Zhou Tai Chi Elbow

Zhou Tai Chi Elbow as stated in the 13 Kinetic Postures post is about using the elbow with full body weight behind it. If you look at the Tai Chi set are there any moves where the elbow is the primary obviously intended application of the move?

For the most part the answer is no.

Yet, having thought about it you will probably have thought of some moves where the elbow is fairly prominent or could easily be brought to bear. Now you are at least closer to thinking about Zhou Tai Chi Elbow the way that it is done as a movement in the form. Zhou Tai Chi Elbow is in almost every move of the set. To bring it into your Tai Chi practice you could easily move a little bit differently so that emphasis is on the elbow. Get your full body weight and structure behind it and you are really moving in the right direction.

Last but not least the real way that most Zhou Elbow techniques are done is that you don’t really move your elbow into a different position as much as you make sure to utilize the elbow whenever contact is made with it and put your mind intent and body weight and structural support into your elbow so that the recipient / opponent feels and gets the effect of that mind intent and whole body power / weight.

Practice techniques with this and you might be surprised at the number of applications that you discover for Zhou Tai Chi Elbow.

Lu Rollback

Lu Rollback is the second physical jing traditionally learned in Tai Chi training. In America Lu Rollback is a bit more well known as a result of having been publicly stated to be Chen Man Ching’s favorite move / action of Tai Chi.

Essentially Lu Rollback jing generally refers to the idea of getting out of the way of an incoming force simply by turning in a way so that the force is diverted out and / or away from you. Moving the arm(s) in a circle that diverts an incoming push or strike is the most common way that most folks have seen this action performed. Cloud Hands is a very Lu Rollback oriented Tai Chi move.

Lu jing is also classically noted for the practitioner receiving and collecting energy that they can then return to the attacker.

All of the first 4 primary Tai Chi jings can be performed with the arms and with other body parts as well including the torso. The first 4 primary Tai Chi jings can also be performed in large, medium and small frame manners.

I will cite an example of performing Lu Rollback with the torso using a large frame movement. Person A puts their hand on Person B chest and pushes straight in. Person B simply circles their entire torso so that Person A’s push does not go in and Person A stumbles if they keep trying to push as they are now pushing against / into air. The push is effectively neutralized by Person B’s movement.

An example of performing an internal small frame Lu Rollback movement is that Person A pushes into Person B’s chest and Person B receives the Push and routes it through their body so that it comes back out into Person A’s hand and pushes or hits them sending them back or breaking the wrist or arm. At a high level there is no physical movement that can be seen on the part of Person B. This is a skill that will come relatively quickly to anyone who completes our Internal Skill through Internal Push Hands video(s) that will be coming out soon.

Peng Jing

Peng Jing translated into English as Ward Off is classically considered to be the first posturally based Tai Chi energy taught to beginners. I was first exposed to Peng Jing in the late 1970’s. By the mid 1980’s I was fairly capable with the immovable aspect of Peng Jing. In more recent years I have become much more aware of other aspects of Peng Jing. In this article I will attempt to explain a bit about Peng.

When I first set out to write this post I wanted to give a basic but complete definition for Peng Jing that anyone could easily understand. As I contemplated my personal practice and understanding of Peng Jing I became painfully aware that a short, simple and understandable definition of Peng Jing may not be possible. There simply may not be a basic way to describe Peng Jing that makes it easy for a beginner to comprehend without first training a number of other aspects of Tai Chi.

I believe that perhaps the best way to tackle the subject of Peng Jing succinctly is to simply list a number of the qualities necessary for Peng Jing. Due to the length and nature of these qualities I have written separate posts on on some of them that can be referred back to for clarification and I will respond to questions. The student may need to work on other skills that I have not listed here in order to learn to perform quality Peng Jing. Some of these qualities seem like they would be mutually exclusive to others. For instance, some of the Tai Chi classics talk about Peng being hard and soft at the same time. All of these qualities I have listed are present at the same time for real peng. That is just part of the duality (Yin and Yang) of Tai Chi.

Qualities Necessary for Peng Jing

  1. Wu Chi Alignment Principles – Particularly the head held up by a string with the rest of the body hanging
  2. Ground Path
  3. Sung (relaxed but not collapsed)
  4. Rooted & Heavy
  5. Alive, springy elastic and pliable compression ability in the soft tissue of the body giving the body the buoyant feel of a boat or ball on water.
  6. Ligament and tendon strength
  7. The “straight in the curve” body bows and spirals.
  8. Round Ball expansiveness in all directions at the same time that makes it so that your body space cannot be entered and at the same time deflects anything/one trying to enter off around the outer circle of the ball.
  9. Sensitivity to feel where the incoming force is coming from and neutralize it as well as draw power off of it.
  10. A healthy mix of physical and mental eventually becoming much more mental with only a bare minimum of physical necessary. Relax everything so that you use only as much as you need and no extra. Expand with your mind so that your mind creates the expression.

Peng, Lu, Ji, An

Peng, Lu, Ji and An are considered to be the first 4 primary physical jing energies in Tai Chi Chuan. This post introduces these 4 jing energies.

At the bottom of this post, there is a list of separate, more accurate and comprehensive posts about each one.

Peng

Peng translates as Ward Off and is often thought of as an outward expanding and moving energy that bounces incoming force back as if you were pushing or shoving on a large inflated rubber ball.

The practitioner using Peng energy is very strong and immovable in their stance although not stiff or rigid in any way.

Lu

Lu translates as Rollback and is generally considered to be a diversion of the incoming force to one side or the other causing the attacker to lose their balance.

Lu also refers to the idea that the recipient / practitioner can use it to draw off incoming energy.

Ji

Ji translates as Press and tends to refer to the idea of pressing or pushing in with pressure in a way that causes two points of contact to meet in one spot inside the recipient.

So, two vectors of force that are directed and intended to meet in the same place.

An

An (Pronounced like the word “on”) translates as Push and tends to be a downward and then an upward action to help uproot the opponent. An Push jing refers to the idea that the force travels through the recipient moving or coming out the other side of the intended target.

How These Jings Relate To One Another

It is commonly thought that Peng is the primary physical jing and that the other jings are simply Peng jing expressed in a particular direction or form. There are those who disagree with this view of it.

I can see the merit in both arguments and am interested to hear what others think about the subject as long as the discussion is intelligent. I am not interested in a dogmatic religious or political approaches to any of this but I am very open to scholarly discussion and debate.

13 Kinetic Postures of Tai Chi

The 13 Kinetic Postures of Tai Chi are the same 13 Tai Chi energies that I wrote about in the previous post on the 13 postures of Tai Chi. As I wrote in that post on the 13 postures the main thing to understand about the 13 Kinetic Postures of Tai Chi, as they are referred to, is that they are really not so much physical postures as they are specific applications and expressions of movement and energy.

Kinetic refers to movement and that movement is the basis for the energy of the 13 Kinetic Postures of Tai Chi. The biggest thing to realize is that by energy I do not mean mumbo-jumbo but instead am referring to energetic expression in the same way that any physical effort is an expression of physical energy.

Proper alignment and inner body connection including ground path are important contributing factors to the energetic expression as well. I will be writing some posts on specific Tai Chi energies to help explain some of these aspects of the art in more detail.

Anyway, for the rest of this post I will try to elaborate on the energetic action of the 13 Kinetic Postures of Tai Chi.

The 13 Kinetic Postures Energies

I will be writing separate posts about most of these to really get into detail on what they are about.

The 8 Energies

1. Peng – Ward Off
I will be writing an in depth post about this one as it is very involved. Until then one basic way to think about peng is to put a large shield between you and an oncoming object and your body structure is braced behind the shield to deflect the oncoming object thereby warding it off.

2. Lu – Roll Back
Turning in any direction to help cause an incoming force to deflect off to the side or over or around you.

3. Ji – Press
Squeezing into or pressing into an object and causing as much of your alignment body force as possible to be concentrated into a small area. Often Ji involves expressing two directions of force together into one point forcing the recipient to be moved away by the squeezing out action.

4. An – Push
Gather and receive power then express power out usually in a direction that is under then up to lift and push through.

5. Tsai – Pluck
Think about plucking / picking fruit off of a tree with your fingers. In this case the action is against some body part of the other person’s such as their fingers or their elbow. The action is designed to suddenly pull the opponent out of alignment and position.

6. Lieh – Split
Think of pulling with one arm and pushing with the other as in an arm break / manipulation.

7. Zhou – Elbow
In this case the elbow with full body weight behind it.

8. Kao – Shoulder
In this case the shoulder with full body weight behind it.

Back
The back can also be used although it does not have its own separate designation in the 13. Usually the shoulder is used first and then if the shoulder is circumvented then the back can be turned into play.

The 5 Steps

1. Advancing Forward Steps
The expression of momentum added to the action.

2. Retreating Backwards Steps
Causing a vacuum for the opponent to overextend and fall into. The idea of leading the opponent into defeat.

3. Stepping to the Left
4. Stepping to the Right
The idea of avoiding and dissipating incoming force while gaining positional advantage.

5. Zhong Ding – Central Equilibrium
The vertical axis that everything else rotates around and up and down connection. This one deserves its own post and it is covered somewhat extensively in the first Clear’s Intermediate Tai Chi video.

13 Postures

Many Tai Chi Masters consider the 13 Postures or energies of Tai Chi to be the essence of the art.  The 13 Postures are most often what you see written about in the Tai Chi classics when a particular Tai Chi movement is explained or expounded upon.

The main thing to understand about the 13 postures as they are named is that they are really not so much physical postures as they are specific applications and expressions of movement and energy.  I will elaborate further on this in my next post which will be titled the 13 Kinetic postures.  But, first the list of the 13 postures.

Tai Chi generally always utilizes whole body power.  In the 13 Postures in terms of technique the first 8 postures refer to energetic expressions with some (usually upper body oriented) physical application and the last 5 postures refer to stepping directions and movements.

THE 13 POSTURES

  • THE 8 ENERGIES
    1. Peng – Ward Off
    2. Lu – Roll Back
    3. Ji – Press
    4. An – Push
    5. Tsai – Pluck
    6. Lieh – Split
    7. Zhou – Elbow
    8. Kao – Shoulder
  • THE 5 STEPS
    1. Advancing Forward Steps
    2. Retreating Backwards Steps
    3. Stepping to the Left
    4. Stepping to the Right
    5. Zhong Ding – Central Equilibrium