The World’s Most Popular Tai Chi Form

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What is the most widely practiced Tai Chi form in the world? Depending on who you ask, the answer would be The 24-Pattern Form, The Peking FormThe Short Form, or The Simplified Form

So which is it? Any of the above, really.  All of these names refer to the same Tai Chi form developed in 1956 by the Chinese Sports Committee.  Sadly, one of the most elegant forms ever invented also has some of the most awkward names ever conceived.

Whatever you call it, this is the most widely practiced form around the world.  There are many variations, but most schools follow the same basic steps.  My version has 2 extra steps — the Elbow Strike and the Shoulder Strike.  This is so that the form contains all of the Original 13 Techniques of Tai Chi Chuan (a subject for a future article).

A Short History of the Short Form

Four Tai Chi masters — Chu Guiting, Cai Longyun, Fu Zhongwen, and Zhang Yu — collaborated to develop this form. The goal was to create a shorter version of the Yang Style 108 Pattern Long Form, one that could be taught easily, practiced by the masses, and performed in a relatively short period of time.  Considering that they were effectively forced by the Chinese government to create the form, the masters did a surprisingly good job, not just in terms of reaching the government’s goals, but also in producing an amazing legacy.

Sifu Anthony performing Golden Rooster Standing Tall at the retreat center in Costa Rica.

Sifu Anthony performing Golden Rooster Standing Tall at the retreat center in Costa Rica.

It would have been easy for the four masters to create a form that satisfied the government, but was nevertheless missing the essence of Tai Chi.  That they didn’t do this is somewhat remarkable considering the longstanding tradition of secrecy among Chinese masters.  The final product was a masterpiece.  It not only contained powerful techniques for building Qi and internal force, but also all of the footwork, strikes, kicks, throws, and locks that you would need to handle virtually any combat situation.  Talk about comprehensive!

The Essence of Tai Chi

The essence is there, but that doesn’t mean everyone can see it.  For a Tai Chi master, the secrets are easy to see.  For anyone else, they’re virtually impossible.  Millions of people all around the world practice this form, but few of them know the secrets. Remember that this form was original designed for the masses, so it should be no surprise that most people don’t know the secrets.  I’ll quote a famous Tai Chi master on the subject:

If there are a million people doing Tai Chi in Tiananmen Square, you can be sure that 999,999 aren’t doing a damn thing.

When you know the secrets, this form really comes alive!  Personally, I love this form for its combination of simplicity and profundity.  Unlike the 108-Pattern Long Form, stuff isn’t repeated over and over.  The form acts as a succinct, living encyclopedia of the essence of Tai Chi.  If I had to pick one form to teach for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

The List of Traditional Patterns

Traditionally, there are 24 patterns listed for the form, but this is misleading because some of the patterns contain several movements.  For example, Grasping Sparrow’s Tail consists of several movements.  Personally, I find it more productive to name each individual movement, and that’s exactly how I do it in my school. 

It’s also traditional to list patterns only once, leaving repeated patterns unlisted.  Once again, this gets confusing for students (and me too!), so I prefer to list the patterns as they appear chronologically  in the form, whether they are repeated or not. For some of the patterns, I’ve chosen to use alternate traditional names that are, quite frankly, more poetic.

As I said earlier,  two patterns have been added to the form — the Elbow Strike, and the Shoulder Strike — so that it would include all of the original 13 techniques of Tai Chi Chuan (a subject for another blog post).  Click below for the complete list of the pattern names as it is practiced in my school.

Click Here to Toggle the Complete List of Patterns

  1. Wuji
  2. Lifting Water
  3. Carrying the Cosmos
  4. Wild Horse Separates Mane
  5. Carrying the Cosmos
  6. Wild Horse Separates Mane
  7. Carrying the Cosmos
  8. Wild Horse Separates Mane
  9. White Crane Spreads Wings
  10. Green Dragon Shoots Pearl (Brush Knee Twist Step)
  11. Green Dragon Shoots Pearl (Brush Knee Twist Step)
  12. Green Dragon Shoots Pearl (Brush Knee Twist Step)
  13. Playing the Lute
  14. Step Back & Repulse Monkey (Reverse Reeling Forearms)
  15. Step Back & Repulse Monkey (Reverse Reeling Forearms)
  16. Step Back & Repulse Monkey (Reverse Reeling Forearms)
  17. Step Back & Repulse Monkey (Reverse Reeling Forearms)
  18. Carrying the Cosmos
  19. Immortal Waves Sleeves (Ward Off)
  20. Double Dragons Play with Pearl (Roll Back)
  21. Push Boat According to Current (Press)
  22. Black Bear Sinks Hips
  23. Open Window Look at Moon (Push)
  24. Fisherman Throwing His Net
  25. Single Whip
  26. Carrying the Cosmos
  27. Immortal Waves Sleeves (Ward Off)
  28. Double Dragons Play with Pearl (Roll Back)
  29. Push Boat According to Current (Press)
  30. Black Bear Sinks Hips
  31. Open Window Look at Moon (Push)
  32. Fisherman Throwing His Net
  33. Single Whip
  34. Wave Hands in Clouds
  35. Wave Hands in Clouds
  36. Wave Hands in Clouds
  37. Wave Hands in Clouds
  38. Single Whip
  39. White Snake Shoots Venom (High Patting Horse)
  40. White Horse Presents Hoof (Cross-Hands Thrust Kick)
  41. Double Bees Drink Pollen
  42. White Horse Presents Hoof (Cross-Hands Thrust Kick)
  43. Snake Creeps Down
  44. Low Single Whip
  45. Golden Rooster Standing Tall
  46. Snake Creeps Down
  47. Low Single Whip
  48. Golden Rooster Standing Tall
  49. Jade Girl Threads Shuttle (Fair Lady Works Shuttle)
  50. Jade Girl Threads Shuttle (Fair Lady Works Shuttle)
  51. Needle at Sea Bottom
  52. Elbow Strike
  53. Shoulder Strike
  54. Fan Through Back
  55. Reverse Hanging Golden Lotus (Swinging Fist)
  56. Punch Below Sleeves
  57. Like Taming Like Closing (Withdraw and Push)
  58. Cross Hands
  59. Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow
  60. Wuji

Down the road, I’ll be adding more posts on the amazing martial applications of this form.  If you think that this form is too flowery for fighting, wait and see!

[UPDATE: June 1, 2013] Here’s another video of me performing the same set, but faster, and with medium power. 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

[hr] I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.
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8 Responses to The World’s Most Popular Tai Chi Form

  1. Mary Bast August 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Sifu, you have a real talent for writing with clarity, heart, and humor. I know your book is going to be terrific.

    • CONLEY FALK August 17, 2016 at 7:31 pm #


      • Sifu Anthony Korahais August 17, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

        I’m glad it was helpful, Conley!

        • CONLEY FALK August 17, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

          MY PLEASURE.

  2. Philip Milsom August 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Thank you Siheng for sharing your insight into the 24 pattern form and how it came about what an interesting story indeed, we are very lucky to have Sifu share with us the true essence of these great arts!

  3. Melissa November 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I can’t wait to learn the whole form someday! It looks like such an enjoyable thing to practice!

    • Sifu Anthony November 25, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      It’s a wonderful form. If you want to try to learn it on your own, I can help you with it later in Costa Rica. It’s not easy to learn from a video, but it can been done.

      • Melissa November 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

        Hm, that might be a fun little project to work on until then! 🙂

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