Distinguish between ‘movement’ and ‘action’

by Ian Macrae on 2008/04/16

Originally written by: Chen Zhonghua and Ian Macrae

Based on Ian Macrae’s
Notes from the April 12th & 13th, 2008,
Workshop at Thornhill Hall, Maple Ridge

Distinguish between ‘movement’ and ‘action’

Movement is what you do to ‘get there’, to get to the place where all the slack is taken out of the space between you and the opponent (‘O’), to get to the place where you can apply taiji energy or taiji force to the O. The ‘movement’ gets you ‘in’ and up close and ‘on’.

The action is the sudden stretch or finish that unbalances, throws, or damages. There should be no effort in the movement, no clashing with O.

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The movement doesn’t engage the O, but rather gets you meshed in so your action can have an effect on O. The movement is gentle and sneaky, so the O doesn’t realize that you are there and in. Take up the space and the slack when doing Yilu by using movement, and then finish with an action, which is the stretch/expansion ‘taiji thing’. Movement is what Grandmaster Hong Junsheng called “Revolution” (the opposite is rotation). Action comes from rotational forces.

Doing Yilu with speed doesn’t mean that you do the entire form quickly or at a faster pace than normal, it means that at the end of each movement you do the action with speed but only do it this way if it doesn’t affect your continuity and ability to keep moving through the form smoothly. You move to close the gap, but only use minimum momentum. Don’t use momentum to affect the O, use stretch. Movement doesn’t involve momentum, just ghost your way in so you don’t alert the O, and then do an action.

A common mistake is that after you have taken up the slack and are in and have an action on O, you then let go to attack somewhere else. Once you are on, and your attack is there, don’t retreat or change anything, just continue to apply that action, and then ad another element (most commonly a rotational action) – don’t push him here, and then let go to jerk him there. If your energy is going into O at point A, don’t stop and start putting energy in at point B, instead keep point A going and ad energy at point B. This avoids telegraphing your intention to O. When the first action remains smooth and you ad, your intention is hard to discern and he will be surprised by the addition of the new energy. Once you have two going, ad a third and so on.

When doing the form, keep your intention on where you have contacted the O. Don’t move that part, don’t release the action. Hold the action spot. Move somewhere else and ad an action to the existing one.

A common mistake is to think that you are doing something when you are moving, other than taking up slack. To think that your movement is some sort of action.

All action goes forward. There is no wobble or retreat. When doing the form be careful not to do a slight retreat at the end of the movement to ‘wind up’ for the action part. Once you are finished with your movement and you are on and the slack is gone, your action can only go forward.

Each time you move, something has to stay tight or ‘on’ the O or on your axis.

Distinguish between ‘revolution’ and ‘revolving’. Put your arm on O’s chest. Revolve the bones in your arm while rotating your hip/torso towards O. Do them at the same time, won’t work if you do one before the other. Master Chen says every move has to have both rotation and revolution. O can’t adjust if you rotate and revolve at the same time.

Just as a basketball game is comprised of many small games, so is the form, or a fight.

When doing the jumps and leaps in the form, make sure you keep your integrity, keep your arms, body, legs nicely organized. Feel light, slow down time so that you are aware of the location of all of your body parts. Keep the integrity of your structure so the O has nothing to attack while you are in the air or as you land. Watch Master Chen’s body while he is in the air.

When you are doing circles (including when in yilu or doing push hands or in a fight) realize that there are two ends and a middle to each circle. The far end, the close end and the middle space. You don’t want to be doing action in the middle of the circle. The middle is for movement. The ends are for action. The O is strong in the middle and you just get into a old fashioned struggling match in the middle. Pull the O when he is spent and at the outer end of his circle. When he is at the inner end of his circle, push him.

Think about your habits and your justifications for your habits. Habit is neutral, but you have to avoid justifying and sticking to bad ones, and you have to encourage good ones.

Practice – you and O stand in stances. Put your hand out towards the last third of your circle and push with your hand and have the O just stand there and be pushed – don’t be trying to push him over, just load up some energy and have him hold it. The point of this drill is to then move the focus of your push from your hand to your elbow, without moving your hand. O should feel the change. Then move the focus of your push from your elbow to your shoulder. Then to your hip. Then to your foot. Try to hold everything loose but connected as you change the focus. Hold your structure as you move your focus point, don’t go soft or limp, the push on the O stays the same through out but the energy behind the push changes dramatically.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerry Gebhart June 28, 2019 at 10:24 am

Wow, this a fantastic post! The concept is so clear. I am finally in a position to understand.


胡歌 July 8, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Does that mean you are about to fall?


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