Thirteen postures

The Eight Gates (Chinese: 八門; pinyin: bā mén) in Tai chi, there are eight ways of directing energy with the arms, which are said to be associated with the eight trigrams (Bagua 八卦 bā guà) of the I Ching. Along with the Five Steps are part of the Thirteen Postures of Taichi.

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

The four primary hands (four cardinal directions) Edit

The Four Primary Hands

P'eng Edit

P'eng (Chinese: 掤; pinyin: péng) - An upward circular movement, forward or backward, yielding or offsetting usually with the arms to disrupt the opponent's centre of gravity, often translated as "Ward Off." Peng is also described more subtly as an energetic quality that should be present in every taiji movement as a part of the concept of "song" (鬆) -- or relaxation -- providing alertness, the strength to maintain structure when pressed, and absence of muscular tension in the body. 

Peng Ching (Jing) is outward expanding and moving energy. It is a quality of responding to incoming energy by adhering to that energy, maintaing one's own posture, and bouncing the incoming energy back like a large inflated rubber ball. You don't really respond to force with your own muscular force to repel, block, or ward off the attack. Peng is a response of the whole body, the whole posture, unified in one's center, grounded, and capable of gathering and then giving back the opponent's energy.

Peng can be thought of as a projection of force that places a curved barrier, or buffer zone, between you and an opponent. Peng is usually directed up and out. Ward off is the initial movement of Stroking Bird’s Tail in Yang-style tai chi. Your body is placed in such a way as to repel any incoming force and to ward it off. This is like pushing on a large beach ball. The word "listening” is often used to describe peng energy in the sense that you use peng to feel, or listen to, your opponent’s force.

There are 6 bows in the body that can be used in ward off: both arms, both legs, and the spine bow and the chest bow. Peng force is present in many tai chi forms. With the proper posture, a person using peng force is nearly immovable.

Peng is aften referred to as a kind of "bouncing" energy. It is also considered the fundamental way of delivering energy and embodied in some way in each of the other Eight Gates. It is a rising, or expansive, yang energy. The acupuncture point to focus on is Ming Men. This Gate correlates with the Qian (Heaven) Trigram, represents Expansion.

Li Edit

 (Chinese: 捋; pinyin: lǚ) - A sideways, circular yielding movement, often translated as "Roll Back." "Lu Jing" is receiving and collecting energy, or inward receiving energy. Li is the use of force in a sideways direction, such as where we intercept and move with a forward directed attack, simultaneously diverting it slightly to one side and thus to the void. "The greater the force of his attack, the greater the resulting loss of balance on the part of our opponent."

Liu can be thought of any type of turning movement that diverts (redirects) the opponent’s force away from center to the side. It neutralizes (absorbs) the opponent’s force and causes him to lose balance. In the tai chi classics, liu means to “lead the opponent’s force into emptiness”, or “attract into emptiness” by diverting it to the side. Your body motion yields to your opponent’s incoming force to sense what it is like. You then use your waist to divert it to the side and pull him off balance.

Roll back is the second motion of Stroking Bird's Tail in Tang-style tai chi. Another application is with Cloud Hands where your circular hand movements divert any force. Liu is usually used to direct the opponent’s energy backward toward oneself. Liu is also part of some forms of Leisurely Tying Coat in Sun-style tai chi, where your movement is backward along your center line.

The tactic is to present a false target for the opponent to attack. During the attack, the defender allows the attacker’s momentum move past the point where he expects to go and he becomes unbalanced. It is the opposite of Peng. It is a yielding, or contracting yin energy. The acupuncture point to focus on is Xuan Guan. This Gate correlates with the Kun (Earth) Trigram, represents Yielding.

Ji Edit

Chi/Ji (simplified Chinese: 挤; traditional Chinese: 擠; pinyin: jǐ) - A pressing or squeezing offset in a direction away from the body, usually done with the back of the hand or outside edge of the forearm. Chi is often translated as "Press." Chi or "Ji Jing" is pressing and receiving energy. This is an offensive force delivered by following the opponent's energy, by squeezing of sticking forward.

"What is the meaning of Pressing Energy? It functions in two ways: (1) The simplest is the direct method. Advance to meet (receive) the opponent, and then adhere and close in one action, just like in elbowing. (2) To apply reaction force is the indirect method. This is like a ball bouncing off a wall or a coin tossed onto a drumhead, rebounding off with a ringing sound."

Ji can be thought of the action of squeezing your force into a small area of your opponent. It is your extension of force toward your opponent. It always requires both hands or arms working together. Press is the third part of Stroking Bird’s Tail in Yang-style tai chi. It consists on one arm being curved horizontally with the palm facing in or up and the other hand pushing against it.

Press often involves bringing forces together from two directions and forcing the opponent away. It can be used to squeeze your opponent’s elbows together to dissipate his power. Ji is usually directed forward toward the opponent. Be sure to maintain an upright posture. Tuck in your tailbone to be able to direct the force. The acupuncture point to focus on is Jia Ji. This Gate correlates with the Kan (Water) Trigram, represents the Dangerous.

An Edit

An (Chinese: 按; pinyin: àn) - To offset with the hand, usually a slight lift up with the fingers then a push down with the palm, which can appear as a strike if done quickly. Often translated as "Push". An Jing is downward pushing energy. Pushing power comes from the legs pushing into the earth. Pushing or pressing with both palms in a downward direction, peng energy directed downward.

"What is the meaning of An energy? When applied it is like flowing water. The substantial is concealed in the insubstantial. When the flow is swift it is difficult to resist. Coming to a high place, it swells and fills the place up; meeting a hollow it dives downward. The waves rise and fall, finding a hole they will surely surge in."The practitioner must then imagine the ch'i rising up from the Dantian into the spine, through the arms and into the wrists and palms. Thus, accordingly, the ch'i is imagined to have penetrated outwards onto the opponent's body".

An can be thought of gathering (receiving) power and then redirecting the power outward or back at your opponent. Push is the fourth part of Stroking Bird’s Tail in Yang-style tai chi and of and Push the Mountain in Sun-style tai chi. The incoming force is absorbed and then directed out and up to lift and drive the opponent away. The push can be done at any angle, but the actual power comes from the earth through the legs. Use your intention to direct your force. The acupuncture point to focus on is Tan Zhong. This Gate correlates with the Li (Fire) Trigram, represents clinging or giving a light push.

The four corner hands (four diagonal directions) Edit

The Four Secondary Hands

Tsai (Chinese: 採; pinyin: cǎi) - To pluck or pick downwards with the hand, especially with the fingertips or palm. The word tsai is part of the compound that means to gather, collect or pluck a tea leaf from a branch (採茶, cǎi chá). Often translated "Pluck" or "Grasp". Tsai Jing is grabbing energy. A force delivered by a quick grab and pull, usually of an opponent's writst, both backward and down.

"Tsai: Sometimes called 'inch energy'. Like picking fruit off a tree with a snap of the wrist. Often on hand will be placed right on top of the other wrist to assist in the power of this jerking motion. It is not a pull of his wrist but rather a violent jerking fa-jing movement that can knock him out by its violent action upon his head jerking backwards and kinking his brain stem. Again, the power must come from the centre and not only from the arms and hands, and a follow up attack is also necessary".

"Tsai is where our opponent loses control of his centre of gravity, and we use a technique to disrupt his balance to such an extent that he is uprooted completely from his position. It is something like a strategically placed lever lifting a heavy rock."

Cai can be thought of as using your hands or fingers to pluck, or pull. Cai may also be called “Large Roll Back”. It usually consists of an up and down motion where you use ward off to lead your opponent upward and away to move the opponent off balance. It can be followed by a pull. The pulling is against some part of your opponent’s body. It is not a grab. It typically uses your thumb and one or more fingers to press on pressure points. A common use is to grasp your opponent’s wrist. One hand may be placed at the other wrist to help with the quick movement. An example of cai force is Needle at Sea Bottom. The acupuncture point to focus on is Xing Gong. This Gate correlates with the Sun (wind) Trigram, represents Pulling, penetrating.


Lieh (Chinese: 挒; pinyin: liè) - Lieh means to separate, to twist or to offset with a spiral motion, often while making immobile another part of the body (such as a hand or leg) to split an opponent's body thereby destroying posture and balance. Lieh is often translated as "Split". "Lieh Jing" is striking energy that splits apart an opponent".

How can we explain the energy of Split? Revolving like a flywheel, If something is throw against it, It will be cast off a great distance. Whirlpools appear in swift flowing streams, And the curling waves are like spirals, If a falling leaf lands on their surface, In no time will it sink from sight".

Lie can be thought of as a force that causes your energy to split into two directions. It may come from pulling with one arm and pushing with the other, such as an arm break maneuver or with Parting Wild Horse’s Mane. It may be used to break your opponent’s hold on you. Split requires two hands. Lie may be combined with Ward Off to provide power. It may include a lifting action as in Fair Lady Works the Shuttles or White Crane Spreads its Wings. It is the opposite of Tsai. The acupuncture point to focus on is Dan Tien. This Gate correlates with the Chen (Thunder) Trigram, represents splitting, inciting movement.


Chou (Chinese: 肘; pinyin: zhǒu) - To strike or push with the elbow. Usually translated as "Elbow Strike" or "Elbow Stroke" or just plain "Elbow." "Chou Jing" is elbow striking energy. "What is the meaning of Elbowing Energy? The function is in the Five Activities: advancing, withdrawing, looking-left, gazing right, and fixed rooting. The yin and yang are distinguished according to the upper and lower, just like Pulling. The substantial and insubstantial are to be clearly discriminated. If its motion is connected and unbroken, nothing can oppose its strength. The chopping of the fist is extremely fierce. After thoroughly understanding the Six Energies (adhering, sticking, neutralizing, seizing, enticing, and issuing), the functional use is unlimited".

Chou can be thought of as using your elbow to strike an opponent or to create a twisting force. You can use the elbow strike to bump your opponent off balance or to prevent your opponent from controlling your elbows. Zhou is sometimes also known as “turn and chop with fist”, as displayed in Deflect Down, Parry, and Punch and in Fan Back forms. The acupuncture point to focus on is Jian Jing. This Gate correlates with the Tui (Lake) Trigram, represents Joyfull, frontal.


(Chinese: 靠; pinyin: kào) - To strike or push with the shoulder or upper back. The word k'ao implies leaning or inclining. Usually translated "Shoulder Strike," "Shoulder Stroke" or "Shoulder." "Kao Jing" is a full body strinking energy. The peng energy is mobilized throughout the entire body, and then the entire body is used as one unit and the force is delivered with the shoulder or back. "Often called 'Shoulder strike:

This method is used as a third line of defence and can be quite lethal used at the correct distance. The power must again come from the centre using the power of the legs and waist together. Shoulder can be used from the front or from the back depending upon the type of attack the your are receiving. If for instance is it a pull down where you right shoulder is being pulled to your right, then you would use the front part of the shoulder. If however, the attack pulled you to your left and there was no time to use the front part, you would turn right around so that the scapular part of your right shoulder could then slam into his chest using fa-jing."

Kao can be thought of as using your shoulder with your full body weight behind it against an opponent. If the shoulder force is insufficient or blocked, then your back or any other body part can be used to provide force. Kao is sometimes called Lean Forward. It is usually used to bump your opponent off balance to set up some kind of attack. An example of Kao is Diagonal Flying. It is the opposite of Zhou. The acupuncture point to focus on is Yu Zhen. This Gate correlates with the Ken (Mountain) Trigram, represents keeping still, resting.

The Songs of The Eight Postures Edit

The Song of Peng

What is the meaning of Peng energy?
It is like the water supporting a moving boat.
First sink the ch'i to the tan-t'ien,
then hold the head as if suspended from above.
The entire body is filled with springlike energy,
opening and closing in a very quick moment.
Even if the opponent uses a thousand pounds of force,
he can be uprooted and made to float without difficulty.

The Song of Lu

What is the meaning of Lu energy?
Entice the opponent toward you by allowing him to advance,
lightly and nimbly follow his incoming force
without disconnecting and without resisting.
When his force reaches its farthest extent,
it will naturally become empty.
The opponent can then be let go or countered at will.
Maintain your central equilibrium
and your opponent cannot gain an advantage.

The Song of Ji

What is the meaning of Chi energy?
There are two aspects to its functional use:
The direct way is to go to meet the opponent
and attach gently in one movement.
The indirect way is to use the reaction force
like the rebound of a ball bouncing off a wall, or
a coin thrown on a drumhead,
bouncing off with a ringing sound.

The Song of An

What is the meaning of An energy?
When applied it is like flowing water.
The substantial is concealed in the insubstantial.
When the flow is swift it is difficult to resist.
Coming to a high place, it swells and fills the place up;
meeting a hollow it dives downward.
The waves rise and fall,
finding a hole they will surely surge in.

The Song of Ts'ai

What is the meaning of Ts'ai energy?
It is like the weight attached to the beam of a balance scale.
Give free play to the opponent's force
no matter how heavy or light,
you will know how heavy or light it is after weighing it.
To push or pull requires only four ounces,
one thousand pounds can also be balanced.
If you ask what the principle is,
the answer is the function of the lever.

The Song of Lieh

What is the meaning of Lieh energy?
It revolves like a spinning disc.
If something is thrown onto it,
it will immediately be cast more than ten feet away.
Have you not seen a whirlpool form in a swift flowing stream?
The waves roll in spiraling currents.
If a falling leaf drops into it,
it will suddenly sink from sight.

The Song of Chou

What is the meaning of Chou energy?
Its method relates to the Five Elements.
Yin and Yang are divided above and below.
Insubstantiality and substantiality must be clearly distinguished.
Joined in unbroken continuity,
the opponent cannot resist the posture.
Its explosive pounding is especially fearsome.
When one has mastered the six kinds of energy,
the applications become unlimited.

The Song of K'ao

What is the meaning of K'ao energy?
Its method is divided into the shoulder and back technique.
In Diagonal Flying Posture use shoulder,
but within the shoulder technique
there is also some use of the back.
Once you have the opportunity and can take advantage of the posture,
the technique explodes like pounding a pestle.
Carefully maintain your own center.
Those who lose it will have no achievement.