze toward the back of your left hand. See photo 44:
Posture 23: TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (photos 45 & 46)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left toes and your torso turn toward the southwest, the weight going onto your left leg, your right leg emptying. At the same time, your hands lower, grasping into fists that are aligned with each other in front of your left ribs, your right fist on top, left fist underneath, both as downward-facing fists. Your gaze is to the south. See photo 45:
Continuing from the previous posture, lift your right foot and bring it down to the northwest to make a bow stance, the toes pointing toward the west, your left leg straightening, its toes also turning toward the west, causing your torso to turn to be facing to the west. At the same time, your right hand turns over to go from being a downward-facing fist to being an upward-facing fist and withdraws to be placed beside your right ribs, still as an upward-facing fist, as your left hand arcs forward over your right wrist, becoming an upward-facing [downward-facing] palm, then reaches out forward as a standing palm, the palm facing to the north, fingertips pointing upward, the arm not fully straightening. The withdrawing of your right fist and extending of your left hand should finish at the same time. Your torso in this moment should slightly twist to the northwest (i.e. to the right). Your gaze is again to the west. See photo 46a:
Because the right fist is obscured by the body in photo 46a, you may refer to 46b to see the posture from more of a forward view (but do not let it confuse you about the orientation of the posture, which is still to the west):
Posture 24: WITHDRAWING STEP, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (photos 47–49)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands extend forward, your left hand still making a standing palm, the fingertips angled slightly forward, your right fist going from an upward-facing fist to an upright fist. Then both hands slightly withdraw, your left leg going along with the movement by switching from a bow stance to an empty stance. The direction you are facing is still to the west. See photo 47:
Continuing from the previous posture, after the bow stance has changed to an empty stance, your right foot lifts and retreats a large step, the leg going along with the posture by bending, switching your left foot in front to an empty stance. At the same time, your right fist withdraws to again be placed beside your right ribs as an upright fist. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 48:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right fist goes from beside your ribs, extending forward and level, still as an upright fist, as your left hand withdraws inward to be placed beside your right elbow, still making a standing palm. As your fist extends, your body shifts forward and your left foot goes along with the movement by stepping forward a half step, the leg bending, switching from empty stance to bow stance, your right leg straightening. The direction you are facing has not changed, your gaze to the west. See photo 49:
Posture 25: STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (photo 50)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your right fist opens (to make a position similar to that in photo 3), then your hands repeat the movement in photo 4 as you sit onto your right leg, switching from a bow stance to an empty stance. See photo 50:
Then repeat the movement in photo 5 of extending your arms as your right leg goes forward a large step and the knee bends to make a bow stance, the position entirely the same as in photo 5. This is the “step forward” of this posture. The rest of the movements are the same as in photos 6a and 6b, thereby performing all of CATCH THE SPARROW, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 26: SINGLE WHIP (photo 51)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the posture in photo 6b, the movements are the same as in photos 7 and 8. See photo 51 (your torso facing slightly to the southeast):
Posture 27: CLOUDING HANDS (photos 52–53)
This posture is divided into four movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your right foot staying where it is, your left toes turn toward the south, your left leg straightening, switching you to a right bow stance. At the same time, your left arm lowers and scoops up to the right to be placed below your right wrist, changing to an upward-facing palm, as your right hand’s claw-fist opens, the fingers raising to be pointing upward, changing to a standing palm, the palm facing to the southwest. Your torso is slightly leaning to the right, your gaze to the south. See photo 52:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left arm rises, elbow bent, the palm switching from facing upward to being a standing palm facing inward and slowly moves to the left. Once the palm is facing outward, the arm is straightened and the palm is facing to the east. (If the waist turn is small, the palm will be facing to the southeast.) At the same time, your right arm lowers and arcs to the left to scoop up until placed below your left wrist, switching to being an upward-facing palm. Your hands should reach their final position at the same time. When performing clouding hands, the toes of both feet are turned to be pointing toward the southeast, your waist at the same time turning to the left. (If the waist turn is small, the toes will only point to the south, but if the waist turn is large, the toes will point toward the east.) Your left leg straightens, your right leg bending, switching you into a left bow stance. Your torso is inclining toward the east, your gaze to the southeast. This completes the first action of CLOUDING HANDS. See photo 53:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot moves to the east to stand next to your left foot, then your left arm lowers and your right arm rises, elbow bent, repeating the movement in photo 52. Once your hands have arrived in the southwest, your left foot steps out to the east, the leg straightening, your right knee bending, returning you to a bow stance, the toes of both feet pointing to the southwest. The posture is the same as in photo 52, your torso inclining toward the west, your gaze to the southwest. This is the second action of CLOUDING HANDS.
Continuing from the previous posture, continue from the movement of photo 52 into the movement of photo 53 (i.e. the same as movement 2). Then continue by repeating movement 3, thereby returning to the posture in photo 52 (but using the larger waist turn of movement 3 [rather than movement 1]), thus completing the third action of CLOUDING HANDS. See photo 54:
Posture 28: SINGLE WHIP (photo 55)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movement is the same as for photo 8, the orientation also the same. See photo 55:
Posture 29: RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (photo 56)
This posture goes from facing to the southeast to facing to the east. Continuing from the previous posture, your right toes turn toward the east, your body turning to the left and sitting onto your right leg, and then your left foot withdraws a half step to make an empty stance with the toes touching down, the toes pointing to the east. At the same time, your left arm lowers, the arm bending, until the elbow is near your left ribs, the forearm level, your left hand becoming an upward-facing palm, the fingertips pointing to the east, as your right hand opens its claw-fist and goes along with the turning of your body by withdrawing in front of your chest and reaching out to the forward left until it is placed above and to the right of your left elbow [wrist] as a standing palm, the palm facing to the north. Your gaze is to the east. (Because the hands are moving leftward, some people call this posture LEFT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, but originally there was no “left” in the name.) See photo 56:
Posture 30: KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT (photos 57–60)
This posture is divided into five movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand reaches out forward until hand and arm are extended straight, the hand becoming a downward-facing palm, which continues to shift across to the right until the fingertips are pointing toward the southeast, then the arm lowers, the elbow bending, and the hand scoops up as an upward-facing palm to be placed below your left wrist, the fingertips pointing to the northeast. Your left hand goes along with the movement of your right hand by drawing a half circle in front of your chest, going from an upward-facing palm to a downward-facing palm (as indicated [by the arrow] in the photo) to be placed above your right wrist, fingertips pointing to the southeast, your wrists touching to make a crossed shape. At the same time, your left foot steps out a large half step to make a bow stance, your torso twisting to the left, as your hands grasp into fists and rise upward to be placed in front of the left side of your forehead, making a crossed shape that is touching at the inside of the wrists, both hands as standing fists, your left fist on the inside, right fist on the outside. Your gaze is to the east. See photo 57:
Continuing from the previous posture, as your fists rise up, your right leg lifts and then kicks out to the southeast at hip height, the foot flattened, the leg level, your left leg straightening. At the same time, your hands spread apart, becoming palms, and go downward from above, your right hand lowering to the southeast, your left hand lowering to the left, both hands as sideways palms, arms straightening at shoulder level. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze to the southeast. See photo 58 (although your left hand should go out farther than appears in the photo, the view being slightly sideways):
Continuing from the previous posture, your kicking foot then comes down forward to make a bow stance, the toes pointing toward the east. At the same time, your hands gather in toward the right side of your chest, making a posture of left hand as a standing palm and right hand as an upward-facing palm. (This is RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE on the right side.) Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. See photo 59:
Continuing from the previous posture, your hands rotate leftward so that your left hand (underneath) becomes an upward-facing palm and your right hand (on top) becomes a downward-facing palm, wrists touching to make a crossed shaped. Then your hands grasp into fists and rise upward to be placed in front of the right side of your forehead, still touching at the inside of the wrists, both hands as standing fists, your left fist on the outside, right fist on the inside. At the same time, your torso twists to the right, your gaze going to the east. The posture is the same thing as in photo 57, but in this case your torso is twisting to the right and your hands and feet are reversed left and right. You may refer to the explanation for movement 1. No photo is provided here.
Continuing from the previous posture, (with your torso twisting to the right, the opposite of photo 57), as your fists rise up, your left leg lifts and then kicks out to the northeast (with your right leg straightening). At the same time, your fists spread apart, your left hand lowering to the northeast, your right hand lowering to the right, both hands becoming sideways palms, arms straightening at shoulder level. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze to the north. See photo 60 (showing the kick to the left, photo 58 having shown the kick to the right):
Between the movements of kicking with your left foot and kicking with your right foot, there is a posture of REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE on the right side. After you have practiced the set to familiarity, you can simplify it by coming down into a bow stance after photo 58, with your hands already making fists, crossing, and rising over the right side of your forehead [in other words, skipping photo 59], and then continue into the movement in photo 60. In this way, you make the movements of kicking to the left and right even more seamless. After the first REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, the only posture named is KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT [rather than this series of postures being LEFT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, KICK TO THE LEFT, RIGHT REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, KICK TO THE RIGHT], and so performing it in this way would be more in accordance with the posture names.
Posture 31: TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK (photos 61 & 62)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your elbows bend and your hands gather in, grasping into fists as they rise up to be placed in front of the right side of your forehead, left fist on the outside, right fist on the inside, both as standing fists. At the same time, your left knee bends to make a lifted-leg posture, the lower leg hanging down, toes pointing downward, and then your right foot turns for the toes to be pointing toward the northwest, your torso turning to also be facing to the northwest, your gaze going to the west. Photo 61:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot presses out to the west, the toes slightly lifted inward. The movement of your hands is the same as in photo 60, though you are facing the opposite direction. Your gaze is to the west. See photo 62:
Before each of these kicking postures, whether a snapping kick or a pressing kick, there is a movement of making fists and raising them up. Remember this pattern: When kicking with your left foot, your left fist is on the outside, right fist on the inside. When kicking with your right foot, your right fist is on the outside, left fist on the inside. This remains true for all the kicks that follow.
Posture 32: ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH (photos 63–65)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, after your left foot presses out, it then comes down a step to the forward left of your right foot, the leg bending to make a bow stance, your right leg straightening. At the same time, your left hand lowers and brushes past your left knee to be placed beside your left thigh, the arm straightening, the palm facing downward, as your right hand first draws in until beside your right cheek, then pushes out forward, going from a sideways palm to an upright palm. Your torso is facing to the west, your gaze also to the west. See photo 63 (the same movement as in photo 14, but facing in the opposite direction):
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot steps forward, coming down a step to the forward right of your left foot, the leg bending to make a bow stance, your left leg straightening. At the same time, your right hand brushes past your right knee to be placed beside your right thigh, as your left hand first lifts until beside your left cheek, then pushes out forward. The movement is the same as in the previous posture, but with left and right reversed. The direction you are facing has not changed. See photo 64 (the same movement as in photo 18, but facing in the opposite direction):
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot takes a step forward, making another bow stance like the one in photo 63. At the same time, your left hand brushes past your left knee, arcs to the left, upward, and is placed beside your right elbow, becoming a diagonal standing palm, as your right hand grasps into a fist, lifts until beside your right cheek, then punches forward and downward, making an overturned fist, and should finish its movement at the same time as your left hand. Your body slightly leans forward, your gaze toward your right fist. (To make things easier for beginners, the two movements above are broken down as being the same actions as BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE. Once you have practiced the set to familiarity, you should treat this technique as continuous knee-brushing actions as you step forward and leave out the actions of each hand pushing forward.) See photo 65:
Posture 33: TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (photo 66)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your right fist goes upward and to the rear, turning over to become an upward-facing fist, your body also turning to the rear, your left foot staying where it is and turning to point its toes toward the east, your right foot going along with the turning of your body by shifting to the forward right of your left foot, your feet a full step apart, making a bow stance with the right leg bent. At the same time, your left hand remains at your right elbow area while your right fist arcs, becoming a downward-facing palm, then as your right fist withdraws in front of your chest to be placed beside your right ribs, your left hand goes forward as a standing palm, the arm slightly bent, your torso going from facing to the east to slightly twisting to the right. Your gaze goes forward (to the east) over your left fingertips. See photo 66 (the direction the reverse of photo 46):
Posture 34: STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (photo 67)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, in which you were in a right bow stance, your left foot now steps forward and you switch to a left bow stance. At the same time, your left hand withdraws toward your left ribs, rotating to become an upward-facing palm, the fingertips pointing forward, as your right fist opens and the hand extends in front of your chest, changing to a standing palm, the palm facing to the north. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. See photo 67:
Posture 35: DRAPING THE BODY, KICK (photo 68)
This posture is a repeat of photos 57 and 58, except that after the kick, your torso should slightly incline toward the left rear so that the following posture can smoothly retreat. The rest of the explanation is not repeated here. For the kicking posture, see photo 68:
Posture 36: RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE (photos 69–73)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right leg goes along with the inclining of your body by coming down to the northwest, the leg straight, your left leg bending to make a bow stance, your right arm not changing from its position, still straightened toward the southeast, as your left hand raises up, draws a parabola toward the southeast, and lowers to be placed to the lower left of your right elbow, both hands as standing palms. Your torso is facing to the southeast, your gaze also to the southeast. See photo 69a:
This movement originally used a jumping action, the left foot lifting into a kick as the right foot came down. Later the jump ceased to be used and was substituted with an overlap stance, the right leg kneeling behind the left leg. See photo 69b for a view of the movement performed with an overlap stance, which also stopped being used long ago:
Continuing from the previous posture, the position of your hands does not change as your left foot retreats a step, your right leg bending to make a bow stance. The direction you are facing is still to the southeast. See photo 70:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand arcs downward from above, withdrawing in front of your chest, grasping into a standing fist, the back of the fist facing outward, as your left hand arcs upward from below on your left side, raising until above the left side of your forehead, grasping into an overturned fist, the tiger’s mouth facing downward, the tiger’s mouths of both fists facing each other above and below. At the same time, your left leg bends and your right foot withdraws a half step, switching to an empty stance, the toes touching down. Your torso is turned to be facing to the east, your gaze forward. See photo 71a:
This movement is done in two ways: with the leg lifted or not lifted. Performing the movement with the leg lifted is very difficult because this posture involves a continuous retreat and the leg has to be lifting before the posture has stabilized. Because beginners always have problems with this, the posture is shown here using an empty stance instead, enabling the body to stabilize. If you want to practice the lifted-leg version, see photo 71b, which shows the posture from a front view:
Posture 37: SECOND KICK (photo 72)
This kick can be done in two ways. One way is to do it the same way as in photo 51 [if coming from photo 71a]. Or continuing from the previous posture with your right leg already lifted in front of you (i.e. photo 71b), kick out to the right with an action of sweeping across as your hands spread apart to the left and right, both becoming downward-facing palms, your right fingertips pointing to the southeast, your left fingertips pointing to the northeast. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze to the southeast. See photo 72:
Posture 38: DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS (photo 73 & 74)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right leg then comes down forward to make a bow stance as your hands arc toward each other in front of your chest as upward-facing palms and then push down in front of your belly as downward-facing palms, the fingertips pointing toward each other, arms slightly bent, making an encircling shape. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. See photo 73 (which shows the posture facing slightly toward the southeast to make it easier to see):
Continuing from the previous posture, without changing your stance, your hands spread apart to the sides and arc upward, grasping into fists, to each be placed in front of the sides of your forehead as standing palms [fists], the tiger’s mouths facing each other, arms slightly bent, again making an encircling shape. You are still facing to the east. See photo 74a (which shows the fists going upward from below before raising all the way up to forehead level, and are therefore lower than the fists in the front view shown in photo 74b below it):
Posture 39: TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK (photos 75–78)
This posture is divided into five movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, kneel with your left leg as your right leg bends, your body turning to the right, your legs making an overlap stance. At the same time, your standing fists cross, placed in front of your right cheek, your left fist on the outside, right fist on the inside, crossing at the inner side of the wrists, the center of your left fist facing inward, the center of your right fist facing outward. Your torso is facing to the southeast, your gaze to the east. See photo 75:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right leg straightens, your body standing, and your left foot does a snapping kick to the east (or you can use a pressing kick), as your hands spread apart to the left and right, your left hand drawing a parabola, lowering until extended level toward the east, your right hand also drawing a parabola, lowering until extended level toward the south, both hands as sideways palms. The posture is similar to that in photo 60. The direction your torso is facing has not changed, your gaze to the east (and slightly toward the north). See photo 76:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your left foot not yet coming down, your right foot turns to the right to point its toes toward the west, your body turning in the same direction, your palms at the same time grasping into fists, which withdraw in front of your chest and make a crossed shape placed in front of your right cheek, both as standing fists (your left fist on the inside, right fist on the outside). Your gaze is to the southwest. See photo 77:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot comes down forward to make a bow stance, then the foot turns to point its toes toward the northeast as your sit onto the leg, your right foot at the same time turning to point its toes toward the east, withdrawing a half step to make an empty stance with the toes touching down. Your fists maintain their posture, but shift across to be in front of your left cheek while your body turns around. Your torso is facing to the northeast, your gaze to the east. See photo 78a, (or photo 78b below it, which shows a view from the front):
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot kicks out to the east, your fists becoming sideways palms. (You can also perform this as a pressing kick, but because your right foot is already touching down when you turn, it is not the same as kicking with the leg still lifted as in Posture 31, and thus a snapping kick may be the smoother choice in this case. The left foot doing a snapping kick in movement 2 is coming from a position of the body squatting down, and so a pressing kick might be more convenient in that case.) The movement is the same as in photo 58, again facing to the east, and so the explanation is not repeated here.
Although the explanations for this posture are divided into five movements, they should be performed as a continuous progression. This posture should really only be divided into two movements – turn your body and kick with your left foot, then turn around and kick with your right foot (giving more emphasis to the right kick) – hence the “double” in the name TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK. Furthermore, this posture begins facing to the east, and then after performing both kicks, you should have turned around to be again facing to the east. In the beginning of the training, it is very easy to end up facing in the wrong direction. I hope you will give this point attention.
Posture 40: TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot comes down and you continue into the movements of photos 45 and 46, but in the reverse direction, now going toward the east instead of the west. The rest of the explanation is not repeated here. This posture can be switched to RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE [as in photo 59], but that does not flow as well in this case as TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH, therefore the older version is presented here unchanged.
Posture 41: STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture (the same as in photo 46, but in the opposite direction), your left palm and right fist extend forward in unison, your left foot going along with the movement by taking a step forward to make a bow stance (the same as in photo 22). Then your left palm slightly withdraws as your right fist pulls back to be beside your right ribs, switching to a standing fist, and your go along with the movement by sitting onto your right leg, your left leg switching to an empty stance (the same as in photo 23). Then continue into the movement for photo 24. This posture involves a step forward rather than a withdrawing step, and so it is not the same as in Posture 24. The orientation is also different, the same as in Posture 9, which I hope you will give attention. For the rest of the movement, you may refer to the explanations for photos 47–49 or photos 22–24, and so it is not explained again here.
Posture 42: SEALING SHUT (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, perform the movements in photos 25–27, their explanations not repeated here.
Posture 43: CROSSED HANDS (no photos)
Posture 44: CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (no photos)
Posture 45: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
Posture 46: DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
These four postures are all repeats. Continuing from the previous posture, perform Postures 11–14, the movements and orientations all the same as before, and so their explanations not repeated here.
Posture 47: WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE (photos 79–84)
This posture is divided into seven movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture (as in photo 33, but disregarding the movement lines on that photo), your left foot turns so that its toes are pointing toward the west and your right foot withdraws a half step to make an empty stance, your hands at the same time coming together in front of your chest as standing palms. See photo 79:
Then your left elbow bends, causing the palm to go nearer to your right shoulder, your right palm lowering as a hanging palm, the arm straightening and moving diagonally toward your left side, your body also slightly turning to the left (your feet not moving). Your gaze is to the northwest. See photo 80a (and 80b below it for a front view):
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot goes forward a half step to make a bow stance, your hands at the same time spreading apart above and below, your right palm going upward from below, reaching out to the northwest, becoming an upward-facing palm, your left palm going downward from your right shoulder, sweeping away to the southeast, becoming a downward-facing palm. As your hands spread apart, the centers of the palms should pass each other. As your right hand reaches upward to the northwest, your right shoulder leans to the northwest along with it. Your torso is facing to the southwest, your gaze also to the southwest. See photo 81:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your stance not changing, your body straightens back up, your hands at the same time performing as in photo 80, your right hand approaching your left shoulder, becoming a standing palm, your left hand lowering to your right side, becoming a hanging palm, your torso slightly turning to the right (your feet not moving). Your gaze is to the southwest. See photo 82:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot goes forward a full step to make a bow stance, your hands at the same time spreading apart above and below, your left palm going upward from below, reaching out to the southwest, becoming an upward-facing palm, your right palm going downward from your right [left] shoulder, sweeping away to the northeast, becoming a downward-facing palm. As your hands spread apart, the centers of the palms should pass each other. As your left hand reaches out to the southwest, your left shoulder leans along with it. Your torso is facing to the northwest, your gaze also to the northwest. See photo 83:
Continuing from the previous posture, with your stance not changing, your body straightens back up as your left hand approaches your right shoulder and your right hand lowers to your left side, the same movement as in photo 80 (though the stance is different). See photo 84:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot goes forward a full step to make a bow stance, your hands spreading apart above and below. It is entirely the same as the movement in photo 81, and so the explanation is not repeated here.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot withdraws a half step, making an empty stance, as your hands come together in front of your chest, becoming standing palms, same as in photo 3. Then repeat the movements of photos 80 and 81 (their explanations not repeated because the movement is the same) to arrive at photo 85:
Posture 48: MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (photos 86–91)
This posture is divided into six movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot shifts a half step in front of your right foot to make an empty stance, your left hand at the same time scooping up, the arm bending to make a posture of embracing, the hand becoming an upward-facing palm placed in front of the left side of your chest at shoulder level, as your right hand draws a parabola, lowering toward your left forearm, turning over to become a downward-facing palm. Your torso is facing to the west, your gaze to the southwest. See photo 86:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot then goes out a half step to make a bow stance, your hands going out to the southwest along with it, your left forearm rotating. Once your left palm is turned to be facing downward, sit onto your right leg, your left foot returning to the empty stance. Your left forearm continues rotating until your left palm is facing to the southwest as an overturned palm, your right palm pushing out to the south (and slightly to the west) as a standing palm, as your left foot returns to the bow stance. Your torso is turned to be facing to the southwest (without affecting your feet), your gaze also to the southwest. See photo 87:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand rotates from being a standing palm to an upward-facing palm, your left hand withdrawing and lowering over your right forearm, becoming a downward-facing palm, as your left foot turns rightward to point its toes toward the east, your body turning around to the rear, and your right foot shifts a half step in front of your left foot to make an empty stance. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze to the southeast. See photo 88:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot steps out to make a bow stance, your hands going out to the southeast along with it, your right forearm rotating. Once your right palm is turned to be facing downward, sit onto your left leg, your right foot returning to the empty stance. Your right forearm continues rotating until your right palm is facing to the southeast as an overturned palm, your left palm pushing out to the south (and slightly to the east) as a standing palm, as your right foot returns to the bow stance. Your torso is turned to be facing to the southeast (without affecting your feet), your gaze also to the southeast. See photo 89:
(Note: Photos 86 and 87 show the first performance of the posture on the left side. Photos 88 and 89 show the first performance of the posture on the right side. The movements in each case are the same, just with left and right reversed, and your torso facing a different direction.)
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand lowers as a hanging palm and your left hand rises to be in front of your right shoulder as a standing palm, your right foot at the same time withdrawing a half step to make an empty stance. The posture and movement are the same as in photo 80, but in the opposite direction (this time facing to the east). Continue into the movement in photo 81 (again in the opposite direction), performing the posture from WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE. Your left foot then takes a step forward, and you then repeat the movements in photos 86 and 87 [again in the opposite direction], your torso now facing to the northeast, your gaze also to the northeast. (This is the second performance of the posture on the left side.) See photo 90:
Continuing from the previous posture, repeat the movements in photos 88 and 89 (but in the opposite direction), your torso now facing to the northwest, your gaze also to the northwest. (This is the second performance of the posture on the right side.) See photo 91:
Posture 49: CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movements are the same as in photos 3–6, and so their explanations not repeated here.
Posture 50: SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movements and orientations are the same as in photos 7 and 8, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 51: CLOUDING HANDS (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movements and orientations are the same as in Posture 27, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 52: SINGLE WHIP (photo 92)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movement is the same as in photo 8, and so the explanation is not repeated here. See photo 92:
Posture 53. LOW POSTURE (photo 93)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, the toes of both feet are turned toward the east, your right leg going along with the movement by straightening, causing your left leg to make a bow stance. At the same time, your left elbow bends, causing the palm to be turned to the south, remaining a standing palm, and your right hand releases its claw-fist, draws a parabola forward from the rear, lowering until below your left wrist, switching to a standing palm, the palm facing to the north. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. The posture is the same as in photo 22.
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot retreats a half step to the northwest, toes turned toward the south (and slightly to the west), your body going along with the movement by squatting down, the weight going onto your right leg, your left leg straightening, the toes turning toward the southeast, the sole of the foot fully touching the ground. As your body squats down, your hands sink down, your left arm straightening, fingertips going close to your left foot, the hand switching to a sideways palm, your right hand withdrawing in front of your chest, fingertips close to your left elbow, the hand also switching to a sideways palm. Your torso is facing to the south (and slightly toward the east). Do not bend at the waist or droop your head. Your gaze goes in front of your left foot. See photo 93:
Posture 54: GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (photos 94–96)
This posture is divided into three movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your body goes forward, rising up, your right leg straightening, left leg bending, making a bow stance, the toes of both feet pointing toward the east. At the same time, your hands go along with the rising of your body by lifting up, your right hand reaching out in front of your left hand, still as a sideways palm, the palms facing to the sides [right palm facing to the left, left palm facing to the right]. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze forward toward your right hand. See photo 94:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right hand continues to lift up, rotating to become an overturned palm (the thumb pointing downward), placed in front of and above your forehead, the fingertips pointing to the north, as your left hand turns over to become a downward-facing palm, pushing downward, the fingertips pointing to the south and slightly lifted. While your right hand lifts up, your right leg lifts along with it, the knee at hip height, your right foot in front of your left knee, toes raised, your left leg slightly bent. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. This is the posture on the right side. See photo 95a (95b below it being a front view in which the hands are closer together, showing a posture that expresses more storing):
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot comes down forward, making a bow stance, your right hand lowering along with it, turning over as a downward-facing palm. Once your right foot comes down fully, your left leg immediately lifts, your left hand at the same time going upward from below, threading through past your right wrist, rotating to become an overturned palm (the thumb pointing downward) placed in front of the left side of your forehead. The direction you are facing has not changed. This is the posture on the left side. See photo 96a (96b below it being a front view):
Posture 55: RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand lowers, extending forward, rotating to become a standing palm, the arm straightening, the hand at shoulder level. At the same time, your right hand lowers to be placed beside your right hip, your left leg reaching out behind you, your right leg bending to make a bow stance. The direction you are facing has not changed. The posture is the same as in photo 37. This is the first action of DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY, and is followed by the second and then the third (i.e. movements 3 and 4 of Posture 16), with the direction you are facing still not changing. The explanations for these movements are not repeated here.
Posture 56: DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
Posture 57: RAISE THE HAND (no photos)
Posture 58: WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS (no photos)
Posture 59: BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (no photos)
Posture 60: NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA (no photos)
Posture 61: FAN THROUGH THE BACK (no photos)
Posture 62: TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (no photos)
Posture 63: STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (no photos)
Posture 64: STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
Posture 65: SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
Posture 66: CLOUDING HANDS (no photos)
Posture 67: SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
These twelve postures are all repeats. Continuing from the previous posture, repeat the movements from Postures 17–23, then repeat Posture 41. (Posture 24 is not repeated because Posture 63 instead involves stepping forward.) Then repeat the movements from Postures 25–28, finishing as in photo 97:
Posture 68: PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (photo 98)
Continuing from the previous posture, the toes of both feet are turned to be pointing toward the east, your left leg bending, your right leg straightening, making a bow stance. At the same time, your right hand opens its claw-fist, sweeps forward past your left hand (which is withdrawing), then withdraws below your left arm to be placed below your left ribs, becoming a downward-facing palm, as your left hand rotates from being a standing palm to become an upward-facing palm while it slowly withdraws below your right palm toward your chest, then arcs over your right palm and reaches out forward, rotating to again be an upright palm. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. See photo 98:
Posture 69: TURN AROUND, CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK (photos 99 & 100)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, the toes of both feet are turned to be pointing to the southwest, [your left foot pivoting on the heel] your right heel lifting to make an empty stance [the foot pivoting on the ball of the foot]. As your body turns (i.e. as your feet turn), your right hand pushes down and your left hand raises up, rotating to be an overturned palm, the palm facing forward, placed above the left side of your forehead. Your torso is facing to the southwest, your gaze to the west. See photo 99:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left [right] foot lifts to be higher than your left knee, then arcs from left to right with a sideways kick (using the outer edge of the foot rather than the toes). At the same time, your left hand goes downward from above and sweeps across from right to left, slapping your foot on the way. (If your slap cannot reach your foot, you may slap your leg.) Your torso has turned further to be facing to the west, your right hand staying below your armpit, your gaze going toward the northwest when you slap your foot. See photo 100:
Posture 70: BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH (photos 101 & 102)
Continuing from the previous posture, after slapping your right foot, the foot then comes down to make a bow stance, your right hand at the same time lowering from your left armpit and going forward to brush past your right knee [as your left hand pushes out]. [See photo 101:]
After brushing past your knee, your left foot then steps forward with your right [left] hand going downward from above to brush past your left knee. By the time you have brushed past your knee, your right hand has grasped into a fist and been placed beside your right ribs. Your right fist then punches forward and downward (the tiger’s mouth facing upward). After your left hand has brushed past your knee, it then arcs to the left and upward from below to make a circle which brings it to your right elbow area as a standing palm. Your torso is facing to the west, your gaze forward toward your right fist. (For the knee-brushing movement, you may consult the explanation for BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSS STANCE.) See photo 102:
Posture 71: STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot takes a step forward to make an empty stance, your hands raising up to perform the posture in photo 3, then the rest of the movements are the same as in photos 4–6, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 72: SINGLE WHIP (no photo)
Posture 73: LOW POSTURE (no photo [photo 103])
These two postures are both repeats. You may refer to photo 6b and then perform the movements of Postures 52 and 53, finishing in the same position as in photo 93. See photo 103:
Posture 74: STEP FORWARD, BIG-DIPPER POSTURE (photo 104)
Continuing from the previous posture, your body goes forward, lifting to be upright, your right leg going along with the movement by straightening, your left leg bending, switching to a bow stance. Your right foot then goes forward a step, switching to an empty stance, heel touching down (toes touching down is equally acceptable), your left leg going from its bow stance by slightly straightening. At the same time, your hands come together in front of your chest, your right hand continuing to raise up until higher than your left hand, both hands as standing palms. The direction you are facing is still to the east. See photo 104:
Posture 75: RETREAT, SITTING-TIGER POSTURE (photos 105 & 106)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot retreats a step, the leg straightening, your left leg bending, making a bow stance. At the same time, your hands lower slightly toward the right as hanging palms, the hands crossing so the left hand is on the outside, right hand on the inside, your arms hanging almost straight. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze going forward and downward toward your hands. See photo 105:
Continuing from the previous posture, your body sits back and stands on your right leg (the knee slightly bending), the left leg lifting until the knee is at hip height, the lower leg reaching to the right side (to the south), and though the toes are pointing toward the southeast, it is not necessary for them to be lifted. At the same time, your hands spread apart to the left and right, your left hand as a claw-fist, the arm straightening at shoulder level, and your right hand as a standing palm, the arm straightening slightly higher than your left arm. Your torso is still facing to the east, your gaze to the east (and slightly toward the northeast). See photo 106a (as well as 106b below it for a front view):
Posture 76: TURN AROUND, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (photo 107)
Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot comes down to the rear, making a bow stance, your body turning toward the west, your right foot going along with the movement by turning around on the ball of the foot, the toes of both feet pointing toward the same direction as your torso. Before your body has turned, your right hand closes in toward your left shoulder, still making a standing palm, and your left hand releases its claw-fist, lowers, arcs upward until to the inside of your right fist, and then as your right hand shifts to be placed below your right armpit, your left hand goes along with the rest of the turning of your body by reaching out to the west as an upright palm. Your gaze is to the west. See photo 107:
Posture 77: TURN AROUND, DOUBLE-SLAP SWINGING LOTUS KICK (photos 108 & 109)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, the toes of both feet are turned to the right [left foot pivoting on the heel, right foot pivoting on the ball of the foot] to be pointing toward the east, your left leg slightly bending, your right foot withdrawing to make an empty stance. At the same time, your hands shift across to the right, your right arm extended, the hand switching to a standing palm, the palm facing to the south, as your left hand gathers in toward the right side of your chest, switching to a downward-facing palm, the fingertips pointing toward the southwest. Your torso is turned to be facing to the southeast, your gaze toward your right hand. See photo 108:
Continuing from the previous posture, your left leg straightens up and your right leg lifts until the knee is at hip height, the lower leg extending to your left, your hands at the same time slightly raising up. Then as your right foot kicks across from left to right, your hands go downward and to the left to slap your right foot. (If you cannot slap the foot, you can slap the leg.) Your left hand slaps first, then your right hand, sweeping in succession across the back of the foot. The direction your torso is facing does not change, but after your hands slap your foot, your gaze goes to the southeast. When your leg lifts, it looks like photo 109a (though your hands being about to slap downward is better expressed in photo 109b below it, showing a front view):
This posture is similar to TURN AROUND, CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK. After slapping your right foot, it immediately comes down, and that is why there is no photo showing the moment after the foot is slapped.
Posture 78: BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER (photos 110–112)
This posture is divided into two movements, explained below:
Continuing from the previous posture, after your hands slap your right foot, your right leg then comes down to the southeast of your left foot to make a bow stance, your left leg straightening. At the same time, your hands follow through from slapping your foot by extending to the left as downward-facing palms. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze to the northeast. See photo 110a (in which the hands cannot be seen, hence the accompanying front view in photo 110b below it):
Continuing from the previous posture, your feet do not change their position as your hands lower from the left side, arc past your belly, and shift to the right side, still as downward-facing palms. The direction your torso is facing has not changed. See photo 111a (and 111b below it for a front view):
Then your hands grasp into fists and strike out to the east, your right fist above as an overturned fist, your left fist below as an upright fist, the fists moving parallel with each other, the tiger’s mouths facing each other. Your torso is facing slightly to the southeast, your gaze level toward the east. See photo 112a (112b below it showing the opposite view, and with the fists closer together and storing more power):
Posture 79: STEP FORWARD, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (photo 113)
This posture is a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot takes a step forward, your right fist becoming a downward-facing palm and your left fist becoming an upward-facing palm, as your left palm slightly withdraws and your right palm lowers in front of your left palm, and then your left palm reaches out over your right palm, the wrist rotating to make the hand a standing palm. Your torso is facing to the east, your gaze also to the east. The previous occurrence of this posture [Posture 68] involved the action of STEP FORWARD, REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE, which then continued right into this technique. I feel that omitting the REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE in this case makes the movement a tighter technique, therefore I have left it out here as I did in that case. See photo 113:
Posture 80: TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (photo 114)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your left hand withdraws to be placed below your right hand, then your body turns around for your torso to be facing to the west (with your feet turning to point their toes toward the same direction). At the same time, your right hand grasps into a fist and arcs upward [and then downward] to be placed beside your right ribs as an upward-facing fist, your left hand reaching out forward over the center of your right fist as a standing palm. See photo 114:
Posture 81: STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (photo 115)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your left foot takes a step forward to make a bow stance as your left arm bends, the hand becoming an upward-facing palm, and your right fist opens, the hand reaching forward over your left palm as a standing palm. Your torso is facing to the west, your gaze going forward toward your right hand. Once you are in this posture, continue right into the following posture. See photo 115:
Posture 82: STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, your right foot steps forward, your hands rotating, then you repeat the movements in photos 4–6, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 83: SINGLE WHIP (no photos)
This posture is also a repeat. Continuing from the previous posture, the movements are the same as in photos 7 and 8, and so their explanations are not repeated here.
Posture 84: CLOSING POSTURE (no new photo)
This is the final posture of the set. Continuing from the previous posture, your hands lower in unison to be placed beside your hips, becoming hanging palms, the palms facing to the rear, as your right foot steps toward your left foot to make a parallel stance, returning you to the position in Posture 1. See photo 116 [repeat of photo 1 minus the movement arrows]:
In the explanations above, the movements of the upper limbs and lower limbs are usually described separately. As for the very important waist movements, this is only touched upon in the paragraph at the end of Posture 3 – CATCH THE SPARROW. In fact, every posture and movement in the Taiji boxing set should involve the hands and feet moving in unison with the waist (as per the principle of “nimbleness” in Chapter Five). Although a beginner can get away with not using the waist to specifically drive the upper and lower body, moving the waist is nevertheless an important part of the movement as a whole, and therefore in the beginning of the training it has to be given great attention.
Furthermore, Taiji Boxing’s movements require that the whole body be moving at the same time. Notice that the phrase “at the same time” occurs frequently throughout these explanations. As for the rest of the principles, the level that a student is at has to be considered. The principles within the exercise have already been explained in previous chapters, which will supply you with adequate study material. As for anything within these explanations that might defy description, I have not tried to describe it at all.
CHAPTER TEN: PUSHING HANDS EXPLANATIONS
Although pushing hands is the main method of application training in Taiji Boxing, it is also a very enjoyable type of health-building exercise. This is because when two people are practicing it, they are emphasizing skill rather than strength, for not only is the exercise constantly transforming, it is also filled with principles to study, making it interesting enough that it induces people to practice it for a long time without getting bored. In accordance with the requirements of health-building exercise, this chapter introduces beginners to just a few fundamental methods, and therefore the explanations that follow are confined to the ordinary fixed-step pushing hands and the eight basic pushing hands techniques:
Section 1: SINGLE-HAND METHOD
In the beginning of learning pushing hands, this is the simplest posture. When two people touch hands, only one hand is needed, whether the right hand or the left. When pushing, these connected hands merely make continuous circular motions (commonly called “drawing a circle”), no other pattern required. Although drawing a circle is a very simple action, it should be drawn very naturally in order to achieve the right degree of “neither coming away nor crashing in”. However, results will not be seen after practicing for only a short time.
There are four variations of the single-hand touching-hands posture. Right hand and right foot forward is called “straight-stance right touching-hands posture”. Right hand and left foot forward is called “crossed-stance right touching-hands posture”. Left hand and left foot forward is called “straight-stance left touching-hands posture”. Left hand and right foot forward is called “crossed-stance left touching-hands posture”. This photo shows the straight-stance right touching-hands posture:
The other variations can be intuited on the basis of this photo during your own practice, and so further photos of these variations are not needed. The single-hand touching-hands method of pushing hands is explained below using the example of the straight-stance right touching-hands posture:
Two people stand facing each other (A on the left in the photo, B on the right, which will remain the case throughout the rest of these explanations. [Photo 1 shows Wu Yaozong on the left and Zhao Shoucun on the right. All of the photos below are in consistent in having A on the left and B on right, but these two gentlemen will sometimes switch roles. Be aware of this to keep yourself from getting confused.]), stepping out with their right foot, both making an empty stance, the backs of their right wrists touching each other, their left hand placed to the lower left of their right elbow.
If A first sends out his hand, his right wrist should slightly sink and then slowly extend his hand toward B’s chest, at the same time switching from an empty stance to a bow stance, causing his body to slowly advance.
B’s right hand should go along with the direction that A’s right hand is moving by slowly bending his arm and dropping his elbow (Their wrists must not become disconnected.), drawing in A’s hand toward the side of his own right shoulder. This action of drawing in should make this kind of arc shape: ⤻
At the same time, he slightly sits his body back in order to merge with the incoming force. (Because B is already positioned in an empty stance, he can only slightly sit back. If he is standing in a bow stance, he would be able to sit back fully.)
At this moment, A’s right hand should not extend any farther forward, but instead should slowly withdraw, and B now imitates A’s initiating forward movement by extending his hand toward A’s chest. This action of extending should make this kind of arc shape: ⤺
This arc combined with the previous one makes a complete circle. B is at the same time switching from an empty stance to a bow stance, slowly advancing his body. A now imitates B’s original action of going along with the momentum by bending his arm, dropping his elbow, and drawing in B’s hand toward the side of his own right shoulder, at the same time switching from a bow stance to an empty stance and fully sitting his body back.
Going back and forth in this manner draws a complete circle which can then be repeated over and over. If you then feel your arm or sitting leg is becoming fatigued, you can switch to the straight-stance left touching-hands posture, or crossed-stance touching-hands posture on either side.
The action of the right hand drawing in beside the shoulder in this exercise can be seen below in photo 3 of the double-hand exercise, the left hand drawing in beside the shoulder in photo 5. (In the double-hand exercise, this is always called “rollback”.)
Single-hand pushing hands is simpler than double-hand, but attention should be given to these two requirements:
1. Both people should be advancing and retreating (equally involving switching stances and the bending and extending of the arm) at the same speed, in accordance with the principle of “neither coming away nor crashing in”.
2. When sitting your body back, switching from a bow stance to an empty stance, you should slightly hollow your chest and loosen your waist, in accordance with the principles of “energy sinks to your elixir field” and “energy should be roused”.
Section 2: DOUBLE-HAND METHOD
The double-hand method is a means of studying the eight pushing hands techniques, but in the beginning it is usually practiced simply as an exercise of drawing circles, similar to the single-hand method, although the movement is of course more difficult. Two hands connecting at the wrists is again the standard, and it is again divided into the four variations of straight-stance touching-hands posture on either side and crossed-stance touching-hands posture on either side. Photo 1 below shows the straight-stance right touching-hands posture, then photo 2 shows the crossed-stance left touching-hands posture. The other versions are not shown.
Because the single-hand version connects with only one hand, it can be practiced with larger circles, and therefore the two people can get away with being a little bit farther apart, but the double-hand circle is drawn smaller, and so they have to be closer together. Generally the standard is that their feet step out to stand next to each other. Prior to learning pushing hands, people tend to step out into an empty stance, but after learning pushing hands, they always advance with a bow stance and retreat into an empty stance.
The exercise is explained below together with a sequence of photographs:
In photo 1 below, both people touch with their right hands and step out with their right foot. It is the same as the straight-stance right touching-hands posture from the single-hand version, except that A’s left hand is placed at the side of B’s right elbow and B’s left hand is placed at the side of A’s right elbow. (Their method of contact in this photo is different, as will be explained further below.)
In photo 2 below, both people are connecting with their left hands, although without changing their stance. A’s right hand is now placed at the side of B’s left elbow, B’s right hand at the side of A’s left elbow. (Their method of contact in this photo is again different, as will be explained further below.)
In photo 3 below, B’s right hand extends toward A’s chest (the same as in the single-hand method) and is drawn in by A to the side of his own right shoulder. At this moment, A’s left hand is still at the side of B’s right elbow, but B’s left hand can no longer reach A’s right elbow, so it shifts to be next to his own right elbow to connect to A’s left hand (both using the back of the hand as the contact point). This is the first step in switching from the right touching-hands posture to the left touching-hands posture.
Photo 4 continues from the previous posture, B lowering his right hand in preparation to arc around upward from below to the outside of A’s left elbow:
As A waits for B’s right hand to arc upward, he sits back and puts his right hand on B’s left elbow. This is the second step in switching from the right touching-hands posture to the left touching-hands posture, followed by the crossed-stance left touching-hands posture in photo 2.
Photo 5 below builds on the posture in photo 2. A’s left hand extends toward B’s chest and is drawn in by B to the side of his own left shoulder. A goes along with this action and shifts his right hand to connect to B’s right hand (in the same way that B shifted his left hand to connect to A’s left hand in photo 3).
Then by imitating the movement in photo 4 [reversing A and B, as well as left and right], the left-touching hands posture can be switched back to the right touching-hands posture (returning to the position in photo 1).
The process described above is: from the right touching-hands posture in photo 1, perform the movements of photos 3 and 4 to switch to the left touching-hands posture in photo 2, then perform the movement of photo 5 [and the reverse of photo 4], returning to the right touching-hands posture in photo 1. This is the double-hand circling method.
Going back and forth in this way already contains the pushing hands movements of making the straight-stance right touching-hands posture and the crossed-stance left touching-hands posture. Change feet and make the straight-stance left touching-hands posture, then perform the hand movements of extending and drawing in, switching you to the crossed-stance right touching-hands posture. Once you have become skillful at all of these variations, this will naturally lead into further variations, and you will be able to perform pushing while advancing or pushing while retreating, pushing with the hands in a higher position or pushing with the hands in a lower position, and drawing more complex circles. These are the basics of practicing fixed-step pushing hands.
In the beginning of learning pushing hands, everyone only knows how to use their hands and not how to use their forearms, and therefore in the [double-hand] touching-hands posture, when putting a hand on the side of the opponent’s elbow, they always use their palm to connect, as in A’s left hand in photo 1 or right hand in photo 2. But as they make some progress in pushing hands, they no longer rely on using just their hands to carry out the movements.
I do not mean here that they have learned to incorporate their whole bodies, only that they have added the use of their wrists or forearms. Those who have practiced pushing hands longer are typically using their wrists or forearms to connect to the opponent’s arm. For example, A’s left hand in photo 1 or right hand in photo 2 are in both cases connecting at the forearm. This is deliberately done to show the other way of doing the posture. It can be seen in photo 3 that A is drawing in B’s right hand using his hand, and in photo 5 that B is drawing in A’s left hand using his forearm.
We may ask: do B’s hands, by not being used, have more nimbleness than A’s hands? To which the answer is: indeed they do. This is because B’s hands are thereby free at any moment to drop onto A’s left arm [in the case of photo 5] with a new movement, putting A at a disadvantage. This is a very important principle within pushing hands, which I briefly introduce here in order for those who are about to start learning pushing hands to be able to refer to it when the time comes.
Section 3: EIGHT BASIC MOVEMENTS
These eight basic movements, commonly known as the “eight pushing hands techniques”, are warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping, and are explained in this order below:
 WARDING OFF
Pronounced “péng”, this is a kind of diagonal movement, a pressure going forward and upward.
In photo 1 below, two people have begun in the same-step right touching-hands posture, but A has used his right hand to push forward (thereby not allowing B to perform the movement from photo 3 of the double-hand touching-hands exercise), and so B can only go along with the situation by bending his elbow, using his forearm to stick to A’s forearm.
If A continues to apply force, B should then counterattack with a forward and upward ward-off. (He can of course use other kinds of neutralizing energy, but that is not what is being discussed here.) The diagonal line of his counterattack looks like this: ↖. He may use an energy that only goes directly forward: ←. But even if he can attack A in this way, he will have to use much more force to do so. Using ward-off energy to lead upward, he can make A’s body rise up, causing his stance to destabilize. Using a small force can thus have the effect of a large force.
 ROLLING BACK
Pronounced “lǚ”, this is an action of going along with the opponent’s forward force as it is coming toward your body and then sending it off to either side, leading it away at an angle.
In photo 2 below, B is counterattacking with a ward-off. A takes advantage of the situation by rotating his forearms, one forward and one to the rear, sticking to B’s right arm (which is where B’s main force lies), using a rollback energy that goes inward and then to the right, causing B’s ward-off to change direction. In the photo, B’s right arm is heading off diagonally toward A’s right shoulder, which is its new direction after having been rolled back.
Rollback is a frequently used means of neutralizing. The purpose of it is to make the opponent’s counterattack miss and to cause his body to lean away to your left or right, and then you can take advantage of his instability by adding your own force to his body. It is not necessary to use very much force to put him under your control.
[Pronounced “jǐ”,] this is a kind of diagonal movement, a pressure going forward and downward.
In photo 3, A’s left wrist sticks to B’s right upper arm and left hand, his right hand placed on his own left wrist:
A can now issue energy forward to send B away, but he applies a forward and downward pressure, causing B’s body to lean back. If B has no way to escape from this, A need only add a little bit of power and he will easily be able to push B away. If B uses strength to struggle upward in hopes of getting his body upright again, A can withdraw with a downward pressure and then shoot out forward, knocking B’s body even farther away. The direction of his pressing energy resembles this: ↘. If it was B that was pressing, it would be angled this way: ↙. Pressing is the reverse of warding-off in that it is going downward instead of upward.
[Pronounced “àn”,] this is a diagonal movement in which you apply force downward and toward your own body, both sinking heavily and drawing in.
In photo 4, B pushes on A’s right forearm with both hands:
The general idea of this kind of pushing is that it should be an action of applying force downward. In the posture shown in the photo, B can use a straight energy to push forward, or push out using the direction of the pressing energy. But with Taiji Boxing’s “push” energy, B’s hands in one sense have an energy of sinking heavily, but even more are sticking to A’s right forearm and drawing toward his own body (moving diagonally downward and back: ↘). The straightness of B’s arms does not mean that they are pushing forward, but that they are prepared to bend at the elbows and push downward in order to draw in A’s body toward his own body.
When applying the pushing energy, attention should be given to these two points:
1. If A’s right forearm is not putting forth any strength to resist upward, B will have no means of drawing in toward his own body.
2. When B applies the pushing energy to draw in toward his own body, he has to guard against A taking advantage of the opportunity by charging forward. Therefore when sinking and drawing in, he has to direct it slightly toward the right or left side of his own body.
The “pushing” technique is an action which causes the opponent’s body to lean forward. If the opponent is unwilling to lean forward and instead struggles to go to the rear, the pushing energy can easily be applied to take advantage of this momentum by shooting forward to push the opponent away.
[Pronounced “cǎi”, this is a kind of action involving an energy of sinking down and then immediately and forcefully lifting and leading to your own left or right side.
In photo 5, B’s arms are placed on top of A’s arms, or in other words, A’s arms are propping up B’s arms:
In this moment, if B uses energy to sink and draw out A’s propping energy, then immediately relaxes his sinking energy and uses his [right] hand to lift and lead toward his own right side, he will then be able to make A’s body move to his left or to lean to his forward left and be standing unstably. This forceful method of first sinking and then lifting is the same as the action of reaching down to pick up an object and then picking it up, and therefore it is called “plucking” [or “picking”] energy. When applying plucking energy, you should also pay attention to the opponent’s impetus to crash into you. Because of this, the energy you use to lift and lead has to match his propping energy.
Pronounced “liè”, this is a kind of action in which you apply force that goes along with the direction of the arc of the opponent’s main force, causing his body to rotate.
In photo 6, A’s right hand pushes on B’s left elbow (which is where A’s main force lies):
B puts his left hand on A’s right arm and forcefully does a rollback downward, going along with the direction of its arc: ⤻. At the same time, A’s left hand is in the process of adding force to B’s right arm, so B puts his right hand on the left side of A’s chest and forcefully pushes toward A’s lower right, going along with the direction of the arc there: ⤺. B’s two forces are added simultaneously to A’s arm and body, causing his body to rotate and lean to the right. In the photo, B’s line of vision is in the direction that A will turn and lean once he has received the effect of the rending.
[Pronounced “zhǒu”,] this is an action using the elbow to strike the opponent or using the elbow to sink down and guide his hand or arm.
In photo 7, A’s left hand was extending forward toward B’s chest and B in the rollback moment used his left hand to push away A’s left hand, so A takes advantage of the opportunity by bending his [left] arm and using the tip of the elbow to attack B’s chest:
This is not quite as effective as capitalizing on the moment of switching hands to use an elbow to attack the opponent’s chest. (Using elbowing to attack an opponent should not be limited to only one posture.) If B’s left hand does not push away A’s left hand and instead continues into a left rollback, then A would not have the opportunity to bend his arm and thus not be able to use his elbow to strike B. It can be seen from this that to use the elbow to strike an opponent first requires an opportunity to bend the arm. If such an opportunity is not there in the first place or the opportunity has already passed, in either case you should not use the elbow to attack.
Photo 8 instead shows a posture of using the elbow to sink down and draw in:
This is more useful than the version in photo 7. Within the photo, A’s right hand is in the process of propping up B’s left elbow. If B at this moment uses his left hand to push out to A’s chest, his left arm will be propped up by A until it is fully straightened, a very unfavorable position for B to be in. Because of this, B should instead use his elbow to sink down, at the same time drawing to the rear (with his left hand still sticking to A’s chest and not coming away), and thus he is able to cause A’s body to lean to the forward right and stand unstably. Due to B’s left hand having not disconnected from A’s chest, if B at this moment extends his left arm to attack or uses his left hand to forcefully wipe to the left, he will thereby be able to strike B away or knock him over.
[Pronounced “kào”,] this is an action of using the shoulder to bump against the opponent. Like elbowing, it is a method of charging in and striking when it is too late to use the hands.
In photo 9 below, A’s left hand was extending toward B’s chest and B has used both hands to roll it back to the left. But B has rolled back too anxiously, thereby turning his waist insufficiently, and thus he is unable to send A’s body off to the left. When A is rolled back, he takes advantage of the opportunity by turning his own body and using his left shoulder to charge in and strike B. Even though B hollows his chest and sits his body back, his chest has not yet turned sideways (as per the rollback in photo 2), and so it is very easy for him to get struck by A’s shoulder.
The shoulder striking described above also occurs within other martial arts. But when using the shoulder in pushing hands, it is important to use it for bumping rather than striking. After being rolled back, A quickly uses his shoulder to bump against B’s body. This trains the skill of “not coming away”. But if he were to immediately use his shoulder to collide against A, he would not only be committing the error of “crashing in”, he also runs the risk of B adapting and knocking him over.
Using bumping to your advantage depends on being able to advance or retreat. If B has been bumped and becomes destabilized, A runs no risk in using his shoulder to strike him. But if B stays stable after being bumped and also adjusts to the position of A’s arm, A should quickly withdraw his arm instead of rashly striking only to have no means of withdrawing.
Furthermore, when using the shoulder to bump, the direction of force goes forward and downward (same as with pressing), but when using the shoulder to strike, the force only goes forward. Thus whether the strike hits or misses, your body unavoidably risks leaning forward. It can be seen from this that it is more beneficial to use the shoulder to bump than to strike.
An additional point is that bumping really ought to be taking advantage of an advancing step. Photo 9 shows a fixed-step pushing hands position in order to demonstrate the bumping posture, thus the posture shown does not entirely conform to the bumping technique.
The function of this chapter is simply to supply reference material for those who are beginning to learn pushing hands, therefore these explanations are only presenting the basic fixed-step pushing hands exercise. As for the ways in which these techniques relate to postural principles – such as hollowing the chest, sitting the body, sinking the shoulders, dropping the elbows, and so on – beginners will not understand and explanations will only be overwhelming, and so it is not really appropriate to try to explain these things to beginners in so much detail.
Generally when learning pushing hands, if you are only learning to make circles, it is very easy to understand, but it will be less interesting. However, if you want to learn the eight pushing hands techniques, this is more complicated and very difficult to understand on your own, and so if you have the opportunity, it is best to learn this from a teacher.
WANG ZONGYUE’S TAIJI BOXING TREATISE
Taiji [“grand polarity”] is born of wuji [“nonpolarity”]. It is the manifestation of movement and stillness, the mother of yin and yang [the passive and active aspects]. When there is movement, passive and active become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable.
Neither going too far nor not far enough, comply and bend then engage and extend.
He is hard while I am soft – this is yielding. My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse – this is sticking. 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. Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will gradually progress toward something miraculous. But unless you practice a lot over a long time, you will never have a breakthrough.
Forcelessly press up your headtop. Energy sinks to your elixir field. Neither lean nor slant. Suddenly hide and suddenly appear. When there is pressure on the left, the left empties. When there is pressure on the right, the right disappears. 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. 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.
There are many other schools of boxing arts besides this one. Although the postures are different between them, they never 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. 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.
Stand like a scale. Move like a wheel. If you drop one side, you can move. If you have equal pressure on both sides, you will be stuck. We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations, always under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood. 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. 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 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. For such situations it is said: “Miss by an inch, lose by a mile.” You must understand all this clearly.
Long Boxing: it is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly…
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. 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.
(A original note says: “This relates to the theory left to us from Zhang Sanfeng of Mt. Wudang. He wanted all the heroes in the world to live long and not merely gain martial skill.”)
WU YUXIANG’S TAIJI BOXING TREATISE
Once there is any movement, your entire body should have lightness and nimbleness. There especially needs to be connection from movement to movement. Energy should be roused and spirit should be collected within. Do not allow there to be cracks or gaps anywhere, pits or protrusions anywhere, breaks in the flow anywhere.
Starting from your foot, issue power through your leg, directing it from your waist, and expressing it at your fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a continuous process, and whether advancing or retreating, you will then catch the opportunity and gain the upper hand. If not and your body easily falls into disorder, the problem must be in your waist and legs, so look for it there. This is always so, regardless of the direction of the movement, be it up, down, forward, back, left, right. 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 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. 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. Throughout your body, as the movement goes from one section to another there has to be connection. Do not allow the slightest break in the connection.
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 complete relaxation 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.
UNDERSTANDING HOW TO PRACTICE THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS
Use mind to move energy. You must get the energy to sink. It is then able to collect in the bones. Use energy to move your body. You must get the energy to be smooth. Your body can then easily obey your mind.
If your spirit can be raised up, 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”. Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the qualities of roundness and liveliness. Thus it is said [also in the Song]: “Pay attention to the alternation of empty and full”.
When issuing power, you must sink and relax, concentrating it in one direction. Your posture must be upright and comfortable, bracing in all directions.
Move energy as though through a winding-path pearl, penetrating even the smallest nook. Wield power like tempered steel, so strong there is nothing tough enough to stand up against it.
The shape is like a falcon capturing a rabbit. The spirit is like a cat pouncing on a mouse.
In stillness, be like a mountain, and in movement, be like a river.
Store power like drawing a bow. Issue power like loosing an arrow.
Within curving, seek to be straightening. Store and then issue.
Power comes from your spine. Step according to your body’s adjustments.
To gather is to release. Disconnect but stay connected.
In the back and forth [of the arms], there must be folding. In the advance and retreat [of the feet], there must be variation.
Extreme softness begets extreme hardness. Your ability to be nimble lies in your ability to breathe.
By nurturing energy with integrity, it will not be corrupted. By storing power in crooked parts, it will be in abundant supply.
The mind makes the command, the energy is its flag, and the waist is its banner.
First strive to open up, then strive to close up, and from there you will be able to attain a refined subtlety.
It is also said:
First in the mind, then in the body.
With your abdomen relaxed, energy collects in your bones. Spirit comfortable, body calm – at every moment be mindful of this.
Always remember: if one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.
As the movement leads back and forth, energy sticks to and gathers in your spine.
Inwardly bolster spirit and outwardly show ease.
Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk.
Throughout your body, your mind should be on the 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.
The energy is like a wheel and the waist is like an axle.
PLAYING HANDS SONG
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, connect, adhere, and follow, neither coming away nor crashing in.
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.
The power seems to relax but [the intent of it] has still not relaxed. The power has expressed but [the intent of it] is not finished expressing. The power finishes but the intent of it continues.
DIRECTIONAL CHART OF THE TAIJI BOXING POSTURES
This chart indicates the orientations of the boxing postures throughout the entire set, though there may seem to be some small differences compared to the explanations.
The boxing postures progress from right to left and then back to the right, proceeding back and forth along a line. The final posture should customarily return to the location of the first posture, but due to the way the chart has been made, it does not really show that. This simply means that the chart is flawed, not that the positioning of the posture has been changed.
Horizontal writing in the boxes means the posture faces to the south:
Vertical writing in the boxes means the posture faces to the east:
The other directions can be figured out on the basis of this pattern.
When the preceding posture and following posture occur in the same location, their boxes are linked in these ways, with their corners touching (curved arrows added to them meaning that the body has turned around in the second posture):
When there is a slight shift of location from the preceding posture to the following posture, the boxes are shown linked in these ways:
The directions that the postures proceed are all indicated by arrows, except where boxes are joined.
When there is space between two boxes [instead of the boxes being joined], it indicates a forward step into the next posture. A smaller space [as between LOW POSTURE and STEP FORWARD, BIG-DIPPER POSTURE] indicates a smaller step.
The dotted lines framing the REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE that takes place between the two boxes for KICKING TO THE LEFT & RIGHT indicates that the movement can be skipped, but the rest of the dotted-line boxes indicate that the chart is shifting down to a new line, not that the posture is being repeated.
W 西 ← → 東 E
1 預備式 PREPARATION POSTURE [S]
2 太極起式 TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE [S]
3 攬雀尾 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
4 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
5 提手上勢 RAISE THE HAND [S]
6 白鶴亮翅 WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS [S]
7.1 摟膝拗步左 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (left) [E]
7.2 摟膝拗步右 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (right) [E]
7.3 摟膝拗步左 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (left) [E]
8 手揮琵琶 PLAY THE LUTE [E]
9 搬攔捶 [STEP FORWARD,] PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH [E]
10 如封似閉 SEALING SHUT [E]
11 十字手 CROSSED HANDS [S]
12.1 抱虎歸山 CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (1) [SE]
12.2 抱虎歸山 CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (2) [NW]
13 攬雀尾 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [NW]
14 斜單鞭 DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP [SW]
15 肘底看捶 GUARDING FIST UNDER THE ELBOW [E]
16.1 倒攆猴左 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (left) [E]
16.2 倒攆猴右 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (right) [E]
16.3 倒攆猴左 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (left) [E]
17 斜飛勢 DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE [SE]
18 提手上勢 RAISE THE HAND [S]
19 白鶴亮翅 WHITE CRANE SHOWS IT WINGS [S]
20 摟膝拗步左 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (left) [E]
21 海底針 NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA [E]
22 扇通背 FAN THROUGH THE BACK [S]
23 撇身捶 TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH [W]
24 卸步搬攔捶 WITHDRAWING STEP, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH [W]
25 上步攬雀尾 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
26 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
27.1 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (1) [S]
27.2 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (2) [S]
27.3 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (3) [S]
28 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
29 高探馬左 RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (left) [E]
30.1 左右分腳右 KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT (right) [E]
30.2 高探馬右 RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (right) [E]
30.3 左右分腳左 KICK TO THE LEFT & RIGHT (left) [E]
31 轉身蹬腳 TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK [W]
31 轉身蹬腳 TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK [W]
32.1 摟膝拗步左 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (left) [W]
32.2 摟膝拗步右 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (right) [W]
32.3 進步栽捶 ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH [W]
33 翻身撇身捶 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH [E]
34 上步高探馬左 STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (left) [E]
35 披身踢腳 DRAPING THE BODY, KICK [E]
36 退步打虎 RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE [E]
37 二起腳 SECOND KICK [E]
38 雙峯貫耳 DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS [E]
39.1 翻身二起腳 TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK (1) [S]
39.2 翻身二起腳 TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK (2) [E]
40 撇身捶 TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH [E]
41 上步搬攔捶 STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH [E]
42 如封似閉 SEALING SHUT [E]
43 十字手 CROSSED HANDS [S]
44.1 抱虎歸山 CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (1) [SE]
44.2 抱虎歸山 CAPTURE THE TIGER TO SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (2) [NW]
45 攬雀尾 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [NW]
46 斜單鞭 DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP [SW]
47.1 野馬分鬃右 WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE (right) [W]
47.2 野馬分鬃右 WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE (left) [W]
47.3 野馬分鬃右 WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE (right) [W]
48.1 玉女穿梭左（一） MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (left – 1) [SW]
48.2 玉女穿梭右（二） MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (right – 2) [SE]
48.3 玉女穿梭左（三） MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (left – 3) [NE]
48.4 玉女穿梭右（四） MAIDEN SENDS THE SHUTTLE THROUGH (right – 4) [NW]
49 攬雀尾 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
50 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
51.1 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (1) [S]
51.2 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (2) [S]
51.3 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (3) [S]
52 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
53 下勢 LOW POSTURE [S]
54.1 金雞獨立一 GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (1) [E]
54.2 金雞獨立二 GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (2) [E]
54.2 金雞獨立二 GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (2) [E]
55.1 倒攆猴左 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (left) [E]
55.2 倒攆猴右 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (right) [E]
55.3 倒攆猴左 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (left) [E]
56 斜飛勢 DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE [SE]
57 提手上勢 RAISE THE HAND [S]
58 白鶴亮翅 WHITE CRANE SHOWS IT WINGS [S]
59 摟膝拗步左 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (left) [E]
60 海底針 NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA [E]
61 扇通背 FAN THROUGH THE BACK [S]
62 撇身捶 TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH [W]
63 上步搬攔捶 STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH [W]
64 上步攬雀尾 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
65 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
66.1 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (1) [S]
66.2 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (2) [S]
66.3 雲手 CLOUDING HANDS (3) [S]
67 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
68 迎面掌 PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE [E]
69 轉身十字擺蓮 TURN AROUND, CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK [W]
70.1 摟膝拗步右 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (right) [W]
70.2 摟膝指襠捶 BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH [W]
71 上步攬雀尾 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
72 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
73 下勢 LOW POSTURE [S]
74 上步七星 STEP FORWARD, BIG-DIPPER POSTURE [E]
75 退步跨虎 RETREAT, SITTING-TIGER POSTURE [E]
76 轉身迎面掌 TURN AROUND, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE [W]
77 轉身雙擺蓮 TURN AROUND, DOUBLE-SLAP SWINGING LOTUS KICK [E]
78 彎弓射虎 BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER [E]
79 上步迎面掌 STEP FORWARD, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE [E]
80 翻身撇身捶 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH [W]
81 上步高探馬 STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE [W]
82 上步攬雀尾 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL [W]
83 單鞭 SINGLE WHIP [SE]
84 合太極 CLOSING POSTURE [S]