Over the course of a long empty hand form, there are a few groupings of postures that are repeated. These postures combine together to make up a significant part of our form. Given the repetition of these postures, one might infer that they are particularly important to the practice of taijiquan and special attention should be paid to them.
Over the last few months, classes have expanded on this theme and begun to include short forms that are comprised of only repeated postures. For example, one form may include all of the Hug Knee postures in sequential order but no other postures from the form. Or perhaps, all of the Grasp Sparrow's Tails/Single Whip sequences can be strung together to provide a complete picture of all of the occurrences of this sequence, providing a short form and a way to compare variations through the form.
Working with the form in this way can give a practitioner a clearer picture of the structure of the form. Think of the form as a building. Perhaps the most often repeated sequence can be seen as the support posts for the entire structure - something the artist returns to over and over as the base of their form - Grasp Sparrow's Tail/Single whip for example.. From there, the form contains other frequently repeated postures like Deflect, Parry and Punch or Hug Knee. These can be seen as the joists or beams that tie the substantial posts together, helping to create a cohesive structure. As other postures are added in, the structure of form begins to take full form, a structure complete with all the trimmings (think complicated postures that appear once in the form).
As our classes have worked with this concept, one of our students has created a helpful guide to the Deflect, Parry and Punch posture, which is repeated a total of six times. It's important to know how the repetitions are similar and in what ways they differ.
Here you can see Gary Forbach's personal chart to track these differences. While it's helpful for every student to figure out their own way to track differences in the form, this is a helpful guide to all and can provide a good starting point for anyone wishing to do their own analysis of the form.
The second document here is another take on how documentation used to explore the form. This is a study guide to the form compiled by another student, Bob Ingram. This guide breaks the form into groupings using colors and other notations. It's a one stop shop!
Do you have a way you explore the form on paper? Have you created cheat sheets of your own? What other types of things may be helpful in deepening your understanding of form? Leave your thoughts and comments below.