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The 13 Dynamics of Tai Chi

By Steve Rowe

Often called the ’13 Techniques’ or the ’13 Postures’ this list can really confuse Tai Chi practitioners and therefore they often get sidelined or bypassed, but when understood, they lie at the heart of Tai Chi practice.  To understand that they are ‘fighting’ dynamics that are held in the mind that are trained with the potential to be used instantly, reflexively and spontaneously in response to the opponent’s actions at any time  and although some are linked to certain techniques they are not the techniques, they are fighting strategies of ‘aliveness’ and are therefore dynamic because they are used to change the situation.


The 13 Dynamics are:


Peng – Ward Off

The energy of Peng is opening the body inside like inflating a balloon, opening the joints, the muscles and fascia, lightly stretching and animating them with good posture until ‘there are no hollows or protrusions’ and the body feels light, sensitive and floats in movement.  Peng is in all directions giving the sense of a light ‘surface tension’ that is rooted, stable yet mobile and able to ward off attacks by being stable and allowing the opponent to ‘bounce’ off the well structured surface tension.  The energy of Peng is maintained all of the time the practitioner is practicing Tai Chi.


Lu – Roll Back

The energy of Lu is to ‘lure the opponent into nothingness’ by stick, blend, follow and redirect’ so that the opponent is unaware how they became unbalanced and vulnerable.  A high degree of sensitivity is required to apply this energy well.


Ji – Press

Is to stick to the opponent and press the attack, or to receive his energy and bounce it back to him like a rubber ball off a wall or also utilising the spiral, Peng and pneumatic action, like the a stone flying off a spinning car tyre on a wheel.


Aun – Push

Aun is described as downward pushing energy, filling the gap in the opponent’s energy bouncing him out of his feet like a rubber ball to the ground or often described as like a wave rising, crashing down and rising again.


Tsai – Pluck

Like plucking an apple off a tree or feathers from a bird you sharply pull, shake or jerk the opponent off balance.


Lieh – Split

Pulling the opponent in one curve or circle whilst striking, locking or throwing on the opposite curve or circle.

Zhuo – Elbow

Hitting opportunely with moving and focused bodyweight inside the spiral through protrusions like the elbow or fist, sometimes described as ‘like a pinball in a pinball machine’.


Kao – Shoulder

Hitting with the entire moving bodyweight inside the spiral with usually back or shoulder uprooting the opponent.


The 5 steps

Advancing, retreating, left and right, add the moving bodyweight and focus into the techniques, adjusting distance, angle and giving mobility. Central equilibrium gives the ability to ‘root’, remain stationary and still deal with attacks from all angles.

As you can see they can be infinitely combined and can be used within the techniques to make them function better.  Martial Tai Chi will always use these dynamics within the form, in application within push hands and prepare the body in qigong.


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