Hand-shape, Eye-focus, Body-movement, Application method, and Footwork
of Yang Chengfu's Taijiquan
The footwork is
the root of the martial art. There are 7 types of footing in Yang style
1). Open-standing footing: Both feet stand parallel with the tip of
the feet pointing forward. No difference of being empty or solid in
the stance. It is the footwork in "Commencing Form" "Closing
2). Bow-like footing: This is the basic footwork and the mostly used
one in Yang style Taijiquan. The tip of the front foot points forward
and the tip of rear foot forms a 45o angle with the tip of the front
foot. The straight distance between the two is the range of the natural
crotch of the practitioner. The front leg is bent and the back one is
stretching. The bending is limited that the front knee can not move
forward over the tip of the front foot. The front lower leg is formed
vertical with the ground.
3). The front-empty and rear-solid footing: There is difference of the
left and the right empty footing in this type of footwork. The left
one is made as the right foot is solidly stepped on the ground while
the left foot is lifted and placed a half step forward to the left with
the planter slightly touching the ground, such as in the form of "White
Crane Spreads Its Wings"; or with the heel slightly touching the
ground as in the form of "Fist under Elbow". If the body weight
is shifted from the right leg to the left, it is the right empty footing.
In Yang style Taijiquan, this type of footwork, no matter the left or
the right one, the front leg is not totally empty in the practice, i.e.
it bears a certain portion of body weight. The solid leg bears more
weight while the empty leg bears much less, but the portion is not really
fixed as that of 30% for the empty leg and 70% for the solid. Rather,
it all depends on the height of the stance and whether the free end
of the sacrum is kept straight and the body movement is natural and
proper. There is another type of footwork being front-empty and rear-solid,
of which the rear foot is solid on the ground and the front foot is
weightless but the planter is also fully on the ground, e.g. the one
in the form of "Sep Back and Repulse the Monkey".
4). Transverse moving footwork: Both feet are parallel to each other,
then the left one steps to the left transversely. The right one is solid
and the left is empty, but the tips of both feet are forward, as the
one in the form of "Wave Hands like Clouds".
5). Single-foot standing footing: With one leg standing, the other leg
is lifted up to the extent that the knee is at the same level with the
hip. The foot is drawn a little inward and the tip drops down naturally,
as the one in the form of "Golden Rooster Stands on One leg".
6). Squatting-down footing: Following the "bow-like footing",
the rear foot turns outward and the body weight is shifted on the rear
leg and the hip squats down. The front foot points forward. The body
is slightly prone to one side.
7). Horse-riding footing: Both legs stand astride as riding a horse.
This is the footing in transmitting the movements. One leg should be
solid and the other empty, as the one in the form of "Wave Hands
Mr. Yang Chengfu said in his book "Talk on Practicing Taijiquan":
"The legs should be different, one is solid and the other empty.
When to move up or move down, it seems like the walk of a cat. When
the body weight is shifted to the left, the left leg becomes solid so
the right leg is empty, vice versa. The so-called emptiness doesn't
mean there is nothing, but means that one movement is continuous, there
could be a space for the changes of advancing or retreating. The so-called
solidness imply indeed the meaning of being solid, but it doesn't mean
an extraordinarily-waged force, neither a fierce force." He also
said in his book "Ten Key Points of Taijiquan": "It is
the primary importance of Taijiquan to differentiate the emptiness from
the solidness. If the differentiation could be well mastered, all the
movements could be done nimbly and deftly, without much strain and effort;
if it fails to master this kind of differentiation, the movement will
be heavy and sluggish, and even worse the stance is unstable, so the
opponent would easily take the advantage to launch an attack."
In Yang style Taijiquan, it is required to differentiate the emptiness
from the solidness in the footwork and the root in the lower part of
the body. So the changes between the solidness and the emptiness are
clear and there is no lightness. There are two ways of the footwork
in Yang style Taijiquan, advancing and retreating. To advance, it has
to shift the body weight to the rear leg so as to enable the front foot
to become empty. The motion of the waist would sway the planter to the
optimal position and the rear foot shifts the body weight to the front
foot, which then bears all of the body weight. The rear foot being empty
is lifted and moved to the intended position but not close to the front
foot. Mr. Zheng Manqing, the author of "The Complete Book of Practice
and Application of Taijiquan" wrote a poem concerning the footwork
and the advancing method, saying: "To tell a word of awareness,
to those who can understand me. The bottom of the foot becomes rootless
so the waist fails to dominate the body movements, coming to the end
is the force, nothing could help but useless… To shift the weight to
the rear before moving the foot forward." This reflects the brilliant
experience of the author handed down from Mr. Yang Chengfu when the
author used to learn Taijiquan from the master and assisted him to write
books. When the foot is rooted, the footwork would be firm, so there
is a basis for the waist to sway. When the foot moves forward, the body
weight has to be shifted to the rear foot. This is the advancing method
handed down from the Yang's family.
To retreat, the front foot is lifted and moved to the rear of the body
in a T-shaped footwork. It should be directly placed on the intended
position, but never close to the rear foot.
If the requirements on the hand-shape, eye-focus, body-movement, application
methods, and footwork in Yang style Taijiquan are grasped, it comes
to a basic understanding of Yang style Taijiquan, it is greatly beneficial
to the learning of the set forms and push-hand methods. There are also
the requirements on the other parts of the body, e.g. head, shoulder,
elbow, hip, crotch, knees, and etc. Usually they are taught when learning