Random Ring Formula

01/29/2009 (last updated: 08/24/2009 13:41)
Xianhao Cheng

"Advance steps and hands simultaneously, and seek on side and horizontal directions; the random rings will never come to nothing."

This line explains the way of issuing “Integral Jin,” while using the random ring formula. The method of “Jin” release (Fa Jin) can be partial or integral. “Partial Jin” means releasing the “Jin” only from a part of your body, whereas “Integral Jin” indicates that the power is from the whole body. In martial arts, if one wants to release the “Jin” from the whole body, the legs and hands must advance at the same time. In taiji push hands, it is also said that “if you want to advance hands, you need to advance body first; and if you want to advance your body, you must advance your leg first”. These are the explanations for releasing one’s “Integral Jin”. Therefore, in martial arts applications we hear that “if leg and hands reach together, you can beat your opponent like beating a piece of grass (“Da Ren Ru Shong Chao”); if your step cannot follow your hands, even if you hit on your opponent, the attack does not constitute a threat to him. To achieve the best results, you need to co-ordinate the hands with the body and step.

Based on this principle, Fig.3a and b show how B uses the technique of “Waving Lotus Hands” (Bai Lian Shou) sticking on A, stepping in and pushing. “Waving Lotus Hands” can be used to deflect an incoming push/punch and push/hit back. The technique uses an incoming force to accumulate potential and attack back. For instance, A pushes B with his left hand and B’s right front arm loosely touches on A’s front arm with ~45 degrees and turns his waist slightly counter clockwise. At the same time, B’s right front arm presses downward with his body weight and with the waist motion. A’s push would be deflected to ground with a minimal effort of B, by this circular motion. However, A can then attack B with the right hand, and B repeats the movement with his left hand. After each deflection, B can directly attack A by simultaneously sticking on A’s arms and half stepping into A’s middle gap. A does not have the time to do the second attack if B attacks, since A’s door is well opened after B deflects the first attack. “Seeking on side and horizontal directions” implies that that you should find your partner’s weakness on the side and transverse direction, by matching your front to attack his side. In this case, your opponent will find it very difficult to keep his balance. This technique is common in taiji push hands; the cross directionis used to deflect a straight attack, and then followed with a counter attackon the transverse direction. During push hands, even though your opponent falls into your random rings, you still need to attack his transverse direction to achieve optimal effect. With spiral power and the simultaneous advancing in hands and steps, we can then use a small force to succeed against a large one, and the attack will not come to nothing.

Figure 3a Figure 3b
Figure 3

"If you want to know the secret of the rings, it will be successfulby aiming your push to where you expect your opponent to fall down."

This sentence explains the use of “Fa Jin” with random rings. The energy or “Jin” you send out must be directed to where you want your opponent to fall down. For instance, once you turn the ring by leading incoming power to your side and slightly turn the ring up and forward, you may occupy the opponent’s side. At the same time, your mind projects the power to about 5 feet to the other side of your opponent and links your push to this point. It can be much easier to push your opponent down on his transverse side than to directly push his front. Figures 4a and 4b show B seeking A’s transverse direction, and directing power to where he expects his opponent to fall down.

Figure 4a Figure 4b
Figure 4

The above explanation from Jiang Yukun’s note reveals the basic principle of the random ring; however, it was still not quite clear to the authors as how to form a ring during push hands until they read Wang Yongquans’ teachings. Master Wang [2] was one of Yang Chengfu’s best indoor students. Nowadays, many taiji masters in Beijing trace their lineage to him. In his writings, Wang says “Touch your opponent by point instead of area. Both will be inconvenienced if by area; if by chance touched with area, change the hands to be like just touched.” This tells the taiji practitioner to lead the opponent’s touch along the tangent line of the ring around the axis formed from the “Bai Hui” to “Yong Quan.” With “Peng Jin,” from axis to the point of contact (vertical to the tangent line), your ring will be automatically formed. If your partner pushes you, slightly turn the ring to let him slide off and lose balance.

Figure 5a Figure 5b
Figure 5

The author demonstrate this in Figure 5. Figure 5a shows A attacking by pressing on B’s chest. Figure 5b shows B swallowing A’s power by constructing a ring and using A’s power to let him lose balance. Master Wang also mentioned that, in case you and your partner touch with area contact immediately change to have a point touch. For instance, in Figure 6, B pushes A with a direct “An”, and A holds on B’s elbows. This constitutes an area touch (Fig. 6a). In this case, though A has certain advantage, strength still determines who will win. While B immediately changes the hands by rolling down to the inside with the side of his front arms sticking on A’s front arm, B forms rings with hyperbolic curves, in which B’s palms face up and both elbows hold a “Qi” ball. B’s arms then form parallel two rings. A’s root can be slightly raised up at this moment by B pushing forward. In addition, A’s front door can be opened by the downward and slightly sideward rolling balls of B (Fig.6b). The slightly down and backward motion allow B to accumulate potential, and B can then roll his ring back and march half a step forward. By matching the step and push simultaneously, B can easily push A up.

Figure 6a Figure 6b
Figure 6

The enjoyment of random ring’s application is endless, and the theory of “Random Ring Formula” is profound. The authors hope that this preliminary study on the random ring theory will deepen the reader's understanding and have the effect of “Tossing a Brick to Attract a Jade” (Pao Zhuan Yin Yu).


  1. “Theory and Practice of Dadao Taijiquan”, Taiji Magazine, No.4, Dec. 2004.
  2. "Yang Shi Taiji Quan Shu Zheng" (Discuss the Truth of Yang Taijiquan), By Wang, Yongquan, People’s Physical Culture Express of China, 1986.

Original article by Dr. Xianhao Cheng and Rick Hamilton appeared in Tai Chi Magazine, Vol 30, No 5, October 2006. Reprinted and updated for TheInternalArts.com with the permission and help of Dr. Cheng.

The photos of Xianhao Cheng and Frank Shiery were taken by Yidan Jin.

Xianhao Cheng, Ph.D. began training martial arts in 1975 in Hangzhou, China. He has studied on several Taiji masters in Hangzhou, and most notably studied under fifth generation Yang Taijiquan master Zhu Liang Fang. Dr. Cheng's teachings take a practical approach to Taiji and blends knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism with the martial arts practice.