Single Whip: The One True Method?

Single Whip by Cheng Man-Ching
Dan Bian (Single Whip)
by Cheng Man-Ching

Single whip is one of the signature postures of Taiji. As such, you might expect a broad agreement about its ideal characteristics: hand and stance height, incline of the back, and so on. However, no such concurrence exists among Taiji masters of the past or present.

No matter how you choose to perform single whip, you can find a famous master whose personal demonstrations support your preference. But don’t get cocky; a dozen other masters will dispute the correctness of your posture.

Who is right, and who is wrong? Tellingly, the Taiji classics do not address such a trivial issue. My advice is to pick any single whip you like. If you can justify your choice, then it is good enough for your own practice.

Single Whip by Ma Hailong
Single Whip by Ma Hailong (Wu Style)

Single Whip by Yang Zhenduo
Single Whip by Yang Zhenduo (Yang Style)

Single Whip by Chen Zhenglei
Single Whip by Chen Zhenglei (Chen Style)

Single Whip by Sun Yongtian
Single Whip by Sun Yongtian (Sun Style)

Single Whip by Zeng Nailiang
Single Whip by Zeng Nailiang (Modern Style)

These screen captures were taken from Dr. Zhang Zhiyong’s 16 Forms Taijiquan DVD compilation. Do you have any other single whip illustrations to compare?

5 comments on “Single Whip: The One True Method?”

  1. I would think the proof is in the pudding – if you can perform the application efficiently, then it’s a good posture for you.

  2. This is an older thread and I do not know if it is being followed after five years. However, I was compelled to thank you for your pragmatic and understated treatment of this subject. This seems to me to be very much in the spirit of Tai Chi Chuan, as well as the attitude of a sage in the traditional sense. Sadly, this is very rare to find, at least in online discussions of Tai Chi. All the more reason to express appreciation for your contribution. Thanks.

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