The Grasp Sparrow's Tail (揽雀尾 Lǎn Què Wěi), is a common posture found in t'ai chi ch'uan. Typically performed from ma pu and Gong Bu, Involves four coordinated steps that are know to comprise many of the basic features of the Taijiquan. Grasp Sparrow's Tail is a relatively dificult movement to learn by beginners, since it's fluidity hiddens it's true purpose. This movement is considered a key one, since this one pattern incorporates all the fundamental requirements of Taijiquan. It is said that this pattern can be used to counter any forms of attack, regardless of strikes, kicks, felling techniques or grips.
When performed in the 24-Beijing Form, the first one must be made looking to the left, the second to the right.
The Movement utilizes the P'eng (Ward Off), Lü (Roll Back), Ji (Press) and An (Push) "gates" While mantaining a Chin Pu (Central Stance).
The Four Steps Edit
Peng 掤 (Ward Off) Edit
- Differentiate yin-yang (Empty from Full). Initially the body weight is on the left leg, gradually the weight is transferred and effectually the weight is evenly distributed on both legs. Would this be a weakness of double yang. No. When the weight is even distributed, yin and yang do not represent left and right, but stability and agility.
- The transfer of weight as well as all other movements are controlled by the waist.
- The actual movement of the hands is little. Much of the movement of the right hand from Photo 1 to Photo 4 is due not to its own movement but to the turning of the waist. In other words, even if you did not move your hands, the hand position would have moved considerably because you have turned your body from your waist. The hand does move, but only a little as part of the continuous movement started at the back leg.
Lǚ 捋 (Rollback) Edit
- There is no stopping; the movement continues though there may be one for learning purposes. The transitional movement from peng to lu is a rounded turn, not an abrupt turn-about, so that there is no break in both the physical movement and the energy flow.
- As in peng before, the roll-back movement is due to the turning of the waist, and not the movement of the hands themselves. The hand movement is little, coming towards the end where the continuous movement turns into the next technique, qiâ.
- The roll-back movement results in hua or neutralizing an opponent's attack, commonly referred to in Taijiquan literature in English as yielding. Notice the stance, especially the positions of the legs and the body, where the exponent is still very stable (and agile) in his yielding. A common mistake is to lean backward, resulting in an wakward position where both stability and agility are lost.
Jǐ 擠 (Press) Edit
- The push is from the back leg, not from the hands or shoulders. At the physical level, the push is sometimes described as with whole-body weight. This is often interpreted by some schools and some masters to mean that the exponent transfers much of his body weight to his front leg, and throws his body forward.
- In Shaolin Wahnam we interpret this differently. Body-weight is used not by throwing the body forward but by moving the waist. The weight transfer from the back leg to the front leg is from about 90-10 to 50-50, or if needed 45-55, so that at the completion of the push the body weight is quite evenly distributed between the two legs. Notice that the front knee does not go beyond the from toes. Is this a weakness of double-yang? No. As mentioned earlier, yin-yang here represents stability and agility. In fact in our school, throwing much of the body weight over the front leg and leaning the body forward to add momentum would be a weakness of double yang. It is also injurious to the front knee and the ankle. Instead of using body-weight, we can use internal force. In this case the body weight should be evenly distributed between the legs.
- Not many people may realize that this pressing technique is more significantly used as qin-na to dislocate an opponent's wrist.
Àn 按 (Push) Edit
- The sinking is not effected by pushing the hands down or bending the body forward, which are common mistakes, but by lowering the stance.
- The sinking movement results in hua or yielding. Another common mistake to avoid is to lean the body backward, which also results in stress on the back, knee and ankle.
- This sinking technique enable you to be very stable, as your chi sinks to your abdominal dan tian, but you must also be agile at the same time. It is very important not to force the chi to sink. Doing so may result in harmful side effect. Let the chi sink naturally.
- As in qi above, the body weight is evenly distributed between the two legs at the completion of an, or if needed the weight at most is 45% at the back leg and 55% in front. The two feet are in line in our Bow-Arrow Stance, not some distance apart as in some schools. The front knee must not go beyond the front toes. You can see the stance in a pyramid shape, which gives it stability.
- You should sink your body as well as your chi in the an technique. (It is important not to force chi to sink; it sinks naturally.) A common mistake is to raise the body, or to throw the body forward.
- An actually means place on. It refers to placing the palms on an opponent. With the palms placed on an opponent, you may push him. If you use physical force, the push comes from the back leg, and you make use of whole-body weight. If you use internal force, you explode force from your dan tian. Or you may just control your opponent with an, as in closing your opponent before a push or a strike.