My friend Sifu Donald Kerr of Spinning Dragon Tao has been producing some great videos recently featuring my teacher, Sifu Rand, demonstrating Tai Chi applications from our version of the Yang form. If you’re interested, I’ve written an article about the full lineage of that form before, but a quick summary is that it’s the Yang form from before Yang Cheng-Fu’s modifications, but with some input from Sun Lu Tang, so it’s a bit of a hybrid.
Needle at Bottom of the Sea, Shoulder through the arm and White Snake Spits Out Tongue.
I thought I’d do some posts as new videos become available comparing the videos to the historical books on the style that contain photographs.
There are a couple of historical books available that catalogue the long form in quite some detail. The first is the 1938 book by Gu Ru Zhang, then there’s the 1952 book by his student Long Zi Xiang, both of which have been kindly translated by Paul Brennan.
I’m using the 1952 book by Long Zi Xiang here, as the photos are of a higher quality. The English versions of the move names will always be slightly different, depending on the translator. Brennan translates these moves I’m looking at today, in order, as Needle under the sea (海底針), Shoulder through the arm (肩通臂) and White Snake shoots out its tongue (白蛇吐信).
In our school we use the names Needle at Sea Bottom, Fan through back and we don’t have a name for what Long is calling White Snake… it’s just part of Fan through back.
The application Long describes for Needle at Sea Bottom is, “If the opponent punches to my chest, I grab his wrist and press down, making his power drop downward.” It’s a pretty short explanation, but it does seem to match the modern day demonstration quite well:
For Shoulder through the arm, Long says, “If an opponent strikes from in front of me, I use my right hand to prop up his fist so that he cannot lower it, at the same time using my left hand to obstruct his waist and send him outward, causing him to topple over.”
Again, that’s a pretty good explanation of what happens in that video.
Long has one more application for the part of the form we don’t name - White Snake… – which is a simple block and strike to a different opponent, “If an opponent punches to my waist, I then press down with my right hand while my body moves back so that his punch lands on nothing, and then I use my right [left] fist to strike to his face.“
We seem more interested in the next move, which is “Torso-Flung Punch” (撇身捶) according to Brennan’s translation. We call this move “Chop opponent with fist“, and it’s the natural conclusion to the previous moves, so I’ll add it on here:
The explanation for the application is: “If an opponent attacks me with a [left] punch and [right] kick at the same time, I then withdraw my right leg, causing his kick to land on nothing, my right hand pressing down his fist. Then my left palm pushes down on his arm, and my right hand turns over from inside with a strike to his face.” Which ties in very well with the video showing the application by Sifu Rand: