I have learned three different versions of this form over the years from my teacher and his teacher. The Thirteen Postures form (also known as Wudang Thirteen) is an excellent first form to learn. It is short, is not strenuous, and can be done in a small space. It teaches the eight intentions or energies and the five directions of taijiquan, gives a nice introduction to taijiquan principles, and is a nice start to learning other forms.
- Ward Off (Peng)
- Roll Back (Lu)
- Press (Ji)
- Push (An)
- Pull Down/Yank Down/Pluck (Cai or Tsai)
- Split (Lie or Lieh)
- Elbow Strike (Zhou or Chou)
- Shoulder Bump (Kao)
- Step Forward (Qian Jin) – Fire
- Step Back (Hou Tui) – Water
- Gaze Left (Zhao Gu) – Wood
- Look Right (You Ban) – Metal
- Center or Central Equilibrium (Zhong Ding) – Earth
The first eight movements are the directions of applied energy – your mind leading energy which moves the body. The first four are used in Yang style for Grasp The Bird’s Tail. The last five are the directions – forward, back, left, right and center (the neutral position), and are also associated with the five elements. The form also gives practice moving to the corners. There are many variations of the Thirteen Postures besides this one. You can read more about the Song of the Thirteen Postures at the Qi Encyclopedia.
You can also do the form symmetrically – both left and right.