Montag, 30. September 2013

Article: Zhou - the Elbow Power

Tai Chi Chuan has 13 basic movements (shisanshi). One of them is the use of the elbow (zhou). The use of the elbow is explained in the Tai Chi-Classic The Song of the Eight Methods (Bafa miyue):

"How to explain zhou?
Within this method are the Five Elements.
Yin and yang divide into above and below.
Full and empty are clearly distinguished.
The opponent can not resist the interlinked movements.
In the case of a fistfight it becomes even fiercer.
When the six jin-powers have been thoroughly mastered,
applications will be endless."

The use of the elbow is a highly effective and dangerous technique. One can be easily mislead, in order to break the attack, to use zhou against the force of the opponent. But this is wrong. Ma Yueliang’s comment about zhou:

"You press into the empty point of the opponent."
(Ma, Xu, S. 11)

This quote shows for the second time that the yin-yang-pair "full and empty" is of importance for the application of zhou.

The pair "full and empty" has been used since ancient times in the strategic literature of China. E.g. within Sunzi's The Art of War (Sunzi Bingfa) is a full chapter called "Full and empty". Sunzi explains here, that "on the way to victory, one avoids the full points of the opponent and attacks the empty ones." (Ames p. 124) Wu Gongzao, the second son of Wu Jianquan, describes it similarly in his chapter "Full and empty":

"The strategy is called full and empty. … If the opponent is full, I evade. If the opponent is empty, I attack."
(Wu, p 21)

From the viewpoint of Chinese strategy, an attack is never directed against the strength of the opponent. One rather tries to find his empty or weak points. An attack only then happens, and thus is always successful. In Tai Chi Chuan, feeling (tingjin) is highly important, because in this way one can detect the empty points of the opponent. The ability of feeling should not only be in the hands, but has to be developed also in the elbows.

Ames Roger, Sun-tzu: the art of war, Ballantine Books, New York 1993
Bödicker, Martin, Das Tai Chi-Klassiker Lesebuch, Willich, 2013
Ma Yueliang, Xu Wen, Wushi Taijiquan Tuishou, Xianggang Shanghai Shuju Chuban, Hongkong 1986
Wu Gongzao, Taijiquan Jiangyi, Shanghai Shudian, Shanghai 1995


  1. Hi
    I saw you translate part of the Secret song of Eight Methods (Peng, Lu, Zhou, Kao).
    The translation is good and precise.
    I want to know that if I can use your words on my blog, and did you translate the other four (Ji, An, Cai ,Lie)

  2. Hi, thx for your comment. Feel free to set a link to my blog people will find the texts. You will find also an and lie somewhere. Please youse the search option. All the best. Martin