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Glossary of Common Tai Chi and Kung-Fu Terms


Si-fu(Sifu, [Mandarin: Shifu])
Your instructor. This name is actually genderless. Female instructors are also called Sifu.

Si-fu's teacher.

Si-gung's teacher.

Si-tai-gung's teacher.

Title given to the founder of a system or the head of a generation line.

Teacher of the tradition
This title is usually addressed to the living head of a system. It is also sometimes addressed to a famous master.

Senior brother

Senior sister

Junior brother

Junior Sister


Chen Style Taijiquan
The Chen family style, originally Chen-Style Boxing, is the oldest and is the parent form of the five main Taijiquan Styles. It originated in the Chen Villiage (Chenjiagou) in Henan Province. Chen style is characterized by low stances, overtly visible coiling and distinctive power releases or fa-jing.

Chi (Qi)
Breath of Life
The primordial energy which is the basis for the universe and everything in it. It is the matrix out of which matter and energy are formed, and is expressed as the life force in all living things. Different from Spirit (Shen), it is an energy field that permeates and nourishes all living things.

Chi Kung (Qigong)
Energy Work
Exercises designed to coordinate, develop and/or increase Chi.

Chin Na
Seize and hold
The Chinese art of bone and joint locking. This art of grappling and controlling an opponent's limbs, usually by manipulating the joints or muscles, is present in many styles of Kung Fu.

Chi Sau
Sticky Hands, Quick Hands
A two-person exercise that teaches the student how to stick to their opponent. There are three Chi Sau exercises taught at Dragon Studios: Sticky Touch, where the students try to softly touch their opponent and avoid their opponent's touch; sticky push, where the students attempt to execute a simple push while staying attached to their opponent; and sticky strike, where the students attempt to gently strike their opponent while being adheared.

Chuan (Quan)
Most often used to identify a fighting style. e.g.: Taijiquan, BaGuaquan, etc.

Field of Cinnabar
A Daoist term referring to a center of energy located midway between the navel and the pubic bone, inside the lower abdomen. The Dan-Tien is important as a balance focal point as the center of balance in all people is located at a point that is at 40% of their height, which for nearly every person equates to their Dan-Tien point.

Eight Trigrams
In Chinese: Bagua
The Bagua are the basis of the book Classic of Changes, or I Ching. Each of the trigrams, consisting of a pattern of 6 broken and solid lines, represents an element or natural force. Generally, the solid or hard lines represent yang, while the broken or soft lines represent yin. In Taijiquan, the eight trigrams are assigned to the eight directions and the eight hand techniques.

In Chinese: Wai
Referring to the use of muscular force or mechanical energy in the physical body.

Expression of Power
The explosive release of strength or power which was previously stored. Especially emphasized in the martial aspects of Taiji Chuan, fa-jing is classified as the use of internal strength to produce a powerful strike, whip, or push.

Five Elements
In Chinese: Wuxing
A system in Chinese philosophy based on the observations of the interacting processes of the natural world. In the Five Element system, distinctions can be made between five dynamic processes, functions and characteristics: Water, Fire, Wood, Metal and Earth. In Taijiquan the five elements correspond to the five movements, advance, retreat, look left, look right and central equilibrium.

In Chinese: Daolu
In Japanese: Kata
A formally defined posture, movement, or set of movements used to teach coordination and technique to a student of Kung Fu.

A practice or exercise used in Kung Fu to develop a skill or power. There are many kinds of gongs, both internal (neigong) and external (waigong), leading to many different kinds of skills or powers.

Gong-fu (Kung Fu)
Skill from Hard Work
A common generic term for any Martial Art that originated in China. Kung Fu is a comparatively modern term -- it has only been used in the 20th century. The classical Chinese terms for Martial Arts include wushu, wuyi, chuan-fa and chuan-shu.

In Chinese: Yi
Everything one holds in one's mind. In Taijiquan, intention can refer to the appropriate state of mind when performing the form and can also refer to holding too much in your mind while pushing hands or sparring.

In Chinese: Nei
Referring to intrinsic power generated by the Chi or life force energy contained in the body. In the internal Martial Arts (Neijia), the use of Internal Strength is of utmost importance.

Jing stands for the substance that gives humans their tangible form, and is also assigned to the substances that nourish the tangible form such as food and liquids. Jing is also understood as the male and female sexual fluids. In Taoism, Jing, Qi, and Shen (spirit) form the three treasures. In Taijiquan the three treasures are maintained by the development of naturalness.

Kwoon (Guan, Wu Guan)
Training Hall
The school or gym where one is instructed in the Chinese Martial Arts.

Ward Off; Ward Off Power
The power of bringing internal strength from the legs and waist to the hands or point of contact with an opponent, usually from the Taijiquan posture known as Ward Off, as an upward force.

A term common to many Kung Fu styles and other martial arts, rooting is the skill or quality of aligning the feet and body so force is transferred efficiently into the ground, allowing for maximum stability and balance.

The essence of a being that is not their physical form (jing), nor their inner energy (qi). Ultimately, the art of Taijiquan should cultivate Shen for the practitioner.

Shuai Jiao (Shuai Chiao)
Hold the Horn and Throw
Considered by many to be the oldest form of Kung Fu surviving today, the wrestling art of Shuai Jiao can be traced back some 4,000 years. In Taijiquan and other Chinese martial systems, the term is used to define "Throwing the opponent" techniques.

Silk Reeling
In Chinese: Chanssu Jing
A category of exercises in the internal arts used to develop coordination, strength and suppleness while drawing on internal strength. To process silk, a single strand must be pulled and wound using continuous and uninterrupted pressure. Developing and applying internal strength requires the same concentration, and the concept of reeling silk is used as a teaching aid in instilling these sometimes hard to comprehend principles.

The quality of suppleness and ease of motion which accompanies proper movement in the internal martial arts. Not to be confused with limpness, sung describes a quality of relaxed coordination of the entire body in movement.

Sun Style Taijiquan
A style of Taiji developed by Sun Lu Tang, a famous master of Xingyiquan and Baguazhang. Sun learned Yang-style Taiji and developed Sun style as an offshoot of that system, incorporating ideas from Xingyiquan and Baguazhang. Sun style is characterized by compact movements with little visible coiling.

Tao or Taoism (pronounced Dao or Daoism)
A Chinese philosophical and spiritual system, founded on the principles of the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dao De Jing), written by Lao Tzu. The verses written in the Tao Te Ching can be applied as equally to Taijiquan practice as they can be to daily life. Therefore the priniciples of Taijiquan are based on the principles of the Tao.
Dao literally means the Way.

T'ai Chi (pronounced: Tai-ji)
The workings of the Yin and the Yang. Which is represented as a circle divided between a dark and a light half, the Taiji symbol represents two mutually complementary forces in nature: Yin, the force characterized as dark, cold, stillness, passiveness and potential; and Yang, the force characterized as light, warmth, action, aggressiveness and expression.

Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Tai Chi)
Yin-Yang Boxing
A Chinese internal art form based on the principles of Yin and Yang and Taoist philosophy, and devoted to internal physical training. Taijiquan is represenated by five family styles: Chen, Sun, Yang, Wu(Hao), and Wu.

The Yin and Yang symbol.

Tui Shou
Push Hands
A two-person exercise used to teach students the martial aspects of the Taiji principles. Push Hands practice begins using simple, pre-defined sets of movements to teach coordination. Over time, more complex movement patterns are added and constraints removed until Push Hands becomes the Taiji equivalent of free sparring.

Yang Style Taijiquan
The most widely known style of Taiji in the world. The legendary fighter Yang Lu Chan, learned his art from Chen Chang Zhing in Chen village. His grandson, Yang Cheng Fu, reevaluated the art and developed it into a distinctly different style, replacing the changing tempos and rising and falling postures with a sedate, even tempo and uniformly large, open postures. The popular "Yang Long Form" consists of 108 postures.

Wu (Hao) Style Taijiquan
Wu Yu-hsiang was a scholar from a wealthy and influential family who became a senior student of Yang Lu Chan. Wu Yu-hsiang's Taijiquan is a distinctive style with small, subtle movements; highly focused on balance, sensitivity and internal ch'i development. There are no longer Hao family members teaching the style.

Wu Style Taijiquan
Wu Chuan-yu was a military officer cadet of Manchu ancestry in the Yellow Banner camp in the Forbidden City, Beijing and also a hereditary officer of the Imperial Guards Brigade. At that time, Yang Lu Chan was the martial arts instructor in the Imperial Guards, teaching Taijiquan. Wu Chuan-yu became one of his students. Wu style involves paralell footwork (horse-riding stance) for the majority of their exercises, and maintains a "smaller" frame than Yang or Chen styles.

Sun Lu Tang (See: Sun Style Taijiquan), identified all internal styles as originating from the Taoist monasteries of the Wudangshan mountain range, in Hubei Province. These styles are considered to be: Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguaquan, and seem to have much in common with the legendary Wudang Sword and open-hand styles. The legendary creator of Taijiquan, Chang Sang Feng, is considered one of the founders of the Wudang monasteries.

Not interfering, nor acting against one's naturalness. By following the Wu-Wei, one's actions conform to the principles of the cosmos. In Taijiquan, the art of relaxing and moving with and away from force, is the action of Wu-Wei. Wuji is the word for Non-Action, which literally means doing nothing. This is different from Non-Acting as described above.

Zhan Zhuang
Stake Standing
A standing gong or exercise in which the practitioner stands motionless in a particular posture to develop internal strength.