Why Left

(and we are not talking politics)

A while ago I was curious to know why all forms of Tai Chi and Qigong I have studied and practiced start out to the left. I hunted through my books and the internet and found nothing on this question. Is it something to do with having weapons located on the left that has left a trace?

In the end, I emailed several experts.

The first came back with the following:
“Some Tai Chi and many Qigong start out to the right.”
Fair enough, but it still doesn’t explain the preponderance of forms where we step out to the left.

The second expert answered:
“There are some theories but none make sense. I suggest to focus at practice Tai Chi incorporating the essential principles and enjoy it. Lots of things in life have no real answer.”
I initially enjoyed the last sentence of this answer as it is important to be reminded that you can’t have everything and need to practice acceptance of the unknown.

Then the third expert answered:
“Taiji and Qigong movements both originated from martial arts. Originally Qigong involved meditation and no movement. But it was discovered that martial movements led to enhanced qi, so such movement evolved into the Qigong movements that many do today. Whereas most practice these arts primarily for health, the martial underpinnings still prevail, to which you have alluded.
Most people are right-handed, and martial-arts attacks tend to be initiated on the right side. For example, most people prefer to punch with the right hand. However, one of the precepts in martial-arts training is not to initiate a fight, so the forms always start with a defensive movement, which is on the left side. Karate forms also start either by stepping to the left or defensively backward. Also, various martial-arts salutes involve covering the right hand (aggressive, fighting) with the left, implying friendship, humility, and respect.
The philosophy of yin and yang would be expected to be involved also, and yin (in this case, left) always takes precedence over yang (right).“
Robert Chuckrow

Dr Robert Chuckrow (born in 1936), has a PhD in experimental physics from NYU, and has studied Taiji and Qigong and other movement and healing arts since 1970 under masters such as Cheng Man-ch'ing.
He has taught Taiji extensively, is certified as a master teacher of Kinetic Awareness®, and has authored several books on these topics. (https://www.chuckrowtaichi.com/)

Tessa Sampson
Instructor, Brighton Centre

Updated: 16 June 2022