More Taijiese: vocabulary for blows with the hands and feet. These terms are good to know both for understanding the names of movements and for taking instruction in Chinese. Mostly, these terms are useful for bare-hand forms.
脚 Quán Fist
Quan (pronounced like chuan) means fist, but it also refers to bare-hand martial arts, often translated as boxing. In English, the Chinese martial arts—Kung fu, Tai Chi—used to be called Chinese boxing. Taijiquan (sometimes written as Tai Chi Chuan) is bare-hand Tai Chi (no weapons), and its techniques involve the use of hands and feet to block and strike.
抱拳 Bào quán Clench the fists
This phrase, bao quan, in everyday Chinese means to cup one hand around the other as a gesture of respect. Bao means embrace. But in the context of the martial arts, bao quan means to make fists, a gesture more threatening or defensive than polite.
捶 Chuí Beat, hammer
Quan (fist) may be used to refer to a punch, but Chui is the more common word for a blow with the fist. There are several variations on the punch.
撇身捶 Piē shēn chuí Fist across the body
Pie means cast away, or fling aside. Shen means body. In Tai Chi, the phrase pie shen chui refers to a backhand punch. Pie shen chui is sometimes (strangely!) translated as “draping” the fist across the body. In the older forms, the back fist is sometimes called pie shen quan.
栽锤 Zāi chuí Punch down
Zai means insert, literally, or plant in the ground. In Tai Chi, zai chui is a punch downward, as if to punch an opponent who is already on the ground.
指裆锤 Zhǐ dāng chuí Punch to the groin
Zhi means point (it is also the word for finger), so literally, zhi dang would be pointing to the crotch, and sometimes it’s translated that way. But who points at the crotch in a fight? In Tai Chi, zhi dang chui is a blow aimed at the crotch with the fist.
Strikes with the hands are not always punches:
穿掌 Chuān zhǎng Strike with extended fingers
Chuan is pierce, a word also used in swordplay. Zhang is palm, and chuan zhang may be called Piercing Palm, or Pierce with Palm. Chuan zhang is not a strike with the palm or heel of the hand but with straight(extended) fingers (usually palm-up).
Other specific punches are named in the various empty-hand forms, especially the Chen-style form called Pao Chui, or Cannon Fist. But the terms above are the most common and useful to know.
Blocks with the hands include:
搬 Bān Deflect
拦 Lán Block
Ban means shift (move something heavy) but in Tai Chi it refers to a backfisted block, whereas Lan (which actually does mean block) usually refers to a block with the open hand. The move called ban lan chui is sometimes translated as block, parry, punch. I first learned it as deflect downward, intercept and punch, a mouthful, though a literally accurate translation.
脚 Jiǎo Foot, leg
Jiao, the word for foot or leg, can also refer to a kick in Tai Chi. The two most common are:
分脚 Fēn jiǎo Toe kick
蹬脚 Dēng jiǎo Heel kick
Fen is the verb for separate, so the toe-kick is often called separate (right or left) foot. Deng is literally to step on. Either way, as usual, the translation makes for odd English. Why not just call them fen jiao and deng jiao? Those are the proper Chinese names for the toe kick and heel kick in Tai Chi. Note that these two words are pronounced like fun and dung.
A few more kicks:
白莲 Bái lián Crescent kick
拍脚 Pāi jiǎo Slap kick
擦脚 Cā jiǎo Brush kick
旋风脚 Xuàn fēng jiǎo Whirlwind kick
Bai means white and lian is the water lotus (water lily) blossom. But in Tai Chi, bai lian is a crescent kick. Now why call a crescent kick a lotus kick? I have come across a few explanations, mostly based on symbolism. I have my own baseless speculation on this issue: I have noticed that a number of names of movements are homophones. For example, 下势 (xià shì), which means downward or low form, sounds a lot like 下蛇 (xià shé), which could be translated as snake creeps down. 蛇 shé is snake. 白 Bái meaning white sounds (to my Western ear) a lot like 摆 bǎi, which means swing. As in the swinging of the tail (various dragons do this!) or the swinging of the leg in an outside crescent kick. But again, I speculate.
踢二起 Tī èr qǐ Double jump kick
二起脚 èr qǐ jiǎo Jump kick
These two terms are used for the same kind of kick. Though it is often called the double jump kick, it is actually more like a double kick jump. Both feet leave the ground and first one foot, then the other, kicks while you’re in the air. The second name above is a more accurate description, literally two (er) raise (qi) leg/foot (jiao).
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