I've rendered most of the Chinese expressions in the Glossary in modern Mandarin Pinyin romanisation. In a few cases where the Cantonese or another Mandarin romanisation system is more common in reference to a term I have given that. Unfortunately a number of Chinese characters sound the same, but have quite different meanings creating possible pratfalls for the non-Chinese reader. I've done my best in this Glossary and in the text to give the major Chinese terminology and explanation in the hope that this is clearer than vague English translations for what are essentially technical terms.

Email your contributions to

An - downward directed push /press

Baduanjin - Eight Pieces of Brocade. Chinese soft exercise for health sometimes including techniques to stimulate the reproductive system.

Ba Gua / Pa Kua - Eight Trigrams, consisting the four cardinal points and four corners

Ba Gua Zhang - Eight Trigram Palm; internal martial art based on Eight Trigrams

Bai Shi - ceremony of ritual initiation

Bao Yi - to embrace the one (i.e. the Tao)

Bu - Footwork and stances.

Cai - a plucking or uprooting force

Catty - Chinese unit of measure weighing more than one pound.

Chan - School of Budhism with heavy Chinese influences; better known in the West by its Japanese name of Zen.

Chang Chuan - Long Boxing. An alternative name for Tai Chi Chuan as well as the name given to a hard style boxing form.

Chi / Qi - Vital energy, including the air and breath. (N.B. not the same Chi as in Tai Chi!)

Chi Kung / Qi Gong - a method of training designed to increase the vital energy, for martial, health or meditative purposes which can be hard or soft in nature.

Chien - Trigram / hexagram representing Heaven and Supreme Yang.

Ching / Jing - Classic or Book.

Chuan / Quan - Fist. By extension a system of fighting or boxing.

Da Lu - Great sideways diversion. Popular name for famous pushing hands exercise more properly known as Four Corners or Eight Gates Five Steps.

Dan Tian /Tan Tien - cinnabar field, area just below the navel where Chinese alchemists considered internal energy was developed. 

Dao - The sabre.

Di Zi - Disciple.

Dim Mak / Dian Xue - Vital point attacks.

Fu Qi - Spirit writing, where the medium suspends a writing brush over a planchette filled with sand and then invokes a spirit who communicates by tracing characters on the sand.

Gong / Kung - Work / effort involving a degree of skill. In Chinese martial arts this usually refers to various types of conditioning training.

Hsing I / Xing Yi Chuan - Form and Intent Boxing; one of the three major internal styles.

I Ching / Yi Jing - Book / Classic of Change. A book of divination dating from before 1000 BC in one form or another.

Jeet Kune Do - Cantonese term meaning "Direct Fist Way". The concept of the late Bruce Lee to absorb only what was of direct use from the traditional styles.

Ji - A straight push.

Jia - literally family or school.

Jian - Sword.

Jiao Lian - trainer or coach

Jin / Jing - Force. We listen for our opponent's Jin and redirect it with our own before discharging Jin at our opponent

Jing - vital (often seminal) essence. (N.B. not the same Jing as means force)

Kao - To lean. Applying force using the shoulder or back.

Kung Fu / Gongfu - Skill / effort / workmanship. Often used by Cantonese speakers and Westerners to refer to Chinese boxing.

Lao Shi - Old (i.e. venerable) teacher. Term of respect for teacher or master.

Li - Strength.

Lie - Using spiralling force.

Lu - Diverting an oncoming force to the side and into emptiness.

Lun - Theory / analect / discourse.

Men Ren - Door Person. One who has become a disciple of a master.

Mian Chuan - Cotton Boxing. Early name for Tai Chi Chuan.

Nei Jia Chuan - Internal Family Boxing. Including such arts as Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Chuan.

Nei Dan - Internal alchemy.

Nei Kung - Internal Strength. More specifically a reference to the 24 Yan and Yang Internal Strength exercises.

Pai - School of thought / boxing.

Pao Chui - Cannon Punch. Name given to Chen Family boxing and to their second form.

Peng - Upwardly directed force, e.g. to divert a push upwards.

Qiang - Spear.

Rou - Soft.

San Shou - Fighting techniques. Can also refer to choreographed two person forms or to Chinese full contact fighting.

Shaolin - referring to the Buddhist temples of that name in Henan and Fujian provinces and by extension to external martial arts identified with these temples.

Shen - Spiritual energy.

Shi San Shi - Thirteen Postures/ Tactics. an old name for Tai Chi Chuan.

Shi - Style. e.g. Hao Shi - (Tai Chi Chuan) in the style of Hao.

Sifu / Shifu - Teaching father. By extension any teacher or highly skilled person.

Song - Relaxed

Tael - Chinese unit of weight, slightly more than an ounce.

Tai Chi / Taiji - The Supreme Pole / Ultimate composed of Yin and Yang.

Tai Chi Chuan / Taijiquan - A system of martial arts and exercise based on Yin and Yang

Tao - The Way or Ways to enlightenment or self development followed by the Taoists. 

Tao Te Ching - Way and Virtue / Power Classic. Prime Taoist text credited to Lao Tzu (the Old Boy). 

Tui Shou - Pushing hands. Various partnered drills and exercises designed to improve skills such as close quarter control of an opponent, evasion coordination etc. Can also refer to free or competition pushing hands, where the object is to unbalance the opponent.

Tu Di - Student or apprentice.drugs etc.

Wu Chi / Ji - No Ultimate. State before Tai Chi.

Wudang - Referring to the mountain of that name

Wai Dan - External alchemy. The use of medicines  and by extension a reference to internal martial arts.

Wai Jia - External family referring to hard style martial arts.

Wu Shu - Martial arts. Nowadays this Mandarin term has come to be used mainly in reference to the highly acrobatic and artistic modern martial arts routines.

Yang - Active, male, positive principle representing strong, hard, external, bright, day, Heaven etc.

Yi - The intent.

Yin - Passive, female, negative principle representing gentle, soft, internal, dark, night, Earth etc.

Zhen Chuan - True Transmission from a master to a disciple.

Zhen Ren - True Person. Someone who by Taoistic methods has become a sage.

Zhong Ding - Centrally Fixed corresponding to the element Earth.

Zhong Yong - Doctrine of the Mean, text of the Confucians. Philosophical concept of acting only to the degree necessary, neither more nor less.

Zhong Zheng - Centred and straight (though not necessarily upright).  

Zhou - The use of the forearm or elbow in defence or offence.

Zu Shi - Founding teacher. Chang San-feng.


Email your contributions to