When it comes to the fundamental practices of Tai Chi, it all comes back the the 13 postures. The Tai Chi 13 postures consist of 8 forces, or "expressions of energy", and 5 steps, or "directions of movement". The first 4 energies are thought of as the "primary forces" and are known as peng, liu, ji, and an. They are used in Tai Chi to enhance internal energies. The second 4 energies are also important, but are less common. They are known as cai, lie, zhou, and kao. Let’s take a closer look at the 8 forces and 5 directions of Tai Chi.
The 8 Energies of Tai Chi:
1) Peng – Peng is the force that puts a curved barrier between you and your opponent. In Tai Chi, you use peng to feel, or listen to, the force of your opponent. In this force, your body is placed in a way that repels any incoming force, warding it away. When one standing in the correct peng posture, it is almost impossible to move them.
2) Liu – Liu stands for "leading the opponent’s force into emptiness" and is the force that causes them to lose their balance by redirecting their force away from the center to the side.
3) Ji – Ji requires both hands and arms to work together. It is thought of as the action of squeezing your force into a small area of your opponent. Ji is directed forwards, toward your opponent.
4) An – The fourth of the Tai Chi 13 Postures is An. This is when you gather your power, and then redirect it towards your opponent to drive them away. Power for this force comes up from the earth and through the legs.
5) Cai – Sometimes referred to as "large roll back", Cai is when you use your hands and fingers to pluck or pull. Like Liu, Cai is used to lead your opponent off balance.
6) Lie – Lie is a force that causes your energy to split into two separate directions. It is often used to break the hold that your opponent has on you.
7) Zhou – Zhou is the force where you use your elbow to strike your opponent. This strike throws your opponent off balance and prevents them from controlling your elbows.
8) Kao – This is when you use your shoulder, combined with your full body force, to defend against an opponent. This will knock your opponent off balance, and prepare you for any attack they may make.
The 5 Steps of Tai Chi:
1) Jin Bu – The first of the 5 steps in the Tai Chi 13 postures is Jin Bu. This step involves pushing your momentum forward.
2) Tui Bu – Tui Bu is when you retreat backwards, opening up a space for your opponent to fall into when overextending.
3) Zuo Ku – This involves stepping and kicking to the left.
4) You Pan – This involves stepping and kicking to the right. It helps you to gain an advantage in your position and avoid any incoming forces.
5) Zhong Ding – Also know as "Central Equilibrium", zhong ding is when you maintain your center position. This represents the balance of ying and yang around the center, and is the primary direction of the 5 steps in Tai Chi.
The Tai Chi 13 postures are the fundamental practices of Tai Chi. If you are new to Tai Chi, these 13 postures may sound intimidating. Just remember that no one masters these postures overnight and everyone will learn them at their own pace. If you train with the TCSociety regularly, you will be surprised how quickly you will catch on!