About elizabethbuhmann

Author of Lay Death at Her Door (Red Adept, 2013)

36-step Taiji Dao

Over the summer this year, I learned a wonderful new saber form. My friend and teacher Hu Pei Yi (below) knows this form and does it very well. I am so lucky to have access to first-hand instruction!


This form has 36 steps. It was created by Ma Chonxi, who performs in the video below.

Video: https://www.  youtube.  com/watch?v=HFZOiVs6vrA

Here, also, is a good article about Ma, who started out as a street performer, then became a quite well-known wushu master and coach. She was born in 1940, so she is 66 in the video (published in 2006), which is inspiring to someone as old as I am.


Though it seems to be considered predominantly Chen-style, it looks like a combined form to me. Several saber techniques used here are not found in either the Yang or Chen saber  forms I’m familiar with—jiao and ya, for example. Hit the Tiger and the double jump kick are both in the Yang form, not the Chen. And I have never seen yang shen in saber anywhere. Interesting!

Here’s another very impressive performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a844FVYDIl0


I found a list of the movements on the Chinese search engine hosted by Baidu. I’m not sure quite all the characters are correct (as noted in the list): 36-Taijidao (PDF).

While searching out videos and names for 36-dao I came across a 56-step saber form that I love. Maybe someday I’ll have a chance to learn this one. 56-step dao: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-tkuoEErgI



Chen Sword

Yet another form that I have been revising this year is Chen sword, and right now I’m working through it with Hu Pei Yi. Chen Zhenglei’s demonstration of the form is an excellent paradigm:



In a series of short videos, Chen Zhenglei goes through the form a few moves at a time, with names and some instruction. The videos are in Chinese, but with a list of names and a modest vocabulary for sword techniques and stances, etc, I find I can understand a fair bit.

  1. Moves 1-11 (起势 Qǐshì  to  斜飞势 Xié fēi shì )
  2. Moves 12-21 (展翅点头 Zhǎn chì diǎntóu to 白蛇吐信 Bái Shé Tǔ Xìn)
  3. Moves 22-28 (乌龙摆尾 Wūlóng bǎi wěi to 斜飞势 Xié fēi shì)
  4. Moves 29-37 (鹰熊斗智 Yīng Xióng dòuzhì to 斜飞势 Xié fēi shì)
  5. Moves 38-44 (左托千斤 Zuǒ Tuō Qiān jīn to 斜飞势 Xié fēi shì)
  6. Moves 45-49 (哪吒探海 Nézha tàn hǎi to 还原Huányuán)

I have also worked my way through Jesse Tsao’s English instructional video for Chen Sword, which can be downloaded or streamed from his website: Taichihealthways.com.

Master Tsao’s Chen lineage is directly to Chen Zhenglei, so the form is the same. It is called 陈氏太极剑四十九式 (Chén shì tàijí jiàn sì shí jiǔ shì): Chen Style Tai Chi Sword 49-step form. Here is a list of the 49 steps:

Chen Sword List of Movements: Chen_Sword (PDF)

I arrived at this list by transcribing from the six videos by Chen Zhenglei. The Chinese names should all be good. The English translations are mine and are not guaranteed (or even likely) to be what anybody else uses. This form is not so well known that there are established English names. I use the Chinese.

Here is Chen Bing, Chen Xiaowang’s oldest nephew, performing Chen sword:


Bing’s younger cousin, Chen ZiQiang, is the head instructor at the Chen family school in Chenjiagou. He also offers a step-by-step instructional video on YouTube, with names.

Chen ZiQiang performs Chen Sword: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nem8pEmoAzE&t=7s

Here is his instructional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhxErjCbXxU

In the frame below, you can see that Chen ZiQiang gives the nine sword techniques (Jian fa) in the Chen system as follows: beng, gua, liao, pi, ci, dian, tuo, jia, and sao (for the characters and standard pinyin, see my vocabulary for sword). The move he’s doing is Qing Long Chu Shui (Bluegreen Dragon Emerges from the Water). It repeats twice, in moves #14 and #33.


Just for fun, some of the personalities in the form are:

Zhong Kui (鍾馗), the Ghost King (vanquisher of ghosts);

Luóhàn (罗汉), aka Arhat, an enlightened person in Buddhism, one who has reached nirvana;

Yèchā (夜叉), a malevolent spirt;

Nézha (哪吒), the protection deity; and

Wéi Tuó (韦驼), aka Skanda, one of eight divine protectors in Chinese Buddhism.

Chen-style Dan Dao

The Chen-style single broadsword (單刀 Dān Dāo) is an exciting form that lasts only about a minute. I first learned it (a slightly different version, actually) about five years ago. This year I have been practicing and correcting my form with the help of Hu Pei Yi and Jesse Tsao’s excellent teaching video.

Here is a beautiful demonstration by Chen Zhenglei: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ld2HZ8rSY


Chen Zhenglei performs Chen Saber

He also offers a YouTube instructional video with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL2SvwTYE7Q .

Here is the list of names of the movements, of which there are just 21: ChenSaber (PDF).

Michael Garofalo offers a thorough, interesting, and ultimately bewildering discussion of broadsword techniques, dao fa, on his excellent Cloud Hands tai chi blog: http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/swordtech.htm#Daotech. He lists 18 altogether; the Chen style seems to employ 13 (read the source notes that follow his list). Chen Zhenglei lists “slicing, hacking, blocking, cutting, pricking, rolling, closing, scooping, cross-cutting, twisting, shaking, supporting, and tilting”—but these are not his words. This is English, and as usual, the translation muddies the water.

I come away with the following vocabulary for saber. These are terms that I think I understand (meaning that I know what to do with the saber). I list them here in roughly the order that they are introduced in the form.

  1. 刺     Cī (Stab)
  2. 缠     Chán (Wrap)
  3. 划     Huá (Slash)
  4. 挂     Guà (Hang)
  5. 托     Tuō (Support)
  6. 撩     Liāo (Lift)
  7. 切     Qiē (Slice)
  8. 扫     Sǎo (Sweep)
  9. 劈     Pī  (Chop)
  10. 拦     Lán (Block)
  11. 截     Jié (Intercept)
  12. 扎     Zhā (Stab)
  13. 砍     Kǎn  (Hack)

The wrap, chan, is chan tou, wrap the head. The saber passes close around the head, protecting the back and head and positioning for a second slash (hua). The chan tou/hua combination is continuously repeated in Yang saber. Here, it occurs only when the wind sweeps the wilted flowers (and in closing form).

42-step Tai Chi Sword

The 42-step combined sword form is the competition routine for tournaments in China. With movements from the four majors styles of Tai Chi – Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun – it employs a wide range of sword techniques—jianfa.


Most of my practical knowledge of jianfa comes from studying sword with Hu Pei Yi. Other valuable sources include books by Scott Rodell and Yang JwingMing and a couple of videos by Huaicheng Lu, in which he specifically demonstrates most of the sword techniques employed in 42-sword.

Last year, I posted a Vocabulary for Sword, a comprehensive listing of names of sword techniques as well as instructive terms frequently used in relation to sword. English translations of these words—equivalents in everyday English of everyday Chinese—are of little use. The words are terms of art, and their meaning is the sword technique they name.

In his two-part video, Huaicheng Lu discusses and demonstrates, in order, dian, liao, pi, lan, zhan, xiao, yun, mo, jie, chuan, ci, sao, gua, jia, and tuo. The form he is working from is 42-Sword. Huaicheng Lu:

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THrwJCLB_1I&t=67s

Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifuur4eLa1w

Also invaluable is a tutorial by Li Deyin (who I believe created this form). In two hour-long segments he provides ample repetition and demonstration by a student who is awfully good.

I arrived at a list of the names for this form by transcribing from these videos. There’s a demonstration of the whole form at the beginning, and then a good bit of lecture in Chinese before the demonstrations begin. I wish I could understand it all!

Part One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxugZkkwUT0

Part Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujO2v6bUxvk&t=1259s

At about the 8-10 minutes section, Li gives a very interesting discussion of grip. Although it is in Chinese, if you have learned the names of the sword techniques, you can see how he is demonstrating the correct grip for the different jianfa.

List for 42-Sword: 42-sword

The list of movements for 42-sword is in the style of instructional names rather than traditional poetic names. The movements are mostly called by a combination of the stance and the sword technique. For example, the first move of 42 (after qishi), is bing bu dian jian.

Bing is together, bu is step. Bing bu = feet together. Dian jian is the short-range cut made by lifting the handle sharply upward so the tip of the blade pecks down. The wrist is rotated slightly so the handle rides up past the wrist. Here is Wudang Master Yuan Xiu Gang demonstrating dian in a video on sword techniques:


That’s Yuxu Temple! I was there in 2017! But there was no sign of Master Yuan, unfortunately. The temple sits right in the middle of Wudangshan:


Another view, from the same terrace that Master Yuan is standing on:


Elsewhere, I have posted a vocabulary for stances. Between that and the vocabulary for sword, most of the names on the list for 42-sword are covered. Deng jiao and fen jiao are the heel and toe kicks, respectively.  You see ti xi (lift knee) rather than duli (stand on one leg).

Some additional terms in the list for this form: hòu diǎn (hou is behind) and jǔ tuǐ (lift the leg, pronounced like tway), and bai tui (bai is swing, swing the leg). You can always paste the characters in the names into the MDBG online dictionary. But again, that won’t tell you anything about how to use the sword.

It’s also good to know bu yao: It means “don’t want” so if you hear that, he’s telling you what NOT to do. Usually you can tell anyway, because he exaggerates and the error looks obviously wrong.

At about the 26:00 point in the first video, Li Deyin discusses and demonstrates the sword techniques in the first section of the form: dian, xiao, pi, lan, liao, and ci – shang ci, xia ci, ping ci, and qian ci. You can see all these terms in the names of the first 11 moves.

One note:  Peng jian means to cup/hold the (handle of the) sword with both hands, but in this kind of form, you don’t, actually. In traditional sword forms you release the left sword fingers and clasp the right hand. In this form, you just lay the sword fingers under the right hand.

At about the 36:00 point, Li discusses and demonstrates some of the footwork in the form.

Here’s a separate video showing the whole form (demonstrated by the same student) from the back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqqKTq3Q20I

When I first learned this form, I relied on a tutorial by Amin Wu, which is also very good. The links for that are included in this post from 2016.

From these sources, I was well prepared to work with Hu Pei Yi when she came to town last winter. She’ll be back this month, which is why I am brushing up on 42-Sword right now.

Chen-Style Double Saber

This has to be one of the flashiest forms in all of Tai Chi. I’ve been working on it off and on for about three years. As usual, I have Jesse Tsao’s instructional video (available from taichihealthways.com either as a DVD or for download). Here is a YouTube clip from that video:


Chen Zhenglei has made a YouTube tutorial consisting of 8 short videos, each covering a few of the 35 moves. The tutorial:

  1. Moves 1-3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvs_bIsWw_E
  2. Moves 4-8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq0T3Z4Pwr0&t=8s
  3. Moves 9-13: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze__qQeKwD8
  4. Moves 14-18: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JujcbNnUwyo
  5. Moves 19-22: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JW9gWM8bLs
  6. Moves 23-26: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eQqcHmBOlA
  7. Moves 27-29: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EFsa5qFYsg
  8. Moves 30-35: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1ZXgwJal78

Here’s a video of Chen Zhenglei doing the whole form:


When I first learned this form in 2015, I used the long, two-part tutorial by Master Tzu Tian Cai. It’s in Chinese with some English subtitles and rewards patience with very clear footwork and swordplay for every move.

Here is a list of the names of the movements, derived from multiple sources as well as my own translation. The Chinese and Pinyin are certainly correct; the English translations are, as usual, all over the map. I’ve settled on fairly literal, simple English. I use the Chinese. The name of the form is 陈氏双刀 (Chén Shì Shuāng Dāo).

Shuang Dao Names (PDF): Shuang-Dao

Finally, here’s the link for all my posts (notes) on this form, but the resources in this post cover everything I find useful when refreshing or trying to improve my form.

Laojia Yilu

Laojia Yilu (Old Frame, First Way) is the Chen-style long form from which, arguably, all other forms and styles have been derived. I have spent the last year relearning and practicing this form. The main sources I’ve used are Master Jesse Tsao’s instructional videos (available on Taichihealthways.com) and the YouTube videos below.

I want my Laojia to conform as closely as possible to Chen family practice. Jesse’s lineage as a Chen master is directly under Chen Zhenglei and his form closely follows the video above. Jesse’s instructional video provides ample demonstration and instructions in English. I’ve been able to practice with Jesse in person over the last two years when traveling with him in China and at his Tai Chi summer camp in San Diego. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work with him again in the coming year.

Chen Xiaoxing is the owner and head of the Chen family’s school in Chenjiagou. In a series of teaching videos, he performs each movement slowly and very clearly several times. There are sixteen segments to this series, each just a few minutes long, each covering two to four movements.


Chen Xiaoxing is the owner and head of the Chen family school in Chen Village.

Teaching series, Chen Xiaoxing:

1  Beginning through Lanzhayi

2  Liu feng si bi – Bai he liang chi

3  Xie xing – 2nd Shang san bu

4 Yan shou gong quan – Qing long chu shui

5 Shuang Tuishou – Bai he liang chi

6 Xie xing – Yan shou gong quan

7  Liu feng si bi – Gao tan ma

8  Tsa jiao – Ji di chui

9 Ti er qi – Yan shou gong quan

10  Xiao qin da – Dan bian

11 Qian zhao – Hou zhao

12  Ye  ma fen zong – Lanzhayi

13 Liu feng si bi – Jin ji duli

14 Dao juan gong – Gao tan ma

15 Shizi tui – Que di long

16 Shang bu qi xing – Shou shi

Chen Xiaoxing’s son, Chen ZiQiang, is the head instructor at the school.  Here Chen ZiQiang performs the whole routine. And here is the list of movements in the form:

Laojia Yilu List of names

I notice that Chen Zhenglei does Cha bu yun shou (cloud hands with the cross step behind) in the middle set of Cloud Hands; Chen Xiaoxing does three sets of regular Cloud Hands. Chen ZiQiang does three sets of Cha bu yun shou.

Also, when Chen Zhenglei does the Shuang bai lian near the end, he does not slap his left foot; Chen Xiaoxing does. So does Chen ZiQiang. Apart from these minor deviations, all three masters practice a very clean, unadorned form, and this is what I would like to emulate.

Taiji 32-Step

I keep telling myself: No more new forms! But I can’t seem to avoid them. My Friday class is learning 32 now, so I need links and a list of moves.


This intermediate-level form is more interesting than I thought (I had only followed along a few times on occasion). For one thing, it is a combined form—I didn’t realize that—mostly Yang but with elements of Chen, Sun and Wu. A number of movements are also in 42, so I am glad to be working on those. Other movements are backwards, so to speak—performed on the unfamiliar side, such as single whip, which is most often on the left, but occurs in 32 is on the right. Cloud Hands travels to the right, too.

Here is a beautiful demonstration of the whole form by Wu Amin (aka Amin Wu, since she is now living and teaching in California): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKilyW_awUo . Also on YouTube, she offers a set of tutorials in Chinese, in eight short segments with great detail. I also got an English tutorial from her website.  http://www.wuamintaichi.com/products/video-products/32-form-tai-chi-1-disc-dvd/

The Chinese tutorials go into much more detail, but of course I miss a lot. In Chinese, she is a very animated and charming teacher. The English version is precise and correct, but confined to a fairly limited script. She is good about making it clear where the various styles come in, though, which I appreciate; that’s the kind of remark that might go over my head in Chinese. Either way, she offers excellent, clear instruction. Here are the links to the Chinese.

Amin Wu tutorial in Chinese:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVOhB4-k_98
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dMKsndIC2Q
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81ig95q1N-8
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqsHVNf4imk
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZHEOkmzUzk
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UILrbgW6bhE
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nNZmbJqE6w
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knZgHsAActk

The name of the form is三十二式太极剑 (Sān Shí Èr Shì Tàijíjiàn), and here is the list of movements, for sequence: 32-step-taijiquan