Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Twenty-Character Motto

yang taichi 20 character motto

“Extend the elbows outward; leave a hollow in the armpits. The elbows pull down the tops of the shoulders, connect the wrists and carry along the fingers”

The Twenty-Character Motto is very brief, yet its meaning is very profound and worth pursuing. Although only the various parts of the upper limbs are mentioned, following this motto can set in motion a chain of causality in which changes here affect the other parts of the body. This connection is not just mental, but you can actually feel that precisely this movement of the upper limbs causes you to ‘hold the chest in’, which in turn induces ‘pulling up the back’, leading to ‘relaxation of waist and hips’ and ultimately bringing about ‘(movement proceeds) from feet to legs to waist’, so ‘all the joints are working interconnectedly as a whole’. You can get an internal sensation of the integration of all these principles and how they support each other. The sense of energy (jing4 gan3) created by this, and the sensation of the whole-body working together are things which every player must work toward and actually experience. This is crucial to successfully learning taiji. From this we can see that the Twenty-Character motto separately relates to every individual posture of taiji and as a whole determines the connected completion of the entire form. I hope that students will diligently seek to understand this, and experience the ‘sensation of energy’ induced by this ‘extend’,’hollow’,’pull down’, and ‘connect’. This will aid your overall level of training as well as the practice of connecting the internal and external.

Yang Zhenduo single whip

Excerpt from Yang Zhenduo,
Yang Shih Taiji, 1997 (Requirement for upper limbs)
Translated by Jerry Karin;
Copyright Yang Zhenduo, 2000

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