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The hand in taijiquan does not really make a fist - instead,
the hand simply closes.
The fingers curl naturally inward.
The thumb is placed upon the first finger. The hand is firm but not
This is called a vertical fist or a standing fist.
Not a typical fist
A taijiquan fist is totally different from a conventional fist, where the thumb is curled around the first two fingers and the hand is curled very tightly shut.
The 'normal' fist causes tension in the back of the hand and the wrist.
A taijiquan fist is softly closed without tension - like a baby's hand. It is as if you were gently holding a stone - the hand is relaxed and there is a slight space in the palm. This space is vital.
The taijiquan fist offers many striking planes:
Backfist (big knuckle)
Standing/vertical fist (bottom two knuckles)
Horizontal fist (big knuckle)
Tiger fist (big knuckle)
Tiger palm (palm down)
These methods will only work if the hand shape is 'natural'
and not distorted/twisted from tension.
There are no one-knuckle punches or other odd hand positions/punches in taijiquan.
The taijiquan fist facilitates rapid opening and closing of the hand; making it ideal for seizing. Thumb and first finger are used for pinching. Closing the entire hand enables seizing.
The word 'quan' (or fist) means combat/self defence. The soft nature of the taijiquan fist highlights taijiquan's approach to combat - yielding to force rather than resisting.
Taijiquan is not an aggressive martial art.
In taijiquan we pay attention to ourselves, not the opponent.
When attacked treat your attacker as if he were armed with a piece of paper or a feather duster.
Ask yourself if you are really relaxed.
(Cheng Man Ching)
18 April 1995
Last updated 27 April 2020