Tai Ji Quan Philosopy – The 13 Postures

by Dr. G. S. Torres

They say in Tai Ji Quan that 4 ounces deflects 10,000 pounds. How can this be so? First, you must have “Peng.” Peng is why the Xing Yi Quan practitioners do the standing meditations of I Chuan (Yi Quan). The great Grand Master Guo Lien Ying would often be seen “standing” in the “Universal Post” position. Below are the nine points that Grand Master Kwok taught to do while doing I Chuan, Universal Post or Ta Ji Quan forms.

Ba Mén/Ba Jìn
Eight Gates or Eight Energys(Strengths)

The chief energies/strengths are the 4 primary hands or primary directions and the four corner hands or four diagonal directions are for assistance. The four primary hands are the basic rule and the four corner hands are the alternatives.

The four primary hands (four cardinal directions)

  1. 1. Peng Jin (outward) – Ward off, Tai Chi’s essential energy, power of flexibility and resilience (born in the thighs), energy of defensive attack, under opponents hand. Attack. Evading is to attack. Yang or hard.
  2. Lu Jin (inward) – Pull or Roll-back, Péng in reverse energy – energy of friction and rubbing, evade and adhere. Over opponents hand. Defense. Evading is to attack. Yin or soft.(Peng changes to Lu is the inward drawing of silk, and Lu changes to Peng is the outward drawing of silk. These are the two basic energies/strengths of Tai Chi.)
  3. Ji Jin (outward) – Press, two hands when they are joined. Energy of two forces combined, when there’s not enough peng jin. Two energies combined as one, energy of dexterity. Adhering is to attack.
  4. An Jin (inward) – Push, Listening energy, single and double finger / palm. Lower peng jin, used in sinking, creating pull force. The posture of an looks as if one is preparing to push one or both hands.An from the front = peng jìn, An from the left or right = lu jìn, An combined = ji jin.

The four corner hands (four diagonal directions)

  1. Cai Jin – Roll-pull, reverse of ji jìn, incline downward towards the rear. Energy of two forces divided. Here use fingers for Tai Chi Chin Na techniques. Like picking fruit, one hand grabs branch down and other grabs fruit. Outside hand is peng and below hand/grabbing is cai. Don’t use cai horizontally toward the back, it must incline downward toward the back. Use cai on only one of the opponents arms, not both.
  2. Lie Jin – Split, Tai Chi’s small strike energy. Begins quickly a few inches from opponent. Energy of striking (first line of defense). When lie is used by one hand the other hand must have inside drawing of silk energy to keep the body in balance. The hands can mutually interchange their use. Lie is used to draw silk outward toward the opponent when you are very close. This strike can’t stop half way you’re committed, so strike quickly and very close the body.
  3. Zhou Jin – Elbow strike by moving the arms up & down (Lie’s second line of defense). After you over extend yourself and cai and lie won’t work, now use zhou, elbow strike after wrist or from wrist.
  4. Kao Jìn – Shoulder strike. Used in a slanting direction, a strike by the whole body, body strike (Lie’s third line of defense). Again used after over extending yourself. Shoulder strike kao, knee strike kao, stomach strike kào, back strike kào. Kào is used when the hands and feet are tied up.

Peng drawn inside = Lu, Peng combined = Ji, Peng drawn down = An, Peng divided = Cai, Peng followed by a strike = Lie, Peng turning and elbow striking = Zhou, and Peng turning and body striking = Kao.

The twelve rules for developing Peng From Guo
  1. Keep the body centered
  2. Sink the shoulders
  3. Sink the elbows
  4. Keep the wrists straight
  5. Keep the butt tucked in
  6. Keep the knees bent
  7. Step light (empty step)
  8. Feet must be empty and solid
  9. Top of the head turns
  10. The back rotates
  11. Waist (tight) connected not slanted
  12. Lower belly rises
  • First point: 2 arms connect above elbow and below shoulder
  • Second point: 2 thighs follow each other
  • Third point: Back bow collects energy at the chest (chest is neither concave nor convex).
The Nine rules for developing Péng From Kwok
  1. Crown as if suspended from a thread
  2. Eyes looking into the distance (eye level)
  3. Ears listening inward
  4. Tongue to the roof of the mouth
  5. Head as if balanced on a pin
  6. Neck and back straight (up and down)
  7. Sink the chest, raise the back
  8. Abdominal breathing
  9. Drop the pelvis
Wu Fang
Five Directions
  1. Forward (metal)
  2. Backward (wood)
  3. Step Left (water)
  4. Step Right (fire)
  5. Center (earth)

14 Examples of Bu (stances or steps)

  1. Breaking Step – like Tai Chi stance, used to half step and twist so ½ step and you can sink then twist (toes come up) then make contact and toes go down, then strike. Frontal attack.
  2. Backward Step – step back with toes then rest of foot (step back repulse monkey).
  3. Rolling Step – when the foot turns as a result of following the body. The sole of the foot creates friction. Foundation of Neutralizing energy.
  4. Rising Step – going to a rooster stance, knee kick.
  5. Sinking Step – stepping down with foot from a rooster stance.
  6. Withdrawal Step – stepping to the side, from inside to outside.
  7. Collecting Step – stepping from the outside to the inside.
  8. Curved Step – outside step forward for attack or defense.
  9. Slanting Step – stepping diagonal to left or right.
  10. Horse Step – horse stance, L stance, has double sinking step.
  11. Fishing Step – horse step to the side where the hand and thigh help each other, cloud hands.
  12. Empty Step – Empty stance while top of body rises and inside receives (lift the plams).
  13. Turn the Body Over Step – putting spine in position to twist for a strike.
  14. Pushing Step – front foot advances and the rear foot follows (forward stepping and leaping forward).
  • Note Step 1 & 3 (Breaking and Rolling) are the Foundation of Tai Chi Foot Work.
Xiao Jiu Tian or Little Universe Cycle

Another postural point is to touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth. This is called closing the gap in the Xiao Jiu Tian or Little Universe Cycle. This cycle is the conception vessel in the front of the body and the Governing Vessel in the back of the body which connect at GV1 (Long Strength) and CV1 (Meeting of Yin). Both end up at the mouth where they don’t touch, hence the tongue touching the roof of the mouth closes the loop at GV27 (Correct Exchange) and CV 24 (Receiving Fluid).