I was asked recently what is the ‘form’ in Tai Chi so I thought now would be a good time to do a post on it.
The word ‘form’ in Tai Chi can have different meanings so let’s clarify that now.
There’s the Tai Chi form and there are weapons forms such as sabre form, sword form, spear form and staff form.
I’ll focus on the generally accepted view of the ‘form’ as in the Tai Chi form.
The Tai Chi form is a series of mostly slow movements that are performed in sequence. See the clip below.
There are different syles or forms – the major ones are:
There are two categories of forms:
1. The traditional form (long form)
- has 37 original postures ( e.g. Grasping the Bird’s Tail, Clouded Hands etc.)
- usually have 108 postures (movements) which include repeats of the 37 original postures
- about 15-20 minutes to perform, some are longer in duration
- 6-12 months to learn
2. Short Forms
- made up of postures from the traditional forms – could be any postures in any sequence
- 4 minutes or more in duration
- 6 or more weeks to learn
Other points to be aware of are:
- Each posture is a self defence movement (note – cannot be used as self defence unless modified – this is another post)
- Posture names may differ from style to style or even within a style
- Techniques of postures may differ from style to style
- Key principles of relaxation in Tai Chi are consistent across all Tai Chi forms
- There are fast forms
In this clip the late Master Ma YuaLiang performs a fast Wu form and at 2.20 Wu Ying Hwa Wu performs the slow Wu form. Both in their 90’s at the time and married to each other. Wu Ying Hwa Wu was the daughter of the founder of the Wu style, Master Wu Chuan Chien.