The Internal Art of Tai Chi


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The Essential Tai Chi Principles


At the core of the tai chi theory are roughly ten essential tai chi principles.  The compliance of these principles is what differentiates tai chi from the other martial arts.  When we practice, we want to unite the mind/intent with chi and physical movement.  Remember that intent drives chi and chi delivers force.  Despite the physical differences between styles, all styles adopt these principles.


1.       Move slowly and continuously

Be like water flowing in a river.

2.       Practice with dynamic resistance

As we practice, imagine that there is resistance in air and how your body will respond to the resistance.  This is the act of using your  mind and intent to guide the chi.

3.       Differentiate between full and empty (steps in particular)

4.       Keep an upright posture

5.       Keep all joints loose and relax the waist

The waist is the origin of power and movement direction.  The lower body must be used to generate stability which can only be achieved when the waist is relaxed.

6.       Sink shoulders and drop elbows

The sinking of shoulders will help lower your sense of your centre of gravity and allow the chi to flow more continuously.  Keeping the elbows low is good practice because they become less susceptible to being controlled by an opponent.

7.       Relax chest and round back

By pulling the chest in, rounding the back, chi can sink easily to the Dan Tien.

8.       Sink chi to Dan Tien

9.       Find stillness within movement

Movement and stillness are yang and yin.  Stillness can be used to conquer movement and even in stillness, there is movement.  Why do we practice tai chi slowly?  So that we can achieve “stillness”!  It’s also much more difficult to do it slowly since it takes muscles and patience.  Go ahead, give it a try!

10.    The whole body should move in synchrony




The 13 Postures

In an article written by Taoist priest Zhang sanfeng, called “Tai Chi Chuan Treatise”, states that there are 13 postures used to create tai chi (regardless of style). 


Upper body

Peng (Ward-off)

Lu (Roll back)

Ji (Press)

An (Push)

Tsai (Grab)

Lieh (Split)

Zhou (Elbow strike)

Kao (Shoulder bump)




Lower body

Jin bu (advance step)

Tui bu (retreat step)

Zuo gu (awareness of the left

You pan (look to the right)

Zhong ding (central equilibrium)


Updated August 29, 2011