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Michael McCaffrey

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Tai Chi Chuan my Student Notes part 01

This series of blogs will form a single long threat of my experiences as a new practioner of Tai Chi Chuan. I will add links to the b ottom of this blog to each other blog in the series and also a link to the next and previous blog in each part.

I hope that someone will find something useful in my explorations and experience.

Over view

Some warnings about the fact this is a Student's Notes

This is the first in what will become a series of blogs on Tai Chi Chuan. This series, is, as the title implies a students observation; it is not an experts opinions or instructions. As such it will be full of error of omission and commission, and the general misunderstandings of an initiate to a complex discipline. The reader should be warned that there may be things that I say and think as I start my explorations that may end up just being incorrect. I therefore welcome comments, corrections and suggestions that will help those who are reading these blogs to a better practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan is a set of exercises that are intended to promote good health, to heal illness, to support self-defense and contribute to physical and mental recuperation. There are several styles, and within each style there are typically different forms. These forms typically are based on a main form or set of movements which may be modified for specific reasons, from the main form. Often this is to remove or modify some positions to make the set easier, or shorter so that it can be practiced my students with less skill or less time.

Some pre-suppositions that I have as I approach Tai Chi Chuan.

I will actively suspend any disbelief in the assumptions that make up the system. Therefore you will not get opinions on the validity of such things as Chi, of energy meridians, of balancing Yin and Yang energies being needed for health and wellness, of the existence of viable pressure and acupuncture points, etc. If you want to discuss these things please feel free to do it somewhere else. I will not remove comments that challenge these presuppositions, however, in my discussion I will accept the existence and validity of all these things and include in my exploration my real or imagined experience related to the them. I will do my own evaluation about these elements at some point or points down the road, however, when I begin an expiration I typically take the position of acceptance of the pre-suppositions of the system I am exploring.

General and Specific explorations.

There are several main families or styles of Tai Chi Chuan. These are typically assumed to be based on the teach or creator of they style and are sometimes based on traditions of information handed down, but difficult to verify. The five main forms generally accepted and recognized are:

Chen Style or Chen Wangting (1580 - 1660)
Yang Style of Yang Lu-Chan (1799 - 1872)
Wu or Wu/Hao Style of Wu Yu-hsiang (1812 - 1880)
Wu Style of Wu Chuan yu of Wu Chuan-yu (1834-1902)
Sun-Style of Sun Lu-tang (1861 - 2932)

Within these styles there are also sub-style that may be long or short forms of the primary style. There are also modern adaptation of the forms that have been developed For instance, China has developed a form of Tai Chi Chuan that is designed to be more or less available to everyone and that may have dropped out many of the underlying assumptions of some of the traditional forms.

There are also various forms that have migrated from the original forms. Tai Chi Chuan typically does not have a system of determining a persons level or mastery of a form, and often a student my leave a master after a fairly short period to form his or her own school ant teach his/her own variation on the form. Typically masters trace their heritage in Tai Chi Chuan by tracing the family tree of their master and their masters masters.

Again I will not be interested in the veracity of claims or in debate about claims. It is not that this topic is not of interest, it is just that this is not the place for it.

The practice of Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan involves a number of movements that make up a complete sequence and can typically be completed in a fairly brief period. Some of the longer forms are broken into shorter sets which can be practiced as separate routines if there is a time constraint.

Tai Chi Chuan typically requires only a limited space and no equipment.

Tai Chi Chuan forces on movement and relaxation and so is available to people who may not be able to undertake more vigorous forms of exercise.

Tai Chi Chuan is generally easy to learn, however requires practice, time and generally correction form a knowledgeable instructor to master. Generally, the movements should be light, lively, balanced and with little muscle force. Some style have more forceful movements including strike, block, and so on that are preformed with bursts of energy, but these burst of energy are driven by whole body movement not by the use of a specific muscle set. So a strike with the hand is not driving by the muscles of the upper arm, but by whole body movements starting where the feet meet the ground and including the whole body with the hand simplely being the end point of that movement.

Every movement should come from the Tan Tien (the center). This is typically a point 3 fingers below the navel and internal about 2 thirds of the way to the spine from the front of the body.

All movements should be done with balance and continuous motions without pause. One can think of the following: upright, relaxed, continuous and balanced-as the watch words for the motion of Tai Chi Chuan. Breathing should be natural, relaxed and deep and generally through the nose rather than the mouth.

Tai Chi Chuan and self-defense

Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art. The movements suggest and are based on martial art movements. For many, understanding the Martial aspects of the movements in informative to the correct form. One should keep in mind that many Martial Arts included healing in their structures and forms as well as the ability to inflict harm.


The posture should be upright, comfortable and natural In the west we tend to stand with our shoulders too far forward and our hips too far back creating an exaggerated S in the spine. In Tai Chi Chuan the spine should be held erect. You can think of the back of the head being supported by a string or thread when lengthening the spine.

The correct performances of many principles such as full and empty; right directs right, Left directs left; millstone; let go (release); sink; and straighten from within can not be achieved without the erect position of the spinal column

Tai Chi Chuan should be practiced with relaxed movement. This is not easy to achieve when coming from our western background of stress and tension. To some extent it requires some unlearning of many things from our culture.

There is a principle of exerting no force. One should not think of this as being weak or without power, but rather that power in Tai Chi Chuan does not come from the exerting of force in the way we typically experience it. The power in Tai Chi Chuan comes from the whole of who we are and from the unified movement of body, mind and spirit.

I am aware that this post has already become overly long, therefore I will stop here and pick it up in the next part. I will complete my overview of Tai Chi Chuan and then begin sharing my actual experiences and exploration against the frame work setup up here in part 1 and in the next entry Part 2.

I hope this is of some value to someone out there.

In this second part I shall complete my overview of Tai Chi Chuan from my current perspective.

I will issue my warning, This is a new students reflection and ramblings about what I am learning and exploring. It is what it is. It is not an experts guide on Tai Chi Chuan and should be read with an understanding that it may have errors, omissions and misunderstandings. I hope that over time these are corrected in my practice, but in any event, they will not be correct in this text.-

I find that in the short time I have been practicing Tai Chi Chuan, it is like peeling an onion, that gets larger as you remove layers. I find it to be full of incrediblely simple things that seem very difficult to do all at once.

Centrer Equilibrium

We should be sure to be balanced at the beginning and end of every movement, and especially so before direction changes. The sinking energy is centered under the feet.

Complementary forces and states

Tai Chi Chuan utilizes the idea of several complementary states. This are not oppositional or antagonistic, but rather are complementary and co-operative. This idea extends beyond the few pairings noted below and extends in to all aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. Visually we will learn to defocus our central visions and to better utilize our peripheral vision. As we practice Tai Chi Chuan, our mental state will shift from full awake to a meditate Alpha state some where between full awake and full asleep. These dualities are pervasive in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

Sink and Rising

The idea of Sinking Chi, being grounding and doing the movements in a grounded way at the same time as holding the posture vertical and long to allow the Rising of Chi, these two imply relaxation and release as well as intention and holding structure. From the Taoist teaching there are Heaven Chi and Earth Chi and we want to learn to bring these into balance. Many of the movements in Tai Chi Chuan contribute to this balancing.

Full and Empty
There are a least two ways we can think of the full and empty. The movements within Tai Chi Chuan result in the movement of energy through the body. We can think of empty as being related to Yang energy, and thus having Yin potential and empty is related to Yin energy and thus has Yang potential. So the concepts around full and empty can be considered in terms of the flow of Yin and Yang energy around the body. They can also be consider within the movement of parts. For instance, when I move from a Right Block near the beginning of the first set of movements I am facing NE (North East), I am going to turn more to the East and sink onto my right this twisting to the NEE and the sinking down on my right left allows my left heel to come up with very little muscular effort. The left leg come up and steps and drops to the ground on the heel and lands empty. That is there is no weight on it. This does several things it place the leg in a Yang state with Yin potential it allows the left foot to be free to move anywhere as it has not taken any weight and is placed but not committed. There torque of the spin as you move to the NEE provide potential for the step and the step is take as you allow the waist to return to NE, so the full right leg (with Yang energy) provide much of the movement of the empty left leg (which is Yin).

This idea of Full and Empty is important, it is also not true that one arm will be full and the other empty, or one leg will be full and the other empty, but rather, one will be more full and the other more empty. When they are equally full and empty, they are said to be double weight. This will generally occur as we do a transition from one to the other.

It is fairly easy to get the idea of full and empty when we think of the legs, and it is easy to sense as we shift the weight from one leg to the other. With the arms it is more easy to understand in terms of the martial aspect of the moves. The active are performing an attack will be full and the other arm will be empty.

During the single whip there is a point in my form where at the advanced levels you will be doing four strikes, thus the arms alternate quickly from empty to full and therefore from Yin to Yang.

Open and Close

Open and closed should be practiced accompanying the weight shifts. Opening usually accompanies moving forward and closing when withdrawing. When withdrawing energy is accumulated, compressed and concentrated. When Opening this energy is brought outward. The understanding of the Martial Arts elements of postures can help in understanding aspects of opening and closing.

Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang energy are complimentary aspects of the energy and all movement in Tai Chi Chuan. They are not opposites, Yin energy has Yang potential and Yang energy has Yin potential. They are part of the whole and our goal is to develop balance, and the ability to utilize the appropriate energy as it is needed and desired.

I am again aware that this has become overly long, so I will stop here and finishing my overview, and my presuppositions around Tai Chi Chuan in the next blog. There is lots to think about here and these are not so much things to think about when practicing the form. For me, they are things I think about when learning a movement, or working on refining a movement.

I will complete my overview with a few ideas that I have come across that have been useful for me in starting to practice Tai Chi Chuan.

They are: Ten Rules, Practice and Application, Without Arms, The Bow Step, and the Millstone principle.

Again, I hope this be of some use for someone out there.

Ten important rules (Cited by Petra and Toyo Kobayashi)

1.connect all the individual movements together into one movement.
2. seek the unity of the body and energy in the movement.
3. move as lightly as possible.
4. move naturally.
5. always observe the millstone principle
6. Not the movement of the arms, but the movement of the hips is essential
7. When the arms are moved independently from the torso, one cant speak any more of Tai Chi Chuan
8. Pay special attention to the center equilibrium.
9. Develop natural breathing.
10. when practicing, concentrate on the lower tan tien.

There are two aspects to the form(s). One is practice and the other is application. Practice serves to develop the aspects of Tai Chi Chuan and especially to cultivate Chi. The movements are performed to develop balance, transitions and cultivate Chi. Even the Martial Aspects are preformed slowly to add to these developments.

Application is the use of the movements in relation to self-defense. Here the positions would be removed form the form and the techniques contained within them would be driven by the situation. A press or squeeze can be performed up, down, or forward, steps and speed can vary. Techniques can be combined in different ways according to the situation.

Without arms

I describe an exercise I do which is to perform my set of postures without the arms, that is leaving the arms at my side and doing the weight shifts, the hip, torso and head moves but without the arm being involved. It is sometime to easy to lead with the arms instead of letting the arms take their place. So the arms should move as a result of the movement of the Torso. The shoulders and elbows should remain relaxed and flexible. This is important for the form of Tai Chi Chuan movement, for the movement of Chi Energy and from the point of view of Martial Arts where the relaxation of the arms makes it difficult for an opponent to grasp the arms to control the body.

The Bow Step.

Much of the movement in Tai Chi Chuan is performed from the Bow Step, therefore being able to do this correctly is important. It is important to make this step the correct size. The front foot step should be longer than the width of the feet, the front step typically about 1 and one foot long (Use your body as the measure) and the width should be the same distance as your begin stance feet about shoulder width. Fit the step is too wide, too narrow, too long or too short it will be difficult to move in accordance with the Millstone principle.

The Millstone principle

The hip area should move even and flowing, it can be compared to the turning of a Millstone. A Millstone is heavy and turn around a vertical axis

Tai Chi Juan (Xian Xiang Gong)
Translation : Tai Chi Circle (also known as The Coil Incense Kung)

It is easier to leave a circle than to enter it.
The emphasis is on the hip movement whether front or back.
The difficulty is to maintain the position without shifting the centre.
To analyse and understand the above situation is to do with
movement and not with a stationary posture.
Advancing and retreating by turning sideways in line with the
shoulders, one is capable of turning like a millstone, fast or slow,
as if whirling like a dragon in the clouds or sensing the approach
of a fierce tiger.
From this, one can learn the usage of the movement of
the upper torso.
Through long practice, such movement will become natural.

The Millstone Exercise (from Tai Chi Chuan by Petra and Toyo Kobayashi Tuttle Publishing 2006)

Stand in the right bow step. Lift the arms (then lower arms as though lying on a board); 90 percent of the weight rest on the right foot.
2. Turn the torso somewhat to the left; the right leg remains unchanged (dont shift the weight); by turning left, the right hip joint is opened.
3. Shift up to 70 percent of the weight onto the left foot. Turn the torso to the left; at the same time the coccyx depicts a horizontal arch.
4. Shift up to 0- percent of the weight onto the left foot. At the same time turn the torso to the right and open-the left hip joint. The coccyx depicts a somewhat smaller arch than in step 3.
5. Shift the weight to the front again; the torso turns to the left at the same time. The coccyx depicts a longer flat arch. Continue as in 2. In advanced practice, compliance with the Millstone principle conveys the sensation of watchin the movement of the body while resting in the middle.

The millstone moves by the axis doesn't-

It is advisable to practice the millstone exercise over longer periods of time, five minutes daily, in the right as well as the left Bow Step.
When movements are described in this series of blogs, I will typically use Compass points to describe where the torso, hips, feet, hands, head etc are facing. I will use short forms N, S, E, W, NE, etc to represent these compass points. These compass points will assume that you start facing north. It is unimportant if you are actually facing north but we will assume that the direction you are facing at the beginning of a movement is towards the designated compass point. When I stand on my deck to practice outdoors, with my back to the house I am actually facing West. For the purpose of describing the movements I would still say that I am starting facing north (even though I am actually facing West) and then describe any movements relative to that starting positions of North.

Tai Chi Chuan is described as a series of steps or movements, however, when you practice Tai Chi Chuan you should think of it as one continuous movement from the start through to the end of the set. As you are learning and practicing movements you will, of course, break them down into parts for the purpose of learning, however, you want to attach the movements back into the whole form or sub form.

Family style and form.

There are various family style and sub forms. Many of the movements are going to be the same, however, the order of the sequence will vary. I am learning the Yang Old Frames. This is different than the Yang 108 form. I will be talking about the sequence and movements I am practicing. The order and names of the various movements may be different, but hopefully the ideas and some elements will be helpful.

I may describe a sequence that happens near the beginning of my set that fits nearer then middle or end of the set you are learning the movement may be similar and so the principles around the movement may be useful. For example, near the beginning of my Sequence I am facing NE from a Block Right and am going to turn my torso back to the N do complete the Peng. This may not fall in the same place in your routine, but there will likely be a place in your sequence that does contain these moves. I may detail what I have learned about doing this sequence, when and how I am shifting weight, sinking, opening the hips, etc. These details may be of some use to students of any style.

I will once again, note that I am a new student, this is not a how manual from an experts vantage point, but a students notes documenting what I am learning and my current understanding. If there are things that I detail that do not go with what you have learned I am certainly interested in your input and understanding and I certainly encourage you to check with your own instructor. I do not think there is only one right set of description, nor only one right or correct way of doing things. I am also aware that some sequences are taught in a bit of a simplified way for a beginner and that once the basic movements are learned refinements and corrections are added.

This document (the whole series) is part of my process of learning. I find that by trying to turn my learning into something I can pass on to an other, I am forced to considate that learning and really work on understanding it. So this document has three intents: 1) to help me to really look at, feel and understand what I am learning as I move through my practice of Tai Chi Chaun, 2) to share my experience with my friends here at Sparks and 3) to encourage others practicing Tai Chi to enter into a discussion of their own experience as we each develop our practice.

These first three parts outline my overview, the underpinning of how I am currently organizing my thinking about Tai Chi Chuan. They form a backdrop for the other posts in this series. I will post a note in the Tai Chi Team general discussion area as I add each of my blogs to the series. The first blog will have a link to each of the blogs in the series and each blog will point to one before it and the one after it.

Hopefully this will be useful to someone out there.

In my 3rd installment I suggested that I had completed my overview, however, this 4th post seems to be more on the understanding I am developing about Tai Chi Chuan as a practice. That is the nature of the beast. I intend for my next installment to be a Qigong exercise with enough detail as to be useful for someone to explore the exercise.

I have continued to progress in my Tai Chi Chuan. I am slowly moving through the form. I expect that by the fall I will have completed the first 3rd which ends with an apparent Close. From there one can move on to the second 3rd or once can close the form. In theory, Qi has made one complete revolution through the 12 main meridians. The second third is moves the Qi around the 12 main meridians again, however, it is more movements described than the first third. Many of these movements are exactly the same as in the first third, some are similar with differences in the details and some new movements are added.

I have also be doing a Qigong exercise before my Tai Chi Chuan. This is basically a grounding stance and a static meditation. I have found it very interesting that although it involves what could be described as standing for 10 minutes, then changing your hand position and standing for 5 min, and putting your hands behind your back and doing 10 leg lift steps; it has changed some things in my Tai Chi Chuan practice. The qigong exercise, of course, has a specific focus on breathing and on the Dan Tian so this translates into my practice of Tai Chi Chuan. I also have found that after doing the Qigong exercise by Tai Chi Chuan has a greater sense of the energy.

I will likely make my next blog in this series specific and detailed about the Qigong exercise so that if anyone is interested that she or he can incorporate it into his/her practice.

I was having a discussion with a friend about Tai Chi, he is learning one of the Yang Style forms and the topic of how many movements are our forms came up. His form is the Yang long form which is often referred to as the Yang 108 form. (It may also be referred to as the Yang 105, 85, 150, 94 and 88 form).

So what is that about?

Well it really depends where and how you bracket the move. In my form a Single Whip can be described as follows.

Start with your weight on the right foot which is facing N. Your left foot is in front of the right foot and left of the right foot and is facing NE. Your upper body is facing NNE and your waist is facing NE. Your right arm is extended almost straight with a hooked hand with fingers pointing down your left arm is across the body at about chest level with the palm in and slightly up in a slightly Yin position.

Sink your weight into your left leg as you raise the right leg slightly, toes are down. Turn your body N and then NWW. The left arm will move with the body as will the foot. The left elbow will remain in line with the left knee. The fingers of the left hand will point down slightly. The hips will end facing NW the waist will continue to turn to NWW the left arm will extend as the body completes its rotation. The left foot is placed down empty facing W and then as the weight transfers to the left foot left palm will slowly come up through the movement onto the left foot. the right arm will remain out to the right having followed the motion of the body. As the weight transfers to the left foot the right foot will turn in to face NW. The step to the west with the left foot is a little longer and a little narrower than a bow step.

This is my description of the Single whip at a certain point in my form. This follows a movement called Fishes In Eight and proceeds something called Spear Fingers Pierce to Rear. The specific begin and ends of these moves could easily be punctuated and named differently. This is one of the reasons that my friends form is know by several different name or has several different counts for the number of movements involved.

One of the things I am beginning to understand is that these individual movements are convenient, and are useful, however in the end they are not really relevant except for the purpose of learning the form or perhaps as Qigong exercises using a specific sub set of the form. (For instance, the sequence commonly referred to as Wave Hands Like Clouds-can be used as a Qigong exercise for strengthening the stomach and many for the sequences can similarly be used as Qigong exercises for specific things.)

My point is that Tai Chi Chuan, is really a moving meditation. We start in a balanced position and begin, the goal is then do one continuous movement until we reach the end and then do a close. In the form I am learning there are two apparent closes one at the end of the first 3rd and one at the end of the second 3rd and one may pause at these points, however, it is my opinion that the movement of energy and therefore the little adjustments happening in the body, do not stop unless we actually close the movement. Throughout my form there are slow, medium, fast and explosive moves. This may suggested that they are separate, however I think in the end we want to start and have the movement continue, to allow the energy to flow from the start to the finish.

This is like life, we start with an explosion as the egg is fertilized and that starts something happening that continues to ebb and flow through our life until our life here ends. With young babies we bracket their lives with weeks, and then with months and they with years. People talk about their baby being 18 or 20 months, but they rarely speak about their father being 720 months old. When I learned Fishes in Eight and Single Whip I learned each in a couple of parts, then I began to put the parts together. This made the learning easier, and more bit sized, I call this chunking down. It also made it necessary to then learn to put the parts together so they became one movement, and then to learn the entire sequence of Fishes in Eight, Single Whip and Spear Fingers Pierce to Rear so that it became a complete sequence as well.

So my learning this week is about how the individual element are useful for some things, but also how the elements eventually have to become a unified whole and that this whole is much more than the some of its parts. The ancient wisdoms are correct, then part of when a Tai Chi Chuan form is about is moving Chi (Qi) around the meridians, it is also about learning to move in healthy ways, in powerful ways. It has embedded within it the elements of strength and self-defense and also is full of lessons about discipline and balance. It is a metaphor for life and living.

Tai Chi Chuan -Yang Old Frames

I have decided to make the first third of my form the subject of this set of blogs. I will remind you that I am a new student to Tai Chi Chuan and therefore, this is not an experts take on the practice, but a students notes. I find it helpful in my learning to define things into a teachable format. It forces me to think through what I have learned, and what my experience with that learning is. How I might define things in a year might be quite different, but these blogs will reflect what my experience is and will help me to consolidate my thinking and practice. I hope they may be helpful to someone out there.

I will start by noting this is neither the Yang short form (34) nor the Yang long form (103 or 108) form. This is the form taught by the late Erle Montaigue. This form and this teach remain controversial in the Tai Chi and Martial Arts world. I will therefore begin buy saying I have no interest in debating the merits of the form nor the Teacher, and I will resist any attempts to enter that debate in these blogs. I will do my best to present the sequences with words and diagrams. They may not fit exactly into your practice, however, they may be useful and the sequences may be similar enough so as to be useful for you to think about them and contrast and compare them to your own practice. The order of some movements will be different from either of the two forms mentioned above, however, you could still find where in your form certain movements come and consider what is similar and what is different due to what proceeds and what follows the movement.

If you were so inclined you might also explore the form. I will do my best to explain it and document it so that with some patience and practice you could work out the details.

Please keep in mind that this is part of a students notes, it is not an experts opinion I will welcome comments, observations and suggestions consistent with a positive and forward moving discussion. I will do my best to break the first third of the form down into a set of blogs that one could follow from blob to blog and get a sense of the form (at least my current understanding of it.)

I present this as it is, and in the hopes that it will encourage others in the Tai Chi Team to share their experience and join in discussion of Tai Chi. I am most interested in each of your experiences, practices and thoughts on the practice of Tai Chi and how you bring it into your daily life.

The importance of the idea of Chi and Tai Chi Chuan should not be forgotten, and therefore the Energy Gates-know as the Dan Tien (there are variant spellings for these but let us not quibble). We usually are most concerned with the Lower Dan Tien, located 3 fingers below the belly button and with the one(s) on the soles of the feet where we make contact with the earth. It may also be useful to be aware of the Top Dan Tien, at the top of the head where in yoga we think of being suspended from above by a string. The Up Dan Tien, located between and above the eys (the third eye in some meditative practices and the Middle Dan Tien near the heart and just below the breast bone. Tai Chi is also a complete Qigong exercise. In theory each third of this form moves the Chi around the 12 main acupuncture meridians, and as such could be practiced as separate short form if there are time constrains.

There are martial applications to all of these posture, however, I will not focus on these for now. I personally find it useful to at least understand these. For instance the begin can be thought of as facing someone trying to grapple you. You are striking at the Neigwam-or Perccadium point 6 on the inside of the writs as your arms move up and Stomach points 15 and 16 as the arms descend. I note these to say that most movements in Tai Chi Chuan suggest a martial application and some of the structure of the movements are related to this focus.


Figure 1 Begin

All forms start with either a preparation step or with the Begin posture. This form starts at the Begin. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart in a balanced posture. Palms are at your side, shoulders are relaxed, elbows slightly open. Your posture should be vertical and you knees slightly bent. Your wrists will be slightly flexed (Yang Shaped). Your weight is evenly distributed to each foot with slightly more weight on the heels.

Figure 2 Arms Raise

As you breath in you will begin to shift your weight towards the balls of your feet, to sink into the ground a little by bending the knees slightly and to allow you arms to come up to the front to shoulder level. Think of this raising the arms as being driven by the sinking into the ground. The hands will trace a slightly inward arc as they come up. Their shape will become slightly Yin (relaxed and curved in). The hands will also turn in slightly so that the little fingers are higher than the thumbs

This shift of the hands happens over the whole movement, not at the top or bottom of the movement. Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed and to focus on sinking the core to elevate the arms.

Figure 3 Raise hands to shoulder level

As the hands reach the shoulders they will begin to turn as if circling a ball. This puts the thumbs higher than the little finger during the movement back down. As the arms go down the weight will shift back towards the back of the feet. The hands will trace a slightly hourglass shape and the hands will slow change to a Yang shape.

As the balance of the weight shifts to the back of the feet be careful not to lean backwards. You want to maintain your posture over your center the weight shift is relative front to back. Allow the hands to move out to the sides as they reach the bottom of their travel.

Figure 4 Weight shifts back hand go Yang

As the balance of the weight shifts to the back of the feet be careful not to lean backwards. You want to maintain your posture over your center the weight shift is relative front to back. Allow the hands to move out to the sides as they reach the bottom of their travel.

Figure 5 Hands flare out slightly

From this position we are going to turn the body to the NEE (North East East) and shift the weight into the right leg while emptying the left leg. As we sink the weight into the right leg you will begin to move the arms upward. They will describe a circular motion when viewed with the body motions, however, the arms are actually just going up and down and following the movement of the torso. Hands will change from Yang shape to Yin shape.

Figure 6 Turn the torso to NEE

As the arms reach the top you will begin to turn the body to the west and to shift the weight from the right leg to the left leg. The arms will move across the top of the circle due to following the movement of the body not due to the body. Note that the hands only need to come to shoulder level figure 7 show the hands a little higher than is needed (Remember this is a students notes, not an experts reference. I will try to note corrections where I see them).

Figure 7 Arms follow the body.
As noted the arms should actually be slightly lower as you turn the body to the NW and the arms follow the turn of the torso. The arms to not change their relative position to the body. As the left hand begins to point to the NW bend the right elbow and allow the right hand to pint towards the left elbow with the palm facing the chest.

Figure 8 Sink on the left leg
The right Wrist should come to about the middle of the chest. As you sink the weight into the left leg allow the left arm to descend about half way to the waist.

I shall leave you hanging at this point and will pick up here in my next blog where we will proceed to block right which will lead to a series of movements often called Grasp the Sparrows tail.

Block Right

Figure 9 Turn to the NE

I will pick up where we left off. You should have a sense of the left hand pushing down. Sink your weight into your left leg as you begin to turn your body to the NE. The right foot turns to the NE and as the body turns you will move the weight from the left foot to the right foot. As you turn be careful not to shift your weight back or arch your back we want to keep the weight over the feet and perhaps just a little bit forward. As your left hand moves from NW to NE the palm can go a bit Yin and then back to Yang Shaped. You head stays centered over you torso by your eyes can continue to look N.

Figure 10 Left leg empty and lifted by sinking

You right leg become fully weighted and the left foot becomes empty. You will continue to turn your torso to the NEE and allow the weight into the right foot and the run of the torso to help lift your left heel off the ground. As you turn back to the NE you will step your left foot to the north. You will drop your left foot empty. That is when you take the step and put the foot down you will put it down with no weight. From a martial point of view this means the step is not committed and you could move the foot easily, it your attacker were to attack the foot, there is no resistance and so you could adjust it easily.

Figure 11 Step to the north with the left foot empty

Keep your shoulder width distance on the step and make the step naturally long to bring you to a bow stance.. As you begin to shift your weight 70% to the left foot you will rotate you torso to the north. Your right had will move down and your left hand will move up. The fingers of the left hand will pass between the thumb and fingers (dragons mouth) of the right hand..

Figure 12 P'eng to the North

Your left hand will end up palm facing you with the writs at your center line, and you right hand will end up in front of your right knee at waist level. This sequence is some referred to as Grasp the Sparrows tail and involves the next several postures.

Your left knee will end up over your left toes, your shoulder and hips will be facing N

Block left

You will sink your weight into your left foot as you begin to turn your torso to the NE. Change the state of your hands. This left block is the reverse of the Right block.

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Double Peng

Figure 13 As you sink into left let right foot come empty.

As you turn to the NE allow your right heel to come up. Your eyes will look east your head will be to the NE. Change the state of your hands right is now Yang and left is now Yin. Pick up your right foot and replace it in place or just slightly forward on the heel. Exhale as you roll your weight onto your right foot.

Figure 14 Imagine holding a ball of Chi

As your weight comes onto the right foot bring up your right hand. Your hands will be in a position in front of you as if they were holding a grapefruit sized ball. Turn your left foot so that the toes now point NE.


Figure 15 Turn the hands over maintain state.

Turn your palms over so that their positions are reversed. Your left palm is up your right palm is down. You may turn a bit more to the ESE. Maintain the state of the hands Right is Yin and left is Yang. Turn your body to the left as you allow your hands to drop down to the waist. You will also change the state of the hands over the course of this turn.

Figure 16 begin to turn torso to NE and change hands

Keep the distance between the hands as they move down. They will appear to be moving to the left, however, this is really only because they are following the turn of the Torso.

Figure 17 As they arrive at the bottom state has changed.

Your left hand will be brought over the right wrist in preparation for a double hand strike.


Figure 18 Right Yin hand over left Yang hand.

This is often referred to as Press we think of it as Squeeze. The whole body is squeezing the two hands outward. The weight is shifting to the left foot the body is turned to the NE. As this happens roll the right arm so that the forearm is facing in. Place the mounts of your left palm over the radius side of your right inner forearm.

Figure 19 shift weight forward and squeeze

Exhale as you turn back to the East and bring your weight onto your right foot. Squeeze forward and change the state of your hands.