I ask because the movement is practiced in a way that does not reveal alternate, practical applications, as related to me by my teacher.

(If I recall correctly, this application was used in "Drunken Tai Chi", Donnie Yen's first film, and in that choreography, the application did reflect the way the movement is often practiced, where the needle hand goes almost all the way down to the ground.)

But even the main technique is too subtle for newer practitioners to discern without explication.

  • What is the major application of the Tai Chi technique "Needle to Sea Bottom"?

Also, what are alternate applications?

  • 1
    This is a chin-na technique from white crane, or one of white crane's common ancestors. Nov 17 '20 at 18:12
  • @SteveWeigand Chin-na indeed! Highly effective when applied with waist technique, and off-hand placed on the wrist of the main hand definitely implies this. (I was unaware of the white crane origin, but that totally makes sense.) Hoping someone will explicate that in an answer...
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 18 '20 at 2:23
  • 1
    By the way, this is also a trademark in snake style kung-fu, but snake has kind of died out for the most part. Just bits and pieces survive in more complete styles. Yes, you got it with the other hand placed on the wrist. We used to do this chin-na at Jeff Bolt's kung-fu school in Houston. He learned from Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming (who does white crane, long-fist, and yang style taiji). I always thought this was a fun chin-na. The follow-up high move after that is what you would expect if your opponent is able to raise up. Then you get a standing arm bar to elbow break and throw. Nov 18 '20 at 2:35
  • Dr. Yang wrote many books, including at least 2 on chin-na, and they come highly recommended for the clear way he explicates principles, likely due to his engineering background. Crazy that he doesn't have an English wikipedia page, since he taught in the US for so many years. (His students need to get on that;)
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 18 '20 at 2:52
  • 1
    For anyone who's interested - Dr Yang Jwing-Ming has a taichi video on Amazon Prime (accessible from the US at least) - very impressive....
    – Tony D
    Nov 19 '20 at 5:28

My instructor taught us the historical application (as the move is done in the Yang 24 step) is rooted in the fact that soldiers used to carry a dagger on their right hip. By this interpretation, the move brings the right hand to the hip, grabs the knife, raises it, and brings it down on top of the opponent.

EDIT: By request, a video showing the move as done in the Yang 24. Relevant part at about 4:50.


  • 2
    That kind of interpretation is an example of broken transmission. Most people doing taiji these days (99% or so) are doing a form of taiji that's for health, not for martial arts. That leads to speculation about the martial arts meaning. And you'll see all kinds of things people make up. No, it's not about a knife. You don't need an empty hand form to show you that you can grab your knife out and use it. Forms encapsulate ideas and self-defense techniques that were considered important enough to be one of the 20-30 some-odd self defense scenarios in the form. Nov 17 '20 at 18:11
  • There are definitely dagger-grab techniques in various Chinese forms, and, having checked out a Yang 24 video, I see what you mean. (I was totally unaware of this application, but, like most good Tai Chi movements, there are more than one application!) Please link a video of Yang 24 that you think is good so other people can check it out and validate.
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 18 '20 at 2:27
  • @SteveWeigand Check out some Yang 24 vids. I agree with you that the white crane application is likely the oldest, and certainly the dominant technique, but I think pezz is correct about how Yang practitioners are doing it—hand definitely goes to the waist. (Dagger grab techniques do indeed show up in various empty hand forms, and I have that on very good authority.) I myself was planning to explicate another secondary application where it can be used as a finger strike, as a supplementary answer.
    – DukeZhou
    Nov 18 '20 at 2:33

Although the chin-na application is generally regarded as the primary application, per placing the palm/fingers of the off-hand on the wrist joint of the main hand, when I first asked my teacher, this was the application I was given.

  • Needle to Sea bottom is a very effective finger strike into the cavity between the hip and groin.

  • It also works as a push to displace the hip joint to disrupt the opponent's root and control their body.

If one does not have sufficient fa jin for the finger strike, the push is the alternative.

This target is part of the reason the movement is generally practiced by bending the waist such that the main hand goes almost to the ground.

(I started practicing it in the manner of the application, countering and pushing the fingers forward at hip level, as my teacher demonstrated, but not when practicing as part of a group on in group exhibition, b/c my teacher didn't do it that way in those contexts.)

  • The strike involves pushing into the joint and then downward, focusing only at the end of the technique, into the downward diagonal vector.

You also see that technique in some pakua strikes to the hip. (Supposedly these pakua strikes can be used to dislocate the hip with sufficient focusing, but I haven't validated this personally.)

  • Can also be applied to the front of the shoulder joint.

In this case, trapping the opponent's hand on the wrist, and lifting up to disrupt their balance, sets them up for the finger strike or push into the shoulder joint.

  • Pulling an opponent off balance and pushing them into the ground.

This video Fu Wing-fei Applications @ 3:25 shows Needle to Sea Bottom in the traditional use, pulling an opponent off-balance to push, and using the off-hand to support the main hand.

This application demonstrates why the movement is practiced bending all the way down in the forms.

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