One time I asked Master T.T. Liang if "Look to the Left" and "Gaze Right" from the Tai-Chi 5 Attitudes,were the same. He said "No they are different." Then he went on to say "It can also be Look to the Right and Gaze Left!" Now I was really confused, but as happened many times, the concepts that were difficult in the beginning became life-long guiding principles.
Twist-Step and Favorable-Step
Master Liang went on to explain and demonstrate that Look Left/Gaze Right meant you were in a right foot forward stance. In that position you can turn and look left easily, but only gaze or peek to the right.He went on to say that in other martial arts we use different terms, twist and favorable steps, Ao-Bu and Youli-Bu.
I always thought that the name "Brush Left Knee and Twist Step" referred to the twisting and turning of the foot when advancing from left to right and vice versa. Master Liang said that Ao meant twist, but really had the meaning of opposite. He said when the same character was translated from Japanese KanJi into English, they used the word "reverse" and that is the meaning of "reverse punch," a punch with the opposite hand and foot forward.
Reverse Punch, Karate's Twist-Step.
Youli means favorable, advantages, convenient, and non antagonistic. This is when you have the same and and foot forward. Karate calls this a "lunge punch." In favorable step you present a smaller target and can hit with the forward hand, elbow, and shoulder easily.
Lunge Punch, Karate's Favorable-Step.
Master Liang said when these two attributes are correct, your structure and whole-body power will be both rooted and able to issue intrinsic energy. I began researching these two stance variations in my forms and in the photos of the old masters. I noticed that in twist-step postures, I couldn't see the row of buttons on the front of their jackets. On favorable steps I could easily see their ties or buttons.
Yang Cheng-fu in Favorable-Step, you can easily see the buttons, they are on the side.
Yang Cheng-fu in Twist-Step, can't see the buttons, they are in the front.
Examples of Twist-Step
Examples of Favorable-Step
From Solo Form to Pushing-Hands
Where I really learned and experienced twist and favorable was in pushing-hands. I noticed that if I had my waist and navel in the correct place when pushing or rooting, my structure was relaxed and firm and my energy and fa-ching were springy and powerful. My back leg supported and gave power to my waist and arm. When I did not have the proper alignment, I had to use lots of tension to make the power transfer from the ground through my body outwards.
I also found out the difference between pushing and punching. In pushing, if I turned my waist as I pushed, my partner would easily turn, or my push would turn them and make them neutralize. I found I had to have my navel in place to keep the pushing line in a true direction. For punching and striking, I could turn my waist as I issued and snap the hand into place and have alignment, structure, and rebound support from the floor.
Twist-Step and Favorable-Step in Sports and Life
As I became comfortable and successful with these two stances, I started to notice them consistently in my daily life as a truck driver and laborer, and in various sports. Twist-Step always seemed to be used in power and favorable always seemed to be used in speed.
Here are examples of twist-step in sports.
Here are examples of favorable-step in sports.
From Pushing-Hands back to Solo Form
Once I had these two attributes in my body when working with partners, I began to see them and work them in my solo practices. I developed teaching strategies to encourage my students to experience and gain these skills. Here is one for you to work on.
-Look at the end of any given posture. (This can apply to any martial art or style)
-Determine if the same hand and foot, or opposite hand and foot, are forward. This applies to any stance that has a front foot like a Bow and Arrow Stance, a Cat/Empty Stance, 7 Star/Heel Stance, etc.
-If it's a Twist-Step, the opposite hand and foot are forward, make sure your navel points to the front. Examples are: Parry and Punch, Fair Lady, High Pat on Horse, Embrace Tiger.
-If it's Favorable-Step, the same hand and foot are forward, make sure your navel is to the corner, or off center. Examples are: Ward-Off, Fan Through the Back, Kick Upward, Play the Guitar.
There are some postures that don't fit into these two categories, but that is beyond the scope of this introductory article. I hope this helps you as it did me!