Form (2)
Whole-body movement

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Muscle memory

Form trains muscle memory. Your body becomes familiar with certain ways of moving. These become habit. The habits can then be used martially.

Form follows function

The form movements arise from functionality. You evade an attack, coil the body, store and then release power. Nothing is random, aesthetically motivated or unfocussed.

Every pattern of movement has its nature, meaning and purpose, and must be researched and studied before it can be really understood.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)


Every action arises from intent. By moving the body according to the dictates of the mind, the form flows naturally and freely. The body responds. If there is no purpose, no intent, why even move?

Go deeper

Once the form choreography is accurate and familiar, the real work begins. The choreography is the beginning of your taijiquan, not the end of it.
Instead of acquiring a new form, understand the one you have. Explore the body mechanics, how power is being generated, what lessons it is teaching you, and what you can do with it.
Feel it become smooth and subtle as your body grows into the sequence.


The Long Yang form sequence will take 10-15 minutes to perform. Then it must be mirrored.

Do not show off

Taijiquan cultivates a taste for naturalness. Instead of glossy, flamboyant, outward show, the student turns their attention inward.
They begin to notice the small, the seemingly insignificant, and they see the wonder of the ordinary.
This way of looking at things seems most appropriate for a martial art that conceals its power so skilfully. The art is not ornate. It is simple, direct, flowing and natural.
Within the slow spirals, curves and gentle steps can be found a grace that is difficult to articulate.

Collecting forms

Taijiquan students occasionally seek to collect forms. This usually stems from boredom and a lack of depth in their understanding.
A good guideline when considering learning a new form is to ask yourself why. What is the new form teaching you? Is it augmenting your current range of skills?

Which style?

It does not matter which style of taijiquan you practice or which form you train providing it serves as a vehicle for the adequate practice of The Taijiquan Classics. Style is irrelevant providing you are training:

The taijiquan principles
13 methods
Martially applicable movements
Optimal biomechanical use of the body
A physical embodiment of Taoism

One of the most difficult skills is the ability to change movements. This skill is a primary aspect of forms. When you are swiftly and smoothly able to change movements, your chances of defeating an opponent are greatly increased.

(Adam Hsu)

Numbered forms

In the 1950's the People's Republic commissioned the creation of a simplified taijiquan exercise sequence deliberately devoid of martial and unpolitical Taoist influences.
This was 24 step form.
Please note that this was not a system or style of taijiquan. It was only a form. Later, more numbered sport/competition forms were developed.

There is more to taijiquan than form

Authentic taijiquan is more than a form; it is a system.
The training methods associated with the art are extensive and diverse; they teach you how to move, how to strike, take a strike, evade and counter.
Students seek to embody the principles of taijiquan as expressed by The Taijiquan Classics. Competence with form is one thing. Skill in all areas of taijiquan is something else entirely.
There is much more to taijiquan than form.

Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 02 September 2021