I assume you know the Taijiquan position “Single Whip”. And you are be familiar with that strange position your back hand gets into: the Beak Hand or Hook Hand. In Chinese, it is called Gōu Shǒu (钩手).
Basically, the Beak Hand looks like this: The back of your hand points upwards and at least 2 fingers touch below. The wrist is slightly bent.
The Beak Hand is found in many Taijiquan forms. However, there are variations as how EXACTLY the Beak Hand looks like. So far I have found 4 alternatives which I would like to present to you.
(Before I continue I would just like to thank my brother for making all of those pictures. And if you would like to book me as hand model, contact me. 😉 )
But now let’s start with
4 ways to build the Beak Hand (钩手 Gōu Shǒu)
Only thumb and forefinger touch
Thumb and forefinger hang down and touch each other. The other fingers trend towards them, but do not touch. Imagine you carry a small ball in you hand. In my opinion, this is the easiest version as there is the least tension in the hand.
All fingers touch
Close your hand in a way, that ALL finger tips touch. There is a small hole in the middle of the fingertips. To me, this Beak Hand version feels very harmoniously, just as if something would drop off the fingertips.
Fingers lie around the thumb
The thumb points downward and the other fingers bend so they all can touch around its tip.
There are two options to actually get into this position: All fingers close simultaneously and reach the position together.
Or you start with connecting your thumb and little finger and then successively add ringfinger, middlefinger and forefinger. Of course that should be coordinated with the rest of the body (while getting into the Single Whip!).
All fingers touch the little finger
For this version, the little finger needs to be stretched to the middle, so all other fingers can lie around it. I perceive this as the Beak Hand alternative with the most tension in the hand. It feels stretchy but not awkward. I believe, if you pick with this hand, it just hurts more than with any other Beak Hand variant.
Well now on to the question: which Beak Hand is the best?
I consider all of them interesting. Which one you prefer might be depending on how relaxed your hand is already. To put all fingers around the little finger and stay relaxed is just not as easy as just touching thumb and forefinger and then stay relaxed.
Do you want to know how I do the Single Whip? Well, I decided for myself to do the Beak Hand however my current Taijiquan teacher wants it. So at the moment it is “thumb and forefinger” during the form, but “all around the thumb” for applications. My previous teacher taught me “all around the little finger”. And if I happen to meet Bruce Frantzis, I might be doing “all around the thumb”.
By the way: In India they know a Beak Hand Mudra: Mukula Mudra. It looks quite similar to the Taijiquan Beak Hand. The mudra is said to have a healing and energizing effect when put on a body part. You might want to continue reading about this here.
And now I am really curious: how do you build the Beak Hand? I would love to read about your preferences in the comments!