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The Tai Chi Compass: Navigating the Five Directions

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Knowing where you are going is always important, and knowing your direction in Tai Chi is fundamental to the thirteen principal movements of Tai Chi. The five directions described in Tai Chi are as follows: Going forward, going backwards, looking/moving left, looking moving right and holding centre. These are attributed to the four cardinal points of the compass, North, South, East, West and the Centre.  They can be referenced to the Five Elements and each direction takes on the characteristics of the associated Element. In terms of Five Elements the postures have these overall characteristics: Forward - Fire sudden intense energy/ posture. Backward - Water flow yielding energy/ posture. Turning left - Metal cutting absorbing energy/ posture. Turning right - Wood engulfing spiralling energy/ posture. Holding centre - Earth neutralising heavy energy/ posture. These directions can be applied literally; some schools prescribe facing in a certain direction when starting a f