Useful Words and Phrases

These words and phrases are useful for when I’m learning and practicing Tai Chi, picking people up or driving them home in my car, and arranging future practices.

practice group

Ni Hao does fine for hello and how are you and pleased to meet you and greeting in general. Thank you is Xie Xie (sounds like shyeh shyeh).

Ming Tian Jian is “See you tomorrow!” (I say that at the end of practice on Saturday). Xiage Li Bai Jian is “See you next week.” (I say that at the end of practice on Sunday.) Jian is the “See you” part; Xiage is next.

  • Jin Tian is today
  • Ming Tian is tomorrow
  • Zuo Tian is yesterday

Days of the week are numbered starting with Monday (1) and going through Saturday (6). You prefix them with either Xing Qi (sounds like sing chee), Li Bai, or Zhou (like the name Joe). My friends use Li Bai, so Monday could be Li Bai Yi, Tuesday is Li Bai Er, Wednesday is Li Bai San. And so on. Sunday is Li Bai Tian; there are other ways of saying Sunday, but Long Feng says Li Bai Tian.

Li Bai Wu Jian would be “See you Friday.” Xiage Li Bai Liu Jian is “See you next Saturday.” We meet at 8:00 am: Ba Dian.

Apart from hello, thank you, and when we’ll next see each other, our conversations consist of reciting things like numbers or names of forms or movements (I say Chinese, she says English). Right now we’re doing days of the week. I always wondered why Long Feng counted on her fingers to recite weekdays. Because in Chinese they’re numbered!

Directions include Zuo for left, You for right, and Ting for stop. If you learn the names for Brush Knee Push, Grasp the Bird’s Tail, etc., you can expand the instructions by adding left and right. Zuo Dan Bian is left single whip (the one we usually do).

Another good instructional term is Du Li, stand on one leg. Jin Ji Du Li is Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg (add left and right!), and Du Li Da Hu is Stand on One Leg and Hit the Tiger (42-form).

Jiao is kick. Fen Jiao is the “separate right/left foot” kick or sometimes more of a snap kick. Deng Jiao is a heel kick. Add left and right and you can make your way through a kicking section.

Learning the names of the forms and movements is not an idle exercise, in my situation. It allows me to ask questions, for one thing.

For example: The Fair Ladies movement in 42-form is different from what we do in traditional Tai Chi and different also from Fair Ladies in 24-form. Knowing the names of both the form and the movement, I can say, “Long Feng! Si Shi Er ShiYu Nu Chuan Shuo?” (I throw in a little pantomime.)

It’s primitive, but it works. She says, “Ah! Ha! Ha!” (She’s not laughing; that means yes, she understands.) And she shows me how to do Fair Ladies in 42-form, patiently repeating as many times as necessary, correcting details. I have learned four new forms (and a whole new style) in the year that I’ve been working with Long Feng.

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