The importance of the 13 Postures

Xue Sheng

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From Yang Banhou, translated by Yang Jwing Ming

This applies to Yang Style Taijiquan

How you reach to a high level of Gongfu depends on how completely you can comprehend the thirteen postures. If you only practice, without being able to comprehend these thirteen basic Jin patterns, you will never reach a proficient level of Taijiquan in your lifetime.

I was reading this post and I thought I should post something about the 13 postures and the importance of the 13 postures to Yang style Taijiquan

Many Yang style schools do not stress the 13 postures and even more today don’t mention them at all and they are very important to the martial side of Yang Style Taijiquan.
 
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Xue Sheng

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The Thirteen Postures

1. Ward Off - Peng
2. Roll Back - Lu
3. Press - Ji
4. Push - An
5. Yank (Pull Down) - Cai
6. Split - Lie
7. Elbow - zhou
8. Shoulder - Kao
9. Advance - Jin
10. Retreat - Tui
11. Step Left watch right - Ku
12. Step Right watch left - Pan
13. Center - Ding
 

Dean

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Many Yang style schools do not stress the 13 postures and even more today dont mention them at all and they are very important to the martial side of Yang Style Taijiquan.
Hi Xue Sheng,

Yes, the original 13 postures should be included in form sets. In my experience they are repeated over and over again. Without these postures, how can it be called Taijiquan?
 

ggg214

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i think they are not just 13 postures. 8 of them(item 1 to item 8) are kinds of power or Jin(劲), 5 of them (item 9 to item 13) are kinds of movements or Shen fa(身法).
taiji's training is aiming to find these power and movements.
 
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Xue Sheng

Xue Sheng

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i think they are not just 13 postures. 8 of them(item 1 to item 8) are kinds of power or Jin(劲), 5 of them (item 9 to item 13) are kinds of movements or Shen fa(身法).
taiji's training is aiming to find these power and movements.

Correct

It translates in English to the 13 postures. It is actually 8 postures (also called 8 gates or jin movements) 4 directions or movements and center or stationary; 8+4+1=13. It is also based on a Taoist way of looking at things so on a chart you will see South at the top as opposed to what we see in the west and is seen a lot now in China putting south at the bottom. This translates as South being forward instead of backward.

It just tends to be easier for us westerners to look at it as the 13 postures :)
 

Ninebird8

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Thanks Xue! My Yang sifu, Jeff Bolt, and his teacher Dr. Yang have always emphasized these 13 postures, along with the silk reeling, and fa jing. Also essential for good moving push hands, especially the first four, which I consider absolutely necessary for good movement. The underrated one, in my mind of course, is the last one: the center. Very difficult to understand and execute the center while moving to root in the center for that brief second in every move, then using the connectivity until rooted instaneously in the center and tan tien, even when moving. As I have stated before, my tai chi practice has always been much more difficult for me than my kung fu practice! But that is why I love it so, and as I get older, I find the 13 postures also helps with the standing meditation, and sinking, two elements usually also not practiced much anymore.
 

Quotheraving

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The Thirteen Postures

1. Ward Off - Peng
2. Roll Back - Lu
3. Press - Ji
4. Push - An
5. Yank (Pull Down) - Cai
6. Split - Lie
7. Elbow - zhou
8. Shoulder - Kao
9. Advance - Jin
10. Retreat - Tui
11. Step Left watch right - Ku
12. Step Right watch left - Pan
13. Center - Ding

I've come across (and suffered) lots of confusion around the meaning of "11" & "12", called here Step left watch right and step right watch left, though more properly called Gaze Left and Look right.

The clearest explanation I've heard of these principles comes from Sam Masich, who as well as being a truly lovely bloke is able to explain these matters much better than I can, so please forgive me my clumsy attempt at passing this on.



The clue to these two principles lies in the terms used: "Gazing" and "Looking", rather than in the directions, which are included to complete the traditional 5 directions of the Chinese culture.

Gazing implies that we aren't directing our sight with any real intent, or put another way, that the eyes follow the movement of the body.

Looking on the other hand is when we turn specifically to direct our attention.


In Gazing Left the spine doesn't twist relative to the hips, but rather is carried along the hip track, and so the gaze of the eyes moves in an arc to the left (if retreating along the hip-track in, for example, a right bow stance, or advancing along the hip-track in a left bow stance), though we could equally well gaze right (with the exact opposite directions to previously).

In Looking Right the waist turns independently of the hip-track, turning the upper body to the right (or left if we were to look left instead).



Sorry if this is a bit pedestrian for you guys, but the terms used are fuzzy at best, which is the source for all that confusion I mentioned earlier.
 
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Xue Sheng

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Additionally if you chart the 13 postures, which was done a long long time ago you will get directions (forward/South) and elements (Wu Xing; metal/jin, wood/mu, water/shui, fire/huo, earth/tu) associated with the 8 gates.

However there may be some difference from my understanding of these than a Yang stylist that comes directly from the Yang Family since mine comes from Tung Ying Chieh. So in an effort to not get into a flame war, which I have seen on other sites when discussing the 13 postures due to that difference I will not be posting the chart.

Also I am not using the exact terminology, I have simplified it in places to give a basic understanding and to avoid copious typing (which I am often rather guilty of – see this post ) in description, and hence the wording look as opposed to gaze. But I do appreciate the addition :asian:
 

Quotheraving

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Don't worry yourself unduly Xue, I'm not the type to get steamed up over anyone disagreeing with me (except for when they are likely to sway others into believing something that will cause them harm), ideas are just that, ideas. And as this idea is actually someone elses I have even less invested in it.
Besides if we can't discuss the 13 postures and what they mean in this thread, well then where can we? :)

As for the Yang family, from what I can garner from their syndicated (TM) website the majority view is that the Wu Bu are literally directions of movement / response rather than the phases or elements of the stance as is the view professed by Sam Masich.
Both views gel with the song of the 5 steps, which is vague enough to mean pretty much whatever you wish it to.

Sam's view is one that seems to make sense, but that doesn't necessarily make it the correct one.
I can paraphrase it as follows.

The Wu Bu is a representation of 5 elements of motion that can be seen to comprise a stance.
Advance is moving the weight from the back leg to the front.
Retreat is Moving the weight from the front to the back.
(side to side motion is still a form of advance / retreat in this take on the Wu Bu)
Central Settling is simply settling into one's structure in a balanced way, which can be realised at virtually any point in a stance.
Look left and Gaze right have been tackled previously, so no need to bore you with these again.
 
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Xue Sheng

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1. Ward Off - Peng
2. Roll Back - Lu
3. Press - Ji
4. Push - An
5. Yank (Pull Down) - Cai
6. Split - Lie
7. Elbow - zhou
8. Shoulder - Kao

The Eight Basic Applications by Tung Ying Chieh (edited)

Peng -Ward Off
A blocking energy or position, Peng is used to create space between you
and an opponent...

Lu -Roll back
Lu is a pulling energy used to guide and neutralize an opponent's energy
to the side...

Ji -Press
Ji is to use the back hand to press the front wrist by relaxing the front
hand and pressing from the back hand and leg, then Faijing with the back hand suddenly...

An -Push
An is to use both hands to push at the chest. It is used to pin an opponent. An, can also be applied with one hand...

Cai -Yank
Cai energy is sudden and uses short energy...

Lie -Break or Split
Lie energy can be applied to various moves...

Zhou -Elbow
Zhou is an elbow strike at close range...

Kao -Shoulder
Kao means, "to lean and strike with shoulder." ...
 

Yoshiyahu

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Thank you for your list. Very interesting. Yes my Sifu Likes to use all of these on me when we do push hands. Except I haven't seen him use the shoulder accept for when practice the Long Form. I try not ever over extend my self So he can use his shoulder. But he has outstanding skill an being totallly soft but still warding you off and or neutralize your energy. If you loose any force with him your going be off balance or up rooted easily. I usually try to use about as much force with him as I would two year old. That way I can be sure not fall on my face or get pushed into wall or something.

1. Ward Off - Peng
2. Roll Back - Lu
3. Press - Ji
4. Push - An
5. Yank (Pull Down) - Cai
6. Split - Lie
7. Elbow - zhou
8. Shoulder - Kao

The Eight Basic Applications by Tung Ying Chieh (edited)
 

Formosa Neijia

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1. Ward Off - Peng
2. Roll Back - Lu
3. Press - Ji
4. Push - An
5. Yank (Pull Down) - Cai
6. Split - Lie
7. Elbow - zhou
8. Shoulder - Kao

The Eight Basic Applications by Tung Ying Chieh (edited)

the 13 postures are vitally important. Agreed on that. The problem in Yang style is that only the first four of the 8 primary jins are made explicit in the long form. The other four (cai-pluck, lie-split, zhou-elbow, kao-shoulder/crash) are hidden in the moves of the long form. You have to have a good knowledge of the first four to find the second group of four.

For eaxmple, cai-pluck is a kind of lu-rollback but done very sharply. You have to have very good rollback skills in order to use pluck.

Lie-split is a combination of peng-wardoff and lu-rollback. You have to understand those first two in order to have good split.

This is why Yang style emphasizes grasp the bird's atil so much.It's the key to unlocking the form.

Dr. Yang's qinna book is outstanding and should be on every Yang stylists bookshelf because he took the time to decode each movement in terms of the underlying jins -- starting with peng, lu, ji, and an. Understanding the material in that book will decode almost all of Yang style for you.
 
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Xue Sheng

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This is why Yang style emphasizes grasp the bird's atil so much. It's the key to unlocking the form.

yup

For eaxmple, cai-pluck is a kind of lu-rollback but done very sharply. You have to have very good rollback skills in order to use pluck.

Lie-split is a combination of peng-wardoff and lu-rollback. You have to understand those first two in order to have good split.

cai-pluck > needle at sea bottom

Lie-split > Diagonal Slant Flying
 

Myrmidon

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Here's one perspective from the Chen Style:


Bafa (8 methods)


  1. Peng: overall expanding energy.
  2. Lu: energy that catches the opponent and make it come towards you.
  3. Ji: energy that gets in close to the opponent but will not act on him.
  4. An: energy that pushes but mainly separates from opponent.
  5. Cai: energy that severs opponent by a pull or a jerk.
  6. Lie (Lieh): energy that severs opponent by a even break (power on both ends or hands).
  7. Zhou: energy that twists the opponent.
  8. Kao: energy that is whole body action.

Wu Xing (5 positions)


  1. Advance: move forward.​
  2. Retreat: step backwards.​
  3. Look: size up the opponent.​
  4. Gaze: examine the oppnent.​
  5. Central Equilibrium: keep the balance and not fall down.​
 
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