Stepping back to repel the monkey.
This a wonderful posture based on one of natures finest species. What is it about this posture that makes it seem so strong, upright and having the ability to use the entire body and mind at the same time so special. If we look and feel the posture more closely, we will notice how every single principal of Tai Chi comes together in a single movement and breath.
The monkey allows us to feel a form of yielding while moving backwards, yet at the same time, moving forward. It is one of the most difficult aspects of Tai Chi to master and not all of us are capable of achieving this, movement and concept. It is one of the highest forms of duality.
The ancients studied the behaviour of animals and new that all movement was more often than not just a reaction to our surroundings and energy. The story behind the monkey, is that one should never allow the monkey to circle behind you. Not because they are cowards, quite the contrary, they are simply the masters of deceit yet honesty all bound up into one. So as the monkey approaches with its multiple ability to attack in many directions, one should simple step and reach out to touch the monkey, from a turning waist in one direction and throwing out of the other side of the waist in the opposite direction. in addition to this, when performing this posture, you are guiding the other persons energy down, while pushing them away at the same time, uprooting by separation, is what this is called.
The essence of the movement is to stay single minded and not allow the monkey to split your mind and energy into two, for they will pull you in opposite directions, exposing your indecisiveness. Monkeys are positive animals and single minded, in all of their views on life, it is only in capture do they quickly realise that humans are without understanding the nature of nature itself.
When attempting the posture, one should always sink into the back leg and turn the waist to the side, keeping the head in line with the centre of the body. The hands and feet should be relaxed and controlled by the waist, so if the waist does not move the hands and feet do not move.
When turning to the side, the same hand on the side you are turning towards should end up with the palm facing forward, as in parry to the side, and at shoulder height. The front hand should be palm facing down and in front of the heart, with the arm extended and both elbows slightly bent. (See photo above)
Stepping back, remember to step out to the side as well as backwards to provide a proper and strong stance. The toes should contact the ground first and then as you sink into the back foot a slow and even transfer of the weight should be applied. You end up with the waist facing forward, shoulders and elbows relaxed. The hands should be soft, but with energy and not tensed. The same hand as the back foot should be facing upwards and slight cupped. The forward hand, should be shaped the same as a single pushing hand. In the 16 step form there is only one monkey performed and in the short form there are three and in the long forms left and right there are five.