Practical Method Rules List 2012 (translated)

by Ming on 2015/07/22

Cultural and language barriers are just one of the many obstacles in the quest to understand the meaning of Tàijíquán. Students of the Practical Method is fortunate to have Master Chen to guide us in navigating the nuances and mysteries of this art. In 2010, he wrote a Chinese summary of twenty-four important rules in the Practical Method. This summary was subsequently updated in 2012. We have translated this set of rules into English.


J. Tam (Ottawa) and Ming (Ottawa) have translated Master Chen’s rule for the Practical Method into English. We hope this will help fellow students in their training. We have included the Chinese characters so those conversant with the Chinese language can verify the accuracy of our translation. We also tried to ensure contextual accuracy rather then literal accuracy in our translation. In addition, we have included additional explanations in English to convey the translator’s understanding of the stated concepts. Those additional explanations are denoted between square brackets. ( [..] ). The translators have tried to ensure that the English translation accurately reflects the Chinese statements of Master Chen. The translators are solely responsible for any errors or misunderstanding in this list.

Master Chen Zhonghua list of rules in the Practical Method

Posted Nov, 4, 2012 by Chen Zhōnghuá (发表于 2012 年 11 月 4 日 由 陈 中华 )

This list was first written up in a blog in 2010 and has now been updated.

The list of “rules” includes principles, definitions and structural requirements for the different parts [of the body], etc. (这些“规矩”的列表包括了原则、定义、部位结构要求、等。)

Basic Principle (原则)

  1. The Principle of Taiji is the Principle of Yin and Yang (太极就是阴阳。) [A Taoist principle of complementary opposites.]
  2. To practice Taiji is to “separate” or “split” into Yin and Yang. Specific examples of separation of Yin-Yang [pair of complementary opposites] include: up and down, left and right, front and back, inside and outside, and the mechanical system of levers. (练太极就是“分”阴阳。就是上下、左右、前后、内外等的杠杆。) [A lever is a simple machine consisting of a rigid rod pivoted at a fixed hinge or fulcrum. The appearance of an input force (the effort) in a lever system automatically results in an output force (the load or the resistance). Thus, a lever is an illustration of the concept of Yin-Yang separation. ]
  3. [See a demonstration of this concept here.]

  4. In practice, each Taiji movement has a dynamic and a static component. There are parts within the body that moves and, simultaneously, other parts that do not move. That is, [through Taiji training] the disarrayed and chaotic parts of the body are transformed into ordered parts that have structure, such as a tight-fitting and compact body that functions in principle like a door hinge. [The goal is to train each Taiji movement to follow the principle of Yin-Yang Separation. The same principle can be found in the use of everyday physical objects. For example, consider a simple door hinge. In such a hinge, the door and the frame are connected through a central rod. As a result, the door and the frame can rotate relative to each other about a fixed axis of rotation. The door and the frame that move represent the dynamic component and the fixed axis represents the static component.]
  5. In order to achieve “splitting” (or “separation”), one must first “anchor”. There must be an anchor at a point in order for a “separation” to occur at two ends. [Physical analogies to illustrate the concept of an anchor are a fulcrum (the pivot point), the axis of rotation or a critical point in phase equilibrium.] [For a Taiji movement,] in the beginning the anchor point is at the “dantian” [a point in the center of the body]. Later, it can be anywhere in the body. That anchor is the axis. The axis can be a point or a line. [The difference between an anchoring point and an anchoring line is that: ] A point is an axis with multiple orientations; a line has a single orientation. Another type of anchor occurs outside of the axis. This type of anchor can be a point (e.g., door handle) or a plane (e.g., door surface) that exists outside of the fulcrum. A revolving door is also an illustration of an anchor outside the central axis . [For the student of the Practical Method], an anchor can be a point, a line or a plane and can be placed anywhere – inside or outside the body. (要“分”就必须先“定”,定住一点,两头才能分开。这一点一开始在丹田,后来可以在身体的任何部分。这一点就是轴。可以是点,也可以是一条线。点是万向轴;线是单向轴。点外的也可是点(门把手);或一个面(门面板)、一个体旋转门中间轴外都算。)
  6. Chinese martial arts training require training in force. Strength is force. Relaxation is force. Being rigid is also force. [In the Practical method], the training is to use force correctly – [according to the Taiji principles]. ( 练拳就是练力。劲是力,松是力,僵也是力。练拳就是练习合理的使用力的方法。)
  7. [The strategies for the Practical Method are]: big fight small; fast fight slow; long fight short; heavy fight light and accuracy fight deviations (大打小,快打慢,长打短,重打轻,准确打误差。)
  8. Training in the Practical Method is learning to master timing, distance and angle. Mastering timing is the same as mastering speed. However, we are interested in “effective speed” not “absolute speed”. Mastering distance means controlling the space between two points within the body or the space between you and your opponent. Mastering angle means understanding the direction of your opponent. The objective for each aspect of training is effectiveness. (练拳就是学习掌握时间、距离、角度。时间是提速,是实际的有效速度,不是绝对速度。距离是自身两点的距离或敌我之间的距离。角度是相对敌我间的平面而言的。此三者都有同一个目的:效率。)
  9. Timing, distance and angle are achieved through training the complex coordination of the entire body according to the correct principles. This coordination is also known as “adjustment”. The action and result is concrete even though sometimes the action is not perceptible or the result appears implausible. The entire concept is often labelled under the generic term “kung fu” because of the difficulty required to achieve this understanding. (时间、距离、角度是通过身体各部位的配合得到的。功夫来自结构中个部位的配合。配合也叫“调整”。这种配合是真的,但有时是不可见的,不可摸到的,所以说是一种“功夫”。)
  10. Taiji exercises require an understanding of the position and function of the: head, hands, feet, wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, shoulders, hips, waist and crotch and so on. In the Practical Method, we place special emphasis on the waist, crotch and the hip. Another area of difficulty in training is the kua and the shoulders. In general, training requires that each body part performs its own function correctly. (太极拳练习中比较重要的部位有头、手、脚、腕、踝、肘、膝、肩、胯、腰、裆等。其中腰、裆、胯为比较特殊的太极拳部位。比较难练的部位是肩和胯。身体部位要各司其职。)
  11. In the Practical Method, the only movements are: with or against [the flow], positive and negative circles, self-turning and revolutions. Other movements are based on these foundations. (太极拳的动作只能包括顺逆、正圈反圈、自转公转。其它都是从这里面衍生出来的。)
  12. There are three sections from the bottom of the feet to the top of the head. There are three sections from the left hand to the right hand. (身体上下要分三节。左右也要分三节。)
  13. The [body] structure has fixed points and rules. The rules are: The Outside cannot be Inside; the Inside cannot be Outside; the Inside and the Outside each has its own duties; The duty of the Inside is not to come out; the duty of the Outside is not to go in. (结构有定式有规律。外不能内,内不能外。内外各司其职。里边的别出来,外边的别进去。)
  14. The hand is always on the outside. The Dantian is always on the inside. The hand cannot move and the Dantian never stops. (手永远在外。丹田永远在内。手不能动,丹田不能停。)
  15. [Viewed from the top] The section of the body can be divided into [two sets of] three concentric rings. (身体俯视图结构分三圈。) [The inner ring extends from the center line (spine) to the shoulder and kua. The middle ring extends from the shoulder and kua to the elbows and knees. The outer ring extends from the elbows and knees to the hand and feet. The rules governing the interactions between each ring are as follows:] The inner ring can work with the middle ring; the middle ring can work with the outer ring. The outer ring can never work with the inner ring. (内圈可和中圈合;中圈可和外圈合。外圈不能和内圈合。) This rule is known as the Theory of the Three-Three or the Theory of the Two Solids. (这就是三三学说。也叫二固一学说。)
  16. [A video explaining this concept is available here.]

  17. The force is from the ground / foot (kick); the control is at the waist (adjustment); reach with the hand (touch) (力发自地/脚(蹬),主于腰(调节)达于手(着)。
  18. Each section of the body performs its own duty but in a coordinated manner. However, this coordination does not mean that each action occurs in the same direction, at the same time or duplicating the function of another section. The overall action of all body parts must not twist in the same directions [toss]. (身体各部位分工配合,整劲是各部位不同方向、不同时间、不同作用的配合,不是一个方向的摇摆。)
  19. Do not use force, learn to guide and conduct the force. The force from your body must transmit to your opponent’s body. The legs are for force transmission, a push or pull is also the result of force transmission. (不要用力,要学会传导力。自己身上的力要传导到对方身上。把脚登地看作是传导力,把推拉看作是传导力。)
  20. Use your own body’s movement to create power but the body must control the range of the static power. [This is the principle of indirect power] (自身用动作制造动力,但身体要控制在静力范围内。)
  21. “Push hands” is a technical term use in Taiji practice, it does not mean methods for pushing your opponent around. In fact, when you are practicing “push hands” you should not use the physical action of “push”. In “push hands” training, you are learning to use the hand to pull the trigger. In another words, you are training so that your action can exhibit the Taiji maxim of “using four ounces to move a thousand pounds”. It is also a means of training to “releasing energy”. (“推手”是一个太极拳练习的专业术语,并不是用手去推人的意思。推手练习时永远不能“推”。用手“扣板机”,就是“四两拨千斤”的拨。就是“发劲”。)
  22. In order to use force, release energy or execute a technique, the body must be under pressure from a downward compression. (The simplest physical illustration of this concept of the body under pressure is the rule that the shoulder must fall onto the kua.) This pressure is necessary because forces from the body starts from the ground and travels up. (只要用力、发力、做动作,就要将身体下压(最普通的表现就是肩膀要沉下、压住)。因为力的本身是向上的。)
  23. Force must be vertical (this is the concept of Shun); Force must not be horizontal (this is the concept of Ni) . (力要走竖(顺),不走横(逆)。)
  24. A technique requires total commitment; you cannot surrender even an inch. (交手时宁可进一毫,也不退一尺。)
  25. The feet are quicker than the hands (脚比手快。)
  26. When the top moves the bottom is stationary; when the bottom moves the top remains still. When the action of the top and the bottom must occur at the same time, then they must act in opposite directions. (上动下不动,下动上不动。上下同时动时一定要在相反方向。)

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

edliaw July 23, 2015 at 11:27 am

Question about 11 (3 sections vertically and horizontally): is this talking about an unchanging division (legs, torso, head; right arm, torso, left arm) or separation as levers (active side, fulcrum, passive side)? Or something else entirely?


Ming July 23, 2015 at 3:25 pm

The three sections are the bases for the three rings theory. The theory applies to both horizontal and vertical sections of the body.


edliaw July 23, 2015 at 11:31 am

Also I’m confused by 21; not clear on the difference between vertical and “not horizontal”, nor the meaning of shun and ni.


Ming July 23, 2015 at 3:27 pm

There is not much more I can add. I have not yet grasped the concept of Shun and Ni.


edliaw July 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Only article I found about shun and ni was this one:

Hong’s book also uses the terms, but I haven’t grasped the relation to vertical and horizontal.


charlie wishon July 25, 2015 at 11:41 am

Ed. You need to but the e book practical method volume 1. Shun and ni represent positive and negative in the spiral of the movements.


Ymarsakar July 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Interpreting it from my own point of view, horizontal force is derived and vertical force is gravity, the source of power. Thus some movements require the mastery of conversion, to convert at 1 to 1 or greater efficiency, the pull of gravity into a horizontal force. A physical example would be someone pulling a weight or resistance line behind him over his shoulder, but primarily using his legs.

The kanji for shun and ni should be broken down, since the parts are more easily understood than the whole. I don’t have the knowledge base to decipher the context for the Chinese symbols, but the methodology is the same for traditional kanji words.


Leave a Comment
Leave a comment on the content only. For admin issues, please click the "contact" button on the top left.

Previous post:

Next post: