A Tale of Two Elbows Part 2

So how many readers gave thought to the question raised in my previous post?

The one key difference that sticks out between those who want to Master Tai Chi Today and those who think they want to master the art but not really prepared to do so is that those who are serious will not take what they learned for granted and will put in time to analyze the information.

Continuing on – a typical reaction when a Wing Chun practitioner sees the position of a Tai Chi practitioner’s elbow position is why is the elbow away from the center. Their thinking will be that the center is wide open, easy to attack. It is true that generally the way most Tai Chi practitioners position their elbow leave them wide open to attack. Below is an example of what I typically see :-


This is what I would term as Tai Chi practiced not in accordance to the Tai Chi Classics. Do you see now what I mean when I say that our practice should be referenced to a standard? Without a standard of performance how do you know when you have strayed from the essential principles?

Back in December 2014 my friend Paul from the United States came by and we spent time learning. The first lesson took part in Haw Par Villa. Take a look at the position I taught him for the same posture; this at the base level before more adjustment (see photo in later part of this post). See the difference? In case you are unable to see the point I am getting at I have put indicators in.


Still some may say “yeah man but this is like your opinion only; doesn’t mean others are not right…..” And this is where research is important. Don’t take anybody’s word just like that. Do your own research and validation.

For example, my student Gregory has learned for 4 years. How does the characteristic of his Ward-Off stack against that of the masters in our lineage? Since the first form we learn is from Dong Yingchieh’s lineage it will make sense to take a look at Yang Chengfu and Dong Yingchieh’s Ward-Off side-by-side with Gregory’s posture.

Elbows3See the similarities and differences?

The one difference is the roundness in Gregory’s arms are not as defined as that of Yang Chengfu or Dong Yingchieh’s. There is a reason for this. It is because the other half of our lineage is that of Grandmaster Wei Shuren and in this respect the outer shape need not be as obvious as long as the intention is clearly defined plus other principles. Take a look at Grandmaster Wei’s Ward-Off posture below.


Coming back to the question of opened center. Most Tai Chi practitioners won’t have an idea of what center is about unless they are taught about it or they have learned Wing Chun before. In Wing Chun the idea is that of a single centerline; however, in Tai Chi the principle is that of multitude of centerlines! At this point I would refer you to page 113, TaijiKinesis Vol 2. Read it again and it will now make more sense. Still beginners should strive to achieve the correct posture using the 5-Points. Take a look at Paul’s posture particular the shape of the arms and hands after I adjusted it :-

Elbows6For beginners who don’t have a clue of controlling the center I would make it a point to show them how the movement is used including its strengths and weaknesses so that they know what a good position is about. In this case what is learned in the form is practiced in push hands and eventually used for combat itself.

The last point is that for a transmission to be valid one does not just rely on verbal claims of lineage and discipleship. Those things are useless unless one can teach a student to achieve the flavor and characteristics of the style and apply the art without losing them. I have identified this as the biggest problem plaguing the practice of Tai Chi today (OK, there is another problem; what some in Facebook termed as Stop-the-Hop but that’s another story). I won’t try to change what others do because people do what they believe is correct and when one is in love with a master / style / lineage the rose tinted glasses go on. As far as I am concerned I will just stick to doing what I do, continue to improve it and pass it on with the correct standard of performances; that is my contribution to the art of Tai Chi. Hopefully, along the way those who are interested can use the information to improve themselves and Master Tai Chi Today.


Want to learn Tai Chi? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

1 thought on “A Tale of Two Elbows Part 2

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Elbows Part 3 | Master Tai Chi Today

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