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Tán Tuǐ (Chinese: 彈腿) is a famous Northern wushu routine and has several versions due to its incorporation into various styles. For this reason the name can be translated to mean "spring" or "springing leg" (the most popular) or "pond" or "lake leg".
Understanding Tán Tuǐ
Tán Tuǐ is composed of a series of forms, which emphasize blocking, stances, footwork, and most of all, kicks. Tán Tuǐ exists as a style on its own, but is commonly used as a basic form for styles like Chāquán.
Today Tán Tuǐ forms the basis for the Bei P'ai Chang Quan/Northern Long Fist systems. It is taught to improve fighting skills, balance, strength, flexibility, and focus, and contains the basic skills required in advanced forms. A common saying among Chinese martial artists is "If your Tán Tuǐ is good, your kung fu will be good."
Tán Tuǐ is deeply rooted in China's Hui Muslim community. One such reference to the Islamic influence is the posture of holding one punch out in front of body as a punch is thrown to the rear with the other hand. The body is turned sideways so that both the front and the rear punches reach maximum range. Besides being a good exercise to train the fighter to get full shoulder and body thrust behind each punch, it also belies the form's Islamic heritage; the same distinctive technique can be found in other Islamic long fist forms, such as San Lu Pao (三路跑袍) and Si Lu Cha Quan (四路查拳). The technique is also used to increase the practitioner's sensitivity - by forcing the martial artist to send power in two directions, the form increases awareness of one's surroundings.
There are many versions of this elementary set, Tan Tui is varied in form and practical applications. The word 'Tan' has been written in two different ways, one, it is 'Spring', the springing action; and second, 'Pond'. Generally, there are three common forms, the Muslim's Chaquan with its 10 routines; Northern Shaolin's Wei Tor M'en's 8 routines, and a modified form of 12 routines taught in Chin Wu or Jing Wu. In complexity and degree of difficulty, the Wei Tor M'en's Tan Tui is difficult to master, next comes Chaquan's and of course, the most elementary and simple to master is Chin Wu's modified form. Originally, Tan Tui's techniques are from Loong Tan Si, the Dragon Pond Temple, and the martial arts school there is known as Tan M'en (Gate of the Pond). Tan M'en techniques were so popular that they were incorporated into other martial arts schools. In Chaquan and Wei Tor M'en's Tan Tui routines, advanced kicking techniques are taught, but for Chin Wu's, the routines are much more simple. As in all traditional Chinese Martial Arts, each form or routine has a specific purpose or expression of defense and attack that are characteristics of the ch'ia (family), m'en (gate), or p'ai (school). Tan Tui routines are no different and embodies the basic defence and attack of Bei P'ai Chang Quan or Bei Shaolin. In Chin Wu's tan tui 12-routine, the set not only incorporates the Bei P'ai's basics, it is set to train the practitioner's stamina and proper execution. The traditional Chin Wu's set emphasizes low kicks (except in sub-routines 8 and 10) and to protect one's centre-line in real combat with quick hand recovery and side-facing. Unlike its cousins, the Chaquan and Wei Tor, it lacks the flowery hand-movements, but in the set, it has both wrist and arm-locks which are not evident in the other two. --Au Yeong Wing Seng, Singapore.
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