Student Notes-Test Structure

Many Tai Chi practitioners particularly those who do it for combat love to test their structure for purpose of fajing.

It is not difficult to do fajing structural test if you are standing in Push posture for example. The reason is that these type of postures are structures that allow the student to easily use their muscles. Thus, it is more difficult to detect if a student is using intention or just plain old mechanical power when doing the test as such.

Let’s take an example. Take a look at the screen grab below of a fajing demonstration. Pretty impressive. You can see the person demonstrated on flying backwards.


But if I back up a bit and go through the video slowly this is what I can see is happening :-


Can you see the fajing process? The biomechanical process is quite obvious. Most students can learn to fajing within a short time after learning how to use this type of biomechanical motion. You can take a look at the actual demonstration at 0.19 in the video below :-

If you want to try something more challenging take a look at this test that I showed to my student last week. I was looking at him do the first 13 movements of the Yang style long form. I noticed that the way he was raising his arm in Brush Knee, Twist Step was not correct. The easiest way to prove my point was to do a structure test.

You can see two versions of how this movement is performed in the videos below. The first demonstration is at 6:35 by Master Tung Kai Ying.


The second demo by Master James Fu is at 1:34. The other video by Master Fu that was in another earlier post Student Notes-Don’t Look Back is not very clear so I am using this alternative video instead.


The difference between both performances above lies in the way the thumb is pointing as the right hand is moving to the side of the body before moving up to the side of the face.

The structural test itself is quite straightforward. Apply a constant pressure vertically downwards on the wrist. Below I have indicated in pictures how to do this.

Take note to apply pressure near the wrist rather than near the elbow. If the student does not do the movement properly he will have difficulty trying to lift your arm that is pressing on his wrist and cause you to lose your balance.

However, if you press his forearm nearer to the elbow it will be so much easier for him to “cheat”. Do you know why?


If not, go take a look in a Physics textbook and the answer will be clear. Or if you have the book “Fight Like a Physicist” which I mentioned in this post you can read Chapter 4 : Levers, Wedges, and Free Lunches.

Below is the part of the movement in Brush Knee, Twist Step that is used for this test :-


This is how I did the test on my student :-

1) When his arm reached the position shown above I asked him to stop.

2) I placed my palm on the position indicated and pressed downwards with an amount of pressure that was enough to stop him from lifting his right hand up to his shoulder level without putting in effort.

3) My student then tried to lift his hand up but unable to.

Did you understand why my student failed to lift his hand and moved me in the process?

The reason is because :-

a) It was not easy for him to lift my body weight against the direction of gravity even though I was not applying strong pressure. This is due to (b) below.

b) The lever due to the shape of his arm made it easy for me to hold his arm down. This is why I said to do this test properly you must press on the wrist. If I pressed on the elbow my leverage advantage will be much lesser making it easier for him to move me.


So now that you know what this particular test of structure is like go and try it. See if you can lift your hand up to the position below and at the same time move your training partner off balance.


Want to Master Tai Chi Today? Try moving beyond your comfort zone with a different way of testing structure.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? 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 “Student Notes-Test Structure

  1. Pingback: Student Notes-Play Pipa Lock | Master Tai Chi Today

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