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Articles: Tai Chi & Qi Gong

The Tai Chi Form

Our form is derived from the classic Yang style form of Cheng Man-Ch’ing and modified by one of his students, Dr Sam Lee to emphasise the Qi Gong aspects of the movements and maximise the health benefits.

The Form – Part 1

Stand with heels almost touching, feet turned out at 45 degrees, arms held loosely at the sides, palms facing in. Spine upright, head upright, chin tucked slightly in. Joints relaxed, breathing in for 6 seconds and out for 6 seconds.

1. Opening (Preparation)

Inbreath

Sink, quarter-turn to the right, arms circle out and up to forehead height
Transfer weight into the right leg

Balance 1

Outbreath

Step to the left, turn to face forwards
Transfer the weight to the left leg, pivot on the right heel to a parallel stance as the palms float down to the thighs

2. Opening

Inbreath

With hands relaxed and fingers pointing downwards, wrists float up to chest height. Straighten the fingers and draw the elbows back

Balance 2

Outbreath

Palms float gently down to waist level

3. Sink Left

Inbreath

Shift the weight to the left leg

Left hand rotates to form a ball

Pivot on the right heel and look to the right

Turn Right

Outbreath

Transfer the weight into the right leg, taking the ball forwards

Left arm floats up level with the right

Lifting the left heel, look to the left

4. Ward-Off (Left)

Inbreath

Step with the left, left fore-arm floating up to chest height

Weight transfers into the left leg as right arm floats up level with the left

Lifting the right heel, look to the right

Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (i. Ward-Off – Right)

Outbreath

Step forwards with the right, transferring the weight forwards, body upright

Rotate to the right, pivoting the left heel into the classic, split-stance

5. Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (ii. Roll Back)

Inbreath

Rotate to the left, then draw the hips back

Right palm facing the heart, left hand floats down to the hip, palm upwards

Left palm rotates to meet right palm

Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (iii. Press)

Outbreath

Hips move forwards, then left palm slides over the back of the right hand and hands separate

6. Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (iv. Roll Back)

Inbreath

Hips move backwards, elbows draw back

Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (v. Push)

Outbreath

Hips move forwards, palms slightly forwards

7. Single Whip – Draw Back

Inbreath

Hips move backwards, transferring the weight onto the left foot
Turn left 180 degrees, pivoting on the right heel

Single Whip – Push

Outbreath

Transfer the weight to the right leg, forming a ‘Crane’s Beak’ with the right hand
Pivot on the left toes, then step wide with the left and push with the left palm
Placing the ‘beak’, fingers pointing down, level with the jaw

8. Sinking Left

Inbreath

Transfer the weight onto the left foot, hands relax and float down
Look to the right, right heel rises

Play Guitar – Right

Outbreath

Draw the right toes in towards the left foot
Float the arms upwards slowly to chest height, left palm facing the right elbow
Lightly placing the right heel in front of the left at the end of the breath

9. Pull Back

Inbreath

Arms turn and float down the left side
Right arm stops with palm facing the left hip
Left arm circles back and up

Step with Shoulder

Outbreath

Leading with the right shoulder,
Transfer the weight into the right foot with
Left palm facing forwards close to the right shoulder

10. Crane Spreads it’s Wings

Inbreath

Hips draw back as
Left arm floats down and out and
Right arm floats up and out
Both palms facing forwards

Spread and Step

Outbreath

Transfer the shape forwards into the right foot
Turn to the left placing the left toes in front of the right heel
Right hand lowers to forehead height, left palm rises over left thigh

11. Circle Arms

Inbreath

Right arm circles forwards, down, back and up
Left arm circles up, back and down
Turning at the waist to the right

Left Brush Knee

Outbreath

Turn to the left and step wide with the left
Right palm pushes while, left palm ‘brushes’ over left thigh

12. Sinking Left

Inbreath

Right palms pushes forwards and floats down as
Weight transfers into the left leg
Right heel rises and right toes draw in behind left heel

Play Guitar – Left

Outbreath

Transfer all the weight into the right foot
Float the arms upwards slowly to chest height, right palm facing the left elbow
Lightly placing the left heel in front of the right at the end of the breath

13. Circle Arms

Inbreath

Right arm circles forwards, down, back and up
Left arm circles up, back and down
Turning at the waist to the right

Left Brush Knee

Outbreath

Turn to the left and step wide with the left
Right palm pushes while, left palm ‘brushes’ over left thigh

14. Pull Back

Inbreath

Hips draw back
Arms float down to the side, palms forwards
Left toes rise, waist turning slightly to the left

Hand to Qi Hai

Outbreath

Weight transfers onto the left
Right palm circles in to face Qi Hai
Left arm floats out to the left, level with right hand

15. Step with Fist

Step with the right, transferring the weight to the right
Right hand forms a fist at right hip, palm up
Left hand continues circle upwards
Left heel rises

Inbreath

Step with Punch

Outbreath

Step with the left, transferring the weight as
Right hand punches, covered by the left hand

16. Draw Back

Inbreath

Left palm slides under the fist
Fist turns and opens
Hips draw back with palms towards the heart centre
Palms separate and turn forwards

Push

Outbreath

Hips move forwards, palms slightly forwards

17. Draw Back

Inbreath

Hips move back as right rises to vertical
Left arm rises, left toes rise
Pivoting on left heel,turning to the right

Turn and Close

Outbreath

Weight transfers to left, lifting right heel
Arms circle, pivoting on right toes
Wrists meet, crossed at the forehead
Weight balanced, feet parallel

End of Tai Chi Form, Part 1

You may continue on the Part 2, or to finish…

18. Draw Down

Inbreath

Crossed wrists float down
Separating at the heart centre
Arms float down and out to the sides
Palms facing forwards

Finish

Outbreath

Transferring all the weight to left
Right leg slides in to meet the left
Arms float down to the sides
Weight balanced, feet together

 

Ba Duan Jin

Derivation

Ba means ‘eight’, duan means ‘achieved through practice’ and Jin means something brilliant and beautiful like silk brocade. So, applied to exercises, we have a set of 8 movements to practice in a smooth or silky fashion.

What is Ba Duan Jin?

Ba Duan Jin is just one of the many sets of exercises that make up Qi Gong. Each Ba Duan Jin exercise is intended to focus on a different meridian of the body and the routine, performed daily is designed to improve health (both physical and spiritual) and prevent sickness. They can be performed in a seated or, more commonly, standing position and these are described here.

Origins of Ba Duan Jin

The earliest recording of the term “Ba Duan Jin” was in ‘Record of the Listener – Selections of Chinese Supernatural Stories’ during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). The Pivot of the Way (Dao Shi, c. 1150) also describes an early form of the exercises and attributes their invention to Zhongyi Quan and Lu Dongbin, two of the eight ‘Immortals’ of Chinese legend. However, the exercises themselves appear much older. Four of the exercises are depicted in a brocade painting from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and similar illustrations are also found in books from the Southern and Northern dynasties (420 – 589).

When practiced between one in the morning and noon, Ba Duan Jin brings practitioners into harmony with the universe


 

The Exercises

The 8 exercises may be performed in any order, but the traditional order is shown below. As 4 of the exercises use a narrow stance and 4 use a wide stance and alternative sequence that enhances the flow between the exercises is also given. The emphasis is on a calm, focused mind that regulates the breathing and in turn produces slow, controlled movements of the body balancing the yin and yang.

Holding Up Heaven

Narrow stance – Start with palm-over-palm at the Lower Dantien (Qi Hai)
As you inhale the arms float out to the sides, and the hands meet, interlocking the fingers above the head
As you exhale turn the palms to face the heavens
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, lower the hands slightly, separate the fingers, then float the arms back to the starting position

Drawing the Bow

Wide stance – Start with the wrists crossed in front of the forehead, left hand closest to the face
As you inhale, sink into your left knee, keeping the body upright
As you exhale, bend the thumb and fingers of the left hand and pull the left elbow outwards level with the shoulder, Open out the right arm, with thumb and index finger extended, palm facing away, turn the head to the right and look over the index finger
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, open the hands, return to centre with crossed wrists – right hand closest to the face
Repeat on the other side

Connecting Heaven and Earth Energy

Narrow stance – Start with the right hand level with the heart centre palm facing down, left hand at Qi Hai level, palm facing up – as if holding a large ball.
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, the left hand floats up palm facing the heavens while the right hand floats down to waist height fingers pointing forwards
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, the left hand floats down to the heart centre palm facing down, the right hand turns palm facing upward.
Repeat on the other side

Wise Owl Turning to Look Back

Wide stance – Start with palm-over-palm at the Lower Dantien (Qi Hai)
As you inhale sink into your left knee
As you exhale, rotate to the right, left hand moves out to the side and up finishing with the palm touching the base of the skull, while the right hand moves out and round finishing with the back of the hand resting at the base of the spine (level with the navel)
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, rotate back to the starting position

Side to Side

Wide stance – Start with the hands resting lightly on the hips
As you inhale, sink the weight into the left knee
As you exhale, tip the pelvis and upper body to the left in line with the right leg
Inhale slowly
As you exhale return to the starting position
Repeat on the other side

This is said to regulate the function of the heart and lungs. Its primary aim is to remove excess heat (or fire) (xin huo) from the heart. Xin huo is also associated with heart fire in traditional Chinese medicine. In performing this piece, the practitioner squats in a low horse stance, places the hands on thighs with the elbows facing out and twists to glance backwards on each side.

Forward and Back

Narrow stance – Start with palm-over-palm at the Lower Dantien (Qi Hai)
As you inhale, the arms float out and up above the head
As you exhale bend forward from the hips keeping the back straight, reaching as low as you can comfortably
As you inhale trace the fingers up the inside of the legs, across the groin and rest the palms in the kidney area, fingers pointing down
As you exhale, lean back slightly, supporting the back with the hands
Inhale slowly
As you exhale return slowly to the starting position

Punching

Wide stance – Start with soft fists resting at the hips fingers uppermost
As you inhale sink into your left knee
As you exhale turn half to the right and extend and twist the left fist
Inhale slowly
As you exhale, twist and retract the fist to the stating position
Repeat on the other side

Lifting the Heels

Narrow stance – Start with palm-over-palm at the Lower Dantien (Qi Hai)
As you inhale, lift the heels and the arms float out and up above the head
Exhale slowly
Inhale slowly
As you exhale lower the heels and return to the starting position

Alternative Flow Sequence

  1. Holding Up Heaven
  2. Lifting the Heels
  3. Forward and Back
  4. Connecting Heaven and Earth Energy
    [shift the weight and step to a wide stance]
  5. Drawing the Bow
  6. Turning to Look back
  7. Side to Side
  8. Punching

Health benefits

Whether Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has anything to teach western medicine is a subject too large for this article. The health benefits of performing Ba Duan Jin and other Qi Gong exercises are a great deal easier to measure, but there have been very few high-quality studies to quantify the effects.
An important, and often quoted, study of the benefits of Ba Duan Jin concluded that it helped prevent bone loss in middle-aged women, but systematic review of research into the effects of Qi Gong on anxiety and depression concluded that most of the studies reviewed had poor research methodologies.

Further Reading

If you would like to find out more about Ba Duan Jin:

Read the Wikipedia entry on Ba Duan Jin

Visit the Health Qigong Federation UK website

“The effects of Ba Duan Jin Qi Gong in the prevention of bone loss for middle-aged women”, Chen H H, Yeh M L, Lee F Y.

If you would like to learn Ba Duan Jin and other Qi Gong exercises then join our Beginners Tai Chi & Qi Gong course.

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