Frame (2)

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When you learn the Long Yang form for the first time, the stance is high, the movements are crude and the waist turns are not emphasised.
Students are encouraged to work within their comfort zone.
You will not be asked to sink deep into the knees or employ the hips.

Easy beginning

A more economical movement/body use reduces fatigue.
It lessens the possibility of over-commitment and redundant movement.
An easier frame makes the tai chi more accessible to beginners of all ages and fitness levels.


The lower grade only learns the first two minutes of the Long Yang
form; section 1.
This limitation allows you to spend time exploring the sequence and incorporating corrections.
Were you to continue learning movements until you completed section 3 of the form, the quality would be poor.
This is why you are encouraged to take as long as you need to gain familiarity with the start of the form.

3 stages

As the syllabus progresses, the form will evolve from 'untrained' to medium frame and ultimately small frame.
This corresponds with the 3 stages employed when learning qigong:

  1. Pattern

  2. Peng

  3. Jing

Medium frame encourages peng. To cultivate jing, the student must move from medium to small frame.

Lengthen & open

Experienced students are taught the 'medium frame' version of the form.
The movements are quite big and open, and the form moves at a fairly regular pace.
This opening of the frame improves wardoff and groundpath.
The length and width of the stance are determined by the propagation of the ground.
What is the optimal shape for each movement?


Students extend their arms to 70% of their reach (at all times) until advised otherwise.
The purpose of having a medium frame is to build groundpath.
You cannot omit this part of your tai chi development - it builds the foundation for everything that will follow.

Form pattern (version 2) - lines of force

Your body needs to feel like a tree; rooted firmly in the ground.
Yet the body is also soft and pliable like water. It may sound like a contradiction but it is not.
The relationships between hands, feet, shoulders, hips, spine, coccyx and eyes must all become habitual before the frame gets smaller.
Do not be tempted to over-commit your feet; the length and width of your stance is determined by your natural range.
Stepping too far makes you vulnerable and off-balance.


The form was designed to create alignment and generate energy through whole-body movement.
The medium frame may not feel unduly martial because it has potential holes in the defences.
To patch the holes, you must learn to rotate your waist.
This increases the power of the movement and exercises the body at a deeper level.

Bow tension

Having a medium frame will help you to develop 'bow tension'.
Picture yourself pulling a bow; the string is drawn back and the bow is stretched - filling with stored energy.
This stored energy is internal tension and can only be released by letting-go of the string.

Dynamic tension

Neigong is a fine-tuning of your tai chi and will assist with bow tension.
Your body must cultivate a degree of 'dynamic tension' akin to the bow being drawn - the arms, legs and spine are sometimes called 'the 5 bows'.


Gaining bow tension is physically demanding and will tax the student considerably.
There is an increased emphasis upon the legs and the hip kwa.
Students are taught a series of very thorough leg stretches and core strength in addition to more challenging qigong exercises.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.
Eventually, the hips will open and the stances will improve.

Smaller frame

Advanced exponents start to use small frame once they are familiar with 'folding'.
The smaller frame offers close-range delivery.
Elbows, knees, chin na and jing become increasingly relevant when small frame is employed.
The small frame is necessary for close quarters combat.

Sustained power

Students can only use small frame when they can sustain groundpath at all times, regardless of frame size.
Using the body internally means that the external actions can be diminished without an associated loss of power.
Over time, the practitioner moves from medium to small frame.

Small circle power

Small frame necessitates small circle movement.


When fighting, the aim is to use medium and small frame.
Yang-style taijiquan employs small frame at a higher level of practice.
It is essential to optimise the use of peng but facilitate jing as well.
As you progress, the body does less and the mind (intent) does more.

Changing your frame

It is important not to have misconceptions about the nature of 'frame'.
Beginners typically simplify everything and misunderstand.
There is more to frame than how far out your limbs reach or how large the movements look.
Your instructor will furnish you with the necessary guidance and training methods.
This will enable you to move smoothly through the different frame sizes as your grasp of the training evolves.

Strength is in the appropriate position and is responsive,
acting in harmony with the time.

(I Ching)

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 29 September 2019