Thirteen postures

In Tai chi, there are eight ways of directing energy with the arms called, the Eight Gates which are said to be associated with the eight trigrams (Bagua 八卦 bā guà) of the I Ching, and there are also five ways of stepping, named the Five Steps with the five elements of the Taoist Wu Hsing (五行 wǔ xíng); metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Collectively they are sometimes referred to as the "Thirteen Postures of T'ai Chi Chuan" and their combinations and permutations are cataloged more or less exhaustively in the different styles of solo forms which Tai Chi is mostly known for by the general public.

The Eight Gates (Chinese: 八門; pinyin: bā mén): Edit

The Four Primary Hands/Cardinal Directions Edit

  • P'eng

Peng Jin (outward) - Ward off, Tai Chi's essential energy, power of flexibility and resilience (born in the thighs), energy of defensive attack, under opponents hand. Attack. Evading is to attack. Yang or hard. This Gate correlates with the Qian (Heaven) Trigram, represents Expansion.

  • Li

Lu Jin (inward) - Pull or Roll-back, Péng in reverse energy - energy of friction and rubbing, evade and adhere. Over opponents hand. Defense. Evading is to attack. Yin or soft. (Peng changes to Lu is the inward drawing of silk, and Lu changes to Peng is the outward drawing of silk. These are the two basic energies/strengths of Tai Chi). This Gate correlates with the Kun (Earth) Trigram, represents Yielding.

  • Ji

Ji Jin (outward) - Press, two hands when they are joined. Energy of two forces combined, when there’s not enough peng jin. Two energies combined as one, energy of dexterity. Adhering is to attack. This Gate correlates with the Kan (Water) Trigram, represents the Dangerous.

  • An

An Jin (inward) - Push, Listening energy, single and double finger / palm. Lower peng jin, used in sinking, creating pull force. The posture of an looks as if one is preparing to push one or both hands. An from the front = peng jìn, An from the left or right = lu jìn, An combined = ji jin. This Gate correlates with the Li (Fire) Trigram, represents clinging or giving a light push.

The Four Corner Hands/Four Diagonal Directions Edit

  • Tsai

Cai Jin - Roll-pull, reverse of ji jìn, incline downward towards the rear. Energy of two forces divided. Here use fingers for Tai Chi Chin Na techniques. Like picking fruit, one hand grabs branch down and other grabs fruit. Outside hand is peng and below hand/grabbing is cai. Don’t use cai horizontally toward the back, it must incline downward toward the back. Use cai on only one of the opponents arms, not both. This Gate correlates with the Sun (wind) Trigram, represents Pulling, penetrating.

  • Lieh

Lie Jin - Split, Tai Chi's small strike energy. Begins quickly a few inches from opponent. Energy of striking (first line of defense). When lie is used by one hand the other hand must have inside drawing of silk energy to keep the body in balance. The hands can mutually interchange their use. Lie is used to draw silk outward toward the opponent when you are very close. This strike can't stop half way you're committed, so strike quickly and very close the body. This Gate correlates with the Chen (Thunder) Trigram, represents splitting, inciting movement.

  • Chou

Zhou Jin - Elbow strike by moving the arms up & down (Lie's second line of defense). After you over extend yourself and cai and lie won't work, now use zhou, elbow strike after wrist or from wrist. This Gate correlates with the Tui (Lake) Trigram, represents Joyfull, frontal.

  • K'ao

Kao Jìn - Shoulder strike. Used in a slanting direction, a strike by the whole body, body strike (Lie's third line of defense). Again used after over extending yourself. Shoulder strike kao, knee strike kao, stomach strike kào, back strike kào. Kào is used when the hands and feet are tied up. This Gate correlates with the Ken (Mountain) Trigram, represents keeping still, resting.

They say in Tai Ji Quan that 4 ounces deflects 10,000 pounds. How can this be so? First, you must have "Peng." Peng is why the Xing Yi Quan practitioners do the standing meditations of I Chuan (Yi Quan). The great Grand Master Guo Lien Ying would often be seen "standing" in the "Universal Post" position. Below are the nine points that Grand Master Kwok taught to do while doing I Chuan, Universal Post or Ta Ji Quan forms. Peng drawn inside = Lu, Peng combined = Ji, Peng drawn down = An, Peng divided = Cai, Peng followed by a strike = Lie, Peng turning and elbow striking = Zhou, and Peng turning and body striking = Kao.

The Five Steps (Chinese: 五步; pinyin: wǔ bù): Edit

  • Chin Pu (Chinese: 進步; pinyin: jìn bù) - Forward step. This step is one of the main stepping methods of Taijiquan. The front foot is placed down on its heel, then as the body moves forward, the toes are placed. However, The weight does not come any more forward than the middle of the foot. The thighs and knees are curved and collecting while the rear thigh is less curved than the front. We never retreat in Taijiquan and we can do this because of this stepping method. The rear foot controls the waist in yielding and throwing away the attacker’s strength. The waist is controlled during this step by the rear foot. There is an old Taijiquan saying: "To enter is to be born while to retreat is to die". So we never retreat, we rely upon the rear leg controlling the waist for our power and evasiveness without moving backward." This Step correlates with the Metal (Heaven and Lake) Element.
  • T'ui Pu (Chinese: 退步; pinyin: tùi bù) - Backward step. Generally speaking, when moving backward, step backward with your toe first. Carefully transfer weight to the backward moving foot, while being prepared to return the foot forward as needed. Consider the turning backward set up for a back kick with either the right or left legs. This Step correlates with the Wood (Wind and Thunder) Element.
  • Tsuo Ku (simplified Chinese: 左顾; traditional Chinese: 左顧; pinyin: zǔo gù) - Left step. Movement to the left and looking to the left is associated with the Element Water. This Step correlates with the Water Element.
  • You P'an (Chinese: 右盼; pinyin: yòu pàn) - Right step. This Step correlates with the Fire Element.
  • Chung Ting (Chinese: 中定; pinyin: zhōng dìng) - The central position, balance, equilibrium. Not just the physical center, but a condition which is expected to be present at all times in the first four steps as well, associated with the concept of rooting (the stability said to be achieved by a correctly aligned, thoroughly relaxed body as a result of correct Tai Chi training). Chung ting can also be compared to the Taoist concept of moderation or the Buddhist "middle way" as discouraging extremes of behavior, or in this case, movement. An extreme of movement, usually characterized as leaning to one side or the other, destroys a practitioner's balance and enables defeat. This Step correlates with the Earth Element.     

The 13 Principles of Tai Chi: Edit

These principles must execute the mind, chi, and physical movement in one unit. This means that when the mind is focused on a specific area of the body, the chi will flow into that area. When the chi flows into an area, power will follow:

  1. Sinking of Shoulders and Dropping of Elbows: When pushing, your elbows are to hang down (The intention is as though each wrist is hung up on a shelf, thus the elbow is not dropped and yet dropped.) Sinking the shoulders is a matter of the shoulder bones, which typically form a flat line, being now loosened downward, turning the flat line into a curve.
  2. Relaxing of Chest and Rounding of Back: The chest must be concave and the back muscles active to lead the chi to the Dantien. Constantly keep in mind that you are to be forcelessly pressing up your headtop, otherwise it will be easy to end up rounding your back to the point of outright curling up. The principles of containing your chest and plucking up your back with dropping your elbows and sinking your shoulders are interrelated, making your chest and belly comfortable, your breath deep and long, your organs ideally placed, and your center of gravity stable.
  3. Sinking Chi down to Dan Tien: Through the use of Reverse Respiration the Chi can be sunked to the Dantian to accumulate it.
  4. Lightly Pointing Up the Head: Contain your chest and pluck up your back, sharpen your sight and extend your hearing, make your spirit and energy course through unified, keep your spine upright, and place the weight of your body so as to be sitting stably. You must not allow your neck to become stiff. It is said: “Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop, thus your whole body will be aware and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.”
  5. Relaxation of Waist and Hip: The Jing (energy, essence) comes from the Dan Tien, located at the Waist, in order to move it through the body the hip must move in a relaxed manner, It is said "The Mind is the Commander, and the Waist the Banner, who lead every momement".
  6. Differentiate Between Empty and Full (Yin and Yang): One Leg is Full with the full weight on her, the other is empty when there's no weight on her, the mind must notice this sutile changes
  7. Coordination of Upper and Lower Parts of the Body
  8. Using the Mind Instead of Force: The concious mind (Yi) must lead the Chi through the body, and this must be softed and relaxed to achieve that, the use of unnecessary force is counterproductive.
  9. Harmony Between Internal and External
  10. Connecting the Mind and the Chi
  11. Find Stillness Within Movement
  12. Movement and Stillness Present at Once
  13. Continuity and Evenness Throughout the Form

The Songs of the Thirteen Postures Edit

As qith any Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, Taichi possess songs that explain the use of their secrets. All the thirteen postures of Tai Chi Ch’uan must not be treated lightly. The meaning of life originates at the waist.

The thirteen postures of Tai Chi Chuan are the foundation base to this art. It is important that students be shown and trained in them. Yang Cheng-fu tells us in his Ten Important Points "that the waist is the commander and that all movement must pass through the waist". The waist is also where we must turn to generate Chi and storing it at the Dantian.

When moving from substantial to insubstantial, one must take care that the Chi is circulated throughout the entire body with out the slightest hindrance.

When moving the body through the movements, it is important that you are aware of your changes from insubstantial to the substantial and that the Chi is still being transported to various part of the body. To do this you must be very relaxed and your mind clear so as Chi can flow easily without any hindrance. When this happens you have health. When it stagnates ill health will follow.

Find the movement in the stillness, even stillness in movement. Even when you respond to the opponent’s movement, show the marvel of the technics and fill him with wonder.

Tai Chi is referred to as moving meditation. The mind should be as still as if you are in sitting meditation, but you should still be able to actively circulate your Chi. You should look centered and calm from the out side, but with in is like a raging sea. When you are attacked you should still be calm and aware. When you have learned this you are able to respond in a calm and natural way to an opponents moves. Tai Chi is change and you should follow and respond naturally to the opponents every subtle move and situation.

Pay attention to every posture and study its purpose. That way you will gain the art without wasting your time and energy.

Study wide and deep and with determination and seriousness and that will determine your degree of success. To understand each posture you must study and research its nature and purpose then to acquire your goal is easy.

In every movement you must pay attention so as the heart (mind) stay on the waist, then completely relax the abdomen, and your Chi will rise up.

When you commence your Tai Chi form, allow your mind to sink to your waist and focus on Dantian (Yi Sou Tan Tien). When your abdomen is relaxed and your mind clear, the Chi will rise up and permeate your whole body.

Your Tail Bone should be centered and upright so as your spirit (Shen) rises to the top of the head. The top of the head is suspended and the entire body is relaxed and light.

Your tailbone should be straight, but do not exert force to acquire this, it should be natural for to force this will cause the tailbone to push forward. The back is straight with an insubstantial energy lifting up through the top of the head.

Carefully study and pay attention when doing research, extension and contraction, opening and closing follow their freedom.

This point relates to pushing hands. Contract to neutralise the opponent’s power, and at the same time close to store your Jin (chin) then extend and open to emit your Jin. To do this your technic must be natural and free flowing to follow you opponent’s intention. This allows you to stick and follow and to defeat your opponent. If you don’t research these technics you will never gain the key to Tai Chi Ch’uan.

To enter the door and to be led along the way, you need to have oral instruction; practice without ceasing, and the technic is achieved by self-study.

It is important that you understand that a teacher is needed to learn the art. There are to many subtleties and it is easy to miss what is being emphasized in a movement. If you make a slight error at the beginning, by the time you have reached the end you will have missed by a thousand miles. In the early times there where two types of students, those of the outer school and those of the inner. Outer school students where taught the basic form and only a little of the principles. The inner school students where those chosen as worthy and of right quality that were shown the inner secrets of the styles. To day most students have the opportunity to study wider and deeper than those only in the outer school. It is amazing to day to hear the number of students who put them selves in the outer school when they say "I have finished the form, now I know Tai Chi"! All they have is form. It is when you have the form together that the real learning begins. You need a good teacher who can impart the knowledge to you and once you have been shown the way, then it is up to you to practice unceasingly and continue researching yourself.

When asked about the standard, function and application of the thirteen postures, the answer should be the Yi (mind) and Chi are the master, and the bones and muscles are the chancellor.

When looking at the correctness of movement the criteria is, are the mind and Chi directing the movement. All the movements are done with Jin supported by the Chi and directed by the Yi (mind). If the movements are done with the bones and muscles, this is your Li (strength) and is considered incorrect.

Carefully investigate what the ultimate meaning is: to increase and extend our health and age, and maintain a youthful body.

This is what most people learning Tai Chi to day are looking for. The important thing here is to practice many time and often, then the prize will be won.

The song consists of one hundred and forty characters, every character is true and its meaning is complete. If you do not approach and study in this manner, then you will waste your time and energy, and sigh in regret.

It does not matter for what reason you study the art, whether for health or martial art, you must study the meaning of the Song of Thirteen Postures or you are just wasting your time and energy and your effort will amount to nothing.

Applications Edit



The Eight Gates (in Chinese): 1) 00:16 P'eng, 2) 02:08 , 3) 02:44 Chi, 4) 03:21 An, 5) 03:50 Cai/Tsai, 6) 04:19 Lieh, 7) 05:35 Chou/Zhou, 8) 06:44 K'ao

Tai Chi 5 steps05:14

Tai Chi 5 steps

The Five Steps

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