Taijiquan Posture Vocabulary


When discussing any subject it is important to define a vocabulary that you will use in that discussion. You may remember that the early weeks in most grade school classes were spent on vocabulary. Once you had the basic vocabulary in hand, new terms were introduced as you studied the subject. The same is true with Taijiquan study, but I find that most of that early vocabulary is focused on translating Chinese words.

In my past efforts at sharing Taijiquan I have done the same. For the original thewalkingcircle.com website, I provided a glossary of Chinese terms and expanded it over the years. I am sure we will get to that again in this blog, but that is not what this post is about.

For this post I want to take a stab at defining the Taijiquan form, or sequence, or posture, or routine, or whatever the kids are calling it now. The problem is that when discussing Taijiquan the use of the words forms, posture, and stance are often intermixed and confused. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, or sequence? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?

For our discussion, I have defined these words below:

Stance: In simplest terms, what you are doing with your feet. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a stance as “the way in which someone stands.” You could expand that definition to include a posture “you deliberately adopt in sports,” but that is a posture, not a stance. A stance is what you do with your feet, not your hands, head or chest. In the Taijiquan sequence you will assume a few stances repeatedly, each with a different pose, and in the expression of a different posture. For example, there is the Horse stance, the Toe stance, and the Bow and Arrow stance.

Pose: A pose is the stance plus the position of the hands, head, and chest. The body will transition through many poses while expressing a Taijiquan posture.

Posture: My dictionary defines it as “a position of a person’s body when standing or sitting.” In Taijiquan, the end pose of a sequence of poses is often given a name. The poses from one posture to another are called transitional movements. Sometimes a sequence of postures is grouped together, such as in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, where the postures of Ward Off, Roll-back, Press, and Push is grouped together. For our discussion posture will include all the transitional poses.

Form: Form and style can be used interchangeably. When discussing the various lineages of Taijiquan will talk about the Yang family style, or the competition forms.

Style: Style is a broader term for the various forms of Taijiquan, but style and form can be used interchangeably. For example, there is the Yang style of Taijiquan, but within the Yang style there are many forms that originated from Yang, Lu-Chang’s sons and their students.

For most this seems evident, but when reading older texts it can become dizzying the various way words like form, and posture are used. I will try to stick to the above in my future writings, and not refer to the Toe posture used in the Brush Left Knee posture. Instead, I will work to call it the Toe stance in the transitional pose of the Brush Left Knee posture. Nuff said.

Please join me, 
Troy.

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