Words of instruction

The names of some movements make reference to animals (Snake Creeps Down). Others invoke imagery (Rhinoceros Gazes at the Moon). But many are instructive: Step Up and Punch Down, for example. Here are some words that recur in the various forms, telling you what to do.

strike with heel

You Deng Jiao = Strike with heel right

Jin means advance; Bu is a step. So Jin Bu is step forward, or advance a step. Tui is step back or retreat, so Tui Bu is step back. Chui means hammer or beat with fist (maybe punch)–this being martial arts, we see a lot of chui!

  • Jin Bu Ban Lan Chui = Step forward, intercept and punch
  • Jin Bu Zai Chui = Step forward and punch down
  • Jin Bu Zhi Dang Chui = Step forward and punch to groin
  • Tui Bu Kua Hu = Step back and ride the Tiger.

The four movements that comprise Grasp the Bird’s Tail (Lan Que Wei) are Peng, Lu, Ji, and An, the first four of the eight energies: ward off, pull back, press and push. The music we practice to has someone calling the names. She says, “You Lan Que Wei: Peng, Lu, Ji, An.” That’s Grasp the Bird’s Tail on the right.

  • Lu Ji Shi = Roll back and press

Chuan is thread, pass through, or penetrate. Zhang is palm. Shou is hand. Xie is slanted or diagonal.

  • Tui Bu Chuan Zhang = Step back and pierce palm
  • Yun Shou = Cloud hands
  • Ti Shou = Lift hands
  • Xie Fei Shi = Slant flying
  • Xie Dan Bian = Diagonal single whip

Zhuan Shen is turn body.

  • Zhuan Shen Zuo Deng Jiao = Turn body left heel kick
  • Zhuan Shen Ban Lan Chui = Turn body, block, parry, punch
  • Zhuan Shen Bai Lian = Turn body and sweep the lotus

P.S. The animals I have encountered so far are He (crane), Hu (tiger), Che (bird such as sparrow or peacock), Ma (horse).

  • Bai He Liang Chi = White crane spreads wings
  • Du Li Da Hu = Stand on one leg and hit the tiger
  • You/Zuo Da Hu Shi = Right/left hit the tiger
  • Gao Tan Ma = High pat on horse
  • Ye Ma Fen Zong = Part the wild horse’s mane

P.P.S. The “Jin” in Jin Ji Du Li is not the same as the “Jin” that means advance, as in Jin Bu Ban Lan Chui. The former has a level inflection and means golden (golden rooster stands on one leg). The latter has falling inflection. In context, this is not a problem, but for me it’s hard to hear (and pronounce) the difference.

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.

Kung Fu Fan

Also called 52-step fan,  Fan Form I, or Taiji Gong Fu Shan, this form was created by Master Li Deyin in 2001. Here is a wonderful video of his daughter Faye Li Yip performing (pictured below).

Fan Form


As usual, Michael Garofalo provides a wealth of information on Cloud Hands, including a PDF of the movement names, which for the most part, mean little to me (except for Slant Flying, White Crane and a couple of others) and links to numerous video perfomances.

The form, like the song (Beauty of Sunset, Xi Yang Mei) has six parts. Part one is slow, Part two faster, Part Three faster yet, ending with a little tattoo. Part four is a repeat of part two. Part five is quite fast and staccato, culminating with crash and drumroll. Part six is slow and Yang-y.

Here are my notes from Pommelhouse, using names as Long Feng taught me:

Part 1 of 6:

  • Opening
  • Slant Flying
  • White Crane Spreads Wings
  • Hornet’s Hole (step L,R)
  • Rebels to Sea (pivot on R, step L)
  • White Crane Stands on Left Leg
  • Force Split Chinese Mountain (R, L, R)
  • Civet Rat (snake L, R, L, flip fan)
  • Sit Horse Flower (snake R, horse stance)

Part 2 of 6:

  • Part the Wild Horse’s Mane (feet stay put)
  • Chuyan Volley (White Crane w/feet together, fist)
  • Hornet’s Hole
  • Tiger’s Prey (step back R, forward L, push)
  • Mantis Stalks Cicada (kick stand)
  • Lema Back (step around R,L twirl fan)
  • Turning Tibet Fan (snake)
  • Sit Horse Flower

Part 3 of 6:

  • Ding Push Hill (push fan R)
  • Dragon Back (poke fan L)
  • Whiplash Horse (wind up turn L snap back)
  • Flew Swagger (snap stand R, cat L)
  • Arms Hold On (sink fan front)
  • Windward Liaoyi (stand tall fan points down)
  • Inverted Flower Wuziu (step R, point L, cross L sink)
  • Xiang Yu Yang Fan (fan front)
  • Hold Fan Interlude (starting position)

Part 4 of 6:

    Repeat Part 2!

Part 5 of 6:

  • Strike back with both elbows
  • Horse Shaking Fist (strike w/ two backfists)
  • Hop right cat stance
  • Kick with Right
  • Dragon intersect (R, ball-change L, kick back)
  • Lady Shuttle (stand w/ fan in front)
  • Tiannvsanhua (fan flutters over head)
  • Overlord Palm (close fan sit snap) Line Step Interlude (walk in circle)

Part 6 of 6:

  • Seven Star Hand (kick stand left)
  • Ward off right
  • Pull back and press
  • Su Bei Jian (fan behind back, push)
  • Brush Knee Twist Step
  • Single Whip
  • Bow to Shoot Tiger (snake pose)
  • Bai He Liang Chi
  • Close Form

The creation of the Taiji Kungfu Fan Form was completed in January 2001 in Beijing.  The first public demonstration of this new creation took place on February 18, 2001, by 2008 senior Taiji enthusiasts at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

 – Faye Li Yip

Counting and numbers

Here’s a video on counting to ten. The only hard part about learning numbers is getting the inflections right. They may be rising, falling, level or falling-rising. This is the hard part about learning how to say anything in Mandarin!

  1. Yi (level)
  2. Er (sounds like are) (falling)
  3. San (the a in sand) (level)
  4. Si (the vowel sounds sort of like the double-o in good) (falling)
  5. Wu (sounds like woh) (falling rising)
  6. Liu (sounds like leo) (falling)
  7. Qi (chee) (flat)
  8. Ba (flat)
  9. Jiu (joe) (falling rising)
  10. Shi (the vowel is close to the sound of eu in French) (rising)

Eleven is shi yi, 12 is shi er, etc. Ten plus the number. Twenty is er shi–two ten. Twenty-one would be er shi yi. It’s easy enough to extrapolate (though it would take a while to learn to count and say numbers readily).

The real pay-off to all this is that now I can say the names of the forms. We need one more tidbit, however: Shi with rising inflection is ten; shi with falling inflection means form. So shi occurs in the names of all the forms twice, pronunciation varying slightly (for those who can hear it).

Tai Chi Chuan (spelled variously as taiji quan or taiji ch’uan) means ultimate fist, but as I hear it used, taiji quan follows the empty-hand form names, while taiji jian is a sword form (jian being sword).

  • 24-form: er shi si shi taiji quan
  • 42-form: si shi er shi taiji quan
  • 32-form: san shi er shi taiji jian
  • 48-form: si shi ba shi taiji quan
  • 88-form: ba shi ba shi taiji quan

Just to add one final, random note of confusion: Bai, with falling-rising inflection, is hundred (yi bai is 100). Bai with rising inflection is white (as in crane).

Chen Applications (4)

Liu Feng Si Bi –Six Sealing Four Closing — and Bai He Liang Chi — White Crane Spreads Wings. The latter has two applications. Here’s a great instructional video for Six Sealing Four Closing by Master Gohring.

6 sealing 4 closing

In Liu Feng Si Bi, the ugi approaches from the right, leading with a left punch. Block with both arms, straight up, without grabbing, and swing left. The ugi’s momentum should lift him off his feet. Then drop down on the left. When the ugi falls, push up to left cat stance.

In both applications for White Crane, the ugi grabs the right wrist with the right hand.

(1) Thrust forward and circle the hand counterclockwise to break the ugi’s grip and grasp his wrist. Reach overhand to grab the ugi’s arm with the left and free the right. Pull the ugi’s right arm across your body to the left and with a splitting movement, strike with the side of the right hand to the ribs.

(2) Trap the hand with your left (you’ve got me, I’ve got you), swing out, down, and up. At height, grab the outside of the ugi’s hand with your left, thumb on top, then flip your hand out palm up and pull straight down. The left foot releases to cat stance so the left hip can drop and turn.

Chen Applications (3)

Lan Zha Yi — Lazy About Tying the Robe — has two applications. In both cases, the ugi grabs your right wrist with his right hand. In the first app, the ugi is on your right. In the second, he is on your left.

Lan Zha Yi

In the form, at the end of Buddha stamp, the arms circle up, wrists crossed, then you settle with the right hand up and sliding down, the left hand by the thigh. Then you step to the left into horse stance. The ugi grabs the right wrist.

The defense: Thrust the right hand forward and up, then circle counterclockwise to grab the ugi’s wrist. Twist the ugi’s arm (spiral the right hand under, palm up) and pull it across your body. Reach over and grab with the left hand, too.  You are gripping the ugi’s arm from underneath with the right and overhand with the left.

Note that your wrists are crossed as in the form (see video of Lan Zha Yi), with the right palm up and the left palm down. In the application, the ugi’s arm is trapped between your wrists. Strike the ugi’s right knee with your heel.

In the second application, the ugi grabs your right wrist with his right, from a position to your left. Clap your hand over his. Circle the arms so the right palm turns in and up, then circle both hands up and around to the right hip. Sink and knife the outside edge of the right hand, pointing down.

This Qin Na is very similar to the Yang application for Needle at Sea Bottom: I look at my palm, I show you my palm, I sink and point the right hand down. The Chen application finishes with a push down and away to the left.