The Tai Chi 'Suites'
This document proceeds out of a class at Cold Mountain on September 5th, 2019 in which Megan Hine remarked on the fact that Fair Lady is closely associated in structural terms to Fan Through the Back, the essential difference being obliquity compared to squareness. Then, in a meeting between Randall, Megan, Peter Reist and myself on September 10, 2019, Randall extended this concept to the Eight Points of Fence and termed such a combination a 'motif'. What follows is based on these discussions.
Initially I was using the word ‘formulae’ which is apt. However, it has the implication of elements which in association lead to a solution - which is a bit neater than I intended. Randall Templeton has suggested /motifs’ which fits and has a nice musical implication of repetitiveness.
Chen style 'Partition' can be Kai / Opening or Kao / Shoulder
I’ve settled on ‘suites’ however as denoting a collection of elements which have a common characteristic and work together to certain purposes, potentially in different orders as compared to the notes of a motif which are usually in the same order. In suites there is greater variety of combination. Examples are suites of components which are bundled together such as computer apps, A/V equipment, or internet services (groan).
Examples of suites of movements
The following terms are used in this explanation. I should point out that the way these terms are understood vary from one Tai Chi tradition to another. So this brief list makes compromises. "Infinite are the arguments of sages!"
Peng – ward, bump, lift, raise
Lu – roll back
Ji – squeeze through
An – press, pulse
Tsai – pull down, pluck, jerk, snatch
Chou - elbow
Kao - shoulder
Kai – open
He - close
Shan – palm (various strikes and pushes)
The following examples are just a sampling of the suites that exist in the forms.
Grasp Sparrow’s Tail: appears in all styles of Tai Chi, sometimes combining different elements. Eg. – In traditional Yang style, GST combines Peng, Lu, Ji and An. But in the Old Yang middle-frame it is seen in two variations. One consists of Peng, Lu and An, and the other of Peng, Tsai, Ji, Kai, and An. Although not called Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, the same suite of movements appears in Chen style with a configuration of Kao, Peng, Shan, Tsai, Ji, Kai, and An. In Yang style it is sometimes preceded by He / Wings Folded (at left being used for an Old Yang inside parry).
Carry Tiger to Mountain: In Yang style it is similar to GST but substitutes Brush Knee for Peng, and then substitutes Chou for the turn to the right which follows Brush Knee. It then proceeds with Lu, Ji and An as per GST. In Old Yang it is more oblique and consists of ridge-hand Shan (Crane Wards), then L Chou and R Tiger-claw Shan (Leopard and Tiger), followed by Tsai, Ji, Kai, and An.
The Eight Points of Fence: An import into Taijijian at Cold Mountain, this suite of moves consists of 8 parries with the sword; together they constitute a zone defence.
Fair Lady Works Shuttles / Four Corners: This suite combines Ji, Peng, An and Lu done in a repeating ‘round’. In Old Yang it comprises An, Kai, and High Snake.
Separations of Right and Left Feet: At Cold Mountain this consists of An, Lu, Ji and Peng and is done to one side and then the other.
The Cold Mountain Thirteen Powers form: This sequence consists of two suites performed one after the other preceded and concluded by clockwise Heaven and Earth circles. Grasp Sparrow’s Tail is followed by the suite of movements which in the long Yang form follows on Repulse Monkey. This consists of Kao, Lieh, Ji, Tsai, Chou and Shan. The turn from the GST suite to the one following features He / Wings Folded.
The foregoing are suites from the forms or from martial arts tradition. Suites can also be designed to explore how one Tai Chi movement segues into another with only a minor adjustment -- in the way that R Peng in Yang’s GST changes into Fair Lady if one simply turns the R hand palm-out to protect the head and presses forward with the L hand to the opponent.
He / Wings Folded to
R Peng to
Fair Lady (L hand extended*) to
Fan Through the back (R hand extended) to
Shoulder stroke / Kao to rear to
(repeating) Wings Folded.
*works on other side, too.
R Cutting Frame / Raise Hands to
L Tsai / Pull-down to
He / Wings Folded
R Shoulder stroke / Kao to
R White Crane Flashes Wings to
L Brush Knee to
(repeating on opposite side) L Cutting Frame / Play Pi-pa
Theoretically one can move from any one posture to any other in the form. In any case, at a more advanced level postures don’t really exist; they are just arbitrary snap-shots in a continuum of movement. But I see this method as a way of understanding different applications of the Tai Chi jins / fundamental elements. They are the energy-applications which exist within the movement of Tai Chi and which can be seen as an alphabet of movement.
Various suites can be created for focused study. I also think it could be possible to develop short two-person suites which could be used for controlled sparring. These would essentially be short two-person forms focusing on certain sections of the forms.