Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan—Directional Instructions

If you plan to learn Tai-Chi by watching video without teacher's help, one of the difficult parts is to learn in which direction you should face in the exercise.

In this article, I will try to help by providing directional guidance.

Clock-Facing Position

Whatever position you take at the start of the form (or whatever direction the center of your chest
and navel face) consider that starting position to be facing the 12 o'clock position.[2]

When the center of your chest and navel face the 12 o'clock position, your right side faces
3 o'clock, your back side faces 6 o'clock, and your left side faces 9 o'clock.


In Yang-Style Tai Chi Chuan, it is composed of 24 forms. Starting at the starting position facing 12 o'clock, you move from right to left and then left to right on approximately a line as shown in the diagram. When you finish, your final position will face 12 o'clock again.

From below, please find each form annotated with its final facing direction:

  1. Commencing (Qǐshì, 起势), Preparation, Beginning
    • 12 o'clock
  2. Part the Wild Horse's Mane (Zuoyou Yémǎ Fēnzōng, 左右野马分鬃), LEFT and RIGHT
    • 9 o'clock
  3. White Crane Spreads Its Wings (Báihè Lìangchì, 白鹤亮翅), Stork/Crane Cools Its Wings
    • 9 o'clock
  4. Brush Knee and Step Forward (Zuoyou Lōuxī Àobù, 左右搂膝拗步), Brush Knee and Twist Step, LEFT and RIGHT
    • 9 o'clock
  5. Playing the Lute (Shǒuhūi Pípā, 手挥琵琶), Strum the Lute, Play Guitar
    • 9 o'clock
  6. Reverse Reeling Forearm (Zuoyou Dào juǎn gōng, 左右倒卷肱), Step Back and Drive Monkey Away, LEFT and RIGHT
    • face 9 o'clock, but move backwards
  7. Left Grasp Sparrow's Tail (Zuo Lǎn Què Wěi, 左揽雀尾), Grasp the Bird's Tail
    • 9 o'clock
  8. Right Grasp Sparrow's Tail (You Lǎn què wěi, 右揽雀尾)
    • turn around and face 3 o'clock
  9. Single Whip (Dān biān, 单鞭)
    • 12 o'clock
  10. Wave Hands Like Clouds (Yúnshǒu, 云手), Cloud Hands, Cloud Built Hands, Wave Hands in Clouds
    • 12 o'clock
  11. Single Whip (Danbian, 单鞭)
    • 12 o'clock
  12. High Pat on Horse (Gāo tàn mǎ, 高探马), Step Up to Examine Horse
    • 9 o'clock
  13. Right Heel Kick (Yòu dēng jiǎo, 右蹬脚), Separate Right Foot, Kick with Right Foot
    • 8 o'clock
  14. Strike to Ears with Both Fists (Shuāng fēng guàn ěr, 双峰贯耳)
    • 10 o'clock
  15. Turn Body and Left Heel Kick (Zhuǎnshēn zuǒ dēngjiǎo, 转身左蹬脚)
    • turn around and face 4 o'clock
  16. Left Lower Body and Stand on One Leg (Zuo Xià shì dúlì, 左下势独立)
    • turn to 6 o'clock and then 3 o'clock
  17. Right Lower Body and Bird Stand on One Leg (You Xià shì dúlì, 右下势独立)
    • turn to 12 o'clock and then 3 o'clock
  18. Shuttle Back and Forth (Yòuzuǒ yùnǚ chuānsuō, 右左玉女穿梭), Fair Lady Works with Shuttles, (Walking Wood), Four Corners, RIGHT and LEFT
    • turn to 2 o'clock and then 4 o'clock
  19. Needle at Sea Bottom (Hǎidǐ zhēn, 海底针)
    •  o'clock
  20. Fan Through Back (Shǎn tōng bì, 闪通臂), Fan Penetrates Back
    •  o'clock
  21. Turn Body, Deflect, Parry, and Punch (Zhuǎnshēn Bānlánchuí, 转身搬拦捶)
    • turn around and face  o'clock
  22. Appears Closed (Rúfēng shìbì, 如封似闭), Withdraw and Push, as if Closing a Door
    •  o'clock
  23. Cross Hands (Shízìshǒu, 十字手)
    • 12 o'clock
  24. Closing (Shōushì, 收势)
    • 12 o'clock

Final Words

During Tai-Chi exercise, your face, arms, legs (or feet), center of chest and navel (note that this is the facing position that we describe in the instruction) may face different directions.  That's the difficult part of learning Tai-Chi—your whole body is continuously moving in the 3-dimensional space and, at the same time, you need to balance the pose without tilting.

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