In the routine, the hands must have dexterity, and they change with most applications. In Taijiquan, there are three usages of the hands: palms, fists and hooks.
In Taijiquan, there are a lot of applications with the palms. The general requirements of the palms are: extending but slightly bending the five fingers naturally. The four fingers, except the thumb, are held together relaxed, a little open, without being forced. The thumb is separated from the other four fingers naturally; relax the part of the hand between the thumb and the index finger. Empty the center of the palm to form a shape of a socket. Keep the palm and fingers relaxed (see Fig. 1-4-1A). The changes of the palms are as follows:
A. Zheng Zhang(Frontal Palm): The tips of the fingers point upward, and the center of the palm faces forward (see Fig. 1-4-1B). This type of palm often appears in the moving of an attack.
B.Li Zhang (Standing Palm): The tips of the fingers point upward or partially upward, and the center of the palm faces any direction except to the front (see Fig. 1-4-1C). This is the main type of palm used in Taijiquan. In most cases, the center of the palm is partial to facing downward; it is the type of hands used when Yin is more than Yang. It is also called four-six hands (six Yin and four Yang).
C. Zhai Zhang (Side Palm): The tips of the fingers point forward, and keep the palm facing to the side (see Fig. 1-4-1D). This type of palm often appears in the moving of an attack.
D. Yang Zhang (Upward facing palm): The center of the palm faces upward or partially upward (see Fig. 1-4-1E). It is also called Yang hand.
E. Fu Zhang (Rotating Palm): The center of the palm faces downward or partially downward (see Fig. 1-4-1F). It is also called Yin hand
F. Fan Zhang (Counter Palm): The thumb points downward or partially downward, and the center of the palm faces backward (see Fig. 1-4-1G).
G.Chui Zhang (Hanging Palm): The tips of the fingers point downward or partially downward
(see Fig. 1-4-1H).
Taijiquan requires softness, “using the mind not brute force”, “the firm energy hides within soft energy”. The fist of Taijiquan is a relaxed fist that closes the fingers and the thumb rests on the index and middle fingers (see Fig. 1-4-2A). The fist is formed from a palm within the movements. It should not be held too tightly. Only in the end of emitting energy and striking, the fist is tight, but it is relaxed immediately afterward.
A. Zheng Quan (Frontal Fist): The eye of the fist is upward (see Fig. 1-4-2A).
B. Li Quan(Standing Fist): The front side of the fist is upward (see Fig. 1-4-2B).
C. Yang Quan(Upward Facing Fist): The center of the fist is upward (see Fig. 1-4-2C), also called Yang fist.
D. Fu Quan (Rotating Fist): The center of the fist is upward (see Fig. 1-4-2D), also called Yin fist.
E. Zai Quan(Inserting Fist): The frontal side of the fist is downward, or partially downward (see Fig. 1-4-2E).
F. Fan Quan (Counter Fist): The eye of the fist is downward and the center of the fist is backward (see fig. 1-4-2F).
(3) Hook Hands
The hook hand is usually formed from a palm within the movements. It requires the wrist to be kept straight, the tips of the five fingers are held together naturally (see Fig. 1-4-3A).
(4) The basic requirements of the hands
The movements of the hands are connected through the arms and through the waist and body. The hands, elbows, shoulders and waist form an integrated unit. The hands never move alone, they must be led from the waist. We say: “The Waist is the axis’, “give priority to the waist”, and “The crucial point is on the waist”. The movements and techniques of the hands are not only influenced by the flowing of Qi and blood, but also influenced by the effect of the martial applications. The following is the basic requirements for hands:
A. The movements of the hands must be soft, relaxed and nimble, not stagnant or held rigid. Externally, they move in a circular fashion; internally they move through twining energy, never going in a straight line.
B. The wrists should be extended naturally, never bending the wrist, and turning them at will. Otherwise, the hands become separated from the arms and disconnected.
C. Generally speaking, the hands never go beyond their reach, when the hands go upward or to the center. When going downward or the left hand goes to left side and right hand goes to the right side, never crossing the centerline. Specifically, the hands never go above the eyebrows (besides the form “Golden pheasant stands on one leg”), or over the centerline. Each hand moves within its own side of the body.
D. The hands, elbows and shoulders are connected as a single unit, the shoulders and elbows influence the movement and technique of the hands directly. The practitioner must pay attention to relaxing the shoulders and elbows. Never lift the shoulders or elbows, keeping space under the armpits.
2) Types of Footwork and Stances
Footwork has a close relation to the steadiness of a posture, the opening and roundness of the crotch, the rotation of waist, and the shifting of the weight. The direction of the feet is the key to footwork. We must be clear and define the requirements or essentials of the feet in footwork and apply them in each movement.
(1) Gong Bu (Bow Stance): Open both feet about half the distance of the body. Both feet should set firmly on the ground, and kept in a straight line. The toes of the feet have a 450 angle to the line, and both parallel each other. Bend the left (right) knee. The knee should not pass over the toes. Keep the calf perpendicular to the ground. The hips should not be lower than the knee. Keep the right (left) leg almost straight. Turn the right (left) waist inward and relax. This is called a left (right) bow stance (see Fig. 1-4-4A).
(2) Ma Bu(Horse Stance): Open both feet shoulder-width or more. Both feet are set firmly on the ground, and kept in a straight line. The toes of both feet point forward. Bend both knees. The knees should not extend pass the toes. Keep the calves perpendicular to the ground. The hips should not be lower than the knees (see Fig. 1-4-4B).
(3) Xu Bu(Empty Stance): Open both feet shoulder-width in a straight line. The toes of both feet point forward. Keep the right (left) foot firmly on the ground; the calf is perpendicular to the ground. Bend the knee without extending over the toes. The left (right) toes of the foot rest on the ground with the knee bent. The hips should not be lower than the knees. When the left (right) foot moves forward, the toes rest on the ground with the knee bent. The right (left) foot sets firmly on the ground at the rear with the knee bent. This is called left (right) empty stance (see Fig. 1-4-4C).
(4) Pu Bu (Drop Stance): keep the right (left) foot firmly on the ground with the toes pointing forward and the knee bent. The left (right) foot spreads open and forward with the heel resting on the ground, the toes point upward and the calf almost touches the ground. Keep the hips close to or touching the ground (see Fig. 1-4-4D).
(5) Xie Bu(Resting Stance): Also called crossed step. The left (right) leg is to the front while the right (left) leg is to the rear. Cross both knees. Left (right) foot sets firmly on the ground with the toes pointing forward. The right (left) foot is set about 30 cm to the left (right) of the right (left) foot with the toes touching the ground. Keep the hips higher than the knees (see Fig. 1-4-4E).
(6) Duli Bu (Standing on One leg Stance): Stand on the right (left) foot with the leg slightly bent. The foot is set firmly on the ground and the toes point forward. Lift the left (right) knee with the toes pointing forward or downward (see Fig. 1-4-4F).
(7) The basic requirements for stances.
The types of stances and the direction of the feet directly influence the opening and roundness of the crotch and the stability of the stance. In martial arts, they are also held in close relation to the agility of weight changes, advancing and retreating. Furthermore, the movements of the hands and feet should relate in the same manner. The feet, ankles, knees, and waist are all integrated as a single unit.
A. Whatever the changes are in stances, both feet must be parallel to each other and in one straight line.
B. The movements of the feet are the same as the hands. They are circular on the outside, and have twining energy inside.
C. Shifting the weight must be clear. The weight shift ratio between left and right is usually four-six or three-seven. Avoid being weighted to far to one side.
D. The knees should avoid extending over the toes. The waist should be relaxed.
E. Keep the legs natural, relaxed, extended and maintaining roundness with no stiffness or rigidity.