Long forms/short forms

Long forms/short forms

Postby rvc_ve » Wed Apr 21, 2004 8:13 pm

I dont know if it has been discussed here before or not, but here it goes. Im sure a lot of people in here will have interesting views on the subject.

We all know the traditional form of Yang style taijiquan is the long 108 form. It can be named 98, 112, 103, etc, deppending on the way the movements are counted but its still the same form.

There are also other versions of yang style shorter forms (37, 24, etc). The yang family itself, through master yang zheng duo has created a shorter form (46 movements I think).

Many people atribute the best benefits of the practice to longer forms (which makes sense because you practice longer!), and place absolutely no value on shorter forms.

Other people believe (as I do) that as long as the principles of the art are understood and applied, a shorter form can be as beneficial, although the long form tends to be better. IN my case, even though I like the long form better, sometimes due lo lack of space/time, I have to settle for shorter sets.

And yet a third group, believes that now at days is unnecesary to practice the long form, and that with a shorter sequence is enough to gain health and martial benefits.

I want to clarify that none of these three views is wrong, since many people have proven to gain benefits from all three of them, but all of them have advantages and disadvantages. Thats the poin of the discussion.

Any thoughts on these?
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Apr 21, 2004 8:39 pm

Here are some comments that Yang Zhenduo made re the competition/demo form (this is a translation of part of a four-page summary of the 49-move form which appeared in Yang Zhenduo's 1995 book 'Yang Shi Taiji Quan, Jian, Dao' (the pink edition), pages 214-217)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">These days we in Yang style, one of the more popular styles of Tai Chi Chuan, are often called on to participate in public demonstrations, inciting people's interest and promoting our way of fitness. But the time it takes to perform the original sequence is rather long, and can often come into conflict with the requirements of scheduling numerous performances. There are often many performances in a program, and the audience members may have differing interests, so it is actually quite inconvenient to take up too much time. Therefore we can only perform the first or the second section; it's difficult to perform the whole form. Or at a competition, also because of time constraints, it becomes hard to schedule, which is why the Chinese Department of Physical Education has designated that at competitions, we must perform the first or second section within an 8 minute time frame. In both cases - demonstration and competition - we cannot perform the entire form. From the point of view of both audience and performer, this leaves a sense of something left out.

For many years amateurs and professionals in the taiji world have wished that a form might be created, suitable for both demo and competition purposes, which could also embody the moves of the traditional form.

In order to fulfill this objective need, and satisfy the requirements of Tai Chi players, after research the Association put forward a draft of a new form, and after public trials revised numerous spots based upon the opinions put forward. We now formally publish this form, to be the the official demonstration form of our Association, and from now forward this will also be our competition form.

As to the arrangement of the sequence, the essential idea was, without going against the basis of the traditional form, to appropriately edit out some repeated moves and shrink the performance time such that with a compact and speedy rhythm, we could participate in various group activities. This is required by the times, there is an objective need for it, it is as they say an idea whose time has come.

From the list of moves of the new form, it can clearly be seen that moves 1 thru 11, 13 thru 18, 21 thru 24, 26 thru 35, and 38 thru 49, all basically preserve their original appearance as they were in the sequence of the traditional form, and starting from this basis, we have cut out a portion of the repeated moves as was appropriate, took a small number of moves which were difficult to fit in and re-inserted them in other spots in the sequence, and in a few cases added in moves to aid transitions. Anyone who can do the traditional form need only work a little bit on the re-inserted moves and changed transitions and then they can do the new form without much difficulty.

Some have asked, is this new form 'simplified' Yang style Tai Chi Chuan? We don't think that it is correct to say so, because we have only made a few changes in the sequence, the basic structure hasn't changed. Particularly valuable and hard to achieve is the fact that we have preserved all movements of the traditional form. Although the total number of moves are different, nothing has been omitted. The organization is strict and the moves fit together smoothly. The style, the special characteristics and the appearance of the traditional form are all retained. So we really cannot use the term 'simplified Tai Chi' for this, to avoid engendering a misunderstanding and adversely affecting the healthy development of the traditional form. As to the new sequence that we have created, we feel that it is a significant innovation which will allow us to easily display the outstanding qualities of the form at all kinds of public events.

This form is not appropriate for individual form practice. Normally when you practice you should still primarily practice the traditional sequence, and then when done with that, practice the competition form.

The new form is primarily for competition and demo use, and so the sequence was rearranged with a view to reduce performance time and eliminate repeated moves. However from the point of view of arrangement and structure the new form is not as scientific as the traditional form. So when the new form has only begun, we immediately go into some demanding postures. If the person practicing has not done some warm up exercises prior to starting, there may be a feeling of some strain. The traditional form, by contrast, proceeds gradually from gentle moves toward a climax. The traditional form is particularly clever in that it gently sets up the basis in the first section, and then intersperses the relatively difficult moves throughout the second and third sections, where the repetition of earlier moves has a very good regulating function. This way the person practicing is free and easy, relaxed and natural, and though he may finish an entire round of the form or even multiple rounds, he can accomplish it without the least strain. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Apr 21, 2004 9:16 pm

I haven't seen the 49 posture form yet. I think we're having a class soon.
However, I have been a longtime proponent of the 13 posture form.
Since I'm such a traditionalist, a lot of folks are surprised.
But there's a very simple reason for this.
We all know I'm mostly killing time at work while watching little bars turn blue or green or yellow across screens as software or updates load, which is about as fun as watching paint dry, and while that's going on I have some latitude to surf around a bit on the net. Which is what brings me here.
Oft times, instead of surfing the software or whatever I'm loading up doesn't require a human presence to click "yes" or "no" or surf to a location for files.
When that happens, I can roam freely for a time. I choose to use that time to either do my stair walking or do form practice.
However, my time is limited, the area I have to do this in and be private (under a flight of steps but it has excellent ventilation) is small.
So I do the 13 posture form.
It's not as difficult. It's probaby what MYZD referred to as "simplified" TCC. But it fits into my time and space.
I can tell you, if I try to do the long form down there I have to stop, take a few steps forward of backward, reset myself, start over.
I can't even do section 1 in the space I have during the day.
So I do the 13 posture form. It fits in my space, only takes about four minutes, five if I S-T-R-E-T-C-H it out.
It's perfect.
I do have another hidey-hole to go to if by some miraculous event I actually have the twenty five minutes to do the long form. But that's pretty rare.
I no longer say one word againt a shorter form. I see the need, I practice the shortest form I've ever seen or heard of daily. Usually several times.
I figure that as long as I'm keeping the form true, doing it as I was taught, using all the principals of YCF style, it's better than sitting and watching little bars of pixels change color all day.
Just my opinion.
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Apr 21, 2004 9:19 pm

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Postby rvc_ve » Wed Apr 21, 2004 9:47 pm


Nice article. I think I've read it before. It does support the argument that the long form is better for individual practice.


Im also on the "watch the green bar" business! LOL!

But Im also in the Army National Guard. Sometimes, when I am activated, I will have little personal time to train, so I need to do my short forms. When Im at home or in "civilian life" I can get up in the morning a nd practice my yang style long form...unless the wheather is unfriendly, and Im in kansas, so its alway too cold or too hot (thats the midwest for you). And when the wheather is nice, like in springtime...guess what? its raining and storming all the time! So its back to my livingroom and my short forms!

However, also the reason for my post is the fact that I know people who practice short forms EXCLUSIVELY" that are excellent in pushing hands and martial apps. The have never done a long form in their lives and they seem to use their taichi pretty good.

This brings me me to my "current" theory (because I tend to think a lot, therefore changing my mind a million times!!!): If the form is a collection of movements that make up a style, What is more important, the correct perfomance of each individual movement according to taichi priciples, or the form itself?

If the individual practice is more important, then the form shouldt matter, as long as you train enough, that is, is you do 3 long forms in an hour, you would have to do probably 10 or 20 short forms to complete the hour, but you are still training 1 hour, as opposed to doing just 3 short forms in 20 minutes and claim that is the same as doing 3 long forms in one hour.

If, on the contrary, the actual form and the way the movements are set up and "choreographed", then i would be a differen story.

And again, there are different opinions on this matter, not only in yang style but in every other style of taijiquan I've ever had the chance to meet a practitioner of!

All opinions welcomed... Image
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Postby yangchengfu04 » Wed Apr 21, 2004 9:53 pm

Hi Folks,

Well, my take on it is that the long form is far superior for many reasons. I practiced the 24-form (as well as the 32 sword form) for about three years before learning the traditional YCF form. I never did TCC before the 24 form, so I didn't have anything to compare it with. Now I do. After 10 months of doing the YCF form I feel they are incomparable!

I realize I'm still a beginner in the TCC world, but I never felt like I got much out of the 24 form (although I feel like it was a good training form for me). I would have to do the form 5 or 6 times everytime to feel like I got any chi-ness happening. Now, after practicing the long form, I can see why they call it the simplified-form. All the nitty-gritty detail of the long form is enough to keep my mind interested, and I seem to have less monkey-mind while I'm practicing. With the short form, it's over before it starts (for me) and it's harder for me to get "into it." Needless to say, I don't see any point of practicing the 24 form anymore. Another point I'd like to make (from my limited view) is, wouldn't practicing the 24 form go against the traditional Yang training aspects? For example, consider the rocking back of the foot? Something tells me the old masters wouldn't train a short form so why should we? Am I wrong here? Everything I read says the more time practicing the better and there is no substitute for consistent daily practice. Thank goodness the long form takes around 20 minutes, if you do it 3 times that's 1 hour of training time. The short form normally takes around 4 minutes to do, which means you'd have to do it 15 times to get the equivalent of form training. That option does not appeal to me.

With that said, I know there is a space issue with practicing the long form, but I understand there are tactics for remedying that. I read something about picking up the foot, and replacing it before you do the next form, or just linking 2 or 3 postures together at a time, etc....
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Postby rvc_ve » Wed Apr 21, 2004 10:27 pm

Good post yangchengfu04. Im interested in those "tactics" about lifting and replacing the foot. Can you elaborate more on them?
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:13 am

Greetings All,

I've been told that the one of the purposes of the long form is to exercise every muscle and joint in the body and do it in such a way that no part of the body is overstressed at any time.

That the long form was put together that way without everything having both left- and right-handed versions points to a superb level of understanding.



David J
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Apr 22, 2004 2:49 pm

I, too, am puzzled by your reference to "rocking back the foot".
Is this analgous to what I have heard called "giving back weight" before the transitions in YCF style TCC forms? Example: Brush Knee and Twist Step, when you "give back weight" and turn your negative foot to 45 degrees before you transition.

As for long vs. short and the old masters.
No, I guess they didn't practice short forms. But they did do single form training, which would have included Grasp the Birds Tail, with all that includes.
If you think about it, GTBT is a short form, all by itself. You have Ward Off Left, Ward Off Right, Roll Back, Press and Push. When you do this as "single form" training, you have a series of postures that run together to form what is effectively a "short form".
I don't know who put together the 13 posture form, but I think they did a good job. It is, now that I know the difference, definitely a "simplified" form, in that it doesn't have any of the kicks or Diagonal Flying or Fair Lady kind of moves in it that so tax most players. However, the postures it does encompass seem to have all the principals intact.
Again, I use it for times when all I have is four or five minutes and a very small space. I figure it's better than the nothing that is my alternative.
I do the 13 posture form as a warm up, before I do the entire long form. I find it gets my mind and body into a more relaxed state before I start the long forms.
I do two to three long forms a day, but not all at once. I get up half an hour before I strictly have to in the morning, I do about five minutes of stretching, then a 13 posture form, then I do the long form, then I have coffee... but that last parts not important to the discussion, sorry.
If I don't do that 13 posture form first, it takes me until about section 2 to start to get the "feel" of the form. So it really helps me in the morning.
Doing the shorter form during the day may not be taking me to new pinnacles of TCC greatness, but it allows me to throw off the tension of my job for a few minutes and find my center before I have to go back and try and figure out why this stupid computer isn't working, or why that array just quit, or whatever it is this time.
I think the shorter form meets a real need for me and while it may not be all that TCC has to offer, it is a very good tool for me to use for what it does.
I wouldn't think that this is all I ever needed to practice, but I'm glad it's there when it's all I can practice.
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Postby yangchengfu04 » Thu Apr 22, 2004 4:34 pm

Regarding limited space, I forget where I saw it on the web, but I did a quick search and found this link: (I'm not sure I quite understand it, but in the meantime, I'll look for the other article).


Wushuer I am also in the computer world and have much time to read Internet forums and such. My eyes are getting tired already and it's not even lunch! Also, you are correct in your "giving back the weight" comment. I just call it rocking back, or rolling back because that's how my first teacher described it.

While I'm at work, I usually go into the bathroom to get a little practice time in (not exactly the best environment for chi-building huh?). It is the only place I can practice around here. I've been "walked in on" a couple of time and felt kind of awkward. I was in the middle of snake creeps down when a colleague walked in on me. I just got up and walked out, saying nothing. I can only imagine the thoughts going thru this guys head. Oh well, the price we pay for the love of TCC. I accept it!
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Apr 22, 2004 4:56 pm

That's funny. I also use the restroom for practice. One of the restrooms here is off the beaten path, and has a handicapped stall in it that is just huge. Since we have not one single handicapped person working in this building (unless you count mental handicaps, but I digress) it's not a very heavily utilized facility.
I can do an entire long form in this bathroom stall, IF I make on slight modification. All I need to do is take a smaller step forward in "Hand Strums the Lute". As long as I keep that step small I can do the entire form.
Now, I rarely have the time for this. But when I do, I sneak in and get going.
I've been caught once, too. By my suprevisor, no less. Fortunately I was inside the locked stall, so he couldn't see what I was doing. I just flushed, jiggled my belt a bit and walked out acting like I was just using the facilities and had finished as he arrived.
Funny where a discussion board will go!
But you are right, we do have to pay that price every now and then.
Another advantage of my practice in the "stall" is that it has nice, shiny, highly reflective walls. It's not quite like doing the form in front of mirrors, but I can see more than enough detail to critique my forms there quite well.
In fact, that's how I primarily work on getting the "lean" out of my forms. The stall has sections, those sections consist of panels that lock together. Each joint in the paneling has a nice, perfect straight up and down line against which I can judge the amount of "lean" in my forms.
Once I figured out that I could judge that in this stall, I spent as much time as I could in there without anyone thinking I might need to seek medical help.
Yes, we do some strange things to practice our art.
Don't we?

Off to stall! I think I need to do a long form.
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Postby rvc_ve » Thu Apr 22, 2004 8:23 pm


I agree. A short form can be useful. I guess that as long as we know there is a long form and that we need to work on it as well isted of limitng ourselves with just the short one, we can get the benefits from both. Im laughing about the bathroom comments from you guys, because I do the same thing!


Thank you for the link I'll chek it out! Snake creeps doen in the bathroom huh? Ben there done that! LOL
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Postby gene » Thu Apr 22, 2004 9:44 pm

1. Half the fun is the strange looks we get. "If he didn't laugh, it wouldn't be the Tao." (Tao Te Ching Book 41)

2. I think Wushuer's approach is spot on. You have to figure out what works best for you, and (in this day and age) where you can squeeze practice in. I started 12 years ago with the 24-step simplified form and I enjoyed it a great deal. It created a foundation for other forms and also gave me soemthing of value to practice when time was so tight a long form just wasn't practical.

3. I sometimes wonder whether the perceived need to practice for long periods of time every single day can be counterproductive. The quality of practice is more important to me than the quantity. I think you need to find the best way to keep things fresh, enjoyable and interesting for you - not necessarily based upon regimens imposed by others. That includes the ancient masters (who I'm guessing did not face the challenges of raising children in a two income household).

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Postby Wushuer » Thu Apr 22, 2004 10:16 pm

I have always tried to see the humor in my TCC. Let's face it, it looks funny when you do this. Maybe not to us, but certainly to other people.
Besides, laughing was taught to me as a legitimate tactic for combat training in Wu style TCC. If you are laughing when you are struck hard in the lungs, or when you hit the ground after being offset or even thrown, your lungs will not have a sufficient amount of air pressure in them to explode from the force.
Laugh it up, folks. It's good for you.

I thought about going for the "the ancient masters may have only practiced long forms, but I'll bet they never had a disk array go haywire on them in the middle of an install either". But I decided that they most likely had their times equivelant of the same thing to deal with, so decided against it.
Let's face it, though. Those of us who are not lucky enough to be full time TCC teachers, where that's the only thing in the world we have to do all day every day, probably aren't going to be able to squeeze in ten forms a day.
I'm lucky. I get in at least two long forms a day, six days a week. I have consistently held to that, self imposed I might add, regimine for the last uncounted number of years.
I would say that most people would be lucky to get in two entire long forms a week.
Most of us are just not in a position where we have that kind of free time for our hobby.
And that's what this is for most of us, our hobby.
Short forms give us the ability to practice much more regularly. For that reason alone, there is nothing wrong with them that I can see, and a great deal that is right.
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Postby yangchengfu04 » Fri Apr 23, 2004 3:27 pm

Practice time and space certainly are critical factors in the modern age. ...... But, I'm sure even in the old days people still had the same amount of responsibilities that we do. If you think about it, maybe even more since the quality of life was a bit tougher then. I mean it's not like they had washer/drying machines or anything right?

Anyway, as busy as life can be, (I hope I don't sound to condescending here) I find it hard to believe that serious practitioners can't at least do the form everynight before bed (even if you are tired). Also, everything I have read (including YCF's comments) state that you have to practice every single day to build up your chi. I believe it!

As lazy as I am, I still somehow manage to do the long-form 2 times before bed everynight, and on weekends I do it twice in the morning and twice before bed (as YCF stated to do, I think).

I guess I'm lucky because I live in a rather large house, and we have a "main entry hall" which is just barely large enough for me to do the whole long-form without adjusting any steps. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate what that entry room actually means to me........ Previously I was living in a studio apartment, and I had to do the short form in 2 stages. I really dislike interrupting my flow once I get started, but I lived with it. Thankfully, those days are over. I even have a backyard I can do the form in, but at this stage I can't seem to do the turn around/kicks in the dirt. My feet always get stuck. I guess I'll have to work on that.

[This message has been edited by yangchengfu04 (edited 04-23-2004).]
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