|chapter 1 - Relaxation
chapter 2 - Purpose of practising taijiquan
chapter 3 - Use of force of gravity
chapter 4 - How to prepare yourself to practice taijiquan
chapter 5 - More details to prepare yourself to practice
chapter 6 - More to prepare yourself to practice taijiquan
chapter 7 - How to move your arms and body
chapter 8 - The principles of Yin and Yang
chapter 9 - How to move your arms upwards when
chapter 10 - How to ‘sink’ without moving downwards
chapter 11 - How to link up different parts of the body and
chapter 12 - Joining the different parts of the body and
limbs into one entity
chapter 13 - Borrowing the force of gravity to fight in the
chapter 14 - How to rotate your arms
chapter 15 - Let the water in the body flow
chapter 16 - How to obtain the force of gravity and to
maximise its effect
chapter 17 - Other essential details to watch when
chapter 18 - Power derived from ‘ba men jin’
chapter 19 - Principles behind the ‘ba men jin’
chapter 20 - Power derived from ‘wu bu'
chapter 21 - Why is taijiquan so called ?
chapter 22 - ‘Yi’ and ‘Qi’
chapter 23 - More about YIN YANG
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CHAPTER 1 - RELAXATION
I have heard many people say that practising taijiquan (taiji means universe and quan
means fist or martial art form), which is a form of martial art developed by the
Chinese, is an excellent way to relax.
This is only half the truth, especially if you believe that to relax is just to flop on the
sofa and watch the television. If this is the kind of relaxation that you are after, there
is no need for you to learn taijiquan at all.
Great taijiquan masters believe that in order to relax or to loosen the body, we should
first of all use our mind to let every single cell of the body 'swell' and to increase the
distance of the cells so that all the blood vessels, internal organs and the whole body
become swollen. Note that I have not used the word 'expand' which may lead people
to think that power is required to expand their bodies and limbs. For the purpose of
practising taijiquan, no muscular power should be employed to expand any part of the
body. This requires 100% concentration because when trying to loosen every single
inch of the body, we should only use our mind to control this process and should NOT
use any muscular power to force the body to 'expand'.
If we stretch a rubber band, the rubber band will become elongated and tight.
However, when we examine the molecules in the rubber band, we can see that they
are further apart from one another than when the rubber band is in a 'non-extended' or
We should develop our body and limbs to resemble the stretched state of a rubber
band. This can be achieved by using our mind
(a) to let every cell in our body swell,
(b) to let every joint, including those between the vertebrae according the spine, of
our body and limbs swell, and
(c) to increase the distance between the cells.
Our skin will then become stretched, similar to a stretched rubber band. The only
difference is that we should let all our cells 'swell' with our mind, whereas the rubber
band is stretched with muscular power.
This is a very important point to bear in mind. DO NOT use any muscular power to
expand your body and limbs. You should imagine that you are filling up every part of
your body with water or air gently. You should imagine that there is a bubble at every
joint inside your body and the bubbles are getting bigger and bigger. This is all
controlled by your mind and no muscular power should be used.
If every part of your body swells so that all the cells are like the molecules in a
stretched rubber band, your blood will circulate faster and all the muscles which have
been tightened through constant use will be able to rest and recover from fatigue.
After a while, you will feel that your skin becomes stretched and springy, giving you a
more youthful look.
This is a basic but very important prerequisite step to watch when practising taijiquan.
While you are concentrating on this exercise, you can forget about your work in the
office, board meetings or your household chores. This is genuine relaxation.
The cardinal principle of practising taijiquan is to use your mind to control your
movements and under no circumstances may muscular power be used.
CHAPTER 2 - Purpose of practising taijiquan
Is relaxation the end or the means of taijiquan?
It depends on what you are looking for?
If you wish to treat taijiquan as a form of martial arts for self-defence purpose,
relaxation is the means. Without relaxing or loosening up the different parts of the
body, you cannot dispatch or push your opponent efficiently and effectively because
any stiff parts of the body will block the smooth flow of energy, thus reducing the
effect of the dispatch either in the form of a blow or a push.
On the other hand, if you wish to seek relaxation from taijiquan, the high level of
concentration required to practise taijiquan and the resultant ‘loosening up’ of every
part of the body will give you what you are looking for. Once again, it must be
emphasized that relaxation is not equivalent to letting the body collapse flatly without
any life and spirits. Many people relax by having work-outs and other forms of
strenuous physical exercises; to them, relaxation is not equivalent to doing nothing and
gazing at the ceiling.
Whatever your purpose of practising taijiquan, the method is the same and the result
is the same.
What result? You will be able to ease off the tension in all parts of your body, to
recover from tiredness quickly, to increase your ability to concentrate on what you
have to concentrate on, to have a peaceful state of mind, to enjoy sound sleep, to feel
happy and confident and most important of all, to enjoy good health. With proper
training and regular practice, you can also defend yourself with taijiquan, which after
all is a martial art.
CHAPTER 3 - Use of force of gravity
Contrary to the practice of some authors of taijiquan publications, I am not discussing
the meaning and origin of the term 'taiji' at this stage. For beginners, knowing why this
school of martial arts is called taijiquan is useful but does not
necessarily facilitate the learning process. This should be left to a later stage
otherwise we will get confused easily and find the whole concept too mystified.
Now, let us get back to how to learn and practise taijiquan. I am not going to teach
you how to perform the postures in the sequence of any particular taijiquan style
because people can easily learn this from other taijiquan masters or from some
taijiquan publications and videos. This book will focus on the WAY to do taijiquan and
not the forms and sequence. I will talk about WHAT MAKES YOU AND THE
DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOUR BODY MOVE instead of the sequences, strokes and
As I have said in the first chapter, you should concentrate on the process of trying to
make your whole body ‘swell’, that is, to ‘expand’ every single muscle and every single
organ, including all the hair on your skin. While you are doing this, you should be
standing upright, with your head floating up in the air like a balloon. However, do not
try to stick your head upwards with muscular power as this will render both your head
and your neck stiff.
Apart from your head which should be light and floating upwards in the air, the rest of
your body should be allowed to have direct contact with the force of gravity. What
does this mean?
Since birth, you have been acting against the force of gravity. For example, when you
raise your arms, you are acting against the force of gravity. When you walk, you are
also acting against the force of gravity. When you practise taijiquan, whether it be for
the purpose of combat or relaxation, you should make use of the force of gravity
which can be translated to mean your body weight. By using your body weight or the
force of gravity, you will be able to move your body and your arms without using
CHAPTER 4 - How to prepare yourself to practise taijiquan
When you are preparing yourself to practise taijiquan, you should be standing with
your feet apart, the distance between the inner parts of the feet being the same as
the external width of your shoulders. As I have said in the last chapter, you should feel
that your head is gently floating in the air. As there is now tension between the scalp
and the chest, it is necessary for you to relax the chest at this point by exhaling gently
and also feel that all the muscles around your chest are swelling. You should also
make your shoulders swell; note that I have again used the term 'swell' because
'swell' sounds more passive as you should cause the swelling to happen without using
any muscular power at all. While you make your shoulders swell which really means
that you are relaxing your shoulders, you should feel that your arms are more or less
detached from the shoulders. Your arms and elbows have thus become heavier and
you should allow this feeling to reach the tips of your thumbs and fingers.
If you do not have this feeling on the first few days of practice, do not worry and be
patient. If you persist, the feeling as described above will creep in and will get
stronger by the day.
While you are relaxing your shoulders, the next step is to let your ribs drop, again by
making all the muscles around your chest and on your back swell.
While you are doing this, you should at the same time keep your head floating gently
upwards. You should also feel that the skin on this part of the body is stretched.
According to ancient taijiquan teachings, one should suck in the chest and raise the
back when practising taijiquan. My experience is that we should not do this on
purpose with our muscular power and make the chest appear to be concave and
pluck up the back. If you relax your shoulders and let the ribs drop, in other words, if
you let the force of gravity pull the shoulders and ribs downwards and do not use any
muscular power to hold them back, your chest will automatically sink in and appear to
be concave and your back will become full and round as if it protrudes upwards and
outwards. And do not forget to continue to keep your head floating upwards so that
the whole body does not collapse while you relax your shoulders and the rest of the
What comes next is to relax your lower torso, the part of the body between the chest
and hip. In order to enable this part of the body to loosen up, you should first of all
feel that there is space or indeed air bubbles in the hip joints, that is, the joints
between the thigh bones (femurs) and the pelvis. You should alsouse your mind to tell
you that the muscles surrounding the joints are swelling. This feeling enables the joints
and the muscles in the lower torso to loosen up, thus allowing the torso to drop
downwards, carried by its weight. Beginners tend to withhold the lower torso back
because they cannot loosen the muscles at the small of the back. Your mind should
try to counteract this and try to concentrate on relaxing every muscle by thinking that
every muscle is swelling.
After you have practised this posture for some time, you will feel that all the internal
organs inside your body are pulled downwards by the force of gravity. You will feel
that the abdomen is round and full, and there is a warm feeling in the dantian, the area
which is about three inches below the navel inside your body.
At this stage, both thigh bones should have been wedged open by the weight of the
torso, the spine and the pelvis. You should flex slightly your legs which should curve
also slightly outwards as if they form a circle. When doing so, again, you should never
use any muscular power to achieve this. The mindset should be that let the weight of
the body mass do the work.
If there is real relaxation at this part of the body, the bottom of the spine, that is, the
coccyx, will turn upwards slightly as if it is supporting the dantian. This posture will
provide more sturdy support and balance for the entire body.
Beginners will at this point feel that their knees are under a lot of pressure because
much weight has been placed on them. What they should do is to relax the knees and
use the mind to develop the feeling that the knees are light and are also floating
upwards. They should try to transfer the weight of the body to the feet by simply
placing the feet on the ground. They should NOT under any circumstances use the
muscular power of the legs to press their feet hard against the ground. It should be
remembered all the time that the use of muscular power in any part of the body,
including the limbs, will nullify whatever relaxation that they may achieve in other parts
of the body.
CHAPTER 5 - More details to prepare yourself to practise taijiquan
The kind of relaxation or loosening up described by me cannot be achieved within a
short period of time. Furthermore, as there are so many things to remember and to
watch out for, you tend to overlook certain things when practising taijiquan.
However, even if you cannot achieve a high degree of relaxation initially, which can
only be acquired with practice, you can still reap the benefit of the exercise. We can
'accumulate' or increase relaxation gradually.
And not to discourage you from taking up taijiquan as a hobby, may I add that what I
have said in the previous chapter is just the outline. There are even more skills
concerning the mind and the body that we should observe than those I have
When you start practising taijiquan, you should adopt a tranquil and quiet mind but at
the same time, you should maintain high spirits and a cheerful mood which facilitate
the floating up of the head. You should also concentrate on what you are trying to do.
Apart from the tip of the head which should be floating upwards gently, you should
also feel that the upper tips of both ears are floating upwards as well. This is
necessary to enable the whole body mass to be maintained in an upright position. This
is also necessary because taijiquan is based on the concept of YIN and YANG (and of
course there is the CENTRE in YIN and YANG which many people are not aware of)
which I will explain in detail at a later stage.
We believe that everything has roots. A taijiquan practitioner should imagine that his
root is at the head and not the feet. Many people have mixed up the Chinese
characters "root" and "heel" which have the same pronunciation in Chinese, which
is "gen". The Chinese character "root" has the character "wood" as a radical and that
is why this character means the root of a plant. On the other hand, the Chinese
character "heel" has another Chinese character "foot" as a radical and it means heel.
If the taijiquan practitioner's root is at the top, it is not easy to upset his balance and
to make him fall. On the other hand, if his root is at the feet, he may lose his balance
if he is pushed by his opponent.
Although I have said that the root is at the head, it is important to remember that there
should NOT be any root at all. Can you tell me whether a ball can fall after you have
pushed it? It just does not fall because it has no root. When there is no fixed root, root
is everywhere to be found.
CHAPTER 6 - More to prepare yourself to practise taijiquan
I appear to have been contradicting myself by saying that a taijiquan practitioner’s root
should be at the head on the one hand and then saying that there should not be any
root at all on the other. The 'root' stage is where you should start from. After you have
practised taijiquan for some time, your body and mind will become one and the whole
body mass will become so relaxed (relaxed in the taijiquan sense) that all the cells will
be linked together like the particles in a slightly stretched rubber band. When one end
of the rubber band is pulled, the force does not only affect the particles at that end,
but it will also affect the entire band. When you reach that stage, the finger tips of
your right hand will be linked to the finger tips of your left hand through all the cells
along both arms and the chest. They are also linked up with the rest of the body,
including your toes. The whole body will just be like a balloon filled up with water. You
can feel as heavy as you like or as light as we would wish.
Let me come back to the way you should prepare yourselves before you actually start
doing taijiquan. While you are following the steps mentioned in the previous chapters,
you should be breathing naturally. You should also be watching the internal working of
the body; 30% of your sight should be following the movement of the index finger that
is further away from the body, while the remaining 70% of your sight should be
'looking internally'. This means that you should be watching or controlling with your
mind the inside of your body and the rest of the body and the limbs. This is important
because whenever you move, you should move (by this, I mean internal movement
and not physical movement, which I will explain later) all the different parts of the body
at the same time so that all the energy (again, not muscular power) can be
summonsed to strike your opponent. I will talk about this when I discuss the practising
of taijiquan, which involves the internal movement of all the different parts of the body.
Although only 30% of your attention is paid to the movement of your hands, you
should be looking with focus.
You should also pay particular attention to hearing. You should use 30% of your
hearing sensation to listen to the outside world while the remaining 70% should be
used to listen to the inside of the body. Here, to make life simpler for you, just
interpret the word 'listening' as 'feeling'.
The tip of your tongue should be touching the part between the palate and the upper
front teeth so as to facilitate the secretion of saliva.
I will discuss how you should move the different parts of your body to practise
taijiquan, starting with the arms, in the next chapter.
CHAPTER 7 - How to move your arms and your body
Before I talk about the way in which the arms and the other parts of the body should
be moved, it would be remiss of me not to introduce my teacher, Master Zhuanghong
WANG. Master Wang is an exceptionally intelligent person; he has
profound knowledge not only of taijiquan, but also of classical Chinese, especially the
Yi Jing, Dao De Jing and also the teachings of Buddhism, although he himself is not a
Buddhist. He is also an expert in the appraisal and evaluation of old prints of Chinese
calligraphy stone rubbings and a seasoned Chinese calligrapher. He is able to apply
Chinese philosophy to taijiquan, the principles of which are based entirely on Chinese
philosophical teachings. The style of taijiquan that he teaches is called the WANG
style, which is not named after himself but after Master Zongyue WANG, who is the
author of the Taijiquan Treatise. This treatise is short and concise, I
suppose so concise that many sentences and phrases are subject to different
interpretations. Because of his deep appreciation of classical Chinese, especially
Chinese philosophy, and his profound skills of different styles of martial arts, Master
Zhuanghong WANG is able to apply every single character in the Taijiquan Treatise to
the practice of taijiquan.
As I have emphasized before, the most important and basic principle of practising
taijiquan is not to use muscular power to move the body and arms. Instead we should
use our mind to control all the movements. This is not easy for beginners
who, to begin with, ‘may be allowed’ to use muscular power to assist the movement of
the body and limbs. However, they are expected to reduce the use of muscular power
gradually and to use the mind to control all the movements as they make progress.
The natural question to ask is how to use the mind. As a start, you have to use
imagination and external images to assist you in moving your body and limbs.
Let us start with moving your arms and hands. After you have prepared your mind,
head and body as discussed in previous chapters, imagine that there are ten balloons
each of which is tied to the tips of your thumbs and fingers. Imagine that they are
lifting your hands in a semi-circle to the front until both arms form a circle in front of
your chest. Since you are not using any muscular power to lift your arms, every single
cell in both hands and arms is in direct contact with the force of gravity; therefore, you
will feel the weight of both arms and hands. The less muscular power you use to float
your arms upwards, the heavier your arms will become.
Another way to assist you in moving your arms and hands to form a circle in front of
your chest is to imagine that there is a magnetic force attracting your hands upwards
and to the front until both arms form a circle in front of your chest.
However, these are very preliminary ways of moving your arms and are not really the
taiji way of moving the different parts of your body. You should use the YIN and
YANG principles which I will discuss in the next chapter.
CHAPTER 8 - The principles of YIN and YANG
Many people have said that YIN and YANG represent the two opposing ends or
properties of an idea or a substance. For example, YIN represents void or emptiness
and YANG represents solidness; YIN left and YANG right; YIN women
and YANG men; YIN soft and YANG hard, YIN up and YANG down etc. However, let
us take a look at the taiji diagram below:
The area covered in black is YIN and that covered in white is YANG. Both YIN and
YANG occupy exactly half of the diagram. However, the diagram is not separated into
two halves by a straight line but by an 'S' shape curve. One end of YIN is larger than
the other end and it decreases in size until the other end tapers off. As the YIN
reduces in size, YANG becomes more dominant. The reverse is also true.
Within the YIN half of the taiji diagram, there is a
YANG radical and vice versa. Therefore YIN YANG does not simply represent two
opposing or different properties but represents the constant change of two opposing
or different properties in a continuum. The principles of YIN YANG
were propounded in the 'Yi Jing' or the ‘Book of Changes’ in which divinatory symbols
are used to predict the changes in response to questions on the future. Therefore YIN
YANG does not represent static matters like black and white.
YIN cannot exist on its own, neither can YANG. There is YIN in YANG and there is
YANG in YIN. Without YANG, YIN cannot survive and without YIN, YANG will perish.
They cannot be separated from each other. Their ebbs and surges change as YIN
and YANG alternate and eventually, YIN is YANG and YANG is YIN. YIN and YANG
complement one another and also oppose and counteract one another.
YIN and YANG are the product of taiji (universe). Since the principles of YIN and
YANG are employed as the theoretical backbone of this style of martial art, this style
is therefore named taijiquan. Having briefly explained the principles of YIN and YANG,
we will discuss how to use these principles to practise taijiquan in the next chapter.
CHAPTER 9 - How to move your arms upwards when practising taijiquan
Moving something upwards islifting or raising it. However, I have avoided using the
words 'lift' or 'raise' in the title of this chapter because these two words may mislead
you to think that muscular power may be used to move your arms upwards when
practising taijiquan. Let me repeat here: using muscular power to do anything when
practising taijiquan is against the taijiquan principles. You should use the concept of
YIN and YANG and the force of gravity to move the different parts of your body.
Let us take a look at a see-saw. When one side falls, the other side rises. And when
the higher side falls, the lower side rises. The see-saw is the best example to
demonstrate the principles of YIN and YANG. We can say that the higher side of a
see-saw is YIN and the lower side is YANG. When some weight is added to the
higher side, it falls. The higher side becomes the lower side and vice versa. As YIN
falls, YANG rises and therefore YIN becomes YANG and YANG becomes YIN. The
see-saw cannot be a see-saw without the higher side and the lower side.
Furthermore, the higher side cannot be the higher side without the lower side and the
lower side cannot be the lower side without the higher side. The proves that YIN
cannot be separated from YANG and YANG cannot be separated from YIN.
While the ultimate aim is to move your arms as if they are ribbons or to make them
move or flow like water, let us as a start treat your right forearm and your right upper
arm as two separate entities. Divide the forearm into two halves so that the middle of
the forearm becomes the fulcrum of a lever or the support of a see-saw. Let the
weight of the elbow bring the forearm downwards so that the wrist rises. The
important thing to remember here is that the position of the middle of the right forearm
should be fixed, just like the support of a see-saw which is also fixed. Still fixing the
position of the middle of the right forearm, this time let the right wrist drop by not
acting against the force of gravity, resulting in the elbow rising up.
You have just let the weight of one end of your forearm move your forearm. When you
are doing this, you are making use of the force of gravity to do the work for you,
instead of labouring yourself away.
While you are doing this, try to concentrate on the following:
a. keep all the fingers, the palm and the wrist relaxed, with the feeling that they swell
like the rest of the body. In other words, ‘pay attention’ to them and do not let go of
b. relax the shoulder. Many people have mistaken this to mean the shoulder joint. Of
course you ought to relax the shoulder joint, but it is equally, if not more, important to
relax the shoulder, that is, the part between the joint and the neck.
c. most important of all, remember all the essential points that you have to watch out
for to prepare yourselves for practising taijiquan, that is, float your head upwards,
relax your chest so that it caves in, let your ribs drop as much as possible, relax and
open up your hip joints, relax your knees and rest your feet on the ground.
I am repeating myself many times because it is so easy to overlook some of the
After you have practised the movement of the right forearm in this manner,
1. try your right palm, using the middle of your right palm as the centre; then
2. your right upper arm, using the middle of your right upper arm as the centre;
3. after you have tried all three parts, try to do this procedure with all the three
parts linked up together, starting with your right palm, then right forearm and then
upwards to your right upper arm; and
4. while you are performing this continuous movement, try to relax the remaining
parts of the arm and shoulder, and of course the whole body.
You should repeat the whole procedure with your left arm and then do both arms at
the same time.
Important to note: Whenever you move your arms, do not move the upper arm,
forearm and palm at the same time. Move the three joints linking the three parts in
sequence; either shoulder, elbow and then wrist; or wrist, elbow and then shoulder.
This is how a whip is moved. Further details will be provided in Chapter 11.
You may find it difficult to follow the above procedure in the beginning because it
requires an extremely high degree of concentration and coordination to control the
sequential movements fo the three parts. However, if you persist and concentrate,
you will be able to move your arms without using any muscular power at all.
We will discuss how you can cause your arms to rise in the next chapter. Note I have
again avoided using the word 'lift' here. Indeed the best 'verb' for this movement is
'float', that is, you float your arms upwards. The crux is to let the fulcrum or the centre
move instead of fixing its position. This is different from what I have said before and
we will discuss this later.
CHAPTER 10 - How to ‘sink’ without moving downwards
What I have said is the way beginners may move their arms. This is not the ultimate
way. One important thing that you have to bear in mind is that when you wish to move
a certain part of your body, you do not move that specific part of the body directly
because if you do, you will have to use muscular power. What you should do is to
move other parts of the body with the assistance of the force of gravity so that the
part of the body which you wish to move will be moved as a result. For example, if
you wish to raise your right arm, you do not actually raise your right arm. What you
should be doing is to further relax the left side of your body and your left arm and feel
that the left side of your body and your left arm are heavier than the right side of your
body and your right arm. By so doing, your right arm will move and with more
practice, your right arm will rise. In the whole process, you must not move the position
of your spine which should act as the fulcrum of a lever, although the spine itself may
turn. Note the difference between the spine itself and its position.
While the Chinese character ‘chen’ is normally used to describe one’s feeling of the
left side of one’s body in the process described above, this character, which means
‘sink’, is most misleading and has caused problems not only to myself when I was a
novice but also many of my fellow learners. The word ‘sink’ in the context of playing
taijiquan really means that while you are relaxing one side of your body, say the left
side, you can feel that the left side becomes heavier but at the same time you should
keep your head floating upwards thus maintaining the left side of your body in more or
less the same position. Since the left side is heavier, it raises the right side of your
body. The right side of your body thus floats upwards without any muscular power
being used. The spine remains in the same position and acts as the fulcrum. If the
process is tampered with by any muscular power, you will not be able to bring about
the desired effect of causing the opposite side of the body to rise. For example, if you
try to assist the upward movement of the right side by lifting it, you will lose the
floating effect. This process is what we call ‘move internally’.
If you combine the movement described in the previous two paragraphs with the
movement of the right arm and right hand described in the previous chapter, you
should be able to float your right arm and right hand without using any muscular power
at all. Of course, this requires a lot of practice and coordination of the different parts
of the body; this also requires the use of the mind. I have bolded the word rise in the
first paragraph above because ultimately, you should feel that the right arm should
float upwards without its weight being reduced by any muscular power. The target
you should be aiming at is to float your arms.
CHAPTER 11 - How to link up different parts of the body and limbs
I have said that you should link every part of your body and limbs together. By linking,
I mean that every part of your body should be able to communicate with its
neighbouring parts. For example, when the weight of the outer side of the forearm at
the elbow end causes the elbow end of the forearm to ‘sink’, the inner side of the
same forearm at the wrist end will roll upwards and rise. In this case, the middle part
of the forearm acts as the centre the position of which should not move. As soon as
the wrist reaches its highest point, its weight will bring it down, thus raising the elbow.
If you use muscular power in certain parts of the body, those parts will become stiff. If
you let go of the control in other parts of the body, they will become slack. When
some parts of the body are stiff and the others too loose, you will not be able to link
the different parts of the body together. On the other hand, if you use your mind to
avoid using muscular power throughout the entire body and imagine that all the cells in
your body are swelling, all the cells will be linked together automatically and form
themselves into a chain. When you join the cells of the different parts of your body, all
the parts of your body will be converted into a whip. When the handle of a whip is
waved, the rest of the whip will follow the direction of the movement of the handle.
Let me introduce a concept here to help you move a certain part of your body without
using muscular power.
“Do not move in order to move; move in order to remain stationary”.
The earth rotates in an anti-clockwise direction (if viewed from the North Pole) and
takes 24 hours to complete one rotation. If we do not move, we will move at the same
speed as the earth rotates. On the other hand, if we wish to remain in the same spot
in the universe, i.e., not to move, we will have to run in a clockwise direction at the
same speed as the earth rotates.
The same applies to say your arms which are constantly being attracted downwards
by the force of gravity. If you do not move them and let them follow the direction of
the force of gravity, they should fall downwards. If you use your muscular power to
raise your arms and keep them still in front of your chest, you are in fact constantly
counteracting the force of gravity and are moving your arms upwards although they
look as if they are motionless. Therefore, if you wish to move your arms, do not move
them. Let other parts of your body do the job by making use of the force of gravity.
We will discuss an efficient way to join the different parts of your body and convert
them into several whips. However, at this stage, let me reiterate the importance of
relaxing every part of your body and observing all the points that I have described in
the previous chapters.
CHAPTER 12 - Joining the different parts of the body and limbs into one entity
After you have prepared yourself to practise taijiquan, that is, with your head floating
upwards and your body and limbs swelling and weighing down as if your whole self is
a rubber balloon filled up with water, try to imagine that the tips of your thumbs and
fingers are very heavy. Then transfer or move the weight of your thumbs and fingers
along the outer side of your palms to your wrists. While you may feel that your wrists
are now heavy, you should not ‘abandon’ the thumbs, fingers and palms but continue
to feel their weight although the feeling is that the thumbs and fingers are not as heavy
as the wrists. When I say not to ‘abandon’, I mean let the parts in question continue to
be attracted by the force of gravity.
You should then continue to move the ‘weight’ from the wrists upwards towards the
elbow along the forearms. While you are doing this, you do not ‘abandon’ the wrists
and the parts of the forearms where the ‘weight’ has just passed.
At this stage, the heaviest points of your forearms are at the elbows, but you should
continue to feel that your fingers, your thumbs, your palms, and your wrists are also
heavy although they are not as heavy as your elbows. In other words, do not relax
your fingers, your wrists and your forearms while you are transferring the ‘weight’
upwards towards your elbows.
Am I contradicting myself by saying ‘do not relax your fingers, your wrists and your
forearms’? Remember, to relax is NOT to relax. Relaxation can be in the form of
working out, jogging, etc. When I say ‘do not relax your fingers, your wrists and your
forearms’, I mean do not let go of them, but you should at the same time avoid making
You should then continue the same process and move the weight or ‘centre’ upwards
towards your shoulder joints, and then your shoulders and then down your spine. At
this point, it is of utmost importance that you keep your head floating upwards while
relaxing your body. When the weight moves downwards along your spine and reaches
the dantian (the middle of the abdomen about three inches below the navel), you will
feel that your lower abdomen becomes swollen as if it is filled up with water or air.
The weight at the dantian continues to pass through the joints at the pelvis and then
downwards along the inside legs. You should have flexed your knees as I have said
before and try to imagine that the knees are floating upwards so as to reduce the
pressure from the body weight.
While the weight is being transferred from your arms through your body to your feet,
both your arms should be floating upwards because of the see-saw effect. If you
imagine that you are linking up your whole body from your finger tips to your toes so
that the whole body becomes a lever, when the ‘leg’ end of the lever becomes
heavier, the ‘arm’ end will rise.
While both arms are floating up, you should use your mind to direct both arms in front
of your chest so that both arms plus your chest form a circle, with both palms facing
outwards and the finger tips of your middle fingers touching one another. While doing
this, you should not employ any muscular power at all. Although the weight or the
centre of your movement has travelled along the spine down to the dantian and then
your legs and feet, you should continue to feel that both your arms remain heavy.
You should imagine that there is a centre within the circle in front of your chest. From
the centre of the circle there is pressure radiating outwards so that the circle keeps
expanding outwards. While feeling the outward pressure from the centre of the circle,
keep the finger tips touching one another without using muscular power. Do not break
the circle but at the same time, you should imagine that the circle keeps expanding
outwards as if there is no limit to the expansion.
Since the imaginary pressure coming from the centre of the circle is equal in all
directions, the circle should be round internally; at least, try to make it as round as
When the weight reaches your feet, you will feel that the weight bounces upwards as
if your whole body is a ball. When I say ‘bounce upwards’, I do not mean that your
feet will be lifted off the ground. Your feet will still be in contact with the ground but
you will feel that there is pressure rising from your feet through your legs and then
upwards through your spine to your head and your arms and then the finger tips. The
pressure rising from down below will make you feel that your whole body is expanding
and your limbs become elongated. Do not try to help the bounce or try to increase the
bouncing effect by slightly straightening your legs or by lifting your body with muscular
power. Once you use muscular power to lift your body, you will impede the bounce
because the parts of your body where muscular power is exercised will become stiff
and block the flow of the bounce.
While the pressure from the feet rises through the body after the bounce, your arms
will fall gently back to the sides of your body, following the path of their upward
All the movements described above are effected according to the principle of YIN and
YANG.. When one part of the body becomes heavier and ‘sinks’ (Let me reiterate that
this part of the body does not really move downwards), the opposite side rises, and
vice versa, thus resulting in movements of the different parts of the body according to
The crux here is that you should maintain only one centre in your body. If you feel that
there are more than one centres in your body, this will mean that you have yet to link
up all the different parts of your body into one body mass. Try to examine your body
to identify the parts which are stiff and try to make them swell.
CHAPTER 13 - Borrowing the force of gravity to fight in the taijiquan way
After you have practised the basic movements (or should I say internal movements) of
your body and arms, you should try to refine the movement by exploiting the force of
gravity even more.
When you ‘sink’ the left side of your body, the right side of your body will rise and at
the same time, the weight of the left side of your body will reach the left pelvis joint. In
the beginning, your pelvis joints may be very tight and stiff and cannot move freely.
After some practice, your left pelvis joint will allow the weight of the left side of your
body to wedge it open and your body will turn up to 90 degrees to the left hand side
without the use of any muscular power. On the other hand, if you do not wish your
body to turn, you just allow the weight of the left side of your body to be transferred
downwards through your left leg to your left foot. When the weight reaches the sole of
your left foot, and if you are adequately relaxed and can remove all the stiffness from
your body and legs and arms, you will feel a bouncing sensation from the ground (See
previous chapter). This bounce will generate a lot of energy and have a rippling effect
causing the knee, the pelvis, the waist, the torso, the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist
and at last the palm to move by turn like a whip. This movement will also have the
effect of expanding the different parts of the body in the same sequence as the
direction of the bounce.
You can and indeed should apply the same internal movement in combat. If your
opponent pushes your right arm, and assuming that you do not (and should not) use
any muscular power to oppose the push, his force will be transmitted through your
right arm to your right shoulder, your chest, down the spine, to the left pelvis joint,
down your left leg and then the sole of your left foot. Your opponent’s force plus the
weight of your body will enable you to ‘borrow’ the force of gravity which will bounce
you upwards. The bounce is in the form of pressure emitted from the ground and it
passes through your left leg, your left pelvis joint, your spine, then across the body to
your right shoulder and then your right arm. The upward bouncing effect plus the
elongation of different parts of your body will enable you to extend your right arm to
push your opponent without using any muscular power.
What is important is also the weight of your right arm which is
constantly placed on your opponent's arms. This will become a burden on the
opponent. Since the right arm is maintained in its position by your mind and the weight
of the other parts of your body, and not by the muscular power of the right arm, not
only is the right arm not stiff, but it is also elastic. Since the arm is not stiff, it does not
have any point against which your opponent can exert his/her power. Furthermore, it
does not oppose or act against any attack from the opponent but instead, it follows
the direction of the opponent’s attack as if it is glued to the opponent’s arms until the
opponent loses his/her balance. When your opponent loses his/her balance, you can
CHAPTER 14 - How to rotate your arms?
I have described how you should move your arms upwards; instead of using your
muscular power, you should make use of the force of gravity and also let the weight
of the different parts of your body travel in sequence. In order not to make the
explanation too complicated, I have only described the movements in a longitudinal
manner. The proper way in which the arms and indeed the torso should move is
Let us use the forearm as an example. When the wrist end of the forearm sinks, the
elbow end of the forearm floats up automatically. In the process, you have to keep the
position of the centre of the forearm fixed. However, at the same time, you should
also allow the inner side of the wrist end of the forearm to sink, thus raising the outer
side of the elbow end of the forearm. If you take the centre of the forearm as if it is
the centre of a sphere and the centre is only one small point around which the sphere
rotates, then the forearm should be able to rotate like a ball. Likewise, when the outer
side of the
elbow end of the forearm reaches the highest point, its weight will bring it down. If we
keep the position of the centre of the forearm unchanged, the inner side of the wrist
end of the forearm will rise.
It is important to bear in mind that when the forearm moves in the manner described
above, in addition to moving either end of the forearm upwards and downwards, the
forearm should at the same time rotate in the same direction as its upward or
The rotation movements described above in fact follow the principle of YIN and YANG
which I have explained in Chapter 9.
Let me repeat here what has been taught by Master Zongyue WANG who says that
when you wish to move one part of your body, you have to move every part of your
body. I have explained this in detail in previous chapters. Therefore when I describe
just now how the forearm should be moved, I do not mean that the forearm should be
moved in isolation in the manner I describe. It has to be moved in conjunction and in
unison with the rest of your body.
Using the same principle, all the other parts of the body should rotate while they move
in one direction. Because of the rotation effect, your arms do not move forward or
backward in a straight line. They always move in a circle and while they move, the
arms themselves rotate.
It is important to practise such rotation movements because when your arms are in
contact with your opponent's arms, any force from your opponent can be deflected by
the rotation movements of your own arms. Of course, rotation is only one of several
ways to deal with attacks from the opponent. I will talk about other methods in later
CHAPTER 15 - Let the water in the body flow
When I write this book, I do not expect readers to read it as a novel. I have tried to
describe how to learn taijiquan first from the basics, advancing slowly to more
demanding and complicated techniques, based on taiji principles. For the novices, they
should practise the techniques taught in one chapter thoroughly before they proceed
to the next chapter.
If they do follow the guidance in this book chapter by chapter, they should be ready to
embark on the next stage which is to convert their whole body mass into fluid.
I have mentioned in Chapters 6 and 9 that you should develop the feeing that your
body is full of water. However, the water inside your body is not stagnant but instead
it flows in the direction as dictated by your mind. Just imagine that there is water
flowing from your head down through your neck, the chest, the abdomen, and then
through the two legs. When the water reaches the feet, you should feel that the water
evaporates and becomes steam which rises through your body and causes the body
to expand. The steam is in fact the bounce from the ground of the weight of your body.
The reasons why you have to think of other substances to replace your body and your
a. if you wish to raise your arms, you cannot help moving your arms upwards
because you are used to using your muscular power to do this. On the other hand, if
you imagine that your arms are two long hose pipes filled with water, your arms will
immediately become very heavy. This is because while your brain can control your
arms, it cannot control the two hose pipes attached to your shoulders because there
are no nerves in the hose pipes. Your inability to move the two hose pipes to your
shoulders will strengthen your use of your mind to control the different parts of your
body. Therefore in order to move or ‘float’ the two hose pipes, your have to try very
hard to ‘sink’ your body; this means that you need to have a high degree of
concentration in order to move the weight of your body through your spine down to
b. Many of the muscles that you have to move are involuntary muscles. You can
only control them at will after a long period of practice. If by imagination you replace
some of your body parts with some other substances, eg, water, you will be able to
feel and manipulate such substances more easily with your mind than the involuntary
muscles in your body. This in turn helps the control of the different parts of your body.
There is another and more important reason why you should imagine that your body is
filled up with water.
When water drains from a basin, there is a swirl at the plughole (not because of the
coriolis force as many people mistakenly believe). Just imagine that the ‘water’ inside
your body flows through your feet onto the ground with a swirl, like the water that is
draining through a plughole in a bathtub. This would result in your body weight being
conveyed from your body onto the ground without actually moving any part of your
body. This would bring about the bouncing effect as I have described in detail in
Chapter 13. If you can imagine that the weight of your body comes into contact with
the ground in a swirl just like the water draining from a basin, the bouncing effect from
the ground up to your feet and then your legs through your body up to your head will
also have a swirling effect.
The swirl of the bouncing effect, coupled with the rotation of your body and arms as
described in the previous chapter, will strengthen your attack against your opponent.
It is not easy to master what I have described in this chapter. However, with practice
and persistence, you will be able to feel the downward swirl when you place the
weight of your body on the ground as well as the upward swirl when the weight of
your body bounces back from the ground.
Master WANG, my teacher, says that substances can be either in a state of being or
in a state of non-being. However, taijiquan is in a state between being and non-being.
You may not believe that the weight of your body can flow downwards onto the
ground in a spiralling manner, but after continuous practice, which transfers your
whole body into a fluid state, you will be able to feel the flow of water within your
body, arms and legs. However, you cannot find or see it as it is only a feeling – BUT
you can test the existence of the flow of energy brought about by the upward spiral by
converting your arms to hose pipes.
Apart from using imaginary water to assist you in removing all the stiffness in your
body and to render your body relaxed and elastic, you can also use water to assist
you in playing taijiquan so that your movements resemble waves. I will talk about this
CHAPTER 16 - How to obtain the force of gravity and to maximize its effect
As I have said before, taijiquan experts rely on the force from the attack of the
opponent and more importantly, the force of gravity to defend themselves and to
strike the opponent in a combat. They do not use any of their own muscular power.
Furthermore, they should be able to make use of these two forces in a way that the
more forceful the opponent’s attack is, the more forceful will be the counter-attack,
and that if they can maximize the use of the force of gravity, they would be more
powerful in their attack.
The force of gravity enables the weight of the body to bounce back to the body and
arms after the weight has come into contact with the ground. But how can the use of
the force of gravity be maximized and how can the bouncing effect be also maximized
so as to make the attack more effective and more powerful?
First of all, the force of gravity is constant no matter where you are. You cannot ask
for more, neither can you produce more. All you can do is maximize its effect so as to
make your attack more powerful. The most important technique is to let every cell in
your body swell so that you can feel that you are taller and bigger. You should also
feel that every cell is farther apart from one another and that all the cells are very
heavy. You are held upright by your head floating upwards. In order to let every cell in
your body come into contact with the force of gravity, no part of your body should be
stiff. You should use your mind to make every part of your body elastic as if your
whole body is like a balloon filled up with water. After you have developed this feeling,
then imagine that there is water flowing from your head through the body down the
pelvis bone and then through the legs until the water reaches the feet. The weight of
every cell is carried by the water downwards. In order to obtain the best bouncing
effect, you should imagine that the water flows through the feet onto a hole in the
ground with a downward swirl (see previous chapter).
Some people mistakenly believe that the bouncing effect is obtained by pressing the
feet on the ground. While to a certain extent this can be achieved, the bouncing effect
thus obtained is greatly discounted and may not be fully elastic. As you have been
imagining using water to aid you to release the body weight onto the ground, you
should keep on using water to obtain the bouncing effect.
Therefore instead of trying to obtain the bouncing effect by pressing the feet on the
ground, you should, after the feet has come into contact with the ground, let the water
continue to flow through the feet into a hole in the ground and there should be a swirl
in the flow. No sooner has the water “flowed into the hole” than your body weight
bounces upwards, also in a swirl but in the opposite direction.
The bouncing effect does not actually push your feet above and off the ground like a
ball bouncing from the ground. The bouncing effect is just like a kind of upward
pressure from the ground that expands our legs, our body and arms. What is
important is that you should direct the pressure with your mind to reach your head so
that your head and your upper body become lighter and float even higher up. While
you feel that your head and upper body become lighter, your feet, your legs and your
abdomen become heavier.
When you try to develop the bouncing effect in practice, you should try to alternate the
use of both legs. For example, you may first let the water, carrying your weight, flow
from the head, through the shoulder down the body and left leg and then through the
left foot in an anti-clockwise downward swirl. When the water reaches the ground and
splashes back, you should have a feeling that there is ‘steam’ pressure rising from the
ground in a clockwise upward swirl. The upward spiralling pressure rises through the
left leg up the body and reaches your arms and head, thus making your whole body
swell. You should then let the water flow from your head through the body down the
right leg to the right foot. When the water flows downwards through the right foot and
reaches the ground in a clockwise swirl, you again feel that there is ‘steam’ pressure
rising from the ground in an anti-clock direction up the right leg through the body to
your head. You then repeat the whole process in the practice.
My experience is that if you can time the flow of the water from the head to reach the
ground at the same time as your foot touches the ground, you will achieve the optimal
Do NOT assist the bouncing effect by either raising your body or by stretching your
legs. You will only destroy the upward flow of the bouncing effect.
I make no apology for repeating some of the points already made in previous
chapters. This is necessary because there are so many things we should do even in
one single movement and I need to put emphasis on different points separately so
that readers can concentrate on different issues at different times.
CHAPTER 17 - Other essential details to watch when practising taijiquan
While you are following the instructions as set out in the previous chapters, you may
not be able to acquire the feeling as described immediately or within a short time of
your practice. It does take time for people to develop the skills and gradually the
feeling will come naturally. It is important to remember not to try to chase the feeling
and forget about the method, which should be followed stage by stage. What is more
important is that do not interfere with the force of gravity. There is no shortcut to it –
the only shortcut is to increase the dose of your practice. While I try to find time to
practise taijiquan for at least one hour every day, my teacher, Master WANG, used to
spend several hours every day to practise not only taijiquan but also several other
schools of ‘internal forms of martial arts’
I have said in previous chapters that while you are doing taijiquan, you should convert
your whole body mass to a soft rubber or vinyl bag filled up with water so that you
feel that you are bouncy and elastic. Apart from imagining that the water inside your
body is flowing in a direction of your choice, you should also imagine that your body
and limbs are moving like water. For example, when you move your arms forward to
push your opponent, you should imagine that the water near you is flowing from your
chest to the front and that your arms are just like a ridge of water surging to the front.
Treat your body and your arms as part of the wave. After your arms have reached the
limit in the front, you should imagine that the wave in front of you has hit the shore and
either flows sideways or is being bounced back.
As I have said many times before, you should not use muscular power to play
taijiquan. Therefore when you cannot push your opponent away with your arms
because he stands very firmly, you should not continue the push but instead you
a. sink the weight of your body thus floating up your arms which should then be
placed on your opponent’s body; at the same time, imagine that the water surrounding
you is flowing towards and then behind your opponent, bringing along your arms and
water pressure with it. Your opponent will find it difficult to resist this kind of pressure
and will be moved by you. OR
b. make use of the resistance from your opponent and transfer the resistance
through your arms, shoulders, body, pelvis joints, legs and then to your feet. In the
course of the transition, the resistance can be combined with your body weight so that
when your body weight reaches the ground, it bounces back to your legs and through
your body and shoulders to your arms. When this flow of weight reaches your
opponent, he will be pushed back.
To reiterate what has just been said, when practising taijiquan, all your movements
should resemble the tidal waves of water which is on the one hand one of the weakest
substances in the world but on the other one of the most unyielding and strongest
substances. The use of water as an imaginary substitute for your body and limbs will
both increase your flexibility and also enhance your power.
When playing taijiquan, it is also important that you should feel tall and high spirited,
and that there is momentum in all your movements. The momentum is generated by
the force of gravity which bounces your body weight upwards whenever you place
your body weight on the ground. Old taijiquan masters have said that our movements
should be just like the flow of a river which never ends.
When you play taijiquan, you should float your head upwards and at the same time,
sink your body weight to your dantian, that is, the pressure point three inches below
your navel. In your taijiquan movements, you sometimes extend your arms outwards
to cover a wider area and sometimes bring your arms close to your body. The
taijiquan term for the former movement is ‘open’ and that for the latter movement is
‘close’. When you ‘open’, you should feel that the lifting force from the floating of your
head upwards is stronger than the sinking force of your body weight. On the other
hand, when you ‘close’, you should feel that the sinking effect of your body weight is
stronger than the floating effect of your head. This in fact is very logical because when
you try to sink your body weight to your dantian and then to your feet in order to
‘close’, the bouncing effect of the force of gravity will enable you to expand your body
and therefore ‘open’, making you feel that your head is ‘lighter’.
When you ‘open’ or ‘close’, you are bound to move your legs and arms. In doing so,
you should circle your joints to produce a reeling or rotating effect on your arms and
legs. When you move your arms, you should start circling your shoulders first, and
then elbows and then wrists. When doing the circles, you should bear in mind the
a. do not use any muscular power to do the circles, and
b. you should circle your shoulders, elbows and wrists or wrists, elbows and then
shoulders in these orders. Do not move the whole arms at the same time.
c. When you move the three joints, you should imagine that you are circling the
joints in the opposite direction first before you actually circle them in the direction you
want. For example, if you wish to circle your shoulder joints outwards, that is, your
right shoulder joint in a clockwise direction and your left shoulder joint in an anti-
clockwise direction, you should imagine that you are circling your right shoulder joint in
an anti-clockwise direction first and similarly your left shoulder joint in a clockwise
direction first before you actually circle them in the direction you want. The same
applies to your elbows and wrists, and of course your pelvis joints, your knees and
CHAPTER 18 - Power derived from ‘ba men jin’
The difference between taijiguan or other internal styles martial arts such as ‘xing yi’
nd ba gua’, external styles martial arts is that taijiquan deploys ‘jin’ to strike the
opponent whereas direct power is used for the strike when one fights with external
styles martial arts. ‘Jin’ is power that is generated indirectly by the force of gravity
which bounces the weight of the body from the feet through the legs, the body and
then the arms and hands. It should be noted that what is bounced back by the force of
gravity from the ground is not the actual feet and leg etc but the weight of the body
mass. In other words, even if you feel that something is moving internally within your
body, the movement can hardly be observed externally. Such internal movement is
traditionally called ‘qi’ in Chinese.
When you use brute force to strike your opponent, your fist travels to the front in one
direction. The punch will produce the desired effect only if it hits an obstacle.
However, if the opponent ducks or turns sideways, your punch will miss the opponent.
On the other hand, if you strike your opponent by using a force that is called ‘ba men
jin’, which means indirect power expanding to eight directions, your opponent may not
find it easy to ward off the attack because the force so derived does not aim at only
one direction. Such a force is from an expanding ball moving towards the opponent;
any counteracting power from the opponent will be just like a tangent and get
deflected whereas the ball of force will continue to move towards your opponent and
How do we obtain this ball of force or ‘ba men jin’?
First of all, let us take a look at the taiji diagram which is a circle. However, it should
be a sphere but simply because of the lack of knowledge to represent it in a three-
dimensional manner in the past, it is drawn like a flat circle. You should superimpose
this sphere onto your body when playing taijiquan. When you put your arms in front of
your chest, they should form a round circle. There should not be any sharp angles at
your arm pits and elbows. As I have said in previous chapters, you should imagine
that there is a centre in the circle and imaginary pressure is radiating from the centre
towards your arms and at the same time, you should try to maintain the roundness of
your arms not by using your muscular power but by an imaginary link between your
In addition to forming a circle in front of your chest, you should at the same time
imagine that there is a semi-circular line in front of you linking your head, your hands
and your feet so that your whole body plus the space in front of you forms an oval
mass. This oval mass is kept inflated by the pressure radiating from the centre in front
of your chest so that your arms, your back, and your legs are part of this supposedly
When you are ‘pushing hands’ (tui shou) with your opponent, you should ‘zhan, nian,
lian, and sui’. These four characters mean ‘touch, adhere, connect and follow’
respectively. When you are pushing hands, no doubt, your hands or arms should be
touching your opponent’s arms or hands. As the cardinal principle for practising
taijiquan is not to use muscular power and instead both arms and the rest of the body
and legs should be ‘inflated’ by your mind or intention, you should be able to adhere
your arms to your opponent’s arms or his body. Any use of muscular power will
reduce the weight and therefore ‘viscosity’ of your arms. At the same time, you should
imagine that your arms are connected to your opponent’s arms or body so that when
your opponent moves his arms, your arms just follow your opponent’s arms.
These are just the basic concepts of practising pushing hands. Of course you should
also follow the other essential points that I have discussed. For example, when your
opponent pushes you, the pressure from the push should be transferred to your body
and then feet; such pressure coupled with your own body weight would provide you
with a bounce from the ground, which in turn gives you a feeling of taking off or
soaring. The power from this bouncing effect should be used to produce a swirling
effect through your body to counterattack your opponent.
I have mentioned previously that whenever you move one part of your body, every
part of your body and limbs should also move and/or be moved. Therefore when you
wish to deflect your opponent’s push, you should not just let your hands move. The
force from your opponent should move not only your arms and hands; you should relax
your shoulders and pelvis joints and let your opponent’s force move your torso. By so
doing, your line of contact with your opponent will be increased tremendously and he
may lose balance if he enters your sphere.
Now, let us discuss ‘ba men jin’’. The eight directions from which power comes are
front and rear, left and right, up and down, and inward and outward. As I have said
before, there is a centre of your weight which moves within your limbs and body. It
also acts as an imaginary fulcrum around which your limbs and our body turn.
Whenever your arms come into contact with your opponent’s arms, your intention
should direct the focus of the weight of your arms somewhere near to but not directly
opposite to the point of contact with the opponent. Since the focus of the weight acts
as a fulcrum, any force from the push of your opponent will turn the part of the body
round. For example, if the focus of the weight of your right arm is in the centre of your
right arm and if your opponent pushes your right wrist, your right elbow will
automatically be moved towards your opponent. Furthermore, since the force of the
push from your opponent may also have an upward direction, your elbow will as a
consequence move in an downward direction towards your opponent. This would also
bring about a rotating effect, turning your right forearm round under your opponent’s
forearm, and your right elbow will be in an attacking posture.
The whole idea of acquiring the ‘ba men jin’ is to enable yourself to redirect your
opponent’s attacking power to attack your opponent. If one part of the body or the
arm is moved back, a neighbouring part will automatically move forward striking your
opponent. If one part is moved to the right, a neighbouring part is moved automatically
to the left, also striking your opponent.
If a part of your body or arm is pushed backwards and to the right at the same time,
then the neighbouring part will be moved to the front and to the left, striking your
To conclude, there is no yielding to the opponent whose power is always directed
against the opponent himself or herself.
CHAPTER 19 - Principles behind the ‘ba men jin’
According to an ancient taijiquan treatise, the ‘ba men jin’, or ‘indirect power expanding
to eight directions’, refers to the following:
a. peng (to ward off attacks with a spiralling movement of the arms or hands),
b. lu (to roll back attacks with a spiralling movement of the arms or hands),
c. ji (to press with the back of both palms or forearms to the front with body
moving backwards at equal distance),
d. an (to connect opponent’s attack with both hands and follow it as it
approaches you; if necessary, you can counter-attack when your opponent comes to
the end of his/her reach),
e. cai (to pluck opponent’s forearm or hand in a circular movement of the plucking
arm as if you are gently holding and then plucking an apple from a branch),
f. lie (to separate one part of the opponent from another part which has been
immobilized as if you are splitting his/her body),
g. zhou (to strike with an elbow, either forward, backward or sideways), and
h. kao (to strike or push with shoulder or upper back, using the weight of your
However, this is only one aspect of the ‘ba men jin’ which describes the different
sources of ‘jin’ and the different ways of attacking your opponent. However, the above-
mentioned taijiquan treatise goes on to say that ‘ba men jin’ requires that your power
should cover the four directions and the four corners or oblique directions, ie, east.
west, south, and north as well as south-east, south-west, north-east and north-west.
This requirement follows the principles of the eight trigrams as laid down in the I Jing
(The book of Change). The eight trigrams, each of which is formed by three parallel
lines (the lines are either continuous (whole) or broken (open)), represent the four
directions and the four corners as follows:
a. kan, li, zhen and dui (these are the names of trigrams) represent the four
cardinal directions, and
b. qian, kun, gen and sun (these are the names of trigrams) represent the four
corners or oblique directions.
In order to find out the workings of the trigrams, it is important to have an
understanding of YIN YANG which I have explained briefly in previous chapters. YIN
Yang represents two opposing ends of a continuum. It is postulated in The Book of
Change that taiji is the state before a matter develops into YIN YANG. When the YIN
YANG of a point extends at both ends, it becomes a line; when the YIN YANG of a
line extends sideways, it becomes a plane and when the YIN YANG of a plane
extends upwards and downwards, it becomes a three-dimensional body. You should
then try to transfer this three-dimensional ‘ba men jin’ to your taijiquan practice.
What is important in this concept is that when we practise taijiquan, not only should
we move our arms, body, legs and feet along ‘the imaginary surface of the mass of
air in front of our body’, we should also imagine that there is a centre within the mass
of air so that we should always extend our limbs outwards as if we are embracing an
inflated balloon. This is the only way to enable us to reduce the use of muscular
power and to develop elasticity, viscosity, and resilience in every part of our body and
CHAPTER 20 - Power derived from ‘wu bu’
In addition to ‘ba men jin’, there is another concept in taijiquan that makes it very
different from other styles of martial arts. This is ‘wu bu’ which means five steps in
English. This concept is derived from an ancient Chinese philosophical concept of ‘wu
xing’ which means five elements. The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire and
earth. They represent all the substances in the universe and ancient Chinese sought to
explain the natural phenomena with ‘wu xing’. It is postulated that these five elements
mutually promote one another but also restraint one another. Metal is supposed to
restraint wood, wood restraints earth, earth restraints water, water restraints fire and
finally fire restraints metal. They are also supposed to promote one another and earth
is believed to promote metal which in turn promotes water, water promotes wood
which promotes fire, and finally fire promotes earth which in turn promotes metal.
This concept is applied to Chinese medicine and other practices and theories. The five
elements also have directional connotation. Wood stands for East, fire stands for
South, earth Centre, metal West and water North. When you apply the concept of ‘wu
bu’ or five steps in the practice of taijiquan, you should follow the order of ‘earth,
wood, fire, metal and water’. When you start practising, you should employ the
‘mutual promotion’ principle which allows you to expand your sphere of control. Since
you are starting the movement from the centre, you should turn (use the principle of
‘sink and float’ instead of using your muscular power to turn) your body and arms
towards the east in a clockwise direction, and then south, west and then north.
As I have said in previous chapters, you should start your movement from your feet
(remember the whole process of allowing your body weight to drop to the ground and
then bounce back), then your legs, pelvis joints, body, shoulders and then your arms,
wrists and hands. While the pressure rises from the ground, your legs, body and arms
should expand gradually from below like a spiral from the centre to the east, then
south and west and then north.
While you are turning your body and limbs, there should be revolving movements in
your limbs which are not caused by muscular power but by your intention of expanding
your sphere of control, that is, the imaginary mass of air in front of your body.
When you are attacked by your opponent, you should decrease your sphere of control
by reversing the directions of your movements while your arms are still in contact with
those of your opponent. The order of your circular movements when trying to
withdraw (but not to give way) your arms should be water, metal, fire, wood, and then
earth. The direction of your movement should be anti-clockwise, with a downward
spiralling effect. There should also be revolving movements in your legs and arms
when reducing your sphere of control.
While you are reducing the sphere of your control, you should still keep the imaginary
mass of air expanding outwards, so that your legs and arms are kept elastic but not
stiff or too soft.
When the force of your opponent’s attack is transferred through your arms, body, legs
and then feet, it will bounce back from the ground. This, plus the bouncing back of
your body weight, will produce an upwards pressure which makes your whole body
‘swell’, causing your body and arms to extend outwards in the directions described in
paragraphs 3 and 4 above. The force which is thus deployed to strike your opponent
is called ‘jin’, which does not have any directions, and more powerful than brute force
produced from muscular power.
The ‘wu bu’ and ‘ba men jin’, that is five steps and indirect force from eight directions,
are called the ‘shi san shi’ or ‘thirteen postures’. Whenever we practise taijiquan, we
have to apply the thirteen postures in our movements.
CHAPTER 21 - Why is taijiquan so called?
After you have learned taijiquan’s basics and practised taijiquan for some time, you
should feel the internal energy generated by (1) your mind and (2) by the force of
gravity. The internal energy is to be deployed to move your arms and body. To assist
you in taking your taijquan to a higher level, it would be appropriate for me at this
stage to explain what taiji means and why this term has been used as the name of this
form of internal martial art.
The Chinese postulate that before the universe came into being, it was in a nebulous
state and completely chaotic. This state is called ‘wuji’, which means ‘without limits’.
Gradually, this state evolved itself to become an orderly being which is called ‘taiji’,
meaning ‘ultimate limits’. This sets the boundaries of this universe and from this state
was ‘born’ the ‘liang yi’, meaning two opposing forces - heaven and earth or YIN
YANG. I have briefly explained YIN YANG in Chapter 8 and for the purpose of
studying taijiquan, I will not elaborate the concept here. As a result of the interaction
between YIN YANG, the four seasons, (spring, summer, autumn and winter) or four
elements (metal, wood, water, and fire) were formed. Because of the seasonal
changes and the ‘promotion and restraint’ amongst the four elements, we can observe
eight natural phenomena which are heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire,
mountain, and lakes. These eight phenomena are represented by the eight trigrams
which I mention in Chapter 19.
There are other definitions and explanations of the term ‘taiji’ advocated by the
philosophers in the Han, Song and Ming Dynasties in China. For example, one school
of thought in the West Han Dynasty is that taiji is ‘yuan qi’, meaning ‘original energy’.
Before the ‘original energy’ was divided, it comprised three elements, viz, heaven,
earth and human beings which together formed one entity.
In the Song Dynasty, a scholar by the name of Dunyi Zhou invented the taiji diagram
and hypothesized that when taiji moves, YANG is generated but when taiji is
stationary, YIN is created. When YIN YANG interchanges and interacts, there
produced the five elements, that is, water, fire, wood, metal and earth. When these
five elements interact, all the beings including human beings in the universe were born.
I have been stressing the importance of using contradictory but complementary
forces, that is, YIN YANG, to practise taijiquan. For example, to sink and to float (a
different part of the body) at the same time, to open (the internal side of the arms
when they form a circle in front of the chest) and to enclose (the external side of the
arms) at the same time. The concept of the eight trigrams is also used to develop
taijiquan to make it more powerful as described in Chapter 19.
CHAPTER 22 ‘Yi’ and ‘Qi’
The concept of YIN YANG does not only apply to activities and matters which we can
observe physically, eg, floating up of the arms, moon and sun, or even winter (YIN)
and summer (YANG), but it is also used to represent or even describe the relationship
between two abstract phenomena. For example, YIN is used to represent the state of
being calm, stationary or still and YANG the state of being active, or moving; YIN
abstract, imaginary or virtual and YANG tangible, real, or solid.
The skills that I describe in Chapter 16 are also based on the principle of YIN YANG.
The body weight that you transfer to your feet and then the ground is YIN and the
bouncing effect, ie, the pressure that your feel through your feet and legs from the
ground is YANG. Without the body weight, you cannot generate the bouncing effect.
That is, without YIN, you cannot develop YANG. When the bouncing effect reaches
the highest level, you will feel that your upper body is light and also tends to float
upwards. Therefore, when YANG (the bouncing effect) increases, your body weight
(YIN) decreases. And when the bouncing effect is exhausted, you will feel that your
body is heavy again, supporting the principle that when YANG disappears, YIN will
start to grow and vice versa. Of course, YIN and YANG complement one another.
This leads me to introduce two terms in Chinese for which no exact English equivalent
can be found but which are very important to taijiquan practitioners. These are ‘yi’ and
I have not mentioned these two terms in previous chapters because I would like
beginners to understand the basics of taijiquan first before they attempt skills of a
higher level. It is important that people learning taijiquan should develop and cultivate
their skills stage by stage just as children should not be taught how to use a calculator
before they learn the times table.
Many people have translated ‘yi’ to mean ‘mind’ or ‘intention’. I believe that ‘yi’ is more
than just mind or intention because the use of ‘yi’ to control the internal and external
movements of the fingers, palms, arms, shoulders, body, legs, feet, and of course all
the cells and joints inside the body, involves first of all your consciousness. After you
realize and are conscious of the possibility of using ‘yi’ to achieve a certain movement,
you should then have the desire to do that. Desire of course is not enough because
you must have determination and then the will power to achieve the movement. And
last and but not the least, you must have determination again. One of the key taijiquan
principles is that when moving your body or your arms and hands, no muscular power
may be used and this I have mentioned and indeed stressed many times in previous
chapters. Instead, you should use ‘yi’ to control all the movements. The information
that I have given in previous chapters is to make you aware of the possibility and
indeed the beauty of moving the different parts of your body without using your
muscular power. Now that you have trained yourself to so move your arms and body,
you should now try to use the ‘yi’, that is, your intention or desire, your determination
and will power to move your arms and body.
Why should you use ‘yi’ to move your arms and body? You should realize that many of
the muscles inside your body are involuntary muscles; they do not move and cannot
easily be moved by other voluntary muscles in your body. The most efficient and
effective way is to use your ‘yi’ to move them. Furthermore, as the use of muscular
power to move your arms and body would render the parts in question inflexible and
impede the flow of the ‘qi’ (see following paragraphs) inside your body, you should
therefore use ‘yi’ to move both your voluntary and involuntary muscles.
The term ‘yi’ has a further meaning. In the context of the phrase ‘yi shou dan tian’,
(meaning that you maintain (shou) your ‘yi’ in your dan tian, ‘yi’ means ‘attention’. In
other words, ‘yi shou dan tian’ really means that you pay attention to your dan tian and
keep it full, round, hollow and relaxed.
‘Yi’ is always used together with ‘qi’. ‘Qi’ is such an abstract character in the Chinese
language that you can easily find several interpretations of this term. Ordinarily, it
means air. However, in the context of Chinese medicine and Chinese martial arts, it
has nothing to do with air. Many people have used the term ‘internal energy’ to explain
‘qi’. I do not consider this to be wrong but from my knowledge and experience, I think
‘qi’ is the sensation you obtain after you have deployed ‘yi’. The best example is the
feeling that you will get after you have used your ‘yi’ to sink your body weight to your
feet; once the weight reaches your feet, the weight bounces upwards, giving you a
sensation of upward pressure through your legs to your hip and then your spine. The
feeling of the pressure is ‘qi’. Another example is to use your ‘yi’ to push or move the
cells in your arms from your shoulders to your finger tips. Initially, you may not have
much feeling but after you have practised this for some time, you will feel that
something is flowing inside your arms in the direction of your ‘yi’. This feeling is ‘qi’.
From ‘qi’ your will be able to develop your internal energy.
This is the reason why taijiquan practitioners always use the phrase ‘yi qi’ because we
believe that ‘qi’ is mobilized by ‘yi’.
Now that you have an understanding of these two terms, you should start using ‘yi’
and ‘qi’, or indeed ‘yi qi’ to practise taijiquan. For example, when you try to float your
arms upwards, you should have the ‘yi’ (knowledge) that your arms comprise three
parts, the muscle above the bone, the bone itself, and then the muscle underneath the
bone. On the one hand, the bone weighs heavily and is dragged down by the force of
gravity. However, you should have the ‘yi’ that the muscle above it is light and flies or
floats upwards whereas the muscle underneath the bone has the tendency to fill up
the gap left behind by the floating up of the arms. You should use your ‘yi’ (desire,
determination, will power and again determination) to control all such movements and
refrain from using your muscles to move your arms. The ideas of letting all your cells
swell, maintaining an air bubble in each of your joints, floating your head upwards,
shifting the weight of the different parts of your arms and body are all accomplished
by the use of ‘yi’.
The use of ‘yi’ to float your arms upwards or to transfer your body weight is to
supplement your effort to shift the weight of your arms and body so that you will find it
much easier to mobilize the weight of your arms and the different parts of your body.
After prolonged practice, you will be able to use purely ‘yi’ to relax and to move your
arms and body without thinking.
CHAPTER 23 More about YIN YANG
In previous chapters I used a see-saw to illustrate the principle of YIN YANG. Of
course, the philosophy of YIN YANG is much more complex than what I have
explained but what I have said so far is adequate for the purpose of learning
and practising taijiquan. Now that readers must have been practising taijiquan
for some months by following this book, it would be opportune for me to
expound more about YIN YANG in relation to taijiquan.
Apart from using the complex concept of YIN YANG to enable us to move the
arms and body without using muscular power, we also employ it as the guiding
principle for virtually all aspects of taijiquan.
When you stand, it is important that you avoid having both legs sharing equally
the weight of your body. This is described as ‘double heavy’ (shuang zhong)
and may affect your agility and ability to react to attacks from your opponent.
What you should do is have one leg that is ‘solid’ and the other one ‘light’.
‘Solid’ is YIN and ‘light’ is YANG and this will facilitate your movement and you
can easily change your position by shifting YIN to YANG and YANG toYIN. By
‘light’, it does not mean that you should relax the leg completely and let it hang
there loosely. You should still maintain your ‘yi’ at the ‘light’ leg and imagine
that it is floating up. The ‘solid’ leg, which stands firmly on the ground, is YIN
and is balanced by the ‘light’ or YANG leg. Although the YIN leg is solid, you
should develop the skill that the foot and the ankle are both relaxed and the
foot is just placed on the ground. To make it even more complicated, you
should train yourself to divide you ‘solid’ leg into YIN part and YANG part so
that you can respond to attacks instantly.
The YIN YANG concept also applies to your body and arms. For example, when
your right arm is ‘solid’, your left arm should be ‘light’. When a spot of your
solid arm is in contact with your opponent, the spot is divided into YIN and
YANG; between the YIN side and YANG side, there should be a centre as I have
said in previous chapters. Maintaining the position of the centre unchanged,
you should let the YANG side of the spot that is in contact with the opponent follow
the direction of the attack and, using the power from the opponent, you will be able to
let the YIN side move towards and attack the opponent. However, if we convert the
two-dimensional taiji diagram into a three-dimensional global mass, when your ‘solid’
arm is in contact with your opponent, your whole arm should be able to roll like a ball -
one side of the ball will deflect the attack and the other side will attack the opponent.
You should apply the same principle and divide every part of your body into YIN and
YANG so that you can respond to any external stimulation internally even if you do not
move your body and arms.
Another important point to remember when practising taijiquan is to maintain a high
spirit and a bright mood. The high spirit will facilitate the development of an aura which
increases your fighting power, enhances your mental health, alertness, and
confidence, and improves your agility and reflex. Externally, you will present yourself
with an imposing posture. The high spirit is YIN and the aura is YANG. The high spirit
supports the aura and the aura embraces the high spirit. In other words, the YIN
supports the YANG which in turn embraces the YIN. They complement one another
and they cannot be separated from one another.
The importance of the YIN YANG concept to taijiquan cannot be over-emphasized. I
talk about ‘yi’ in the previous chapter.You employ ‘yi’ to control the movements of the
body, arms and legs instead of using muscular power. ‘Yi’ is YIN and your physical
body is YANG. When you use the ‘yi’ to float your head upwards, the rest of your
body is still attracted downwards by the force of gravity. Therefore YIN and YANG
act against one another and they also complement one another because if YIN does
not exist, YANG will fall which means that your body cannot be held upright. On the
other hand, if YANG is not there, there is nothing for ‘yi’ or YIN to hinge on.
The secrets of TAIJIQUAN
by Kamsang Law Copyright © 2007
All copyrights are reserved for the author. The use of any
part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or
otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior
consent of the publisher or writer is an infringement of the
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