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The Bagua and the Five Directions

The Bagua and the Five Directions are the fundamental theoretical structures that define everything done in the Tai Chi Form. It is crucial to know and understand these ideas. They are the language that we will be using to describe and understand the moves and energies found in the Form.

What is the Bagua?

The Bagua (or “Eight Gates”) is a visual representation of the permutations of Yin and Yang energies. Each line represents either Yin or Yang, symbolized by either a full line (Yang) or a broken line (Yin). These lines are stacked into trigrams, or stacks of three. The Trigrams are read from the bottom up.

Yin and Yang

The complimentary opposites at the heart of T aoist teachings. The most important thing to remember is that Yin and Yang are not things, they are concepts. It is a way to think about the relationship between two (or more) things. They highlight the
relationships that exist: one cannot exit without the other, they generate each other, and compliment one another.

So anything can be both Yin or Yang,it all depends on what it is being compared to. A man can be Yang, compared to the Yin of a woman. But that same woman is Yang to her daughter’s Yin. Similarly, the man is Yin to his father’s (or mother’s) Yang. Yin is the feminine, dark, heavy, soft, absorbing energy. Yang is bright, distant, light, hard and masculine

The Bagua and the Five Directions – in details

Some Terms

Qi (or Chi)

Is the life energy that flows within every living thing – humans, plants, animals…. It is both an organizing energy, a sustaining energy and the way in which the spirit and the body communicate. It flows, it can be blocked or hindered, it can stagnate. It is the energy which is worked on during acupuncture. It can be developed through exercises (like Qigong) or wasted through bad life habits.

Qi is at the basis of Traditional Chinese medicine. Whether you
believe in Qi or not does not matter. It is a useful concept to use when discussing flow, or the integration of mind, movement and breath.


There is a lot of breath work in Tai Chi. Breathing is the link between mind and body. Deep breathing also triggers a reduction in stress hormones. The breath becomes a focus for the chattering self, leading to a meditative state of mind.

The breath is also a metaphor of the invisible interaction of mind and body, and of Qi – natural processes that can be both automatic and controllable if we put our mind to it.

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