First Knife – descriptive, not the definitive list or names. This is used internally to remind students of the main movements.


This is not the same as Gilman's but similar. I have taken some of the names from there. The names should invoke the corresponding move from the slow set.

The assumption is that you start facing North. All directions assume this and are relative to it. Don't forget that it is still Tai Chi so all of the same principles apply (soft, round, connected, ...)

  1. Opening (Right toe turns inward, block with right hand) – North

  2. Rise Up and Form Seven Stars. Diagonal step left. Right toe down in front, weight back == Right fist under left hand – West

  3. Step Back and Ride the Tiger. Right hand circles in and under == step back with right foot, then both arms open. Left toe down, weight back.

  4. Part the Horse's Mane. Left hand in and up with sword == right hand circles across left hand and down. Step forward left. Right hand back and down.

  5. Pivot left, take the knife in right hand and cut/block at angle down to right. Right knee in and raised == Left hand blocks upward to left.

  6. Step to Northwest with right foot and shift weight forward. Cut horizontally to the left by bringing both hands into the center. Left hand closes in toward right hand as right hand closes to left. Northwest

  7. Turn right then left, stepping to Southwest. Cut horizontally and upward to left, turning wrist upward – Southwest

  8. Circle knife to left and push forward stepping with right foot – left hand supports blade, which is vertical – West

  9. Jump back, change feet and push forward on right side stepping with left foot – left hand supports blade. Blade tip comes up at start then blade becomes vertical again as you push.

  10. Circle to the right and uppercut. Sit back on right, sword sweeps around to rear; left foot steps forward diagonally and sword comes up in center as right foot steps forward; left hand continues behind and level, weight forward.

  11. Circle to the left, sword sweeps around to rear; diagonal step forward with right as sword comes up in center, then step forward with left foot, sword cuts up on right side; push forward with left hand as shift weight forward. Blade horizontal near right ear.

  12. Turn around (rotate left foot inwards, step diagonal with right), sink, Touch pommel and stab horizontally to right (Body East, sword Southwest)

  13. Fair Lady works the shuttles (3 steps – LRL == sword circles over back, slash) – Northeast. The right step is diagonally. End with weight forward on left foot. == The sword sweeps around the back like a whip and slashes diagonally.

  14. Turn around (spin on left foot) and slash downward. Left hand blocks forward – Northwest. End with weight forward on right foot.

  15. Fair Lady works the shuttles. Turn left toe to left and shift weight back on to left foot. Then two steps (RL) – Southwest. The right step is diagonally. End with weight forward on left foot. == The sword sweeps around the back like a whip and slashes diagonally.

  16. Turn around (spin on left foot) and slash downward. Left hand blocks forward – Southeast. End with weight forward on right foot.

  17. Golden Pheasant Strikes Forward. Shift weight onto left foot which has pivoted to the left so you face East. == Sword cuts toward center of body, blade horizontal. Touch pommel of sword with palm and press it forward at chest height as you raise the right knee and open with the left hand out to the side at shoulder height. East..

  18. Step diagonally with right foot while swinging sword around to the right, blocking with the top edge. Continue the circle around and cut down to the hip. The left toe touches down in front to Southeast == the left hand blocks, fingers up. Weight is on rear (right) foot. Southeast.

  19. Step diagonally with left foot while bringing the sword up, close to the body. Rotate the sword sharp edge upward and stab straight, hilt at chest height, tip higher, toward Northeast. Right foot rotates inward as you strike. The strike is a stab, not a slice. Left hand blocks upward as in Fair Lady at the Shuttles.

  20. Same as #14 above. Northwest.

  21. Step forward diagonally with left foot and change sabre hand. West

  22. Right Heel Kick. Opening the chest. Right hand forward (West).

  23. Punch The Tiger Left. Southeast

  24. Punch The Tiger Right. Northwest

  25. Right side kick, as in Slow Set. Left toe out, sit back onto left foot. Circle with arms, open and kick toward West.

  26. Take knife in right hand and strike down (West). Left hand back and down (as in Part the Horse's Mane). Right hand is inward from right knee.

  27. Golden Pheasant Strikes Forward. Sit back on to the left foot. Bring the knife up to chest level, blade flat, edge to left. Touch the heel of the pommel and press it forward at chest height as you raise the right knee and open the with the left hand out to the side at shoulder height. West. (Similar to 17).

  28. Snow Covers the Head. Step forward with the right foot to West while dropping the sword back over right shoulder with hand near ear. Spin clockwise on right toe so that the left foot lands facing South near the right toe while passing the hand over the head leaving the blade over the left shoulder. Step with right foot to West-Southwest and cut down to right leaving blade parallel to floor (edge down) while bringing left hand up to block forward. West-Southwest.

  29. Turn right toe inward, extend arm and start to rotate the blade of the knife (so that the edge will eventually be upward) while turning to left and stepping East with left foot on diagonal (i.e. toe to NorthEastward). Sweep knife upwards toward East while stepping forward with right foot (East). = Left hand will pass in front of face, palm out and then toward back, balancing knife, which cuts upward. East, weight on front (right) foot.

  30. Cut a circle up, down and to your left, lifting right foot. Continue cut across front and up with left hand following blade as you step ahead (a bit) with right foot pointing to Southeast. Continue the cut up, down and to your right. As the blade comes back up and forward (East), step ahead with left foot pointing to Northeast. Step forward (East) with right foot as you return to the starting position. Blade edge is upward, left hand back and down a bit. Weight forward to East. Cut looks something like a figure 8 with one loop on each side of the body. Arm stays fairly extended throughout – arm and blade “as one”.

  31. Turn the wrist so the blade’s sharp edge faces down and then slash down to the right. Turn wrist as sword comes up so sharp edge faces up; sword blade cuts down as the sword finishes circle and comes back down. As the sword makes this circle (ending to SouthEast) step down firmly (“stomp”) with right foot, toes to South. End with blade near right hip parallel to ground and left hand blocking (as in 28 and elsewhere). SouthEast

  32. Swing the hand holding the blade counterclockwise over the head and slash at neck/shoulder level, stepping out (full step) to Southeast. Left hand again blocks.

  33. Bring sword tip up and turn back quickly to Northwest, slashing across and down as you turn, left hand again blocking. (See 14). Northwest.

  34. Seven Stars Around the Moon. Keeping the left foot in place, transfer the sword to the left hand. Circle right hand to the right and up to Seven Stars with right fist just in front of left hand. Step back with right foot as this happens, and turn the body to the West, shifting weight to right foot. Finish by lifting the left foot and touching the toe down. West.

  35. Closing. From the previous position, step with left foot so toe is toward the North, open the right hand, palm outward. Turn the body back to North, turning right foot on toe, keeping low. Lower both hands while raising the body and coming back to the starting position, blade vertical, edge forward. North.

More to come as we progress. It is “in development” and so will change. If you think it is in error, you may be right. Email Joe.

Notes: When the direction changes the new direction is listed. Gilman says only the upper third of the blade was traditionally sharpened. The lower section (near hand) was thicker and used for blocking.

Code: == means the two actions happen together, usually hands and feet.