The easy tai chi sequence - Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi

Commencing_the_formCommencing the form Broadening_ones_chestBroadening ones chest Dancing_with_rainbowsDancing with rainbows
Circling-armsCircling arms Twisting_waist_and_swing-armsTwisting waist & swing arms Rowing_the_boat-Rowing the boat 
Holding_a_ballHolding a ball Carrying_the_moonCarrying the moon Twisting_waist_and_pushing_palmsTwisting waist/ pushing palms
Playing_with_cloudsPlaying with clouds Scooping_from_the_seaScooping from the sea Playing_with_wavesPlaying with waves
Spreading_your_wingsSpreading your wings PunchingPunching Flying_like_a_wild_gooseFlying like a wild goose
Spinning_wheelsSpinning wheels Bouncing_the_ballBouncing the ball Pressing_the_palms-calming_the_chiPressing the Palms/calming chi

Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi (18 Movements Chi Kung) 

Today I will give a short introduction to the Shibashi sequence I teach and practice. Shibashi is really nice as it is simple and allows everyone, novice or experienced, to practice and relax together.

If you thought tai chi has to be serious and martial arts focused think again, this is definitely different, much more in line with a group fitness class such as Yoga. If you have been following me for a while you may have already read the 5 benefits of stress management and reasons to do tai chi before you draw your pension and I didn’t like tai chi…, I think both of these posts are helpful for anyone that is hesitant about incorporating a slow movement practice into their fitness schedule just as much as I was once.


Before you begin the from start by standing quietly with a relaxed tall standing posture for a little while, allowing your body and mind to prepare for the sequence ahead.

Swallow and place the tongue in the roof of the mouth where it should stay for the time of your practice. You breathe through your nose exclusively unless you have a stuffy nose in which case you need to breathe through pursed lips to avoid triggering the sympathetic nervous system/ stress response (fight or flight). With every breath fill your belly with air rather than your chest.

Let you shoulders sink and relax. Grow tall through the crown of your head, connecting your bai hui point with a sun ray to the sky, this will lengthen your posture without straining and improves balance. Connect with your feet to the ground, feel like you are growing roots into the ground like a tree.

All arm movements that go up or away from the midline of your body are co-ordinated with breathing in and slightly extending the knees (not fully locking at any point). Movements that come toward the centre of the body or down are coupled with breathing out and sinking, softening the knees grounding yourself through the feet.

Through your practice you will start to notice that breathing in makes you taller and activates the muscles on the back of your body, opening your chest. Breathing out on the other hand will make you feel soft and grounded, it feels like you come to the fetal position.

Aim to move with the pace of your natural breath; slowly, continuously and fluidly – as if you are in water. Feel the air gliding through your fingers and over your skin.

Most of all, don’t stress about number of repetitions or exact form; you are meant to relax while you do the movement meditation. Worrying about whether you are executing the movements perfectly will just cause you to be stressed.

If you prefer to see the movements in motion, you can get a short intro video here where all the moves are performed once where applicable each side.

Below is a list of all the moves that belong to the Shibashi sequence with a short description.


1. Commencing the form

Stand naturally with your legs shoulder width apart and knees soft (horse riding stance).

Slowly raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height with the fingers hanging down relaxed as you breathe in and grow slightly in your posture.

Let the hands sink with the heel of the hand first as if your finger tips are gliding down a wall as you exhale and sink slightly toward the ground.


2. Broadening ones chest

Start with the same movement as in commencing the form then open your arms wide broadening your chest as you breath in and grow taller. (painting a T)

As you breathe out, bring the hands back towards the midline and lower the arms.


3. Dancing with rainbows

Breathe in as you move your body weight onto the right leg bending your right knee – slightly straighten your left leg.  Float the arms over head, the right arm curls over your head toward the left ear the left arm sinks to the side and you look into the left palm. When you breath out you change the body weight onto the left leg and waving the arms over your head along an imaginary rainbow to the other side. Breathing in one way and out the other way.


4. Circling arms

Sink toward the ground as you bring your arms down from the previous move and breathe out. When you then start to breathe in, move both arms in front of your body and cross your wrists with palms facing upwards and raise then to the sky growing as you move. As you raise over your head separate the hands and lower the palms toward the earth breathing out.


5. Twisting waist & swing arms

Stand with your left arm extended in front of the body palm showing to the sky at chest height. Let the right hand brush past your hip with the thumb pointing behind you, scooping up the air your breathe in and twist toward the back circling the palm up. Then push the scooping hand forward past your ear as you breath out toward the outstretched palm returning to a forward facing position. Change side. Only turn as far as is comfortable for you.


6. Rowing the boat

Circle the arms by your side describing big wheels, palms facing outward and thumbs pointing backward as you start the movement backwards from the bottom over the back while breathing in / begin to breathe out at the top down the front like in commencing the form with your palms facing the ground. You may feel a nice stretch across the chest.


7. Holding a ball

Raise the right palm toward the sky across your midline as you breathe in, follow it with your gaze  – Imagine you are holding a balloon that you want to give a lift to fly off.

Turn the palm to face the ground and let it glide down an imaginary half pipe as you breathe out. Let you the foot of the raising arm lift the heel to avoid twisting the knee. Repeat on the other side.


8. Carrying the moon

This movement is similar to the previous one, but imagine you are holding a ball between both hands and lift them both across to the other side to the sky and turn slightly behind as you breathe in (only as far as is comfortable). Let you the foot of the raising arm lift the heel to avoid twisting the knee. Lower the ball holding hands through the dantien point ( which is located 3 fingers below the belly button and 2 fingers deep behind the tummy wall)  as you breathe out and sweep them up toward the other side on the new in breath.


9. Twisting waist & pushing palms

Still standing in a horse stance let one arm sit on your waist with a loose fist palm upward. Push the free arm forward with a flexed open palm as you breath out. Circle the hand making a loose fist  before returning the pushing hand as you breathe in and repeat the push with the other hand on the next out breath. Slightly rotating the body letting the shoulder follow the push. Push with intention, not tension.


10. Playing with clouds

Shape your arms into a big hug, one palm in front of your dantien point and one in front of your face. As you breathe in turn your whole torso toward the side where the hand is high, when you get to the side, swap hand positions by sliding the bottom hand up on the inside of the elbow of the arm that is floating down. turn the whole torso to the other side with the big hug in place breathing out (breath in one way, out the other.). Let the heels rise as needed to allow a comfortable turn. Try to be fluid in the change over on each side.


11. Scooping from the sea

Step your left leg forward (bow stance) scoop from the bottom upward bringing both hands to cross in front palms up of your front knee whilst breathing in, the back heel lifts off the ground.

As your arms reach the top open them up float the palms down by your side as the body weight moves to the back leg breathing out and the front toes lift. Inhale – scooping up, exhale – push down.

Repeat this 6 x each


12. Playing with waves

Stand in a bow stance with your right foot, bring your elbows towards your ribs – forearms tall and hands dangling forward relaxed breathing in. On breathing out, you push the imaginary waves forward with the heel of the hand, on the next in breath the fingertips glide across the water surface back until the elbows are back by the ribs and hands relaxed.

Repeat the rocking motion, shifting body weight onto front leg on push/ out breath (back heel lifts) and shifting onto back leg on in breath when the front toe lifts.


13. Spreading your wings

Stand in a bow stance, rock your body weight onto the back foot as you spread your arms like wings wide with the elbows lower than the shoulder and soft as you breathe in. Then, breathing out, bring the palms to the midline in front and move the fingertips toward the centre of your chest before opening wide, unrolling your arms on the next in breath. Again lift the toe on the leg that does not bear the main body wight as you rock forward and back.


14. Punching

Back into a horse stance let one arm sit on your waist with a loose fist palm upward. Punch the free arm forward with a loose fist as you breath out. Circle the hand re-creating a loose fist  before returning the punching hand as you breathe in and repeat the push with the other hand on the next out breath. Slightly rotating the body letting the shoulder follow the push. Push with intention not tension.


15. Flying like a wild goose

In horse stance, let both arms sink toward the ground as you breath out and sink into the legs. Then breathe in as you let the arms rise like large wings by the side, as if you are a goose trying to take flight. Come onto the balls of your feet as you rise and spread the wings. When the wings lower sink back into the legs.

Repeat 6 times.


16. Spinning wheels

You are still in horse stance, let both palms face each other as the arms hang by your side. As you breathe in, describe a circle towards your right, when you pass the top you begin to breathe out. Do several each side. Let the heels lift as needed.


17. Bouncing the Ball

Lift up your left knee to hip height whilst your right arm floats to shoulder height as you breathe in. Then lower both limbs down slowly as you breathe out and change weight into the other leg to repeat the movement.


18. Pressing the Palms

In horse stance, lift both palms upwards from in front of your stomach, fingertips of both hands nearly touching, to chest height as you breathe in.

Turn the palms over and gently press them down your dantien breathing out. This is to balance and calm your qi or internal energy.

It is also a nice move to do by itself to just focus on the breath and softening of the body.


Remember, if you are a visual learner like myself you may prefer to see the movements in motion. Get a short intro video here where all the moves are performed once.

Practicing by yourself is not for you? I run a lovely Body Flow Tai chi class in Leeds Headingley on a Monday night 19:15. Why don’t you join is when we meet up next to see if you can get your chi flowing and your mind to relax.

I look forward to meeting you.


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