Wang Peisheng creative interpretation of some Taiji principles

Master Wang’s Creative Interpretation and Application of Some Taijiquan Principles in Self-defence

Master Wang makes it a point of emphasis and has set an example to his students of how one should use one’s mind and learn from experience of success and failure after having studied carefully the theories set in the Taijiquan classics, listened earnestly to his teacher’s or anyone else’s interpretations, and watched attentively their ways of applying these principles in practising or combating. The following are a few examples:

(I) There is a principle (a sentence of eight Chinese characters) set in the Taijiquan classics attributed to Wang Zongyue of Ming Dynasty, with a note that it had been handed down by Zhang ‘Sanfeng, a Taoist on the Wudang Mountain in the Song Dynasty. The first half in four characters may be translated into English as “No excess, no insufficiency”, and the generally accepted interpretation is ‐when doing Taijiquan, whether in solo practice or in pushing-hands exercise, or sparring with a partner, or in actual combating, you should use only the very necessary amount of force, not a bit more or less; and any movement you make should be just right in position. But the second half, also in four characters, are explainable in two ways: more generally as “stretch out as your opponent bends in ” , and some would also supply the natural reverse “and contract as your opponent expands”; and less generally as “follow the bending. adhere to (or follow) the stretching.” Which is correct, or more adequate? What is Wang’s opinion?

Basically, Master Wang prefers the second one, but he would add something to it, as summed up from his long years of experience: “follow your opponent’s bending without letting him have any chance to turn to stretching; and adhere to his stretching without giving him any. opportunity to turn to bending, he will then be found in an awkward position ready to be handled easily.”

(2) There is a sentence in a known Taijiquan treatise that may be rendered into English as: If you fail to catch a good opportunity or to gain an advantageous position, your body will be in a state of disorder and the cause of such a fault must be sought from the waist or legs.

Evidently this is a very important teaching, and as there is nothing abstruse with the language, we can just do according to the advice given. But why and how? The general view is that: to a human body the legs form the foundation of every posture taken and the waist acts like the axle of the moving parts, so if there is anything wrong, fundamentally there must first be something wrong with the waist or legs, or both, so the way to correct the fault is by adjusting the waist or legs. So far so good. But what if your waist itself senses some discomfort? Adjust the waist? And what if your legs sense some discomfort? Adjust the legs? Master Wang says no, and advises: if your waist senses some discomfort, forget the waist and adjust the legs; if your legs sense some discomfort, forget the legs and adjust the waist. Try it out yourself and see- if it works.

(3) In the “Chant of Pushing-hands”, there is a sentence with seven Chinese characters, the first four meaning ‐ entice (your opponent) to advance and fall into emptiness (failing to reach his target); the last three, meaning ‐ when all conditions are met, issue energy instantly. The principle is obviously sound and clear, but what are the necessary conditions, and how to catch that very moment instantly? To those who have had some basic knowledge and training in Taijiquan, the first part of the question is not difficult to answer, the following conditions are generally taken as the necessary conditions: your opponent’s slight loss of balance, the moment he gets into an awkward position, and his centre of gravity together with the most effective line through which to attack him all being sensed and located. But the second part presents real difficulty, many may have practised for years and have not yet found a sure way of catching that very right moment. If that is the case and energy is issued at the wrong moment, all the conditions may be instantly changed to your disadvantage. Now let me offer  you Master Wang’s simple and reliable way for your reference ‐ The moment your opponent comes into contact with you, you should apply the Taijiquan principle and technique of “adhering, joining, sticking to, and following” to his every move, with no letting go and no resistance, while keeping an acute awareness of what is sensed from the point in touch with ‘ your opponent. Should he refrain from making an initiative, you could expose a point of weakness purposefully and entice him to take advantage of it During the whole course of pushing-hands if a sense of heaviness is felt , at the point of contact with your opponent, do not issue energy or restrain yourself instantly if you are about to issue; but at the moment when that sense of heaviness turns into lightness, lose no time to issue energy. Of course, to be able to catch the very right moment instantly, you must first have developed a keen sense of touch and a quick reaction through years of pushing-hands practice. Nevertheless, Master Wang’s teaching offers a simple to follow rule in judging whether the right moment is there or not. That surely is a thing of importance, and I hope Master Wang’s advice will prove useful to you.

(4) As is generally known, the cardinal principle of Taijiquan is “using the mind (thought), not strength.” Actually, in doing any physical movement, it is impossible not to use strength at all. Thus, in so saying, it is but to emphasize that the art of Taijiquan relies more on the use of one’s mind than strength to overcome an opponent. Such a principle could be more easily apprehended and better appreciated today, for it is common sense now that whatever we do are controlled by our nerve system, with the cerebral cortax of our brain as the control centre. So the really important issue regarding this principle is not why it should be so, but how it should be done.

An answer seems to have been provided in another well known classic entitled “The Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures”. However, owing to the terseness and abstruseness of the original text in classical Chinese, it has been interpreted in different ways, such as:

1st – When the mind directs the qi, the mind must be calm, so the qi could permeate the bones. When the qi circulates through the body, the qi must flow freely and naturally, so the qi could be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind;

2nd – when the mind directs the qi, the qi must sink deep and steadily, so as to premeate the bones. When the qi moves the body, the body must be submissive, so as to be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind;

3rd ‐ when the mind directs the qi, the directing must be calm and steady, so the qi could permeate the bones. When the qi circulates through the body, the circulating must be free and natural, so the body could be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind.

There might still be a 4th, 5th . . . From the above, we can see that in studying a Taijiquan doctrine, it is sometimes hard to catch its exact meaning by merely studying the wording in a classic; and in listening to the interpretations offered, there might be big differences of opinion that make it difficult to follow. So do not be disturbed if you find such difficulties and differences. Test what you have learned in your practice and application, sum up your experience of success and failure bit by bit, and form your own opinions one by one as Master Wang has done and advised.

Master Wang is highly praised for his subtle, varified, accurate, and effective movements employed in pushing‐hands practice and in free sparring. He often cites a well known old saying: “How to use one’s kungfu relies totally on one’s mind-intent.” I have particularly asked him about how he uses his mind to direct his movements, and have finally focused on “What to concentrate his mind on and how to shift his points of attention in directing his movements so as to perform a certain posture or to execute a certain combative technique accurately, efficiently, and effortlessly.” The following are the summerized points:

1 ‐ Just before making any movement, think first of uplifting your head lightly and loosening the joints, especially the shoulder ioint and the hip joint. This is a necessary prerequisite to make possible your facing the opponent with an attentive spirit and keeping the limbs in a fully relaxed state, so as to be able to respond quickly to any change and do the stretching or bending to the required extent.

2 ‐ When y0u are doing Taiiiquan in its solo form, you should have in mind a picture of meeting an opponent and that you should use a certain posture or Taiiiquan technique that deemed fit to neutralize his attack or to set him off balance while he is in a certain imagined position. Thus you must first have the knowledge of the combative use of every movement of every posture as told by Master Wang in this book, or by other competent Taiiiquan masters. Only by practising Taiiiquan with such a picture in mind could you have the possibility of making actual use of it in combat.

3‐ Whatever the form and number of movements used in a certain posture, there is a general principle, also a basic requirement, that your arms and legs should move, coordinately, that the shoulder should come into unison with the hipioint, the elbow with the knee, and the hand with the foot. To meet such a requirement, Master Wang’s way is to think of letting the three vital points on y0ur arm meet with or separate from the three corresponding vital points on the leg, those on the right arm in correspondence with those on the left leg and those on the left arm in correspondence with the right leg, one after another in succession in the course of the movement. Let them unite with each other when doing a “closing” movement, and separate from each other when doing an “opening” move‐ ment. All such uniting and separating should be led by the “insubstantial arm” and- one’s mind should chiefly be concentrated on it. The “insubstantial” arm is one on the same side, of your “substantial” leg (one that bears the greater part of your bodyweight). Between the arms and legs, their “insubstantiality and “substantiality” coincide with the opposite party on the other side of the body, i.e. if the right leg is “substantial”, the left arm is “substantial”; in this case the left leg is “insubstantial”, as is the right arm. The three vital points on the arm are: the Jianiing point at the indented part of the shoulder girdle, near the neck; the Quchi point at the outer side of the elbow; and the Laogong point at the centre of palm; the three vital points on the leg‘are: the Huantiao point at the outer side of the hipioint; the Yangling point at the outer side of the knee; and the Yongquan point at the arch of foot. (See Appendix I I I : Diagram of Vital Points Mentioned in this Book) .

Thinking (focusing and shifting your points of attention) in such a manner achieves two things: one is to let the mind direct the movement of the body via the movement of “qi”, since the “qi” moves through a path along which are spread the vital points (as already known and made use of in acupuncture); another is to bring about a unison of the respective parts in a more precise and quicker manner, and to reach a stronger state, since a point on a limb is much finer than a part of the limb, a thought of unison comes quicker than the act of unison, and an external unison actuated by an attentive thought in the mind is stronger than a merely superficial external expression of unison.

4 – As the point of your opponent’s weakness is shown, his being in a disadvantageous position or his slight loss of balance is sensed, and you are to send him off his feet, issue the energy from the bottom up by pressing the heel of your rear foot with a snap against the ground and at the same time think of the palm of the hand that is placed in the rear and is in line with the centre of gravity of your opponent. Do not place your focus of attention on the contacting point (or the fore contacting point, if there are two or more points contacted), nor on the object or the direction your eyes are looking at. Some may raise a question or have a doubt of whether this is in harmony with the general principle “at the instant the mind thinks of something, the eyes should be looking there, and the hands and feet should have reached there.” Still some others may find that on this point Master Wang’s way is even somewhat different from his teacher, Yang Yuting’s. Yes, they are different asMaster Wang has told me, and not without reason. According to Master Wang, in actual application, at the point of issuing energy, your eyes are looking at the direction toward which you are to issue your energy, and you yourself and your opponent should be linked together into one, so the contacting point should not be shifted at all, and therefore needs no more attention. But to enhance the effectiveness or to multiply the forcefulness of your energy sent out upon your opponent, no energy should be sent forth from the contacting point by you, but energy should be sent from bottom up and from the rear end to the foremost end, and that requires your full attention to ensure its being correctly done. And only when you and your opponent have been formed into one at the moment of operation, the energy you are sending out could then reach the target you have set on your opponent’s body instantly.

Try out Master Wang’s way, see if it works, at least he has offered us’something that has made his art of Taiiiquan outstanding in combative use.

Reference: Wu Style Taijiquan by Wang Peisheng & Zeng Weiqi p. 3-8.

The Dantian of Xingyi

The elixir field is the source of the active aspect, the mansion of energy and power. If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field, and if you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art. The back-and-forth of the two will solidify each other.
     My art comes down to understanding the importance of the elixir field. When we consider past teachers, there was oral instruction passed down but few writings, and so for later generations of students it has been quite difficult to understand their reasoning. What I solemnly learned from my father and have practiced for twenty years I will describe briefly.
     “If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field.” This is because if your elixir field is deficient, your energy will not be full. If your energy is not full, your power will not be sufficient, and those five elements and twelve animals will be but empty postures. In your defensive techniques, it would be like you are guarding a city wall against emptiness, and in your offensive techniques, it would be like you are an army defeating weaklings. Therefore, when facing an enemy and frustrating his formations, you must always be as if there is a ball of resolute energy within your lower abdomen. Energy suddenly goes from your waist, through your back and neck, and courses through straight to your headtop. At that moment, your eyes become a vanguard observing and your mind becomes a general strategizing. Drilling and overturning, horizontal and vertical, lifting and dropping – they are applied according to the situation. Dragon or tiger, monkey or horse, eagle & bear – they are transformed into as is appropriate. In a moment of the opponent’s slightest inattention, victory or defeat can be firmly discerned. This is the fullness of the elixir field resulting in the refining of skill.
     “If you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art.” Why is this so? I will explain. Some say the elixir field receives what is innate and inherent in the body, that there is enough within the self and nothing to wait for from outside [meaning specific practices or rituals are not required, not that there is no need for obvious requirements such as air, water, food]. You can still be good at sufficiently taking care of yourself, so why put it off until there is something to practice? Personally, I disagree with this. Sure, when people do not overindulge in sex, thereby not wasting their kidney essence, and take care of themselves properly, then vitality will be abundant. In this way you can promote longevity, but you will not actually be able to get energy from the elixir field to be expressed skillfully. If you want it to express skillfully, that is the point where practice must be begun.
     The method of practice is half gathering [energy], half wielding [energy]. Gathering has to do with methods within the “eight requirements” [explained in the following chapter], such as: your tongue should prop up, your teeth should be closed together, your anus should be tucked in, and your “three centers” should be combined [The center of your headtop goes downward, the center of your foot goes upward, and the center of your hand withdraws.], and also you must send out your diaphragm. If energy can course through all of the five organs – heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys – one after another without obstruction, then it will be fulfilling what is said within the eight requirements that “the five elements should be smooth”.
     After doing this for a long time, the energy will begin to be able to fully collect in your elixir field. Although you are gathering, if you are not good at wielding, you will still not be able to express it skillfully. You must send energy collected in your elixir field upward from your lower back to dwell in your chest, fill your abdomen and organs, be concentrated at your ribs, and flush your brain. Additionally, in your ordinary practice, your body will be unusually upright and your hands and feet will be unusually maneuverable. When dealing with an opponent’s attack, your posture will be adaptive. Responding to the changes of your posture, the energy will go along with it and arrive in an instant. When your adaptiveness is beyond description, this is what it means to be good at wielding. And so gathering and wielding should be part of your hard work on a daily basis.
     This art is not like those who sit in silent meditation to cultivate an elixir of immortality. Past experts in this art faced large groups of opponents alone. While we do not know how abundant was the energy in their elixir fields, surely they had it in mind and there was not one who did not diligently practice this art by training the elixir field from the start. Once we are discussing the elixir field with a good understanding, then we can gain access to the martial path.
In martial techniques, what has shape is the postures and what has no shape is the energy and power. What the postures wield is energy and power, for without energy and power, the postures have no use. Therefore the energy and power is the foundation of the posture. But if you want the power to be sufficient, you must first seek for the energy to be full. Thus the energy is the basis of the power.
     In the previous chapter, I mentioned gathering and wielding, which I have already gone over, but the secrets of my method of training the energy I have not yet discussed fully, so I will now describe the rest of it in detail.
     The practitioner uses the “eight requirements” as the starting point. They are the beginning of the Xingyi boxing art. While internally training the energy and externally performing the posture, whether it be the five elements or twelve animals, the alternating between empty and full, lifting and dropping, drilling and overturning, you must never depart from the eight for an instant.
     What are the eight requirements? 1. The inside should be lifted. 2. The three centers should combine. 3. The three intentions should be linked. 4. The five elements should be smooth. 5. The four tips should work in unison. 6. The mind should be leisurely. 7. The three structure points should align. 8. The eyes should be venomous. These will be individually explained below:
[1] The inside should be lifted:
     Tuck in your anus to lift its energy up into the elixir field. The energy gathered there then goes from the spine straight to the headtop, then returns and then goes up again, circulating round and round endlessly. As it says in the Manual: “By tucking in the anus, the inside is lifted [energetically].”
[2] The three centers should combine:
     The center of the headtop goes downward, the center of the foot goes upward, and the center of the hand withdraws. The three therefore make the energy gather into one place [i.e. the elixir field, which is the center between the three centers]. If the center of the headtop does not go downward, then the energy goes upward and cannot enter the elixir field. If the center of the foot does not go upward, then the energy goes downward and cannot gather in the elixir field. If the center of the hand does not withdraw, then the energy goes outward and cannot contract into the elixir field. Therefore the three centers must combine together, for only then can their energies return to being one.
[3] The three intentions should be linked:
     The intentions of mind, energy, and power are linked into one. They are the three internal unions. These three use mind as the planner, energy as the commander, and power as the soldiers. If the energy is not abundant, the power will be insufficient, and even though the mind is scheming, nothing will be of any use. Therefore when the energy intention is trained well, then you can externally command the power intention, corresponding internally with the mind intention. I would also say that the linking of the three intentions begins with the energy.
[4] The five elements should be smooth:
     Externally the five elements are the five boxing techniques: chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing. Internally the five elements are the five organs: heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys. The external five elements techniques change from one to another according to a smooth sequence. There is a pattern to the whole and rules for the changes. Where the energy and power goes, the posture follows, and where the posture goes, the energy and power concentrate. Therefore when the energy and power are full, the posture is useful, and by practicing the posture, the energy and power can be increased.
     The Manual has this to say about the internal five element organs: “The five elements are basically five key pathways. If left unguarded, they will get blocked up.” When I began to learn these skills, I was inclined toward learning ways of moving energy around, such as the shoulders hanging, the neck straightening, the teeth being closed together, the tongue pressing up, the inside lifting, and so on. I practiced in this way doing a single posture for several days, and gradually the energy was able to reach to my solar plexus. I had tired my body out until my limbs were drained of strength. After training hard for several days, I gradually felt the energy slightly travelling downward, and again I was exhausted. After practicing like this several times, I started to be able to get the energy to go straight to my elixir field as soon as I got into a posture. This has to do with the five elements as five key junctures. [It seemed after the last passage from “the Manual” that he was going to discuss the five organs, but instead he seems to be saying he went through the above process with each of the five element boxing techniques as if they were five stages of an energy-training ordeal.]
     By not ardently practicing, progress will be broken and impeded, and you will be unable to gather energy into the elixir field or wield energy in the four limbs. For the energy to be adequate for a martial artist, the five elements should be smooth, and you will thereby have smoothed energy.
[5] The four tips should work in unison:
     The tongue should prop up, the teeth should be closed together, the fingers and toes should curl in, and the pores should be tight. If the tongue presses up to the palate, then the saliva is concentrated and there is better circulation of energy. If the teeth are tightly closed together, the energy penetrates to the marrow. If the fingers and toes are curling inward, the energy is concentrated in the sinews. If the pores are tight, the energy of the whole body is gathered and strong. By “unison” is meant that when in each posture, if all of these four are working together in this way, there will be no parts [of the body] getting ahead of or falling behind any other parts, none going slower or faster. If any of these four is missing, the energy will be scattered and the power will be slackened, and then there will be little purpose in talking about technique.
[6] The mind should be leisurely:
     When practicing, there is to be no panic or haste within the mind. Panic leads to fear. Haste leads to stress. Scared, the energy will be discouraged. Stressed, the energy will be disorganized. When discouraged and disorganized, the hands and feet will be out of arrangement. If you are generally not practicing, then internally you will be deficient and empty, and when encountering opponents, you will be timid and recoiling. When facing an opponent, never be scared or stressed, but have instead a mind at ease. Therefore the leisurely mind and the training of the energy are the outer and inner aspects of each other.
[7] The three structure points should align:
     The nose, hands, and feet are to align with each other. If the hands are not aligned with the nose, then if you incline to the left, the right side will be empty, and if you incline to the right, the left side will be empty. If the hands with the feet or the feet with the nose are not aligned, the error is the same. If the three seem very aligned with each other, but when you incline diagonally the strength is not evenly placed throughout the body, they will surely be unable to be united into one and the energy will be scattered as a result. Even if the center of the headtop goes downward, the energy will not easily move downward. Even if the center of the foot goes upward, the energy will not easily gather upward. Even if the center of the hand withdraws, the energy will not easily contract inward. This is a natural principle. Therefore if the three structure points do not align, it will be a big obstruction to the training of the energy.
[8] The eyes should be venomous:
     If the eyes do not seem to be very connected to the training of energy, you do not understand that venomousness has an intention of quick perception. One without abundant vitality will not be able to have this. Experience dictates that our skills are not something only soldiers should practice, civilians also should practice them. By training your strength everyday, you can invigorate your body, and by training your energy, you can develop your spirit. The elixir field will be concentrated and the five organs will be comfortable. For such a person, his spirit is sure to be nimble and his mind is sure to be quick. The orifice senses of hearing, tasting, and smelling will surely be able to be fully sensitive, but the eyes especially will surely be shining and bright, having a sharpness that shoots at the opponent. Who says the venom of the eyes is not energy?
In such law-of-the-jungle moments, all creatures and countries emphasize their skills. The distance an archer can shoot depends entirely on the quality of the bow, but hitting the target depends entirely on the archer’s strength of mind, hand, and eye. Thus for one whose energy and power are insufficient, he may have spied the target with precision, yet when the moment comes to shoot, his mind shivers and his hand shakes, and he is unable to hit the mark. It is then therefore crucial to give eager attention to your daily practice. When your body is strengthened, your vitality abundant, and inside and out are as one, you can then rectify your errors.
     You may say: “So energy moves inside and power manifests outside. You have discussed the energy. What about the power?” To which I say: “From the outside a person observes me and my power is easy to see, and because of my training, my energy is easy to understand. Furthermore, energy and power are basically one thing. When the energy is sufficient, the power can be known.”
     You may also say: “You have been talking purely of energy and power. Can you not talk some about the postures?” To which I say: “When training the postures, you must first seek to make the energy full, but when training the energy, you must first discuss postures. This is because the energy and postures are applied together. Because the posture forms on the outside, it has signs which can be seen. Because the energy moves on the inside, it is profound, subtle, unobservable. Thus the student who consistently pays attention to the postures often neglects the moving of energy. Our outward posture lies solely in the energy and power, and that is why attention is to be continually devoted there.”

Yang Banhou Explaining Taiji Principles

attributed to Yang Banhou
[circa 1875]

[translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2013]


[1] The Eight Gates & Five Steps
[2] On the Training Method for the Eight Gates & Five Steps
[3] Our Innate Ability to Distinguish
[4] Stick, Adhere, Connect, and Follow
[5] Crashing In, Collapsing, Coming Away, and Resistance
[6] Fighting Without Mistakes
[7] Practicing Maintaining the Central Ground in Fighting
[8] The Body’s Posture – The Waist & Headtop
[9] Taiji’s Circling
[10] Taiji’s Skill of Advancing & Retreating Ceaselessly
[11] Taiji’s Above & Below, or “Sky & Ground”
[12] Taiji’s Eight Techniques in the Realm of Mankind
[13] Taiji’s Substance & Application
[14] Taiji’s Civil & Martial Qualities
[15] Taiji’s Identifying of Energies
[16] On the Thirteen Dynamics Long Boxing Set
[17] Taiji’s Inversion of the Passive & Active Aspects
[18] The Taiji-ness of the Human Body
[19] Taiji’s Separation of the Civil & Martial Qualities into Three Accomplishments
[20] Taiji’s Lesser Accomplishment – Its Martial Quality
[21] Correctness of Skill in Taiji
[22] Taiji’s Lightness & Heaviness, Floating & Sinking
[23] Taiji’s Four Secondary Techniques
[24] The Proper Alignment of Waist & Headtop in Taiji
[25] A Taiji Map of the Four Seasons & Five Energies
[26] The Essence of Blood & Energy in Taiji
[27] Strength & Energy in Taiji
[28] Taiji’s Reducing Measurements
[29] Vessels, Channels, Sinews, and Acupoints in Taiji
[30] Some of the Terms in Taiji
[31] Taiji’s Reducing of Measurements in the Context of Controlling, Seizing, Capturing, or Sealing
[32] Taiji’s Boosting or Dissipating Energy & Strength
(Thirty-Two Sections in Total)

[Supplementary Texts:
(i) Taiji’s Emptying, Tying Up, Filing, and Kneading
(ii) Before Identifying Energies and After
(iii) Reducing Measurements After Identifying Energies
(iv) The Fingers, Palm, Fist, and Hand in Taiji
(v) On Personal Instruction in the Acupoints that Save or Kill
(vi) What Zhang Sanfeng Inherited
(vii) The Teachings of Zhang Sanfeng
(viii) Zhang Sanfeng on Using Martial Arts to Achieve the Way]



方位 八門
position / gate:
掤 南 坎
warding off – S / ☵
捋 西 離
rolling back – W / ☲
擠 東 兑
pressing – E / ☱
按 北 震
pushing – N / ☳
採 西北 巽
plucking – NW / ☴
挒 東南 乾
rending – SE / ☰
肘 東北 坤
elbowing – NE / ☷
靠 西南 艮
bumping – SW / ☶
The positions of the eight gates are based on the principle of the passive and active aspects inverting each other, cycling round and round, following each other in their process. All of the four primary techniques [corresponding to the cardinal directions] and four secondary techniques [corresponding to the corner directions] must be understood. Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing are the four primary techniques. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping are the four secondary techniques. The combining of these cardinals and corners thus positions the trigrams.
The body makes its steps according to the five elements, bracing in all directions. The five elements are: advance (fire), retreat (water), step to the left (wood), step to the right (metal), and stay in the center (earth). Advancing and retreating are the steppings of water and fire, left and right are the steppings of metal and wood, and the central earth is the axis for all of them.
Embrace the eight trigrams as you step through the five elements. Techniques plus steps equals eight plus five, amounting to thirteen, naturally expressed as the Thirteen Dynamics, known as the Eight Gates & Five Steps.


The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us. You must first understand that they are based in these four terms: perception, realization, activation, action. [These four terms amount to “moving with awareness”. This is a breakdown of four words – 知, 覺, 運, 動 – which would typically, and especially so for modern Chinese speakers, only be considered as two terms: 知覺 and 運動. To break movement (運動) and awareness (知覺) into their component parts results in: moving = the activation (運) of movement + the act (動) of moving, and awareness = the perception (覺) that something is + the realization (知) of what it is. In short, moving with awareness. This idea is further elaborated upon in the next section, where the purpose of breaking down the two terms into four becomes more clear.]
Once you have achieved moving with awareness, then you will be able to identify energies.
Once you can identify energies, then you will be able to be miraculous. But in the beginning of training, you should understand moving with awareness. Although it is innate, it is nevertheless hard to achieve within oneself.


From birth, our eyes can see, ears can hear, nose can smell, mouth can taste. Sights and sounds, smells and tastes – all innate senses. Dance of hands, prance of feet – the abilities of our limbs are all innate forms of movement. Pondering upon this, we find it is our random experience – “Our natures make us the same, but our experiences make us unique.” [Lun Yu, 17.2] – that makes us lose touch with what is innate. If we want to return to our innate qualities, there will be no martial aspect unless we seek the source of movement, and there will be no civil aspect unless we grasp the basis of awareness. With these things, then there will be moving with awareness.
If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.
First strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself. You have to be able to understand this concept in order to be able to identify energies.


Sticking means to lift up high.
Adhering means to stay and be attached.
Connecting means to let go of yourself and not separate from the opponent.
Following means to follow him wherever he goes.
If you want to move with awareness and yet you do not understand sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, it will be beyond your reach, for it is a very subtle skill.


Crashing in means sticking your head out.
Collapsing means not enough pressure.
Coming away means separating.
Resistance means too much pressure.
You should understand that these four mistakes will not merely interfere with sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, but will also prevent you from moving with awareness. When beginning to work with a partner, you must understand and especially prevent these errors. The difficulty in sticking, adhering, connecting, and following is in not allowing yourself to crash in, collapse, come away, or resist. This is not at all easy.


Crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance will lose in a fight, and so they are called mistakes. If you neglect sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you will not be able to achieve moving with awareness. And if you are not aware of yourself, how will you be able to know your opponent? Therefore when fighting, do not use crashing in, collapsing, coming away, or resistance, thereby opposing the opponent, instead use sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, thereby awaiting the opponent. If you can do it in this way, then not only will you be without mistakes, but moving with awareness will be automatically accomplished, and you can then progress to the skill of identifying energies.

對待用功法守中土 俗名站橦

When standing centered, your feet should be rooted.
Start by understanding the four primary techniques, then advancing and retreating.
The four techniques are ward-off, rollback, press, and push.
You have to do a lot of work to get them to be real.
For the body posture, your waist and headtop should both be correct.
When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your intention and energy are to be uniform throughout.
Movement and awareness respond to each other.
Mind is sovereign and body is subject.
When you get the degree just right,
you will naturally have both the civil quality and the martial. [i.e. If the “degree” is not right, there is “overcooking” or “undercooking”, in which case too civil would be undercooked and too martial would be overcooked.]


For your bodys posture, how could your waist and headtop be ignored?
Neglecting either, all your work would be in vain.
Waist and headtop are to be exhaustively studied for your whole life.
When your body’s posture is natural, it will naturally be loosened and comfortable.
If you dismiss this truth, how will you end up
but that after ten years you will still be confused?

[9] TAIJI’S CIRCLING [as in the circles of the pushing hands exercise]

Circling while retreating is easy, but circling while advancing is difficult,
so do not get sloppy with your waist and headtop when going forward or back.
It is hard to stay in the central position,
so the ease of retreat and difficulty of advance are to be carefully studied.
As this is a matter of movement rather than stance,
stay close to the opponent while advancing or retreating.
Circling can be like a watermill as it speeds up or slows down,
or like the dragon-like clouds or tiger-like winds winding all around.
If you use the sky as a model to help you seek this,
then after a long time it will be expressed instinctively.


It is natural to ward off while advancing and roll back while retreating,
since passive and active, like water and fire, exchange roles with each other.
First understand the four primary techniques and get them to be authentic,
then you may move on to plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping,
performing the four secondary techniques on the basis of the primary.
Then there is the Thirteen Postures solo set, which goes on and on ceaselessly,
and hence is called Long Boxing. [“It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean…”]
You may spread out and gather in as you will,
but by no means allow yourself to stray from the taiji concept.


Four techniques divide into above and below, sky and ground:
plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping each having their source [pluck & rend based in sky, elbow & bump based in ground].
When plucking and bumping are coordinated with each other,
there is no worry of above and below coming out of joint.
But if rending and elbowing are not coordinated with each other,
you will lose the relationship between sky and ground and be left with only sighs of regret.
As this explanation is clearly about the realms of sky and ground,
when advancing using elbowing or rending, return to the condition of mankind [i.e. the proper range, the balanced position, man being the middle zone between sky and ground].


This eight technique song concerns the eight trigrams with its four primary and four secondary techniques.
A mere thirteen dynamics is not a lot.
But however many there might be, if their standard is not maintained
and if the position of your waist and headtop is misplaced, you will end up sighing with woe.
     The key to their being no division lies in but two words:
the “sovereign” and “subject” roles of the mind and body – ponder them carefully.
Your skill should have no division between internal and external,
and then there will be not any mistakes however many contenders you fight.
     What comes out of you during a fight should be natural,
coming from such interactions as between the realms of ground and sky.
When you no longer have a problem with letting go of yourself,
there will never be hesitation as you go upward or downward, forward or back.


Principle is the substance of essence, energy, and spirit. Essence, energy, and spirit are the substance of the body. Body is mind applied. Power is the applying of body. Mind and body have a specific controller: principle. Essence, energy, and spirit also have a specific controller: heartfelt sincerity. Sincerity is the way of nature and to be sincere is the way of mankind, and neither of these ways leaves the mind for an instant.
If you understand the principle that nature and mankind are of the same substance, you will naturally grasp the solar and lunar [i.e. active and passive] flow of energy, that the energy is the flow of intention, and that spirit lies naturally hidden within principle. Then you will obtain the martial and civil aspects, and the qualities of wisdom and spirituality. In order to make use of martial arts as a means to discuss mind and body or to develop power and strength, keep it based in the Way, for this art is not only for developing skill.
Power comes from the sinews. Strength comes from the bones. Looking at it purely physically, one who has great strength is able to carry many hundreds of pounds, but this is an externally showy action of bones and joints, a stiff strength. If on the other hand the power of your whole body is used, it may appear you are unable to lift hardly any weight at all, yet there is an internal robustness of essence and energy, and once you have achieved skill, you will seem to have something more wonderful than one who has the stiff sort of strength. Thus runs the method of physical training for self-cultivation.


The civil quality is the substance. The martial quality is the application. The civil training within the martial application is a matter of the essence, energy, and spirit. It is the physical cultivation. The martial training of the civil substance is a matter of mind and body. It is the martial reality. The civil and martial qualities in the training process are a matter of when to coil and when to release. This is the basis of physical cultivation. The civil and martial qualities in a fighting situation are a matter of when best to store and when best to issue. This is the foundation of martial reality.
It is said that a dose of civil in the martial makes it a softened physical exercise, the sinewy power of essence, energy, and spirit, while adding more martial to the martial would make it a hardened fighting drill, a solid effort of mind and body. The civil quality without the martial quality at the ready would be just application without substance. The martial quality without the civil quality in tandem would be substance without application. Since one piece of wood will not support a whole building, and since you cannot clap your hands with just one hand, this is not just a matter of health and fighting, but is a principle that applies to everything.
The civil quality is the inner principle. The martial quality is the outward skill. Those who have the outward skill but lack the civil principle will be consumed by reckless glory. Discarding the original purpose of the art, they will try to overpower opponents and inevitably lose. Those on the other hand who have the civil principle but lack the outward skill will be distracted by meditative expectation. They will have no idea what to do in a fight, and they will be destroyed the moment it turns chaotic. To apply this art upon an opponent, you must understand both the civil and martial qualities.


Once you are identifying your own energies, you will be working your way toward something miraculous. Succeed at the civil aspect and then delve into the martial. There are at all times in the body seventy-two channels for passive energy [as well as seventy-two channels for active energy]. When the active aspect is balanced by the passive, water and fire are in a state of mutual benefit, skyness and groundness are at peace with each other, and the genuineness of one’s life essence is preserved.
Once you are identifying the opponent’s energies, in a state of seeing them and hearing them, you are adapting to everything you encounter, and will naturally obtain the subtlety of falseness and trueness [i.e. the manipulating of emptiness and fullness]. The postures will be performed with effortless precision and your movements will be conducted with awareness. Once at this degree of skill, everything you do will be appropriate and you will not have to put thought into what you are doing.


In your own training of each posture, once you have learned them all, they are joined together to make a long routine, flowing on and on without interruption, one posture after another, and thus it is called Long Boxing. It is crucial for the set of postures to be performed consistently, otherwise it may after a while turn instead into either “slippery boxing” or “stiff boxing”. You assuredly must not lose your pliability, and the movement of your whole body should be grounded upon mind and spirit. After practicing over a long period of time, you will naturally have a breakthrough and attain everything you have been working toward, and nothing will be strong enough to stand up against you.
When working with a partner, the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push are the first of the thirteen dynamics to work on. Stand in one place and do the four techniques rolling in circles, then do them advancing and retreating, doing them at a middle height. Then do them higher and lower as well, practicing at all three heights. Starting with the basics, work your way through the solo set. Then begin working with the four techniques, larger gross movements at first, then focusing on the finer details until the skill of extending and contracting is fluent, and you will have ascended through the midway of attainment, and then will continue to the top.


Examples of the active / passive:
☰ / ☷
sky / ground
sun / moon
fire / water
☲ / ☵
releasing / coiling
exiting / entering
issuing / storing
offense / defense
opening / closing
subject / sovereign
muscle / bone
the practice / the theory
the energy / the principle
body / mind
martial / civil
dedicated to / absorbed in
square / round
exhale / inhale
up / down
advance / retreat
oblique / direct
The inversion principle can be explained with water and fire. Left to their own devices, fire rises and water sinks, but if water is placed above fire then they are in an inverted state. Of course, if not done properly there would be no inverted state, [just a fire put out and some water made into steam,] and so it has to be a situation of water being put in a pot which is then positioned over a fire. When the water in the pot receives the fire’s heat, not only will it not be able to sink away, it will also absorb the fire’s heat and inevitably become warm, and although the fire is rising to the pot, it is stopped there and goes no further. By not allowing the fire to rise freely or the water to sink away, this is water and fire as in After Completion [hexagram 63 – made of water ☵ on top of fire ☲], and is the principle of inversion. If the fire is allowed to rise freely and the water to sink away, the result will of course be that the water and fire will go their separate ways as two entities, and this is water and fire as in Before Completion [hexagram 64 – made of fire ☲ on top of water ☵]. So goes the principle that in separating they become two and in joining they become one, and thus it is said that one becomes two, then two becomes one, which totals three, namely sky, ground, and mankind.
Once you understand this principle of passive and active inverting, then the Way can be discussed. Once you understand that the Way cannot be departed from for a moment, then human beings can be discussed, and it is through human beings that the Way can be glorified. Once you understand that the Way is not far away from human beings, then the universe can be discussed. It is all one entity of sky above, ground below, and mankind in the middle. If you can examine the world, and be one with the shine of the sun and moon, with the grandeur and erosion of the landscape, with the wax and wane of the seasons, with the growth and decay of plants, and come to terms with the favors and frownings of spirits, and understand the rising and declining of human affairs, then can be discussed the larger universe of skyness and groundness, and the smaller universe that is a human being.
To understand the human body and mind, study the awareness and abilities of things in Nature. Then the human awareness and abilities that come from Nature can be discussed. If you do not forget your innate talents, nor your noble energy, constantly nurturing it and never harming it, you will survive indefinitely. And so it is said that a human being is a small universe. The sky represents your nature, the ground represents your life, and your naturalness represents your spirit. If you do not understand this, how will you be a blending of sky and ground to make a third? Unless you express your nature and sustain your life, the work of spiritual enlightenment and transformation has nothing to build on and cannot come to fruition.


The heart is in charge of the whole body, the body’s taiji [the body’s “grand polarity”, the body’s “1”].
[2] The eyes are the solar and lunar aspects, the “two polarities”.
[3] The head represents the sky and the feet represent the ground. The Renzhong acupoint [between lip and nose] represents mankind, along with the Zhongwan acupoint [solar plexus]. The three combined are the “three substances”.
[4] The four limbs are the “four manifestations”.
[5] The passive [or more solid organ] correspondences [to the five elements] within the body are: kidneys – water, heart – fire, liver – wood, lungs – metal, spleen – earth. The active [or more bag-like organ] correspondences within the body are: bladder – water, small intestine – fire, gallbladder – wood, large intestine – metal, stomach – earth. The external correspondences are: headtop – fire, jowls and Chengjiang acupoint [below the lower lip] – water, left ear – metal, right ear – wood, both sides of the “life gate” [earth]. Spirit is expressed from the heart. The eyes are the sprouts of the heart [similar to “windows to the soul”]. Essence is expressed from the kidneys. The brain and kidneys are the source of the essence. Energy is expressed from the lungs. The gallbladder energy has its source in the lungs. When the eyes see clearly, the actions of the heart make the spirit flow. When the ears hear clearly, the actions of the brain make the kidneys smooth. As breath goes in and out, what is perceived by the senses of smell and taste are: salty – water, sour – wood, spice [sweet] – earth, bitter – fire, sweet [spice] – metal. And the sounds they produce are: clear – wood, fire – hoarse, congested – metal, breathy – earth, distracted – water. The scent and taste of the air as the lungs pump it in and out, and as the wind (☴) and thunder (☳) of liver and gallbladder produce the five manners of voice, comes and goes as the five fragrances/flavors.
[6] Mouth, eye, nose, tongue, spirit, and intent make the six internal unions by which the six desires will be overcome. Hand, foot, shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip make the six external unions by which the six paths [front, back, left, right, up, down] will be straightened [i.e. moved toward efficiently].
[7] The seven external apertures are: eye, ear, nose, mouth, anus, urethra, navel. The seven internal emotions, which are governed by the heart, are: joy, rage, worry, obsessiveness, grief, fear, shock. Inside, joy is in the heart, rage is in the liver, worry is in the spleen, grief is in the lungs, fear is in the kidneys, shock is in the gallbladder, obsessiveness is in the small intestine, terror is in the bladder, anxiety is in the stomach, and pensiveness is in the large intestine.
[8] The internal qualities of the eight trigrams:

☳    ☱

☲: S / Wu [noon] / fire / heart meridian
☵: N / Zi [midnight] / water / kidney meridian
☳: E / Mao [dawn] / wood / liver meridian
☱: W / You [sunset] / metal / lung meridian
☰: NW / metal / large intestine / transforming of water
☷: SW / earth / spleen / transforming of earth
☴: SE / wood / gallbladder / transforming of earth
☶: NE / earth / stomach / transforming of fire
[9] Externally, ☵ is 1, ☷ is 2, ☳ is 3, ☴ is 4, the center is 5, ☰ is 6, ☱ is 7, ☶ is 8, and ☲ is 9. 2 and 4 are the shoulders, 6 and 8 are the feet, at the top is 9, at the bottom is 1, on the left is 3, on the right is 7 [producing a “magic square” in which every line of three numbers – horizontal, vertical, diagonal – adds up to the same number]:

4  9  2
3  5  7
8  1  6

These are the “nine palaces” [eight trigrams plus the center]. The internal quality of the nine palaces is the same.
[10] The inner and outer [alignment with the ten Celestial Stems (the names of the days of the ancient ten-day week, a poetic microcosm of the agricultural process: 甲 Jia – “Seed”, 乙 Yi – “Sprout”, 丙 Bing – “Shoot”, 丁 Ding – “Ear”, 戊 Wu – “Sickle”, 己 Ji – “Bundle”, 庚 Geng – “Pestle”, 辛 Xin – “Sack”, 壬 Ren – “Haul”, 癸 Gui – “Store”. The pulse of the days is: active, passive, active, passive, the odd-numbered active days intended as being more work-oriented days and the even-numbered passive days intended as being more rest-oriented days. The order is twisted below because the pairings are presented passive/active rather than active/passive.)] runs thus:
Yi: liver and left ribs / transformed by the metal of the lungs
Jia: gallbladder / transforms the earth of the spleen
Ding: heart / transformed by the wood of the gallbladder and liver
Bing: small intestine / transforms the water of the kidneys
Ji: spleen / transformed by the earth of the stomach
Wu: stomach / transforms the fire of the heart, energy coursing through the mountain and valley of back and chest
Xin: lungs and right ribs / transformed by the water of the kidneys
Geng: large intestine / transforms the metal of the lungs
Gui: kidneys and lower body / transformed by the fire of the heart
Ren: bladder / transforms the wood of the liver
These are the internal and external qualities of the ten Celestial Stems.
The twelve Terrestrial Branches also have internal and external qualities [which for some reason are not delved into here. The Terrestrial Branches are the names of the ancient “hours” of the day: 子 Zi (11pm-1am – “Conception” – picture of a baby, representing also the new day beginning at midnight), 丑 Chou (1am-3am – “Curled Up” – in sleep), 寅 Yin (3am-5am – “Contortion” – curled up further in sleep), 卯 Mao (5am-7am – “Shutters Opening” – i.e. dawn), 辰 Chen (7am-9am – “Slight Bowing” – looking down away from the sun above the horizon), 巳 Si (9am-11am – “Deep Bowing” – slouching over in response to rising sun), 午 Wu (11am-1pm – “Oppression” – sun directly above), 未 Wei (1pm-3pm – “Short Shadow” – shadow finally moving off center), 申 Shen (3pm-5pm – “Long Shadow”), 酉 You (5pm-7pm – “Wine Withdrawn” – the wine going back into the bottle, i.e. sunset), 戌 Xu (7pm-9pm – “Depression” – woundingly missing the daylight), 亥 Hai (9pm-11pm – “Bliss” – picture of a man and woman in bed together). As a further side note, since the Celestial Stems describe an agricultural process and the Terrestrial Branches are based on the progress of the sun through the sky, the 天干地支 Celestial Stems and Terrestrial Branches probably should have been called the 地干天支 Terrestrial Stems and Celestial Branches.]
Once you are clear about this theory [that there is a taiji quality of passives and actives inherent in the body], you will then be able to talk of the methods of self-cultivation.


As far as the Way goes, without cultivating the self, there is no source from which to obtain it. It is separated into three vehicles for cultivation, “vehicle” meaning accomplishment. The greater vehicle takes you all the way to the top. The lesser vehicle gets you at least to the bottom. The middle vehicle is to succeed via sincerity. The methods are separated into three kinds of cultivation, but are working towards the same accomplishment.
Cultivation of the civil quality is internal. Cultivation of the martial quality is external. Physical training is internal. Martial affairs are external. When the cultivation methods, both internal and external, surface and interior, are merged and achieved together, this is a grand accomplishment, the top.
When one obtains the martial quality by way of the civil training or obtains the civil quality by way of the martial training, this is the middle.
When one knows only the civil training but knows nothing of the martial part of it or focuses on only the martial part of it but does not do the civil training, this is the bottom.


Taiji’s martial quality is to be outwardly soft while inwardly hard, always seeking softness. By being outwardly soft over a longer and longer period, you will naturally obtain inner hardness, so long as your mind is focused on the softness rather than the hardness. The difficulty lies in containing hardness within and not letting it expose itself, outwardly only engaging the opponent with softness. By using softness to respond to hardness, his hardness is made to dissipate until it is spent.
How is such a skill to be obtained? Once your sticking, adhering, connecting, and following are complete, you will naturally have achieved moving with awareness, and from there you will move on to identifying energies, then gain a miraculous understanding, and ultimately you will have been transformed.
As for the subtlety of four ounces moving a thousand pounds – how could you have such an ability if your skill has not reached a transformative state? Thus it is said that you are to recognize when you are connected to the opponent, and thereby obtain the art of keenly observing and listening.


Taiji is round, never abandoning its roundness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. And Taiji is square, never abandoning its squareness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. As you roundly exit and enter, or squarely advance and retreat, follow squareness with roundness, and vice versa. Squareness has to do with expanding, roundness with contracting. [Squareness means a directional focus along which you can express your power. Roundness means an all-around buoyancy with which you can receive and neutralize the opponent’s power.]
The main rule is that you be squared and rounded. After all, could there be anything beyond these things? By means of this you will become proficient at the skill. But “gazing up, it grows higher, and drilling in, it gets harder…” [i.e. there is always more to it], so magical it is. When you look upon it at last, it hides again, revealing there is yet more subtlety to it, illumination upon illumination. It generates new features infinitely, rendering you “unable to quit even if there were the desire to do so.” [Lun Yu, 9.11]


– [1a] Both sides fully heavy [“double pressure”] is wrong. It is too full. It is different from sinking.
– [1b] Both sides fully sinking is okay. It has to do with being ready to move. It is different from heaviness.
– [1c] Both sides fully floating [“double vacuum”] is wrong. It is too empty. It is different from lightness.
– [1d] Both sides fully light is okay. It has to do with natural nimbleness. It is different from floating.
– [2a] One side under-light and one side under-heavy is okay. To underdo means one side is stable. Therefore it is okay. Since to underdo is stable, it will not lose squareness and roundness.
– [2b] One side over-light and one side over-heavy is wrong. To overdo means neither side is stable. Therefore it is wrong. Since to overdo is unstable, it will lose squareness and roundness.
– [2c] One side under-floating and one side under-sinking is wrong, for it is not enough.
– [2d] One side over-floating and one side over-sinking [is wrong, for it] is too much.
– [3a] One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.
– [3b] One side under-light and one side over-light, you will still be nimble but you will be unrounded.
– [3c] One side under-sinking and one side over-sinking, you will still be balanced but you will be unsquared.
– [3d] One side under-floating and one side over-floating, you will be not only scattered but also unrounded.
Both sides fully light [1d] is not a matter of floating, and thus it is nimbleness. Both sides fully sinking [1b] is not a matter of heaviness, and thus it is alertness. Thus it is said: “The best technique is both light and heavy [2a], half and half, thus you will have a balanced technique.” Anything beyond these three [1b, 1d, 2a] would be wrong.
When your inner naturalness is not obscured, it can be sent outward as purified energy, flowing into your limbs. If you do not exhaustively study these aspects of technique – lightness, heaviness, floating, sinking – it would be like digging a dry well. But if you possess squareness and roundness, then warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing will all be there inside and out down to their smallest detail, and you will have attained a great achievement, and then plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping will also be squared and rounded. And so it is said: “Square but round, round but square.” Going beyond the shape [squareness OR roundness] takes you to the highest level [squareness AND roundness].


The four primary techniques, aligned with the four cardinal compass points, are ward-off, rollback, press, and push. In the beginning, there will be a lack of understanding of the principle that squareness can lead to roundness and that they may alternate. Thus ability will emerge in the four secondary techniques of pluck, rend, elbow, and bump. Due to your outer limbs and inner spirit not maintaining nimbleness of squareness/roundness in the primary techniques, the mistakes of lightness, heaviness, floating, or sinking will start to manifest, and with them the secondary techniques.
For example [3a]: “One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.” This situation will naturally lead to the secondary techniques. Or [1a]: “Both sides fully heavy… is too full.” Again the secondaries will emerge. If your technique has many flaws, you will be compelled to use the secondary techniques to make up for them in order to regain a roundness that is centered and a squareness that is squared. Even a beginner can achieve this with the techniques of elbow or bump. But one whose skill has risen to a higher level still has to maintain the techniques of pluck and rend to regain a position that is centered and squared. Therefore the purpose of the four secondary techniques is to troubleshoot the mistakes you make in those moments when your technique is performed contrary to the theory.


Your head is like a centered pole, as in “your headtop is suspended”, and with your hands making the trays to each side, your waist being the platform base, you are “standing like a scale”. Whether you receive the slightest bit of lightness or heaviness, floating or sinking, the tipping of the trays to either side will reveal all to you. With your headtop suspended and waist rooted below, you are connected from tailbone to skullbone.
Standing in a vertical line,
all depends on a horizontal rotation.
My adaptations can catch the smallest change,
and I can distinguish all measurements.
     Rotating my waist,
the great flag is waved.
My mind sends the command, the energy carries the directing banners,
and I naturally move with facility.
     My whole body is activated
like a toughened arhat warrior.
In fighting,
one will be either early or late.
     Joining with the opponent, I send him away,
but it is not necessary for me to try to launch him into the stratosphere.
With an amount of power contained,
I need only express a “ha!” and he goes far enough.
But this is something that must be taught personally
in order for the door to be opened and the view to be seen.

[25] A TAIJI MAP OF THE FOUR SEASONS & FIVE ENERGIES [meaning the five elements]

春木噓東 ☯ 西呬金秋



S: summer / fire / “he” [scolding]

E: spring / wood / “xu” [shushing]          (taiji)          W: autumn / metal / “xi” [sighing]

N: winter / water / “chui” [boasting]

Center: earth / “hu-xi” [breathing]


Blood is for nourishment. Energy is for defense. Blood flows through muscles, tissues, and limbs. Energy flows through bones, sinews, and vessels. Healthy sinews and nails are a sign of healthy bone. Healthy scalp hair and body hair is a sign of healthy blood. When the blood is vigorous, the scalp and body hair is lush. When the energy is full, the sinews and nails are robust.
Thus the boldness and strength of the blood and energy when the blood is emphasized manifests outwardly in the robustness of the bones, skin, and hair, while the form and function of the energy and blood when the energy is emphasized manifests inwardly in the robustness of the muscles, sinews, and nails. The energy relies on the blood’s burgeoning or depleting. The blood relies on the energy’s decreasing or increasing. Decreasing then increasing, burgeoning then depleting, the cycle goes on endlessly. Make use of this your whole life and you will never be worn out.


Energy courses through the tissues, limbs, sinews, and vessels. Strength emerges from the blood, muscles, skin, and bones. Therefore a strong person has an outer robustness to their skin and bones, a matter of posture, while an energized person has an inner robustness to their sinews and vessels, a matter of presence. Training the energy and blood with emphasis on the energy will empower the internal. Training the blood and energy with emphasis on the blood will enhance the external.
If you awaken to the functions of these two things, both the energy and the blood, you will naturally come to understand the basis of strength and energy. Understanding what strength and energy are all about, you will naturally be able to distinguish between the using of strength and the moving of energy: the moving of energy will be felt in your sinews and vessels, while the using of strength will be felt in your skin and bones – extremely different things indeed.


Work first at training gross movements, then finer details. When the gross movements are obtained, then the finer movements can be talked of. When the finer movements are obtained, then measures of a foot and below can be talked of. When your skill has progressed to the level of a foot, then you can progress to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. This is what is meant by the principle of reducing measurements.
A foot has ten “inches”. An inch has ten tenths. A tenth has ten hairs. These are the measurements. It was long ago said: “Fighting is a matter of measuring.” Understanding the measurements, you can achieve the reducing of measurements. But if you want to understand the measuring, you will not be able to without the deeper teachings.


Controlling his vessels, seizing his channels, capturing his sinews, and sealing his acupoints – these four skills are to be worked toward after you are able to measure down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. When his vessels are controlled, his blood will not circulate. When his channels are seized, his energy will not move. When his sinews are captured, his body will have no control. When his acupoints are sealed, he will lose consciousness.
By controlling certain vessels, he will seem half dead. By seizing certain channels, he will seem fully dead. By capturing certain sinews, his power will be cut off. By sealing the lethal acupoints, he will not survive. Basically, if he is without energy, blood, or spirit, how will he have any control over his body? However, even if you have ability in the skills of control, seize, capture, and seal, these particular effects will not work without specific instruction in them.


Applying to either yourself or the opponent: file, knead, punch, strike, push down, rub in, push out, seize, spread, merge, ascend, descend. These twelve terms are all techniques.
Applying to either yourself or the opponent: bending, extending, movement, stillness, rising, falling, quick, leisurely, evade, counter, incite, conclude. These twelve terms apply to your own energy in relation to the opponent’s techniques.
Applying to your own body in relation to the opponent’s stepping: turn, switch, advance, retreat. Applying to your own gaze in relation to the opponent’s techniques: look left, look right, look forward, look behind. These eight terms have to do with your spirit.
These four terms have to with intention and power: disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, yawning backward. Disconnecting and connecting have to do with your spirit and energy. Bowing forward and yawning back have to do with your hands and feet. The power may disconnect, but the intention does not. If the intention disconnects, the spirit can stay connected. If the power, intention, and spirit disconnect together, there will be bowing forward or yawning back, your hands and feet not touching or landing where they would have. To bow forward is to end up cracking your head. To yawn backward is to end up toppling over. To keep yourself from cracking your head or toppling over, you must disconnect then reconnect. Bowing forward and yawning backward are important things to consider in fighting. At no moment allow there to be in mind, body, hand, or foot a disconnection without reconnecting, and then you will prevent bowing forward or yawning back.
Seeking for the skills of disconnecting and connecting will not work without seeing what is concealed and revealing what is subtle. With concealment and subtlety, it is like you have disconnected but not disconnected. With seeing and revealing, it is like you have connected but not connected. By connecting and disconnecting, disconnecting and connecting, in mind, body, and spirit, you will ultimately be concealing and revealing, and then you will have no worry that you are not sticking, adhering, connecting, and following.


When in your fighting skill you have obtained the sense of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair, you can then estimate the opponent. Regardless of any ease you may have with the techniques of controlling, seizing, capturing, and sealing, in order to control his vessels, seize his channels, capture his sinews, and seal his acupoints, you must make estimations of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair.
To control without estimation, his vessels can be obtained through pushing down. To seize without estimation, his channels can be obtained through rubbing in. To capture without estimation, his sinews can be obtained through pushing out. But as for sealing, without estimation his acupoints cannot be reached, because [to get to his acupoints] you have to work your way down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. For these four skills, even if you receive instruction from an expert, you will not be able to master them unless you personally put a lot of work into them over a long period.


There is difficulty in boosting or dissipating your own energy and strength. There is also difficulty in boosting or dissipating the energy and strength of the opponent. When your awareness is insufficient, boost [your energy]. When your movement is overdone, dissipate [your strength]. These are things that are not easy matters when it comes to yourself.
When the opponent has too much energy, boost it. When he has too much strength, dissipate it. By this means, you will win and he will lose. Or you may when he has too much energy, dissipate it, or when he has too much strength, boost it. The principle is the same in either case, and yet to elaborate further: if he has too much [of either], add more so that he is overdoing, or if he has too little [of either], dissipate it further so that in his insufficiency he adds more and again ends up overdoing. Both boosting his energy and dissipating his strength induce him to overdo it. Boosting his energy is called the method of “tying up his energy”. Dissipating his strength is called the method of “emptying his strength”.



To empty or tie up by way of filing is different from emptying or tying up by way of kneading. Emptying by way of filing, the opponent’s strength is boxed in. Tying up by way of filing, his energy is interrupted. Emptying by way of kneading, his strength is spread out. Tying up by way of kneading, his energy is boxed in.
If you apply the tying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will be reversed. If you apply the emptying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will fail. If you apply the tying & filing kneading, his strength will build up from his energy until his strength is greater than his energy. If you apply the emptying & filing kneading, his energy will build up from his strength, making his energy overloaded and his strength insufficient.
The filing & tying kneading and the kneading & tying filing will both result in his energy getting sealed off by his strength. The filing & emptying kneading and the kneading & emptying filing will both result in his strength being chiseled away by his energy. Basically, methods such as tying up by way of filing or emptying by way of kneading all require that you work your way down from measurements of a foot, to an inch, to a tenth of an inch, to the width of a hair. If not, there will be no occasion of filing or kneading and a flattened out void for emptying or tying, for they will not be gotten from anywhere.


Before you are identifying energies, you will typically be making the mistakes of crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance. Once you are identifying energies, you will perhaps still make the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, and yawning back. Before you are indentifying energies, it is natural to be making mistakes, but even after you are identifying energies, there are reasons as to why there are still mistakes to be made. When in that vague zone of almost but not quite indentifying energies, there is a lack of precision in disconnecting and connecting, hence there will be mistakes. And then when almost but not quite at the level of the miraculous, bowing forward and yawning back may still not be entirely under control, again resulting in mistakes.
As long as you are not making the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, or yawning back, you are doing it right, for if your identifying of energies is not genuine, you would not able to prevent such mistakes. What does it mean for it to be genuine? Simply that a sensory foundation must be laid to build it up into a reality. Be aware through observing: there is looking forward, looking behind, looking left, looking right. Be aware through listening: there is rising, falling, quickness, leisure. Be aware through feeling: there is evading, countering, inciting, concluding. Be aware through acting: there is turning, switching, advancing, retreating. In this way, your identifying of energies will be genuine.
You will then be able to reach the level of the miraculous, and this is because there is a foundation, the foundation being the identifying of energies. The subtleties of bending, extending, movement, and stillness are automatically built upon that foundation. Then spreading, merging, ascending, and descending are in turn built upon bending, extending, movement, and stillness. By way of bending and extending, movement and stillness, spread his attack aside when you see him enter, then merge with him as he tries to exit. Descend when you see his attack come in, then ascend as he withdraws.
Once your genuineness in identifying energies reaches all the way to the point of the miraculous, at such a level you will thereafter be mindful in every activity – whether it be walking, sitting, lying down, running, eating, drinking, or even going to the bathroom. By this means, your achievement will go from middling to great.


If you strive for the reducing of measurements before identifying energies, yours will amount to a small achievement and be but a smattering of martial skill. You will not be able to estimate the opponent even at the level of a foot before you are identifying energies. After you have achieved identifying energies, you will have a miraculous understanding, and you will automatically have the ability to reduce measurements. From there you will then be able to control, seize, capture, and seal.
To understand the theory of vessels, channels, sinews, and acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about which techniques will save or kill. To understand the techniques that will save or kill, it is necessary to be clear about the acupoints for life and death. In the acupoint art, how could you go without knowing them [seeing as not knowing them might result in killing someone by mistake]? To know how to activate the life and death acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about the technique of sealing. Sealing is what determines both life and death.


The “palm” is the area of the hand below the fingers and above the wrist. The “hand” refers to the whole thing up to the fingertips. A “finger” refers to any of the five fingers. A “fist” is when the five fingers are clasped inward to emphasize the back of the hand. Palm techniques are matters of pushing down and pushing out. Finger techniques are matters of seizing, kneading, capturing, and sealing. Hand techniques are matters of filing and rubbing. Fist techniques are matters of striking.
Fist techniques: Parry & Block, Punch to the Crotch, Under the Elbow, Torso-Flung Punch, and beyond these four there is also the Overturned Punch. Palm techniques: Brush the Knee, Exchanging Palms, Single Whip, Through the Back, and beyond these four there is also the Threading Palm. Hand techniques: Clouding Hands, Raising Hand, Seizing Hand, Crossed Hands, and beyond these four there is also the Reversing Hand. Finger techniques: bending, extending, pinching, sealing, and beyond these four there is also estimating, which is also called “reducing measurements” or “seeking acupoints”. The five fingers also have five-fingered functions, operating as a whole hand as well as individual fingers, and so these can be termed as either hand or finger techniques: corkscrewing, planting, curling, or closing inward, and beyond these four hand/finger techniques, there is also “standing alone”.
The forefinger is the impatient finger, sword finger, assisting finger, or sticking finger. The middle finger is the central finger, closing finger, hooking finger, or smearing finger. The ring finger is the completing finger, surrounding finger, exchanging finger, or covering finger. The little finger is the helping finger, healing finger, enticing finger, or hanging finger. Though the names of these techniques are easy to comprehend, they are difficult to apply, even with personal instruction in the deeper methods.
Supplementary palm techniques: Palms Facing Each Other, Push the Mountain, Shoot the Goose, Spreading Wings. Supplementary finger techniques: Sealing Shut, Jab in a Crossed Stance, Bending the Bow, Working the Shuttles. Supplementary hand techniques: Reaching Out to the Horse, Bending the Bow, Capturing the Tiger, Maiden’s Hands, Sitting Tiger Hands. Supplementary fist techniques: Punch Through the Mountain, Punch Under the Leaf, Turning Behind Punch, Momentum-Splitting Punch, Wrap & File Punch.
A further supplementary layer is that your steps are to go along with your body’s changes and are never to perform a step unassociated with the five elements, and thus you will be free from making mistakes. Because of the principle of sticking, connecting, adhering, and following, as well as letting go of yourself to follow the opponent, your body in turn will go along with your stepping, and as long as you remain true to the five elements, there will be such a naturalness to your posture and steps that it will not matter even if you do make some mistakes here and there.


There are acupoints that save and acupoints that kill. They cannot be learned without personal instruction. Here are three reasons why: because of how difficult they are to learn, the fact that they are a matter of life and death, and the degree of a person’s talent. There are eight kinds of people not to be taught:
1. the disloyal and unfilial,
2. those who are fundamentally unkind,
3. those with crooked intentions,
4. those who are rude and reckless,
5. those who think themselves superior to others,
6. those who care more about rules than they do about people,
7. those who are fickle,
8. those who will have an easy time picking it up and then just as easily discard it.
It must be understood that these eight people are not to be taught. Criminals of course do not deserve to be considered at all. As for those who may be taught, they are eligible to be given personal instruction in its secrets. There are five kinds who may be taught:
[1] those who are loyal, filial, and gracious,
[2] those with a mild temperament,
[3] those who will hold to the method and not discard it,
[4] those who will be true to the teacher,
[5] those who will complete the study as ardent as when they started.
These types will be resolved to complete the study without having doubts and can be shown the whole thing, and what will be given to the pupil is illumination. It goes from those who already know it to those who will know it, the torch being passed down through generations, always by this process. But what a shame it is that of those who know martial arts, some turn out to be criminals.


“The sky and the ground made the world.
Fu Xi was the progenitor of mankind.
He drew the trigrams and declared the Way
for Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun, and for sixteen generations on.
The most mysterious of pinnacles have consented access
to the most dedicated, such as Confucius and Mengzi.
The skill of spirit transmuting the life-force
went down through seventy-two sages to King Wen and King Wu.
     “Instruction has come to me
by way of the writings of Xu Xuanping.
The medicine to bring about longevity lies within ourselves,
in the perfection of our original state being revived. [Basically, live every day as though it’s your first, a lesson that could have been learned from pretty much any Daoist poet.]
Your natural self can empower and enlighten.
The truth when expressed can fulfill you in spirit and body.
With countless repetitions, chant of lengthening the springtime.
Heartfelt sincerity will have a real effect.
     “The three doctrines [Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism] are not different schools,
for all that each of them discuss is a matter of the Grand Polarity
which runs through everything,
centered and everlasting.
The ancient wisdom is always with us,
constantly inspiring new students to learn.
When water and fire cooperate [as in hexagram 63 – water above, fire below, leading to a heated cooking pot, as opposed to hexagram 64 – fire above, water below, an absence of interaction which produces nothing],
our goals are able to come to fruition.” [The metaphor in this last statement is that ancient knowledge is the fire and the act of learning from it is the water being brought to a boil.]


“I understand the idea that the three doctrines are basically the same: they are each a study of life, each take the mind to be controller of the body, and are purposed to maintain mind and body, to bring longevity to essence, energy, and spirit. With essence, energy, and spirit, we can be calmly civil and boldly martial. Calm and bold, civil and martial – as these things are expanded and have a transformative effect, there will come wisdom and spirituality. The earliest discoverers of this found their way into truth and then took it to another level. Later students then imitate what they did in order to achieve their awareness. Such awareness is innate in everyone, but to get at what they were doing, it is nevertheless necessary to follow in their footsteps. Civil and martial are inherent to human ability. The seeing of eyes and hearing of ears are inherently civil while the dancing of hands and prancing of feet are inherently martial, and so both aspects are clearly inherent. Having achieved the layers of civil, martial, wisdom, and spirituality, the forefathers advanced the teaching of self-cultivation by way of physical training, though not by way of martial arts.
“When the teachings reached me, I grasped the receive/oppose [counterbalancing] nature of the dancing prancing, in which the passive aspect of the other person’s body is borrowed to build up the active aspect in one’s own. The active aspect is the masculine quality. The passive aspect is the feminine quality. The body has both qualities. While the maleness is active and the femaleness is passive, the femaleness receives the active aspect to counter her own passive aspect [as the maleness receives the passive aspect to counter his own active aspect]. Thereby the active [or passive] returns to its initial state [of being in balance with the other]. The passive feminine aspect within the body means more than a young woman being developed enough to become pregnant. There are countless ways in which a woman may enact counterbalancing, and this is not about the bodies of men and women being somehow corrected. It is said that taking advantage of the skyness and groundness in one’s own body is what makes the counterbalancing of the passive and active aspects. This means that a man may make use of the passive aspect of his masculine side as a way to counter his own feminine quality. [However, this work of balancing the masculine and feminine qualities within oneself] is not as efficient as the self-cultivation of two partners making use of their masculine quality to work at balancing their passive and active aspects [through the constant exchanging of passive and active roles during the pushing hands exercises].
“Seeing as I have placed these teachings into a martial context, martial arts must not be viewed as something trivial, but as a part of physical education, a method of self-cultivation, a practice of life-enhancement, a category of wisdom and spirituality. The work of counterbalancing between two partners is no different in principle from the counterbalancing within your own body, but when working with a partner, it is like counterbalancing between mercury and lead. [In the context of two partners pushing hands, the role of the attacker is solid and heavy, like lead, while the defender is fluid and yielding, like mercury.] When fighting, the four primary techniques are a matter of active opposing passive, while the four secondary techniques are a matter of passive receiving active. The eight trigrams supply the eight techniques. The body and feet stand centered. To advance is to oppose actively. To retreat is to receive passively. To step to the left is to receive actively. To step to the right is to oppose passively. The five elements supply the five steps. Combined, they are the eight techniques and five steps.
“These teachings of mine you may make use of for your entire life and yet never be able to use them up. What I have gained and am passing down is to be taught as a martial art of self-cultivation. As to the method of cultivating the self, it does not matter if it is approached by martial or civil means, for the achievement is the same. The three doctrines, at any of the three levels [greater, middle, lesser], are all inescapably based in the concept of the grand polarity. I wish for the next generation of students to examine the theory in the Book of Changes within themselves and that it be continued by succeeding generations. That would be a good thing.”


“Before there was the universe, there was the principle which governs the passive and active energies. This governing principle by which the universe exists is the core of the Way, and the way these energies flow is in the manner of complementary opposites. For passive and active to oppose and yet complement each other is a mathematical principle: to be [zeroed out in a half-and-half state of] one part passive and one part active is the Way. ‘The Way that cannot be described is the origin of the universe itself. The Way that can be described is the source of all things within the universe. [Daodejing, chapter 1]’ Before the universe existed, there was merely nothingness, and thus nothing to be described. Once the universe existed, there was finally somethingness, and thus things to be described. Before the universe existed, there awaited the principle of existence. Once the universe came into being, there was then the creative principle.
“Pre-beginning, it was the principle of existence that brought about the balanced passive and active energies. Post-beginning, the creative principle then gave rise to the ways of coming into being: gestation in a womb, hatching from an egg, spontaneous generation from water, and metamorphosis. The Way is the way of neutrality, nourishing all things by being in a balanced position between skyness and groundness. The sky and ground are your greater parents, of the pre-beginning. Your mother and father are your lesser parents, of the post-beginning. When we are born, we are the recipients of the energies of passive and active, of pre-beginning and post-beginning, and on such a basis we begin. When we are born, we are given by our greater parents our life-force and disposition, and are endowed with reason. From our lesser parents come our physical essence, blood, and bones. By the merging of the life-force and body of the pre-beginning and post-beginning, we each then become a person. For us to align with the sky and ground, taking our place as one of the three substances, we cannot ignore our fundamental origin [as a product of both].
“As long as we are able to follow our nature, we will not lose touch with our origin. By not forgetting where we come from, we will not lose touch with where we are headed, for if you want to know where you are going, you must first know where you are coming from. With our origin mapped out, our way ahead is a clear route that will be traversed by way of instinct. We all, whether smart or stupid, worthy or worthless, have an instinctive awareness that will point us to the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will be able to know our origin and can fulfill our destiny. To know our origin and fulfill our destiny lies in being able to cultivate the self. Thus it is said [in the Da Xue]: ‘From king to commoner, it all comes down to self-cultivation.’ The way to cultivate the self is through instinctive understanding and ability: eyes keenly seeing and ears acutely hearing, hands dancing and feet prancing, martiality and civility. ‘Broaden your understanding by studying things deeply, thereby improving your intellect and smoothing your emotions.’
“Since mind is in charge of body, the intellect should be improved and the emotions smoothed in order for the feet to perform the five steps and the hands to perform the eight techniques. The hands and feet amount to four, and they can be used in such a variety of ways, but instinct is able to retrieve their basic state [of unity]. The eyes see as a union of three [what the left eye sees, what the right eye sees, what both eyes see by triangulating together] and the ears hear along the six paths. The eyes and ears amount to four, but within they function as one, instinct again regaining the basic state. Ears, eyes, hands, and feet – they each are divided into two, making two polarities, but each functioning as a unity, totaling a grand polarity.
“Gathering inward from without, expressing outward from within, all of it in this way can be reached, inside and out, specifically and in general, all understood thoroughly, and we will naturally attain the hoped-for achievements of the worthies and sages, their vision and knowledge, their wisdom and spirituality. This is what they meant by fulfilling one’s nature and facing one’s destiny, taking spirit as far as it will go and thereby causing transformation. The way of both Nature and mankind is sincerity and nothing more.”

– – –

[*Survey of Textual Variations (Wu document left side / Yang document right side):

Harmless character variants:
section 5 – 斷 / 断
7 – 淂 / 得
10 – 淂 / 得
13 – 淂 / 得
15 – 得 / 淂
21 – 顕 / 顯
23 – 缉 / 緝
24 – 憑 / 凴
30 – 顯 / 顕
ii – 淂 / 得 ; 也 / 矣
iv – 淂 / 得
vii – 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 之 / 者 ; 淂 / 得

Flipped words (one occasion in each document):
24 – 絲毫 / 毫絲
vi – 濟既 / 既濟

Missing words (one occasion in Wu document, seven occasions in Yang document):
1 – 五行者 / 五行
2 – 淂之 / 淂
13 – 淂矣 / 得
19 – 得成 / 得
22 – 半重偏 / 半重偏重
ii – 緣勁 / 勁
iv – 如對掌 / 對掌
vii – 補助身 / 補助
There are also two occasions in Yang document of missing character components:
17 – 悠久 / 攸久
25 – 呬 / 四
As for accidentally added words, there is one occasion in Wu document:
22 – 除除 / 除
In section 30, 於己人 is expanded in Yang document to 於己於人 five times, indicating deliberate addition in Yang document rather than absent-mindedness in this section of Wu document.

Mistaken words (one occasion in Wu document, ten occasions in Yang document):
3 – 知 / 覺
5 – 匾 / 區
18 – 亮 / 毫
23 – 使 / 始
24 – 囟門 / 匃門 ; 云 / 去
32 – 一然 / 亦然
iii – 末 / 未
vi – 戌 / 戍
viii – 壹 / 一 ; 手 / 乎 ]

Reference: EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES (TAIJI FA SHUO) with an introduction and pictures of the original manuscript.


Silkreeling Training

A perspective on silk-reeling training by Zhang Xuexin, a student of Feng Zhiqiang, 18-generation. Chen style Taijiquan and founder of Chen Style Xinyi Hun Yuan Taijiquan.

Feng Zhiqiang, a leading student of Chen Fake is one of the most famous exponents of Taijiquan in the world. He is also well-known for promoting a complete set of silk-reeling exercises (Chansigong or also occasionally romanized as Chan Ssu Gong) in thirty five postures which form one of the fundamental training exercises for the mastery of Chen-style Taijiquan.

Feng Zhiqiang’s senior indoor student, Zhang Xuexin, was the first to introduce this system of exercises to the west. The following introduction to Taijiquan silk-reeling exercises is from Zhang’s video tape on silk-reeling and dantian rotation exercises.


Master Zhang will demonstrate the complete set of silk-reeling (known as Chan Si Gong in Pinyin) and dantian rotation exercises arranged by Master Feng based on his studies of Chen style Taijiquan. One major objective of this set of spiral exercises is to open up and exercise the 18 major joint areas of the body (in sequence from the head to the ankles). The 18 major joints consist of: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, chest, abdomen, waist, kuas, hips, knees, and ankles. 

These 18 major joints are also referred to as 18 “balls” of the human body. By harmonizing the internal turning and external twisting with the Qi and Yi via the silk-reeling exercises, one can reach a state where the entire body will become an integrated “Taiji sphere.” 

In practicing Chen-style Taijiquan, the human body may be seen as a tree with three sections: branch, trunk and roots. In reference to the entire body: the arm is the branch, the torso is the trunk and the legs are the root. The entire body may be further subdivided. For the torso, the head is the branch, the waist is the trunk and the abdomen is the root. For the arm, the hand is the branch, the elbow is the trunk, and the shoulder is the root. For the lower body, the ankle is the branch, the knee is the trunk and the kua is the root. All total there are 9 sections of the human body. The dantian is the center from which the jing and energy are propogated to each branch like a wave. 

These exercises also train the famous eight energies of Taijiquan – Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Cai, Lie, Jou, and Kao along with qinna (joint locking and grappling) and counter-qinna movements. Master Zhang and his students will also demonstrate applications of the silk-reeling exercises and the fundamental dantian rotation exercises.

All of the exercises presented are useful foundation training not only for students of Chen style Taijiquan but for students of any style of Taijiquan. They are also a good foundation for students of related internal martial arts such as Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. 

An Introduction to Chen-style Taijiquan Silk-reeling Training

Song of Substance and Function

1. Taijiquan. Thirteen postures.
The marvel lies in the nature of qi; yin and yang.

2. It changes into infinity and returns to the one.
Returns to the one, taijiquan.

3. The two primary principles (yin and yang) and four manifestations are without boundary.

To ride the wind, the head is suspended at the crown, from above.

4. I have words for those who can understand:
“If the yonquan (bubbling well) has no root, or the yao (waist) has no control, life long practise will be in vain”.

5. There is no secret about the substance and function, they interrelate.
The only way is to let wide and flowing qi extend into the fingers.

6. Always remain in central equilibrium during peng (ward off), lu (roll-back), ji (press), an (push), cai (pluck), lie (split), zhou (elbow strike) and kao (lean-on), and also when steeping forward, sitting backward, looking left, looking right, and staying centered.

7. Neutralizing without neutralizing, yielding without yielding.
Sit back before you move forward.

8. When the body is like a cloud, the whole body functions as the hands.
The hands are not [only] the hands.

9. The mind must always remain aware.

The Song of Substance translated by Wee Kee Jin
Taijiquan Wuwei: A Natural Process
ISBN 9780473097813

p. 123

The sixteen steeps of transferring power

1. Root and twist the foot, allowing power to travel up the leg.
2. Let the power spring upward at the knee.
3. Allow the power to move freely in any direction at the waist.
4. Drive the power upward through the back.
5. Let the power penetrate to the crown point at the top of the head.
6. From the crown point, mingle the power with your chi and circulate it through the entire body.
7. Drive the power to the palm.
8. Push the power to the fingertips.
9. Condense the power into the bone marrow throughout the entire body.
10. Merge the power with the spirit, making them one.
11. Listen with your mind at the ear, almost as if condensing slightly.
12. Concentrate at the area of your nose.
13. Breathe to the lungs.
14. Control the mouth, carefully regulating the breathing.
15. Spread the power to the entire body.
16. Push the power to the ends of body hairs.

Tai Chi Classics
by Waysun Liao

ISBN 1570627495
p. 83

The Ten Essentials of Taijiquan Theory

Dictated by Yang Chengfu, recorded by Chen Weiming

1. An intangible and lively energy lifts the crown of the head. This refers to holding the head in vertical alignment, with the spirit threaded to the top of the head. One must not use strength; using strength will stiffen the neck and inhibit the flow of qi and blod. One must have the conscious intent of an intangible, lively, and natural phenomenon. If not, then the vital energy ( jingshen ) will not be able to rise.

2. Contain the chest and raise the back. “Containing the chest” means hold in the chest slightly to allow the qi to sink to dantian. One must avoid rigidity in the chest; thrusting out the chest will cause blockage in the chest cavity. One will be heavy above and light below; the heels will float up. “Raise the back” means the qi adheres to the back. If one is able to contain the chest, the one will naturally be able to raise the back. If one can raise the back, the strength will be able to issue from the spine, and you will be undefeatable.

3. Relax the waist. The waist is the body’s ruler. If you are able to relax the waist, the two feet will have strength and the foundation will be stable. The changes of insubstantial and substantial all come from turning the waist, hence it is said, “The source of meaning is in the region of one’s waist.” If there is a situation in which you are unable to attain strength, you must seek the cause in the waist.

4. Distinguish insubstantial and substantial. The art of Taijiquan takes the distinction between insubstantial and substantial as the first principle. If the weight of the entire body is placed over the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left is empty. If the entire body’s weight is placed over the left leg, then the left leg is substantial and the right leg is empty. If one is able to distinguish empty and full, the body’s turning motions will be light and agile, and there will be no wasted strength. If one is unable to distinguish, one’s steep will be heavy and sluggish, one’s stance will be unsteady, and one will easily be unbalanced by an opponent’s pull.

5. Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. “Sink the shoulders” means the shoulders are relaxed, open, and allowed to hang down. If one is unable to relax and allow the two shoulders to hang down, the will rise up, then the qi will also follow them up, and the whole body will lack strength. “Dropping the elbows” means relaxing the elbows downward and letting the hang. If the elbows are drawn up, then the shoulders will be unable to sink, and you will not be able to push an opponent far. Isn’t this similar to the short energy of the external martial arts?

6. Use consciousness, not strength. This is spoken of in the “Taijiquan Classics.” This is entirely the use of mind/intent (yi), not use of strength (li). In practicing Taijiquan, the entire body is loosened (song) and open; avoid the use of the slightest bit of crude force (zhuo li), which causes blockage in the sinews, bones and blood vessels, and causes one to be bound up. The you will enable a light agility in the changes, and the circular rotations will come freely. Some doubt: without using strength, how can one increase one’s strength? Now, the human body has meridians – as with the Earth’s watercourses, when the watercourses are unblocked, the water flows. When the meridians are unblocked, then the qi passes through. If the whole body is stiff, the jin fills the meridians, the qi and blood become stagnant, the turning motions are not nimble. If one hair is pulled, the whole body is moved. If one does not use strength but instead use mind/intent (yi), then where the yi arrives, the qi follows. If the qi and the blood flow fully, daily threading and flowing through the entire body, there will be no time when there are blockages. After a long practice, one the attains genuine internal strength. Hence, the statement in the “Taijiquan Classics”: “Arriving at the extreme of of yielding softness, one afterward arrives at the extreme of solid hardness.” The arms of those who are proficient in the skill of Taijiquan are like iron within cotton, and extremely heavy. When practitioners of external martial arts use strength, the their strength is evident. When not using strength, they are light and floating. It is obvious that their strength remains an outward energy, as surface energy. When not using mind/intent (yi) but using strength, it is very easy to be led in – this is not worthy of respect.

7. Upper and lower follow one another. Upper and lower follow one another is what is referred to in the saying from the “Taijiquan Classics”:”It is rooted in the feet, issued by the legs, governed by the waist, expressed in the fingers. From the feet, to the legs, then to the waist, always there must be complete integration into one qi.” With the movements of the hands, waist, and feet, the focus of the eyes also follow their movements. When it is like this, only then can it be called “upper and lower follow each other.” If there is one part that does not move, then the form is scattered and confused.

8. Internal and external are united. What one trains in Taijiquan is the spirit, therefore it is said, “The spirit ist the leader, the body follows its order.” If one is able to raise the spirit of vitality, one will naturally be able to deport oneself lightly and with agility. The form is none other than empty, full, open and closed. What is called open is not only the opening of the hands and the feet – the mind/intent also opens with them accordingly. What is called closing of the hands and feet – the mind/intent also closes with them accordingly. When able to unite inner with outer as one qi, then there is complete continuity.

9. Linked without breaks. With practitioners of external martial arts, their strength is contrived and crude force (hou tian zhi zhuo li). Therefore it has it starts and stops, its duration and cessation. When its old strength is already depleted, its new strength has not yet been born. At these times it is most easily overcome. Taijiquan uses mind/intent, not strength. From beginning to finish is is continuous without ceasing, a complete cycle back to the beginning, circling without end. In the original teachings it is said: “Like the Long River, it flows smoothly on without ceasing.” It is also said, “Move the jin [energy] as though drawing silk [from a cocoon].” These words refer to its being threaded together (guan chuan) as one qi.

10. Seek stillness in motion. The External martial arts view leaping and stumbling as ability. They employ exertion of qi and strength, so that after training they are invariably gasping for breath. Taijiquan uses stillness to manage movement. Even when there is movement there is stillness. Therefore, in practicing the form, the slow the better. When practicing slowly, the breathing deepens and lengthens, the qi sinks to the dantian. One avoids the harm of straining the blood circulation. Students should carefully contemplate this, so as to attain its meaning.

Reference: Master Yang Style Taijiquan by Fu Zhongwen translated by Louis Swaim
ISBN 9781583941522

P. 16-19

What is the use of suppleness?

Q: Tai Chi seeks to be supple but what is the use of suppleness?

A: Seeking suppleness enables you to separate your body into pieces. If an opponent pushes against your forearm, your elbow doesn’t move; if against your elbow it moves, but not your shoulder; if against your shoulder it moves, but not your body; if against your body it moves but not your waist; if against your waist it moves but not your leg. This process leaves you as stable as a mountain. When you discharge your opponent, then it is from the feet through the legs to the waist, body, shoulders, elbows, and hands – all connected as one unit, discharging energy like an arrow toward its target. If you cannot relax, your whole body becomes one piece and, even though it is strong, a stronger person will be able to push your one piece and cause you to be unstable. Thus the use of suppleness is crusial. With it you can be one unit attacking and fragmented parts defending – able to be relaxed and hard, agile stepping forward or back, and substantial and insubstantial as needed. Whit these abilities you will then have all of the Taichi function.

Reference: T’Ai Chi Ch’Uan Ta Wen, Questions and Answers on T’Ai Chi Boxing Chen Wei-Ming ( Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith ) North Atlantic Books 1985
ISBN: 0938190776

Page: 27

Thirteen Important Points in Taijiquan

Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows; contain the chest and pull up the back; the qi sinks to dantian; an intangible energy lifts up the crown of the head; loosen the waist and kua; distinguish empty and full; upper and lower follow one another; use mind intent, not strength; inner and outer are united; intention and qi interact; seek stillness in movement; movement and stillness are united; and proceed evenly from posture to posture. These thirteen points must be attended to in each and every movement. One cannot neglect the concept of these thirteen points within any of the postures. I hope that students will be cautiously attentative, and test and verify these in their practise.

Yang Chengfu (1883-1936) The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan translated by Louis Swaim
ISBN 1556435452

p. 12-13

Spirit – Shen Concentrated

Having the above four, then you can return to concentrated spirit: if the spirit is concentrated, then it is (continuous and) uninterrupted, and the practice of chi (breath) returns to the shen (spirit). The manifestation of chi moves with agility. (When) the spirit is concentrated, opening and closing occur appropriately, and the differentiation of substantial and inubsubstantial is clear. If the left is insubstantial, the right is substantial, and vice-versa. Insubstantial does not mean completely without strength. The manifestation of the chi must be agile. Substantial does not mean completely limited. The spirit must be completely concentrated. It is important to be completely in the mind (heart) and waist, and not outside.

Not being outside or separated, force is borrowed from the opponent, and the chi is relased from the spine. How is the chi released from the spine? It sinks downward from the two shoulders, gathers to the spine, and pours to the waist. This is chi’i from the up to down is called “closed”. From the waist the chi mobilizes to the spine, spreads to the two arms and flows to the fingers. This is chi from down to up and is called “opened”. Closed is gathering, and opened is discharging. When you opening and closing, then you know yin and yang. Reaching this level your skill will progress with the days and can do as you wish.

Red.: from Li Yi Yu’s Five Character Secret (Calm, Agility, Breath – to gather the chi, The internal force – the complete chin, Spirit – Shen concentrated).

Reference: T’Ai Chi Ch’Uan Ta Wen, Questions and Answers on T’Ai Chi Boxing Chen Wei-Ming ( Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith ) North Atlantic Books 1985
ISBN: 0938190776

Page: 55

Chen Wei-Ming on Internal Power The Complete Chin

The chin of the (whole) body, through practice becomes one unit. Distinguish clearly between substantiel and insubstantiel. To fa chin (discharge) it is necessary to have root. The chin starts from the foot, is commanded by the waist, and manifested in the fingers, and discharges through the spine and back. One must completely raise the spirit (pay attention) at the moment when the opponents is just about to manifest, but has not yet been released. My chin has then already met his (chin), not late, not early. It is like using a leather (tinder) to start a fire, or like a fountain gushing forth. (In) going forward or stepping back, there is not even the slightes disorder. In the curve we seek the straight, store, then discharge; then you are able to follow your hands and achieve a beneficial result. This is called borrowing force to strike the opponent or using four onces to deflect a thousand pounds.

Red.: from Five Character Secret (Calm, Agility, Breath – to gather the chi, The internal force – the complete chin, Spirit – Shen concentrated).

Reference: T’Ai Chi Ch’Uan Ta Wen, Questions and Answers on T’Ai Chi Boxing Chen Wei-Ming ( Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith ) North Atlantic Books 1985
ISBN: 0938190776

Page: 54

Waves of Movement

Author: Patrik Kelly (by courtesy of

All fluids move in waves. Energy moves through fluids either as a transfer of mass with a stored momentum, or as a wave of elastic displacement that leaves the medium undisturbed once it has passed. Stored momentum gives a more external force and elastic displacement a more internal one. Different types of waves appear when we move. Forward and backward waves are generated from the hips moving horizontally slightly ahead of the rest of the body. Moving the body in horizontal curves produces waves in all horizontal directions. Twisting waves are produced by turning the hips slightly ahead of the rest of the body. Twisting waves wind along lines of elastic connection between the points of application of force and the ground. Vertical waves appear when the hips lift and sink before the upper-body. Adding this vertical dimension produces waves of compression and expansion up and down the body, which power the lifting and lowering of the arms. Smooth continuous waves that ripple and interact throughout the body in a complex and natural manner are a final result of the simultaneous interaction of these three types of waves.

Learning to produce and regulate these waves requires an intelligently designed series of steps leading from the simple to the complex. Any section of the body can be trained to move ahead of the rest of the body, creating a simple two-part wave. Later, several of these two-part waves can be assembled to create more complex wave patterns. Two part twisting waves are formed when the pelvis begins to rotate and the upper-body and arms follow. Two-part vertical waves are generated by sinking the lower half of the body before the upper half producing waves of compression and expansion centred in the pelvis. Somewhat controversial, but supported by experience and logic, is the advancing and retreating of the lower-body before the upper when two-part forward and back waves appear. Basic three part waves appear when the lower-body leads the upper-body which then leads the arm – where the arm is taken to extend from the fingertips to the lowest point of the shoulder-blade.

One, two, three or more part waves can also appear in any section of the body. A three part arm wave involving moving first the shoulder then the elbow and finally the wrist, is used to transmit waves of power from the upper-body to the hand. From this it is a simple step conceptually to produce a sequence of movement from the sole of the foot to the finger tips, with a slight delay at every joint as the muscles, tendons and ligaments stretch. The arms and legs can also twist in unison with the waist so that the force spirals as it travels. The sense of this twisting can be given when you visualise a hand moving over the surface of a ball. Then the palm and forearm rotate as they move, to maintain contact with the surface of the ball.

Reference: Quote from Daoist Principles in Practice by Patrik Kelly