Twenty-four Form

The Yang-style 24-step Tai Chi routine is the most widely practiced form in the world. It is said to be simplified in the sense that it is short—much shorter than the traditional Yang-style long form on which it is based—and some movements have been modified to make them a little easier for beginners to learn. Here is a brilliant demonstration of 24 by Gao Jiamin:

The name of the form is 二十四式简化太极拳 (Èr Shí Sì Shì Jiǎnhuà Tàijíquán): 24-style Simplified Tai Chi. Here is a PDF list of the 24 movements.

Many people practice this form with little or no training, and it’s the only Tai Chi they know. Others learn 24 as an introduction to Tai Chi, train to a higher level of performance, and then move on to learn longer and more advanced forms.

Among this latter group, many continue practicing 24 routinely as a review of fundamentals. Twenty-four may be simplified, but it’s not easy! With heel kicks and xiashi duli (low form to standing on one leg) on both sides, it is as physically challenging as Yang Tai Chi gets.

History of the form

Twenty-four dates from the 1950s. At that time, the prevailing Tai Chi practice was the long form of Yang Chengfu. That form is a brilliant exercise, but it is very long—85 to 108 moves, depending how you count it. The problem is not so much that it takes a long time to perform (25-30 minutes) but that it takes such a very long time to learn. Most people never get there.

Recognizing that tai chi was a remarkably good exercise for health and longevity, the Chinese government’s sports commission sponsored the development of a shorter, more accessible form for beginners, in hopes that more people would learn and practice tai chi.

Yang Chengfu was long gone, having died in 1936. A number of well-known masters were consulted or involved in this development project. Li Tianji—son of Li Yulin—was a leading creative force behind the new form, and it was Li who wrote and illustrated Simplified Taijiquan, the first textbook on 24, which was eventually distributed to physical education departments throughout China.

In any case, the resulting form has only 24 movements derived from the traditional long form and little or no repetition. The long form contains 50-odd unique movements, so 24 has not quite half as many moves. It can be learned in a matter of weeks or months, not years. A person who has learned 24 can then move up to the 108 fairly quickly, having already learned the fundamentals of Yang-style Tai Chi and nearly half of the moves in the long form.


Instructional material for 24 abounds. Arguably the most authoritative is this instructional video by Li Deyin, nephew of Li Tianji and for many years one of China’s most influential teachers, as well as its number one tournament judge. He has produced a number of instructional videos on 24. This one is almost two hours long, very complete.

This video is in Chinese. Li does a lot of talking, but if you are patient, you can learn from watching. He’s very clear, shows everything from multiple angles, and goes into great detail. After a brief introduction, a full demo starts at 3:15, back view of the first part at 9:00, and instruction begins at about 17:00.

Li Tianji demonstrating how to do the moves in 24 (from the book by Li Deyin).

Professor Li’s book, Taijiquan, is a useful reference for 24 (and a number of other forms). The chapter on 24 is written by Li Tianji himself and illustrated by photographs of him demonstrating the movements.

How 24 is different

Although the 24 moves are derived from the 108, they are not all exactly the same. In fact, 24 is revolutionary in some respects. For one thing, the traditional forms tend to be one-sided; a lot of moves are only ever practiced on one side.

Twenty-four, by contrast, is more left-right balanced. Grasp the Bird’s Tail is practiced on both sides in 24, and Snake Creeps Down is performed on both sides as well, which makes the Golden Rooster Standing on Right Leg considerably more difficult than it is in the 108. This left-right balance turned out to be a trend; nowadays, in contemporary forms, we practice almost everything on both sides.

The retreating move in 24 is simpler than the traditional Repulse Monkeys. Some people call the backward-stepping move in 24 Repulse Monkeys, but it is a different move and has a different name in Chinese. Repulse Monkeys is 倒攆猴 Dào niǎn hóu, and the move in 24 is 倒卷肱 Dào juǎn gōng (Go back whirling forearms).

The upper body movement in these two steps is pretty much the same, but the footwork is different. Many beginners have a hard time learning the footwork for Repulse Monkeys. Dao Juan Gong is a more basic 退步 tuìbù (step back)—step straight back, from empty stance on one side to empty stance on the other.

In practice

I love 24 and practice regularly to keep my fundamentals up to speed. My only comment would be that 24 requires a warm-up. The 108 starts so gradually that by the time you get to the more demanding moves, you are ready for them. When you do 24, you are doing heel kicks and squats within two minutes. Of course, you could take it easy, but I like to practice 24 after I am thoroughly warm so I can perform each move as well as I can. Ba Duan Jin (the Eight Brocades) serves very well as a warm-up for 24.

My daily backyard 24 below is considerably less impressive than the world-class performance by Gao Jiamin above. I am an old lady, and I was never very athletic to begin with. If I can do it, anybody can. I offer this as a more accessible model, and also because my dog is in it. And birds are singing in the background. I find that animals tend to ignore me when I do Tai Chi, possibly because they can sense that I am focused elsewhere.

Huawu Fan

Zhongji Huawu Fan is a beautiful 42-step fan form created by Chinese national martial arts coach Zeng Nai Liang and Hu senior lecturer Wei Xianglian.

Above, Sing May Chen performs Chang’e (Moon Goddess) Flies to the Moon. The form is also called 42-step Fan.

Here are three demonstration videos:

Another lovely performance by Sing May Chen, video quality not so good:

I first learned this form from a friend from Beijing who used to join my neighborhood practice group on the weekends. When I learn a new form, I always want to know the correct names of the movements. In this case, arriving at a list was a challenge. I felt like Sherlock Holmes. I started with the list at the beginning of a teaching video. But I couldn’t just copy the text, because all I had was an image.

I found a (somewhat loosely translated) English list. Using that, the voiceover of a teaching video (link below), Google translate, and the MDBG online dictionary (which allows me to draw a character if I can get the order of the brushstrokes right), I have arrived at a list of the moves.

Here is a teaching video in Chinese which is helpful, even if you don’t understand much, because it identifies all the movements by name:

And here is a printable list of the names of the 42 movements: huawufan [PDF]

There are actually two forms: a primary level form and a mid-level form. It is the latter that I practice. Huá means flowery or magnificent; Wǔ means martial. The Chinese names of the forms are:

初级华武扇初级               Chūjí  Huá Wǔ Shàn (Primary-level Hua Wu Fan)

中级华武扇                     Zhōngjí  Huá Wǔ Shàn (Middle-level Hua Wu Fan)

Zhongji Hua Wu Shan is a combined form, with elements of the four main styles (Yang, Chen, Wu and Sun). The opening to this form is clearly Sun-style.

A couple of names of movements are particularly interesting. #4, 推波助澜 Tuī Bō Zhù Lán, Push the Waves even Higher, is a saying that means something like the English “Add fuel to the fire.”  #29, 贵妃醉酒 Guìfēi zuìjiǔ (sounds like gway fay djway joe), The Drunken Beauty, is the name of a well-known Qing Dynasty Beijing opera.

And here she is, the Drunken Beauty, reeling away in Huawu fan:

That is Master Zeng’s daughter in back view; here’s the video:

Like many other fan forms, this one includes a number of names familiar from sword forms, with the fan movements mimicking swordplay. And where the sword forms feature Xianren, the Immortal, the fan form names Xiannu, the Spirit Woman.

42-Step Competition Form

For the next few weeks I am going to be reviewing the 42-step competition form. This form was created in 1989 by Li Deyin specifically for tournament play. It is a combined form that incorporates movements from the four major styles of Tai Chi: Yang, Chen, Sun, and Wu.

Gao Jiamin demonstrates 42-step competition form

Here is an outstanding demonstration of the form by Gao Jiamin, one of the most celebrated tournament champions of our time. Not only is this a great demonstration of the form, it also identifies the movements with Chinese/English subtitles.

You can read more about Gao Jiamin in this interview, originally published in Kungfu Magazine in 2000, republished by the US Wushu Center in Portland, Oregon, where she sometimes teaches.

Here’s another beautiful demonstration video by another great champion, Amin Wu, who teaches in the Bay Area. She also offers an instructional video which I have not seen.

Li Deyin, author of the form, instructs.

I originally learned 42 from my friend Long Feng in 2014, then again under the excellent instruction of Hu Pei Yi in 2016. For review and further instruction, I am using a 50-minute YouTube instructional video by Li Deyin, the author of the form. Gao Jiamin demonstrates each move; Li also demonstrates and elaborates on detail.

With the instructional vocabulary that I call Taijiese (much of it incorporated in this online notebook), I find I can understand most of what he says in this video, despite knowing just about zero conversational Chinese.

Here is the list of movements: 42-form [PDF].

Another very useful resource is a book by Li Deyin, available in English from Amazon, in which he details the standards for judging a performance of 42. You couldn’t learn the form from this book, but you can correct your form by referring to it in detail. He explains both important points and common mistakes.

Book by Li Deyin

I particularly like the chart that he offers at the start of the chapter on 42, in which for each move he gives the hand shape, footwork, techniques, and most interestingly, the style (school) from which the movement is derived.

It’s very hot here right now—lows around 80 and highs in triple digits—so I’ll be working early in the morning, one lesson at a time from the tutorial above, reviewing each movement with reference to Li’s book.

32-Step Taijijian

Thirty-two-step Sword, also called the simplified sword form, is a short routine for Tai Chi straight sword that was developed in the 1950s, around the same time as the 24-step simplified taijiquan. Li Tianji was the master who created this form.

Purely Yang in style, 32 is a shortened and somewhat rearranged version of the longer traditional Yang Sword form. All of the movements in 32-sword are drawn from Yang Sword, though some of them are executed somewhat differently.


I first learned 32-sword from my friend Long Feng, then relearned it with Hu Pei Yi, an excellent instructor from Jiangyin. I was learning yet again from Frank Lee when the pandemic intervened. Over the winter (of 2020), I studied an excellent tutorial by Li Deyin.

The tutorial is an hour and forty minutes long and it’s in Chinese, though as I have pointed out before, his demonstrations are so clear that you can understand a lot without words. Also, with a modest vocabulary for sword and the list of names, you can follow more of what he says than you might have thought. I especially like Professor Li’s back-view demonstration at 1:28.

Though simple enough to be learned easily the first time, 32 is both subtle enough and robust enough to reward frequent practice and ongoing study. It employs most of the major sword fighting techniques found in Yang sword, yet it takes only three to four minutes to perform.


Two good demonstration videos to study:

Chen Sitan:

Wu Amin:

There are two lists of names, which I have combined. The modern names specify the footwork (or stance) and the sword technique employed. The traditional names indicate the movements in Yang Sword from which the 32-steps have been derived. 起势,Qǐshì (Beginning) and 收势,Shōu shì (Close form) are not included in the 32 steps. Here is my combined list: 32-sword-list (PDF)

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:


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:


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:

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:

Here is his instructional video:

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:


Chen Zhenglei performs Chen Saber

He also offers a YouTube instructional video with English subtitles: .

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: 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:

Part 2:

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:

Part Two:

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:

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 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:
  2. Moves 4-8:
  3. Moves 9-13:
  4. Moves 14-18:
  5. Moves 19-22:
  6. Moves 23-26:
  7. Moves 27-29:
  8. Moves 30-35:

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 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.