June 3, 2014

The Thirteen Postures of Taijiquan

NOTE:  The examples of the postures given in this article will be from the Wu Family Taijiquan Long Form, as taught in conjunction with the systems of won hop loong chuan and pyong hwa do.  Where applicable, the corresponding postures from the more commonly known Yang Taijiquan Long Form will also be given for reference.  However, not every movement has a counterpart in the Yang form.  It is also worth mentioning that the Wu form has many postures with names that are similar to postures in the Yang form.  Aside from a few exceptions, though, these do not usually refer to same motions.  For example, both forms have a posture called “Repulse the Monkey”, but they are each referring to a completely different set of movements.


 The basis for taijiquan, regardless of style, are the thirteen postures.  In fact, the thirteen postures are what defines a martial art as being taijiquan or not.  If an art contains all thirteen postures, no matter how different from traditional taijiquan it may seem, it can be considered true taijiquan.  On the other, an art can not be considered taijiquan if it is missing any one of the thirteen postures, even if it seems very similar to taijiquan on the surface.  Therefore, it is important for all serious practitioners of taijiquan to understand the meanings of the thirteen postures.  As it is said in the Song of the Thirteen Postures, If you don't diligently search for the meaning, you will only waste your effort and sigh."

Language of Martial Arts

The Chinese language is overflowing with subtleties, nuances, and layers-upon-layers of meanings that go far beyond the scope of most modern Western languages.  At times, it can even be a dramatic understatement to call it “poetic”.  As a result, the vernacular of Chinese martial arts has long been complex and chaotic, especially from the point of view of most Westerners.