Tai Ji Quan

The Wu/Cheng Hand Form

Like the role of language in defining the human race, the hand form both unifies and distinguishes all the various styles of Taiji. Firstly, it unifies Taiji in that all the styles have one or more hand forms, and the hand forms of one style are, more or less, recognizable to practitioners of other styles. But it also distinguishes the different styles through those variations. Variations in the sequence, both in order and length of sequence; variations in the details of the individual postures and their transitions; variations in the applications derived from the postures; variations in the names of the postures.

Since I often find myself discussing these matters with my students, it is useful to have the material on-line for reference. The following pages explore some of these issues.

The Role of the Hand Form

The hand form has a prominent position in the syllabus of traditional Taiji Quan and, as such, it deserves detailed attention...

As an example of the variations in the forms, we can consider the moves typically associated with the hand form by different teachers. There are a number of useful sources listed below. In particular Wu Ying Hua 吳英華 (1907-1997), the daughter of Wu Chien Chuan, wrote a book with her husband Ma Yueh Liang 馬岳樑 (1901-1998), himself a senior student of Wu Chien Chuan, which contains a chapter with a detailed comparison of some of the variations that have arisen within the Wu family [3].

Exploring the Variations (1)

The Wu family list a 108 move form, including detailed pictures of Wu Chien Chuan and his eldest son Wu Kong Yi in the various postures...

Exploring the Variations (2)

As well as differences in the actual shape of postures, there may be differences in the sequencing of movements and differences in the naming of movements...

So, for all the reasons set out in the previous two sections, when I decided that I wanted to analyze the structure of the hand form sequence, it quickly became clear that all the existing lists of the movements had some problematic features. Because of this, I decided to make my own list of the names of the movements in the form.

The Complete Sequence

In order to get a comprehensive analysis of the structure of the hand form, I need to have a comprehensive, detailed listing of the sequence of the moves, with all of the repetitions made explicit...

If we take the traditional hand form as a valuable source of raw material, then it is useful to analyze its structure and construction. There is a great deal to say about this, and for the moment I shall restrict myself to the absolute basics.

The Unique Movements

Once we have a complete sequence identified, perhaps the simplest question to consider is how many unique movements are there in the form, and what is the frequency of their occurrence?...


[1] "Pivot: Taiji's Wu Gong Yee vs White Crane's Chan Hak Fu", by Y. L. Yip with Leroy Clark. Published in Qi - The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, Autumn 2002.

[2] Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan, by Wu Kung Cho, translated by Doug Wollidge. Published by Jonathan Krehm on behalf of the International Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan Federation, 2006. This is the English language version of a Chinese book, popularly known as "The Gold Book" first published in 1980.

[3] Wu Style Taichichuan - Forms, Concepts and Application of the Original Style, by Wu Ying-hua and Ma Yueh-liang, translated by Zee Wen. Published by Shanghai Book Co., Ltd. Hong Kong, 1993.

[4] Wutan Tai Chi Chuan, by Cheng Tin Hung and D. J. Docherty. Published by D. J. Docherty in Hong Kong, 1983.

[5] The Practice of Wudang Tai Chi Chuan: Hand Form, Pushing Hands, Applications, by Ian Cameron. Published by Golden Horse Classics, 1997.

[6] Complete Tai Chi Chuan, by Dan Docherty. Published by The Crowood Press, 1997.

[7] T'ai Chi Ch'uan: A Simplified Method of Calisthenics for Health & Self Defense, by Cheng Man-ch'ing. Published by North Atlantic Books, 1981. Originally written in 1956.