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The Thirteen Tai Chi Postures

The Thirteen Tai Chi Postures
By Erle Montaigue
Wednesday, March 11, 1998

The thirteen postures were the original postures of the first attempts to put together a single set in H'ao Ch'uan which later became known as Taijiquan. Those thirteen postures remain today and in fact they remain more so in advanced push hands and they are... 

Tai Chi Posture No. 1 (P'eng: Yin defence)

Using P'eng jing, you are able to ward off any kind of attack using a 'yin' method. This also acts as a sensor, which can then be turned into an attacking yang hand. It is said that if you only learn about one kind of jing, then this should be it. On a physical sense, the arm is held as if holding a tree, slantingly upwards. In push hands this gives one the idea of how to use the posture of P'eng. Most people make the mistake of holding the arm in the correct position but then lifting the whole arm upward. The elbow should stay where it is while the wrist is lifted upwards slantingly. This 'lift' the attacker's Qi causing him to feel like he is 'floating' making it easy for you to then attack to vital points.


Tai Chi Posture No. 2 (Lu: Or to Rollback)

This is also a yin, however it is an attack. Both of your hands attach to the attacker's arm or any part of his body. Your own body then moves from the centre (very important) activating the lower tantien area. Using the 'no-mind' state, this will have the effect of joining with his Qi and causing him to topple forward past you. As he does this, your yin hand, that which is turned upward, immediately turns into a yang striking hand and strikes with great force using his own falling power against him.


Tai Chi Posture No. 3 (Chee)

A Yang attacking motion, means to 'Squeeze'. Most people get this translation wrong and call it 'press'. However the Chinese character means to squeeze. Again, the power comes from the centre at lower tantien. The elbows are squeezed inward as the lower tantien also squeezes. Just like when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste. One hand is placed inside of the other's wrist and is yin while the other is yang.

As both hands attack, they change shape and thus state forcing great adverse Qi into the attacker's vital points. This must be a whole body movement however and not only an arm movement.


Tai Chi Posture No. 4 (Arn)

This posture is normally called to push. However this is also incorrect as it means to 'press'. This is again a yang attacking movement coming from the whole body issuing yin and yang Qi into the attacker's vital points on his chest. Many make the mistake of looking after their legs when they hear about not being 'double weighted' but neglect their hands. Never in Taijiquan is there a two-handed strike or attack using the same power in each hand at the same time. There is a 'fa-jing' shake of the waist causing one hand to strike just before the other. The hands are firstly yin, then yang thus releasing yang Qi into the attacker.

The above methods are the four primary methods. As a general rule, P'eng jing is the major jing used in all of the others. P'eng is moving Qi while Lu is 'collecting Qi', Chee is receiving Qi while Arn is striking Qi. Although both are used to strike.

If your technique is not good and any of your four main methods have been defeated, then you must use one of the four corner methods, as the form main methods are the four primary directions.


Tai Chi Posture No. 5 (Tsai)

Sometimes called 'inch energy'. Like picking fruit off a tree with a snap of the wrist. Often on hand will be placed right on top of the other wrist to assist in the power of this jerking motion. It is not a pull of his wrist but rather a violent jerking fa-jing movement that can knock him out by its violent action upon his head jerking backwards and kinking his brain stem. Again, the power must come from the centre and not only from the arms and hands, and a follow up attack is also necessary.


Tai Chi Posture No. 6 (Lieh)

Sometimes called 'split'. This one has a physical meaning and an internal meaning. The physical meaning is when your "Lu" has been defeated; you can turn it into (from a corner position) Lieh. You break his energy between his elbow and his shoulder and his wrist, thus forcing his own Qi back onto him via his shoulder, which physically is torn out of its socket. On an internal level, this is often called 'the small strike Qi' as a strike is issued from very close to the opponent.

You split his power up into two by measuring the space taken by his body and that of between yourself and his body. This is a very advanced method as if you get the distance wrong, then you will be defeated. You can then issue great attacking force with only one hand from a very short distance.


Tai Chi Posture No. 7 (Chou)

This is often called 'elbow': This is where we use the very devastating elbow strike. Many say that it is a second line of defence/attack in that it can only be used when you are quite close to the attacker, perhaps after your initial hand strike has been defeated.

However, I like to use elbow strike as a primary strike by using one of the many 'opening up' methods first.


Tai Chi Posture No. 8 (K'ao)

Often called 'Shoulder strike: This method is used as a third line of defence and can be quite lethal used at the correct distance. The power must again come from the centre using the power of the legs and waist together. Shoulder can be used from the front or from the back depending upon the type of attack the your are receiving. If for instance is it a pull down where you right shoulder is being pulled to your right, then you would use the front part of the shoulder. If however, the attack pulled you to your left and there was no time to use the front part, you would turn right around so that the scapular part of your right shoulder could then slam into his chest using fa-jing.


The Five other tai chi postures.

The last five postures are really not postures but rather directions. So during push hands we have move forward, move backward, look right , gaze left and central equilibrium. We use move forward in order to not only attack using a Yang movement such as press or elbow, but also in defense when he attacks our centre so that we can avoid his full force and re-attack as he goes past. Move backward, is also an attacking movement such as when we attack his arm using 'choy'; or roll back or arm break and it is obviously a defensive movement when we are moving backwards in order to lessen his attack. loo right and gaze left are also defensive and attacking postures in that we move the body so that our eyes can look right and gaze left during the use of p'eng. The last one of central equilibrium means 'earth power' and although it can mean that we simply have the necessary balance, it also means the power that we gain from the ground.