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Eight Energies of Tai Chi Chuan

Each of the eight forms of energy (or power) has a traditional name (given below) and is associated with an element such as Earth, Air, Fire or Water (which, to the imaginative, it resembles). On a practical level, each corresponds to a movement in the first part of the moving form and to a technique used in combat or in the sparring game called push-hands. These are techniques for meeting and defeating (or at least deflecting) an opposing force.


Each form of energy is defined as a combinaton of Yin and Yang: yielding or resisting, first on contact with an attacking force, then at the center, and then at the end, or release. The yin-yang nature of each form of energy is represented by three straight (yang) or broken (yin) lines.

In general, Yin is the defensive weapon of the smaller and weaker of two opponents. It is axiomatic in Tai Chi that a small, weak opponent may defeat a bigger, stronger attacker by yielding (and using the attacker's size and weight against him).

Ward Off, called Pong (or Peng), is Yang Yang Yang, all hard opposing energy. Ward off meets the attacking force with unyielding resistence, uses outward opposing force, and holds its ground. It is a straightforward exertion of strength, and its element is Sky. video

Pull Back, called Lu, is Yin Yin Yin, all yielding, soft energy. Pull back gives and turns away from an attacking force, allowing it to pass by (and maybe giving it a little yank to keep it going). The corresponding element is Earth.

Press, called Chi (or Ji), is Yin Yang Yin, first soft. then hard, than soft. Press rebounds with hands connected, to bounce back the attacking force. This is the energy associated with water, which is soft on the surface but a very powerful force in its center.

Push, called An, is Yang Yin Yang. In push-hands, you meet a push with resistance, then yield momentarily before surprising with a strong push.

Pull Down, called Tsai (or kai) or grabbing energy, is Yang Yang Yin, corresponding to wind. The opponent is pulled strongly straight down. This works best when pulling on the side of the back leg, twisting the hips. It is not a measure to use by halves: use it with intntion of bringing an opponent down.

Splitting energy is called Lie or Lieh, and it corresponds to thunder and is represented by Yin Yin Yang. First yield and turn away from a pushing opponent, the trap the arm. Pull with one hand while pushing with the other. When the lie is executed properly, the opponent should spin off.

Elbowing energy is called zhou, corrsponds to a Lake, and is represented by Yin Yang Yang. One first yields, folding the elbow. In combat, one can then strike with elbow; in push-hands, elbowing is used to crowd and wrap up.

Shouldering is Kao, the Mountain, represented by Yang Yin Yin. You can strike with shoulder, but then one is rooted and very heavy, visualizing a mountain, to become immovable.

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