Taijiquan Eight Stances – 8 hand techniques
The Four Primary Hand Techniques
There are eight basic Taiji hand movements, which are divided into primary and secondary techniques.
The procedure for practicing the four primary hand movements is as follows. Start from an Infinite Ultimate (Wuji) Stance (figure 5.8a). Transfer your body weight to your right leg, then move your left leg a little to your left, transferring your body weight to it, to stand in a False leg Stance with your right toes merely touching the ground, and rotate your waist toward your right (figure 5.8b). Your palms should be in front of your abdomen as if holding a ball of Qi, with your right palm below your left.
Then move your right leg forward to a right Bow arrow Stance. Remember to initiate your movement from your waist, differentiate between 'apparent' and 'solid', and adjust the foot positions accordingly. Simultaneously move your right arm forward to about 2 feet in front of your face, with your right palm turning in, and your left palm near your right elbow, which should be slightly bent (figures 5.8c and d). Your hand movements should also be initiated by the rotation of your waist. This technique is called Peng, or warding off, and is the same as the one we used when we learnt the basic leg movements.
Then, starting from your waist, bring back your body and lower it over your left leg. Do not move your feet but bend both knees, with your back knee bent more than your front one. Simultaneously draw back your palms from the front to the left of your waist, with your right palm facing down and left palm facing up, rotating your waist from right to left in the process (figure 5.8e). This technique is called Lu, or rolling back.
The description of these techniques as two separate movements is merely to help you learn. When you have mastered them, you should flow from Peng to Lu, rather than stopping at Peng. The change of arm direction from moving forward to rolling back should be continuous and circular, as in a figure of eight, and not abrupt and angular as in a forward and a backward line. This continuous, circular motion is basic in Taiji Chuan, and should be applied to all patterns.
Continuing from the movement of the Lu technique, reverse the rotation of your waist from right left to left right, and press your right forearm forward, with your left palm pressing at your right wrist to add power (figures 5.8f and g). This technique is called Ji, or pressing. The reversing of your waist rotation must not be abrupt or angular; it should be continuous and circular, again like a figure of eight, and there must not be any break in the flow from the Lu to the Ji techniques. Similarly, the change of direction by your hands, from rolling back to pressing forward, should not be abrupt but continuous, also in a figure of eight.
After pressing with the Ji technique, lower your body by bending your left leg but without moving your feet, and simultaneously lower both wrists (figure 5.8h). Then, with your force coming from your left heel, turn to a right Bow arrow Stance and strike out both palms, in a technique called An, or pushing (figure 5.8i). Force starts from the heel, is controlled by the waist, materialized at the hand, and executed from the spine, with full mindfulness!
Figure 5.8 - The four primary hand movements
These four techniques
are the four primary Taijiquan (Tai-Qi-Chuan) hand movements. After the An technique, transfer your weight to your left leg and rotate your waist and your right foot towards the left so that you do a left about turn. Bring your left leg towards your right leg for a momentary False leg Stance, and then move your left leg forward to repeat the four techniques on the other side. Complete the routine by returning to your initial Infinite Ultimate Stance, raising your hands, palms up, above your head, then lowering them, palms down, to your side.
The Four Secondary Hand Techniques
The four secondary hand techniques
are performed as follows.
From the Infinite Ultimate Stance momentarily transfer your weight to your right leg, move your left leg a little step to your left, then transfer your weight to it and stand in a False leg Stance. Rotate your body to your right and hold an imaginary ball of Qi with your left palm above and your right below in a preparatory pattern called Holding the Cosmos (figure 5.9a). Move your right leg forward to a right Bow arrow Stance, and spread your right arm diagonally forward and up, and your left arm slightly down and back as shown in figure 5.9b. This is lie (pronounced 'lee-eh'), or spreading.
Figure 5.9 - The four secondary hand movements
Bring right leg back to stand in a Four six Stance, with right leg still in front, hold right palm in front and left palm near right elbow as shown in figure 5.9c. This technique is Cai, and you will recognize the pattern as Playing the Lute.
Next pattern, momentarily transfer weight to right leg, then bring left leg forward and place it on the ground close behind right leg, thus transferring weight to left leg. Left knee should be bent. At the same time, hold right forearm horizontal, with right elbow ready for striking and left palm behind right fist, as in figure 5.9d. From this position, using back foot for anchorage, 'throw' your body forward with right elbow as the striking point figure 5.9e). This is Zhou, or elbowing. The force originates from back foot, controlled by waist, manifested at right elbow.
The next pattern, Kao or bumping, is similar except that the striking point is the shoulder. Place left leg close behind right leg, bend left knee, lower body (figure 5.9f), and 'throw' your body forward with right shoulder as the striking point (figure 5.9g). Although you throw your body forward, you must not overdo it; your center of gravity, which is now raised from the abdomen to the chest, should still be between your legs. Secondly, the striking force comes from back leg, not from shoulder.
After performing these four techniques on the right side, turn around and repeat the whole procedure on the left. Complete the training with the Infinite Ultimate Stance, closing eyes gently, clearing mind of all thoughts, and remaining still for a few minutes.
Figure 5.10 - Felling an opponent with Kao
The shoulder strike is one example of Kao technique. Another example of Kao is as follows; if opponent has trapped both your hands, and attempts to push you backwards (figure 5.10a), follow the momentum of the push by 'swallowing', by pulling your abdomen back without moving feet (figure 5.10b). When opponent's body is close to your shoulder (figure 5.10c), rotate waist and swing left leg backward anti clockwise, felling him or her with your shoulder (figure 5.10d). Again, the force comes from the feet, controlled by the waist. Another example of Kao in combat. An opponent attacks you with a straight right punch the most common form of attack in many martial arts (figure 5.11a). 'Swallow' the punch by sitting back in the Four six Stance, and simultaneously push at the opponent's wrist with your right hand, and at the elbow with your left forearm, in the pattern Playing the Lute (figure 5.11b). In combat, this will dislocate the person's elbow, so you must be careful when practicing this technique with a partner.
Remember that in the Cai technique we also used Playing the Lute. This shows that the same pattern may be used for different techniques; and, the same technique can also be implemented in different patterns.
Figure 5.11 - Dislocating an opponent's elbow with Kao
Basic Stances and Postures for Balance and Poise
Stand upright with your feet comfortably close together and your arms hanging naturally at your sides (figure 5. 1 a). Your mouth should be slightly open, as if you are smiling. Gently close your eyes, clear your mind of all thoughts, and be very relaxed. This is known as the Wuji Zhuang, or the Infinite Ultimate Stance. Remain in it for a few minutes.
The crucial point of this training is not just standing upright, which is merely the external form. The greatest benefit is derived from the deep relaxation and sense of inner peace this stance training develops. At a later stage, you may feel internal force flowing inside your body; at an advanced stage you may feel your own vital energy merge with the cosmic energy of the universe, the experience of which is reflected in the name of the stance the Infinite Ultimate Stance.
After standing for a few minutes in the Infinite Ultimate Stance, proceed to the Three circle or Taiji Stance. Without moving your feet, transfer your body weight to your left leg. With your left leg, which is now known as the 'solid' leg supporting your body weight, move your right leg, known as the 'apparent' leg in this case, about a foot to your right (figure 5. 1b). Then gradually transfer your weight from your left leg to your right, which becomes the 'solid' leg, and move your left leg, the ~apparent' leg, close to your right, (figure 5. 1c). With your body weight now over your right 'solid' leg, move your left 'apparent' leg about two feet to your left (figure 5. 1d). Distribute your body weight evenly over both legs so that both are 'solid'. Your feet should be about 2 feet, or one and a half shoulder widths, apart, and your toes pointed inwards very slightly.
Bend your knees so that they are above your toes. Make sure your body is upright and relaxed. Then raise both arms in front of you to about chest level, with your elbows bent so that your arms form a circle in front of you (figure 5. le). Hold the fingers of both hands in such a way that the thumb and index fingers form two arcs which if continued would form a circle in front of your chest. 'Hook' in your bent knees as if you were holding a ball with your thighs and knees. You are now holding three imaginary balls: a small one with your palms, a bigger one with your arms, and a third one with your thighs and knees.
This is known as the Goat riding Stance, but the special form of the stance, with the arms held up in front in a circle as if holding a huge ball, is known as the Three circle or Taiji Stance.
Make sure that your shoulders and elbows are dropped naturally. Have your lips slightly open as if smiling, close your eyes gently, very gently focus your mind on your abdomen, and then clear it of all thoughts. Remain perfectly still and relaxed in this stance for about five minutes.
At the end of this stance training, return to the Wuji or Infinite Ultimate Stance, and remain still for a few more minutes. Then gently focus your internal force at your abdominal dan-tian, or the energy field about 3 inches below your navel, for a minute or two. Rub your palms together to warm them, place them on your eyes, and dab your eyes a few times, as you open them. Walk about briskly to complete this very important exercise.
Practice every day and gradually emphasis, gradually increase the time until you can stand in the Taiji Stance for at least half an hour. This will take at least a few months of daily practice. After a few months, if you have been training correctly and consistently, you will feel your internal force swelling inside your body, and flowing to your arms and legs. Sometimes it will be so powerful that your palms, arms, or other parts of your body may vibrate vigorously. If this happens, it is important that you do not tense any part of your body; just relax and enjoy the spontaneous vibration. If, for any reason, you wish to stop the vibration, gently think of your dan-tian, and the internal force will be stored at the abdominal energy field. The vibration of internal force as the result of prolonged stillness is a manifestation of the often stated but little understood principle that 'extreme stillness generates movement', expressed symbolically as: 'When yin has reached its maximum, yang is born.'
This training is an example of the expression 'Wuji creates Taiji, and Taiji returns to Wuji’, or 'the infinite ultimate creates the cosmos, and the cosmos returns to the infinite ultimate! At the beginning, the infinite ultimate is void and nebulous; then because of the operation of yin yang, form or substance appears as the phenomenal cosmos. Eventually the cosmos returns to its primordial state of the nebulous and void. This happens at the infinitesimal scale of the sub atomic particle in an instant, as well as the infinite scale of galaxies in terms of eons. As the body is a miniature cosmos, this cosmic transformation also occurs inside it, generating a tremendous amount of internal force.
Developing Poise and Balance
In addition to training in stillness, which is the yin aspect of Taiji Chuan, we must also have training in movement, which is the yang aspect. Start with the Taiji Stance (figure 5.2 a) and transfer your bodyweight to your right 'solid' leg, moving your left 'apparent' leg a small step towards your right, with the left toes merely touching the ground and the right leg still supporting the body weight. Simultaneously rotate your waist and bend both knees slightly so that you turn to your left (figure 5.2 b). It is important that you rotate your waist, rather than turning your body. If you turn your body without rotating your waist, you interrupt the flow of energy from your dan-tian, but if your rotate your waist, your body will turn naturally, and your energy flow will be spontaneous. Feel this internal flow of energy as you rotate your waist.
With your right 'solid' leg still supporting your weight, glide your left ‘apparent’ leg about two shoulder widths forward (this is the left side of your previous Taiji Stance). This moves you into what is called a left Bow arrow Stance (figure 5.2c), with the front (left) leg bent, representing a bow, the toes pointing about 45' diagonally to the right, and the back (right) leg straight, representing an arrow, with the foot turned about 45' to the left from its position in the earlier Taiji Stances. Your movement should be such that should your left leg step on something slippery, you will not fall because it is an 'apparent' leg, and you are supported by your right 'solid' leg. When you are certain that your left leg is on firm ground, gradually transfer half your weight to it, so that you stand solidly on both legs. Your feet should be 'hooked in' so that if you were to draw a line between your heels, each foot would make a 45' angle with it. Simultaneously make an anti clockwise circle with your right hand and strike out your right palm at chest level, but with your right elbow slightly bent, not fully extended. At the same time, make a clockwise circle with your left hand, completing the movement near your front left knee. This pattern is called Green Dragon Shoots out Pearl.
We can classify foot movements as gross or fine. The gross movement in the above example is turning from the Taiji Stance leftwards into the left Bow arrow Stance. The fine movements rotate the waist to the left side, the start of which generates the movement of the whole body, shifting the body slightly backwards, gliding the left foot forward into the correct position. While transferring your weight as you rotate your knees, adjusting the position of the back foot, remember always to focus your center of gravity at your dan-tian or abdominal energy field to maintain your strong ‘root’. An understanding of the fine movements is necessary for good balance, well ‘anchored’, which is particularly important in Taiji Chuan, and for generating a spiral force, which starts from the back heel.
To continue to the next stance, momentarily transfer your bodyweight to your front (left) leg then to your back (right) leg and move your left leg about 1 foot back, still keeping it in front of your right. Next transfer about 40 per cent of your weight to your left leg; bend both legs, your back leg slightly more than your front, and focus your center of gravity at your dan-tian. This stand is called a Stream character Stance, also known as Four six Stance because your front leg supports about 40 per cent of your weight, and your back leg about 60 per cent. Hold your hands as shown in figure 5.2d. This pattern, built on the Four six Stance, is called Playing the Lute. Now turn around and repeat these two patterns on the reverse side as follows. From the Playing the Lute pattern figure 5.3a, transfer your weight to your right leg, and using your left heel as a pivot, rotate your waist and your left foot to your right so that your body makes a right about turn. This turn should be led by the rotation of your waist. Then transfer your weight to your left leg, which is now the 'solid' back leg, with your right toes merely touching the ground (figure 5.3b). Simultaneously rotate your left hand in a clockwise direction and your right hand in an anti clockwise direction. Continue the rotation of your hands. Move your right foot forward to a right Bow arrow Stance, rotating your waist appropriately as you do so, so that as you stabilize into the stance, your weight is distributed evenly over both legs, and your center of gravity is located at your dan-tian (figure 5.3c).
Simultaneously with your foot movement, conclude the clockwise circle of your left hand and anti clockwise circle of your right hand, with your left palm striking out in front with your left elbow slightly bent, and your right palm placed near your right knee. Next, momentarily transfer your weight to your right leg, then to your left leg, and move your right leg about 1 foot back to take up a right Four six Stance. Simultaneously place both hands in the position shown in figure 5.3d. Your center of gravity should be at your dan-tian. Now place your body weight on your left (back) leg, and with your waist as the source of movement, rotate your right foot slightly to your left. Transfer your weight to your right leg, and by rotating your waist turn to your left (figure 5.4a). Lift your left leg, with your left knee held high up, your left foot protecting your groin and your left toes pointing down. Simultaneously cross your palms in front of your face (figure 5.4b). 'Kick out your left foot with your heel as the striking point and spread out both hands in a pattern called Cross hands Thrust kick (figure 5.4c). Then immediately bring it back to its original position protecting your groin, but hold your hands in the position shown in figure 5.4d. This pattern is called Golden Cockerel Stands Solitary. The stance that supports both this Golden Cockerel pattern and the Thrust kick pattern is called a Single leg Stance.
Next, lower your left leg to the ground about 2 feet to your left, and gracefully transfer your weight from your right leg to your left. Lift your right leg and stand on your left leg alone. Cross your palms in front of your face (figure 5.4e). Kick out your right heel and spread your palms (figure 5.4f). Immediately bring your right leg back to the pre kick position with the foot protecting your groin (figure 5.4g). These are the reverse of the Cross hands Thrust kick and Golden Cockerel Stands Solitary patterns mentioned in the previous paragraph.
From this left Single leg Stance, gracefully lower your right leg onto the ground in front of you about 2 feet diagonally to your right, to form a right Four six Stance. Lift your hands as shown in figure 5.5a.
This pattern, known as Lifting Up Hands, is a popular poise pattern in Taiji Chuan; exponents pose like this in combat while awaiting attack or defense.
Transfer your weight to your back (left) leg and move your right leg slightly back, with the toes pointed and merely touching the ground in a momentary right False leg Stance carrying a ball of Qi (figure 5.5b). Move the right 'apparent' leg forward about 2 34 feet to form a right Bow arrow Stance; simultaneously move your right hand forward and up to eye level, and place your left hand near your right elbow as shown in figure 5.5c in a Peng or warding off technique. Your weight should now be distributed evenly over both legs, and your center of gravity should be at your dan-tian. The positions of the feet in these various steps are shown in figure 5.6.
Transferring your weight to your left leg, take your right foot back and place it momentarily near your left (figure 5.5d), with your arms following the rotation of your waist the source of your movement. Continuing the rotation of your waist, place your right leg about 2 X feet behind you, and transfer your weight to it so that it is now the 'solid' leg (figure 5.5e). Remember to adjust the angle of your left foot so that your left toes, which pointed to your left just before this movement, now point to your right. Still continuing the rotating movement moves your body forward, without moving your foot positions, to a left Bow arrow Stance, and distribute your weight over both legs. Simultaneously move your left hand forward and up to eye level, and place your right hand near to your left elbow in a Peng technique (figure 5.5f). All these movements should be done smoothly without any break; and when you change the direction of movement, such as changing from moving back to moving forward, the change should be in the form of a curve, as in a figure of eight, and not angular.
To complete the exercise, transfer your weight to your back (right) leg and move your left leg a few inches to your right with your left toes pointing for ward. Then transfer your weight to your left leg, and bring your right leg forward close to and alongside your left to stand upright with your feet close together and toes pointing forward. Your bodyweight should now be evenly distributed between both legs.
At the same time, bring both arms, with the palms facing up, above your head (figure 5.5g), simultaneously breathing in gently. Then with both palms facing the ground, lower them until your arms hang naturally at your sides, gently breathing out in the process, (figures 5.5h and i). While you raise your arms above your head and simultaneously breathe in, visualize good cosmic energy from the universe flowing into you; and while you lower your arms and simultaneously breathe out, visualize the cosmic energy flowing to and accumulating at your dan-tian or abdominal energy field. The movement, breathing, and visualization must be coordinated and performed gently; any forced action may result in unwanted side effects. This technique, which is often used to complete a training program in Taijiquan (Tai-Qi-Chuan) as well as in other styles of Kung Fu, is known as Energy Accumulating at Energy Field.
Gently close your eyes, clear your mind of all thoughts, relax totally, and remain in this Infinite Ultimate Stance for a few minutes. End the exercise by rubbing your palms together, and then dab your eyes with them as you open your eyes. Massage your face and head, loosen your body, and walk about briskly.
Fig 5.5 Lifting Up Hands and other positions
This short routine provides good training for the five basic Taijiquan (Tai-Qi-Chuan) leg movements and the four basic stances. The five basic leg movements are fin, or moving forward; Tui, or moving back; Zuo, or moving to the left; pan, or moving to the right; and ding, or remaining at the center. The four basic stances in Taijiquan (Tai-Qi-Chuan) are the Goat-riding stance (Mabu) or Taiji Stance; the Bow arrow Stance; the Four six Stance; and the Single leg Stance. Figure 5.6 shows the foot positions for the leg movements, and figure 5.7 shows the foot positions for the major stances.
This routine, with its emphasis on movement and the training of balance and poise, starts with the cosmos or grand ultimate (Wuji), and ends with the void or infinite ultimate (Wuji). It complements the earlier exercise, which emphasized stillness and the development of internal force, which proceeds from the state of non-differentiation to the cosmos. In Taijiquan (Tai-Qi-Chuan) terms, it is 'From Wuji is born Taiji; and Taiji returns to Wuji.' Also ‘Yin-Yang is born of Taiji’. If you recall the principle of yin yang, you should practice the quiescent and the dynamic aspects, or both the yin and the yang, if you want the best from your Taijiquan (Tai Qi Chuan).