13 postures

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13 postures?

'13 postures' is a misleading and incorrect translation, perhaps derived from a false yoga parallel.
There are no static postures in taijiquan.

Widely used term

The name '13 postures' is so widely used in taijiquan classes that there seems little benefit to be gained from introducing an alternative.
Just keep in mind that it does not refer to a taijiquan equivalent of 'salute to the sun'.

13 movements

Taijiquan contains 13 underlying expressions of kinetic (movement) energy.
All taijiquan movements - whether form, drills or combat - involve 13 expressions of power (jing).

13 expressions of power (jing)

The 13 postures are called: wardoff, rollback, push, squeeze, pluck, split, elbow, shoulder/bump, advance, withdraw, look right, look left and central equilibrium.

More than movement

It is quite possible (and indeed common) for students to perform taijiquan movements in an accurate seeming manner without any jing whatsoever.
The movement itself is not enough.
Disconnection and the inability to transfer kinetic force can render the taijiquan useless in
application. Test your practice rigorously.

Thought tends to create fixed structures in the mind, which can make dynamic entities seem to be static.

(Will Keepin)

Internal power (jing)

The 13 postures are expressions of internal power (jing); kinetic energy/force.
Each expression has a distinct character.
It produces a unique outcome.
e.g. 'rollback'.
Rollback involves taking incoming force, drawing it back, to the side and down.

8 powers

ardoff, rollback, push, squeeze, pluck, split, elbow, shoulder/bump are called the 8 powers.
These are whole-body movements that apply specific
fighting skills in combat.

8 techniques?

An occasional mistranslation is '8 techniques'.
This indicates that the exponent does not know the difference between jing (internal power) and a technique (a step-by-step method).


Without peng nothing will work in taijiquan or baguazhang.
Wardoff should be considered manifest peng - expressed peng - rather than inherent peng.

Rollback is the signature move

Rollback is taijiquan's signature
The ability to rollback successfully and readily from a variety of situations is vital.
There is large rollback and small rollback.
The movement combines peng, split, withdraw, elbow and pluck (optional).

5 elements

Advance, withdraw, look right, look left and central equilibrium are called the 5 elements.
The first four pertain to both
movement and perception, whereas the fifth is about stability in movement.

5 steps?

A common mistranslation is '5 steps'.
This is wildly inaccurate since it is possible to advance and withdraw without stepping, look left and look right are perceptual and central equilibrium need not involve any movement at all; let alone a step.

Line of force

Advance is frequently mis-translated as 'forward step' and withdraw as 'backward step'.
To step forward is to step right into the punch.
Anybody with any
martial arts knowledge is fully aware that a student must avoid the incoming line of force.
This is achieved by employing an X-shape movement pattern relative to the incoming force.
It may necessitate a step but it may not.

Withdraw is not evade

'Evading' does not involve establishing and maintaining a dynamic relationship with the incoming force.
It is just about getting out of the way.
Normally, evading is accomplished by stepping.


Withdraw is different to evade.
The aim is to create space without being out of range for countering.
Unless the taijiquan student sustains dynamic tension whilst making space, they cannot immediately affect the attacker.
Advanced practice requires the student to keep the attacker slightly off-centre and off-balance whilst withdrawing.

Central equilibrium

Taijiquan requires the student to be totally balanced at all times.
To achieve this, minute internal adjustment is necessary.
A dynamic process of awareness and subtle
change enables the taijiquan exponent to remain stable whilst in motion.

The form is an exploration of the 13 postures

Each form movement is comprised of a combination of the 13 postures.
If a student does not understand how and why the 13 postures operate, their practice lacks whole-body power and cannot be applied martially in a taijiquan way.

Kinetic force

Positioning, frame, alignment and weight distribution are the means by which you shape and express kinetic energy.
The 13 postures represent this new way of moving.
Each quality can only be made manifest by a specific kind of physical action.
Form is a moving network of associated body parts, whose purpose is to cultivate and release power.

Taijiquan fighting method

Some of the training methods in taijiquan are slow; this is to develop
strength, accuracy, balance and control.
It enables the student to perform the pattern correctly.
As the student becomes adept, the movement speeds up considerably.

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 17 July 2017