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Yang Family
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Contpiled and translated

by Douglas Wile

From each according to his abilities;

to each my heartfelt gratitude:

Louis Alfalla, William Brown, Janet Christie,

William Foley, Hung Ming-shui, Lee Ch'ing-tse,
Zack Rogow, John Salerno, P. David Weiss
Yang Ch'eng-fu
Fourth Anniversary
Gathering of the
Chih Jou T'ai-chi ch'iian
Association, 1929.•

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Translator's Note

T'ai-chi ch'i.ian, although it defies categorization,

may be succinctly defined as the spirit of Chinese
metaphysics, meditation, and med icine in the body of
a martial art. Theories regarding the origins of this
soft-style or "internal" art have been essentially of
two kinds: the mythic and the humanistic. The myth­
ic, or yang, approach involves the giving of the art by
an inspired sage or immortal, whereas the humanistic,
or yin, approach emphasizes the painstaking process
of cultural evolution. Even modern scholars may differ
as widely as Ch'en Kung, who typifies the mythic mode,
Whether Chang San-feng or someone else, who­
ever invented this subtle and profound martial art
must have been an ancient Taoist possessed of the
highest wisdom and could not possibly have been
a common man. I

and T'ang Hao, who represents the humanistic attitude,

Historical records and investigations in the field
reveal that t'ai-chi ch'iian was created during the late
Ming and early Ch'ing, or approximately 300 years
ago. It combined and developed the various boxing
styles that were popular among the people and the
army during the Ming and added to this the ancient
tao-yin and breathing techniques, absorbing classical
materialist philosophy, yin-yang theory, and medical
knowledge concerning circulation of the blood and
ch' i to form a martial art, that trains both the external
and internal. 2

These two modes of conceptualization-legend and

history-need not be mutually exclusive, but they
should not be confused. Human experience is enriched
by myth and legend just as surely as it is not impover­
ished by knowledge of mundane history. Nevertheless,
considered in the context of the social and intellectual
history of China during the first half of this century, these
two approaches reflect a more fundamental split in polit­
ical philosophies: the one based on idealism, elitism, and
hero worship and the other based on materialism, egali­
tarianism, and the self-confidence of the masses.
The origins controversy rages unabated even today,
though the battle lines are not so neatly drawn along
the Taiwan Straits. With greater freedom of expres­
sion on both Taiwan and Mainland China, one now
hears pro-Chang San-feng voices from the Mainland
and supporters of the strictly historical approach from
Taiwan. New claims to be the true cradle of t'ai-chi
ch'iian have emerged from Hung-tung County in Shansi
and Chao-pao Village in Honan, the former using
mainly historical analysis and the latter constructing a
lineage from Chang San-feng to Chiang Fa to Ch' en
Ch'ing-p'ing. Students of the history of t'ai-chi ch'iian
face a growing base of primary materials and an
exploding range of secondary sources, even as we
learn to read between the lines for the biases of lin­
eage, ideology, and commercialism.
If we cannot be certain of the early phase of t'ai-chi's
genesis and transmission, scholars generally agree
that the goods must somehow be delivered to or
developed by the Ch'en family of Ch'en Village
(Ch'en-chia-kou), Honan, where they were picked up
by Yang Fu-k'uei (Lu-ch'an, 1799-1872) in the early
19th century. Geographically, t'ai-chi ch'iian spread in
a series of widening circles. From Ch'en Village it was
transmitted to Yung-nien County in Hopeh, and then
to Peking in the North, Nanking, Shanghai, Hang­
chow, Wuhan and Canton in the South, the other
provinces of the littoral and hinterlands, Hongkong,
overseas Chinatowns, and finally non-Chinese stu­
dents. Centripedal forces limiting the diffusion of
t' ai-chi ch'iian prior to the 20th century-feudalism,
the family system, and a foreign dynasty-gave way
to centrifugal forces calling for a revival of martial fit­
ness to throw off Manchu rule and counter Japanese,
Russian, and Western imperialism.

Who were these men who devoted themselves so
unstintingly to the martial arts, and what were their
motives. Some were simply bodyguards and bullies
for the rich landlords, and some were men who
fought for righteous causes. These causes might be as
local as avenging victims of family feuds or as nation­
al as revolution and racial salvation. The story of
t'ai-chi's rise in the late 19th and early 20th century
has its plot and its characters. The plot is China's need
for self-strengthening, and the cast of characters
begins with Yang Lu-ch'an.
The Founder: Yang Lu-ch'an
There are two major versions of Yang Lu-ch'an's
background - one "official" and the other probably
historical. The "official" version emanates from col­
leagues and students who may have wished to
conceal his humble origins. Hsii Yii-sheng, student of
Lu-ch'an's son, Chien-hou (1839-1917), and author of
Illustrated Manual of T'ai-chi Ch'iian (T'ai-chi ch 'i.i an
shih t ' u-chieh ) publi sh ed in 1921, says that Lu-ch'an
along with fellow Yung-nien villager, Li Po-k'uei, on
hearing of Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing's fame as a martial
artist, mad e haste to Ch'en Village to study with him.
Initially regarded as outsiders, they won over the master
by sheer determination and finally gained the complete
transmission, whereupon they returned to Yung-nien.
Lu-ch'an later traveled to Peking, where he became
martial arts tutor to the Manchu nobility.3 Ch'en Wei­
ming, student of Lu-ch'an's grandson, Ch'eng-fu, in
his 1925 Art of Tai-chi Chiian (T' ai-c hi ch'iian shu) closely
follows Hsii's account, adding a few embellishments.
Ch'en tells us that after arriving in Ch'en Village,
Yang heard loud sound s issuing from a nearby build­
ing. Climbing a wall, he poked a hole in a window
and spied Ch'ang-hsing giving instruction in uproot­
ing. By nightly surveillance he learned all the secrets,
and when the master finally consented to accept him
as a student, he made such rapid progress that he soon
surpassed even the Ch'en family favorites.4 Thus Yang
Ch' eng-fu' s preface to his 1934 Complete Principles and
Applications of T'ai-chi Ch'iian (T'ai-chi ch'iian t'i-yung
ch'iian-shu), probably ghost-written by Cheng Man­
ch'ing,5 contains biographical information about the
Yang family, that not only respectfully glosses over
Lu-ch'an's background, but puts in the illiterate 19th
century Lu-ch'an's mouth the world view and political
agenda of the early 20th century conservative intelli­
gentsia, even fabricating an anachronistic dialogue
between Ch'eng-fu and his grandfather, Lu-ch'an,
who actually died eleven years before his grandson's
birth. Ch'eng-fu's account here, or more likely that of
his ghost-writer, has Lu-ch'an traveling to Ch'en Village
as a adult on the strength of Ch'ang-hsing's reputation,
and remaining for ten years before being accepted as
a student.6 Ch'en Kung's 1943 T'ai-chi Hand Form,
Broadsword, Two-Edged Swo rd, Spear and Sparring (T'ai­
chi ch'iian tao chien kan san-shou ho-pien) is a remake
of Ch'en Wei-ming's account, except that he has Lu­
ch'an going to Ch'en Village as a young boy and
making a hole in the wall, that he claims could still be
seen in the 1940's. 7
Even the great martial arts scholar, Hsii Chen, fell
under the spell of Yang family well-wishers in his
1930 Summary of Chinese Martial Arts (Kuo-chi lun-yiieh),
uncritically reproducing Hsii Yii-sheng's account.8
However, just six years later in his A Study of t he Truth
of T'ai-chi Ch'iian (T'ai-chi ch'iian k'ao-hsin lu) Hsii
Chen finally breaks the taboo. It was Hsii whose teacher,
Hao Yiieh-ju, first showed him Li 1-yii's handwritten
copies of Wu Yii-hsiang's manuscripts. Noting that
Li's "Short Preface to T'ai-chi Ch'iian" (T'ai-chi ch'iian
hsiao-hsii) referred to Yang Lu-ch'an as "a certain
Yang of Nan-kuan," Hsii resolved to examine the reason

for this circumlocution. After interviewing the older
genera tion of ma rtial a rts enthusiasts in Yung-nien,
Ch'en Village, and Peking, he discovered that the
Ch'en family owned a pharmacy in Yu ng-nien, the
Ha ll of Great Harmony (T' ai-ho t' ang). The proprietor
of the pharmacy, Ch' en Te-hu, was one of the richest
men in Ch' en Village and he hired one of his clans­
men, Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing, to teach his sons the martial
arts. After many years of waiting on Ch' ang-hsing,
Lu-ch'an absorbed much of the a rt, and when he
began to prompt Ch' ang-hsing' s students, the master
was so impressed tha t he not only transmitted the a rt
to him but bought his freedom for fifty ounces of sil­
ver and returned him to Yung-nien. Back in Yung-nien,
Lu-ch'an stayed in the Ch' en family Hall of Harmony
Pharmacy, whose local landlord was Wu Yii-hsiang
and his two brothers. The Wu brothers were a prominent
gentry family in Yung-nien, and keenly interested in
the martial a rts. Breaking class barriers, Yii-hsiang
studied with Lu-ch' an, which whetted his a ppetite to
seek out Lu-ch'an' s teacher, Ch' en Ch'ang-hsing. On
his way to Ch' en Village, Yii-hsiang passed through
nearby Chao-pao Village, where the local innkeeper,
who coveted Yii-hsiang' s room and board, told him
tha t Ch' en Ch'ing-p' ing was superior to Ch'ang-hsing
and persuaded him to stay in Chao-pao. Hsii concludes
that Li 1-yii in his "Short Preface" attempted to protect
the reputation of the Wu family by not revealing the
fact that his uncle, Yii-hsiang, was initiated into t' ai-chi
by a man so poor he had been sold as a bond servant.9
Wu Yii-hsiang' s grandson, Wu Lai-hsii, in his "Biogra­
phy of My Grand father, Wu Lien-ch' iian" (Hsien
wang-fu Lien-ch'iian fu-chiin hsing-liieh) shows a sim­
ilar delicacy in hand ling the connection between Yang
Lu-ch' an and the Wu family . Lai-hsii' s biography states
that Yii-hsiang, on learning of Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing' s
art, desired to study but could not get away from the
capital, and so sent Yang Lu-ch'an to Ch'en Village in
his stead to investigate. Later, Lai-hsii tells us, Wu went
personally to Honan and studied with Ch'en Ch'ing­
p'ing.10 Hao Yin-ju's version has Ch'ing-p'ing agreeing
to teach Wu Yii-hsiang in exchange for help in a legal
entanglement. Ch'ing-p'ing was so ill at the time,
however, that he instructed Wu from his sick bed.11
In 1930 Lu-ch'an's grandson, Yang Ch'eng-fu, while
serving as Dean of Instruction at the Chekiang Martial
Arts Institute, received an inquiry from the Central
Martial Arts Institute regarding the birth and death
dates of his late grandfather. In his response, Ch'eng-fu
disclosed that Lu-ch'an began studying with Ch'ang­
hsing at the age of ten and did not return to Yung-nien
until in his forties.12 This directly contradicts the Li I-yii
and Wu Lai-hsi.i versions, and even those put into
Ch'eng-fu's mouth by Hsii Yii-sheng, Ch'en Wei-ming,
Tung Ying-chieh and Cheng Man-ch'ing. Of course,
Ch'eng-fu does not explain how or why a poor boy of
ten would travel to another province and live with an
unrelated family for thirty years. Sung Fu-t'ing and
Sung Chih-chien, supporters of the "poor boy" thesis,
nevertheless rearrange many of the other details.
They have Lu-ch'an initially employed as a servant in
the Wu household in Yung-nien from whence he is
sent to work in a Wu family pharmacy in Huai-ch'ing,
Honan. The Ch'en's of Ch' en-chia-kou also operated a
pharmacy in Huai-ch'ing, and when they advertised
for a servant, Lu-ch'an jumped ship, eventually ending
up under the roof of Ch'en Ch' ang-hsing. By spying
and surreptitous training he surpassed Ch'ang-hsing's
students and was accepted for the highest initiation.
After two years of intensive study he requested his
wages and returned to Yung-nien, where Wu Yii-hsiang
in turn studied with his former servant for two years.
Wu now traveled to Honan, and after studying with
Ch'en Ch'ing-p'ing, made such progress that Yang

became jealous and returned to Ch' ang-hsing for
advanced instruction. Ch' ang-hsing gave him the
transmissions of Chang Sang-feng, Chiang Fa and
Wang Tsung-yi.ieh, and Lu-ch'an, realizing the Taoist
origins of the art, journeyed to the Wu-tang Moun­
tains in search of a master. It was here that he studied
Taoist yoga and the soft aspect of martial arts and
invented push-hands. Returning to the world as a
comsummate martial artist, he was introduced by Wu
Yii-hsiang in Peking.13
In the winter and spring of 1930-31, China's pioneer
and most prolific martial arts historian, T'ang Hao,
traveled to Ch'en Village on a mission to solve this and
many other mysteries in the history of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian.
T' ang interviewed Ch'en Ch'eng-wu, the grandson of
Ch'en Te-hu, owner of the pharmacy in Yung-nien and
the one who bought Lu-ch' an as a servant. According
to Ch'eng-wu, martial arts master Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing's
house being rather small and rustic, he instructed his
clansmen in the main hall of Te-hu's house. When Te­
hu died, he left behind a widow, whose relatively
young age made it unseemly for Lu-ch'an to continue
to live in the house. As a result, Lu-ch'an's bond
papers were burned and he was sent back to Yung­
nien.14 This tallies with Hsii Chen's findings, and both
scholars explain the cover-up of Yang Lu-ch'an's ori­
gins as a relic of feudal class consciousness.
The most significant recent contribution to the Yang
family record is that of centenarian, Wu T'u-nan,
whose 1984 Studies on T'ai-chi Ch'uan (T'ai-chi ch'i.ian
chih yen-chiu) describes his years of study with Wu
Chien-ch'iian and Yang Shao-hou, his 1919 fieldwork
in Ch'en-chia-kou, and interviews with principals in
the martial arts renaissance during the early Republi­
can period. Wu's version is unique in many respects
and contradicts a number of points of relative agree­
ment in other published accounts. Wu describes Yang
Lu-ch' an as a sick young man who traveled to Ch'en­
chia-kou with money and provisions in search of a
cure. Gaining both health and mastery of t'ai-chi ch'iian
from Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing, he returned to Yung-nien
where Wu Yii-hsiang approached him for instruction.
Because of Wu's arrogance, Lu-ch'an sent his second
son, Pan-hou, to instruct him. Wu was frustrated by
his lack of progress and determined to appeal to Ch'en
Ch'ang-hsing himself. Because of Ch'ang-hsing's
advanced age, Wu studied with Ch ' en Ch'ing-p'ing,
returning to Yung-nien after little more than a month
cl ai ming to have grasped the secrets. Later Yii-hsiang
made an enemy of a Shaolin monk, and hoping to get
revenge, encouraged Lu-ch'an to challenge the monk
to a match. When the monk d ied as a result of inju ries
sustained at Lu-ch' an's hands, the incident was
reported to local official s, and Lu-ch' an was advised
by Wu to lay low in the cap ital. Yii-hsiang's older
brother, Ju-ch' ing (Cho-t'ang), served in the Mini stry
of Justice , and a friend in the Ministry, Chang Feng-ch' i,
hosted the Yangs in his home. Chang also operated a
large pickled ve getab le factory , that was provi sioner
to the imperial household and a frequent stopover for
Manchu princes returning from h u n ting expeditions.
Lu-ch'an and sons ended up rotating between the
households of C h a ng Feng-ch' i, Prince Tai-i, Prince
Tai-chih, and the Manchu m i litary acad emy so that
none were ever without the tutorial services of a Yang
Master. Wu T'u-nan reports that Tai-chih was the best
of Lu - ch'an's students, and it was from discussions
with Tai-chih and his son, P'u-t'ung, that Wu gleaned
most of his information.15
An historical novel based on the li fe o f Yang Lu­
ch'an and published in occupied Tientsin in the early
forties under the pen-name Pai Yii offers an interesting
counterpoint to the accounts of students and scholars.
The fictionalized Lu-ch'an, sickly son of a rich peasant,

journeys to Honan as a young man in search of t'ai-chi
master Ch'en Ch'ing-p'ing (not Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing).
Repeatedly turned away by the master, he resorts to
disguising himself as a mute mendicant and after
years of sweeping Ch'ing-p'ing's doorstep finally melts
the master's heart and is accepted as a student. Com­
pleting his training with Ch'ing-p'ing, he goes to
Peking, where after fighting pa-kua founder, Tung
Hai-ch'uan, to a stand-off, he challenges the whole capi­
tal martial arts establishment. After defeating all comers,
he reigns supreme until his death, when son and heir
apparent, Pan-hou, is bested by his father's student,
Wang Lan-t'ing. Pan-hou, disgraced, trains for ten
years to restore the honor of the family name. Later
Pan-hou became an opium addict, but despite his lack
of strength was able to overcome the strongest oppo­
nents. When asked why the Kuang-p'ing students of
the Yang family showed both hard and soft techniques
in their style, whereas the Peking students showed
only soft techniques, Pan-hou replied that the Peking
students were mainly wealthy aristocrats, and that,
after all, there was a difference between Chinese and
Manchus, implying a policy of passive resistance to
the alien dynasty by imparting only half the t'ai-chi
ch'i.ian transmission .16
Readers may d raw their own conclusions from
these widely divergent accounts of Lu-ch'an's back­
ground. T'ang Hao tells us that he himself the son of a
poor peasant and a man who rose from poverty to
become a famous lawyer and pre-eminent martial arts
historian was the object of a nearly successful conspir­
acy to silence him for his efforts to demythologize the
orgins of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian. Examining motives, it is easy
in the context of a highly stratified feudal society to
understand the sensibilities of Yang family members
and their partisans. By the same logic, were Ch'en and
Hao informants attempting to diminish Yang's reputa-
tion by exposing his origins? This is less clear. Historians,
Hsii and T'ang, were bent on setting the record straight,
both out of scholarly scrupples and to strike a blow at
feudal class consciousness. If Hsii and T' ang's research
is correct, however, no fictional account of Lu-ch' an's
background could be as stirring as the story of a slave
boy who became martial arts master to the Manchu
princes, foremost boxer throughout the empire, and
founder of a lineage that dominates a worldwide

The Transmission: Four Generations of Yangs

Of the many hand forms listed in the Ch' en family
manuals, by the time of Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing in the
late 18th and early 19th century, only the first and sec­
ond forms were still practiced. Ch'ang-hsing's style is
further designated as "old" (lao) and "large" (ta), to
distinguish it from the innovative "new" (hsin) and
"small" (hsiao) style developed by Ch'ang-hsing's
contemporary Ch' en Yu-pen and younger clansmen,
Ch'en Ch'ing-p'ing. As a student of Ch'ang-hsing, what
Lu-ch'an learned and presumably taught was the "old"
and "large " versions of the First Form (Thirteen Pos­
tures) and Second Form (p'ao-ch'ui). According to Hsii
Yii-sheng, the people of Yung-nien referred to Lu-ch'an's
art as "Soft Boxing" (juan-ch'iian) or "Transformation
Boxing" (hua-ch'iian).17 Stylistically, the first two gen­
erations of Yangs retained much of the flavor of the
Ch'en style. This judging from Ch'en Wei-ming's
account of Yang Shao-hou's report of his father Lu­
ch'an's ability to pluck a coin from the ground with
his mouth during Single Whip Lower Style and to
shoulder-stroke an opponent's knee and from Pan­
hou's withering shouts while issuing energy.18 This
also explains the somewhat "harder" tone of Pan-hou's
transmissions featured in Chapter V of the present
anthology. Although it was the "old" and "large" Ch'en

Style that Lu-ch'an introduced to Wu Yi.i-hsiang on his
return to Yung-nien, Wu subsequently studied the "new,
small" style with Ch'en Ch'ing-p'ing and developed
his own "small" style, as indicated by the accounts of
students of Hao Yiieh-ju.
In his Self-Defense Applications ofT' ai-chi Ch' iian (T'ai­
chi ch'iian shih-yung fa), Yang Ch'eng-fu tells us that his
grandfather, Lu-ch'an, was introduced in Peking by Wu
Ju-ch'ing, Wu Yii-hsiang's older brother and a third
degree (chin-slzih) holder in the imperial examinations of
1840. Wang Hsin-wu, a student of Wu Chien-ch'iian and
Hsi.i Yii-sheng, in his 1942 Exposition ofT' ai-chi Ch' iian
(T'ai-chi ch'i.ian fa ch'an-tsung) describes mid 19th
century Peking and the Manchu custom of patroniz­
ing men of unusual talent. Lu-ch'an as the foremost
martial artist in Peking was retained by no fewer then
eight Manchu princes, and so was nicknamed not
only "Yang the Invincible," but also "Eight Lords."19
Lu-ch'an's sons, Yi.i (Pan-hou, 1837-1892) and Chien
(Chien-hou, 1839-1917), were worthy successors. So
rigorous was the training regimen under their father
that it is reported Pan-hou tried to run away from
horne and Chien-hou attempted suicide.20 In spite of
their shared childhood experiences, they developed
opposite natures. Pan-hou was said to be brutal in
demonstrating his prowess, sparing not even his own
students. His only son, Chao-p' eng, chose to pursue
farming in Yung-nien. Chien-hou by contrast, was
gentle and affable and attracted many students. Wang
Hsin-wu tells us that Lu-ch' an, Pan-hou and Chien­
hou often stayed in the residence of Prince Tuan,
where they taught t'ai-chi ch'i.ian. Rival soft-stylists,
Tung Hai-ch'uan boarded with Prince Su, where he
taught pa-kua, and Kuo Yung-ch'en with Duke Yi.i,
where he taught hsing-i. Later, Li served as
martial arts trainer at the Eastern Garrison in Peking,
while Pan-hou served in the Western Garrison. Rivalry
between the two garrisons at this time did much to
spur the resurgence of China's martial arts and the
martial spirit in general.21 Pan-hou was also influ­
enced by family friend Wu Yii-hsiang and his form has
been classified as "small " style, whereas his brother,
Chien-hou, reached a compromise and his style is
called "middle" (chung). Lu-ch'an and Pan-hou's best
student was the Manchu, Ch'i.ian Yu (1834-1902), whose
son Wu Chien-ch'i.ian (1870-1942) was the founder of
the Wu style. Hsi.i Yi.i-sheng, a student of Chien-hou,
reports that of Lu-ch'an's students in the Manchu gar­
risons the best were Wan Ch'un, Ling Shan, and Ch'iian
Yu, each of whom developed o ne aspect of Lu-ch' an's
skill-hardness, rep elling, and neutralizing-but o n ly
Lu-ch'an himself possessed all three in equal measure
and supe rio rity 22

Chien-hou sired two successors, Chao-hsiung

( Men g-hsi an g, Shao-hou, 1862-1930) and Chao-ch' ing
(Ch' eng-fu, 1883-1936), who both reverted to the
expansive "large" s ty le, although Shao-hou taught the
compact "small" style as well. Ch' eng-fu's student,
Huang Wen-shu, describing the styles of the two broth­
ers, calls Shao-hou's style, "small and hard and
rooted," and Ch' eng-fu's, "open and soft ...a bullet with­
in c o tton " 2 3 Not until late in Ch'eng-fu's career d id

retentions of the Ch' en style jumps, flying kicks, stamps,

changes of pace, and shouts finally disappear from his
form. In a 1990 interview shortly before his death, mar­
tial artist and martial arts historian Ku liu-hsin, recalled
his impressions of Ch' eng-fu and Shao-hou. Ch'eng-fu,
though an imposing figure of 300 pounds in his later
years, was good-natured and popular with students,
whereas Shao-hou,like his uncle Pan-hou, refused to
pull punches even with rich and famous students and
thus had a very small following.24 So great was Ch'eng­
fu' s prestige, Huang Han-hsi.ian tells us, that the
governor of Canton offered him 800 silver dollars a

month to come south, and even generals humbled
themselves before him.25
Wu T'u-nan, who in 1984 called himself the only living
disciple of Yang Shao-hou, describes Lu-ch'an as large
and powerfully built, Pan-hou as tall, thin and hand­
some, and Chien-hou somewhere in-between. Wu makes
reference to a secret Yang form for advanced applica­
tions comprising more than two hundred movements
performed in only three minutes.26 Of Ch'eng-fu's four
sons, perhaps Chen-ming (Shou-chung) and Chen-to did
most to pass on their father's art, though never exerting
the international influence of Ch' eng-fu' s intellectual
disciples, Tung Ying-chieh and Cheng Man-ch'ing.
If the Ch'en style spawned the Yang style, all subse­
quent styles owe their origins directly or indirectly to
Yang influence. The Wu style of Wu Chien-ch'i.ian
came through Ch'i.ian Yu, a student of Yang Pan-hou.
Although there is no record of how long Wu Yi.i-hsiang
studied with Yang Lu-ch'an, his grandson tells us that
he spent only a little more than a month with Ch'en
Ch'ing-p'ing. Certainly it was Lu-ch'an who first intro­
duced Wu to the art. Wu transmitted the art to Li 1-yii,
and Li to Hao Ho (Wei-chen, 1849-1920). Wu's style is
in fact better known as the Hao style, after Hao Wei­
chen and his son, Yi.ieh-ju (1877-1935). Hao Ho's
student, Sun Lu-t'ang (1862-1932), in turn became the
founder of the Sun style.
In 1956 the Martial Arts Division of the National
Physical Education Committee of the People's Repub­
lic, in an effort to cut through stylistic rivalries and
facilitate popularization, published their Simplified
T'ai-chi Ch'iian (Chien-hua t'ai-chi ch'i.ian) introducing
a twenty-four posture form based on twenty of Yang
Ch'eng-fu's thirty-four distinct postures. This was fol­
lowed in 1957 by their Tai-chi Ch'iian Exercise (T'ai-chi
ch'i.ian, which created a standard long form
of eighty-eight postures, also based on Yang Ch'eng-fu's
model. These developments institutionalized the Yang
style and assured its dominance through the 1970's,
after which there was a resurgence of family lineages
and stylistic diversity.
It was through the Ch'en and Wu families that Yang
Lu-ch'an was catapulted from humble status to darling
of the Manchu princes; it was through Ch'eng-fu's edu­
cated disciples that t'ai-chi was adapted for practice
by intellectuals, the sick, the elderly, and women. The
Yang family thus became the vehicle by which conser­
vative intellectuals could reconcile both the need for
self-strengthening and the preservation of traditional
culture and progressive intellectuals could embrace a
wholesome legacy from the feudal past. In the words
of martial arts poet, Yang Chi-tzu (1886-1965),
Who would have thought that the
art of the Ch'en's of Honan
Would be given to the world
by the Yang's of Hopeh.

The Literary Tradition: Yang Family Classics

Just as the Yangs were not the creators but the trans­
mitters and adaptors of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian, similarly their
role in the transmission of the classics was not as
authors but disseminators and commentators. Of the
fourteen early 20th century editions of the Yang family
transmission of the classics surveyed by Hsi.i Chen, he
judges those of Kung Jun-t'ien, Ch'en Wei-ming, Wu
Chien-ch'i.ian, and Li Hsien-wu to be the least tam­
pered with.28 The core classics in these editions (by their
Yang transmission titles) are the "T'ai-chi Ch'iian
Classic," "Wang Tsung-yueh's Treatise on T'ai-chi
Ch'i.ian," "The Song of the Thirteen Postures," "The
Mental Elucidation of the Practice of T'ai-chi Ch'i.ian,"
and ''The Song of Sparring." Yang Lu-ch'an's illiteracy,
together with the absence of all but the last of these
texts inCh'en Village, leaves only one source for these

classics-Wu Yii-hsiang. Li 1-yii's "Postscript to the
T'ai-chi Ch'iian Classics" (T'ai-chi ch'iian pa) tells us
that Wu himself found these texts in a salt shop in
Wu-yang County, Honan. 29 The role of Chang San-feng
in the composition of these works has been intensively
studied and dismissed by most scholars since T'ang
Hao's groundbreaking Study of Shaolin and Wutang
(Shao-lin Wu-tang k'ao), published in 1930. More
recently, even the historicity of Wang Tsung-yiieh has
been questioned as more attention is focused on Wu
Yii-hsiang's role in writing the classics and that of his
nephew, Li 1-yii, in compiling, editing, and augment­
ing them.30
If Wu Yii-hsiang himself composed the classics, as has
been suggested, under the theoretical influence of Sung
Dynasty metaphysician, Chou Tun-i, and Ch'ing martial
arts commentator, Ch'ang Nai-chou, and under the prac­
tical influence of Lu-ch'an and Ch'en Ch'ing-p'ing, then
these texts came into being during Lu-ch'an's lifetime
and do not predate him.31 If on the other hand, we accept
the authenticity of the Yin-fu Sp ear and T'ai-chi Ch'iian
Manuals, that T'ang Hao found in the Peking book­
stalls as genuinely that of Wang Tsung-yiieh, 32 and
also accept the authenticity of Li 1-yii's "Postscript,"
that identifies the source of the Wu family manuscripts
as the salt shop in Wu-yang,33 then the discussion must
turn to an exploration of the relationship between Wang
Tsung-yiieh and the Ch'en family of Ch'en Village.
On this point, the two greatest scholars of the history
of Chinese martial arts-Hsii Chen and T'ang Hao­
hold diametric views, Hsti. believing that Wang
Tsung-yiieh brought the art to Ch'en Village, and T'ang
Hao that he received it there.34 Questions regarding
the authorship and authenticity of these texts do not alter
the fact that Yang Lu-ch'an could only have received
them from Wu Yti.-hsiang.
If Yang Lu-ch'an received the classics from student
and patron, Wu Yi.i-hsiang, how do we account for
differences between the Wu and Yang versions? Hsi.i
Chen attributes these differences to the Yang version
representing an earlier redaction of the Wu manuscripts
than the Li 1-yii copies.35 Hsu further explains the credit­
ing of Chang San-feng as the creator of t'ai-chi ch'iian
in Yang sources to overzealous student's attempts to
hyperbolize the art by giving it fabulous origins. T'ang
Hao, however, rejects this interpretation, pointing out
that the earliest of the extant Li 1-yu manuscripts, the
1867 copy of Ma T'ung-wen, as well as the biogra­
phies of Wu Yu-hsiang by his grandsons, Wu Lai-hsii
and Wu Yen-hsu, all attribute the art to the Immortal
Chang. Thus according to T'ang, Yang was simply
parroting the story he heard from Wu's own lips.36
The earliest published form manuals based on the
Yang transmission were not of Yang authorship. Hsi.i
Yi.i-sheng, student of Chien-hou and founder during
the late Ch'ing of the Peking Physical Education
Research Institute, published what must be considered
the first modern manual on t'ai-chi ch'iian in 1921, the
Illustrated Manual of T' ai-chi Ch' iian. Ch'eng-fu's stu­
dent, Ch'en Wei-ming, followed this in 1925 with his
Art ofT'ai-chi Ch'iian, featuring photographs of Ch'eng­
fu, Ch'en Wei-ming himself, and even Hsii Yi.i-sheng
demonstrating Push-hands with Ch'eng-fu. Finally in
1931, Self-Defense Methods of T'ai-chi Ch'iian was pub­
lished in Ch'eng-fu's own name. Yang's educated
students were embarrassed by its lack of literary polish,
and it was quickly withdrawn from circulation. A
more complete and definitive edition of Ch'eng-fu's
teachings was compiled and published under the title
Complete Principles and Applications of T'ai-chi Ch'iian in
1934. Cheng Man-ch'ing's 1946 Master Cheng's Thirteen
Chapters on T'ai-chi Ch'iian (Cheng-tzu t'ai-chi ch'iian
shih-san p'ien) paid homage to his teacher, Yang Ch'eng­
fu, even while modifying the form and elaborating the

theory. Each of these works is represented in the pre­
sent collection. Chapter VI of this anthology features
fourteen texts copied from a manuscript containing a
total of forty-three, that Shen Chia-chen copied from
Yang Ch'eng-fu, and Ku Liu-hsin published in his
Studies onT'ai-chi Ch'iian (T'ai-chi ch'iian yen-chiu) in
1963. Although the disposition of the remaining twenty­
nine texts is unknown to the present writer, this may
be one direction from which to look for future releases.
To date, then, this collection encompasses the totality
of reprinted material handed down by three genera­
tions of Yang family masters. The first three chapters
of this collection represent the latest stage in the Yang
family transmission, transcriptions by students of Yang
Ch'eng-fu's oral instructions. Their familiar narrative
form makes them readily accessible to Western readers,
and for this reason they have been introduced at the
beginning. Chapters IV through VI contain material in
the "secret transmissions" (chiieh) form. These consist of
short aphoristic formulae and mnemonic verses com­
posed as training songs to facilitate memorization and
encode the essence of movement and applications.
The final chapters, VII and VIII, are a collection of
biographical literature, notes on the classics, and mis­
cellaneous comments. Though gathered from many
sources, taken together these fragments add up to whole
cloth and have a consistency of both principle and spirit.
As a unified thrust spanning a century of development,
they clearly belong together.

Prof. Douglas Wile

Brooklyn College
Spring, 1993
1. Ch'en Kung. 1943. T'ai-chi ch'iian tao chien lean san-shou ho-pien
(T'ai-chi hand form, broadsword, two-edged sword, spear and
sparring). Hongkong: Chien-shen ch'u-pan-she (reprint, n.d.), p. 10.
2. T'ang Hao, Ku Liu-hsin. 1963. T'ai-chi ch'iian yen-chiu (A s tu d y
of t'ai-chi ch'iian). Hongkong: Pai-ling ch'u-pan-she, p. 5.
3. Hsii Yii-sheng. 1921. T'ai-chi ch'iian shih t'u-chieh (Illustrated
manual of t'ai-chi ch'iian). Hongkong: Hsiang-kang chin-hua ch'u­
pan-she (reprint, n.d.), pp. 7-10. Also excerpted in Li T'ien-chi, ed.,
1988. Wu-tang chiieh-chi (The martial arts of Wutang). Kirin: Chi-lin
k'o-hsiieh ch'u-pan-she, pp. 273-75.
4. Ch'en 1925. Tai-chi ch'iian shu (The art of t'ai-chi ch'iian).
Hongkong : Hsiang-.kang wu-shu ch'u-pan-she (reprint, n.d.), pp. 3-4.
5. See Chang Tun-hsi. 1975. ''T'ai-chi ch'iian fa-chan yii chu-shu"
(The development of t'ai-chi ch'iian and bibliography of writings).
Chung-kuo wu-shu shih-liao chi-k'an, Vol. 2, p. 48; Li Min-ti. 'T an Yang­
' '

shih t'ai-chi ch'iian te chi-ke tung-tso ming-ch'eng" (A discussion of

some of the names for postures in Yang style t'ai-chi ch'iian). Wu-lin
87 (1988), p. 16.
6. Yang Ch'eng-fu. 1934. Tai-chi ch'iian t'i-yung ch'iian-shu (Complete
principles and applications of t'ai-chi ch'tian). Taipei: Chung-hua wu­
shu ch'u-pan-she (reprint, 1975}, pp. 3-4.
7. Ch'en Kung, T'ai-chi ch'iian tao chien lean san-shou ho-pien, p. 11.
8. Hsti chen. 1930. Kuo-chi lun-liieh (Summary of Chinese martial
arts). Shanghai: Commercial Press, pp. 53-54.
9. Hsii Chen. 1936. T'ai-chi ch'iian k'ao-hsin lu (A study of the truth
of t'ai-chi ch'iian). In Teng Shih-hai, ed. 1980 Tai-chi ch'iian leao (Studies
on t'ai-chi ch'tian). Hongkong: Tung-ya t'u-shu kung-ssu, pp. 120-21.
10. Li Fu-k'uei, ed., Lien-jang t'ang pen tai-chi ch'iian p'u. In Tai-chi
ch'iian yen-chiu, pp. 152-53.
11. Hao Yin-ju. 1992. ''T' ai-chi che-jen--chi-nien Wu Yti-hsiang
tan-ch'en 180 chou-nien" (The philospher of t'ai-chi ch'tian-in
commemoration of the 180th anniversarv of Wu Yti-hsiang's birthday).
Chung-hua wu-shu 8 (1992),p. 30.
12. T'ang Hao. T'ai-chi ch'iian yen-chiu, p. 154. See also T'ang Hao.
1986. Shen-chou wu-i (Martial arts of China). Ch'ang-ch'un, Kirin:
Chi-lin wen-shih ch'u-pan-she, p. 184.
13. Sung F u -t' ing, Sung Chih-chien. 1966 . "T'ai-chi ch'tian Yang
tsu-shih Lu-ch'an chuan" (Biography of Yang Lu-ch'an). In Tai-chi
ch'iian yen-chiu chuan-c hi 22, pp. 19-21.
14. T' ang Hao. T'ai-chi dt'iiar� yen-chiu, p. 154.

15. Wu T'u-nan. 1984. Tai-chi cl1'iian chih yen-chiu (Studies on tai­
chi ch'i.ian). Hongkong: Commercial Press, pp. 38-42.
16. Pai Yi.i. n.d. Yang Lu-ch'an pieh-chuan (The unofficial biography
of Yang Lu-ch'an). Tienstin: Ch' shu-chi.i.
17. Hsi.i Yi.i-sheng. T'ai-chi ch'iian shih t'u-chich, p. 8.
18. Ch'en Wei-ming. 1929. Tai-chi ch'iian ta-wcn (Questions and
answers on t'ai-chi ch'i.ian). Taipei: T'ai-chi ch'i.ian hsi.ieh-shu yen­
chiu hui, p. 14.
19. Quoted in Chang Tun-hsi. 1976. "T'ai-chi ch'i.ian yi.ian-liu tsai
t'an-t'ao" (A further examination of the origins of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian).
In Chrmg-kuo wu-shu shih-liao chi-k'an, Vol.3, pp. 48-52.
20. Ch'en Kung. T'ai-chi ch'iian tao chien kan san-shou ho-pien, p. 13.
21. Quoted in Chang Tun-hsi. 1976. "T'ai-chi ch'i.ian yi.ian-liu tsai
t'an-t'ao" (A further examination of the origins of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian).
In Chung-kuo wu-shu shih-liao chi-k'an, Vol. 3, p. 51.
22. Hsi.i Yi.i-sheng. T'ai-chi ch'iian shih t'u-chieh, p. 10 .
23. Huang Wen-shu, Yang-chia t'ai-chi ch'iian ko-i yao-i. Quoted in
Chou Chien-nan. 1976. "T'ai-chi ch'i.ian li-shih te yen-chiu" (A study
of the history of t'ai-chi ch'i.ian). In Chung-kuo wu-shu shih-liao chi-k'an,
Vol.3, p. 89.
24. Yen Han-hsiu. 1991. "T'ai-chi ming-chia Ku Liu-hsin sheng-ch'ien
i-hsi t'an" (A discussion with t'ai-chi master Ku Liu-hsin shortly
before his death). Wu-lin 113, p. 24.
25. Huang Han-hsun. 1954. Wu-lin chih-wen lu (Anecdotes from the
world of martial arts). Hongkong: T'ang-lang kuo-shu-kuan, p. 25.
26. Wu T'u-nan, T'ai-chi ch'iian chih yen-chiu, p. 100.
27. Quoted in Ku Liu-hsin. 1982. T'ai-chi ch'iian shu. Shanghai:
Shang-hai chiao-yu ch'u-pan-she, p. 362.
28. Hsi.i Chen. T'ai-chi ch'iian k'ao-hsin lu, pp. 98-105.
29. Ibid., pp. 174-75.
30. See Chao Hsi-min. 1976. T'ai-chi ch'iian shih-san shih chih yen-chiu.
In Chung-kuo wu-shu shih-/iao chi-k'an, Vol. 3, pp. 85-106; T.Y. Pang.
1987. On Tai Chi Chuan. Bellingham, Washington: Azalea Press, pp. 183.
31. Ibid.
32. T'ang Hao. 1935. Wang Tsung-yiieh t'ai-chi ch'iian ching yen-ch(u
(A study of Wang Tsung-yi.ieh's t'ai-chi ch'i.ian classics). Hongkong:
Unicorn Press, p. 28.
33. Hsu Chen. Tai-chi ch'iian kao-hsin lu, pp. 78-90.
34. T'ang Hao. Tai-chi ch'iian yen-chiu, pp. 163-65.
35. Hsi.i Chen. T'ai-chi ch'iian k'ao-hsin lu, pp. 90-105.
36. T'ang Hao. T'ai-chi ch'iJan yen-chiu, p. 163.
Table of Contents
I. "A Discussion of the Practice of T'ai-chi ch'tian,"
oral instructions of Yang Ch'eng-fu,
recorded by Chang Hung-k'uei. 1

II. "The Ten Important Points," oral instructions of

Yang Ch'eng-fu, recorded by Ch'en Wei-ming. 9

III. "Exposition of the Oral Transmission," commentary by

Cheng Man-ch'ing on Yang Ch'eng-fu's teaching. 15
IV. Yang family material published by Li Ying-ang: 25
"Body Principles" 27
"Four Character Secret Transmission" 27
"Songs of the Eight Ways" 28
"Songs of the Five Steps" 36
V. Transmissions of Yang Pan-hou published by
Wu Meng-hsia: 39
"Secrets of T'ai-chi Form Applications" 41
"Secrets of the Applications of the Thirteen Postures" 65
''Secrets of the Use of the Thirteen Postures'' 69
"Secrets of the Eight Word Method" 73
"The Secret of Full and Empty" 76
"The Secret of the Free Circle" 77
"The Secret of Yin and Yang" 78
''Secrets of the Eighteen Loci'' 79
"Secrets of the Five Character Oassic" 80
VI. Yang family manuscripts copied by Shen Chia-chen,
published by Tang Hao and Ku Liu-hsing: 81
''The Meaning of Leveling the Waist and Crown of
the Head in T'ai-chi" 83
"The Meaning of T'ai-chi's Proper Functioning" 84
''The Meaning of Light and Heavy, Aoating and
Sinking in T'ai-chi" 84
"The Meaning of Strength Versus Ch'i in T'ai-chi" 86
"The Meaning of Civil and Martial in T'ai-chi" 86
''The Meaning of Stick, Adhere, Join and Follow'' 87
"The Meani ng of Butting, Thinness,
Losing and Resistance " 88
" Self-Defense Without Errors " 88
' ' Song of Holding the Center in
Self-Defense Training " 89
" Song of the T'ai-chi Circle" 89
"The Meaning of the Four Corners in T'ai-ch i " 90
"The Meaning of the MartiaJ Aspect of T'ai-chi " 91
"Treatise on Before and After Acquiri ng the Ability
to Interpret Energy ' ' 91
"The Meaning of Feet, Inches, Hu ndredth Parts a nd
Th ousandths Parts in T'ai-chi " 93
VJI . From Yang Ch 'eng-fu ' s Self- Defense Applications
of T'ai-chi ch 'uan (T'ai-chi ch 'i.ian shi h -yung fa) : 95
" Original Introduction to T'ai-chi ch 'tian " 99

" A Story of Yang Lu -ch'an" 100

" Yang Lu-ch 'a n ' s Com mentary to the
T'ai-chi ch'tian Classic " 102
' ' An Expalanation of the Macrocosmic and
Microcosmic T'ai-chi " 104
" An Explanation of Wang Tsung-ytieh ' s
Original Introduction" 105
' ' The Method of Achieving Perfect
Clarity in T'ai-chi " 1 16
" Wang Tsung-ytieh ' s Treatise on
T'ai-chi ch'tian " 117
' ' A Critical Note' ' 132
"The Eight Gates and Five Steps " 132
" How to Work on the Eight Gates and Five Steps " 133
' ' The Above and Below in T'ai-chi May Be
Called Heaven and Earth ' ' 134
" Expla nation of Eigh t, Five, The Th irteen
Postures and Long Boxing ' ' 134
' ' An Explanation of the Reversal of
Yin and Yang in T'ai-ch i " 135
" Si zing Up An Opp o n ent " 137
"Introduction to the History of the
Transmission of the T'ai-chi Spear" 138
' ' An Exposition of the Martial , Civil, and
Three Levels of T'ai-chi" 139
"A Story of Master Yang Lu-ch'an" 140
"A Story of Imperial Tutor Yang Chien-hou" 140
"Miscellaneous Comments" 142

VIII . From Yang Ch'eng-fu 's Complete PriJ1Ciples and

Applications of T'a i-chi ch 'uan (T'ai-ch i ch'iia n
t'i-yung ch'tian-shu) 151

" Yang Ch'eng-fu' s Preface" 153

" Introduction" 156
Chapter I A Discussion
Of the Practice
of T'ai-chi Ch'Uan

Dictated b y Ya ng C h 'e ng-fu ,

recorded by C h a ng Hu ng-k'uei
i n Fu C h u ng- w e n ,
Ya nx-sl! ih T 'a i-cll i clz 'ii a n
( Y a n g s t y l e T'ai-chi c h 'i.i a n ) ,
H o ng Kong : T'a i - p ' i n g
s h u -c h i.i , 1 971 ;
a l s o Y a n g C h 'e ng- fu ,
Ya ng-clz ia T'a i-cl! i clz 'ii a n
t ' i-yu ng clz 'ii a n-slw
( Y a ng fa m i l y c o m p lete
pri nciples and a pplications of
T'a i - c h i c h ' ii a n ) , Hon g Kon g :
Hs i n - wen s h u - t i e n , n . d .
Although there are innu merable schools within the
Ch inese martial a rts, they are all based on philosophical
pri nciples . The a ncients devoted whole l i feti mes to
t h e m w i t h o u t b e i n g a b l e to e x h a u s t t h ei r marve l s .
Nevert heless, if students expend one day ' s effort, they
w ill reap the benefits of one day . After many days and
months one will naturally reach the goal . This art is not
like track and field events in the West which are easily
explained and demonstrated and require no subt le or
profound study .
T'ai-chi ch' ii an is the art of concealing hardness within
soft n e s s , l i ke a need le i n cotto n . I t s tec h nique ,
p h y s i ology a n d mec h a n ic s a l l i n volve c o n s i d e r a b l e
philosoph ica l principles . Therefore students o f t h i s art
must pass through definite stages of development over
a l o n g period of t i m e . A l t h o u g h the g u i d a nce llf a
superior teacher and practice with fellow students i s
ind ispensable, the most important thing is one ' s own
daily practice . One can discuss or dream a great dea l , bu t
when one day we are called u pon to test our art , we w i l l
have nothing t o show, for without daily discipline w e
w i l l remain outsiders . T h i s i s why t h e ancients s a id ,
"Thought alone is without profit; it is much better to
study . ' ' If one practices faithfully morning and even i ng,
winter and summer, keeping the form always fre s h ,
then regardless o f age o r sex, success i s assured .
I n rece n t y e a r s s t u d e n t s of T 'a i -c h i c h ' ii a n h a v e
traveled from the north of China to the south, from the
Yellow River Valley to the Yangtze River Valley, and
from the Yangt z e to the Pearl River in Kwangtung . Th is
increase in the number of enthusiasts is cause for grea t
optimism for the future of our national martial arts . I n
coming years there will be no limit to the nu mber of
sincere and dedicated students . Although there is no
shortage of students the majority fall into one of two
erroneou s paths . The firs t grou p a re h ig h l y gifted ,
robust, quick witted and exceptionally penetrating, bu t
u nfort u n a tel y they are satisfied with small successes .
Rapidly masteri ng the su perficial, they abandon their
st u d i es and can not Jearn a great dea l . The second group
consists of those who are eager for immediate results
and careless of de ta il . Before a year is out they have
a lre a dy fi nished their s t u d y of the hand, two-edged
sword, broadsword and spear forms . Although they are
able to i mitate the ou ter aspects of the form, in reality
t hey a re ig n o ra nt of i t s inner aspects . When we examine
th e i r direction and m ov e m ents the up and down, in

and out, we find that t hey all fall short of the proper
me a s u re . If we try to m a ke corrections, we find that
every single pos t u re re q u i res c o r recting, and moreover
t h e correc t i o n s m a d e i n t h e m o r n i n g a re a l re a d y
fo rgot t en by even i n g . Therefore i t i s often said, "The
martial arts are easy to le arn but difficult to correct . ' ' The
origin of t h i s saying l ies in t h e desire for immediate
res u lts . Now a days, errors are passed on as teachings
a n d this mus t i n ev it a bly lead to self- d e l u s i o n a nd
deluding others . This is a cause of great concern for the
future of the a rt .

At the very beginning of T 'a i -chi ch' iia n study, one

first practices the form . What is meant by form study is
careful memorization and imitation, under a teach er s '

g u i d a n ce , o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l p o s t u r e i n t h e form .
Students must concentrate to calm their ch 'i and quietly
memorize, ponder and imitate the postures . This is
called practicing the form . At this poi n t stud e n ts mu s t
p ay spec i al attention to distinguishing between internal
and external , r i sing and descending . Tha t which be­
lo n gs to the internal is " using the mind and not force . "
Descending means ' ' s i n k i n g the ch 'i to the tan-t'ien' ' and
rising refers to the ' ' light and sensitive energy at the top
of t he head . " That w hich belongs to the external is the
" ligh tness and sensitivity of the whole body, " " the
open connection of all the j o i n ts, ' ' from the feet to the
legs to the waist, " " sinking the shoulders and folding

the elbows, " and so forth . At the outset of study these
teachings should be practiced morning and evening and
thoroughly understood . Every posture and movement
should be carefu lly a n a l yzed . During actual practice,
dedicate yourself to achieving correctness . When you
master one posture, then go on to the next . In this way
you will gradually acquire the whole form . If corrections
are made step by step, then even after a long time there
will be no change in the basic principles .
When practicing the movements, all the j oints in the
body should be relaxed and natural . First, one must not
hold the breath . Second, the four limbs, the waist and
legs must not use a ny strength . These two principles are
recited by all m a rtial artists of the i nternal systems .
However, as soon as they begin to move, turning the
body, kicking or rotating the waist, then they become
out of breath a n d t heir bodies tremble . The cause is
invariably holding the breath and using strength .
1 . During practice the head must not incline t o the side nor
tilt up or dow n . This is what is meant by holding the
h e a d a s i f s u s p e n d e d f r o m a b o v e , or t h e i d e a o f
balancing a n object o n top o f the head . I n order t o avoid
a stiff vertical posture, we emphasize the concept of
suspension from above . Although the vision is s traight
ahead, it sometimes follows the movements of the body .
E v � n t h o u g h t h e l i ne of v i s i o n i s u n foc u se d , i t i s
n e v e rt h e l e s s a n i m p o r t a n t m ov e m e n t w i t h i n t h e
pattern o f cha nges, a n d supplements deficiencies in
body and hand techniques . The mouth seems open but
is not open; it seems closed but it is not closed . Exhale
through the mouth and inhale through the nose in a
natural way . If saliva flows from beneath the tongue, it
should occasionally be swallowed and not expelled .
2. The body shou l d maintain a n erect posture without
leaning; spine and tailbone should h a ng in vertical
a l i g n m e n t w i t h o u t i ncl i n i n g . Begi n ners m u s t pay
special a tten tion to t h i s a s t h e y execu te active
movements involving opening and closing, relaxing the
chest and raising the back, sinking the shoulders and
turning the waist . Otherwise it will be difficult to correct
this after a while and will lead to stiffness . Even though
one may have devoted a great deal of time, there will be
little benefit or practical advantage .
3. All the joints of the arms should be completely relaxed,
with shoulders sunk and elbows folded d o w n . Th e
palms should be slightly extended and the fingertips
slightly bent . Use the mind to move the arms and allow
ch 'i to reach the fingers . After many days and months
the internal energy wil1 become extre mely sensitive and
marvels will naturally manifest .
4. One must distinguish full and empty i n the two legs . In
risi n g and sinking one should move like a cat . If the
weight of the body is shifted to the left leg, then the left
leg is full and the right leg is empty . If the weight is
shifted to the right leg, then the right leg is full and the
left empty . What we mean by " empty" is not a vacuum,
for there is no break in the potential for power, and the
idea of extension and contraction remains . What we
mea n by / l full " is simply that it is substantial and not
that excessive force is used, for this would be considered
brute strength . Therefore, when bending the legs, the
foreleg should not extend beyond the vertical . To exceed
this is considered an excess of energy . If when pushing
fo rwa rd we lose our vertical posture, our opponent will
take a d van t age of th i s to attack us .
5 . I n regard to the feet, one must d istinguish betwee n
kic k i ng with the front of the foot (as in Separate Feet Left
and Right or Spread Feet Left and Right in the form) and
kic k i n g w i t h the heel . When k i cking with the front of the
foot, we m us t pay attention to the toes; when kicking
w i t h the heel p a y attention to the sole of the foot .
W h e r e v e r t h e m i n d g o e s t h e ch 'i w i l l f o l l o w a n d
wherever the ch 'i goes there w i l l naturally be energy .
However, the joints of the leg shou ld be completely
relaxed and the kick s hould issue with evenness and
stability . At this moment it is very easy to be gu ilty of
using stiff force, wherein the bod y w ill rock and lack
stability and the kick will have no power.
The T'a i - c h i c h ' ii a n c u rr i c u l u m c o n s i s t s of h a n d
forms first (i . e . , empty hand), such as T'ai-chi ch'iian
a n d T'a i -c h i L o n g B o x i n g . N e x t c o m e s O n e H a n d
Push-Hands, Fixed Position Push-Hands, Push-Hands
With Active Steps, Ta Lii, a nd Free Sparring . Las t comes
w e a p o n s , s u c h a s T 'a i - c h i D o u b l e - E d g e d S w o r d ,
T'ai-chi Broadsword , T'ai-chi Spear (Th irteen Spear),
and so forth .
As for the length of practice, one should do two forms
after rising in the morning, then do two more just before
going to bed . Each day one should practice seven or
eight times, and at the very least, once in the morning
and once at night . However, avoid practice when drunk
or after a meal .
As for the place of practice, courtyards or empty halls
where there is sufficient air and light are best . Avoid
strong winds or places which are dark, damp and foul
smelling . This is because when we begin to move, the
breat hing becomes deeper, and if strong winds or foul
air enter the body, it is injurious to the lungs and can
easily l e a d to illness . As for clothing, l oose fi tting
garments and wide-toed cloth shoes are best . If after
practice one is sweating, avoid removing the clothes and
standing naked or washing with cold water . Otherwise
sickness is inevitable .
Chapter II The Ten
Important Points
for T'ai-chi Ch'tian

Oral i n structions o f Y a ng Ch'e n g-fu ,

recorded b y C h 'en Wei-min g i n
T'a i-c/1 i ell 'ii a l l sll u
(The art of T'ai-c h i c h 'i.ia n ) ,
firs t published in 1925 b y Ch'en ' s
sch ool , t h e C h i h -jou ch 'iian-she,
reprin ted by Hsia ng-ka ng w u -s h u
c h 'u-pa n-she, Hong Kon g , n . d . ; also
Yang Ch'eng-fu , Ya1 1x-cl 1 ia T'ai-ch i
ch 'ii a l l t 'i-_tfLl 1 lX ell 'ii a 1 1 -sll ll (Yan g
fa mily com plete principles a n d
applications of T'ai-chi c h 'i.ian ) ,
Hon g Kong : H s in-wen shu-tien, n . d .
1 . The Energy a t the Top of the Head Should Be Ligh t and
Sensi tive . " Energy at the top of the head " means that
the head shou l d be ca rried erect so that the spirit (shc11)
w i l l reach to t he very top . No strength should b e used . If
strength is u sed then the back of the neck will be stiff and
the blood and ch 'i w ill not be able to circulate . There
shou ld be a feeling of light sensitivity and naturalness .
Without this light a nd sensitive energy at the top of the
hea d , the spirit ca n not rise u p .
2 . Sink the Chest a n d Raise t h e Back . " Sinking the chest "
mea n s that there is a sligh t d rawing in of the chest
allowing the ch 'i to sink to the tan-t 'ien . Absolu tely avoid
expanding the chest, for this causes the ch 'i to be held in
the chest , resulting in top-heaviness . This tends to cause
a floating in the soles of the feet . " Raising the back"
means that cll 'i sticks to the back . If one is able to sink the
chest, the back will naturally rise . If one is able to raise
the back, then strength will issue from the back a nd one
can overcome any opponent .
3. Relax the Waist . The waist is the ruler of the body . l f the
waist is relaxed , then the feet will have power a nd our
foundation will be stable . Changes in ful l and empty all
come from the rotation of the waist . Therefore it is said
that the waist is the most vital area . If we lack power, we
must look for the cause in the waist .
4. Distinguish Full and E mpty . Distinguishing ful l and
empty is the fi rst principle i n T'ai-chi c h ' iia n . I f the
weigh t of the w hole body rests on the right leg, then the
ri gh t leg is fu l l and t h e left l e g is empt y . If t h e wei g h t of
the whole body rests on the left leg, then the left leg is
full and the righ t leg is empty . Only after distinguishing
full and empty will our turning movements be light,
nimble and e f fort l ess . If we are not able to make this
distinction, then our steps will be heavy and stiff. Our
stance will be unsteady and we will be easily p ulled off
balance .
5 . Si n k th e Shou l ders a n d D rop the Elbows . " S i nk i n g t h e
s h ou lders " m e a n s t h a t t h ey a re a b l e to rel a x a n d h a ng
d o w nwa rd . If they cannot be relaxed a nd h a ng dow n ­
ward and the s h oulders are r a i s ed t h e n t h e ch 'i rises

wit h t hem and the w hole body wilJ be w i t h o u t power .

" Dropping t h e elbows " means that the elbows relax
a nd d ro p downward . If the elbows are pulled u p then ,

the shoul ders ca n not sink . We will then not be able to

push ou r o p p o n en ts very far and will be c o m m itti ng the
error of b re aki n g energy as in exter n a l sys t ems .
6. Use the Mind and Not Strength . This is stated in the
"Treatise on T'ai-chi ch'uan" and means that we must
re ly excl usively on m i n d a n d n o t on s t re n gt h I n .

pra ctici n g T'ai-chi ch'uan the wh o le b o dy i s re l a x ed If .

w e ca n eliminate even the sligh test clumsiness w h ich

creates blocks in the sinews, bones and blood vessels
and restricts our freedom , then our movements w ill be
light, nimble, circular a n d sp o n tane o us . S o m e w o nder
ho w w e ca n b e s tr o ng w i t h o u t u s i n g stre ngth . The
meridians of the b o d y are l ike the wa terways of the
earth . When the waterways are open then the water
flows freely; when the meridians are open then the ch 'i
passes through . If stiffness b loc k s the meridians, the ch 'i
and blood will be obstructed and our movements will
not be nimble, then if even one hair is p ulle d , the whole
body will be s h a ke n . If, o n the other hand, we do not u se
strength b u t use the mind , then wherever the mind goes
ch 'i will fo ll ow . In this way, if the ch 'i flows u nobstruc­
ted , daily penetrating all the passages i n the ent i re b od y
without i n ter ru ption, then after long practice w e will
have achieved true internal power . Th is, then, is what
the "Treatise on T'ai-chi ch 'ua n " mea n s by " o nly from
the h ig h e s t softness comes h a rd ness . " The a rms of
those w h o have ma s tered T'ai-chi ch'ua n are like iron
concealed i n cotton a nd a re e x t r e m ely heav y . When
those who pract ice e x t er nal systems are using strength it

is a p pa re n t , bu t when t h ey h a v e s t re n g t h b u t a re not
a p p l y i n g i t , t h e n they a re l i g h t a n d floating . It is obv i ous
t h a t t h e i r s t re n g t h i s a n exter n a l , s u p erfi c i a l kind o f
energy . T h e s tr e n g t h o f pract i t i o n ers o f e x t e r na l systems
is very e a s i l y m a ni p u l a te d a n d not worthy o f p r ai se .
7. Unity of the Upper and Lower Body . The " unity of the
upper and lower body ' ' is what the ' 'Treatise on T'ai-chi
ch' ii a n " mean s by "The root is in the feet, i t is issued
through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed
in the h a nds . From the feet to the legs to the waist there
must be a continuous circuit of clt 'i . When the hands,
waist and feet move, the spirit (shen) of the eyes moves
in unison . This, then, can be called the " unity of the
upper and lower body . ' ' If just one part is not synchro­
nized, there will be confusion .
8 . The Unity of I nternal and External . Wha t T'ai-chi ch' ii a n
trains is the spirit . Therefore it is said, ' 'The spirit is the
leader and the body is at its command . I f we raise the
spirit, then our movements will naturally be light and
nimble . The postures are no more than full and empty,
opening and closing . What we mean by opening is not
limited to j ust the hands or feet, but we must have the
idea of opening in the mind as well . What we mean by
closing, too, is not limited to just the hands or feet, but
we must also have the idea of closing in the mind . When
the inner and outer are unified as one ch 'i , then there is
no interruption anywhere .
9. Continuity Without Interruption . The power of external
stylists is extrinsic and clumsy . Therefore we see it begin
a n d e n d , c o n t i n u e a n d b r e a k . The old p o w e r i s
exhauste d before the new i s born . A t this level one is
easily defeated by others . In T'ai-chi ch' ii an we use the
mind and not the strength . From beginning to end there
is no interruption . Everything is complete and continu­
ous, circular and unending . This is what the Classics

refer to as, " like a great river flowing without end, " or
' ' moving the energy like reeling silk from a cocoon. '' All
of this expresses the idea of unity as one ch 'i.

10. Seek Stillness In Movement . Practitioners of external

systems consider leaping and crouching to be skill. Th ey
exhaust their ch 'i and after practice are invariably out of
breath . T'ai-ch i uses stillness to counter movement .
Even when we are moving we remain still. Therefore, in
practicing the postures, the slower the better. When one
slows down, then the breath becomes slow and lon g,
the ch'i can sink to the tan-t'ien and one naturally avoids
the harmful effects of elevated pulse. Students who
carefully consider will be able to grasp the meaning of

Chapter III Exposition of
The Oral

From Cheng Ma n-ch'ing ' s Cheng-tzu

T'a i-ch i ch 'ii an slz ih-san p 'ien (Master
Cheng ' s Th irteen Chapters on
T'ai-chi c h ' Ua n ) , photo repri nt of
1950 edition by Lan-hsi t'u-shu
ch 'u-pa n - s h e , Taipei , 1975 .
As a ru l e , martia l artists w h o have acquired su perior
tech nique keep it secret and do not reveal it to ot hers . I t
i s also cu ston1ary t o transn1it i t only to sons and not to
daughters . However, the sons are not always worthy
and th is leads to freq uent loss of true transmissions . I f,
perhaps, a teacher has a favorite studen t then he will
i m part his tec h n ique, bu t always hold something back
against u n forseen conti ngencies . I f we go on in this way ,
can one really expect to see the flowering of our national
martial arts?
Although I, Man-ch 'ing, stud ied with Master Yang
Ch 'eng-fu, I do not dare to claim that I received the full
transmission . However, were I to hold things back, or
keep secrets and not make them public, this would be to
horde treasure at the expense of the nation . For the past
ten or so years, whenever I desired to commit them to
paper in order to spread their popularity, this feeling
s t i rred in my m i n d a n d I p u t t h e t a s k a s i d e . T h i s
happened over and over, for I feared t h e transmission
would reach the wrong people . However, after careful
c o n s i d e r a t i o n , a n d i n t h e s p i r i t of o p e n n e s s a n d
generosity, I firmly resolved to faithfully record the
twelve important oral teachings in order . Master Yang
did not lightly transmit these to anyone . Each time he
spoke of t h e m , h e exhorted us saying, ' ' If I do not
mention this, then even if you study for three lifetimes,
it w ill be difficult to learn . ' ' If I heard these words once, I
heard them a thousand times . This is how much he
d e e p l y c a r e d , b u t he c o u l d not r e a l i z e h i s g re a t
expectations . This was a cause of great pain t o him .
Nevertheless, I hope to provide the wise and brave men
of the world with the means to study and develop, and
e n a b l e a l l p e o p l e to e l i m i n a t e i l l n e s s a n d e nj o y
longevity . This would be of profound benefit to the race .

1 . Relaxation . Every day Master Yang re peated at least ten
t i mes : " Rela x ! Relax ! Be ca l m . Rel ease the w h o l e
body . " Otherwise he would say, " You ' re not relaxed !
You 're not relaxed ! Not being relaxed mea ns t h a t you
are ready to receive a beating . "
The one word, ' ' relax, ' ' is the most difficult to ach ieve .
All the rest follows naturally . Let me explai n the main
idea of Master Yang ' s oral instructions in order to make
them readily comprehensible t o students . Relaxa tion
requires the release of all the sinews i n the body without
the sligh test tension . This is what is known as making
the waist so pliant that all of our movements appear
boneless . To appear boneless means that t here are only
sinews . Sinews have the capacity to be released . When
this is accom p l ished, is there a n y reason n ot t o be
relaxed ?
2 . Sinking . When we are able to completely relax, this is
sinking . When the sinews release, then the body w h ic h
they hold together is able to sink down .
Fu n dame n t a lly, relaxation and sinking are t h e sa m e
th i n g When one sinks, one will not float; floating is an

error . If t he body is able to si nk , this is alrea dy very go od ,

bu t we need t o a l so s i n k t h e ch 'i. S i n k i n g the ch 'i
concentrates the spirit, which is enormously he lp fu l .

3. Distinguishin g Fu l l a n d Emp ty . This is w hat the T'ai-chi

ch'iian classics mean by, ' 'The body in its entirety has a
full and empty aspect . " The righ t hand is connected in
one line of energy with the left foot, and likewise for the
left hand and right foot . lf the right hand and left foot are
full then the right foot and left hand are empty, and vice
versa . This is what is meant by clearly distinguishing full
and empty . To summarize, the weigh t of the body
should rest on just one foot . If the weight is divided
between two feet, this is double-weightedness . When
turning one must take care to keep the wei-lu point and

the s p i n e in a l ign m e n t , i n order to avoid losing central
eq u i l ibriu m . This is of critical i m porta nce .

4 . The Lig h t a n d Se n s i t ive Energy a t the Top of the Head .

Th is means s i m pl y t h a t t h e energy at t h e top of the head
shou ld be l ig h t and se nsitive, or the idea of " h o l d i n g the
head as i f suspe n d e d fro m above . "

Hol d i n g t h e head a s i f s u s pe n ded from above may be

com pared to tying one ' s braided h a i r to a rafter . The
body i s t h e n s u s pe n d ed in m i d - a i r not touc h i ng the
grou n d . A t this moment i t i s possible to rotate the entire
body . I f t h e head is i n d e pendently lifted or lowere d , or
moved to the left or righ t , this w i l l not be possible . Light
and sensi tive en ergy a t the top of the head is si mply the
idea of suspend i n g the head from above . This is all there
is to it . When practicing t h e form , one should cause the
yii-cltcn poi n t a t t h e base of the skull to stand ou t , then
the spirit (shen) and ch 'i w i l l effort lessly meet a t the top of
the head .

5 . The Mil l s tone Turns But the Mind Does Not Turn . Th e
turn ing of the mills tone is a metaphor for the t u rning of
the waist . The mind not turning is the cen tral equil ib­
riu m resu l t i ng fro m the sinking of ch 'i to the tan-t 'icn .
"The millstone turns bu t the mind does not turn " is an

oral teac h i ng within a family tra n s m ission . I t i s sim ila r to

two expression s i n the T'a i -c h i ch 'iia n cla ssics w h ic h
co m p a re t h e w a i s t t o a n a x l e o r a b a n n e r . T h i s i s
especially notewort h y . After learning t h i s concept, my
art made rapid progress .

6. Grasp Spa rrow ' s Tail I s Like Using a Saw . That is, the
Rol l-ba c k , W a rd -off, Press a n d Push o f pu s h - h a n d s
move back a n d forth like t h e action o f a two-man sa w . I n
using a two-man saw, each m u s t use a n equal a mou n t o f
strength in order for the back and forth movement to be
relaxed and without resista nce . If th ere is the sligh test

cha nge on eit her side, the saw will become stuck a t t h a t
p o i n t . If my pa rt ner ca uses the s a w to bind, t h e n even
using strength will not draw i t back, and only p u s h i n g i t
w i l l free i t a n d rees ta blish t h e ba la nce of force . Thi s
principle has two implications for T'ai-ch c h 'ua n . The
first is to gi v e u p oneself and follow others . By foll o w i ng
our oppone n t ' s posifion we can ach ieve the marvelous
effect of transforming energy or yiel d i ng e nergy . The
second is that a t the oppone n t ' s sligh t e s t moveme n t ,
o n e is able t o anticipate it a n d make the first move . That
is, w he n the opponent seeks t o throw us with a p ush ing
force, I a nticipate t h is by first using a pul l i n g force . If the
opponent uses a p u l l i n g fo rc e I a n t i ci pa t e this by first

using a pushing force .

The metaphor of t h e two- m a n s a w i s rea l l y a n

e x t r e m e l y p r o fo u n d p ri n c i p l e . T h i s i s a t r u e o r a l
te a c h i n g o f a fa m i l y t r a n s m i s s i o n a n d o n e w h i c h
brought m e t o a ki nd o f sudd en enligh t e n m ent . Be i n g
ad e pt at an tic ip a t i n g a n op p on e n t ' s sligh test movement
means that I a m always in con t r ol and my opponent is
always at a d is a d v an t a ge . The rest goes without saying .

7. I Am No t a Meathook; Why Are You Hanging on Me?

T'ai-chi ch'iian emphasizes relaxation and sensitivity
and abhors stiffness and tension . lf you hang your meat
on meathooks, this is dead meat . How can we even
discuss s e ns i t ive ch'i? My teacher detested and forbade
this, and so scolded his students by saying that he was
not a " meathook . " This is an oral teaching in the Yang
fa mily tra n smiss io n The concept is very profound and

should be con scie n tiousl y practiced .

8 . When Pushed One Does Not Topple, Like the Punching
Bag Dol l . The whole body is light and sensitive; the root
i s in the feet . If one has not mastered relaxation and
sink i n g, this is not easily accomplished .

The punching bag doll ' s center of gravity is at the
bottom . This is what the T'ai-chi ch 'i.ian classics describe
as . " When all the weight is sunk on one side there is
freedom of movement; double-weighted ness causes in­
flexibility . ' ' If both feet u se strength at the same time,
there is no doubt that one will be toppled with the first
push . If there is the least stiffness or inflexibility, one will
likewise be toppled with the first push . In short, the
energy of the w hole body, one hu ndred per cent of it,
should be sunk on the sole of one foot . The rest of the
body should be calm and lighter than a swan' s down .
9. The Ability To Issue Energy . Energy and force are not
the same . Energy comes from the sinews and force from
the bones . Therefore, energy is a property of the soft,
the alive, the flexible . Force, then, is a property of the
hard, the dead and the inflexible . What do we mean by
issuing energy? It is l ike shooting an arrow .

Shooting an arrow relies on the elasticity of the bow

and string . The power of the bow and string derives
fro m t h e i r s o ft n e s s , a l i v e n e s s a n d e l a s ti c i t y . T h e
difference between energy a n d force, the ability t o issue
or not issue, is readily apparent . However, this only
explains the nature of issuing energy and does not fully
detail its function . Allow me to add a few words on the
method of issuing energy as often explained by Master
Yang . He said that one must always seize the moment
and gain the advantage . He also said that from the feet to
the legs to the waist should be one u nified flow of ch'i.
He told us that his father, Yang Chien-hou, l iked to
recite these two rules . However, seizing the moment
a n d g a i n i n g t h e a dv a n t a g e are d i ff i c u l t ideas to
comprehend . I feel that the operation of the two-man
saw contains the concept of seizing the moment and
gaining the advantage . Before my opponent tries to
advance or retreat, I already anticipate it . This is seizing
the moment . When my opponent has already advanced

or retreated, but falls under my control, this is gaining
the advantage . From this exa mple we can begin to
understand that the ability to unify the feet, legs a n d
waist into one flow of ch 'i n ot only concentrates the
power and gives us stamina, but prevents the body from
being disunited and allows the will to be focused . The
above discussion covers the marvelous effectiveness of
issuing en er gy . Students should study this concept
faithfully .
10. In Moving, Our Posture Should Be Balanced, Upright,
U niform , a n d E ven . The se four w o r d s - b a l a n ce d ,
upright, uniform, and even-are very familiar, but very
difficult to realize . Only when balanced and upright can
one be comfortable and con trol all directions . O nly
when u niform a n d even c a n o u r movement be
connected and no gaps appear . This i s what the T'ai-chi
classics call, stand erect and balanced, ' ' and ' ' energy is
moved like reeling silk . " If one does not begin working
from these four words, it is not a true art .
1 1 . One Must Execute Techniques Correctly . The " Song of
Push-Hands " says, " In Ward-off, Roll-back, Press and
Push, one must execute the correct technique . " If one 's
knowledge is not correct, everything will become false .
Let me tell you now that if in warding off, one touches
the opponent's body, or if in rolling back, one allows
one 's own body to be touched, these are both errors .
When warding off, do not touch the opponent' s body;
when rolling back , do not allow your own body to be
touched . This is the correct technique . During Push and
Press, on e must reserve energy in order not to lose
central equilibrium . This is correct .
I had read the words, " One must execute the correct
technique, " over and over in the " Classic of T'ai-chi
ch'iian" without really understanding them . Only after
hearing this over and over from Master Yang did I gras p

the proper measure and method . Without oral instruc­
tion, it is difficult to understand . There are many such
examples . This is a n authentic secret teaching of a family
t ra n s m i s s io n . S t u d e n t s s h o u l d beg i n w i t h t h i s t o
experience i t for themselves, then they can grasp the
proper measure and not lose central equilibriu m . This is
supremely important .

1 2 . Repelling a Thousand Pounds with Four Ounces . No

one believes t h a t fou r ounces c a n repel a thousand
pounds . What is meant by " four ounces can repel a
thousand pounds " is that only four ounces of energy
need be used to pull a thousand pounds, and then the
push is applied . Pulling and repelling are two different
things . It is not really that one uses only four ounces to
repel a thousand pounds .

By separa t e l y e x pl a i n i n g the word s , " pu l l " a n d

" repel , " we c a n apprec i a te their marvelous effect­
iveness . The method of pulling is like putting a rope
through the nose of a thousand pound bull . With a four
ounce rope we can pull a thousand poun d bull to the left
or right as we wish . The bull is unable to escape . But the
pull must be applied precisely to the nose . Pulling the
horn or the leg will not work . Thus if we pull according
to the correct method and at the correct point, then a bull
can be pulled with only a four ounce rope . Can a thou­
sand pound statue of a horse be pulled with a rotten
rope ? No ! This is because of differences in the behavior
of t h e a n i m a t e a n d t h e i n a n i m a t e . H u m a n beings
possess intelligence . If one attempts to attack with a
thousand pounds of strength, and approaches from a
certain direction , say head-on for example, then with
four ounces of energy I pull his hand, and following his
line of force, deflect it away . This is what we mean by
pulling . Af ter being pulled , our opponent' s strength is
neutralized, and at that moment I issue energy to repel
him . This opponent will invariably be thrown for a great

distance . The energy used to pu l l t h e oppone n t need
only be four ou nces , but the energy u sed to pu s h m u st
be adjusted to circu m sta nces . Th e energy u sed to pu l l a n
oppo n e n t m u s t n o t be too h e a v y , for if i t i s , t h e
opponen t will rea lize our i n tentions a n d fi n d mea n s of
escape . Someti mes one ca n b o r ro w t h e pu l l i ng energy,
change the direction , and e m ploy it for an a t tac k . I n
other cases, the opponen t rea l izes h e i s being p u l l e d ,
reserves his force , a n d d oes not a d v a nce . I n reserv i n g
h i s force, h e has a l ready p u t h i m se l f i n a posi tion of
re trea t . I ca n then fol low his re trea t , re lease my p u l l i n g
energy, and turn t o a ttack . The opponent i s i n v a riably
toppled by o u r h a n d . Th is is a cou n ter-a ttack .

All of the above was tra n s m i tted to me , C h e ng M a n ­

ch 'ing, orally b y Ya ng Ch'eng-fu . I d o n ot d a re keep this
secret , bu t wish to propogate i t more broadly . I sincerely
hope that kindred spirits will forge ahead t og e t h e r .
Chapter IV Yang Family
Collected by
Li Ying-ang

In Li Ying -ang , ed . ,
T'ai-ch i ch 'iian sh il1-ytmR fa
( Sel f-defense appl ica ti ons of
T'ai-chi ch 'i.ia n ) ,
Hon g Kon g :
Unicorn Press, 1977 .
Body Principle�.
(dttributed tu Wu-Yu-hsian�. 1 R 1 2- 1 880)

Relax the chest .

Raise t h e back .
Enclose t h e solar plexu s .
Protect the cheekbones .
Lift the head .
Suspend the solar plexus .
Loosen the shoulders .
Sink the elbows .
Be evasiv e .
A void conflict .

Four Character
Secret Transmission
(attribu ted to Wu Y�-hsiang)
Spread . To spread means that we mobilize our ch 'i,
spread it over our opponent ' s energy and
prevent him from moving .

Cover . To cover means that we use our ch 'i to

cover our opponent ' s thrust .

Check . To check means that we use ch 'i to check

our opponent ' s thrust, ascertain his aim,
and evade it .

Swallow . To swallow means that we use ch 'i to

swallow everything and neutralize it .

These four characters represent what has no form and

no sound . Without the ability to interpret energy and
tra i n i ng to t h e h i g h e s t pe rfec t i o n , t h e y c a n n o t be
understood . We are speaking here exclusively of ch' i.
Only if one correctly cultivates ch 'i and does not damage
it, can one project it into the limbs . The effect of this on
the limbs cannot be described in words .

Songs of the Eight Ways
(attribu ted to T'an Meng -hsien)

The Song of Ward-off

How can we explain the energy of Ward-Off?

It is like water which supports
a moving boat .
First make the ch'i in t h e tan-t 'ien substantial,
Then hold the head as if suspended
from above .
The whole body has the power of a spring .
Opening and closing should be
clearly defined .
Even if the op p onen t uses a thousand pounds
of force,
We will float lightly and without difficulty .

The Song of Rol l-Back

How ca n we expla i n the e nergy of Rol l -bac k ?

We d ra w the oppo nent towa rd s us b y a l l o wi n g
h i m to advance,
Wh ile we follow h is i n com in g force .
Continuing to draw him in u ntil
he overextend s,
We remain light a n d comfortable ,
without losing our vertical postu re .
When his force is spent
he will n a t u ra l l y be empty,
While we maintain our center of gravity,
And can never be bested by the opponen t .
The Song of Press

How can we explain the energy of Press?

Sometimes we use two sides
To directly receive a single i n te n tio n .
Meeting and combining i n one movement,
We ind irectly receive the force of the reaction .
This is like a ball bou ncing off a wall,
Or a coin dropped on a drum,
Which bou nces u p with a metallic sou n d .

The Song of Push

How can we explain the energy of Push?

When applied, it ' s like water in motion
Bu t within its softness there is great strength .
When the flow is swift, the force cannot
be withstood .
Meeting h igh places the waves break over them,
And encountering low places they dive deep .
The waves rise and fall,
And finding a hole they will surely surge in .

The Song of Pull-Down

How ca n we e x p l a i n the en ergy of Pu lJ-dow n ?

Like weighing something on a balance scale,
W e g iv e free play to the opponent ' s force
whether great or small .
Afte r weighing it we know its li g h tn e ss
or heaviness .
Turning on only four ounces,
We can weigh a t ho u s a n d pou nds .
If we a s k what is the p r incipl e beh i n d t h is,
We discover i t is the fu nction of the l ever .

Song of Split

How can we explain the energy of Split?

Rev olving l ike a flyw heel,
If some t h i ng is throw n against it,
I t will be cast off a t a great dista nce .
Wh irlpools appear in swift flowing strea m s ,
A n d t h e curl i n g w aves a r e l i k e spira l s .
If a falling leaf l a n d s on t heir su rface ,
I n no time it w i l l sin k from sigh t .

The Song of Elbow-Stroke

How can we explain the energy of

Elbow-s troke?
Our method must be reckoned by the
Five Elemen ts .
Yin and yang are divided above and below,
And ful l a nd empty should be clearly
distinguished .
The opponent can not keep u p with our
con tinuous move ment ,
And our explosive pounding is even fiercer .
When the s ix energies have been
th orou g h ly mastered ,
Then the appl ications will be infinite .

The Song of Shoulder-Stroke

How ca n we explain the energy o f

The method is divided between shoulder
a nd bac k .
The posture ' ' Diagonal Flying ' ' uses
the shoulder,
Bu t between the shoulders there is
also the back .
When suddenly a n opportunity
prese nts itself ,
Then it crashes like a pounding pestle .
Yet we m ust be careful to maintain
our ce n ter of gravity,
F or l o si ng i t we will surely fail .

Songs of the Five Steps

Song of Advance

When it is time to advance,

advance without hesitation .

If you meet no obstacle,

continue to advance .
Failing to advance when the time is right
is a lost opportunity .
Seizing the opportu nity to advance,
you will surely be the victor .

Song of Retreat

If our steps follow the changes of our body,

then our technique will be perfect .
We must avoid fullness and emphasize
emptiness so that our opponent lands
on nothing .
To fail to retreat w hen retreat is called for
is neither wise nor courageous .
A ret reat is really a n advance if
we can turn it to a counter-attack .

Sc ng of Gaze-Left

To the left, to the right, yin and ya ng

change according to the situation .
We evade to the left and strike from the righ t
with strong sure steps .
The hands and feet work together and
likewise knees, elbows and wais t .
Our o pponent cannot fathom our movements
and has no defense against us .

Song of Look-Right

Feigning to the left , we attack t o t h e rig h t

with perfect steps .
Striking left and attacking right,
we follow the opportu nities .
We avoid the frontal and adva nce from the
side, seizing changing conditions .
Left and r ight , full and empty,
our technique must be faultless .

Song of Central Equilibrium

We are centered , stable and still

as a mountain .
Our ch 'i sinks to the tan-t 'ien and
we are as if suspended from above .
Our spirit is concentrated within and
our outward manner perfectly composed .
Receiving and issuing energy are
both the work of an instant .

Chapter V Nine
Secret Transmissions
on T'ai-chi ch'iian

From Wu Meng-hsia, T'ai-chi ch 'uan

chiu ch u eh chu-ch ieh (Nine secret
transmissions on T'ai<hi ch'iian
with annotations), Hong Kong:
T'ai-p'ing shu<hii, 1975 . Author
received transmissions from
Niu Lien-yuan who received them
from Yang Pan-hou .

Ro l l ­


Secrets of T'ai-chi
Form Applications

The marvels of T'ai-c h i c h 'iia n are i n fi n i te;

Ward -off, Roll-back, Press and Push a re
born of Grasp Sparrow ' s Tail .


Coo l s

Step ou t on a n a ngle a n d execu te Single
Wh i p to strike the opponen t ' s c h est;
Turn the body and perform Raise Ha n d s
to seal h i s t h ru s t .

From Catch Moon a t the Bottom of the Sea

cha nge to Stork Cools W i ngs .

Block a nd strike the opponent ' s soft

fla n k without mercy .

Ste p

Brush Knee and Twist Step, seeking to
strike him off-center;
Execute Play G uitar with perfect threading
and transforming energy .

When sticking to the opponent ' s body

and lea ning close, use the elbows to
strike horizontally ;
I f t h e elbow i s caught, circle back and
strike with the fist for eq ual success .

Step Up, Deflect, Parry and Pu nch the ribs;

Use Apparent Close Up to protect the center.


Ti g e r
R e t u rn
Mou n t a i n


Re p u l s e

The permutations of Cross Hands are infinite;
Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain
demonstrates Pull-down and Split .

Fist Under Elbow protects the middle joint;

Take three steps back for Repulse Monkey .
Fly ing


Sink the body when retreati ng and use
the pulling power of the w rist;
The tech nique of Diagonal Flying is
infinitely useful .
For Needle at the Bottom of the Sea
we must bend the body down;
Fan Through the Back employs the skill
of bracketing .

The method for breaking locks lies in

the wrist;
Advance three times with Cloud Hands,
demonstrating skill with the top of
the forearm .

High Pat on Horse is used to block and stab;
For Left and Righ t Separation of the Feet
we must first grasp the opponent ' s wrist .
Use Turn and Kick with Heel to Strike
the opponent ' s abdomen ;
Execute Step Forward and Strike with
Fist to directly attack his fa'ce .

Rig h t

Dou ble

Turn the body and cha nge to White
Snake Puts Out Tongue;
Grasp the opponent ' s hand and strike
the eyes .
Direct Kick with Right Heel to the
opponent ' s soft flank;
Perfectly execute Hiding Tiger Reveals
Himself to the left and righ t .
Come up and strike the opponent ' s breast
and below the ribs;
The technique of Double Winds Pierce
the Ears is most effective .

Pa rting
Hors e ' s

Fa ir
S h u t t le

Kick Left with Heel is the same as
Kick Right with Heel;
Use Turn the Body and Kick, aiming for
the knee .

Parting the Wild Horse ' s Mane is used

to attack below the armpit;
Fair Lady Works Shuttles seals the
four corners .

Use Fair Lady to remove the opponent ' s

arm and elevate it;
Left and right, the application is the same .
-. -
Squatting Single Whip follows the
fingertips to invade the opponent ' s
private parts;
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg gives
one absolu te sway .
Raise the knee and strike the most
vital organ;
Or use the other leg to trample the
opponent ' s feet w ithou t mercy .
St roke

The technique of Cross Legs breaks
the soft bone below the knee;
If Pu nch the Crotch is not successful ,
follow u p with a Shoulder-stroke .
U p To
Sta rs

iknd Bnw
5 h nllt Ti�t· r

Th e p o s tu re Step Up to Seven Stars forms
a rack with the hands;
Retreat to Ride Tiger swiftly wi th draws
our cente r .

Wh e n executing Turn Body Sweep Lotus Leg,

make certain to protect the advancing leg;
Use Bend Bow and Shoot Tiger to strike
the opponent ' s chest .
W t h d ra w

During Withdraw and Push be attentive to
Gaze-left, Look-right and Central
Cross Hands closes the T'ai-chi form .

In practicing form applications, the most

important thing is the mind;
Relax the body, stabilize the ell 'i and
concentrate the spirit .


Rol l ­

P rt> s s

Pu s h

Secrets of the Appl ications
of the Thirteen Postures

In Ward-off, the two arms should be

rounded and as if propped up;
Whether active or still, empty or full,
the potential for attack is always there .
When hands are joined with the opponent ,
first Roll-back and then use Press;
If the opponent wishes to counter,
it will prove most difficult .
In applying Push, it looks as if we
might topple;
Make contact at two points and
do not release them .

S t rokt>

S t rokl'

When the a ttack is fierce, use the
tech nique Split;
Elbow-stroke and Shoulder-stroke can
be a pplied when opportunities arise
Ad vancing, retreating, turning around
or sideways, we move in response to
What fear have we of a n opponent ' s
excellent tech nique?
When confronting a n opponent do
not be afraid to close with him,
But be careful of one ' s own Three Forwards
[ hands, feet and eyes]
and the opponent ' s Seven Stars
[ shoulders, elbows, knees, hips,
head, hands and feet] .
When an opponent closes with us
forcefully and strikes,
We must quickly evade by withdrawing
our center and a ttacking from the side .
The methods embodied in T'ai-ch i ' s
Thirteen Postures,
Must be faithfully practiced and then
their marvels will u nfold .


Secrets of the Use of the
Thirteen Postures

If we meet an opponent whose Ward-off

does not allow us to penetrate the circle,
By simply sticking a n d ad hering it will
be difficult for us to make headway .

If we are sealed off by our opponent ' s

Ward-off, then w e must t ry Pull-down
or split;
If these are successful, capitalize
immediately and without delay .

I control my own four sides and seek

gaps in my opponent ' s four corners;
After contact is made, whoever acts
effectively first will prevail .


St rokl'

S h u u l d l•r­
S t ru k e

The two methods, Roll-back and Press,
should be used at the right opportu nity;
When applying Elbow-stroke and Shoulder­
stroke place yourself before the
o pponent ' s heel .
Advance and retreat as the situation
calls for;
Use Gaze-left and Look-right always mindful
of the Three Forwards and Seven Stars .
The real power of the whole body should
be concentrated in the center;
Listening, interpreting, following and
neutralizing must be imbued with spirit
and ch 'i.
If we see a solid opport unity and fail
to take advantage of it,
How can it be said that our art is complete?
If we do not practice according to the
applications of the principles,
We can work forever without developing
a superior art .
Ro l l ­
Bac k

Secrets of the
Eight Word Method

Du ring Push - h a n d s , t h ere are three

excha nges, inc l u d i n g two Roll-backs
and one Press and Pu sh .
When h a n d s are joined a n d w e encou n ter
Ward-off, do n ot let the opponen t
get t h e u p per h a n d .
Dow n

Elbu w ­

If there is hard ness with i n our softness,
we wiJ I never be defeated ,
But if our hard ness does not contain softness,
it ca nnot be caJ led firm .
In order to break an opponent ' s offense
or defense , use Pull-dow n or Split;
Put power into a surprise thrust or
quick rotation .
If an opening appears a nd we have already
closed with the opponent, then use
To strike with shoulders, hips or
knees we first draw very near .
The Secret of
Full and Empty

Empty empty, ful l full, with spirit

ever present;
Em p ty full, full empty as hands
perform tech niques .

To practice T'ai-chi without mastering

the principle of full and empty,
Is to foolishly waste time wi thout ever
accomplish ing anything .
When one has the opponent ' s vital point
in the palm of one ' s hand; finding empty ,
be on guard, but if full, attack .
If we fail to attack the full,
our art will never be su p e r i o r .

Wit h in e m p ty and full, t here is

naturally a full and e m p t y;
If we understand the principle of full and
em p t y , our attack will never miss the mark .
The Secret of the Free Circle

The tech nique of the free circle is

most d ifficult to master;
Up, down, following and j oining,
it is infinitely marvelou s .
I f w e can entice t h e opponent into
our circle,
Then the tech nique of four ou nces repelling
a thousand pou n d s w ill succeed .
When the maximum power of the hands
and feet arrives together seeking a
straigh t line to the side,
Then our advantage from the free circle
will not be wasted .
If we desire to know the method of the circle,
We must first find the correct poin t to issue
from and the correct target,
and then we will accomplish our task .
The Secret of Yin and yang

Few have truly cultivated the yin and yang

of T'ai-chi;
Swallowing and spit ting, opening and closing
give expression to hard and soft .
Controlling the cardinal directions and corners,
drawing in and issuing fort h ,
let the opponent do w h a t he will;
All is but the transformations of action and
stillness, so what need is there to worry ?
Offense and defense must be intimately
coo rdinated;
Evading and attacki ng must be sought
in every action .
What is the meaning of ligh t and heavy,
full and empty?
As soon as we discover lightness within
our opponent ' s heaviness, we must
attack without hesitation .

The Secrets of the E ighteen Loci

Ward-off is in the two arms .

Roll-back is in the palms .
Press is in the back of the hand .
Push is in t h e waist .
Pull-down is i n the fingers .
Split is in the two forearn1s .
Elbow-stroke involves bend ing the l i mbs .
Shoulder-stroke employs shoulder against chest .
Advancing is fou nd i n Cloud Ha nds .
Retreating is fou n d i n Repulse Monke y .
Gaze-left is in the Three Forwards .
Look-right is i n the Seven Stars .
Stability i nvolves waiting for an opport u nit y .
The bull ' s-eye is reached by attacking
from the side .
Clu msiness results from d ouble-weigh ted ness .
Agility derives from single lightness .
Emptiness mea ns not attacking .

Ful lness means attacking .

Secrets of the Five Character Classic

E x p os ure mea ns to attack from the

o p pon e n t s s i d e
' .

Evading and turnin g aside must not be

co mp l ete l y empty .
Neu tralize the opponen t's i ncom ing force
with outstretched arm s .
Use tentative give and take t o test
the oppon ent ' s skil l .
Reserve your power and concentrate it for
the right m o me n t .
Sticking and adheri ng are ou r guiding
p r i nc i p l es

Move as if follow i ng, whether advancing

or retreat ing .
Never fo rg et the possibility of ca pturi ng
the opponent ' s hand .
Use strangle holds to block the
opponent ' s circulation .
If the opponent seeks t o twist or lock our h a n d s ,
follow his incoming force and block h i m .
The mea n ing of softness is that we do not u se
stiff force .
In Ward-off the arms should be rounded
and look as if propped up .
Pull and attack with circular a nd lively powe r .
We must blunt our opponen t ' s sharp thrusts,
Protect ourselves from his fierce penetration,
And use the finger to stab his vital points .
We must use sinking to escape from
pulling or twisting of our wrist .
Con tinue to follow without allowing gaps .
When we use Press our oppone nt ' s
full and empty will appear;
Apply repelling force and victory
is quickly ours .

Chapter VI Yang Famtly
Copied by
Shen Chia-chen

In Tang Hao and Ku Liu -hsin g,

T'a i-ch i ch 'iiall tfel l-ch iu
(Studies on T'� i - chi ch 'tian) .
Hong Kon g :
Pai-l i n g ch'u- p an-she, n . d .

The Meaning of Leveling the Waist
and Crown o f the Head in T'ai-chi

The crown of the head should be level, therefore it is

said that " the top of the head should be as if suspended
from above . " The two hands travel in orbits left and
right, wh ile the waist is the root . I f we stand level and
maintain this in the body, then we will be able t o detect
the minutest degrees of l igh t ness or heavi ness, floa ting
o r s i n k i n g . E x p re s s i n g t h e i d ea o f l ev e l n e s s a s i f
suspended from above ( meaning one straigh t line from
the crown of t h e head down through the root of the
waist and from the hsiu ng-men poin t in the middle of the
back to the wei-Iii poi n t a t the base of the spine) there is a
song t h a t goes :
One straight line from top to bottom;
All depends upon the turning of the hands .
Changes are gauged by the slightest degree,
Clearly distinguishing feet and inches .
The waist is like a cartwheel ,
Wh ich turns when the streamers u nfurl .
The mind com mands and the ch 'i goes into
action like ba nners .
I move naturally, following my ow n convenience .
M y w h ole body i s ligh t a n d agile,
Tempered like a diamond arhat .
My opponent weaves i n and out ,
But sooner o r later,
We will make contact and he wilJ be repelled,
Even withou t my u nleashing a mighty thunderbol t .
We must know how long to dally,
And how to make them fain t with a shout .
Th is oral teaching must be transmitted secretly .
Open the gate and behold , this is truly Heaven !

The Meaning of T'ai-chi's
Proper Functioning
T'ai-chi, in its round aspect, whether moving in or out,
up or down, left or right never leaves the circle . T'ai-ch i,
in its square aspect, whether in or ou t, up or down, left
or right never leaves the square . The circle is for issuing
or entering; the square is for adva ncing or retreating .
There is a constant back and forth movement from the
squ are to the circl e . The square is for ope n i n g a nd
expanding and the circle is for closing and contracting .
When one has mastered the law of the circle and the
square, how can there be anything beyond it? This is
grasped with the mind and reflected in the hands . Gaze
up at the heights and bore deeper a n d deeper . It is
marvelous and ever more marvelous . It is concealed in
the subtle, brigh ter and brighter, growing and growing
without end . We cannot stop even if we wished to .

The M e a n i ng of Light and Heavy,

Floating and Sinking in T'ai-chi

1 . Double weigh ted ness is an e rror . T h e e rror lies i n

misplaced fullness a n d i s not t h e same as sinking .
2 . Double sinking is not an error, but natural buoyancy
and emptiness . It is not the same thing as weightedness .
3. Double floating is an error, for i t i s drifting and vague . It
should not be confused w ith lightness .
4. Double lightness is not an error, for it is naturally light
and sensitive . It has nothing in common with floating .
Half light and half heavy is not a n error . " Half" means
that one is half settled and therefore it is not an error.
Partially light and partially heavy is a n error . ' ' Partially' '
mea ns that one is not settled and therefore it is an error.
When one is not settled, the square and the circle will be
l o s t . W h e n o n e i s h a l f s e t t l e d , h o w c a n t h i s be
considered leaving the square and the circle?

5 . Ha l f floating an d h a l f sinking is a n error . The fault lies in
insufficiency .

6. Partia l floating a nd partial sinking is an error . The faul t

lies in excess .

7 . Half heavy a n d partial ly heavy is a n error, for it is stiff

a nd incorrect .

8 . Half light a nd partially light is an error . It is sensitive bu t

not circu lar .

9. Hal f sinki ng a n d partial si nking is an error, for it is

empty and incorrect .

10 . Half floating a n d partial floating is an error, for it is vague

a nd not circular .

11. Double lightness is not the same as floating, for it is light

a n d sensitive . If double lightnes s does not become
floating, then it is light and sensitive; if double sinking
does n o t become heavy, then it becomes open and
empty . Therefore it is said that the superior practitioner
is light and heavy; those who are half settled are merely
common practitioners . Aside from these three, all of the
rest are erron e o u s tec h n iques . When one is empty,
sensitive and clear within, it will naturally express itself
withou t . When there is clarity in the body, it will flow
into the four limbs . If one fails to thoroughly study the
four qualities-light , heavy, floating and sinking-it will
be as frustrating as digging a well without reaching the
spring . One whose technique encompasses the square,
the circle and the four cardinal points and has mastered
the i n t er n a l , e x t e r n a l , fine a n d g r o s s h a s a l r e a d y
a c h i e v e d m u c h . W h y s h o u l d we w o r ry a b o u t
something arising from the four comers to confound our
square and circle? So it is said , " from the square to the
c i r c l e a n d t h e c ir c le to t h e square . " The s u p e r i o r
practitioner achieves a realm beyond phenome n a .

The Meaning of Strength Versus
Ch 'i in T'ai-chi

Ch 'i runs
in the channels of the internal membranes
and sinews . Strength issues from the blood, flesh, skin
a n d bones . Th u s those p o s s e s s e d of s t r e n g t h are
externally sturdy in their skin and bones, that is, in their
physical form; those possessed of ch 'i h ave internal
strength in their sinews, that is, their charisma (hsiang) .
Ch 'i and blood work to strengthen the internal; the ch 'i of
the blood works to strengthen the external .
In summary, if you understand the function of the two
words-ch 'i and blood-then you will naturally know
the origin of strength and ch 'i. I f you know the nature of
strength and ch 'i, you will know the difference between
using strength and mobilizing ch 'i. M o bil iz i ng ch 'i in the
sinews and using strength in the skin and bones are two
vastly different things .

The Meaning of Civil and Martial in T'ai-chi

The civil is the essence and the martial is t he fun c t i o n .

When civil attainments are a ctiv ely applied th ro u gh
martial arts in the form of vital e ne r gy (c h ing), ch 'i, and
spirit (s h en ) , this is called the essence of the civil . When
martial attainments are a cc o m p a nied by the essence of
the civil in the mind and the body, this is called martial
practice . The civil and the martial are also called the art of
self-cultivation .
When yielding and repelling are correctly timed, then
the root of the essence of the civil, that is, martial p rac tic e
executed accord ing to civil principle, belongs to the sof t
esse nce of t h e civil . W h e n st o r in g a n d i s s u i n g are
a pp lied at the ap p ropriate time, then the root of martia l
p r a c ti c e , t h a t i s , t h e c i v i l a p p l i e d . t h r o u g h m a rt i a l
pra c t ic e, belongs to the category of hard martial practice .
Vital energy, ch 'i and spirit and the sinews and bones are
the civil and the martial . Hard martial practice is simply
muscu lar force . However, to have the civil without
martial preparation is the essence without the fu nction;
to have the martial w hich is not cou pled with the civil is
the function without the essence .
A si ngle wood e n board c a n not su pport a w h ole
s tructure; a single hand cannot make a clapping sound .
This is not only true of civil essence and martial practice,
but of all th ings in the world . The civil is the in ner
principle and the martial is the ou ter tech nique . Ou ter
tech nique without inner principle is simply the brute
courage of physical strength . However, when one is no
longer in the prime, bullying an opponent will not work .
Th ose w h o p o s s e s s i n ner pri n c i p l e w i t h o u t ou ter
technique, who think only of the arts of quietism and
know nothing of the practice of combat, are lost as soon
as they commit the slightest error . Whether for practical
pursuits or simply the way of being a human being, how
dare we neglect the two words-civil and martial?

The Meaning of Stick,

Adhere, Join and Follow

Raising up and lifting high

is called sticking .
Attachment and inseparability
is called adhering .
Forgetting oneself and not separating from
the opponent is called joining .
Responding to the opponent ' s every
movement is called following .

If we wish to understand conscious movement, it is

essential to be clear about sticking, adhering, joining
and following . This skill is extremely subtle .

The Meaning of Butting,
Thinness, Losing and Resistance
Butting mea ns over-extending the head .
Th inness means an insufficiency .
Losing means separation .
Resistance means an excess .
We must under�tand the errors represented by these
four words . Not only will they impede our cultivation of
sticki n g , a d h e r i n g , j oi n i ng a n d fol l ow i ng , b u t w i l l
also cloud our understanding o f conscious movement .
Beginners in self-defense must strive to understand this
and make specia l efforts to a void these four errors .
What is difficult about sticking, adhering, joining and
fo l low ing is t h a t w e m u s t not c o m m i t the errors of
butting, thin ness, losing or resistance . Th is is why it is
not easy .

Self-Defense Without Errors

Butting, thinness, losing and resistance are failures in

self-defense . That is why they are called errors . When
one has failed to stick, adhere, join and follow, how can
one hope for conscious movement? Since one is not
even aware of th is oneself, how can one know it in
others? What we mean b y self-defense without errors is
not bei n g g u i l t y of b u t t i n g , t h i n n e s s , l o s i n g a n d
resistance in dealing with a n opponent . Rather, w e use
stickin g , adh eri ng, j oining and fol lowing . If we are
successful in this, we will not only be free of error, but
w i l l n a t u ral l y ac h ieve conscious moveme n t a n d
advance to the ability to interpret energy.

The Song of Hol d i ng the Ce nter
i n Se l f-Defe nse Tra i n i ng

Tlw ft•e t m u s t bl' roott>d i n t h l' pos t u rl'

Ce n t ra l Eq u i l i b ri u m .
Fi rs t u n d e rs t a n d t h e fou r c a rd i n a l d i rec t i o n s ,
a d v a nce ,1 n d ret rea t .
W,ud -off, Rol l -ba c k , Press a n d Pu s h
n:.•q u i re fou r h (l n d s to p rac t i c e ,
A n d ,, g re,l t d e a l of effo rt m u s t be e x pe n d ed
to g r,l s p t h l' i r t rue.:.' s i g n i fic a n c e .
The bod y , for m , w a i s t ,1 n d crow n of t h e h L· a d
m u s t a l l b e b rou g h t i n t o p l a y .
I n s t ic k i n g , a d heri n g , j o i n i n g a n d fo l l ow i n g ,
t h e m i n d and cll 'i a r e ru l ers .
The s p i r i t i s t h e ru l e r a n d t h e flesh
and bon e s a re s u b j ec t s .
C l e a r l y u n d ersta n d i ng a l l a s p e c ts
of o u r a r t ,
W e w i l l n a t u r a l l y a c h i e v e p e r f e c t i on
i n the martial and t he civil .

Song of the T'ai-ch i Circle

Th e c i rcle of r et r ea t is easy ;
t h e c i rcle of a d v a nc e i s d ifficu l t .
Do not d e v i a t e from t h e correc t position of the
w a i s t or crow n of t h e head ,
w h e t h e r t o t h e rea r or fore .
W h a t i s m ost d ifficu l t i s n o t dev i a t i ng
from C e n t ra l Equ i l ibri u m .
Ca re fu l l y consider t h e p r inc i p l e t h a t to
ret rea t is easy bu t to a d v a nce is d i fficul t .
T h i s h a s to d o w i t h t h e a rt of movement
a n d no t with s ta t ic pos t u res .

We m u s t a d v cl n ce a n d re t rea t w h i l e kee p i n g
s h ou l d e r t o s h o u l d e r w i t h ou r o p p o n t• n t .
Be l i ke t h e m i l l s t o n t• m ov i n g fa s t o r s l o w ,
Or w h i rl i n g l i ke t h e C h ,u d Drag( m
or W i n d Tige r .
Beg i n you r sea rc h w i t h t h e a i d o f c o m p a s s ,
A n d a ft e r a l o n g t i m e i t w i l l bt•n mw
p e r f ec t l y n a t u ra l .

The Meaning of Four Corners in T'ai-chi ch'iian

The four cardinal d i rections refer to the fou r sides of
the squ are, o r W a r d o f f , Rol l -back, Press a n d Pu s h .

Before u n d ersta n d i n g t h a t t h e squ a re c a n be m a d e

rou n d a n d t h e pri n c i p l e o f t h e i n fi n i te a l t e r n a t i n g
squares and circles, how can one expect to master the
tech niques of the four corners? Because of m a n ' s four
members without and spirit w i t h i n , it is m ost d ifficult to
acq uire maste ry of the square, t h e circle a n d the fou r
card i n a l d i re c t i o n s . H o w e v e r , w h e n o n e be g i n s to
commit errors of lightness and heaviness, floating and
s i n k i n g , t h e n the fo u r corners come i n t o p l a y . For
example, i f because of half or partia l weig h ted ness one ' s
movements are clu msy a n d incorrect , t h e n one w i l l
na t u ra l l y exec u te t h e fou r-corner tec h n i q u e s : P u l l ­
down, Split, Elbow-stroke a n d Shou lder-stroke . Or, if
one is gui l ty of double-weigh ted ne s s , t h e n l i kewise
four-corner techniques will appear.
With erroneous technique, one has no choice but to
use the fou r corners to help return to the fra mework of
squ a re ness a n d rou nd ness . Th u s Pul l - d ow n, Spl i t ,
Elbow-s troke a n d Shoulder-st roke make u p for defi­
ciencie s . Those who after long practice have reached
a h igh level of skill must also acquire Pull-dow n a nd
Split to return everything to center . I n this way the fo ur
corn ers have a supplemen tary fu nction and compen­
sate for deficiencies .

The Meaning of the Martial Aspect of T'ai-chi

T'ai-chi in its martial aspect is soft on the outside and

hard on the inside . If we constantly seek to be soft on the
ou t s i d e , a fter a l o n g ti me we w i l l naturally a t tain
hardness on the inside . It is not that we deliberately
thi n k of hardness, for in rea l i t y ou r minds are on
softness . The difficulty lies in being hard within but
res training its expression externally . We must at al1
times use softness to meet the opponent, that is, meet
hardness with softness and reduce hardness to nothing .
How can this be ach ieved ? Briefly, having mastered
sticking, adhering, j oi ning and following, and after
understanding conscious movement, one can progress
to i nterpre t i n g e n e rgy . After l e a rn i ng to interpret
energy, one naturally arrives by stages at the level of
highest perfection . In the end, we will complete our task
and reach the goal .
As for the marvel of four ounces repelling a thousand
pounds, how could this be possible if one's skill has not
yet reached the supreme? Therefore, only after one
understands sticking, adhering, joining and following
can one acquire the skills of seeing, hearing, lightness
and sensitivity .

Treatise on Before and After Acquiring the

Ability to I nterpret Energy in T'ai-chi

Before being able to i nterpret energy one is often

guilty of errors of butting, thinness, losing and resist­
ance . After being able to interpret energy, there is still a
possibilty of committing errors associated with stoop­
ing, rising, breaking and continuity . Before one can
interpret energy there will naturally be faulty technique,
but after one can interpret energy, how could this still
persist? When one is at the stage of seeming to interpret
energy but not yet interpreting properly, that is, in a
stat e of a mbivalence, then one ' s brea king a n d

contacting will be inaccu rate and there will be many
errors . Before one has reached t he highest perfection,
stooping a nd rising will miss the mark and it will be easy
to m a ke errors . If one h a s n o t m a stered breaki n g ,
con tacting, stooping and risi ng, a n d does not truly
understand interpreting energy , then these errors are
unavoidable .
Therefore, those w h o do not yet tru l y u n derstand
interpreting energy, because their seeing and he a ring
are without basis, have not yet ach ieved precision . Only
when one u nderstands the visual aw areness of l ook i ng
far, near, left and right ; the aural awareness of rising
falling, slowness and haste; the kinest hetic aw areness
of dodge, return, provoke and finis h ; and the m ove­
ment awareness of turn, excha nge, advance and retreat,
can one tru l y be said to h a ve mas tered interpreting
energy .
After being capable of in terpreting energy, one w ill
naturally arrive by degrees at t h e h i g h est perfection .
O ne will naturally possess superiori ty in withdrawing,
extending, adva ncing and retreating, for, in this way,
withdrawing, extend ing, movement, still ness,
ope ning, closing, ri s i n g a n d fa l l i n g w i l l a l l have a
founda tion On the basis of withdraw ing, extending,

movement and stillness, when one sees en tering then

one opens, when one meets issuing then one closes,
when one observes coming then one lowers, and when
one sees the opponent fleeing then one rises . After all
this, then and only then can one truly reach the highe st
perfection . Understa nding this, h o w can one not be
prudent in regard to such habits as sitting, sl eeping ,

walking, st a n d i n g , drinking, e a t i ng , urination and

d e fe c a t i o n i n o r d e r t o p r o m o t e t h e b e s t r e s u l t s ?
In t h i s w ay w e can progress to med i u m a n d great
accomplishments .

The Meaning of Feet, I nches, Hundredth Parts
and Thousa ndth Parts in T'ai-chi

I n t h e m a r t i a l a r t s w e first l e a r n o pe n i n g a n d
expa nding a n d then later contracting and gathering .
Only after having mastered opening and expa nding can
one begin to discuss contracting and ga thering . After
con tracting and gatheri ng have been mastered , we can
beg i n to d i s c u s s fee t , i n c h e s , h u n d red t h pa rts a n d
thousandth parts . W h e n o n e h a s mastered feet, one can
begin to make divisions by the unit of the inch; when
one has mastered inches one can make div isions by
hundredth parts, and when the hundredth parts unit is
maste red , t h e n one m a kes divisions by thousandth
parts . Th is then clarifies what is meant by feet, inches,
h u ndredth parts and thousandth parts .
T h e re a re t e n [ C h i n e s e ] i n c h e s t o t h e foo t , t e n
h u ndred th parts t o t h e inch, a n d ten thousandth parts
to the h undred th part, so there is a definite number .
There is an ancient saying that self-defense is a matter of
numbers . If one u ndersta nds the concept of number,
one c a n a scer t a i n t h e fee t , i n c h e s , h u n dred t h a n d
thousandth parts . However, although w e may under­
sta nd the n umbers, without secret transmissions, how
would we be able to measure them?
Chapter VII From Yang Ch'eng-fu's
Se If-Defense
Applications of
T'ai-chi ch'Uan

Ya ng Ch 'eng-fu, T'a i-clri ch 'ii an

sll ill -.t!II I IS fa (Self-defen se
a p p l ications of T'ai-c h i ch 'tian),
Tai pei : C h u ng-hua wu-shu
ch 'u-pan-she, 1974 (first edition ,
1931 ); al so i n Sung Shih-ytian,
T'a i-c/ 1 i cll 'iian tJii n-chen t 'u-ch ief1
(The true principles of T'ai-chi
ch 'tian i l l u s trated and explained),
Tai pei : Hua-lien c h 'u-pan -she, 1%7;
and Yang Ch 'eng-fu , T'ai-clz i ch 'iia11
yw 1s-{a t 'u -ch ielz (Applications of
T'ai-c h i ch 'tian illustrated and
explained ) , Taipei : Hua-lien
ch'u-pan -she, 1980.

Yi n
Ya ng

Th e me a n i ng of t h e T'a
i-c h i sy m b o l l ies i n the m
u tual
pr od u c t i o n of yi n a n d ya
ns , t h e co mp lem en ta ry
ex c h a ng e of h a rd a n d
so ft, t h e t h ou sa n d c h a ng
es a n d
te n t h ou sa n d tra ns for
ma t i o n s . Th is is t h e ba
sis for
T'a i -c h i ch 'ua n . P u s h -
h a n d s is t h e e mb od i me
n t of the
T'a i ch i sy m b o l .

Original I ntroduction to T'ai-chi ch'iian

T'ai-chi ch' iian was handed down by the Immortal,

Chang San -feng . Th e I m mortal was a native of 1-chou
in Liaotu ng Provi nce . H i s Taoist style was San-feng
and h e was born d u ring the latter part of the Sung
d y na s t y .( 960- 1 1 26) . He was seven feet tall with the
bones of a cra ne and the posture of a pine tree . His face
was like an a ncient moon w i t h kind brows and generous
eyes . H i s w h i skers were s h a ped l i ke a spear and in
winter a n d su m mer he wore the sa me wide bamboo hat .
Carrying a horsehair d u ster he could cover a thousand
miles in a day .
Duri ng t h e beg i n n i n g of the H u ng-wu reign [first
em peror, T'ai Tsu , of the Ming, 1368-1628] He traveled
to the T'ai-ho Mou n tains i n Szechwan to practice the
Taoist a rts and settled i n the Temple of the Jade Void . He
cou ld recite the Classics b y heart after a single reading .
In the twen ty-seventh year of t h e H u ng-wu reign he
traveled to the Wu tang Mou nta i ns in H u pei where l, e
loved to discuss the Classics and p h i losophy with the
local people .
One d a y he was ind oors reci ting the Classics when a
joyful bird landed i n the cou rtyard . Its song was like the
notes of the zither . The I m mortal spied the bird from his
w i ndow . The bird peered down l ike a n ea g le a t a s n a kt>
coiled on the grou nd . The snake gazed u p a t the bird and
the two c o m m e n c e d t o fi g h t . W i t h a c r y t h e b i r d
swooped down, spreading its wings a n d bea t i ng li k e a
fa n . The l o n g snake shllOk its head, darting hither and
thi ther to evade the bird ' s wings . The bird flew back u p
t o t h e tree top, very frustrated a n d disconcerted . Agai n
the bird swooped down bea ting w i t h its w i ngs, a n d
again the snake wriggled a n d darted out o f harm ' s way,
all from a coiled position . This went on for a long t i m e
w i t hou t a decisive strike .

After a time the Immortal ca me ou t a n d the bi rd and
the snake d isappeared . From this combat th e I m mortal
rece ived a revelation . The coi l ed fo r m was l i ke t h e
symbol o f T'ai-chi a n d contained t h e pri nciple o f t h e soft
overcoming the hard . Based on the tran sformations of
T'a i -c h i [ t h e G re a t U l t i m a t e ] h e d e v e l o p e d T'a i -c h i
ch 'iian t o cultivate sexual energy (ch inx ) , c/7 'i a n d spirit
(shen ), movement and sti l l ness, waxi ng and waning and
to embody the principles of the I ch inx . I t h a s been
pa ssed on for m a n y ge nera t i o n s a n d i t s va l u e h a s
become more a n d more apprecia ted . I n th e White Cloud
Temple at Peking there is still a likeness of t h e I m mortal
for visitors to admire .

A Story of Yang Lu-ch'an

When Master went to the capital, Peking, his fame

spread far and wide . There was a constant stream of
m a r t i a l a r t i s t s c o m i n g to p a y t h e i r re s p e c t s . O ne
day, while he was sitting in meditation, a monk arrived
unannounced and Master went to the steps to greet
him . He noticed that the monk was powerfully built and
more than six feet tall . The monk saluted and expressed
his great admiration . Master was about to h u mbly reply
when the monk flew at him, attacking with his fists .
Master slightly depressed his chest and with his right
palm patted the monk' s fist . As if struck by a bolt of
lightning, the monk was thrown behind a screen, his
body still in the attitude of attacking with clenched fists .
After a long time the monk, looking very solemn,
apologized saying, I have been extremely rude . ' '
' '

Master Yang invited the monk to stay for a chat and

learned that his name was Ch'ing-te and that he was a
Shaolin boxer . T h e m o n k p l i e d h i m w i t h e n dless
questions . He asked, "Just a moment ago why was I
surprised and unable to display my prowess?" Master
responded, "This is because I am always on my guard . "

The monk then asked , " How were you able to react so
quickly?" Master said, "This is called issuing energy
like shooting an arrow . " The monk replied , " I have
roamed over many provinces, but have never met you r
equal, Sir . I beg you to teach me the secret of T'ai-chi's
lightness and sensit ivity . ' '
Master did not respond to the monk' s last question
but saw a sparrow fly in through the curtain and circle
down close to him . He quickly caught the bird in his
hand and said to the monk, ' 'This bird is very tame and
I ' m going to have a little fun with it . " He placed it on the
palm of his right hand and stroked it gently with his left .
Then h e rem oved h i s left h a nd al together a n d the
sparrow beat its wings and attempted to take off. Master
u s e d t h e tec h n i q u e of ' ' s u d denly conce a l i ng and
suddenly revealing ' ' and the sparrow was unable to fly
away . This is because regardless of the species of bird all
must first apply energy with the feet in order to lift into
fligh t . The sparrow ' s feet were unable to find a place to
exert pressure and it gradually settled down . Master
again stroked it and released it, but again it could not
take off . After the third time, the monk, greatly amazed,
exc l a i me d , " Your a rt is tru ly miraculous ! " Mas ter
laughed and said, ' 'This hardly deserves to be called
miraculou s . If one practices T'ai-chi for some time, the
entire body becomes so light and sensitive that a feather
weight cannot be added without setting it into motion
and a fly cannot alight without the same effect . This is all
there is to it . ' ' The monk bowed deeply, stayed for three
days and then departed .

Yang Lu-ch'an' s
Commentary to the T'ai-ch i ch'iian Classic

This is a tra nsmission of Master Chang San-feng

of the Wu tang Mountains . He d esired longevity for all
the worthy men of the world and not simply that they
practice the superficial tech niques of the martial arts .

As soon as one moves, the en tire body should be

l igh t and sensitive and all i ts pa rts co n n ec ted.
When practicing the form do not use clumsy force and
you w ill be able to achieve lightness and sensitivity . The
entire form should be performed with one continuous
flow of ch 'i.

The Ch 'i should be roused and the s pi ri t

gathered within .
If the ch 'i is not blocked it is l ike a sea wind which
b l o w s up w a v e s a n d b i l l ow s . S t i l l t h e m i n d a n d
concen tra te the spirit. Th is i s what i s mea n t by ga thering
the spirit within .

Do not allow gaps; do not allow bulges or hollows;

do not allow discontinuities.
When doing the fo rm seek perfect wholeness . There
s h ou l d not be the s l ig h te s t irregularity . You s h ou l d
move slowly and without breaks .

The root is in the feet, energy issues up th rough

the legs, is controlled by the waist and is expressed
in the hands and fingers. From the feet to the legs
to the waist should be one complete flow of ch 'i.
One will then be able to seize opportunities and
occupy the superior position .
When practicing T'ai-chi ch'uan, the upper and lower
parts of the body must be coordinated . Intrinsic power

1 02
(ch in ) rises from the soles of t h e feet, travels up t he leg s
a n d reaches t h e w a i s t . T h e n fro m t h e s p i n e to t h e
s h ou ld er s it t ravels i n to the h and s a n d f i n g ers The

whole body is as one d1 'i. When it is used to adv a nc e or

ret reat, the intrinsic power is infinite .

If one is u nable to se ize oppo rt u n i t ies and ga i 1z the

s u pe rio r pos i t ion, the body zuill be sca ttered and i n
confu s io n . Loo k for the zoeakness in the wa ist and
the legs . The sa nze is t rue fo r a bo ve and below,
fran t an d back, l eft a n d riglz t . A l l of th is h as to do
with the mind an d not ·with externals .
The weakness is not in externals but in the mental
attitude . If t h e mind is n ot focu s e d , then the spirit will
not be concen trated and one will not be able to seize
opportunities and g a i n the su p e rior p osi ti o n .

If t h ere is an a bove, t h ere m u s t be a belo w; if th ere

is a fo re there m us t be a rea r and if t h e re is a left,

there nzust be a righ t. If t h e in tention is to rise one

must pay atten tion to belou'. If you want to l ift
somet h ing, you m ust apply breaking po·wer. In
t h is way its root wil l be severed and its des t ru c t io n
will be s w ift a nd i n ev i ta b l e

This means that when sparring with a n o p pon e n t you

mu s t first shake him and cause him to be like a tre e
without roots . Whe n his stance is not s table he will
surely b e to pp l ed .

Full an d Empty shoul d be clearly d istinguis h ed .

Any g ive n point has th e poten tia l for full or empty
a n d the whole body h as th is dual aspect: full and
e m pty .

When spa r ri n g with an opponent, every posture should

be full in front and empty behind . W he n i s s ui ng energy

1 03
the front leg bears the weight of the body and is full,
while the rear leg is straight . Always clearly disti nguish
full and empty and you will naturally have the ability to
cha nge at will .

All the joints of the body shou l d be con nected

Ivithou t permitting the s l igh test brea k .
All the joints of the body should be plian t and u nified .
The ch 'i should flow unimpeded and there should be
no breaks in consciousness .

An Explanation of the
Macrocosmic and Microcosmic T'ai-chi

The w hole universe is one great T'ai-chi; the h u ma n

body is a s m a l l T'ai-c hi . The h u m a n b o d y being t h e
essence of T'ai-chi, o n e c a n n o t but practice t h e Great
Ul timate Martial Art [T'ai-chi c h 'iian ] . I t i s an i nborn
sensitivity which must be retrained, a n innate ability .
The human body is like a machine . I f it is n ot polished
for a long time it rusts . Whe n t here is " rust " the ch 'i and
the blood are obstructed and many faults appear . There­
fore, if men desire to d iscipline their bodies, they should
first practice T'ai-chi, for this is the most suitable means .
The method of training in T'ai-chi consists of moving
the ch 'i with the mind and not using clumsy force . Allow
everything to be completely natural . The sinews and
bones experience very little of the pain of bending and
the skin none of the h ardsh ip of rough contact .
If we do not use stre ngth , how can we be strong? I n
the art of T'ai-ch i w e sink the shoulders and d rop the
elbows . By sinking the ch 'i to the ta n - t 'ien the dz 'i is able
to e n t e r t h e t a n - t ' i e n w h i c h b e c o m e s i t s c e n t r a l
headquarters . From here it can be mobilized to the fou r
li mbs a n d h u n d re d bones . W h e n t h e ch 'i circ u l a tes
throughout the entire body , then wherever the mind
goes the clz 'i w i l l follow . When you reach this level your

1 04
power will be immeasurable .
Thus without using clumsy force and relying purely
on spirit to move, the results are tremendou s . My
master said, " Only from great softness comes great
hardness . ' ' This is my meaning .

An ExplanatioJ! of
Wang Tsung-yueh's Original Introduction

By moving the ch 'i with the mind and directing it

to sink, it is able to penneate the bones .
Normally during our practice of the Thirteen Postures
we should use the mind to cause the ch 'i to circulate in
the space between the bones and the flesh . If the mind
acts as guide, the ch 'i will follow . As for our postures,
they should be sunk and open . Our mental attitude
should be cal m . Without a calm mind there can be no
sinking and without sinking the ch 'i will not gather in
the bones . One may indeed possess external power, but
by practicing T'ai-chi ch'iian the ch 'i permeates the bones
and this is true T'ai-ch i power .

Let ch 'i circulate th roughout the body freely and

the body will be obedient to the mind.
F riends, if you desire your c h 'i to circulate freely
t h ro u g h o u t y o u r b o d y , you m u s t receive correct
instruction i n the Thirteen Postures . This is the art
handed down by my late teacher . When executing the
p o s t u r e s , t h e u p p e r a n d lower body m u s t rel ate
naturally . If power is not forced, then and only then can
the ch 'i circulate freely . If the postures are natural, .then
the mind com mands and the hands and feet follow .

1 05
If one can raise the spirit, there need be no fear of
sluggis h ness or heaviness . Th is is wh at is m ean t
by hold ing the head as if suspen ded from above.
The spirit is the master of the whole body . Not only in
the martial arts, but in all pursuits, if the spirit is swift,
one w ill never be sluggish or slow . Therefore, in speak­
ing of the martial arts one must first mention raising the
spirit . If we want to raise the spirit, then the head must
be held erect with energy at the very crown . Tha t is, the
ni-wan point should be light and sensitive, with energy
rising to the t op . If you can awaken to this technique,
you will u nderstand w h a t i s mea n t by " ra i s i n g t h e
spirit . "

Ou r feelings must become supremely sens i t ive i n

order for there to be complete and l ively enjoyment.
Th is is wh at is meant by t h e transfonnations of
fu ll an d empty.
Feeling is that which circulates between the bones and
the flesh . There is an indescribable kind of pleasu re that
comes from practicing the form and sparring . We must
cause this circulating substance to fill the entire body, so
that if we want it to go left it goes left, and if we want it
to go rig h t it goes right . This is what is meant by the
changes of full and empty in T'ai-chi . The method of
tra nsforming the sense of feeling is like a h a lf ful l bottle
of water . If placed on its left side, the water rushes to the
left; if placed on its righ t side, it rushes to the right . If this
can be achieved, not only will you experience complete
and lively enjoyment, but it will be as pleasurable as
d a nce . W h e n y o u h a ve reac h e d t h i s s t age , e v e n if
someone were to try to prevent you from practicing this
art, they could not succeed . From this we can apprecia te
that the b o dy receives infinite blessings .

1 06
When iss u ing energy one rn u s t sink, relax, be
calm and concen tra ted in one direct ion .
When spa rri ng with a n oppon e n t , f i rs t co n t rol h i s
mov ement and then attack from one d i rection, the one
in which he is losing his balance . When issu ing energy,
whe ther with the hand, shoulder or elbow , you m ust
sink dow n , w i t h the m i n d re la xed a n d ca l m . I ssu e
energy by attacking the opponent in only one d irection .
If my energy is not scattered it will be ea sy to throw the
opponent for a great d istance .

Ou r postu re should be erect a nd relaxed, able to

con trol the eigh t directions .
When t he head is erect and the wei-Iii straight, the
body will not incline . Our mental attitude should be
relaxed and comfortable, with the idea of waiting for
movement with still ness . The waist a nd legs are like a
standing w heel and the should ers and hands like a
ho r izontal wheel . When they are able to rotate in circles
at o u r w i l l , t h e n we w i l l h a ve con t rol of t h e ei g h t
directions .

Directing the ch 'i is l ike th reading a pea rl with

n hz e bends in the h ole. There is nowhere it does
not penet ra te .
T h e " n i ne-be n d s-pea rl " is a pea rl w i t h a wind ing
path wit h i n i t . I f w e com pare the human body to a pearl,
it can be see n tha t the four limbs and hu ndred bones
are all fu l l of bends . If we ca n direct t h e ch 'i into the limbs
without any gaps, the n the s k i l l of t h re a d i n g the n i ne­
bt.'nds-pearl will be ou rs .

When energy is set in motion it is like s teel
tentpered a h u nd red times . What resis ta nce will it
fail to defeat ?
Energy set i n motion " li ke stee l tem pered a h u n d red
ti mes " is i n ternal energy . It is not a skill acquired in one
day . After days and months, little by little, it is grad ua lly
refined l ike a piece of cru d e i ro n w h ic h is tem pered
every day with pou nd i ng Slowly it is transformed into

pure steel . If a broadsword or two-edged sword is made

from such steel, i t will be i ncomparably sharp, and t here
is no " resista nce it ca nnot defeat . " The energy w h ich
T'ai-chi develops is both fi ne and strong and can destroy
even an iron m a n . Of w h a t concern , t h e n , are
opponents made of mere flesh a n d blood ?

You should appea r like a falcon seizing a ha re,

with the spirit of a ca t ca tch ing a ra t .
The falcon i s an animal capable o f fl i g h t , a bird o f prey .
In the winter it is used for h u n ting . Th is passage means
that in sparring with an opponent we should imita te the
appeara nce of a bird of prey . When we spy our victim,
o u r eyes should look as if we wou l d i m m o bi l i z e it with

our beak, and as soon as o u r h a n d s make contact, we

w o u l d con trol it i n o u r c l u tc h e s , j u s t l i ke a fa lco n
catch ing its prey . This compa r is o n is not meant to be
abusive but these are the word s of m y late teacher .

Per h aps some e x planatio n is in order . I h ope t hat my

readers will not be confused . When stalking rats, cats
look j u st like tigers . They lie in wait, c rouch i n g with the
weig h t on the ir rear legs . Th e v ital spi r it of their w hole
bei ng is foc used on the ra t hole . When the rat emerges
they pou nce ferocious ly a n d capt u re h i m . This
describes the po s ture in T'ai-ch i w h ic h involves sinki n g
the chest and raising the back , just l ike the cat stalkin g
t he rat . Wait for the chance, spring, and the oppone n t
will be yours .

1 08
In stillness be like a g reat n1ountain; in movement
like a mig h ty river.
After one has trained for a long time, the legs develop
root and one's stance is like a mountain . Human force
cannot shake us . The metaphor of the river expresses
t h e i n fi n i t e p o s s i b i l i t i e s for tra n s fo r m a t i on . One
technique becomes five and five become a hundred . The
flow is unceasing like a river .

Store energy like drawing a bow; release it like

shooting an arrow.
To store energy means to reserve it . T'ai-chi energy is
not external but stored internally . When squaring off
with an opponent our internal energy has the fullness of
a drawn bow or a ball filled with air. If the opponent
touches my arm, although it feels soft as cotton, he
cannot push it down . This greatly astonishes him . In the
midst of his perplexity he is u naware that my bow
already has a drawn arrow which is about to fly. At this
moment I am like the bow, and my opponent becomes
like the arrow . The energy is released so fast that the
opponent is thrown with the speed of an arrow .

Seek t h e straig h t in t h e cu rved; store first and

then issue. Power issues from t h e back; ou r steps
must follow t h e body. To withd raw is to attack
and to attack is to wit hd raw. After wit h drawing
reconnect aga i n .
Allow me to summarize t hese lines with a simple
e x p l a na t ion Seekin g the strai g h t i n t he curved "
. "

means that bendin g is followed by e x tension " Store .

first and then issue, " " Power issues from the back, "
and "To withdraw is to attack" are all based on a single
pri nciple That is, our spirit should be like a cat stalking

a rat . Students should be able to grasp this with a word

or two .

In movi ng to an d fro use "fold up ; " i n a d vancinR
an d retreat i ng use tu rns an d ch anges .
W h e n s p a rri n g w i t h a n o p p o n e n t , y o u s h o u l d
sometimes m ove i n a nd some t i m e s ou t . " Fo l d u p "
refers t o postures where the elbow s are bent and the
forearms curved . Folding up turns the backside to the
opponent ' s body or hands . This tech nique is only useful
w h e n i n c l o se w i t h a n o p p o n e n t a n d u se l e s s a t a
distance . In advancing and retreating do not get stuck in
a ru t w i t h j u s t o n e p o s t u r e , b u t t u r n a n d c h a n g e
according to the situa tion .

From t h e greatest softness comes t h e greatest

h ard ness . F rom t h e proper b reat h ing comes
sensit i vity an d l i vel i ness.
We must use soft methods in practicing the Thirteen
Postures . When our a rt is perfected we w i l l develop
i n te r n a l e n e rgy , s t o re d a n d c o n c e a l e d w i t h i n t h i s
soft ness . A s for breat h i ng, our in halation h a s the ability
to lift a man up and cause an opponent ' s rear leg to leave
the ground . Again, with our exhalation, the power of
ou r ch 'i travel ing u p the s pine issues forth all the e nergy
of t h e e n t i re body a n d c a n repel a m a n for a g re a t
d i s t a nce . W h e n o u r brea t h i n g reac h e s t h i s l evel o f
p e r fec t i o n , t h e n o u r p h y s i c a l m o ve m e n t s become
sensi tive, lively and fl u id .

The c h 'i s h ou l d be properl y cu l t i vated an d not

datnaged . Energy s h ou ld be s tored by rou n d i ng
an d t h ere w i ll a l ways be a su rpl us.
Practicing T'ai-chi is actually a method for cultivating
ch 'i a n d not the work of circu lating ch 'i. What is the
p u r pose o f l e a r n i n g to c i rc u l a te ch 'i? With tra i n i ng
met h od s w h ic h involve stress, strength a n d anger, the
dt 'i is concentrated in one place and it is not easy to
prujl'd . I t is l i kel y that there will be interna l blocks . What

1 10
is th e pu rpose of "cul tivating ch 'i? " M e n c i u s said , " I
exce l a t c u l tiv a t i n g m y great ch 'i . " I f you can el i m i n a te
h as te a n d a n x i e t y , t h i s i n t ri n s ic d1 'i \V i i i develop . Stil l the
m i n d a n d n o u ri s h y o u r or ig i n a l na t u re . W h en
p ra c tic in g , cause t h e i n ne r sex u a l e n e r gy , cl1 'i a nd spirit
to u n i t e . Direct the ch 'i to circu l a t e th ro u g h the " n i ne­
be nds - p e a r l . " Even if one has not y et re a p e d the fu ll
be nefits, it i s c e rt a i n that at least there w i l l be n o harm .
W h e n s p a rring w i t h o p p o n e n t s , never a l l o w t h e
forearm to be extended s t raight . If you can coordinate
the u pper and lower parts of the body, s t e p with the
c h a n g e s of p o s i t i o n , k ee p t h e a r m s rou n d e d a n d
maintain a surpl u s o f power, then the o p po ne nt will
qu ickly be t h row n . This is what is meant by, " En e rgy
should be stored by round i ng and there will always be a
surplus . "

Th e min d is the comman der, th e ch 'i a flag an d the

wa ist a ban ner.
T'ai-chi principles are like those for mobili z ing troops
in time of war. It is necessary to have commanders and
flags to d irect opera tions . It is the same with T 'ai - c hi :
thus the mind is the commander, mea n i ng that the mind
di:r;ects the ch i If we can employ the ch 'i like a flag, then
' .

whatever we will, the ch 'i follows . The waist acting like a

' 'banner' ' refers to the great banners carried by military
troops . The small flags control movement and the great
flags stillness . I n martial arts methods the waist operates
like the axle of a wheel and should not throw over or
rend the great banner .

First seek expansion an d later con traction; t h en

you zvill a rrive at i mpecca bl e tec h nique.
Expansion means l argeness a nd relaxation of the
sinews and muscles . When first l e a r n i ng the form, seek
to make your postures open and large . This serves to
relax the sinews and invigorate the blood and facilitates

bu ild ing s tren gth After your stren g t h is sufficient then

begin to develop the external ability to unify the sinews,

bones and muscles .
Internal concentration of the sexual energy, ch 'i and
spiri t is what is meant by con traction . When both the
inner and outer a re developed toge t h e r w i t h trans­
formations of movement and s til l n ess, then you can
proceed from expansion to contraction . If the body is
strong and the u nderstand i ng of a ppli cat i ons com pl e t e ,
you can reach the level of impeccability . To speak of
" large tech niques " or " small techniques " is erroneou s .

It is a lso said t h at t h i ngs a re first in t h e min d an d

later in t h e body.
When first learnin g t o spar with a n opponent, even if
you concentrate your mind, probably you will not be
successful . A f ter you have perfected the art, then you
can fu n c t i o n without mental concentration . Wherever
you r b o dy is a ttacked , y o u w i l l be able to respond
a u tomatica l l y . Without your eve n be ing consciousl y
aware of what y o u a re doing, the opponen t will be
throw n . At this level your h ands and feet will move of
themselves . At the outset of study it is in the mind, but
after you have mastered the art, it is in the body . This is
like when one is begin ning to learn to calculate with an
abacus The mind first recites the mnemonic verse while

the hands manipulate the beads . La ter, w h e n one is

thoroughly fa miliar, the verse may be forgotten a nd the
hand simply moves in response to the wil l . Th is is an
example of being first in the mind and then in the hands .
Martial arts principles are precisely the same .

Th e bod y s h ou ld be relaxed an d t h e c h 'i UJil l

pennea te t h e bones . Th e spiri t s h ou ld be open
an d t h e body ca l m .
Although you use conce n t ra tion to rel a x the belly,
strictl y avoid rou s i n g the e n ergy . W h en the clz 'i i s

1 12
trained , i t w i l l permeate the bones . T h e bones a nd
muscles should be su nk and heavy . We should be like
cotton on the outside a nd l ike bands of steel on the
inside, or like iron concealed in cotton .

At a l l tinzes bea r in 1nhzd a 1 1 d consc ious ly

re1nem ber t l tat as soon as 0 1 1 e pa rt of the body
m oves t lze 1o h o l e bod tt nzoves; an d as soon as one
pa rt is st il l t h e zoh o l e body is s t ill .
Never forget for a moment that as soon as one part of
the body moves the whole body moves . Do not move
just one part independently . This is like a train : when
the engine moves, all of the cars follow . The movement
of energy in T'ai-c h i must be precisely coordinated .
Although it is precisely coordinated, it must still be
natural and lively, just l ike the moving cars in a train .
Al though the body is in motion, the mind should guard
its stillness; and when the mind is still the whole body
will be s t i l l . Al t h ough it is st il l , i t also contains the
potential for movement . The most important thing is
that with every movement the upper and lower parts of
the body move together.

Pus h ing an d pu ll i ng, back an d fort h , th e ch 'i

adh eres to t h e back an d penneates t h e sp i ne.
Inwardly strengt h en you r v i ta l sp i ri t and
outward ly g ive t h e appearance of ca l m and ea se .

" Pushing and pulling, back and forth" refers to the

da nce-like movement of the hands . When you inhale,
the ch 'i adheres to the spine where it gathers waiting to
be projected . This storing of ch 'i in the spine is what is
meant by " inwardly strengthen your vital spirit . " Your
ou tward a p pearance is cul tured , calm and at ease .
Although you practice the martial arts you are still civil .

1 13
Step like a cat; nwve the energy Like reeling silk
franz a cocoon .
I n T'a i -ch i ch'ua n , our steps a re a s l igh t a n d subtle a s a
eat ' s . When practicing our form, we move the ene rgy as
s m oo t h l y a n d c o n t i n u o u s l y as ree l i n g s i l k fro m a
cocoon .

The atten tion of you r 1.oh ole being shoul d be on

the spirit and not on the ch 'i. If it is on the ch 'i,
there wi ll be bl ocks. Th ose whose atten tion is on
t h e ch 'i have no polver; those w h ose atten tion is
not on the ch 'i ach ieve essen tia l h a rd ness.
The h u m a n body has th ree treasures . These are sexual
energy (ch i11g), ch 'i, a n d spirit (shen ) . In T'ai-ch i the
attention is on the l a s t of th ese . A ttent i o n not being on
' '

the ch 'i means it is not on the circulating ch 'i. " If it is on

the ch 'i , t h ere w i l l b e b l o c k s " m e a n s t h a t w h e n
circulating the ch 'i, if i t swe l l s u p i n one place, then i t will
be blocked and insensitive . To say that, "Those whose
attention is on the ch 'i have no power" mea n s that their
c h 'i is dead . I may feel t h a t I h a v e power, but my
opponent knows that I have none . To say that "Those
w h ose a t te n t ion is not on t h e c h 'i ach ieve essential
hard ness " means that without dead ch 'i they possess
soft strength . Wherever you d i rect the mind, power
arrives . When you make contact with an opponent it is
like thongs s trapped to his arm . Th us withou t using
strength, the opponent feels that our hands are as heavy
as Mount T'ai . By not using d irect power, marvelous
power ma n i fe s t s . Those w i t h o u t d ea d ch 'i a c h ieve
essential hardness .

1 14
Ch 'i is like a wheel and the waist like an axletree.
The feeling of the whole body is like a moving wheel .
The waist is the ruler of the whole body and rotates like
an axletree . S o all of the m ovements of our art are
controlled by the waist .

It is also said that if the opponent does not move,

you do not move. When the opponent makes the
slightest move, you move first.
When sparring with an opponent, d o not move, but
wait for the opponent to move, and then move first .

You r energy seems relaxed but is not relaxed,

about to expand but not yet expanded.
Even when energy is released, mental
continuity is main tained.
When one extends a hand to attack in T'ai-chi, we say
it is relaxed, but it is not relaxed . In extending the limbs,
never completely straighten the m . When practicing the
for m , t h e i d e a of c o n t i n u i ty applies to pre scribed
p o s t u r e s w h i c h are t h r e a d e d together in a series .
However, if we are talking about sparring and practical
a p p l ic a ti o n s , t h ere a re no presc ribed p o s t u res fo r
repelling an opponen t . Externally my posture may
appear to have an end point but my consciousness never
slacks for a mome n t .
When you break a lotus root in half, the fine strands of
fiber do not break . This comparison should make my
meaning clear . Master Yang often said, ' 'The energy is
released, but the menta l continuity is maintained; the
lotus root is broken, but the fibers are intact . "

1 15
The Method of Achieving
Perfect Clari ty in T'ai-chi

Using energy is not correct;

Not using strength is not correct .
To be soft but hard is correct .
Lea ning away is not correct;
Butting in is not correct .
Not lea ning away and not butting in
is correct .
Sticking is not correct;
Not sticking is not correct .
Being neither over-anxious
nor separating is correct .
Floating i s not correct;
Heaviness in not correc t .
Ligh tness, sensitivity, relaxation
and sinking are correct .
Bravery is not correct;
Timidity is not correct .
Strong courage and keen perception
are correct .
Striking people is not correct;
Not striking people is not correct .
Causing the opponen t t o mentally
surrender is correct .

1 16
Wang Tsu ng-yueh' s
Treatise on T'ai-chi ch'uan

Note : Pay attention to practice . The

commen tary is not just writing
for the sake of writing .

T'a i-clz i [ The G rea t Ulthna te] is bo rn of Wu -ch i

[The Infin ite] and is t lz e tno t h e r of yin a n d ya ng .
N on-action is Wu-chi; action is T'ai-chi . When the ch 'i
s tirs i n the void , T'ai-chi is born and divides into yin and
ya ng . Therefore, i n practicing T'ai-chi we must first
discuss yin and ya ng, for they embrace all phenomena .
From mutual production and mutual destruction comes
change . T'ai-chi is born of Wu-chi and is the mother of
yin and ya ng .

In 1not i on they sepa ra te; in stillness

t h ey become one.
When we practice T'ai-chi, as soon as the will moves, it
is projected into the four limbs . T'ai-chi gives birth to yin
and ya ng, t he four duograms, eight t rigrams and the
Palace of Nine . Th is is equ ivalen t to Ward-off, Roll-back,
Press, Push, Pull-dow n, Split, Elbow-stroke, Shoulder­
stroke, Adva nce , Retreat, Gaze-left, Look-right and
Central Equilibrium . When we are still , all reverts to
Wu-chi; the mind and spirit unite as one . The whole
body is completely empty and we become aware of the
sligh test touch .

Avoid bot h excess an d insufficiency; extend when

the opponen t ben ds and bend u'hen he extends .
Whether practicing the form or sparring, avoiding
excess and insufficiency is equally appl icable . Excess
means going too far and insufficiency mea ns not going
far e n o u g h . E x c e s s a n d i n s u ffic i e n cy are both
departures from the center . I f the opponent attacks, g ive

1 17
w a y by b e n d i n g . B e n d i n g m e a n s t o a rc h . I f t h e
opponent has not yet gone o n the attack a nd attem pts to
retreat, then I follow h im and extend . Extending means
to issue energy with the hands . Excess can be seen in the
error of butting and insufficiency in losing contact . The
inability to bend is belligerence; the inability to extend is
separation . Conscientiously remember the four words :
losing contact, butting, belligerence and separation . If
your art can be free of over-anxiousness and separation,
you will be able to perform marvels with your hands .

Th e opponen t is h a rd zo h i le I a m soft. Th is is
yiel d ing. I a m yield ing zoh i l e t h e opponen t is
resistant. Th is is a dh ering.
For example, if two people are spa rr ing and the other
person is h ard and direct, then I u se soft hands to cover
the opponent s . I fir mly cover his energy, like a beating

whip . It will be extremely diffic u l t for him to thro w me

off. My contact is like a rubber ba nd w h ic h binds up his
ability to release or expand . If he uses great force, I stick
to his wrist and shift my weight to the rear . At the same
time, without separa ting, I receive the incoming force
and turn the waist a half circle to neutralize it . I extend
my hand towards his left side, causing it to be power­
less . I am yielding w h ile he is resistant . By adhering to
the opponent I prevent him from escaping .
There is a n old story t h a t tells of a wild monk who
e x ce l l e d at u s i n g h e a d b u t t s . H e w a s about t o try
conclusions with a man w h o knew his repu taion as an
invincible ram-butter and was extremely intimidated .
Now this man noticed that the monk had freshly shaven
his head and suddenly though t of a plan . He went into
the house and got a wet washcloth . When the monk
attempted his bu tting tec h n ique, the ma n tossed the
washcloth over his head, a nd pulling down, he threw
t h e m o n k for a fa l l . Th i s i s t h e pri n c i p l e of t h e soft
overcoming the h ard .

1 18
Res p011d to s peed ll'itlt speed a 1 1d slow11ess
loith sloumess .
At pre s e n t m o s t o f m y fe l l o w T 'a i -c h i prac t i t i o ners
understand t he art of y i e l di n g bu t do n o t u n ders t a n d t h e
method o f q u i c k re sp o n s e I a m a fra id t hey wou l d fa re

bad ly agai ns t e x ternal s t y l i st s . " S peed " mea n s

q u ic k ne s s ; " sl o w ness " me a n s to be d e l iber a t e I f t h e

o pp o nen t a p proac h e s slow l y , I r esp o n d w it h y i e l d ing

a n d fo l l o w i n g . T h i s p r i n c i p l e is v e ry c l ea r . I f t h e
o pp onent c o m e s a t m e w i t h g re a t sp e e d , how c a n I use
yiel d i n g ? I n t h i s case , I m u s t res p o n d by u s i n g t h e
method of T'a i-ch i " i n tercept energy " a n d t h e p r i n c i p le
of " not l a te a n d not ea r l y . "I t is j u st like concea ling
t ro o ps in a mbush t o in t ercep t the enemy. What d o w e
mean by n o t late and not early?" When the opponent

has already l a u nched h is attack , b u t has not yet l a n ded I ,

i n terc e p t h i s a r m w i t h my h a n d be fore i t bec om es

straigh t . This will i m mediately deflect the attack . Th is is
how to repulse a frontal attack . Wit hout receiving the
true transmis s ion , ' ' responding to speed with speed ' ' is
impossible .

A l t h oug h t h e ch anges a re infi nite, t h e principles

remain t h e same.
When s p arring with opponents, whether push-hands
or free-ha nd , no m a tte r how we reckon it, the principle s
are : the great circle, the small circle, the half circle, the
marvel of yin and ya ng, ful l and empty in the feet, the
T ai c h i y i n -ya ng f i s h e s , a n d m a i n t a i n i ng vertica l .
' -

Though we flow un c e a si n gly through myri a d changes,

the priciples of T'ai-chi remain the s a me .

1 19
Fron1 1nastery of the post u res, you zui/1 g radually
awaken to in terpretinx energy . Frm n in terpreting
energy, you will a rrive a t spi ritual ilzsig ll t .
Hozuever, zoithou t long a rduous practice, you zuill
not suddenly make th is breakth rough .
" Postures " refers to t h e T'a i -c h i for m . A t prese n t m y
fe llow p ra c t i t i o n e rs see k o n l y to g ra s p i n t e r p re t i n g
e n e rg y bu t a re u n a b l e t o re p u l se o p po n e n ts . I n s tead ,

t h e y s h o u l d f i r s t l e a r n t h e p o s t u re s c o r r e c t l y a n d
p ra c t i c e t h e m u n t i l t h o r o u g h l y m a s t e r e d . T h e n
gra d u a l l y t h ey s h ou l d s t u d y i n terpre t i n g e n e rgy . T h e
anc i e n t s h a d a s a yi n g t h a t to i g n ore t h e root a n d tri m
t h e bra nc h e s w a s l i ke ra i s i n g a sq u a re i n c h o f wood
above the h ig he s t b u i l d i n g T h i s tee1 c h e s u s t h a t we

m u s t fi r s t d eve l o p t h e pos t u res a n d l a t e r l ea r n

i n te r p re t i n g e n e rg y . I t w i l l t h e n n o t be d i ffic u l t to
reach " spiri t u a l i n s i gh t . S p i ri t u a l i n s i g h t here refers to

m i r a c u l o u s m a r t i a l s k i l l ; " s u d d e n b re a k t h r o u g h "
mean s gr a s p ing the marvelous secrets of martial art . I f
you ca n circ u l a te the ch 'i th r o u g h the " n i ne-be n d s­
p ea r l, " t h en you will have mastered the p rinci p le s of
T'ai-chi . W i t hout l o n g p rac tice a nd fa m iliari t y how ca n

you hope to reach this level ?

Th ere is a l igh t a nd sensitive energy a t th e c roum

of the head; sink the ch 'i to the ta n -t 'ien; do not
lean or incline.
The " crow n o f the h ea d " re fe r s to t h e v e ry top .
Taoists call this poin t the n i-wa n [ "clay pil l " ] , or what is
ge nera l l y ca l l ed the t 'ie n - men [ " h e a v e n l y ga te " ) . I t
should feel empty a n d t h e head should b e held erect .
The spirit rises, bu t do not let the ch 'i reach the crow n .
After long practice, t h e eyes will be brigh t a n d one will
never suffer headaches . The ta n-t 'ien is loca ted a li ttle
more tha n an inch below the navel in the belly . Th is is
where all the i ntrinsic ch 'i in the body gathers . Whe n we

1 20
move, i t is s ue s from t h i s sou rce as from a sea of clt 'i and
circu l a tes thr o ugh o ut the four l i mbs . When ch 'i is ma d e
to revert to t he ta n - t 'icn , t he body and ch 'i do not " lean o r
in cl i ne ' Lea n i n g and inclining is like a porcelain jar full
. '

of water . If t he jar i s u p set , t h e water will s p i l l ou t . I f t he

ta n - t 'icn l eans or i n clines, then the cit 'i can not revert and
g ather The Bud dhists cal l t his me t h o d " ho l y rel ics"

(slze-li- tzu , the g em l ike re mai ns after crema tio n o f one


who has achieved Budd h a h o od ] and Taoists call it

" c u ltiv a ti ng the elixir" (lien - tan ) .
Pra c t i c i ng i n this way, one will become s t ron g a nd
viri l e . After long effort, the s i n e w s a n d bones will
appear soft o n t he outside with stren g th and substance
conce a l e d w i t h i n . W h e n t h e ch 'i i s s t rong, one is
i m pervious to the hundred ailments .

Su dd enly d isappear an d su dden ly appear. If the

opponen t pu ts pressu re on t h e left, become empty
on t h e left; if he puts pressu re on the righ t,
become empty on the righ t.
Disappearing m e a n s to concea l ; a p pe a ri n g
" " " "

mea n s to expose . The method of d i sa p pearin g a n d

appea r in g in spa r rin g is most subtle and difficul t to
fatho m When an opponent at t emp t s to attack me, I

withdraw and s uddenly disappear, " which p reven t s


him fro m being able to apply h is force . Now when he

pulls his hand back, I follow h i m a nd advance, suddenly
appearing . The opponent h as no idea if my p os t ure will
be high or low, or whether I will attack from above or
below . He will be helpless to with s tand my thru st .

Practicing T'ai-chi is like a small boat on a r ive r . When a

man s teps into it, i t leans to one side and seems to
sudde nly disappear, but when the man is aboard, it
rises again, sudde n ly reappearing It is also like the

transformations of the dragon which mounts on high

and then descends . When it comes down, it disappears

hv co n cl' .l l i n g i t sl'l f i n p h y s i c a l fo r m s . T h l' n i t a ga i n
rea p pL' a rs, soa r i n g i n t o t h e h e a v e n s , ri d i n g t h e d o u d s
a n d re v t•a l i n g i t s e l f . Th i s p r i n c i p l e e x p re s s e s t h e i d L'<l
t h a t T'cl i -c h i ca n ri se a n d i t c a n fa l l . " Di s a p p ea r i n g a n d
a p p e a r i n g " i s t h e t h e o r y o f s u d d l' n l y e x i s t i n g a n d
su dden l y not exi sti ng .
T h ose w h o a re h e a v y c a n n o t m oVL' . I s i t pos s i b l e n o t t o
m o v e w h e n s p a r r i n g w i t h o p p o n L• n t s ? T o t.• n ga g e i n
ma r t i a l a rt s , w e m u s t h a ve a c t i v e b( Kl i e s . O u r h a n d s a n d
f e e t m u s t b e n i m b l e ; o n l y t h e n c a n w e m t• e t a n
a d v e rsa ry . I f t h t• o p p o n e n t a t t a c ks m y l e f t s i d e , I i n c l i n e
s l i g h t l y , bl'conw e m p t y a n d g i v t.' h i m n ot h i n g to t a kL'
a d v a n ta g e o f . I f h e a t t a c ks m y r i g h t s i d e , I w i t h d ra w m y
r ig h t s h o u l d e r, g i v i n g h i s f i s t n o t h i n g t o l a n d o n . M y
bo d y i s n i m b l e a n d i m poss i b l e t o c a t c h . Th i s i s t h e i d ea
of beco m i n g e m p t y o n t h e l e f t , i f t h e l e f t i s a t t a c ke d ; a n d
v a n i s h i n g on t h L' r i g h t , i f t h e rig h t i s a t t ac ked .

Looking upzua rd, it see111s h igher a n d lz iglzer;

looki1 1g dozun zua rd, it see111s deeper a 1 1d deeper.
Adva nch zg, i t see1ns fu rth er and fu rth er;
ret rea ting, it seenzs s h o rter an d s h o rter.
" Looki n g u p w a rd " mea n s h i g h a n d " l oo k i n g
downward " mea n s low . If the opponent seeks to attack
from a high positio n , I become so tall he ca n not reach
me; if the opponent seeks to push me dow n, I descend
so low that he l oses h i s center of gravity . Sayi n g to
you rself, " looki n g upward it seems h igh e r a nd h igh er, ' '
look u p w i t h y o u r e y e s a n d i m a g i n e t h ro w i n g t h e
oppon e n t o n top o f t h e bu i l d i ng . S a y i n g , " l onk i n g
dow n w a rd , i t see m s deeper a n d deeper, " i m agine
beating the opponent i n to the earth .
There is a story concern ing Master Yang Pa n-hou . On
a summer day he was i n a field outside a small village (a
granary in nort h China) cool ing h i m se l f . All of a sudden
a man ap pea red , saluted, and asked the w hereabou ts of
Pa n - hou . He re pl ied that he was the sa me, w he n w i t h -

1 22
o u t ,,· ,u n i n g I h l' m .1 11 .l i i .K kL•d h i m v i o i L• n t l y w i t h t h ree
fi n gl' rs . P.1 n - h o u n o t il'l'd t h a t t h erl' \\\l S .1 grass h u t i n
t l w fiL• I d ,, b, •u t Sl' V l' ll tl'l'l h i g h , s u h L' m , • t iuned w i t h h i s
h .1 n d s.1 x i n g , " F r i l' n d , w h �· d o n ' t �· uu go u p t h e re ? "
W i t h t h .1 t , l w t h rl' w h i m u n t u p of t h e h u t . T h e n h e sa i d ,
Ple.l Sl' ronw d 0 \\' 11 , go h t Hlll' cl n d f i n d med i c a l trea t­

IH l' ll t . " A v i l l .l g l' r <l s kL· d h i m h o w l w w a s a b l e t o t h row

t lw m .1 n u n h • p o f t h l' h u t . H l' rl' s p o n d ed , " Look i n g u p
i t i s h i g h L' r .1 n d h i g h l' r , " b u t t h t.• v i l l a g l' r c o u l d n o t
rn m p rl' l w n d h i s nw.1 n i n g .
I n north China there w a s a man na m e d Lo Wan-tzu
who was a student of Pa n -h o u . A fter s t u dyi n g for a
n u m ber o f ye a rs , he w a n ted to test his art . Master
Pa n-hou asked him how h e w o u l d like to be thrown i n to
t h e s h a pe o f a s i l ve r i n g ot l i ke t h o s e o f t h e Y u a n

d y nasty . Wan l au g h e d a n d i n v i ted h i m t o t ry . T he y

en g a g ed, and he e n de d u p , j u st as Pa n-hou h ad said ,
w i t h b oth h a n d s a n d feet p o i n t i n g t(lwards t h e sky and
the r i g h t side of h i s hip facing d o w n , prec i s el y in th e
sha pe of a Yuan i n go t . A l t hough he was not l it e r al l y
thrown u nder the earth, he did suffer a hip dislocation .
He w a s cured, bu t to t hi s d a y he still has a bit of a limp .
Th is m a n is a fi n e m a r t i a l artist and is alive t o d a y . He
o f t en says, " Look down and i t is deeper an d deeper" is
i n deed a fea rful tec h n iq u e .

A feather can 11ot be added to the body 1 10 r

a fly aligh t.
After tra i n i n g for a long time you feel so se nsitive and
alert that you become aware of the s li g htes t touch . You
can not bear the t o u c h of eve n so m eth i ng as l ig h t as a
feather . Even a tiny fl y can not a l ig ht on my b o d y for it ,

w ou ld be like l a n d i n g on the inside of a finely glazed jar

w h ich was so slippery that the fly could n ot stand . I use
my neutralizi ng power to make the fly 's legs skid ou t
from u nde r i t . T h i s ca n tru ly be called the c ul mi n ati o n of
sk i l l in T'a i -ch i .

1 23
There is a story that tells how Pa n hou used to lie -

under the shade of a tree to rest during the summer

w hen he was train ing . Once a wind came up and blew
some leaves dow n , but not one of them could alight on
his body and they slid off to th e ground . He used to test
his skill by opening his shirt and lying down on his bed .
Then he wou ld take a pinch of m illet and place it on his
navel . We wou ld hear an e x haling sou nd and t he grains
would shoot ou t l ike pel lets from a crossbow striking the
ce i l i n g o f t h e t i l e d ro o f . P a n - h o u ' s a r t w a s t r u l y
supreme . My friends, strive ea r nes tly t o match it .

My opponent does not know me, b u t I know h i m .

Wh erever t h e h ero goes, h e is u n matc h ed . Th is is
t h e goa l to wh ich we aspire.
W h e n s p a rri n g w i t h o p p o n e n t s , w e d o not u s e
prescribed post u res, b u t make it im po s sible for them
to l ay a hand on us . We u se t h e great general , Chu
Ke-liang' s, military strategy of alternating offense a nd
defense, so that the enemy cannot predict our move­
ments . There is a proverb that goes, ' 'They cannot guess
what kind of medicine I am selling from my gourd . ' ' The
opponent does not know that I have mastered T'ai-chi ' s
tech nique of sizing u p a n oppone n t . I f one i s very
fa m i l i a r w i t h i n t e r p re t i n g e n e r g y , t h e n t h e h a n d
becomes mir aculo u sly sensitive . When the opponent
makes t h e sl igh test m ov e m e n t , I a n t ic i p a t e i t , a n d
fol lo w ing h i s hand employ deft skill t o attack a n d repel
him . If we have not yet closed , I use the method of sizing
up the opponent and visually ascertain his movement .
Sun Tzu ' s A rt of War (Su n Tzu ping-fa) states : " Know
yourself and know the enemv; a h u ndred battles, a
h u ndred v ictories . " " Where � er the hero goes h e is
u nmatched . This is the goal to which we aspire . "

1 24
The re a re 111a 11y other sch ools of ma rtial a rts.
A l th o ug h there a re differences in style, they do
1wt go beyond s t rength bullying zoeakness a nd
sloumess givin R ·way to speed, the st ro ng bea ting
the zoeak a n d s)ozv ha n ds yielding to fas t . All
of th is is na tive physical endo·wmen t a nd has
noth ing to do zvith zvh a t is acq u i red th rough
s erious s t udy .
Although there are nu merous schools in the martial
arts, and each has its own postures and applications, to
sum up, what they all have in common is an emphasis
on speed a n d strength . In this way, they are simply
workin g w i t h inherited ability and not the results of
s t u d y . T h ere a re m a n y fa m o u s men in the various
sc hools, but they c a n n o t approac h the subtlety a n d
marvelou sness o f T'ai-chi ' s principles .

If we exa m ine the concept of fou r ou nces repelling

a thousand pou nds, it is clea r that it is not bru te
force tha t preva ils .
The sages have taught us that to conquer with force
leaves the heart unconquered . When we learn the art of
wea k n e s s overcoming s trength , of slow ness over­
coming speed, and using skill to control an opponent,
then we truly conquer t h e 9pponent 's heart . Moreover,
we will have no regrets for our arduous study . Practicing
T'ai-chi ch' iia n enables us to attract the op p onent while
g iv i n g h i s b r u t e forc e no t h i ng to l a n d on . Even a
thousand pounds of force is useless . Only when we are
sensitive and lively can we demonstrate the marvel of
giving an opponent nothing to land on . When we are
able to attract an opponent and give his force nothing to
land on, then we will possess the marvel of four ounces
repelling a thousand pounds .
Many years ago there was a story about a wealthy
old man who lived west of Peking and whose estate w a s

1 25
a s b i g a s a c i t y . Pe o p l e c a l l e d i t " C h a n g ' s l i t t l e
prefecture . ' ' Chang loved the martial arts and kept more
t h a n t h i rt y boxers as bod ygu a rd s i n h is h ou se . He
himself by nature was also eager to study . He h eard that
t h e re was a fa mous ma n i n Kuang-p'in g Pre fe c t u re
n a m e d Y a n g L u - c h 'a n a n d b e g g e d a f r i e n d , W u
Lu-ch'ing, t o g o t o h i m a n d extend a n invitation . When
Yang a rrived , C h a ng noticed he was very t h i n a n d
barely five feet tall . H i s a ppeara nce w a s h o nest and
ge n e r o u s a n d h i s c l o t h e s w e re very p l a i n . C h a n g
greeted hi m with li ttle ceremony a n d the banquet in his
honor was far from su mptuous . Master Yang u nder­
stood a l l this and a te a n d drank by h i m self without
p a y i n g a t t e n t i o n to a n y t h i n g . C h a n g w a s v e r y
displeased a n d said, " I have often heard my boxers
men tion your grea t name . Can T'ai-chi really be used to
d e fe a t a n o p p o n e n t ? L u -c h 'a n k n e w t h a t m o d e s ty
would not do, so he said , "There a re t h ree kinds of men
who cannot be beaten . " Chang a sked what he meant by
these thre e kinds, and Yang replied, ' ' T hose cast of
bronze, t h ose p o u n d e d of iron, a n d th ose made of
wood . These three are difficult to beat, but everyone else
is no problem . " Chang said, "I have thirty men in my
keep and Maste r Liu is first among them . He is so strong
he can lift five h u ndred p o u n ds . Would you like to play
with him?" Yang said there would be no harm in tryi ng .
Liu came a t him with the fury of Mount T'ai and his fists
made a whizzing sound . As he appro a ched , Yang used
his right hand to neutralize and his left to pat him . The
man was throw n for three yards . Chang rubbed his fist
and sai d, " You, Sir, are posse ssed of a miracu lous art . "
With that he ordered his cooks to start fresh and prepare
a fu l l ba nquet o f M a n c h u a nd C h i n e s e d ish e s . He
respected him from that poi nt as his own teacher . Liu
was as strong as a bull, but without skill, how could he
co m p ete? From this we can see the results of applying
" clearly it is not force that prevai ls . "

1 26
When we see an old man successfully defending
himself aga in st a large number of men, what has
th is to do with speed?
An ' ' old man' ' may be considered one in his seventies
or eigh t ies . Being able to ' ' successfully defend himself
against a l ar ge number of men " indicates that he has
pra c ti c ed T'ai -chi ch'uan . Without practicing it is difficult
for even a man in his p rime to defeat one or two men . If
one continues to p ract i ce from the very first day of study
until old age, one ' s sinews and bones will remain strong
and the ch 'i and blood full and abundant . Thus a man of
seventy or eighty can defeat a whole crowd . Like ol d
G eneral Huang Chung, who at the battle of T ing-ch ii n
Mountain said , ' 'The man may be old but the horse is
not; the horse may be old but the sword is not . " His
words are very s t ro n g . Those who practice T'ai-chi
ch'iian may become old in years but their sp irit is young
and they can defeat many men . This is the basic idea .
There is an old story about M aster Yang Chien-hou .
One day right after a rain storm there was a narrow path
just wide enough for one person to get through all the
m u d in the courtyard . A student named Chao was
standing on the path looking up at the sky without
realizing that the old Master had come out of the house
and was walking up behind him . Chien - hou wanted to
p lay a j oke , so he put out his right hand and lightly
pres sed on Chao' s right shoulder. Chao felt as if a great
roofbea m h a d been l o wered on h i m and his body
collapsed to the side of the path . The old Master laughed
but said nothing and went on his way .
Another d a y Chien-hou was standing in the
courtyard speaking t o a group of students when he
decided to have some fun with them . Some eight or nine
s t u d e n t s were pre s s i ng arou nd h i m w h e n the old
Mas ter t u rned h is body a few times and the whole
crowd was thrown helter skelter, some for more than

ten feet a n d some for eigh t or n i ne . The old m a n was
cl ose to eig h ty a t t h e time . So to say t h a t ' ' a n o l d m a n ca n
successfu l ly defe n d h i m self a g a i n s t a l a rge n u mber" is
n o t h y perbo l e . Th e w o r d " s peed " i n t h e s e n t e n c e ,
' ' Wh a t h a s t h is to do w i t h speed ' ' refers to c h aotic s peed
w h ic h is simply w i l d and con fused . Wild a n d con fu sed
speed is u sel ess. To be w i t h o u t speed is not good , but
speed o n l y becomes u sefu l with s k il l .

Stan d l ike a sensitive ba lance;

move acti vely l ike a zoheel .
To " st a n d like a se nsit ive ba l a nce " m ea n s t o s t an d
erect a n d w i t h o u t l e a n i n g O n l y t h e n ca n y o u con t rol

the eight d i rec t i o n s , w h ic h c o r r e s p o n d t o the e i g h t

trigrams of t h e I ch ing, o r the four sides and four corners
of t he squ a re . To " move actively l i ke a wheel " refers to
the c o n t i n u o u s circ u l a t i o n of t h e ch 'i. The a ncients said,
" Fi n d the center of the circ l e and y o u c a n r e s pon d to any
situation . " T h e w a i s t is l ike a n axletree and the four
l i m b s l ike a wheel . If the waist ca n not act l ike a n axletree
then the l imbs c a n n o t revolve around it. If you want t o
m a k e t h e a x l e rot a t e , i t s h ou l d be w e l l l u bri ca ted .
Colleagues who carefu lly consider this w ill grasp it for
themselves . There is no need to belabor it .

If you keep you r weig h t on one side you Ivill be

able to foll ozv; if you a re doubl e-uJeig h ted you
zvil l be cl unzsy.
I n the commentary above, we u sed the metaphor of
the wheel . If y ou use one foot to push down on a wheel it
will naturally fol l ow the wheel a rou nd . Double-weight­
edness would be like using the right foot to press on the
right side and the left leg on the left side . If the two
pressures are eq ual, n atu r al l y it will be blocked a n d
un abl e t o rotate . T h i s pri nciple i s very obv ious a n d
requires n o fu rther elaboration .

1 28
We oftell sec people wh o haPe faitlzfu l l v s t udied
t h is a rt for se'l.'e ral yea rs bu t ca n not m.;u t ralize a n
attack a 11d nws t o{te11 a rc bes ted btl a n opponen t .
Th is is shnpltf beca use thctJ haPe ;wt vet co rrected
tlze e rro r of d(Ju blc-1uei�h ti'ng .

Fri e n ds, yo u c a n g ai n a g re at deal from a very simple

expl a n a t ion . Let us consider, for exa m p le , a few pe o ple
w h o h a v e pr a ctice d T'ai-c h i e v ery d a y for five or six
years, bu t w h o a re a l w ays bested in c o m peti t ion . A
colleague asked , ' ' You have stud i ed fa ithfully for five or
six years, but w hy a re you still not successful? Please
demonstrate the Thirteen Postures so I c an see . " What
we see in his form is " horse stances, " clenched fists, a
fierce cou ntena nce, and gri tted teeth . He has as m uch
st rength as an ox but h is ch 'i is nowhere to be seen . This
is the result of practicing d o uble-weighted . A colleague
l a u g h e d a n d s a i d , " You, Sir, have s i m p ly fa iled to
understand the error of doubl e - weighted ness . I I A noth ­
er man said , " I have been practicing without using force
for five or six years, but why is it that I canno t even
knock over a ten year old kid ? " The colleague asked him
to demonstra te the Thirteen Postures and noticed that
indeed he use d no force at all . However, he was floating
like goose down and didn ' t dare to extend his hands or
feet . He w a s even afraid to open his eyes wide . The
colleague laug hed and said, " You , Sir, are guilty of the
e rror of ' d ouble -fl oating . ' Double-weightedness is an
error and double-floating is also an error . E ve ry one I I

laughed a nd asked, " How ca n we discover the true

meth od of practice? "

You m ust seek to avoid t h is error.

T h e e r rors of d o u b l e - we i gh ted ness a n d double­
floating must be a v oided . Now th i s is quite easy to
acc o m p l i s h . W i t h t h is m a n u a l , i t is not difficult to
understand . First read the training methods in this book

t h rough once . The pr i nc ip les a re m a n y a n d cannot be
com preh e n ded i n o n e read i n g . Fro m t h en on you can
pract ice for ten d a ys a n d read t h i s book for one . Little by
l i t t le t h e be n e f i t s of t h i s boo k w i l l m a ke t h e m se l v e s
k n o w n . I f y o u h a v e d i ff i c u l t y u n d e r s t a n d i n g a n y
p a ssage you c a n a s k a q u a l ified teac h e r .

You m ust know yin an d yang. To a dh ere

is to yiel d ; to y ield is to a d h ere. Yin never
leaves yang an d yang never l eaves yin . Wh en
y i n an d yang compl emen t each ot h er, th is is
interpreting energy.
Yi u a n d ya ug a re e m p ty a n d f u l l . To s u m m a rize,
ad here , con nec t , y i e l d t o n e u t ral ize a n d
i n te rpre t t h e
opp o n e n t s i n co m i ng e nergy . Th i s has been thoroughly

ex p la i n ed above a n d n eed not be re p e at ed .

After lea rn ing to in terpret energy, the nzore you

pract ice t h e 1nore you r skill a d vances . Sil en tly
nzemorize an d thorough ly pon d er. Litt l e by l itt l e
you w i ll reac h the stage ·where the body wil l
au tomat ica l ly fol l ozv t h e min d .
T h e a b i l i ty to i n te r p r e t a n o p p o n e n t ' s i n c o m i n g
energy plus daily practice refer t o the process o f training
a n d m a s tery ov e r a l o n g p e r i o d . To " t h oro u g h l y
ponder' ' mea ns to seek insig h t into the practical applica­
tions taught by the teacher . When t hese have become
com p l e t e l y fa m i l ia r, s i m p l y p u t ou t t h e h a nd s a nd
w h a tever the m i n d conce ives w i l l be acco m p l ished .
Then y ou w i l l h a v e re a c h e d t h e s t a g e of t h e bod y
au toma tically fol lowing the mind .

Th e root of al l is to g i ve up you rself

an d fol l ozo ot h ers .
When sparring with opponents, you know that you
must follow the other person ' s movements a n d not

move i n d e pe n d e n t l y . M y teac h e r , Yang Ch 'eng-fu often
sa i d t h a t t o m ov e on o n e ' s ow n was c l u m s y , b u t to
fol l o w a n o t h e r w a s n i m b l e If v o u can f o l l o w a n o t her ,

y o u c a n a cq u i re t h e m a rv e l o u s a b i l i t y t o n e u t ra l i z e
e n ergy . I f you fol low o t h e r s , you ca n n o t go off i n d e ­
pe n d e n t l y . O n l y '"' h e n y o u cl re able t o fol i o\\' oth ers can
you be i n d e p e n d e n t . Th i s p r i n c i p l e is e x t r e m e l y rea l a n d
e x t re m e l y s u bt l e .

Mos t people 111ake the 111 is take of sco rn ing wha t is

nea r a n d pu rs u i 11s 1 vl z a t is fa r. Til e sligh tes t
erro r ·will take you a t ho u sa n d m iles off cou rse .
S t u den ts 1 1 1 u s t {i11ely discri m i 1 1a te; /zel l(·e the
reaso 1 1 fo r th is t rea tise.
I n s p a r r i n g w i t h o p p o n e n t s , m os t p e o p l e n e g l ec t
w h a t i s near i n favor of w h a t is distant . Usin g s t i l l ness to
w a i t for m ov e m e n t a n d striking w he n the o p port u n i t y
a ri s e s i s based o n t h e i d ea of t h e n ea r . M o v ing u p a n d
d o w n l oo k i n g for a p l ace to a t tack is based o n the idea o f
t h e fa r . S k i l l i n T'a i -ch i is a m a t t e r of i nc h es a t t h e most
a n d m i l l i meters at t h e l ea s t T h e re fore t h e r e i s
. no room

for e rror . A n error of o n e m i l l i meter i s l i ke m issi ng t he

mark by a t h o u s a nd m i l es . Fe l l ow T'a i-c h i p la yers m u s t
p a y spe c i a l a tt e n t i o n t o t h i s .

T h e a b o v e a r e t h e t e a c h i n g s o n T 'a i - c h i c h ' i.i tl n

t r a n s mi t t ed by W a n g Ts u ng-yii e h .

A Critical Note

Some people daim tha t teachers, whether academic

or martial, always hold someth ing back in transmitting
their knowledge . I am of a different opinion . Both in the
academic field and the martial arts, regardless if one is
teaching friends or students, there are two th ings to
consider . A longtime friend will develop great respect
and a student will remember his master for a hundred
years . So it would be completely unn atur a l for a teacher
not to give his u tmost to h is students . It is j u s t that
students of the martial arts tend to be se l f-ri g h t e o u s and
often aba ndon their studies in mid-course . To say then
that the teacher is unwilling to share his secrets or is
holding something back is a very pec ulia r the o ry In .

reality, the essence of T'ai-chi is not fou n d i n the externa l

postures, but rather in the internal p ri ncip l e s energy

and ch 'i. Only when one has grasped the p rinc i ples and
tho ro ug h l y apprehended a n d a s s i m i l a t e d them c a n
one' s art be c o m ple te.

The Eight Gates and Five Steps

Po s ition s Eight Ga tes

Wa r d-off (so u t h) K'an
Roll-back (west) Li
Press (east) Tui
Push ( north) Ch en
Pull-down ( no rt h we s t ) Hsu n
Split (southeast) Ch 'ien
Elbow-stroke ( northeast) K'un
Shoulder-stroke (southwest) Ken

The positions and gates represent the principle of yin
and yang reversing positions . They move around and
around in continuous cycle . It is indispensable to under­
stand the four sides of the square and four corners .
Ward-off, Roll-back, Press and Push are the four side
techniques; Pull-down, Split, Elbo w -str o ke and Shoul­
de r-st roke are the four corner techniques . Combining
the corner and side techniques, we get the trigrams of
the gates and positions . The steps correspond to the Five
Elements and give us control of the eight directions . The
Five Elements are Advance (fire), Retreat (water), Gaze­
left (wood), Look-righ t (metal) and Central Equilibriu m
(ea rth) . Advance and Retreat belong to fire; Gaze-left
and Look-right belong to wood and metal . Central Equi­
librium acts as the pivot point . It contains the eight
trigrams for the feet and the Five Elements for the hands
a n d steps . The nu mber is eigh t plus five . Th irteen
derives from nature . Hence the Thirteen Postures are
called the Eight Gates and Five Steps .

How To Work on the

Ei g ht Gates and Five Steps

The eight trigra ms and Five Elements are a p art of

man ' s natural endowment . We must first understand
the basis of work : conscious m ovement . O n ly after
grasping conscious movement are we able to interp ret
energy, a n d only after in t erp reting energy can we reach
the level of s p iritual insigh t . Thus the first stage of our
work is u n dersta nding conscious movement, which
al t hough it is a natu ral endowment is e x tremely difficult
for us to acq u i re .

1 33
The Above and Below in T'ai-chi
May be Cal led Heaven and Earth

The " four techniques, " above and below ,

divide into Heaven and earth .
Pull-down, Split, Elbow-stroke and Shoulder­
stroke each have their origin and object .
Pull-down being Heaven and Shoulder-stroke
earth, they mutually respond to each other .
Why should we care if above and below
do not complement each other?
If Split and Elbow-stroke are practiced
too far apart,
One will lose the rela tion of Ch 'ien [Heave n ] ,
a n d K'u n [earth ] and w ill lament it forever .
Th is theory explains the planes of
Heaven and earth .
When advancing u se Elbow-stroke and Split,
with the arms in the shape of the c haracter
for man [ i . e . , bent ] .

Explanation o f E ight, Five,

the Thirteen Po�tures and Long Boxing

I n the training process, after one masters the i ndividu­

al postures, they s h ould be connected i n a flowing and
con tinuous series . This is why it is called Lon g Boxing .
H owever, if one does not acquire the ability to direct
energy, there is the possibility of fall i ng into a " slippery
sty le" or perhaps a " h a rd style . " Therefore, absolu tely
ma intain softness, unity of the whole body and spirit,
mind a nd clz 'i as the root . After a long time you will
na tura l ly ach ieve mastery and reach any goal you set ou t
for . Wha t resista nce c a n sta nd up to us?
When s pa rring w i t h opponents, there a re four words
of pri m a ry i m p o rta nce a nd these derive from the Eight

Gil tes a n d Five Steps . With fou r standing hand tech -

1 34
niques, the h a nds move like roll i n g millstones . Then
there are t h e fo ur t ec h n i q u e s for A d v a n c e and Ret rea t ,
for C en t ra l E q ui l i b r iu m , for h i gh a n d low , for t he tech­
niques o f H e a v e n , e a r t h and m a n w h i c h r i se from
bottom to top, and t h e fo u r tec h n iques of Long Boxin g .
Begin w i t h l arge a n d ope n post ures and work up to
small con1pact postures . W h e n y ou r e x t e n s i o n s a n d
con tractions a r e completely free , then y o u will re a c h the
intermediate and advanced l e v e l s of skil l . A l t hough
soft , you wi l l possess strength .

An E xplanation of the Reversa l

of Yin and Yang i n T'ai-chi

Yang is the trigram Ch 'ien, Heaven, the su n , fire, the

t r i g r a m L i, re l e a s i n g , goi n g o u t , i s s u i n g , fa c i n g ,
opening, a subordinate, flesh , application, materiality,
the body, and martial arts . (All of the above has to do
with establishing life) . Yin is the trigram K 'un, earth,
water, moon, the trigram K'a n, curling, entering, gather­
ing, waiting, combi n i ng, the ru ler, bones, essence,
principle, mind a nd civil pursuits. (AII of the above has to
do with fu l f illing one ' s nature) . Inhaling and ret rea tin g
represent the principle of the reversal of yin a n d yang .
If we examine the two words, water and fire, we will
u nderstand more clearly . Fire ' s flames tend to rise while
water seeks the lowest level . If, however, we put fire
under water, then their positions have been reversed .
However, if we do not use some method to regulate
t h e m , t h e n t h e re w i l l be n o success . Now, i f, for
example, we place the wa ter in a pot and place this over
the fire, then the water inside will be heated by the fire.
Thus, not only will the water not sink down, bu t it will
b o r r o w w a r m t h from t h e fire . A t t h e sa me t i m e ,
although t h e flames o f the fire rise, being covered by the
pot which sets a limit, it is prevented from burning out of
control and the water is kept from co n ti n u ally seeping

1 35
awa y . Th is is ca l led t h e principle of water a n d fire
complementing each other, or the pri n ciple of reversal .
If we allow the fire to rise and the water to sink, the two
will separa te . This is why we seek to put them into a
complementary relati o nsh ip . Th is, then, is the principle
of separating into two and recombining into one . There­
fore it is said, ' ' from one to two and from two to one . ' '
Summarizing this principle is the concept o f three : or
Heaven, earth a n d ma n . If one can u n d erstand the
principle of the reversal of yin and yan�, then we ca n
begin to discuss the tao. When one understands the tao
and can maintain this without la pse , then we can begin
to discuss man . When one can magnify the tao by means
of ma n, and know tha t the tao is not apart from man,
then we can begin to discuss the un ity of Heaven and
earth . Heaven is above and earth below; man occupies
the center . If one can explore the Heavens and examine
the earth, unite with the brightness of the sun and the
moon, be one with the five sacred mou ntains, the four
great rivers, prime and decline, and the alternation of
the four seasons, participate in the flowering and the
withering of the trees and grasses, fathom the fortunes
of ghosts and gods, and understand the rise and fal l of
human events then we can speak of Ch 'ien and K'un as

the ma c ro c osmic Heaven and earth and man as the

microcosmic Heaven and earth .
Extend your knowledge and investigate the world
through the wisdom and abilities of Heaven and earth .
This, then, may be called man ' s innate wisdom and
skill . If one ' s thoughts never depart from the truth, they
will have a powerfu l effect . If one's great ch'i is properly
nourished and not damaged, it will endure forever . This
is what we mean by the body of m a n comprising a
Heaven and earth in miniature . Heaven is one ' s nature
and earth one ' s life . The light and sensitive in man is his
spirit . If the spirit is not pure, how can one fulfill the role
of th ird partner along with Heaven and earth? What is

1 36
the meaning of existence if o n e does not fulfill one ' s
n a t u re , c u l t i v a te l i f e , ex pa nd t h e s p i r i t , and evolve

Sizing U p an Opponent

When squari ng off with an o p po nen t , first observe

whether his p hy sique is great or small . If it is great, then
he must have c o n s ider ab le bru te strength, and I should
respond with superior s k ill . I f he is of s li g ht build, then
he will be skillful, and I must attack with power . I n this
way, I overcome the weak with strength and the mighty
with cleverness . Rega r d less of size, if my opponent
adopts high postures, then I must make use of low pos­
tures; if he a dop t s low postures, then I ma ke use of hi g h
ones . This is the method of high and low, yin an d ya11g.
I n observing a n opponent ' s movements, I first take
note of his eyes and secondly his body and hands . If an
opponent seeks to strike with t he fi st , I fir st observe his
shoulders or his drawback . If the o p po nen t attempts a
kick, his b o dy w i l l first i n c l i ne, t h u s indi c a t i n g his
i n t e n t i on s . S ee i n g t h is in a d vance, h ow can I f a il to
pr ev ai l ? If the o p pone n t ap p r oa ches with a f r iendly
cou ntenance, I neutralize him with softness, but if he
sp rin gs at m e with an angry look, this indicates his evil
i nten tions and I use a ll my s t rength to strike him . In this
way, I a m simply re tur ni n g in kind what he has given
me . Practitioners of T'ai-ch i ch 'iia n are courteous at first
and only agg re s s i ve if p ressed .
I n s p a rr i n g we fi nd t h a t o p po nent s va r y g r e a tly
accordingly t o speed . I f my o p ponent 's h a nd s are slow,
I m u s t stick, join, adhere and follow . If my opp o n en t s '

hands are fa s t and he strikes wildly, then I must keep my

mind cal m , my courage s t ro ng and observe his final

blow as it a pp roache s Concentrating on one place, I


neu t ral i z e to the left and right and retu r n the strike .
There is a saying tha t "only a sensitive hand c an walk a

1 37
goa t on a tet her . " Th is is the pri nciple in T'ai-ch i ch 'iian
o f re s po n d i n g to s peed w i t h speed a n d fol l o w i n g
slow ness with slow ness .
There is more t h a n one method for spa rring with
opponents . If my opponent has not yet come within
close range, I first make contact with the hands while
advancing with the feet . I neu tral ize and stick, stick
and neutra l ize . I f the oppone n t is ski l l ful in esca pi ng, I
dare not pursu e h i m , but adopt one of the Thirteen
Postures and wait . I do not chase h im when he escapes,
bu t am like a tiger lying in ambush for the deer . When an
opponent ' s movements a re i rregu l a r a n d u n pred ict­
able, I remain at the very center of the Great Ul ti ma t e . I
emphasize still ness a n d stabil ity w h ile my opponent
emph asizes movement a n d a n xiousness . The fi re of
anxiousness fla res up and knows no forebeara nce, but I
attack with com plete com posure . Th is is a n example of
mu tual prod uction and destruction . I have no difficulty
in penetrating my opponen t ' s inner defense . Thu s the
G rea t Ultimate gives birth to yin and ya ng, the four
duograms and e ig ht t ri g r a m s . This is fixed and eternal .

Introduction to the History of the

Transmission of t he T'ai-chi Spear

The Immortal, Master Chang San-feng, was practic­

i n g the Taoist arts in the Wutang Mountains . When at
rest he meditated, training his spirit and returning to the
Original Source; when active he roamed a mong the
Three Mou ntains and Five Peaks . Every morning the
Immortal repaired to a secluded spot at the top of the
mou ntain where he gleaned the finest elements a nd
subtle ch 'i of Heaven and earth and circulated them with
breathing exercises .
One day the Immortal suddenly saw a burst of golden
light where the clouds meet the mist shrouded peaks . A
thousand rays of marvelous ch 'i spun and danced in the

Grea t Void . The I m m ortal h u rried to the s p ot but saw
n o t h i n g . He s e a rc h e d w h e r e t h e g o l d e n l i g h t h a d
touched dow n a n d fou n d a mountain stream and cave .
A pp roach ing the mou t h o f the cave , two golden snakes
wit h fla s h i n g eyes e merged . T h e I m mort al swis h e d h is
du s ter and the gol den l ig h t came dow n . He gazed u p on
it and real ized t h a t i t was two long s p ears a bout seven
feet five inches . T h ey seemed to be made of ra ttan, but
were not rat t a n ; seeme d of w ood , bu t were not of wood .
T h eir q uality w a s suc h t h at sw ord s could not h arm them
a n d t h ey cou l d b e soft or h a r d a t w i l l . A rare g low
ema nated from within, a n d lookin g dee p er, h e found a
book . I t s t i t l e w a s T'a i -cl z i S t ick-A d l t e re Spea r a n d i t s
destiny w a s to b e t ra n s m itted to t h e worl d . H e g rasped
the p rinci p les in t h e book and a n a l y zed all of its marvels .
All of the w ord s i n t h e book were w ritten i n the form of
p oem s and songs . Today we cannot understand all the
p rinci p les a n d m a rvels of the s p ear, bu t Master Chang
extracted the essence of every word a n d transformed
t h em into a series of p ostures . All men can now stud y
a n d learn this art .

An Exposition of the Martial,

Civil and Three Levels of T'ai-chi

In speaking of t h e tao, there is now here to begin but

from cul t ivation of t h e self . T h e met h od of self-cult iva­
tion may be d ivi d ed into three teachings . Each teac h in g
represen t s a level of att ainment . The h i g hest level is
great attainment , the lowest level is small at tainment
and the mi d dle level is that of sincerity . There are t h ree
levels of att ainment , but the accomplishment is one .
Th e c i v i l i s c u l t i v a t e d i n t e r n a l l y a n d t h e m a r t i a l
externally . Physical culture i s internal and martial arts
are external . When one ' s cultivation of the internal and
the external resul ts in superior accomplishments, t h is is
the h ighest level of attainment . If one attains martial art

1 39
through the civil aspect of ph ysical culture or the civil
aspect of p hysical cu l t u re t h rough the martial arts, this is
the midd le level of at ta inme n t . The lowest level , then, is
knowing physical cultu re w i t h out the martial aspect or
practicing only martial arts wi thout physical culture .

A Story of Master Yang Lu-ch'an

After Master Yang Lu-ch 'an had received the secret

transmission, h is nature was tranquil and his character
loyal and generous . When his family had a bit extra, he
would give generou sly to frie n d s . One day a certain
friend asked to borrow a h u ndred dollars to help him get
by, saying he would return it next year . Master Lu-ch'a n
del ibera t e l y j oked w i t h h i m s a y i n g , " Si nc e y o u ' re
borrowing this money, can you do me a favor? Grab the
end of my spear and I will catapult you to the rooftop . If
you do not land squarely on your feet, the loan is void . ' '
The man agreed . Master Yang then u sed his mind to
mobilize his ch 'i, and with one fl i ng, the man landed on
the rooftop . He was d umbfou nded and stood there like
a wooden man with his body bent forward . The Master
laughed and fetched a ladder . When the man came
down, he said that he was truly amazed . The Master
laughed and said that it was j ust a game and gave the
man a hundred dollars . The m a n departed well pleased
with the outcome .

A Story of Imperial Tutor Yan g Ch'ien-hou

Some time ago in Sian there was a prominent official

na med Chi Ssu w h o was very fond of the martial arts
and eager to study . He heard that Master Yang had
received the secret transmission of Wutang, so he trav­
eled to the capital a nd i nvi ted the Master to stay in
his home . Within a little more than a month he was
introduced to hand tech niques and spear and sword
application s . Master often discussed the principle of the

1 40
su periority of stillness and softness with him . As a result
M aster ' s fame spread further than ever .
I n Shensi there was a man named Great Sword Wang
w hose nickname was Bravo of the Red Inn . He could lift
five hundred pounds and cover three hundred miles in
one day . He excelled at the broadsword and loved the
great spear . He was the foremost martial artist in Shensi
and had more than five hundred students . When he
heard Chi speak of Master Yang, he was skeptical and
went to challenge him to a contest . Master, however,
declined saying, ' ' Master Wang, you have trained dili­
gently for a long time . I am afraid I am not your equal . "
Wang took Master as a coward and pressed him saying,
"I have heard of T'ai-chi ch'iian for a long time, but I
wonder if T'ai-chi spear can be put to practical u s e? "

Master felt he had no choice, so smiling he nodded his

asse n t , fetched h is spear and entered the courtyard .
Wang lunged at Master's chest, but he turned his body
and rolled back . Wang pinned his spear and beg an to
a p p l y pressure, but Master remained empty . When
Wang drew back his spear and was going in for the kill,
Master took advantage of his incoming energy and used
t h e " sc o o p i n g " tec h n i q u e to s t u n h i m . W i th o u t
kn o w i n g w h a t h a p pe n e d Wang ' s spear w e n t up as

straight a s a n incense s t ick a nd he wounded h imself in

th e face . He l a n d ed face up abou t six or seven paces
a w a y . Rising, he a p ologized s ayin g, " From now on I
w i l l respect your miraculous power . " He completely

aba n d o n ed h i s o w n m e t h o d s a n d fo l l owed M a s ter

Ya n g He stud ied for a l ong t i m e very conscien tiously .

Having me t h is su perior, he was able to study without

j e a l o u sy , a nd w a s not a s h a m e d to be h u m b l e th o ugh he
h a d a g re a t r e p u t a t i o n h i ms elf .


There was a man w ho wanted to study the martial arts

and asked which were better, the internal or external
schools . I answered that all of the systems handed down
by the a ncient masters were good, and it was simply a
question of receiving a true transmission or not . He
asked again saying, " Wh ich is better, the Wutang or
Shaolin school ? " I answered that if he wanted to learn
Wutang, then he should study T'ai chi, and if he wanted
to study Shaolin , he should study Shaolin . Everyone
should follow their own inclination .
There was a man who wanted to know how many
years it took to learn T'ai-chi ch'iian . I said, " My friend,
when it comes to the martial arts, one cannot speak in
terms of years . A teacher may use the same methods to
transmit his k nowledge, but each s tuden t ' s capacity is
different . Some learn in a year or two; some master it in
just three to five months . There are also those who fail
to understand it after ten or twenty years . Excellence in
this art is not a matter of physical stature or age, but
exc l u sively t h e i n d i v i d u a l ' s i n telligence . I h a ve
studied this art for fifteen years, but often feel the need
to a ppeal to teachers .

The Secret of Martial Arts Study

Respect the art and respect the teacher,

And you will naturally receive the
true transmission .
Slight the art and slight the tea c her,
And you might as well not waste your time .

A Story of Yan g Lu-ch'a n

When Ma ster Lu -ch 'a n w a s in the c,1 p i tal , there was a

box er a d e p t a t u s i n g pressu re p o i n t s , w h o heard of
Mas ter and wanted to cha l lenge h i m . When he tested
h is ski l l , Master Lu-ch'a n quick l y cau g h t his w rist and
u sed t h e " s i n ew - se i z i n g " tec h n i q u e . The o p pone n t
w as u n a b l e t o exten d h is f ingers . M aster fo ll owed t h is
u p by lifting t he o pp o n e n t ' s foot off t h e g rou nd . Master
then said to him, " Don ' t b e ashame d of y our abi l it y .
Rem e mb er your many y ears of h ard pract ice . Were it n o t
for this , you w o u l d have b e e n seriou s l y i n j u r e d . "
Master thus earned his deepest r es pe ct .

L a t e M a s t e r W a n g T s u n g - y ii e h s p r e a d h i s a r t
t h ro u g h o u t e a s t e r n C h e k i a ng a n d H o n a n , bu t
Chekiang very early lost it . From C h 'e n -c h ia - k o u in
Honan it was passed to Yang Lu-c h 'a n . After fifty y ears
and several generations, the majority of T'ai-chi ch'uan
practitioners are Yang stylists . It may be asked whether
the Yang famil y maintained a compl ete m o n o p ol y in
Yung-nien Count y ? Although there are some other
good prac t i tioners , t h ey were a mong the ten odd
st udents of Yang Pan-hou . Therefore among practition­
ers of T'ai-chi ch 'iian there are none who were not
helped by Yang masters .

Some sa y that T'ai-chi ch'iian is of no practical use .

Peking was formerly a magnet for all the martial heroes
of China . Everyone called Master Yang Pan-hou, ' ' Yang
the Unbeatable . ' ' If you say you cannot throw someone
with T'ai-chi, it is simply because your skill has not
matured . Don' t say that T'ai-chi is of no practical use.
Don' t be afraid of someone, even if they are as strong as
a bull . If inte rnal power c a n not overcome s t rong

opponen ts, why bother to study martial arts? When a
thousand pou nds la nds on nothing it is useless .

Tung Ying-ch ie h ' s Secret Met h od

To use T'ai-chi you must know the time of day, the

terrain, and human h armony .
The method relating to the time of day means that
when squaring off with an opponent, do not face east in
the morning, do not face south duri ng midday, and do
not face west in the evening . Th is is because one should
avoid facing the sun .
The method relating to the terrain means that w hen
squaring off with an opponent, first survey the lay of t he
land as to its spaciousness and elevation . I t is most
advantageous to occupy the lower ground .
The method of human harmony means t h at, although
you are involved in a contest , you should be polite and
not lose your d i gnity .

Today the re are many styles of T'ai-chi ch' iian, and it is

difficult for students to distingu i sh the good from the
bad . Let me respectfully recommend a method . Regard­
less of t h e individual or the transmission, if they are
capable of using both softness and hardness and of
relaxing the sinews and invigo rat i ng the blood, they are
correct . There is another method based on the civil and
the martial . Observe their arms, and if the skin is very
soft and the bones and flesh are very relaxed and heavy,
this is correct . This is the civil method of ascertaining
quality . When it comes to self-defense applications, we
should look for the ability to use T'ai-chi methods and
postures without confusion and to throw opponents
while remaining perfectly at ease . This is the martial
method of ascertaining quality . If the individual uses

1 44
force and fla ils w ildly, he may be victorious, but it is
s t rictly l uck . This is not a true t ransmission and is really
no met h od at all . Thus it is easy for s tuden t s to reco g nize
the true T'ai-chi ch 'ua n .

I n T'a i -c h i c h ' u a n , t h e a b i l i t y t o c u l tivate o neself

p hysically a nd spiritually, but not to defend oneself, is
civ il a c c o m pl i sh m e n t . Th e ability to defend oneself, but
not to cultivate oneself, is mart ial accom p lishment . The
soft T'a i -c h i m eth od is the true T'ai-chi method . The
abilit y to tea c h pe o pl e the art of self-c ult i vation and self­
defense, bo th cultivation and application , is c o mp le t e
civil and martial T 'ai - ch i .

T h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t f a c t o rs i n d e t e r m i n i n g a n
individual ' s strength or weakness are the ch 'i and blood .
Master Yang ' s style is o p en and relaxed a n d is best able
to stretch the sinews and invigorate the blood . If those
w h o are p h y sically weak will practice Master Yang 's
s t yle, they will see tremendous results .

I n T'ai-chi there are " sinew-separating " and "bone­

breaking " te c h n i q u es; t h ere are " pressure points,
"yin h a nd and ya ng hand, " Fi ve Elements hand, "
" bone penetra ting " tec h n iques, " the heart rending
h a m m er, " " t iger ' s eye elbow , " " s ticky mountain
shoulder, " " ma ndarin duck's leg, " "sneaky seizing"
tech niques, and the ability to ' 'beat a bull on the other
side of the mountain . " Th is does not mean Jiterally
beating a bull, but that without pain to the skin, in ternal
damage can be inflicted .

T'ai-chi ch 'iia n is an in ternal system [ 11ei-ch ia clr 'iia11 ] . I t
is popu l a rly k n o w n as " I n ternal Box i n g " [ 11ei-klm x
ch 'iian ) . Among the martial arts, the in ternal system is
the most da ngerous . After stud ents gain this skill , it is of
the utmost importance to remain gentle and kind . Do
not lightly use your fu ll force to strike anyone or disgrace
the legacy of former teachers .

T'ai-chi ch'uan enjoys great popularity in China now,

and a mong martial artists all grea tly value its practice .
Nevertheless, every student has a d ifferent goal . If th e
obj ect is si mply physical exercise, then any teacher will
do . However, if the goal is to learn self-defense, then a
sup erio r teacher is indispensable .

Practici ng T'ai-chi ch 'iia n can strengthen the weak and

rej uvenate the old . If you want ti mely results, avoid
tobacco, a l c oho l and sex, and keep reasonable hours .
Restrict all forms of harmful habits .

Transmission of the martial arts begi ns w i t h two

schools; Wutang and Shaolin . To this day they remain
distinct . Even among those originating in the Shaolin
Temple, there are a number of different systems, and
the Wutang Mou ntains have also yielded their share . To
say that they are all the same is impossible . If we speak
only of T'ai-chi ch' iian, then most schools stem from
Yang Lu-ch'a n ' s transmission . At present it has divide d
into an Eastern School and a Western School, and each
praises themselves to the skies . Beginnners will have
great difficulty in determining rela tive merits . I may say
that my art is the best, but in the end who can tell? Ideally
one should be aware of the different postures . Some say
they emphasize power, some say skill; but whatever the

1 46
case, there ca n be only one set of principles . W i t h ou t t h e
true tra n s m i ssio n , one c a n not u nderst and the reason
for t h i s .

There a re t w o methods of s t u d ying t h e martial art s .

You c a n e i t h e r s t u dy w i t h frie n d s w h o are roughly the
same age , or seek out a teacher . With constancy both can
lead to success .

I n t h e m a r t i a l a r t s , t h e question of how much the

teacher offers lies c o m p l e te l y with the studen t , and not
w i t h t h e teac h e r . Le t me explain briefl y . Nowadays
ma n y people appreciate the value of T'ai-chi ch 'i.ian and
h ave a rea l des ire to study, b u t t hey are ske pti c a l about
w h e t h e r their teacher has the true transmission . Before
they h a v e even crossed the t h reshold they are already
t h i rty perce n t afra i d . Al t h ough the teacher would like to
pass on h is knowledge, w h a t c a n h e d o ?
Also, m a n y students give u p in mid-course, a nd then
blame the teacher for not sharing his knowledge, w i t h ­
ou t questioning t h e i r o w n s t u d y habits . Th is should b e a
warning t o t hose w h o make such accusa tions aga i nst
t h e i r teachers . We m i g h t c o m p a re t h i s to t h e Th ree
Kingdom ' s genera l , Liu Pei , w h o requested the service
of K'ung Ming, but without asking if he w a s in terested
in coming o u t of sec lu sion or not . He asked once, t w i c e,
and three times, b u t K'ung Min g did not want to come
out . How cou ld Liu Pei secure talent in this way ? This
ca n serve a s a lesson t o students . I hope that colleagues
will spread the art of T'ai-chi c h 'iia n and think abou t t h is .

To learn someth ing good you have to use your mind a

little .

If you gain something va luable from a book, don ' t
cl a i m th a t y ou i n v e n te d i t y o u rse l f , f o r t h i s s h ows
ingratitude to the author for h is hard work .

Master Yang was very open i n tra n s mitting his art . He

taugh t everyone equally . Why then did some accom­
plish much and some li ttle? I t is because of differences
in disposition, intelligence, and comprehension of the
teaching . I t is also because the principles in T'ai-chi are
extremely profound and cannot be u nderstood in one
day . There are stages i n progress to the top, and the
tea c her s method is to advance step by step . To abandon

one ' s study before reaching the highest level, and then
accuse the teacher of being an imposter is pure non­
sense . Expecting to see n uggets of gold after a few days
and little effort is also unrealistic . Keep on studying and
t h e re is no re a s o n for t h e t e a c h e r not to g i v e h i s
knowledge freely .

One day Master Yang was in the mood for fun and
was d e m o n s t ra t i n g p r a c t i c a l a p pl i c a t i o n s . He w a s
pushing-hands with Wa ng Pao-h u a n , a nd using the
Push technique, threw him for a distance of more than
t h ree yards . It was truly i m pressive . Master ' s sel f­
defense was such that when pushing-hands with an op­
ponent, it always seemed like they had no root in their
feet a n d c o u l d not s t a n d s t e a d i l y . If you l ooked a t
Master, his countenance was perfectly composed and
his hands and feet light and sensitive . But all he had to
do was raise his hand and the opponent would fly with
the speed of an arrow shot from a bow . Master Yang ' s
technique w a s truly marvelous . None failed t o res pect
him .

1 48
T'ai-chi ch' ii an is an internal system . If the postures are
correct and the inner principles are understood, then
this is T'ai-chi ch' iian . If the postures are not correct and
the inner principles are not understood , even if the
postures resemble T'ai-chi, there is no difference from
the external systems .

The treasures of the ancient martial arts have surely

not been transmitted intact . In the future, if those who
t e n d t o f o r g e t t h e i r t e a c h e rs w i l l h o l d on to t h e
knowledge they h ave h anded down, then w e will surely
receive the true transmission . This is indubitable .

Learning self-defense applications is indispensable in

T'ai-chi ch'iian . Students w ho are primarily interested in
exercise must also study applications . If they don't, it
becomes very dull and the majority will quit . In fact,
ignoring the applications is also an obstacle to making
progress in strengthening the body .
The purpose of mastering self-defense applications is
n o t t o b u l l y p e o p l e , b u t t o s t u d y t h e m a rv e l o us
principles with friends . You attack and I neutralize; I
attack and you respond . It flows on and on without end .
Every kind of change can take place without exhausting
the possibilities . If one realizes that there are infinite
variations in T'ai-chi ch'iian, with dancing hands and
stepping feet, then the interest increas e s daily . With
practice over the years, this continuous and
unforgettable joy greatly strengthens the bo d y To train .

the body it is important to study the applications, and

e v e n m o r e s o if o n e e x p e c t s to face oppon e n ts .
Therefore friends, when practicing T'ai-chi ch'iian, it is
absolutely necessary to study the a p pl ica t io n s .

1 49
Chapter VIII From Yang Ch'eng-fu's
Com p lete Princi p les
and A pp lications
of T'ai-chi ch'iian

Yang Ch'eng-fu,
T'ai-ch i ch 'iian t 'i-yu ng ch 'uan-shu
(Complete principles and
applications of T'ai-chi chiian),
Taipei : Ch ung-hua wu-shu
ch 'u-pan-she, 1975
(first edition, 1934) .

Yang Ch'eng-fu ' s Preface

In my y ou t h I u sed to see my l a te gra ndfather, Yang

Lu-ch'a n , lead m y paternal u ncles and other students i n
daily p r ac t i c e of T'ai-ch i c h ' ua n . They tra i ned d a y a n d
n i g h t w i t h ou t rest, b o t h i n d iv i d u a l l y and i n pairs . I was
ske p tical , h o w ever, believi n g sel f-defense ag a i n s t one
man was not w orth s t u d y i ng, and t h a t in the future, I
would s t u d y d e fe n s e a g a i n s t t e n t h o u sa n d .
A ft e r I w a s a bit o l d e r , my l a te u ncle, Ya ng Pa n - h ou ,
bid m e s t u d y w i t h h i m . As I could n o l o n g e r conceal my
doubts , I e x p re s s e d them to h i m d i rec t l y . My late father,
Chie n - h ou , bec a me a ngry a n d said , " Well now , what
kind of w o rd s a re these? Your g r a ndfa t h er be q uea thed
t h i s to o u r f a m i l y Do you p ropose to d isca r d ou r

fa m i l y ' s h e ri t a ge ? " M y l a te g r a n d f a t h e r , Lu-c h 'a n ,

cal med h i m s a y i n g , " Ch il d ren should not be coerced . "
He gave me a ge n t l e p a t and continued, ' ' Hold on for a
mi n u t e a n d let m e e xpl ai n . The reason I p r ac t ice and
teach t h is a rt is not to challenge others but for self­
d e fe n s e , not to b u l l y the world but to save the nation .
The g e n t l e m e n of t o d a y know only o f t h e p ov e r t y of the
na tion , but not of its weakness . Therefore our leaders
a n xious ly form u l ate policies to alleviate p o v e rt y but I ,

have never heard of plans to rouse the weak or raise up

the a i l i ng . W i t h a nation of sick people, who is equal to
t h e t a s k ? We a re p o o r beca u se we are wea k ; truly
weakness is t he c a u se of poverty . If we examine the rise
of nations, we fi nd that they all begin by strengthening
the people . The viril ity and vigor of the Europeans and
A m eric a n s goes w i t h o u t saying, b u t the dwa rf-l ike
J a p a nese, w h il e s hort i n stature, a re d i sc iplined and
determined . Whe n the gaunt and emaciated members
of our race face them, one need not resort to divination
to predict the outcome . Thus the best method of saving
t h e n a t i o n is to m a k e s a v i ng the weak ou r h i g h e s t
priority . T o ignore this is to b e doomed t o failure .

From m y you th I have al ways considered helping the
wea k as m y personal responsibility . I have seen popular
martial arts performers whose spirit and physique are in
no way inferior to the so-cal led muscle men of the West .
Wit h great enthusiasm I begged to learn their art, but
they kept i t secret and would not tell me . I n t his way I
discovered that China 's p o ssessing the art of physical
heal th and yet having become so weak is not without
ca u se .
Still l a ter I heard that at C h 'en-ch ia -kou i n Honan
there was a Ch'en fa mily wh o were famous for their
i n t e r n a l box i n g a n d I m a d e i m m ed i a t e h a ste to go
there and study with Ch'en Ch'ang-hsi n g . Although I
was not turned away at the door, after a long time I w as
still not allowed to share their secrets . I forbore and was
patient for more than ten years . My teacher was moved
by m y si nc eri ty a n d bega n , i n t h e e v e n i n g s w h e n
everyone else was resting, to reveal the secrets t o me .
After c om pleting my studies I came to the capital and
swore an oath to teach this art freely to all comers . Before
long I saw that among my students, the thin filled out,
the obese lost weight, and the sick became healthy . I was
en o r m ou sly gratified .
It seemed to me that what one individual could teach
was limited and very like the foolish old man who tried
to move the mountain . Also w ou ld not those of my
elder ' s generation and those whose a mbition was to
pla y the bull y look down upon this method of saving the
nation and choose not to stud y it?" At that moment I
came suddenly to appreciate my gra ndfather ' s d iligence
in respect to this art and from then on dedicated myself
to c a r ry i n g o n t h e f a m i l y t r a n s m i s s i o n . I e a ge r l y
sub mitted myself t o training .
My gra n d fa t her h a d h a n d e d d o w n t h ese w o rd s :
"T'ai-chi ch'iian bega n with Chang San-feng at the end
of the Sung dy nasty . He transmitted it to W a ng Tsung­
yii e h, Ch'en Chou-t'ung, C hang S u n g - h si and Chiang
1 54
Fa, who succeeded each other without interruption . My
teacher, Ch'en Ch 'ang-hsing, was the only disciple of
Chiang-Fa . H is art was based on the natural, and its
form never departed from the Great Ultimate . It consis­
ted of th irteen postures with infinite applications . The
movement is in the body , but the influence reaches the
spiri t . Th u s , w i t h ou t long practice, it is d i ffic u l t to
achieve the highest level . I h ave no shortage of students,
but as for those w h o h ave been tempered to absolute
p e r f e c t i o n , I c a n n o t e v e n be c e r t a i n of P a n - hou .
However, if we speak only of the science of health , then
one day ' s effort produces one day ' s benefit, and one
year, one year ' s results . If you u nderstand this, my
child, then you possess the means to carry out my ambi­
tion . ' ' I respectfu l l y observed his words and never
dared forget them . From that point forward , I worked
w i t h o u t cea s i n g for t w e n ty years . My grandfat her,
uncle and father passed away one after the other .
At first I bega n to accept stu dents in Peking but fdt
confined a nd limited in my results, so I traveled south to
the Fukien-Chekiang region between the Yangtze and
Huai Rivers . I later asked my student, Ch'en Wei-ming,
to publish a book based on my oral ins t ructions . Now
ten years later, T'ai-chi ch 'ii a n has spread north and
sou th of the Yel low River and east and west of the
Yangtze, even as far as Kwangtu ng Province . Al toge t h ­
er there are a great number of students . Ch'en 's book
explains only the sequence of solo practice, and looking
back at the photographs of my postures ten years ago,
they are inferior to today ' s . From this it can be seen that
this art will continue to evolve indefinitely .
Today, a t t h e request o f my students, I have once
again compiled the complete method of principles and
applications, and added new photographs throughou t .
I have committed this to print i n order to share i t with the
worl d . The tec h n iques for two-edged sword , spea r,
two-pronged spear, broadsword, and so forth will be

1 55
presented in a second volu me to follow . I do not dare to
seek fame through my art but h u mbly desire to further
my forebears' ambition to rouse the people and save the
world .
Written by Ya ng C h a o -c h 'ing ( C h 'eng-fu )
of Kua ng-p'i n g i n t h e spri n g of 1 933 .


The guiding principle of this book lies in giving equal

importance to bot h principles and applications . T he
nu mber of people studying T'ai-c h i ch 'iian i ncreases
daily . However, without understanding how to com­
bine principles and applications, there will be very little
benefit . Thus I have no though t for worldly gain, but
only the hope of finding brave and a mbitious men w h o
are devoted t o progress . Along w i t h all my c o u n t ry men,
I wish to encourage them .
T'ai-chi ch 'iian is based on the I ch ing 's Great Ultimate
a nd eigh t tri gra ms It develops ou t of the three concepts :

p r inc i p l e (li), ch 'i, an d form (hsiang) . How can that which

Confucius referred to as, ' ' embracing all the changes in
Heaven and earth without excess, ' ' be other than princi­
ple, ch 'i, an d form? Principle, ch 'i and form are the origin
of T'ai-chi chiian . When these three are all developed,
then principle a n d application are complete . As for
form, it is modeled on the Great Ultimate and the eight
trigrams . Ch 'i is nothing but yin and yang, hard and soft .
Principle controls that which is changeless in change
and is the root of transformation . Students should first
seek the proper form, in order to cul tivate their c h 'i.
After a time, the y w ill naturally grasp the principles .
The essence of T'ai-chi ch'iian lies in the regulation of
movement and stillness . Thus in practicing, we must
observe the proper measure in the height of our stance,
t h e l i g h t n e s s or h e a v i ne s s o f o u r m ov e m e n t , t h e
extension and retraction o f our advance o r retreat, the

e x pa n s i v e n ess or fineness of our breath , the direction of
our gaze a n d the position of the wa i s t , head , back and
b el ly . It is an error to be suddenly high and s ud d e nly
low , suddenly fast a nd suddenly slow , suddenly ligh t
and sudd e n l y heavy , to suddenly thrust and suddenly
retract, to be s udd e n l y large and suddenly f in e , or to go
s u d d e n l y l e ft , r i g h t , u p , d o w n , f a c i n g u p w a r d or
downward without evenness . Only when the h e i ght of
our stance and the speed of our hands is guided by the
proper measure can we be free of the necessit y for fixed
rules of h e i g h t and speed .
Al t oge t h e r there are t hir tee n i mport ant points for the
p r a c t i c e o f T 'ai - c h i c h 'ii a n . These a re : 1 ) S i n k t h e
shoulders and d r op t h e e lbow s , 2) Dep res s the chest and
raise the back, 3)Let the ch'i sink to the tan-t'ien, 4) The
e nergy at t h e t o p of the h e a d should be ligh t and
sen si tiv e,
5) Relax the waist and hips, 6) Dist i ngu i s h full
a n d empty, 7) Co o rd i na t e the upper and lower body, 8)
Use the mind and no t fo rc e , 9) H ar mo n iz e the internal
and external , 10) C o n n ec t the mind and ch 'i, 11) See k
s t i l l ne s s i n m o v e m e n t , 1 2 ) U n i f y m o v e m e n t a n d
stillness, 13) Each posture should be even and uniform .
These are the thirteen points . We must pay attention to
every movement . Every posture must be precise . Not
one of these thirteen co nc ept s can be overlooked . I hope
that students will maintain a careful and critical attitude .
T h e s e l f - d e f e n s e a p p l ic a t io n s i n t h i s b o o k a re
intended for those who are already t ho rou g hly trained
i n T 'a i -c h i c h ' ii a n a n d w o u l d l i ke to make furt her
progress . Th us they need not be restricted as to which
direction to face and can experiment with the four sides
and fo u r corners of the square . Those who are not famil­
iar with the form should not advance to the applications,
for without a solid foundation there will be few results . I
hope that beginners will carefully study the postures
shown in th e illustrations . When one has become adept
a t t h e f o r m , i t w i l l n o t be difficu l t to m a s ter t h e
applications .
There is only one school of T'ai-chi ch' iian; there are
not two methods . Don ' t be deluded by your own clever­
n e s s a n d foo l i s h l y m a k e a d d i t i o n s or d e l e t i o n s . I f
modifications were necessary in t h e method s laid down
by worthy men of the past, then these would have been
implemented during the many centuries from the Yuan
and Ming dynasties dow n to the present . Did these
modifications need to wait for our own generation? I
hope t h a t fu ture s t u d e n t s w i l l not be led a stray by
externals, but seek always the inner truth . One must be
p a t i e n t i f o n e d e s i r e s to a d v a n c e to t h e h i g h e s t
excellence . The most important thing i n studying the
postures is no t the external appeara nce, but to gr.3sp the
i d e a . The g re a t e s t d a n g e r is in i n t rod uc i n g o n e ' s
personal innovations a n d p a s s i n g o n errors a s true
transmissions . The true transmission of principles and
applications is easily lost, even to the poin t of obscu ring
the original intention of former masters . Thus we offer
this book, which is based on the old texts with revisions,
as a correct standard .
T'ai-chi ch 'iia n was not created merely to brawl with
r u f fi a n s . R a t h er , t h e I m m o r t a l , C h a n g S a n - fe n g ,
invented this soft martia l art a s a n ai d t o ma i nt ai n i ng
good health . Those who are interested in health and
sel f-d i s c i p l i ne , e l i m i n a t i n g i l l ne s s a n d l e n g t h e n i n g
years, whether men of letters, in poor health, as well as
old people, t he young and women, all may study . Those
who p ra c tice faithfull y will s e e real results in three years .
If o n e should ask about its usefulness, the answer is that
it allows u s to us e n o st r en g t h and yet not be intimidated
by st r ength If someone p o s s essed of gre a t strength

should attack us, then our supreme softness is sufficient

to defeat them . We succeed by following the opponent 's
force . We might say that the key to health and self­
discipline lies in fol l o wing and preserving weakness .
Even t h e fe r oc i ous s trength of such ancient warriors as
Meng Pen and Hsia Yii is of no interest to practitioners of

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T'ai-chi ch 'iia n .
Whe n b e gi n n i n g t o s t u d y t h e T'a i -ch i form, one m u s t
a b so l ute l y avoid h a s t e . Every d a y t ho rou gh ly p racti c e
one or two p o stu re s a n d i t w i l l be easy to a ppreciate t h eir
in ner esse nce . Those w h o pract ice t oo m u c h a t one time
c a n only sc r a t c h t h e s u r f a c e . A f t e r fi n i s h i n g one ' s
practice, d o not i m med i a t e ly si t d o w n , but walk abou t a
bit in order to read j u s t the cll 'i and bl ood .
After p racti c i ng in t h e h e a t of su m mer, d o no t wash
the hands with cold wat e r or one will be " afflicted by
fire . " After practicing in t h e col d of winter, quickly put
on warm cloth ing in order to avoid catching cold . One' s
skill w ill increase during the winter and summer . This is
why it is said , "Train during the three periods a fte r the
su m mer solstice and the three periods after the winter
sols t i c e
. " At these times t h e s u n ' s influence is more
powerful t h a n d u ring the sp ri ng and a u tumn . It is
absolutely essential not to n e glect pra c tice j ust after
ri s i n g and j ust before retiring . In this way one's skill will
easily show p rog ress .

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