Yang Style Long Form (108 form): the most important moves

Did you ever ask yourself: “how should I practice the Taijiquan Yang style long form? Should I always run through the complete form?”

It surely is fun to go through the complete 108 form – but it is the LONG form, so it takes quite … LONG! Even if you perform only one part of it, it takes at least 5 minutes if you move rather slowly.

But is that really effective, to always practice the complete form? I think it is quite useful to look at the different moves individually, too. You could pick the moves you like the most or the ones you find the most challenging.

Or you could intensify and practice those Taijiquan moves that are most important!

Just imagine you get really good at the Single Whip. In the Yang long form, the Single Whip is done 10 times. If you know just that move really well, you practice not only one move, but 10 pieces of the whole form! If you count the form with 108 moves you’ve already mastered almost 10% with just the Single Whip!

The Single Whip is a particularly interesting example because it is said that Yang Chengfu practiced it each day for 30 minutes. If you don’t know Yang Chengfu (1883-1936), his grandfather was Yang Luchan (1799-1872): the founder of the Yang style. So if HE worked so much on the Single Whip, I guess it’s a good idea that we nowadays do that, too.

However, I wanted to find out which moves appear most often in the Yang long form. Counting the moves wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So I based my numbers on the form I am doing currently with the help of my teacher’s manual.

Yang Style Long Form part 1: the most important moves

5x Brush Knee
2x Pipa
1x Grasp Sparrow’s Tail
1x Single Whip

There are not that many repetitions in the first part, except for Brush Knee (5 times!!) and Pipa (2x). I added to the list the moves Grasp Sparrow`s Tail and Single Whip, because they are learned quite early and they will be repeated often in part 2 and 3.

So if you’ve only learned part 1 yet, I would recommend to concentrate your practice on those Yang long form postures.

Yang Style Long Form part 2: the most important moves

7x Kicks
5x Brush Knee
5x Repulse the Monkey
4x Cloud Hands
3x Pan Lan Chui
2x Grasp Sparrow’s Tail
2x Single Whip
2x Strike Tiger

There are quite a lot of repetitions in the second part. After all, this part is longer than part 1. Most significant are definitely the kicks which can be done in many different ways (sideways, straight, heel, ball of the foot etc.). They are indeed worth practicing and challenging!

Yang Style Long Form part 3: the most important moves

8x Cloud Hands
7x Single Whip
5x Grasp Sparrow’s Tail
4x Fair Lady works at Shuttles
3x Parting Wild Horse’s Mane
3x Repulse the Monkey
3x Brush Knee
2x Pan Lan Chui
2x Snake Creeps Down
2x Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg

Part 3 repeats many Taijiquan postures from the previous parts. The most important new moves are the Fair Ladies, Wild Horse, the Snake and the Golden Rooster.

Just a little note on the Cloud Hands: my teacher shows three different ways to do the Cloud Hands, so you might want to look into the differences within each move, too!

Yang Style Long Form (all parts): the most important moves

13x Brush Knee
12x Cloud Hands
10x Single Whip
9x Pan Lan Chui
8x Grasp Sparrow’s Tail (Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Yin Yang Fish)
8x Repulse the Monkey
7x Kicks (+ Lotus Kick)
4x Fair Lady works at Shuttles
3x White Crane Spreads its Wings
3x Lift Hands & Shoulder Strike
3x Wild Horse Parts Mane
3x Apparent Close Up (the move before each part’s end)

So overall, Brush Knee, Cloud Hands and Single Whip are the most important moves. (I was actually surprised to see Brush Knee on top of the list. I think it is probably also the most underestimated move!)

And I would like to do a little math: the Yang style long form is said to have 108 postures (though my current teacher counts 169! moves in the long Yang form). Let’s just be traditional and say it’s the 108 form. Brush Knee, Cloud Hands, and Single Whip sum up to 35 moves in total, thus they account for app. 1/3 of the complete Yang long form!

So if you have not a lot of time or want to be really effective, concentrate on these three moves for a couple of days, weeks, or months!

However, I find it quite interesting that in the summary, some moves emerge which seem to be not that important in part 1, 2 or 3 alone. Like the White Crane Spreads its Wings, which in summary is done more often than e.g. the Pipa or the spectacular Snake!

Well, now you know: if you want to concentrate on the most important moves, just pick the part you want to work on. Or if you don’t know where to start, Brush Knee, Cloud Hands, and Single Whip will always be a smart choice!

Happy Qi!

Maybe you’ve already seen that I like to write about individual Taijiquan moves, like the Crane or the Pipa. You’ll find all these posts in the category Taijiquan moves!


  • Hello,

    I do not practice Cheng Fu style but a style not so far away, same structure as defined by Chen school old style. There is actually a recommendation to tailor your form according to space available for training. Since I have enough room, I do practice repulse monkey 9 repetitions and twice through the form. So that is 18 repulse monkey and an astounding … 27 cloud hands (9×3). Though standard is 5 repetitions, it is possible to go up to 11… These two moves are supposedly the most difficult to master!

  • Oh, lucky you to have that much space!

    I only counted for the long Yang form, that’s the form I do, but I think it is really useful for other forms to find out the most important moves.

    I just think it is important to think about that not only the spectacular moves like the snake are important but that there are some very basic important moves like bruch knee.

  • Yes, in fact I have heard the same direction from the Yang family (multiple sources). That is, if you have more room, go ahead and replace the 3 repetitions with 5, 7, or 9.

    There are many different ways to analyze the “most important moves” in the form. We could for example say that the opening move is the most important, because if it is done poorly, than all the movements after it will be distorted too. 😉

  • Ah, I did not know that Yang family says one could do even more brush knee.
    And I agree, the beginning is important, too. Not only the opening but including Grasp the Bird’s Tail. It’s the first thing a beginner learns and so the repetitions will be many more than with the moves that appear later.

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