In my taiji form, there are six or eight basic sub-routines. I think of them as the core elements of the practice. Each of these subroutines contains six or eight postures or positions, and the idea is to flow from one routine to the next smoothly. Passing from one routine to the next is like walking through a door. You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen on the other side, but you can’t be sure without opening up and walking through.

One of the subroutines sequences goes like this:

  • roll back
  • press
  • push
  • single whip

This pattern of four moves appears seven or eight times in the whole sequence, beginning to end, so it’s a good thing to practice, to make sure you get it right. No other sequence repeats so frequently. You want to practice those more frequently? Guess what? Every one of those other routines begins with a single whip and ends with a roll back. Break the work into subroutines,cod the subroutines, practice the common transitions, and keep doing it. The most common patterns are the most instinctive… but you have to practice them consciously, just like everything else, to find them instructive.