Martial Art principle Structure taiji

Single Whip of Yang Style Taijiquan

by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, Si Chuan Province, China Translated by Ted W. Knecht, Shen Zhen, China

The Single Whip posture of Yang style Taijiquan has a historical record of three generations. Among the large frame postures as standardized by the late Yang Cheng Fu, Single Whip is one of the most precious postures characterizing the basics of Yang style Taijiquan. Because of Single Whip importance within the Yang style, it appears numerous times within the traditional 108 posture routine.

The 37 postures of Yang style Taijiquan, including the Single Whip posture, have their own applicable fighting techniques and artistic structure. To illustrated this point, an example of Single Whip’s martial application is as follows: Should an opponent use a palm or fist to attach toward my face, a hook hand can be used to counter by dissolving the strike to the right side. At the same time, I would advance a step forward allowing the internal energy (jin), generated by the stance, to issue from the right heel through the right leg, up the spine into the left arm and finally out the palm in a relaxed, flexible whipping motion to strike the opponent. This exemplifies the physiological phenomena in which the root is in the heel, the power is issued through the legs, generated in the waist, and shaped in the hands. From the view point of the overall mechanics of the posture, one can see how the origin of the name, Single Whip, was created.

The Single Whip posture as illustrated in figure 22 has been copied from Master Fu Zhong Wen book entitled Yang style Taijiquan which was originally extracted from the drawings of Yang Cheng Fu in the book, Comprehensive Volume of Taijiquan Uses. As shown in the drawing, the toes of the left foot point to the east with the lower part of the leg vertical to the ground (knee above the heel). The right leg is naturally straight. The toes of the right foot point to the south with the foot turned in ten degrees (both feet form an 80 degree angle). The upper body faces due south. The feet are planted flat on the ground to allow the internal energy to spiral into the ground. The hips are relaxed and the groin is rounded to form a left side bow stance. Using this correct tance as a basis of the Single Whip posture, the left wrist is dropped at shoulder height with an erect palm. The right wrist is curved upward slightly higher than the shoulders with the hand forming a hook. Both elbows are sunk downward with the joints relaxed and open. The arms are outspread to the left and right. Looking from the front view, the hands are equal distance from the center line of the body.

Because of the balanced nature of the entire posture, structurally, it is very stable and firm; and artistically, it is very beautiful and appealing to the eyes. If force was applied to the left palm of the Single Whip posture of Yang Cheng Fu, the route in which the force travels is from the left arm and shoulder down the spine into the right leg and into the heel of the right foot. If one were to look from above, the force would travel through the body in a straight line. A Chinese proverb states that a thousand pounds can not break a straight piece of wood. This suggests the stability and strength of the Single Whip posture.

The following discussion will examine the “Single Whip” posture performed by Yang Cheng Fu as compared to the various stationary postures of more recently developed Taijiquan routines (refer to the following drawings as examples of these recently developed Yang style Single Whip postures). There are three apparent differences between the “Single Whip” of the more recently developed routines and that of Yang Cheng Fu:

1) The toes of the right foot are turned in too much of an angle causing tension in the muscles of the groin and hip areas. This will subsequently cause the muscles, joints, and tendons of the lower body to loose it’s relaxed and natural state.

2) The directions of the left arm and left leg as compared to the right arm and right leg are quite different; and the upper and lower relationship of the arms and legs are not uniform. The stationary Single Whip posture must conform to the six harmony relationship in which the hands and feet, elbows and knees, and shoulders and hips must be vertically in line with each other; if this relationship does not exist, there will be a lose in the balance of the left and right sides of the body.

In Yang Cheng Fu’s Single Whip posture there is also an alignment with the left fingers, the toes of the left foot, and the nose to form a triangle pattern. This conforms to the basic requirements of the methods of the hands, eyes, body, and legs. Throughout the history of Yang style, those who have studied Yang style Taijiquan have followed these basic essentials.

3) Due to the turn to the left in the upper body, the line between the left palm and the right foot is off-set. Consequently, if pressure is applied to the left palm, the energy will be directed to the left rear, not to the right heel. As one can see, any power issued from the right heel would never reach the left palm. Under the situation in which the components of a straight line are of equal length and when the distance between the ends of a bent line are shorter than when straight, then the Taiji requirement of “extending long and attacking far” (fang chang ji yuan) is not satisfied.

The following discusses more minute details of the Single Whip posture. If the thumb of the left palm is bent inwards, the face and/or point of the palm can not be used as the striking surface. The thumb interferes with the surface. By allowing this, the edge of the palm is the only area that can be used for striking. This does not conform to the requirements of sinking the wrist and relaxing the fingers. If the left wrist is higher than the left shoulder there will be insufficient force for striking. The wrist must be in direct alignment and at the same height as the shoulder in order to deliever sufficent force in this technique.

Every posture in Taijiquan is intimately composed of four tightly related components which consist of a start, a rise, a turn, and a close. Each component is mutually related to each other and appears in every movement within Taijiquan. Consequently, in order for a posture to close, it must also have a beginning, a rising and a turning motion. The closing component is the stationary posture and is also the goal of each movement. The closing component of a posture is the end result of properly performing the beginning, rising, and turning component of a movement.

The stationary posture of a routine is the end point/result of a technique and the starting point for the next technique. Therefore, if the starting point has a fault, the beginning, rising, and turning components of the next movement will go a stray.

If one looks in detail at the recently developed Yang style Taijiquan routines and the various video tapes produced in China and abroad, one can see that there are very few that resemble the stationary/ending postures of Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu.

Yang Lu Chan learned Taijiquan from Chen Chang Xing. Afterwards, the Yang style was passed down through the generations to Yang Jian Hou and Yang Cheng Fu. Through these generations of study, the masters changed some of the founding principles of Taijiquan while at the same time also maintaining many of the theories and principles to further the development of the art. Taijiquan gradually advanced to high levels after many years of research and practice. Through this evolved a brilliant radiance of energy from the county of Yong Nian in Hebei Province.

The practitioners of this generation have varying differences in the way the Yang style is performed. This occurs due to many reasons such as differences in teachers, one’s physical condition, differences in the level of education and various other attributes; therefore, it does not really matter if the postures are slightly higher or lower, faster or slower, more or less; what really matters is to preserve the tradition teachings of the founding fathers of Taijiquan which would include the theories and methods of training. These should be strictly followed without deviation.

The author does not necessarily suggest that the older a style is, the better it is; but one must continue to maintain strict attention to the philosophy and tradition of the style in order to continue to improve the art for future generations.

Energy Martial Art Mindset principle Structure taiji

Hook Hand of Yang Style Taijiquan

by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, Si Chuan Province, China Translated by Ted W. Knecht, Shen Zhen, China

From the books of many famous traditional Yang style Taijiquan practitioners (Diagrams 1, 2) and also from the books of the newly formed styles of Taijiquan (Diagrams 3, 4), one can see that the basic method for performing Single Whip seems rather similar. For example if the front of the diagrams face south, noted as 12 o’clock, then the hook hand is located at 2 o’clock. Afterwards, the left palm pushes out from 2 o’clock over to 9 o’clock. Diagram 1 and 2 show the hook hand at the 2 o’clock position and Diagram 2 shows the left palm at the 9 o’clock position. From these diagrams one can see that within the process of pushing the left palm out to 9 o’clock, the right hook hand barely moves.

Over the past several decades the author has observed the above mentioned method for performing Single Whip by numerous practitioners; no matter if it is being performed in the traditional Yang style routine or from the newly created competition routines. It has been suggested that this way of performing Single Whip is a “method of habit” rather than what was originally taught. The following is a discussion to suggest a more concise definition of the practice of Single Whip as taught by Yang Chengfu.

Yang Chengfu’s Single Whip

An explanation of the practical application of Single Whip can be found in Yang Chengfu’s book entitled “Taijiquan’s Practical Applications” published by Wenguang Printing Press in 1931. In this book, Yang Chengfu explains that “if an enemy attacks from the rear [as you stand in Push from Grasp Sparrow’s Tail], I would use my right hand to form a hook hand to dissolve the attack; at the same time the left palm would straighten out from the front to the left attacking the chest of the enemy…. The dissolving of the attack and the palm strike must be conducted simultaneously”.

In Yang Chengfu’s book entitled “The Complete Volume of Taijiquan Usage” published by the Zhonghua Book Company in 1933 explains the use of the right hook hand and the left palm in Single Whip. “If the enemy attacks from the rear, I would move my center to the left foot…. When the two hands wipe over to the left, the right hand forms a hook hand. The left palm moves inward with the center of the palm facing out. The waist and hips should relax as the left palm attacks the chest of the enemy. This pattern of movements must be conducted at the same time.”

Even though the words used to describe the usage of the hands in Single Whip’s application are different, the meaning is essentially the same. From the aspect of observing the postures in these two books, there is only the one posture of Push from Grasp Sparrow’s Tail prior to the stationary posture of Single Whip. Unfortunately, there are no transitory pictures from Push into Single Whip to illustrate the complete motion of the hook hand.

From only observing the diagrams one would assume that the hook hand basically does not move while the left palm pushes out to the left. However, this does not conform to what Yang Chengfu describes in his explanation of the application. He states that “the hand movements must be completed in one motion”.

Principles in the Taiji Classics

In the “Taijiquan Lun” it states that “there is no place that is concaved or convexed. There is no place that is disconnected”. The “Explanation of the Thirteen Posture Moving Abilities (Shisan Shi Xing Gong Xin Jie)” states that “when one point moves there is not one point that does not move” and “when one point is silent there is not one point that is not silent”. The “Five Character Song” states that “when raising the hands, they cannot be stiff… the two hands must be suspended up and penetrating in one breath”. It also states that “the internal strength of the body must be completely united into one”. The “Zou Jia Da Shou Xing Gong Essentials” explain that “the upper body movements must be coordinated with the lower; when one part of the body moves, then all parts move; movement is termed opening but within opening there is also closing.”

Yang Chengfu taught in his “Taijiquan Ten Essentials” that “when the hands, waist, and feet move, the spirit of the eyes follow with the movement; if there is a discontinuity in movement either in the upper or lower body, there will be chaos in motion”. It also states that “the frame must contain opening and closing and full and empty movement; the so-called opening, not only includes the hands and feet, but also the opening of the intent; the so-called closing, not only includes the hands and feet, but it too includes the closing of the intent; one must combine the internal with the external to form emptiness”. Presently, the way in which many people perform Single Whip is very far from the way in which it is stated in the Classics.

Martial Requirements

In the book, “The Complete Volume of Taijiquan Usage” Yang Chengfu was able to describe in detail the usage of the hook hand in Single Whip. He states that “if the enemy attacks from behind, I would shift my body weight to the left leg… allowing the two hands to move to the left….” There are several meaning to the above sentence in terms of moving the weight onto the left leg. Firstly, it is a way for closing distance. Secondly, it is a way for the two hands to adhere to the on-coming attack. This will allow the practitioner to focus on listening to the energy (Tingjin) of the attacker. Next, Yang Chengfu goes on to say that “I hook the right hand with the fingers pointing down”. The right hook hand is used to dissolve the attack and to also stick and not allow the enemy to escape. This will then allow the left palm to issue internal strength “fajin” to the enemy’s body. In this way, the attacker will lose his center and fall into empty space. As seen from the above scenario, the way in which Yang Chengfu describes the use of Single Whip can satisfy the requirements of “listening (Tingjin)”, “adhering, connecting, sticking and following”, “leading the attack into empty space (Yin Jin Luo Kong)”, and “not loosing the attacker and not resisting attack (Bu Diu Bu Ding)”. During the moment in which the attacker’s center is lead off balance, the hook hand and left palm are positioned to the south. The left palm moves inward with the palm facing toward the outside. Following, the left palm issues out toward the attacker’s chest. At the same time, the right hook hand is arcing to the right rear corner.

As Yang Chengfu states in his book, “the left palm and right hook hand move to their designated positions simultaneously as if drawing a bow and arrow”. As can be seen, this satisfies the requirement of “when one thing opens, everything opens”; as well as, “within dissolving there is attack, and within attack there is dissolving”. If one practices the Single Whip posture as many people do today whereby the right hook hand is placed in position prior to the movement of the left palm, then it will not conform to Taiji fighting principles as taught by Yang Chengfu.

During the process of dissolving the oncoming attack with the right hook hand, one can also borrow the attacker’s force for one’s own benefit. When using the right hook hand to borrow the attacker’s force, one must use the “waist as the center of the wheel and the arm as the spoke”; thereby, the left palm simultaneously attacks the enemy. This can be viewed through the theory of rotational mechanics. If you were to push on the front end of a rotating door, the rear end will swing around and push you. Whatever the amount of force you use will be the amount returned by the swinging door. Another example of this principle is when an acrobat jumps onto the end of a seesaw from three feet high, the person on the other end will be propelled up into the air three feet. In terms of Taiji theory, one borrows to attack just as “four ounces can deflect one thousand pounds”; as well as the Taiji practitioner “stands like a balanced scale and moves lively like a cartwheel”.

For example, in Single Whip, the right hook hand dissolves and borrows, let’s say, 50 pound of force from an attacker and is diverted to the left palm for a counter attack. When one also adds into the equation the ground connection of the feet that is transmitted up the legs, controlled in the waist, and issued out through the arms, this 50 pounds of force that the attacker used may increase several times when used in the counter attack. The method in which Taiji uses to fight is not based on how much force oneself puts forth, but is based on how much the attacker puts forth. A common phrase in Taijiquan is “if you ask me how much force I will use to hit you, it is best first to ask yourself how much you are going to use.”

The most commonly seen way most Yang stylist perform Single Whip is by using the hook hand to dissolve the enemy’s attack starting at 9:00 passing through 12:00 and ending at 2:00. During this time period of dissolving the attack, the left palm has yet to attack out. It is only after the hook hand has arrived at 2:00 that the left palm pushes out for the counter attack. By this time, one has already lost the opportunity to borrow the striking force and revert it back upon attacker. Not only this, but one has also lost touch with the requirement of “within dissolving there is attack, and within attack there is dissolving”. Through the lose in the opportunity to borrow the force of the attacker, one has also lost the Taiji fighting principles of “guiding the attack into empty space (Yin Jin Luo Kong)” and “no excess and no deficiency (Wu Guo Bu Ji)”. One other important point is that while the two hands are moving to the right side prior to the hook hand formation and left palm pushing out, one leaves the left rib cage open for attack by the enemy. In the past, Taiji masters called this type of motion “Getting Close to the Fist (Ai Da Quan)”.

Presently there is also another way in which the hook hand of Single Whip is performed. Some perform the hook hand by first forming the hook hand at 3:00 and then as the left palm pushes out, the hook hand moves over to 2:00. The application for this way of practice is very difficult to comprehend. (Please note Diagrams 3 and 4 for an example of this method).

Yang Chengfu wrote that “when the two hands move to the left, the right hand forms into a hook hand with the fingers pointing downward” during the transition into Single Whip. The above statement is identical to his disciple’s (Chen Weiming) description in the book entitled “The Art of Taijiquan” published by the Zhong Hua Shu Ju Press in 1925. Another of Yang Chengfu’s high ranking disciples, Li Yaqian, also explained the usage of the hook hand in Single Whip as “after the two palms wipe over to the left side, the right hand forms into a hook”. The above methods of conducting the hook hand during the performance of Single Whip quite obviously conform to the principles of Taijiquan. In addition, the manner in which Yang Chengfu’s disciples practiced the hook hand was quite different from the way in which it is most commonly practiced today.

The above two different methods imply the usage of the hook hand in Single Whip. Yang Chengfu’s fighting methods used the theory of “first arriving, then issuing (Hou Fa Xian Zhi)”. During the process of dissolving the oncoming attack by the hook hand, one will be able to borrow this force to turn it back upon the attacker. One other type of explanation for the use of the hook hand in Single Whip is to “use the nape of the hook hand to strike the enemy”. The author finds that this is not very practical. It is more practical to use a fist or palm to make an attack rather than the hook hand. Moreover, the hook hand has a shorter striking distance than both a fist and palm. The amount of force that can be applied to a hook hand technique is relatively minimal. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the wrist could be easily injured while striking with the hook hand. In terms of the application/scenario as related by Yang Chengfu, the attack is originating from the left side. To use a right hook hand to attack a person on the left side would be impractical.

Another method often mentioned for the use of the hook hand is to use the nape of the right hook hand to strike an attacker on the right side while using the left palm to strike at a second attacker. This is quite obviously contrary from the Taiji Classics which state, “when emitting internal strength, be calm and relaxed, concentrated in one direction (Fajin Xu Chenzhe Songzheng, Zhuanzhu Yifang)”. When meeting an oncoming attack during Taiji free fighting (Sanshou), one must utilize the principle of “being calm and relaxed while concentrating in one direction”. Yang Chengfu was very careful to illustrate this principle of “concentrating in one direction” with each stationary posture in his book, “The Complete Volume of Taijiquan Usage”. The Taiji Classics also state that “the reason for not being able to neutralize and control the enemy is the result of double weightiness; in order to avoid this fault, one must understand Yin and Yang”.

Artistic Requirements

The natural beauty of Taijiquan is based on the principles of the Dao. The theoretical basis of this can be found in Laozi’s Daodejing which states “the Dao produces all natural things”. The practice of Taijiquan can aid in returning to a natural form. It has its own universal viewpoint and artistic expression. It is to strive for a meaning between human-being (ren) and nature (ziran). It unites coordination between the form of motion with that of the mind to achieve a higher plane of awareness. Much of this beauty can be found within the poetry of the Taiji Classics.

The Taiji Classics state that “one should perform Taijiquan like a cloud floating in the sky and as water flowing in a river”. When clouds float in the sky, they move in a slow, smooth, and soft manner as a complete unit. Moreover, each and every water particle within the mass of clouds is in constant motion. Water flowing in a river is a complete body in constant motion and conforms to the laws of nature.

The Classics also state that “when the wind blows, the branches of the willow will sway”. During the gentle breeze of spring time the branches of the weeping willow will gently sway back and forth. As stated in the Taiji Classics, “When one part moves, then all will move”. And when the breeze ceases to blow, the willow will come to a peaceful state of silence. The Taiji Classics relate this to “when one part is silent, then all is silent”. The willow branch is in harmony with the dynamic state of mother nature. The willow’s characteristic of this dynamic state exhibits flexibility by continuously regulating itself to the conditions brought upon it by nature. Chen Pu states in his book entitled “Discussions of Taijiquan”: “Coming and going, bending and straightening like the wind blowing the willow tree, nature’s mysteries are in turbulence; lively is it without stagnation”. If by chance when the wind blows upon a willow tree and one of the branches looses its flexibility to move with the wind, this must mean the branch has stiffened and is most likely dead. Consequently, should the hook hand found in Single Whip imitate this stiff and non-moving branch of the willow tree?

As the Taiji Classics say, “Taijiquan must be completed in one breath” and “the entire body is a complete unit”. The degree of difficulty in Taijiquan practice is extremely high and the meaning of the principles are extremely important. The harmonization of the postures is produced by the movements of the four limbs of the body. The way in which the hook hand is commonly conducted by many practitioners today looses this harmonious regulation of the body. Not only does it loose the combative nature of Taijiquan, but at the same time it looses the artistic flavor found in classical Taijiquan. As a general rule, no matter what the posture, if the martial aspect is lost, then the artistic characteristic of the posture is also destroyed.

Qigong Requirements

Taijiquan uses the principle of being relaxed and tranquil in practice and soft and round in application. The shape (xing) guides the internal energy (qi); the internal energy congeals the spirit (shen); and the spirit connects the form. This must be completely controlled by the mind or intent (yi) in order to express the calm, comfortable, and full feeling of each posture. Only in this manner can one guide the circulation of internal energy. Through the many years of practical experience in Taijiquan, the author has found that if a movement does not conform to the principles of Taijiquan, there will not be any sensation of obtaining internal energy (de qi). However, once the posture is corrected and conforms to Taiji principles, not only can internal energy be felt, but the entire body becomes more invigorated and energized. An example of this phenomena is when the lens of a camera is about to be opened. If the conditions/settings are not completely atuned, then the photographic negative will not be exposed correctly. Taijiquan can be seen in the same light. If one does not set up the correct posture by conforming to the principles as stated in the Taiji Classics, then all one is doing is “externally training the tendons, bone, and skin (Wai Lian Jin Gu Pi)”, not “internally cultivating the one breath (Nei Lian Yi Kou Qi)”.

Based on recent scientific studies in China, there will be a variety of influences on the body’s health due to changes in postures during the practice of Taijiquan. When the practitioner is in a so-called “qigong state” during practice, the electrical impulses of the muscles and skin, the particle flow within the body, and the constitute of “qi” will be under the direct control of the brain’s central nervous system. Due to this controlled state, there will be a wide range of beneficial effects on the physiology of the practitioner. During the practice of Taijiquan, the sayings “when one part moves, then all will move; when one part is silent, then all is silent”; and “changing, turning, emptying, and filling must have intent, then the internal energy will not stagnate” all directly relate to the circulation of internal energy and blood within the body.

Even though only the right hook hand and arm do not move in the “modern” version of Single Whip’s hook hand, however, this causes all the various muscle groups on the right side of the body to come to a halt. When this occurs, there will be an imbalance in the motion of the muscles found within the entire body which will injure the opening and closing of Yin and Yang of the entire body’s internal and external components. It will also influence the circulation of internal energy within the body’s meridian network. Only by allowing the internal energy to develop through the regulation of properly trained Taijiquan will one be able to obtain beneficial effects of improved energy and blood flow.


Every technique found within Taijiquan has a “rising”, “carrying”, “turning”, and “closing” motion. The beginning of each technique must have a “rising” motion with the coordination of the entire body behind the move. This will then satisfy the saying of “when one part moves, then all will move”. After going through the process of “carrying” and “turning” within the technique, the “closing” will occur with the entire body coming to rest. This will satisfy the requirements in “when one part is silent, then all is silent”. The body’s way of expressing the motion and calmness of each technique is shown through the hands, eyes, bodywork, and stepping/footwork. However, among these the most obviously seen expressions are in the hands and footwork/stances. Due to the differences in hand and foot positions within each posture, there is a very high degree of difficulty and sophisticated intent to coordinate the continuous motion of “rising”, “carrying”, “turning”, and “closing” so that everything (hands, eyes, body, feet) concludes at the same time.

The initial wiping motion of the two hands in the Single Whip posture, that follows the posture of Push in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, is considered the “rising” component of the posture. As the hands continue wiping to the east, the motion goes through the “carrying” component of the posture. The “turning” component occurs when the hands move back toward the west. When the hook hand arrives at 2:00 and the left palm pushes out to the east (at the same time), the posture has completed the “closing” component.

When the two palms move in a wiping manner to the east from the Push posture of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, the two palms should gradually change from erect palms (Lizhang) to prostrated palms (Fuzhang). The reason for this is because the erect palms of Push are the final “closing” component which is consequently considered the “substantial” or “Yang” stage of the individual posture. The “rising” component of Single Whip is considered the “insubstantial” or “Yin” stage of that individual posture. Therefore, there must be a gradual change from Yang to Yin during each transition of postures in order to fully conform to the principles of “knowing Yin and Yang (Xu Zhi Yin Yang)” and “clearly differentiating substantial from insubstantial (Xu Shi Yifen Qingchu)”. The change from Yang to Yin must be gradual so that the motion conforms to the Taiji symbol where the Yang polarity gradually spirals to the Yin polarity. This is not a sudden and quick change.

When the right palm gradually forms the hook hand after moving to the east and then moves in toward the body, it forms the Yang polarity. As the right hook hand begins to move toward the south, minor Yin begins to arise. As the left palm wipes back toward the south from the east, the palm reaches the Yin polarity and gradually continues into the on-start of minor Yang. As the right hook hand continues to move to its destination at the 2:00 position, it goes into major Yin. At the same time, the left palm simultaneously pushes out to the east (9:00) to become major Yang. The following principles are met through this process: “Yin and Yang is the root (Yin Yang Huwei Qigen)”; Yin polarity produces Yang, Yang polarity produces Yin (Yinji Sheng Yang, Yangji Sheng Yin)”; “among Yin there is Yang and among Yang there is Yin (Yinzhong Shu Yang, Yangzhong Shu Yin)”; “Yin does not leave Yang and Yang does not leave Yin (Yin buli Yang, Yang buli Yin)”; and “a single Yin cannot become Yin and a single Yang cannot become Yang (Danyin buneng Cheng Yin, Danyang buneng Cheng Yang)”.

In traditional Yang style Taijiquan there are many movements where the transitional distance of the two hands are quite varied. Examples of these include Diagonal Flying, Advance Step and Raise Hands, Hands Play Pipa, etc. In some of these postures the movement of the right hand might be very short while the movement of the left hand is relatively long. Trying to coordinate the two hands can be quite difficult to conform to the requirement of “when one part moves, then all will move; and when one part is silent, then all is silent”. However, in Single Whip the two hands have approximately the same distance to cover during the process of “rising, carrying, turning, and closing”; thereby if the same speed is maintained for both hands, then the above stated requirement of moving and stopping all at once can be easily satisfied.

Energy Martial Art posture principle pushhands Structure taiji Waist

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

Martial Art Mindset Philosophy posture principle Structure taiji

Building a Connection

by Wee Kee-Jin

Taijiquan is not simply relaxing, sinking and being grounded. It is about developing; the right structure; the right sequence of movements to connect the structure; the right timing of the movements; and the mind awareness (Yi) to travel through the movements.
A structure without the sequence of movements is like an electrical cable without the copper wire inside the plastic tube. Without the mind awareness (Yi) even the correct structure with the right sequence and timing of the movements, is like the wire not having a current passing through it.

Connecting the Base and Arms
Often the movements of the base (feet, legs & hips) and the arms are co-ordinated but unconnected, and therefore incorrectly act independent of each other. The connection between the base and arms is in the body’s torso and needs to be cultivated using the mind awareness (Yi) to create a melting sensation through the body as it leads the force from the feet to the finger-tips.

When initially practised it is difficult to recognise anything happening but after a few years of training it is possible to feel even very small muscles in the body change as the mind directs. Eventually the base movements will actually produce the movement in the body which in turn will produce the movement in the arms, both during sinking and issuing.

It is easier to first cultivate the body connecting the base and arms in static foot positions and repetitive movements such as in Master Huang’s relaxing exercises before involving the stepping and changing postures of the Form. Later work it with the addition of an external force in the controlled environment of fixed pushing-hand routines, before attempting it in the free pushing, where the external force direction and speed is not restricted.

Once the whole body is continuously connected, and the timing becomes almost natural, neutralising would involve allowing an incoming force to pass through you into the ground where it would be combined with the energy of the earth and rebounded in greater magnitude back to the source of the incoming force. This “interception” does not require you to initiate any issuing as your body will have become a medium for the forces to pass through unimpeded.


Breath Chest Energy Foot Head Hip Knee Martial Art Mindset posture principle Shoulder Structure taiji Waist

Master Huang’s 14 Important Points

Master Huang Xingxian1. Calmness
– use Deep Mind (Xin) to calm and balance the energy.

2. Suspend the head
– empty the neck, send intention (Yi) to top of head.

3. The gaze is level
– use peripheral vision to be aware of left and right.

4. Loosen and open the chest
– ensure breastbone and upper-spine vertical, supporting the hollow space between them.

5. Sink the shoulders, drop the elbows
– shoulder-blades slide down the back to sink the shoulders, shoulder muscles loosen to droop the elbows.

6. Sacrum central and vertical
– lift the perineum slightly, draw the coccyx down and forward and loosen the lower back.

7. Loosen the waist and inguinal regions (Kua)
– waist controls the upper-body, inguinal regions are the base of the waist.

8. Breathe deeply
– breathe in, ribs expand, diaphragm sinks, abdomen in.
– breathe out, ribs relax, diaphragm rises, abdomen out.

9. Three harmonies, internal and external
– internal: Spirit (Shen) with Intention (Yi), Intention with subtle energy (Qi), subtle energy with body energy (Jing).
– external: shoulders and inguinal regions, elbows and knees, hands and feet.

10. Hands follow the body
– use the trunk to yield and neutralise, the hands to follow to protect the trunk and to prepare to attack.

11. Steps respond to body movements
– change the steps to support body movement.
– hands are like swinging doors; whether you win or loose depends on your steps.

12. Differentiate empty (Yin) and full (Yang)
– meet fullness with emptiness and emptiness with fullness.

13. Smoothness and continuity
– one thing moves, all things move.
– co-ordinate upper-body with lower-body.
– Deep Mind (Xin) and Intention (Yi) determine the speed of the movements.
– use Intention (Yi) to naturally harmonise the breath with the movements.

14. Use Deep Mind Intention (Yi), not insensitive strength
– relax the body, use Deep Mind Intention, then the senses and feelings will be very responsive.

Reference: Relax, Deep Mind Taiji Basics Patrick Kelly 2. ed. New Zealand 2004
ISBN: 0-476-00425-x

Red.: The book is rare to find. Patrik Kelly is a student of the late Master Huang Xingxian a famous student of the renowned Taiji master Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-Ching).

Master Huang’s 20 Important Points by Wee Kee Jin

Martial Art Mindset Philosophy principle pushhands Structure taiji

Jeijin – receiving energy

According to Huang Sheng-Shyan, the difference between taiji and other martial arts, is that taiji can ultimately develop jeijin (receiving energy), where yielding, neutralizing and discharging, all happen simultaneously. There is hardly any physical movement, and no mental intention at all, everything happens spontaneously and naturally.

The practitioner is in a state of absolute central equilibrium, the posture is totally connected and relaxed with the feet deeply rooted. The mind is calm and as still as a mountain. By being totally connected, connected and relaxed the body become an empty void. When an external force contacts, the body does not resist it, the force just passes through until it hits the ground and rebounds back throwing the opponent. Similar to pile driving during construction work, the deeper the pile is driven into the earth, the higher the hammer rebounds.

Achieving jeijin (receiving energy) indicates attaining shenming (taiji enlightment), at which point (sparring) techniques becomes irrelevant.

Taijiquan Wuwei, Kee-Jin Wee Oct 2003
ISBN: 0473097818

Page: 64

Martial Art posture principle pushhands Structure taiji

Chen Wei-Ming on Agility

If the body is clumsy, then in advancing or retreating it cannot be free; therefore it most be agile. Once you raise your arm, you cannot appear clumsy. The moment the force of the opponent touches my skin and hair, my mind is already penetrating his bones. When holding up the arms, the chi (breath) is threaded together continuously. When the left side is heavy, it empties, and the right side is already countering. The chi is like a wheel, and the whole body must naturally coordinate. If there is any uncoordinated place, the body becomes disordered and weak. The defect is to be found in the waist and legs. First the mind is used to order the body. Follow the opponent and not your self (your own inclination). Later your body can follow your mind, and you can control your self and still follow the opponent. When you can follow your opponent, then your hands can distinguish and weigh accurately the amount of his force, and measure the distance of his approach with no mistake. Advancing and retreating, everywhere (the coordination) is perfect. After studying for a long time, your technique will become skillful.

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: 52

Chest Head Knee Martial Art principle Shoulder Structure taiji

Wu-Yü-Hsiang Body Principles

Relax the chest.
Raise the back.
Enclose solar plexus.
Protect the cheekbones.
Lift the head.
Suspend the solar plexus.
Loosen the shoulders.
Sink the elbows.
Be evasive.
Avoid conflict.

Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions by Douglas Wile
Sweet Chi Press, April 1989
ISBN: 091205901X

Page: 27

Head Martial Art posture principle Structure taiji

Head Upright – Basics of Taiji Quan

( tai chi, principles, head, posture, structure, energy, unification of body )

Technical Methods and Postures

Head Upright
To prop up the head is to raise the crown of the head properly. In Taiji Quan, make sure that the head is upright, the crown flat, the neck straight and the chin drawn in. It is required that the baihui acupuncture point at the crown of the head is propped up gently as if lifted up by a robe. At the same time, the crown of the head must be kept so flat that a bowl of water placed on it would not spill. To keep the head upright and the crown flat, the neck most be straight and the chin drawn in. But if overdone, this position will make the neck stiff and the movements unnatural. Therefore, in propping up the head, excess effort should be avoided. It most be natural. Once the crown of the head is raised properly, the energy will be summoned and the movements will become steady and sturdy.

Basics of Taiji Quan by Li Xingdong
Foreign Language Press, Beijing Jan 2000
ISBN: 711900171X

Page: 14