how many barehand forms?

how many barehand forms?

Postby glittalogik » Mon Nov 11, 2002 12:01 am

This is something that I've been wondering for a while, especially what with half the members of the Yang family teaching their own teached teaches a 24-form, 40-form and 108-form, but I'm seeing various others mentioned a lot more often on here...any clarification would be appreciated.
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Nov 11, 2002 11:19 pm

On this website I see a listing on the main page under "Tai Chi Info" for "Forms". There they give the posture names for a 103 posture hand form, a 49 posture demo form and a 13 posture Sword form.
The Yang Cheng-fu center I attend offers a 13 posture hand form as well.
I have been told of others, especially longer sword forms, though I have no idea what they are.
Certainly someone "official" from the website has more info, but those are the Yang Cheng-fu forms I have been told of.
There are as many forms of Taijiquan as there are people doing Taijiquan. You got it close to right when you said "half the Yang family teaching their own style", but that's not because these are "bad" or "improper" or "better" forms in any way.
Everyone does a "different" from because all people are different. I have read this in many places, and it just makes sense.
Yang Lu-chan had his way of teaching and he taught different forms throughout his lifetime to different people for different reasons, and every single person he taught learned it a different way, "their" way as you put it. When they in turn taught their students, they in turn learned it slightly "different" or "their" way, and each person who learns Taijiquan also does the form "their" way. It is inevitable.
No one form was or is "better" but each is legitimate Taijiquan, from a different perspective.
Let's not even go into the "differences" between the family styles. We could be here all year.
From what I understand from my research and my training in a few different family "styles", as long as the form meets the basic requirements for Taijiquan, and you can find many lists and much dissension just on that subject alone, it is legitimate Taijiquan.
So as long as your teacher learned from a qualifed teacher of any recognised family style and has been approved by his teacher to teach (man, that's a LONG way to say, "knows what he is doing" politely, aint it?) don't worry too much about "THE" definitive form. Not only will you not find one, you will open a debate that will rage long and heatedly about the subject, which will get you nowhere.
Relax, enjoy yourself. Learn all you can and do your best to apply that learning in as positive a manner as you can.
And, relax, relax, relax.
And don't forget to breath.
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Postby glittalogik » Fri Nov 15, 2002 7:40 am

thanks for that, Wushuer =) I'm not really fussed as to what the 'proper' or 'correct' forms are, it's just a point of curiosity - I'm happy to just relax and enjoy myself, as suggested. I asked my teacher this week about the forms and he told me the 24 and 40 forms he teaches were actually formed by the Beijing Institute of Sport...interesting bit of trivia...
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Nov 21, 2002 11:22 pm

Then if the "definitive" YCF forms aren't what you are looking for...
I know of a 108 posture Wu form. Inside that frame work there are the forms of Chuan (Quan) Yu, which was the small frame style of Yang Luchan and Yang Ban Hou.
Then there is Wu Chien Chuans form, called the "second generation" of Wu style.
Then there is the "third generation" of Wu style, right on down to the "fifth generation" of Wu style. Which happens to be what I studied previous to finding YCF style.
The differences in these "generational" styles is mostly, or so it seemed to me as I was taught the second and third and fourth generational styles, in how far down you "sit" into the form and how much "lean" is invested. The rest seems to be window dressing on the different postures, which all correlate right back to Yang Luchans small frame. Not to say it isn't "necessary" window dressing or important, it's just not the "main" difference in my opinion.
In Wu style, I have learned a 108 posture Saber form. Also a 108 posture Tai Chi Sword (I have heard it called a Gim, but don't know if I'm spelling that right) form. I learned the "fourth" generational forms of those, as my instructor was a fourth generation Wu member.
I have seen demonstrated a "demo" or Olympic form of Wu style that is relatively new, but have not studied it in any depth.

That is just the one other family I have any in depth knowledge of forms.
These Wu forms come down from the Yang family small frame form, as taught to Quan Yu by Yang Luchan and Yang Ban Hou.
Wu Chien Chuan, Yang Shao Hou and Yang Cheng Fu established the Beijing Institute of Physical Education together. So the split in "forms" does not seem to have caused a rift of any kind.
I am finding the contrasts between the "small" frame form of Wu Chien Chuan that I learned with the "large" frame form of Yang Cheng Fu to be absolutely fascinating.
Also, quite a bit frustrating.
Things that I learned in one form do not exactly carry over to another.
I imagine I look quite silly as I constantly run the two together.
I don't think I've managed the "large" frame exactly. I think that so far all I've managed to do is get somewhere in the "middle" frame of things.
If you're at all interested in the Wu forms, the wu family has a website.
I don't want to spam, so just go to and type in Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. It'll take you right to their website.
There you can see the list of the 108 postures of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan, along with a history and a lot of cool pictures.

Those are all the forms I know.
There is also what is reputed to be a Chen school in Florida. They, too, have a website. I haven't been in ages, but if you want I'll find the link. It's in my favorites, I'm sure, and can provide it to you.
The way it was explained to me, they have re-incorporated "cannon fist" back into their Taiji. I don't know that for sure, but some knowledgable people have told me that.
Let me know if you're interested.
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 24, 2002 8:46 pm

Hi Glittalogik and Wushuer,

Wushuer, thanks for the information about the Wu Family forms. I think your account could also stand for the variety that exists in the other branches of Taijiquan.

By the way, “gim” (pronounced with the “hard ‘g’” of the English word “go” and with a mid-level tone) is one way to spell the Cantonese equivalent of the Mandarin word “jian.” Both mean “sword.” As you may know, many Taiji lineages have portions that go through Hong Kong or Guangdong (Canton), where Cantonese is the dominant language. Cantonese is not spoken in the region where historical Taijiquan emerged over the last 2-3 centuries, but it is the dominant version of Chinese among most longstanding overseas Chinese communities in the U.S., in the U.K., and in many areas of Southeast Asia.

Glittalogik, I can add a little to what you posted about the Beijing Institute of Sport. My understanding is that a few decades ago government officials who were experienced in Taijiquan created shortened forms to be used almost as national callisthenic routines. I think they then also developed into competition vehicles analogous to those for figure skating.

According to my memory, the main routines had 24 or 48 movements, but many variations have been created. Like in everything else about Taijiquan, opinion differs as the relative value of these forms, compared with the traditional ones. Nothing is as simple as it appears on the surface or as complex as the full facts might suggest.

I believe that a distinctive characteristic of these forms is that they are quite symmetrical, generally repeating postures or sequences of postures to both the right and left sides. I believe that the theory was that it was healthier to exercise both sides of the body equally. For whatever reason, most of the traditional Taijiquan I have seen or read about does not seem to bother with form symmetry. I have even heard second hand that some masters claim that rigid symmetry in the form is bad for the health, since the body itself is not symmetrical (e.g., the placement of the heart and liver). Others argue the same position from a martial perspective. I am aware, however, of some who do both left and right hand versions of some “Yang Style” forms. Again, opinions differ.

The government forms were developed independently from members of the traditional families. Recently, these families were invited by the Chinese government to create new “more traditional” shortened forms. This is what I understand to be the genesis of the 49-movement Yang Style form described on this website. The 49-movement form is intended for demonstration and competition, but not as a stepping stone to or replacement for the 103-movement form. It is conservative in design, retaining all the named postures of the 103-movement form, but deleting some repetitions, altering the sequence of some postures, and creating some new posture transitions.

I understand that the Yangs have also recently created a 13-movement form to satisfy those who have clamored for something that can be performed by those whose health or mental condition do not permit study of longer forms. I think it was described elsewhere on the discussion board, but I confess to have had difficulty locating the thread. Perhaps Charla could help with this, since I believe she was involved in the discussion with Yang Jun where the form was described.

As for other forms, much could be said, in fact, probably too much for anyone’s taste. There are no generally accepted Taiji authorities, and so anyone can create a form for any purpose. Many have done so, to varying effect and impact on the greater Taiji community. If you read a lot about Taijiquan, you will hear about perhaps a dozen bare-hand forms or families of forms that pretty much represent the breadth of the art and that have some notoriety. Many more than this exist, however, probably even within the limited confines of “Yang Style.”

Take care,
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Postby Charla Quinn » Mon Nov 25, 2002 6:40 am

Master Yang Jun talked about the 13 move form in the "Ask Yang Jun" thread on 3/02 and 10/01. He also mentioned it at the recent Seattle seminar (and there was a small poster of Master Yang ZD performing it on the Center wall). He said that this form was created at the urging and with the support of the government (but, not by the gov't). Each family , Yang, Chen, Wu,Woo, and Sun all developed a 13 move form for their style. These shortened forms were apparently created to reach more people as they are easier to learn and perform. I'm going to go back there and look for the names of the movements. CQ
Aha! Here they are:
1 Opening (Qi Shi)
2 Wave Hands like Clouds, only one (Yun Shou)
3 Single Whip (Dan Bian)
4 Punch under the Elbow (Zhou Di Chui)
5 White Crane Spreads its Wings (Bai He Liang Chi)
6 Brush Knee and Push (Lou Xi Ao Bu)
7 Hands Strum the Lute (Shou Hui Pi Pa)
8 High Pat on Horse (Gao Tan Ma)
9 Thrust Palm (Chuan Zhang)
10 Turn Body and Chop with fist (Zhuan Sheng Pie Sheng Chui)
11 Step Forward, Parry, Block and Punch (Jin Bu Ban Lan Chui)
12 Step Forward Grasp the Bird¡¯s Tail (Shang Bu LAN Que Wei)
13 Closing (Shou Shi)

[This message has been edited by Charla Quinn (edited 11-25-2002).]

[This message has been edited by Charla Quinn (edited 11-25-2002).]
Charla Quinn
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Nov 25, 2002 5:17 pm

The 13 posture form was the first YCF form that I learned.
I must admit to taking it to get a "feel" for the level of instruction in my area at a YCF Center.
I had my head in "Wu family" mode, after having been a student at a Wu's Academy for a long lot of years and I was a bit "snobby" about taking another form. Unfortunately for me, my work caused me to move across the country and now the Wu style is out of reach. I was out of practice, and have no viable way of keeping up with that style of Taijiquan. Practicing by yourself does not keep you up to snuff and I am the only practicioner of Wu style that I can find in my entire state! Believe me, I've looked. Hard.
I took the course with an admitted bias against "Yang style", as, let's go ahead and say it, most "Yang style" teachers in this country (USA, I guess I should add) wouldn't know their Tantien from their behind if you gave them a map and don't teach anything approaching a legitmate form of Taijiquan.
There's a lot of what we called "new-age crystal wavers" out there CLAIMING to be teaching Taijiquan, but aren't.
So I took that class and was extremely impressed by the level of skill of the instructors at my local YCF Center.
I now find I really enjoy that 13 posture form. I do it at least once a day. Usually more. It is a good way to work out the kinks when you only have a few minutes to do so. Like on a break at work. I have found that the handicapped stalls in the restrooms are large enough to do this form with no need to shift around awkwardly. Anyway...
Just wanted to say that the 13 posture form isn't a bit "watered down", so to speak, for serious form work.
It is a pleasant alternative to doing nothing, or even just chopped up sections of the long form, due to constraints in time or location. It has a definite beginning, middle and end and allows you to get the basics in when you don't have time for much more.
I find I also like to use it as an excellent warm up before longer forms. It opens everything up and gets your mind and body in a state where you are ready for more serious work on your longer forms.

Thank you for the Chinese lesson. I always wonderd if I was saying that right, and even asked quite a few times during my training. I was assured I was pronouncing it correctly, but I don't believe I ever saw it spelled. The class was just "Tai Chi Chuan Sword", as opposed to "Tai Chi Chuan Saber".
Once a disciple of the Wu family told me Gim meant "knife", but he didn't know any more Chinese than I did and was reporting what his teacher told him.
The form completely escapes me, I'm ashamed to admit. I can only remember tiny bits of it. I took it over ten years ago, and never got what you would call "proficient" at it. I am afraid I took it too soon after the Saber form and my brain only seems to want to remember the Saber.
I remember all the warm ups and the version of the Nine Cuts that was associated with the Gim, slightly different from the Saber, but that's as far as I can recall.
I'm afraid I don't remember much of my spear/staff form either. Too long ago and no viable way to practice it. Again, I remember the warm ups, I remember a lot of static postures, but I cannot remember the transitions to go between them.
Let that be a warning to one and all! Once you get this stuff in your head, DO NOT stop practicing. I went about three or four years without practicing either the Gim form or the spear forms, and that's all it took to for my old brain to forget them almost completely.
Practice, practice, practice.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 11-25-2002).]
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Postby glittalogik » Tue Nov 26, 2002 3:35 am

I must say Australia is incredibly lucky to be so close to Southeast Asia - we have excellent teachers for practically every martial art you care to name Image
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Nov 26, 2002 4:15 pm

Go ahead, rub it in. We can take it.

I my region of the good ol' USofA, we have a definite shortage of qualified teachers of recognised family styles of Tai Chi Chuan.
We don't have a shortage of people CLAIMING to be teachers, don't get me wrong. You can't swing a deceased feline around here without smacking it into another "Tai Chi" instructor.
The difference being that these "teachers" don't seem to have a genuine understanding or feel for Taijiquan.
Trust me, I've visited every teacher and school within fifty miles of my home. Before I tripped across our local YCF Center, not one of them was teaching what looked like Taijiquan as I have been taught to recognise it. While I am sure they are honest in their belief that what they do is Taijiquan, it has no resembalance to the Taiji principals I was taught to respect.
Anybody can open a studio and put up a sign saying "Tai Chi taught here, come one, come all and learn the healthy exercise from the orient!" and get a whole bunch of paying students to come throw money at them to teach them what they call, and mostly genuinely believe to be, Tai Chi.
Us iggerant Uh-mericans don't know no better, so we're easily deceived.
Let's just say that, judging by the skill level of "instructors" in my area, I could open a Taijiquan studio, teach on my own and CLAIM to be a "Taiji Master with seventeen years of training in the martial arts under Wushu Masters from the Orient, possesing fifteen years experience in teaching Wushu to beginner and intermediate students". Who would know otherwise? I even know all the right names of dead Masters to put down and claim to be my instructors...
Oh, wait!
I AM all those things. EXCEPT the Master part, of course. I have a long way to go before I reach that particular place.
I am not, in my opinion, qualified to teach Taijiquan on my own, though I was given permission by my Master. All my previous "teaching" experience was under the direct guidance of a Disciple or Master at all times, so despite the fact that I taught at that level for a number of years, I would not feel comfortable teaching others what I feel I have not yet Mastered myself.

Could I do this and be succesful?
Sure. I know enough Taiji prinicpals to pull it off more conviningly than most and, after all, there's not a "Taijiquan Police Force" that goes around arresting fakes.
The difference is, I couldn't mislead people like that in good conscience.
Of course, what I would teach might be closer to the real thing, but that still wouldn't make it right.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to walk in to a classroom and the instructor has no idea what the tantien is, much less where it is? Or what style of Taiji they claim to teach? Or how to generate Chi? Or a form? Or what the basic principals of Taijiquan are? Or ANYTHING about Taijiquan theory at all?
Most of them get around not knowing any martial applications by claiming that Taijiquan is most definitely NOT a martial art and never was, that it is strictly a type of "dance" or "exercise" dedicated to health and longevity and you CAN'T do martial arts with it. I have three people I work with who want to argue that exact point with me every chance they get. They are taking "instruction in Tai Chi" and that's what their "Sifu" told them. When I was searching for a teacher and ran into these co-workers at a class, they cornered me and asked where I had trained previously. I told them that I had trained in this martial art at Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy and was immediately informed that I what I had learned was not genuine Tai Chi, becuase Tai Chi is not a martial art.
I have been taught to smile politely, nod and walk away without saying a word when I encounter this. So that's what I do.
A lot.
It's not MY place to police the local "Tai Chi experts" or try to change the minds of people who don't know any better and are happy in what they are currently learning. I am here to learn Taijiquan the best way I can, for myself and hopefully some day to teach to others in the best way I will know how at that time.

Yes, consider yourself very fortunate if, indeed, you are blessed with a plethora of qualified teachers in your area. Not everyone has the luxury of qualified instruction.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 11-26-2002).]
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Postby gene » Tue Nov 26, 2002 8:12 pm


My experience with "pretend" taiji teachers has been the same as yours. The worst, I think, are those who advertise taiji instruction as part of a curriculum that runs from Kali to Savate with everthing else in between. We've been talking on this site about how difficult it would be to master a single style of taiji. The possibility of being competent at taiji and a smorgasbord of unrelated arts? The Red Sox have a better chance of winning the World Series. Having said that, I think there are some very good teachers out there who do teach other arts and from whom you can get an excellent grounding in the basics of taiji. But to me, the true acid test, if you want to get to a higher level, is push hands. Do they teach it, and are they good at it? The martial arts smorgasbord purveyors generally have no understanding of push hands. I just don't think a person can understand (and transmit) the true energy of taiji without a very good understanding of real (not tournament grappling) push hands. Of course, as Dennis Miller says, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Best regards,

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Postby Wushuer » Tue Nov 26, 2002 9:09 pm

I think of push hands as "martial applications". So I lump push hands in with any "martial" aspects of Tai Chi Ch'uan as a whole. I guess I came to consider them the same thing when I started sparring free style.
When shopping for a teacher I always ask first, "What style do you teach? Do you teach martial applications? Do you teach weapons?" The answers to these pretty much tells me whether I'm going to keep asking questions.
Next comes "Who was your teacher?" Followed by "Who was their teacher?" and so on.
I go for lineage, I have to admit. It's not exactly a panacea for discovering whether your teacher is genuine, but it gives you a basis for comparison.
I can see being proficient in many different styles of martial arts. I am, or was, considered proficient in a hard style, myself. I haven't even done a single kata in ten years, so I have no idea if I would still be good at that, mostly because I don't think it's very effective now that I've come to understand Tai Chi. But at one point I was able to hold my own in a few tournaments.
Certainly good enough to teach, had I chosen to do so.
Then I found Tai Chi Ch'uan and realised where the actual "art" was to be found.
I find that most Tai Chi practicioners come from an external background. I imagine some of them may have been teaching this external style and would still have a number of students in that style under their instruction.
With that in mind, I can see where a very small number of schools might legitimately teach "both" styles.
Another idea, if a group of martial artists rent a studio together, then I could see a great number of styles being taught legitimately in one place.
But I see your point. How could one person master such a plethora of styles well enough to claim to be a Master in them all?
I would have to say, they couldn't.
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Nov 28, 2002 10:22 pm

Hi Wushuer,

from what you've written, I think you should put an ad up somewhere in your area and just start teaching a few students --for your own practice. How about putting your information on the searching for teachers section of this website. Say that you're looking for practice partners.

Steve James
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Dec 03, 2002 3:18 pm

I had given that very idea a lot of thought. I was just about to do so, after all I do have my former Masters permission to teach up to intermediate level students.
However I decided against it, due to my own lack of practice. I was seriously out of practice myself, how could I have effectively taught others?
In my own opinion, someone who can barely do a long form anymore without stopping to figure out where they are should not teach beginners.
I decided to go in search of a local teacher or even another practicioner of the Wu style to practice with to get myself back up to snuff.
There aren't any teachers of Wu style in my area, or anywhere even close, and there are no practicioners of Wu style within two hundred miles of my present location. I spent a year looking, without even a hint of one.
So I figured, "what the hey? any legitimate style will do" and went in search of a teacher with experience in ANY recognised style of Taijiquan.
I didn't find one until, quite by accident, I happened to see an ad for YCF Tai Chi Chuan. I wrote down the website listed and went to visit it.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a YCF Center in my very town. I had heard of YCF centers, because in my old town there are a few of them. I had heard many good things from my former teachers about the teacher who taught my current teacher.
So I went and observed a class. I was thrilled. Here was Taijiquan in my area.
I have been having a ball learning a new style. There are so many differences, but what I've discovered also are the similarities.
No, I could not in conscience open a school and teach. Not at this time.
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Postby tai1chi » Tue Dec 03, 2002 9:50 pm

Hi Wushuer,

well, I will take the liberty of strenuously arguing that you are wrong. I understand your arguments. Your concern for your potential students is laudable, and necessary, imo. Then again, imho, a student can do no better than having a teacher who cares and strives at self-improvement --as long as he or she is honest about it --which you seem to be. Personally, I think one *begins* learning when one begins teaching. It imposes a responsibility. As far as practice is concerned, you'll get far more practice if you teach than if you don't. OK, it's possible that you won't be able to do as much advanced stuff as you'd like, but you'd have loads of practice on the basics --which I tend to think are more important. I.e., you're likely to do many more Grasp Bird's Tails if you have to teach it over and over again to different students. In many ways, I will argue that it's very very difficult to get to the level you seek *without* teaching. Plus, there's an added benefit to teaching: since there are many possible interpretations and understandings, teaching forces you to find out what you really believe. Well, ideally, there's always the chance that you'll fool yourself. But, that a chance you will take no matter when you start teaching. Anyway, I didn't mean to suggest that you should open up a formal school. You could probably find some people who might be interested in just practicing. And, finally, instead of "students", you might look for tcc "friends." Hey, I know that it's a risk --especially nowadays when everyone wants to be sure of lineage and that they're getting the "real" stuff --as they say. Well, I say "teach what you *really* know." If people want it, fine: if not, that's not your problem. So, those are the reasons I think you should try teaching. Of course, don't give up your day job on my account. It's just a suggestion.

Steve James
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Dec 03, 2002 10:09 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence.
I do intend to teach again some day.
For right now, I'm enjoying being a student again too much to want to teach.
I do like the idea of a practice group, though. I might see about organizing something like that. A group of people practicing together a few times a week really appeals to me.
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