Taijiquan Classics - Chapter 1
The Eight Gates and Five Steps
These are the compass points and “eight gates”.
The compass points and “eight gates” demonstrate the principle for the cyclical exchange of yin and yang that operates ceaselessly in its course. Therefore it is necessary to comprehend the “four sides” and “four corners”. The “four sides” techniques are Peng (ward-off), Lu (roll-back), Ji (press) and An (push). The “four corners” techniques are Cai (pull-down), Lie (spilt), Zhou (elbow-stroke) and Kao (shoulder-stroke).
Combining the sides and corners, we derive the Ba Gua (eight trigrams) of the gate positions. The division of the steps contains the idea of the Wu Xing (five forms) and allows us to control the eight directions. The Wu Xing correspond to Jin (advance, fire), Tui (retreat, water), Gu (gaze-left, wood), Pan (look-right, metal) and Zhong Ding (central equilibrium, earth).
Advance and retreat are the steps that correspond to fire and water, gaze-left and look-right correspond to wood and metal; and earth at the center is the axis around which everything turns. Our body contains the Ba Gua and our steps the Wu Xing.
Hand techniques and steps; eight plus five; together the make the sum of thirteen. Thus the thirteen postures derive from nature, and we call them the eight gates and five steps.