Dienstag, 5. Oktober 2010

Article: The 13 Basic Movements

By Martin Boedicker

Usually, the beginner learns first the slow form of Taijiquan. Anyone who at this stage is interested in the classic texts of Taijiquan will find time and time again the notion of the 13 basic movements. So what are these 13 basic movements? In Chinese they are called shisanshi.

Shisan is the number 13 and the second shi means basic movement. In a direct translation shi is given as “posture”, “position”, “gesture” or, as in Sunzi, “strategic advantage”. When talking about Taijiquan it is best to use the word “movement” to express the dynamic character of shi. The 13 basic movements are subdivided into eight hand techniques (bamen,literally: eight gates) and five steps (wubu). The eight hand techniques are allocated to the compass points respectively to the eight trigrams. The five steps are allocated to the five phases (wuxing). The eight directions are in China traditionally the four sides North, South, East and West and the four corners, NE, SE, SW, NW. Together, these make up the 13 basic movements of Taijiquan.

They are explained in the Explanation of the method of Taijiquan (Taiji fashuo) in text 1:

The eight hand techniques and the five steps (Bamen wubu)

Direction Eight Gates
peng South kan
West li
ji East dui
an North zhen
cai Northwest xun
lie Southeast qian
zhou Northeast kun
kao Southwest gen

“The compass points and the eight hand techniques demonstrate the law of the cyclic change between yin and yang, which changes eternally. In brief, one has to learn the four sides and the four corners. Peng, lü, ji and an are the hand techniques of the four sides. Cai, lie, zhou and kao are the four hand techniques of the four corners. Combining the hand techniques of the four sides and the four corners we achieve the allocation of the gates to the trigrams.

The differentiation between five steps (wubu) is based on the idea of the five phases (wuxing) and supports the eight directions. The five phases are: jinbu (to advance)/fire, tuibu (to retreat)/water; (to look left)/wood, youpan (to look right)/metal; zhongding (central equilibrium), the centre of the directions/earth. Advancing and retreating are the steps of water and fire and to look left and right are the steps of metal and wood. The central equilibrium of the earth is the central point of the axis. The eight trigrams are hidden in the body, and the feet step the five phases. The eight hand techniques and five steps make 13. This is how the 13 basic movements are created naturally and are called the eight gates and the five steps.“
(Wu, p. 16).


The 13 movements are the foundation of Taijiquan. By combining the hand techniques with the different steps, one can achieve a large variety of movements. The execution of the 13 movements is discussed in the Explanation of the method of Taijiquan (Taiji fashuo) in text 2:

The method of application of the eight hand techniques and five steps
(Bamen wubu yonggongfa)


“The eight trigrams and the five phases are part of man’s natural endowment. First one has to understand the meaning of the notion of conscious movement (zhijue yundong). Once one has understood it, one has mastered the understanding of jin-power (dongjin). Following the understanding of jin-power (dongjin) one can achieve enlightenment (shenming). So at the beginning of one’s studies one has to achieve knowledge about the conscious movement (zhijue yundong), which although it is part of our natural endowment, is difficult to grasp.”
(Wu, pp. 16)

The meaning and function of the 13 basic movements is again explained in the Song of the 13 basic movements (Shisanshi gejue). Because of the importance of the 13 basic movements for Taijiquan, the next issues of Taijiquan-Lilun, beginning with this one, will present in detail first the eight hand movements and then the five steps. We will begin in this issue with the hand technique called :

In a text before was used as an example to demonstrate the difficulty of translating technical Taijiquan vocabulary. It was shown that no direct translation exists, but that there are only explanations of the quality of . This is why it is so important to engage with these explanations. Ma Jiangbao says that is the hand technique which needs to be learned first. It is the first, because it is meant to introduce the student to one of the essential abilities of Taijiquan:

In using the power of the other is diverted and neutralised. Chinese texts often use for an explanation of the words yin or yindao, which means “to lead” or “to guide”. This is how it is for example used in the Secret song of the eight methods (Bafa mijue), where one finds about :

“How to explain the meaning of ?
To lead the other (yindao)
and let him come forward.
Following the other’s incoming force.
Light and subtle, without losing
contact or resisting.
The power ebbs out naturally (ziran)
into the emptiness.
Throw or attack follows naturally (ziran).
Maintain your own centre.
This can not be exploited by the other.”
(Wu, p. 102)

Ma Yueliang explains:
is an overt power (mingjin). If the other attacks, this is the moment to familiarise oneself through peng with his direction. Then, one leads him on – without even noticing – to continue the advance. Thus one can divert the attack to the right or to the left. The power and speed of the diverting depends on the power and speed of the attack. One waits until the other’s power is waning (shishi), which is when one lets go and starts the counter-attack. Mechanically, works like an axis, going either to the right or the left.”
(Ma, Xu, S. 10)

Ma Jiangbao points to the explanation of also in the Song of striking hands (Dashouge), where it says:

“Divert (yin) the attack (jin) into emptiness (luokong)”.

In doing so he concentrates on the quality of a good , which should give the attacker the feeling of falling into an abyss.

Ma Hailong comments on :

is the diverting (yin) power. It has a circular effect, follows the power of motion and retains control. If doing ,one has to keep one’s centre.”
(Wu, Ma, p. 169)

is therefore a technique that leads the attacking power into a circle, so that it misses one’s body and head into emptiness. It is important to note that the diverting is based on a minimum of power and one’s centre is not in danger. If one can achieve this, one can also realise the principle of lightness (qing) and one can easily deflect the power of a thousand pounds with the use of four ounces.

· Ma, Yueliang, Xu, Wen, Wushi Taijiquan Tuishou, Xianggang
Shanghai Shuju Chuban, Hongkong, 1986.
· Wu, Gongzhao, Wujia Taijiquan, Xianggang Jianquan Taijiquanshi
Chubanxiaozu, Hongkong, 1981.
· Wu, Yinghua, Ma, Yueliang, Wushi Taijijian, Renmin Tiyu
Chubanshe, Peking, 2001.

Dienstag, 27. Juli 2010

Article: Before (xian) and After (hou)


Before (xian) and after (hou)
By Wang Pinzheng

When a calligrapher is writing, his imagination (yi) resides first in his brush. When a painter starts painting a picture, he already has a clear image of it in his mind. This is because they first think about what to do. This is related to the demand in Taijiquan to Lead the qi with the heart/mind (xin). Move the body with qi and Imagination and qi as the rulers – bones and flesh as the servants. In Taijiquan also one emphasises before and after: The ruler gives orders to the subject. This short sentence means that imagination and qi control the movements.

In the book Wu style Taichichuan the first movement is called Preparation (yubeishi). This movement completely embodies the meaning of Imagination and qi control the movement. When performing the preparation you should pay attention to three aspects:

1) The body is upright. Erect head and empty neck (xuling dingjin). Expand the chest downward and lift the upper back (huilin dingjin). The arms hang down naturally (ziran) and the feet are parallel and shoulder width apart. The knees are very slightly bent. In this posture the upper part of the body is relaxed (empty like the heart/mind) and the lower part of the body is strong (full). This is a harmonious body.

2) The mouth is lightly closed. You breathe deeply through the nose. Let the air sink slowly to the dantian (near the navel). After breathing in, you slowly breathe out through the nose. When the chest is expanded downward, the diaphragm can move freely.Thus it creates the movement of breathing in and out. This is harmonious breathing.

3) Both eyes are calm and do not wander around. You free yourself of confused thoughts. The visual focus is kept inside. Other thoughts are dropped. This is a harmonious heart/mind.

After breathing in and out 3-5 times, you reach relaxation (song) without stagnation in the whole body. The breathing is soft and without any interruption. The heart/mind is calm and empty of thoughts. The mind makes the arms stretch out very slowly to a horizontal position and continue by falling back to their original position.The movement of preparation is the beginning of the form. You go on immediately. While you are moving with the outside of your body during the exercise, you are full (shi) inside using your imagination. The breathing is calm. Hard and soft mutually complement each other. The heart/mind is calm, the qi is harmonious and you don´t think about anything. Qi and blood circulate and the whole body is connected. This is what the Classic of Taijiquan (Taijiquanjing) describes as it flows continuously like a long river and the sea.




When you have finished the form, you realize that your mind is clear and the qi refreshed. As mentioned before, if you don´t pay attention to the preparation you will not reach the harmony of the heart/mind. You will practise hastily and it will be difficult to reach a state of relaxation and calmness. The principle ’Lead the qi with the heart/mind. Move the body with qi’ must be followed as our taijiquan ancestors followed it in their training: Essence, qi and mind are concentrated. The dantian is filled with qi, fingers and palms are full of warmth in every movement. This is a sensation like completing an electrical circuit: „When the imagination comes, the qi comes as well and then comes the muscular power (li).“ In this way ability (gongfu) is created.

Obviously, the essential aspects of before and after are also of importance to pushhands. In double hand pushhands you have to control the opponent by using imagination: If he does not move, I do not move. If he moves imperceptibly, I move first. With the vital force (jingshen) it is possible to adapt to the attack of the opponent. When he advances one yard, I admit one yard, not 0.9 or 1.1 yards. This simply means not to resist and not to lose contact. The opponent advances, I retreat. The other one is hard, I am soft. This has to fit exactly and requires the ability to know one’s opponent.

To obtain this ability, the imagination has to precede the movement. You reach it step by step by practice. When practising Taijiquan you usually work with the image Even when one´s own jin-power breaks off, the imagination continues to exist. Every movement of the hands, every step is a defence, neutralizing or sending out jin-power (fajin). This is an example of using imagination in every movement of your practice. It becomes a habit and the ability in pushhands grows with it.

A strategist who wants to achieve a victory has to ’make plans in the headquarters’ before the battle. Before practising Taijiquan you have to eliminate the hundred illnesses and strengthen the body. Afterwards you should use imagination, not muscular power, to control the movements. Then it is easy to reach the qi of early heaven and the goal of longevity.

Freitag, 21. Mai 2010

Article: Tai Chi Chuan as Part of China's Martial Arts


Chapter 1 from this book:




More Info about this little book: here



Tai Chi Chuan as Part of China's Martial Arts

Almost every book about Tai Chi Chuan includes a chapter on its history – albeit limited to some masters of Tai Chi Chuan and their schools. This little book uses a different approach. The goal is to understand Tai Chi Chuan as an aspect of Chinese martial art. To this end, we correlate what we know of the history of Tai Chi Chuan with what we know of the history of Chinese martial arts.

Before setting out on this route, however, it is useful to consider the Chinese term for martial art. This takes us back to the period from 770 to 221 BC. The earliest references to martial arts are to be found in the written testimonies of the time. They speak in terms of jiji (techniques of attack with the hands), xiangbo (tests), shouzhan (hand fighting), juedi (wrestling) and wuyi (the art of war).

The last of these would become, by the rise of the Chinese Republic in 1911, the standard term for martial arts. From 1911 on, the term of zhongguo wushu (Chinese martial arts) or in its shortened form, guoshu (art of the country) was introduced. Today, the term wushu (martial arts) is the one generally in use. This contraction is of a later date, as Parchwitz explains:

“The designation of wushu, ‘art of combat’ or ‘martial art’, was only generally decided upon in the city of Xi´an in 1985, at the international conference of Organised Wushu Associations. This paved the way for the intensified promotion of wushu as one of China’s indigenous sports on an international level. Three years later, the Olympic Committee for Asia (OCA) voted that wushu be officially accepted as a new regular competition category at the Eleventh Asian Games.” (Parchwitz, p. 22).

Thus the term wushu acquired a dual meaning, referring both to martial arts in general and to a specific kind of competitive sport in particular. Confusion can easily arise.

Thus, Chinese martial arts have a long tradition. Yet, for all this consciousness of tradition and China’s scientific and technological superiority over the West until about 1800, there was as good as no independent innovation in the martial arts after their beginnings in pre-Christian times.

“For the traditional martial arts this was significant from various points of view. The links thus remained between traditional combative arts and traditional arms. Even when modern, imported firearms became an established part of the army’s arsenal, the traditional weapons continued to form part of the armament of the people. Modern weapons were not obtainable. And as, through the past century, traditional combat techniques as a means of defending property and life became superfluous in any case, the pronounced awareness of tradition saw to it that the martial arts in China did not dwindle into oblivion.” (Filipiak, p. 231)

It is from that awareness of tradition that culturally specific Chinese characteristics were able to develop so strongly. Thus, alongside martial practice in the narrower sense, there are numerous theoretical concepts which are influenced to a crucial extent by Chinese philosophy. From the Qing Dynasty on (1644 – 1911 AD), such concepts were increasingly set out in writing. In Taijiquan in particular, there are a great many texts dating from this period. Fundamental terms such as the ‘highest supreme’ taiji, the spirit shen, the heart/consciousness xin, qi, yin-yang, bagua or the eight trigrams and the five elements wuxing become central.

Throughout its long history, Chinese martial arts continued to oscillate between the two extremes of individual self-defence and the military skills of battle. The two trends are technically quite distinct. In war, larger, armoured forces faced each other, so that the use of distance arms was a priority. Hand weapons, such as there were, would be heavy and long. For individual self-defence the preference was, at best, for light armour and weapons of close range.

Thus, such situations might elicit greater use of the bare hand or foot. Although the realms of self-defence and of military martial arts differed, it may be assumed that there was always a lively interchange between them. The many Tai Chi Chuan masters who taught Tai Chi Chuan both in the army and self-defence or the use of bodyguards are a good case in point.

Tai Chi Chuan is not the invention of any one individual. Its ancient roots developed out of Chinese martial arts. In the evolution of Tai Chi Chuan, various traditional currents merged and a new art was shaped on the base of the old knowledge. Development did not stop there, however. Through exchange and comparison with the martial arts of other schools and in relation to developments in society, Tai Chi Chuan was adapted by its masters to the circumstances of the times. Ultimately, this led to the decisive transformation of the twentieth century, in which the movements of Tai Chi Chuan were slowed down and the combative aspect finally put in the background.

The author is aware that the limited space of this magazine makes it almost impossible to supply a complete or comprehensive survey of the history of Tai Chi Chuan. Many controversial questions have had be passed by. But the aim here was never to answer all these questions, but rather to make an attempt to shift the reader’s perspective. Tai Chi Chuan is not an art that appeared out of a vacuum; it is part of Chinese martial arts and their history. A historical perspective that takes this into account should hopefully provide the reader with new avenues of thoughts on her/his beloved craft.

Montag, 11. Januar 2010

Text: Small Thought

The theory of Taijiquan is important for me, because with its help I can make predictions. I can check if the prediction is right or wrong with my teacher Ma Jiangbao, my Tai Chi friends or through practice. Therefore a theory is much more than a description of a movement or techniques. It is a tool to guide me.

Now I read the following about the word 'theory':

"The word 'theory' comes from the greek verb theorein, what mean 'to look at' or 'to see possibilities."

Isn't this wonderful.

All the best

Martin