Study Guide 1 


To pass this unit you will need to be able to:

1.1 Demonstrate and explain the 3 major handwork patterns.
1.2 Demonstrate and explain the 5 footwork patterns
1.3 Demonstrate and explain the 4 main Tai Chi stances. 


Later on in the course you will begin to study the 6 Form - 6 different movements that are strung together to make one continual flowing movement. The footwork and handwork patterns that we are looking at are fundamental to this and all Forms.

Once you have mastered the footwork and handwork patterns you will find your progression to any style of Form easier, as they can be found in all Tai Chi Forms.


The Theory to the Patterns 

Tai Chi uses the Five Elements to designate different directions, positions or footwork patterns.
They are: forward, backward, left, right and centre.

  • Metal represents Forward
  • Wood represents Back
  • Water represents Left
  • Fire represents Right
  • Earth represents Centre

We will be looking at these again in the next unit so to help you understand the concept of 5 Elements, here's a few links:
Link 1

Link 2 

The 5 Major Footwork Patterns 

You have been sent a DVD of the Foundation movements but if you have Master Jesse Tsao's Fundamentals For Beginners DVD you can use this instead as it provides you with a lot of extra information.


There are 5 major foot movements that are used in Tai Chi.
These are: Step forward, Step backward, Turn to the right, Turn to the left and Central equilibrium.

(Please note that the bracketed translations are our attempt to help you pronounce the word)

Jin ( Che)– Step forward.
We step forward by placing the heel of the foot on the ground first. Slowly change the weight and follow through by placing the whole of the foot down on the ground. You need to keep a space between the feet - don't walk on a tightrope!

Tai Chi Walking: Step forward with the left heel and follow through, rock back onto the heel and twist the left foot out to a slight angle to the left, by lifting the toe. Place the foot on the floor and change weight onto it ,allowing you to bring the back foot forward , placing the heel down first. (Don't walk a tightrope!) The hands need to move forward as the foot moves forward. Click on this link to hear a description of Forward walking.  Tai Chi walking is just that: it's a way of practising the forward and backward movements. It can help learners with balance problems, if practised on a regular basis. When you write your assignment you will need to make this clear.

Now take a look at your DVD before moving on.

Tui ( Twee)- Step backward.

We step backward by placing the toe onto the ground behind us. This is followed by the rest of the foot and finally, the heel. It is good practice, to ensure and preserve good balance, to walk forward and backwards 20 times each day.


 Ku (Coow)- Turn to the Left

Pan (Pah) - Turn to the Right.
Start with the feet in Bow stance, left leg forward, with the arms extended in front of the shoulders. As you turn the waist to move to the other side, the arms will follow, along with the left foot. The foot only turns by lifting the toe and only travels as far as the ‘forward’ direction. These movements are used when we perform Single Whip.

You will see from the DVD, that there are 2 versions of Ku & Pan (Left & Right step/turn). The second version employs the lifting of the front foot to make a 'step' forward.

Ding ( Dee)– Central Equilibrium
This is equal weighted with the feet. This 'movement' is used at the start of all Forms. 


The 3 Major Hand Patterns of Tai Chi


There are 3 major hand movement patterns that are used in Tai Chi.

These are: Opening & Closing, Forward & Backward, High & Low.

1 - Open & Close Hand Pattern.

Within Open & Close there are two patterns. With pattern 1 the hands move outwards, whilst with pattern 2 the hands move inwards.

Pattern 1
The Up and Open movements – as we open we relieve the stress from the chest. Any stress moves out through the hand.
‘Sit down’, with the knees bent and make sure that the torso is vertical. You should be able to turn from the waist towards the left corner or the right corner. With the hand out in front of the chest, turn the waist and the hand will move with it. Move towards the outside of the body. Then circle the hand down to waist level and turn the palm upwards as you move the waist in the other direction. Ensure that the knee is always over or in line with the toe and try to keep the elbow down.

Pattern 2
The Down & Close movements - as we move inward (across the body), we gather energy from the universal energy. As we move the hand out from the body, this is releasing the stress and ‘badness’ from the body. This move must start from the waist again. Begin with the right hand out stretched in front of the chest to the right side. Move in the direction of the palm. Turn the waist and the hand will move across to the left of the chest. The hand then circles down and as you turn the waist again the hand will move in the other direction with the waist movement.

With both open and close movements, the hand nearly 'strokes' the elbow. For the Up and Open pattern, the hand 'strokes' the elbow in an upward movement. For the Down and Close pattern, the hand 'strokes' the elbow in a downward movement.

2 - Forward & Backward Hand Pattern

Here the movement is still from the waist. The back hand moves forward, very close to the ear. The front hand pulls back (palm down), to the waist. This is similar to Repulse Monkey in the Form and Twisting Waist and Swinging Arms in Shibashi.

One of the mistakes that people make with this movement, is that they 'swim' rather than pull back with the front hand, another mistake is that the back arm is taken too far back - so beware, don't swim!

The DVD recording of the forward & backwards hand patterns can be viewed in the Foot movements section.


3 - High & Low Hand Pattern.

One handed High and Low

Separate the hands, moving up and down the centre of the body - the high hand has the palm facing up, the low hand palm down. This gives you a connection with Heaven and Earth. As we return the hands we take energy from the Heaven and Earth. You may know this as separating Heaven and Earth.

Double Hand High and Low - This is a double hand version of the 3rd fundamental hand pattern.

The hands lift up the centre of the body, with the fingers facing down, and then the arms open as you reach the top. Wash down with the fingers facing towards one another and follow through to the knees or below. The breathing is - inhale as the hands move towards the heart. Exhale as the hands move away from the heart.


Please remember that you can arrange a Skype session with your tutor to help you with the Foundation movements, before moving on to the next section of this course.



There are 4 main stances that are used in the Tai Chi Form.
They are:
Horse Riding stance
Bow Leg stance
Empty Leg stance/One Leg Empty stance
Low stance.

Horse riding stance.

In martial art applications the feet are further apart so it's therefore a lower stance for most Forms. You may know this as the foot positioning for the Tai Chi stance.

Bow stance – To the left or the right.
Here one foot is placed ahead of the other. Make sure that the feet are not in line as balance will be reduced. The weight is distributed 60/40 i.e 60% of the weight is in the front foot. Please note that the ranking committees for the International Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association state this 60/40 weight distribution. You will more often find though, that the stance is given a 70/30 weight distribution.
An example of this stance is Ward Off.

Empty leg stance – to the left or the right. An example of this stance is Play guitar/lute. The majority of the weight is in one leg whilst the other leg is just resting on the floor, usually on the heel. A variation of Empty Leg stance is the One leg empty stance – To the left or the right. Here the weight is entirely in the one leg whilst the knee of the other leg is held out at right angles to the body, usually with the lower part of the leg ’hanging’ towards the ground.
If you count this as a separate stance there are in fact 5 main stances!
An example of this stance is Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg. It is not a stance that we use in the 6 Form.

Low stance – To the left or right.
Here the stance is very low, with the weight either central, to the back or the front. The weight distribution will depend on whether you are at the beginning or the end of the movement.
An example is Snake Creeps Down. This stance is not used in the 6 Form and can be performed at various 'levels'. Those not able to drop down so low can 'sink' and make a higher posture

To take a look at the main stances, open the attachments at the bottom of the page.
Please remember to keep practising the Foundation movements as you will be assessed on these during your final practical observation. If you require help with the movements remember that you can arrange face to face skype sessions with your personal tutor. 
Main stance handout.doc Main stance handout.doc
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