Peng, Lu, Ji, An: A Combined Drill

Sifu Herb Parran and me.

Peng, Lu, Ji, An: A Combined Drill
This is a basic, repetitive exercise, designed to help students of all levels develop a deep understanding of body mechanics. Also, it is a great way to practice the thirteen postures of Taijiquan. It includes all eight energies and the five directions. I teach this set to my beginning students before we ever get into form of any kind. I believe it helps build their foundation in how we move, turn, step, etc. This version is the one I learned from Sifu Herb Parran of St. Louis, MO.

Start in a comfortable stance with the feet hip width apart. Turn the waist and shift the weight to the left. Begin making a clockwise circle with both hands. Keep the weight in the left leg; turn the body to the right; continuing the clockwise circle and swiveling on the right heel to turn out the foot to a 45 degree angle. Shift the weight into the right leg, sink and step forward with the left. Make sure that is in an empty step. (See my Taiji empty stepping article.) Extend the leg forward, set the heel down then the toe. Be sure to keep the hip width in your stance. Shift 60% forward into the left leg. At the same time turn the waist, so that you square your hips and shoulders to the front. The hands continue together as though still making the clockwise circle. After shifting forward, stand up slightly, arms raise up, led by the wrists. When the hands reach shoulder height, the wrists sink slightly, so the fingers come up. As you start to shift the weight back into the right leg the palms turn to the right. As the waist turns there should be a drawing action with the arms. The right should lead the left. Turn only to the 45 degree angle. Keep the left arm bowed in front of the body. Sink into the right leg and turn to the front, squaring hips and shoulders. The left palm should face in toward the body. Press the right palm to the left wrist. Shift forward 60%, pressing forward with the hands, but still maintaining the bow in the left arm. Right elbow should point down. Once you have shifted forward 60%, the hands should separate. Fingers should point forward, elbows down. Shift back 60%. Turn right 45 degrees and the hands move in to a position like resting on top of a large ball. Sink into the legs, keeping the weight 60% in the right, and press down with the hands as though trying to push a ball down into water. Relax the body, relax the arms down. Shift forward without turning the waist. Let the left hand and arm wave out, keeping the fingers pointing down. Shift 100% forward so that you can adjust the right foot to face directly forward. Shift back 100% and pull the left foot back a little, about one foot length. This makes for an easier transition to the other side.

Begin making a counter-clockwise circle with both hands. Keep the weight in the right leg; turn the body to the left; continuing the counter-clockwise circle and swiveling on the left heel to turn out the foot to a 45 degree angle. Shift the weight into the left leg, sink and step forward with the right. Make sure that is in an empty step. Extend the leg forward, set the heel down then the toe. Be sure to keep the hip width in your stance. Shift 60% forward into the right leg. At the same time turn the waist, so that you square your hips and shoulders to the front. The hands continue together as though still making the counter-clockwise circle. After shifting forward, stand up slightly, arms raise up, led by the wrists. When the hands reach shoulder height, the wrists sink slightly, so the fingers come up. As you start to shift the weight back into the left leg the palms turn to the left. As the waist turns there should be a drawing action with the arms. The left should lead the right. Turn only to the 45 degree angle. Keep the right arm bowed in front of the body. Sink into the left leg and turn to the front, squaring hips and shoulders. The right palm should face in toward the body. Press the left palm to the right wrist. Shift forward 60%, pressing forward with the hands, but still maintaining the bow in the right arm. Left elbow should point down. Once you have shifted forward 60%, the hands should separate. Fingers should point forward, elbows down. Shift back 60%. Turn left 45 degrees and the hands move in to a position like resting on top of a large ball. Sink into the legs, keeping the weight 60% in the left, and press down with the hands as though trying to push a ball down into water. Relax the body, relax the arms down. Shift forward without turning the waist. Let the right hand and arm wave out, keeping the fingers pointing down. Shift 100% forward so that you can adjust the left foot to face directly forward. Shift back 100% and pull the right foot back a little, about one foot length. This makes for an easier transition to the other side.

There is also a variant of the last part of this exercise. Instead of pushing down you would push forward as in the Yang style. After separating the hands, shift back 60%. Keep the hips and shoulders squared to the front. Draw the hands back toward the shoulders. When you have finished shifting, sink into the rear leg and sink the wrists at the same time. The fingers should be pointing up and the palms forward. Shift forward 60%, pushing forward with the palms, being sure not to overextend. The knee should never go beyond the instep, nor should the hands. then, relax the arms down turn the waist and shift the weight. This will put in the same position as the "push the ball under the water" version.

I recommend at least three repetitions on each side. Otherwise there is no set number of repetitions or length of time to practice. Once you have this drill down you will probably enjoy it as it is the essence of Taijiquan all in one simple, repetitive exercise. I still do this drill myself, in my own, daily practice. I find that it great for those times when I need to decompress a bit, like during my breaks at work. I will try to upload a video clip of the sequence, but no guarantees it will be soon. As always, please leave comments, questions, etc.

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