I decided to create this web page to share my discovery. I have written about the subject of Tai Chi as succinctly as possible. I have also distilled the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the art to its most fundamental concept. Wisdom, I believe, has to be discovered through one’s own experience. Therefore, what I have written should only confirm what you have already discovered.

Tai Chi is a beautiful art that is rooted in Eastern philosophy. I hope this web page is helpful to you in your journey into the art of Tai Chi.

Philosophy of Tai Chi

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
-Lao Tzu

Tai Chi is a method of physical and spiritual cultivation based on the philosophy of Taoism. The source of Taoism is from the book Tao Te Ching, written around sixth century B.C. by Lao Tzu. The Tao Te Ching is a collection of eighty-one short and profound poems, consisting of only about five thousand words. It is only with personal experience that one can grasp the profound wisdom hidden within these concise poems.

The teaching of Lao Tzu is not much different from the teaching of Siddhartha, for enlightened beings speak the same truth. Let us examine the essence of these two philosophies.

Siddhartha’s key insight is that attachment leads to suffering, and there is a way to move beyond suffering. To understand this simple truth, it is helpful to look at a metaphor.

A gardener is planting a rose bush in winter. As spring approaches, a rosebud begins to form. Within the span of several weeks time, the rosebud blooms with radiating beauty and intoxicating fragrance. As fall approaches, the rose begins to wither then dies, as with all things in nature. The gardener knows this truth of nature well, so he is not attached to the rose at any moment in time.

Impermanence is the nature of all things in the universe. Thus, attachment to anything at all means that one is attached to that particular object at that particular moment in time, which means that one is not able to accept change as the inherent nature of all things.

The essence of Lao Tzu’s Taoism is in “non-action,” which means to accept things as they are without wanting them to be different. To put it in a more cliché form, one is: “to go with the flow.” The following poems, from the Tao Te Ching, exemplify this concept.


The highest good is like water
It gives life to all things
and reaches for the lowest
It flows in places men reject
and so is the Tao


Yield and overcome
Bend and be straight
Empty and be full
Wear out and be new
Have little and gain
Have much and be lost


Knowing others is wisdom
But to know oneself is enlightenment
Mastering others requires force
But to master oneself requires courage


The Tao abides in non-action
Yet nothing is left undone
For without form
there is no desire
Without desire
there is tranquility
And all things would be at peace


Returning is the motion of the Tao
Yielding is the way of the Tao


The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe
For without substance
One can enter where there is no room
Thus, one should know the value of non-action
Teaching without words
and work without doing
are understood by very few


One who is attached to things will suffer much
One who saves will suffer heavy loss
A contented man is never disappointed


There is no greater sin than desire
No greater curse than discontent
No greater misfortune than wanting


In the pursuit of learning
every day something is acquired
In the pursuit of the Tao
every day something is dropped
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved
When nothing is done
Nothing is left undone
The world is ruled by letting things take their course
It cannot be ruled by interfering


My words are easy to understand
Yet no one practices them
My words have ancient beginnings
And my actions are disciplined
But few know me
Therefore a sage wears rough clothing
and holds the jewel in his heart


A man is born gentle and soft
At death, he is hard and stiff
Green plants are tender
At death, they are withered and dry
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life
An army without flexibility never wins a battle
A tree that is unbending is easily broken
The hard and strong will fall
The soft and weak will overcome


Nothing is more soft and yielding than water
But for attacking the solid and strong
nothing is better
It has no equal
The weak can overcome the strong
The supple can overcome the stiff
Everyone knows this
But no one puts it into practice

Principles of Tai Chi

“Yield and overcome.”
-Lao Tzu

1. Substantial and Insubstantial: Substantial is yang and insubstantial is yin. In the beginning, it is critical to be aware of the shifting of the weight from one foot to the other. When the weight is on one foot, then that foot is yang and the other foot is yin. This is the foundation of establishing rooting. At a higher level, be aware of the substantial and insubstantial of the hands as well. Thus, when one hand is yang, then the other hand is yin. At the highest level, there is also substantial and insubstantial of the opposite hand and foot. For example, in “brush knee twist step,” the forward striking hand is substantial or yang, and the same foot (rear) is therefore yang also.

2. Chi is moved like a curved thread through nine pearls: The body has nine curves (the fist joint, the wrist joint, the elbow joint, the shoulder joint, the spine, the waist, the hips, the knee joint, and the ankle joint). The chi is moved through these nine joints, so that when one part of the body moves, the entire body moves.

3. Relax “Sung”: Tai Chi is known as movement meditation. Thus, the mind (awareness) and chi (breath) are united with movement (in the present moment). The movement is effortless because there is no self. One becomes a detached observer. The muscles are relaxed, and the chi is moved through the ligaments. Beginners need to pay particular attention to the shoulders since the muscular tension is most profound at this point. One needs to relax the shoulders, and drop the elbows while practicing the form. Sung is closely related to Peng Ching.

4. Keep Alignment: The body must be upright, keep the neck and the back straight. The tail-boned is tucked in so that the buttocks are not sticking out. The chest is not sticking out, nor the upper back hunched forward.

5. The source of movements is in the waist and spine as in a wheel revolving around an axle: The waist is rotated around the spine like a wheel revolving around an axle. In this case, the axle is perpendicular to the ground. Thus in movement, the waist is moved horizontal to the ground and rotating around the spine.

6. Stay at the same height: Except for movements such as “Single Whip Squatting Down,” stay at the same height while doing the form.

7. The step is light like a cat: When one is aware of substantial and insubstantial, the step will be empty and light. In Tai Chi foot-worked, the step forward is first with the heel then the whole foot. In the step backward, the ball of the foot then the whole foot.

8. Peng Ching: It is potential energy. The whole body must have peng ching at all times while doing the form. It has the sensation of fullness or extension through the joints. It is the culmination of correct postures of three parts: arms, legs, and back. The correct posture for the arms is to drop both shoulders and elbows, and the wrists are straighten. The correct posture for the legs is to keep the buttocks tucked in and the knees bent, the step is light with distinction between solidity and emptiness. The correct posture for the back is to keep the back straight, so that the rotation is around the spine, with the receiving points at the two shoulder joints and the two hips joints. Peng ching’s eight gates or positions are as follow: Peng, Lu, Chi, An, Tsai, Lieh, Chou, Kao.

9. Fa Jing: “The root is at the feet, ‘Jing’ is generated from the legs, controlled by the waist, and expressed by the fingers.” It is striking energy. This is preceded by collecting energy through the nine joints equally, with the spine as the main point of collecting and striking. The strike is through the hands, one solid and the other empty, and focus on the opponent’s center. Collecting energy is like drawing a bow, and striking energy is like releasing an arrow.

10. Spirit, Mind, and Chi: The mind moves the chi, thus there has to be a mind intent before the chi arrives. At the highest level of the spirit, the mind intent and chi arrive at the same time.


“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain”
-Emily Dickinson

I attended high school in Olympia, Washington, undergraduate school in Business Administration at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, and graduate study in Teacher Education at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

I began Tai Chi training in 1990 with Master Abraham Liu, a student of Cheng Man Ching, in San Diego, and continued my study with Master Liang Shou-yu in Vancouver, British Columbia. While teaching English in Vietnam for the last few years, I studied privately with a Tai Chi Master in Ho Chi Minh City.

I started teaching Tai Chi in 1995. I taught at Bastyr University in Seattle, in addition to other various locations such as: community centers, health clubs, and churches. Although Tai Chi is a martial art, my interest has always been on the health and spiritual aspect of the art.

My advice to current Tai Chi practitioners, as well as people who are interested in learning Tai Chi, is to seek out a Master who is willing to teach you and give you form correction. Otherwise, you will not be able to learn the art properly.

Tai Chi Curriculum

Except for the 2 Chen forms, I have studied the following forms privately with my teachers.

1. 5 Fundamental Movements

2. 8 Fundamental Movements

3. 24 Form Yang Style

4. 42 Competition Form

5. 88 Form Yang Style

6. Chen Style Old Frame

7. Chen Style Cannon Fist

8. Kung Fu Fan 52 Movements

9. Kung Fu Fan 56 Movements

10. Sword Form 32 Movements

11. Sabre Form 54 Movements

24-Form Yang Style Movements

Section 1
1. Commencing Form
2. Part Wild Horse’s Mane (L,R,L)
3. White Crane Spreads Its Wings
4. Brush Knee (L,R,L)
5. Strum the Lute

Section 2
6. Repulse Monkey (4x)
7. Grasp the Bird’s Tail (L)
8. Grasp the Bird’s Tail (R)
9. Single Whip

Section 3
10. Wave Hands Like Clouds (3x)
11. Single Whip
12. High Pat on Horse
13. Kick with Right Heel
14. Strike Opponent’s Ears with Both Fists

Section 4
15. Turn and Kick with Left Heel
16. Single Whip Squatting Down and Standing on Left Leg
17. Single Whip Squatting Down and Standing on Right Leg
18. Fair Lady Works at Shuttles (L,R)
19. Needle at Sea Bottom
20. Fan Through Back
21. Turn to Deflect Downward, Parry and Punch
22. Withdraw and Push
23. Cross Hands
24. Closing Form

42 Competition Form Movements

Section 1
1. Commencing
2. Right Grasp Sparrow’s Tail
3. Left Single Whip
4. Lift Hand
5. White Crane Spreads Wings
6. Brush Knee and Step Forward (2)
7. Turn and Punch
8. Roll-back and Press Posture (2)
9. Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Intercept and Punch
10. Withdraw and Push

Section 2
11. Open and Close Hands
12. Right Single Whip
13. Fist Under Elbow
14. Turn Body and Push (2)
15. Fair Lady Works at Shuttles (2)
16. Right and Left Heel Kicks
17. Hidden Hand Upper Arm Rolls Punch
18. Mustang Ruffles Its Mane (2)

Section 3
19. Cloud Hands (3)
20. Stand Up and Hit Tiger
21. Separate Right Foot
22. Strike Ears with Both Hands
23. Separate Left Foot
24. Turn Around and Tap Right Foot
25. Step Up and Punch Downward
26. Diagonal Flying Posture
27. Single Whip Downward Posture
28. Golden Pheasant Stands with One Leg (2)
29. Withdraw Step and Thrust Left Palm

Section 4
30. Empty Step and Pressing Palm
31. Lift Right Leg and Right Palm Up
32. Left Shoulder Strike with Horse Stance
33. Turn Body and Strike with Hand
34. Capture and Punch in an Empty Step
35. Thrust Palm and Sweep Down
36. Step Up to Form the Seven Stars of the Dipper
37. Step Back to Ride the Tiger
38. Turn Around and Sweep Lotus with One Leg
39. Shoot Tiger with Bow
40. Left Grasp Sparrow’s Tail
41. Cross Hands
42. Conclusion of the Form

Yang Style Long Form 88 Movements

Section 1
1. Preparation
2. Beginning
3. Grasp Peacock’s Tail
4. Single Whip
5. Raise Hands
6. White Crane Spreads Wings
7. Brush Knee and Twist Step (L)
8. Hands Strumming the Lute
9. Brush Knee and Twist Step (L,R,L)
10. Hands Strumming the Lute
11. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
12. Apparent Close-Up
13. Cross Hands
14. Return to Mountain with Tiger

Section 2
15. Obliquely Grasp Peacock’s Tail
16. Fist Under Elbow
17. Repulse Monkey (R,L,R)
18. Oblique Flying
19. Raise Hands
20. White Crane Spreads Wings
21. Brush Knee and Twist Step (L)
22. Needle at Sea Bottom
23. Fan Through Back
24. Turn, Deflect, and Punch
25. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
26. Step Up and Grasp Peacock’s Tail
27. Single Whip
28. Wave Hands Like Clouds (5x)
29. Single Whip
30. High Pat on Horse
31. Right Toe Kick
32. Left Toe Kick
33. Turn and Left Heel Kick
34. Brush Knee and Twist Step (L,R)
35. Step Up and Punch Down
36. White Snake Showing Tongue
37. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
38. Kick with Right Heel
39. Hit Tiger Left
40. Hit Tiger Right
41. Kick with Right Heel
42. Strike Opponent’s Ears with Both Fists
43. Kick with Left Heel
44. Turn and Kick with Right Heel
45. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
46. Apparent Close-Up
47. Cross Hands
48. Return to Mountain with Tiger

Section 3
49. Obliquely Grasp Peacock’s Tail
50. Side-Step Single Whip
51. Parting Wild Horse’s Mane (R,L)
52. Step Up and Grasp Peacock’s Tail
53. Single Whip
54. Working at Shuttles (at 4 Angles)
55. Step up and Grasp Peacock’s Tail
56. Single Whip
57. Wave Hands Like Moving Clouds (5x)
58. Single Whip
59. Sweep Down
60. Golden Cock on One Leg (L,R)
61. Repulse Monkey (R,L,R)
62. Oblique Flying
63. Raise Hands
64. White Crane Spreads Wings
65. Brush Knee and Twist Step (L)
66. Needle at Sea Bottom
67. Fan Through Back
68. Turn, Deflect, and Punch
69. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
70. Step Up and Grasp Peacock’s Tail
71. Single Whip
72. Wave Hands Like Moving Clouds (3x)
73. Single Whip
74. Snake Sticks Out Tongue
75. Cross Palms
76. Turn and Right Heel Kick
77. Brush Knee and Punch
78. Step Up and Grasp Peacock’s Tail
79. Single Whip
80. Sweep Down
81. Step Up to Form Seven Stars
82. Retreat to Mount Tiger
83. Turn and Swing up Lotus Kick
84. Archer Shooting Tiger
85. Step Up, Parry, and Punch
86. Apparent Close-Up
87. Cross Hands
88. Closing

Kung Fu Fan 52 Movements
A Martial Arts Fan Exercise Routine Created by Professor Li Deyin in 2001
Prepared by Michael P. Garofalo

1. Commencement
2. Diagonal Slant Flying
3. White Crane Spreads Its Wings
4. Bee Returns to the Hive
5. Night Demons Search the Sea
6. Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg
7. Turn Body and Split Mountain
8. Cat Catches the Butterfly
9. Viewing Flowers on Horseback
10. Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane
11. Swallow Flies High
12. Bee Returns to the Hive
13. Tiger Pounces on Prey
14. Praying Mantis Catches Cicada
15. Lead Horse to Turn Head
16. Sparrow Hawk Spins in the Air
17. Viewing Flowers on Horseback
18. Pushing the Mountain
19. Dragon Turns His Head
20. Spurring on the Horse
21. Raising the Whip High
22. Embracing the Moon
23. Striking Against the Wind
24. Sweeping Sleeves in the Wind
25. The General Raises the Flag
26. Holding Fan in Front of Chest
27. Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane
28. Swallow Flies High
29. Bee Returns to the Hive
30. Tiger Pounces on Prey
31. Praying Mantis Catches Cicada
32. Lead Horse to Turn Head
33. Sparrow Hawk Spins in the Air
34. Viewing Flowers on Horseback
35. Elbow Strikes on Horseback
36. Firecracker Explodes
37. Parry Forward
38. Double Foot Stomp
39. Dragon Fights the Tiger
40. Fair Lady Shuttle Push
41. Sky Goddess Releases the Flowers
42. The General Raises the Flag
43. Ba Gua Walking
44. Holding the Big Dipper
45. Grasp the Bird’s Tail
46. Roll Back, Press, and Push
47. Shu Qin Carries Sword Behind Back
48. Brush Knee
49. Snake Creeps Down
50. Pull the Bow to Shoot the Tiger
51. White Crane Spreads Its Wings
52. Conclusion

Sword Form 32 Movements

1. Point Sword with Feet Together
2. Stand on One Leg and Thrust
3. Sweep Sword in Crouch
4. Carry Sword to the Right
5. Carry Sword to the Left
6. Stand on One Leg and Cut with Armswing
7. Step Back and Withdraw Sword
8. Stand on One Leg and Thrust
9. Plunge Sword Downward in Empty Stance
10. Thrust in Left Bow Stance
11. Turn Around and Carry Sword
12. Retreat and Carry Sword
13. Lift Knee and Hold Sword with Both Hands
14. Hop and Thrust
15. Swing Up Sword in Left Empty Stance
16. Swing Up Sword in Right Bow Stance
17. Turn Around and Withdraw Sword
18. Thrust with Feet Together
19. Parry in Left Bow Stance
20. Parry in Right Bow Stance
21. Parry in Left Bow Stance
22. Step Forward and Plunge Backward
23. Turn Around to Cut
24. Point Sword in Right Empty Stance
25. Stand on One Leg and Hold Sword Level
26. Cut in Bow Stance
27. Cut with Armswing in Empty Stance
28. Step Back to Strike
29. Step Forward to Thrust
30. Withdraw Sword in T-Step
31. Circle Sword Horizontally
32. Thrust Forward in Bow Stance