Monday, October 1, 2012

The turtle's challenge

In 24 styles tai-chi, there are two advanced combat stance: Golden Turtle (金龜式) and Rhino gazing the Moon (犀牛望月).  Both are advanced stances, and should only be attempted by advanced practitioners, otherwise it will do more harm than good.  The Turtle stance has been practiced among some Wu style practitioners.  An example is a variation as taught by prominent master Wu TuaNan in his Tai-chi Nei Gong published by his student (吳圖南太極功).  The Rhino is actually the famous advanced stance practiced by many kung-fu practitioners: Taming the Dragon (see image in my last post).  The interesting question is: who should take up the turtle's (or for that matter, the rhino's) challenge?

My advice is that a practitioner should first study any of  the foundation combat stances first: essentially those with the legs less bended.  The objective is firstly learn how to lengthen one's tendons and opening one's joints (in particular one's shoulder and pelvic joints) using combat stance, and secondly is actually  lengthen one's tendons and open one's joints.  The Turtle and the Rhino should only be attempted after a practitioner has achieved the limit where the foundation combat stance can lead him.  Trying it too early might just loosen one's joints (without lengthening one's tendons) instead of strengthening them!  It is the same for inappropriate training in yoga as I discussed in an early post Yoga Injuries.

I remember some time ago I browsed the internet and noticed that a subsidiary Taoist Association in UK of Mantak Chia affiliation uploaded a video with a guy doing Golden Turtle, and the guy did it with his legs unbend. Apparently he knew what he was doing and was not interested in training anything too vigorous.

If people take the turtle's challenge, who will be the winner?  I will bet on an Olympics weightlifter!

An Olympics weightlifter


  1. When taught the two sets I was told that Golden Turtle is one of the most important exercises. Both sets begin and end with it. It symbolizes the Yang dot in the Yin semicircle in the Tai Chi symbol. On the other hand the last Yang exercise which is more meditative symbolizes the Yin dot in the Yang semicircle. In the past in Cheng Ting Hung lineage the Internal Strength (these Nei Kung sets and more) was taught first, thus body preparation was a priority, then the other aspects of the style came. Therefore the Golden Turtle was practiced at the very beginning stage. That’s why the guidance of the teacher was extremely important. Particularly for the Golden Turtle to be made properly there are several ‘’golden’’ rules to follow – otherwise knees or back can be easily damaged. Concerning duration – it (as all the sets) is performed on 3 levels, but even the beginner’s one is pretty challenging. So the question about the winner on the turtle’s challenge might be interesting.
    Recently I watched Mantak Chia himself showing this exercise , of course modified in accordance with his philosophy and beliefs. For the interested on youtube
    Rhino watching the moon is from the Yang set.

  2. Thanks for your informative sharing. The 24 styles has incorporated some Neidan (Taoist meditation or Taoist yoga) elements. One is the Jade Rabbit (opening Ren/Du 開任督) that I discussed previously. One is the Old Man that you mentioned here, and that I shall probably discuss some other day.

  3. I always thought the golden turtle was another form of zhan zhuang, which meant I did one but not the other. But I just realized that they seemed to work different sets of muscles. I just did 2 mins of turtle and thought I couldn't do the classic zhan zhuang, but instead I could stand another 10 mins. I must say the turtle is helluva strenuous. Any thoughts on whether we should practise the 2 together?

  4. I suggest you do 2 minutes of zhan zhuang to pre-condition your body, then 2 minutes of turtle as main workout, then 5 minutes of zhan zhuang to strengthen/enjoy the chi. Any see how it works for you.

  5. Hi, I am interested in knowing more about the "golden" rules of practicing the turtle posture. Want to prevent from injuring myself.

  6. I also look forward to reading more sharing from our knowledgeable readers/commenters, so that this blog can be of more value to fellow practitioners.


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