This contemporary sword form is a combined form used in competition. It’s difficult, subtle, and sophisticated, with elements of all four major styles of Tai Chi — Yang, Chen, Sun, and Wu. I’m hoping to learn it well enough to work with Hu Pei when she comes back this spring.


Hou Ju Tui Jia Jian


On the left, Amin Wu demonstrates one of the more striking and unusual moves in 42-Sword.

As usual, I’m starting with a demonstration video and list of names just to get the rough sequence. The demo is a beautiful video of Amin Wu doing 42-Sword.

I haven’t yet found a definitive list of names in Chinese. I’m still looking. For now, I have two. The first list is Pinyin only, and it seems a bit sketchy (some words appear to be missing). I’d rather have the Chinese and look up the pinyin for myself.

The second list is Chinese, but alas, it’s all images. Not possible to copy and paste into a dictionary to get Pinyin and translation. There is a wealth of good information about Tai Chi sword on Phil Cheung’s page. I wish I could read it better. Here are the links.

I’ve just about got the sequence figured out, so the next step is to get Long Feng to lead me through it and show me some of the more baffling moves. I’ll also work my way through some instructional videos. There are three instructionals that I’ll use. I don’t have Jesse Tsao’s yet. His will be in English.


Amin Wu

Li Deyin’s instructional videos are in Chinese, and I wish I could figure out more of the parts where he simply talks, but it’s not hard to follow the demonstrations and specific instructions. I have the DVD, but it’s also on Youtube, in two parts (with lots of commercials, and rather poor video and sound quality, unfortunately).

On Youtube, I also found a complete set of videos with much better visual and audio quality, by Amin Wu, whose detailed instructions are quite clear, especially if you understand some basic instructional vocabulary. Love these!

This should keep me busy until next spring.

Chinese for Tai Chi

I’m in a Chinese newspaper! Hu Pei, the amazing teacher that I worked with last summer, is back in Jiang Yin, where she is a highly respected instructor and coach. She has been interviewed in newspapers and on TV about the fact that she had an American student while she was in Austin.


The headline (took me a while to figure this out) is  文化为媒, 她在美国教太极拳: Wen hua wei mei ta zai meiguo jiao taijiquan, which means that she is bridging cultures, teaching taijiquan in America.

The big question from the interviewers was, How could she teach an American when she didn’t speak English? And she explained that I knew Chinese for Tai Chi. When people ask me if I speak Chinese, I say that I speak Tai Chi-ese. I think I’ll start calling it Taijiese.

I know almost no conversational Chinese, but I have learned the Chinese names for the movements of the forms I’ve studied. It started out, for me, as the purest form of learning: I didn’t have an objective or purpose in mind. I just wanted to know the names.

But I have since found that there is much to be gained by learning Chinese names for movements, but by far the greatest pay-off (and one I never expected) was that when I had the opportunity last summer to work with an outstanding Chinese teacher, I was surprisingly well prepared to communicate with her.

The forms that I do with my Chinese friends are all contemporary forms–24, 42, 32-sword, 42-Sword, Wudang Tai Chi Sword, and Li Deyin’s two fan forms. The names of the movements for these forms (unlike the traditional forms) are descriptive rather than poetic. Or it might be better to say they are instructional. The movements still have the old poetic names, but the instructional names are what we use in practice.

So, for example, Tian Ma Xing Kong (Heavenly Horse Crosses the Sky) is now Xu Bu Dian Jian. Xu Bu–empty stance– and Dian Jian (point sword) are both terms of art, and if you know what they mean, the name of the movement tells you exactly what to do.

Conversely, if you learn all the names of the movements, you will know the terms for the various stances, sword techniques, parts of the body, directions, kicks, and so on. These instructive names break apart to form a substantial working vocabulary for learning Tai Chi from a Chinese-speaking teacher.

That is exactly what happened to me last summer. Ms Hu could tell me that when I do Pi (the sword technique) the blade should be ping, yidian xia (level, slightly downward). There were only a few additional words I needed to learn, such as yidian (a little), yao/buyao (want/don’t want), yuan (rounded), man (slow), and (hopefully, by the end of the day) hen hao! Very good.

It was a fantastic experience working with Hu Pei, and she taught me so much! I can’t wait for her to come back.

Chen Sword Videos and Names

I am brushing up on Chen sword and trying to figure out the names of the movements, of which there are 49–the form is also known as si shi jiu shi taiji jian. My school does Chen sword the way Grandmaster Cheng Jincai teaches it. Most of the material I am looking at online is the version practiced by Chen Zhenglei, Chen Bing, and Chen Ziqiang.

Chen Zhenglei Ch Shui

Chen Zhenglei Ch Shui (emerges from the water)

These three videos are helpful. The first, Chen Bing’s, is great but distractingly, when I view it, it’s displayed in widescreen that it was not intended for, so it’s distorted. Maybe that’s just the way I’m viewing it? Can’t figure out how to fix that.

The second video is Chen Zhenglei. Excellent, clear. The third is Chen Ziqiang, and it is a full instructional video with subtitles. Very helpful, though the subtitles and voiceover are not very well coordinated with the video (the name shown is not always the move he’s demonstrating).

These versions of the form differ from the one I’ve learned in several ways that I’ll note as I go along, but also the openings (Qishi) are different–we simply step left. All three of these masters start with a more typical Chen-style opening step (ca bu).

I have found several lists of names, with a few variations, and differently divided into sections. I’ve referred to all of them to settle on the names I’ll use. The lists are:

The first movement is Chao Yang– Face the Sun. For us, this is a simple movement, holding the sword at chest level in front. Next, Xian Ren Zhi Lu –Immortal Points the Way–is easily recognizable below:

Chen Ziqiang Points the Way

Chen Ziqiang Points the Way

Next, we present the sword, turn in place, take the sword and stand on one leg, stabbing down; then stab level to the left. This is Qing Long Chu Shui–Bluegreen Dragon Emerges from the Water; See Chen Zhenglei at the top of this post doing this move.

The slicing back and forth movement that follows is Hu Xi Jian–Protect the Knees. We do only R/L/R and we stay in place. The move varies according to the number of slices and also because some (Chen Ziqiang for example) travel forward doing this move.

Chen Zhenglei Closes the Door

Chen Zhenglei Closes the Door

Turn to the left and raise the sword as pictured above. This move is called Bi Men Shi–Close the Door–but it can also be called Tiao Lian, or Raise the Screen, a move familiar from Yang sword forms.

Next, Qing Long Chu Shui–Bluegreen Dragon Emerges from the Water again, but a little different. Just a level stab. This is followed by turning and chopping back. That move is called Fan Shen Xia Pi Jian–Turn Back and Chop Down.

Turn back, stamp the foot and stab level. This is Qing Long Zhuan Shen–Bluegreen Dragon Turns its Body. Next, Xie Fei Shi–Slant Flying. In Chen Bing’s list of names, this is the end of the first section.

Dragon Section

The eighth and last section of the Tiger-Crane set. Here’s an excellent video (includes Drunken section, too), shown from behind so you can follow, with names.


And the names of the moves are:

Pull sweep push sweep
Fist like an arrow
Pull sweep push sweep
Monkey steals the peaches
Dragon thrusts its claws
Sweep the sea and push the mountain
Dragon stretches its claws
Hook a star with the fist
Tiger pushes the mountain
Flying arrow fist
Dragon lands on the sand
A pair of butterflies
Turning stance to swiftly strike
Unicorn stepping
Butterfly palms
Continuous butterfly palms
Crescent moon hand and foot
Crouching tiger hidden dragon
Fierce tiger claws the sand
Draw bow to shoot arrow
Single dragon leaps from sea

Followed by the Five Animal Salute. End of form!

Drunken Fist

We’re up to the next-to-last section of the Tiger-Crane Set. It’s short, and Master Gohring’s videos combine it with the Dragon Section that comes after it. Here’s a good video of both sections, with names; the Drunken part is less than a minute.


The names of the moves are as follows:

  • Eight drunken gods
  • Old man exits cave
  • One finger asks the question
  • First star punching method
  • Second star punching method
  • Two fists punching downward
  • Immediately punching upward
  • Fist like an arrow

Crane Section

This is the sixth of eight sections in the Tiger-Crane 108. Video:


Names are:

Hard and soft crane walking
Descending arm hand and waist
One finger asks the question
Crane wing punching
Fist through the sleeve

[Repeat on the other side:]
Hard and soft crane walking
Descending arm hand and waist
One finger asks the question
Crane wing punching
Fist through the sleeve

Crane pecking
Reviving crane

Flying crane
Hungry crane stands on one leg
Hungry crane captures shrimp

[repeat on the other side:]
Flying crane
Hungry crane stands on one leg
Hungry crane captures shrimp

Crane head punching
Crane head punching

Dragon swings its tail
Monk summons corpse
Tame the tiger shoot the tiger

Footwork and Stances

步法 (bu fa) means footwork. I’ve been working on building a comprehensive list of names of steps and stances. I use the Chinese names, because translations of the everyday meanings of the Chinese words are mostly not applicable; these are terms of art. I do offer some English equivalents, especially where the English expression is well established.

弓步 gong bu (bow stance) is the long stride in which the leading foot points straight ahead and the back foot is at a 45-degree angle. How long, low, and wide the stride is varies with the individual and the style of tai chi. In the modern forms that I have studied, long and low is good, as long as you don’t have to lunge or lurch to move around, and about 8 inches in width is desirable. The weight is 60-70% on the leading foot.

Amin Wu is doing 24-form, in which gong bu is the basic forward step.

Amin Wu is doing 24-form, in which gong bu is the basic forward step.

In 虚步 xu bu (empty stance), the weight is entirely (or at least 90%) on one foot. The other can be in front with the ball of the foot or the heel touching and bearing a slight amount of weight. A variation is 点步, dian bu, in which the foot is pointed.

Xu Bu Xia Chuo from 32-sword

Xu Bu Xia Chuo from 32-sword

歇步 xie bu (resting stance) is a low position with the legs folded. The front foot points straight ahead and bears most of the weight. The knee of the back foot is turned in and rests on the back of the front leg. The heel of the back foot is off the ground. Xie bu can be specified as di (low), which means all the way down so the back knee is on or near the ground.

Master Faye Li Yip does Xie bu in Fan Form.

Master Faye Li Yip does Xie bu in Fan Form.

仆步 pu bu is a low stance in which the body is turned sideways and one leg is folded into a low squat while the other is extended. This stance is also called fu hu (tame the tiger), and is most famously exemplified in the taiji movement called Snake Creeps Down. Both feet face front, parallel, and the heel of the bent leg should be on the ground. The upper body should be upright.

Master Faye does Pu Bu Chuan Jian in Wudang Taiji Combined sword form.

Master Faye does Pu Bu Chuan Jian in Wudang Taiji Combined sword form.

扣步 kou bu is a pigeon-toed stance used when turning the body around.

Pigeon-toed, kou bu

Pigeon-toed, kou bu

马步 ma bu (horse stance, or horse-riding stance) is a wide stance with thighs parallel to the ground. Weight is equally distributed in plain ma bu, but the stance may be staggered left or right. It can also be easily shifted into left or right bow stance. In a general list of fighting stances, this one should probably have come first, but it is not so common or basic in taiji as in kung fu.

Ma Bu, Chen Zhenglei

Ma Bu, Chen Zhenglei

擦步 ca bu is the forward step in Chen style taiji, in which the heel skids forward (ca means brush or clean or polish).

Professor Li's wife does ca bu at the opening of Fan II.

Professor Li’s wife does ca bu at the opening of Fan II.

叉步 cha bu is a cross-step behind. When stepping into xie bu, one foot is set down behind the other, but just behind. In cha bu, the back foot crosses well behind.

Cha Bu Yun Shou, Fan II

Cha Bu Yun Shou, Fan II

Jesse Tsao, Cha Bu Fan Liao

Jesse Tsao, Cha Bu Fan Liao

盖步 gai bu is the opposite of cha bu: it is a cross-step in front.

Gai Bu, stepping across in front.

Gai Bu, stepping across in front.

并步 bing bu means feet together.

丁步 ding bu means feet are together, but the weight is on one foot, while the heel of the other foot is lifted. The empty foot may point forward or to the side.

开步 kai bu is a step to the side; kai means open. In Cloud Hands, the sidestep is kai bu.

Kai Bu Yun Shou (Fan II)

Kai Bu Yun Shou (Fan II)

撤步 che bu is a side-facing bow stance.

Che Bu, bow stance with hips turned sideways

Che Bu, bow stance with hips turned sideways

in 摆步 bai bu (swing step), the leading foot is set down on the heel and then swings outward 90-degrees. The heel of the back foot releases with the shift of weight, and the hips turn.

Bai Bu, swing step 90-degrees outward, releasing the heel of the back foot.

Bai Bu, swing step 90-degrees outward, releasing the heel of the back foot.

独立 du li [bu] is standing on one leg. The standing foot is at 45 degrees with respect to the body, as is the knee, which should be lifted waist-high, with the free foot pulled in toward the center of the body for balance.


跳步 tiao bu is a jump. This generally refers to the move traditionally called Horse Jumps Over the Stream.


進步 jin bu is an advancing step.

退步 tui bu is a retreating step.

半步 ban bu is a half-step, where the back foot follows the front foot half-way, as for example, to set up Bai He Liang Chi (White Crane Spreads Wings) or Shou Hui Pipa (Playing the Guitar).

上步 shang bu means step up one step with the back leg, as in Shang Bu Qi Xing (Step Up Seven Stars).

行 步 xing bu is a walking step, usually in a circle as in Bagua Walking.

This list is not exhaustive–I keep coming across new steps! I haven’t found all the names of the shifted horse stances or the special empty step for Bai He Liang Chi (in which you set the toe in front, between the opponent’s legs, in preparation for a snap kick) or the staggered horse stance that you jump to in the fan forms (I do know there’s a special name for that, too). But this is most of them.

See also Wikipedia on Wushu Stances. Also, Jesse Tsao covers basic Taiji stances in his Tai Chi Fundamentals DVD, which is also available as Amazon Stremming Video. This book, Complete Taiji Dao, also covers many of the stances described in this post.