In Taijiquan classes the question arises, ‘What do I do with the eyes?’ and ‘Where am I meant to be looking when I do a particular movement?’ In this blog post, we will look at how the eyes affect movement, and how we use them in Taijiquan.

The human eye and movement

The eyes play a crucial role in body coordination during movement. Visual input helps in spatial awareness, depth perception, and adjusting body posture. Coordinating eye movements with body movements contributes to balance, stability, and efficient navigation through the environment.

The coordination between eye movements and body movements involves complex neurological processes. The brain’s vestibular system, responsible for balance and spatial orientation, works in tandem with the visual system.

When you move your body, signals from proprioceptors (sensory receptors in muscles and joints) inform the brain about the body’s position and movement. The vestibular system detects changes in head position and movement. Simultaneously, the visual system provides input about the external environment.

The brain integrates these signals to create a unified perception of the body’s position and motion. The cerebellum, a key brain region for motor control, plays a significant role in coordinating these sensory inputs. The oculomotor system, responsible for eye movements, is tightly connected with these processes.

When doing Taijiquan, the brain processes input from proprioceptors, the vestibular system, and the visual system to coordinate eye and body movements, contributing to overall balance and coordination.

The Importance of Eyes in Taijiquan Movements

In the intricate tapestry of Taijiquan, the eyes stand as vigilant sentinels, orchestrating a dance that goes beyond mere observation. Their importance extends far beyond visual perception, playing a pivotal role in shaping the fluidity, precision, and balance of every movement within this ancient martial art.

1.1 The Eyes as Guides of Balance and Coordination:

In Taijiquan, where balance is synonymous with strength, the eyes act as guides, ensuring the seamless coordination of the entire body. As you shift weight, pivot, and gracefully transition between postures, your gaze becomes the compass that directs the nuanced interplay of limbs and torso. By directing your eyes or gaze, you not only enhance your spatial awareness but also cultivate a harmonious connection between the physical and the visual.

1.2 The Mind-Body Connection through the Eyes:

Beyond their role in physical coordination, the eyes serve as conduits for the mind-body connection. In Taijiquan, the integration of mental intent with physical movement is fundamental. As you direct your gaze, envision the trajectory of your movement, and imbue it with purpose, you are fostering a profound alignment of thought and action. The eyes become vessels through which the mind’s intent flows, infusing each posture with intention and significance.

1.3 Enhancing the Flow of Taijiquan Movements:

At the heart of Taijiquan is the concept of flowing seamlessly from one movement to another, embodying the essence of water. The eyes contribute significantly to this fluidity by guiding the transitions between postures. By maintaining a soft and focused gaze, practitioners can enhance the continuity of their movements, allowing the energy to flow effortlessly from one part of the body to another.

The intentional use of vision not only refines the physical execution of each technique but also deepens the meditative and mindful aspects of this ancient practice. As we explore further, let us uncover how the eyes become a bridge between the outer form and the inner essence of Taijiquan.

How do we apply all this in practice?

Keep the eyes soft:

Keeping the eyes soft in Taijiquan is crucial for several reasons, contributing to the effectiveness and philosophy of this martial art. It means not specifically focusing on a specific point in space, or having a hard gaze.

Softening the eyes is interconnected with the overall principle of relaxation in Taijiquan. When the eyes are soft, it signals a relaxed state of the facial muscles, which extends to the rest of the body. This relaxation fosters a deeper mind-body connection, allowing practitioners to move with increased fluidity and a heightened awareness of their internal state.

Softening the gaze enhances peripheral vision. A soft gaze allows practitioners to maintain a broader awareness of their surroundings, including potential threats or changes in the environment. Peripheral awareness is crucial in Taijiquan for adapting to the movements of multiple opponents or unexpected changes in the practice environment.

Taijiquan emphasizes flowing and continuous movements. Softening the eyes contributes to the overall fluidity of the practice, as it prevents the eyes from becoming fixed or rigid. Soft eyes enable practitioners to transition smoothly between postures, promoting a more connected and harmonious sequence of movements.

Staring or maintaining a rigid gaze can lead to tension and strain in the facial muscles and, subsequently, throughout the body. Softening the eyes helps release tension and promotes a more relaxed state. A relaxed state is essential for energy to flow freely through the body, allowing for more efficient and powerful movements.

In essence, keeping the eyes soft in Taijiquan is not just a physical practice but a holistic approach that aligns with the philosophy of the art. It promotes relaxation, awareness, and the seamless integration of mind and body, enhancing the overall quality of the Taijiquan practice.

Stare through your opponent?

This relates to offensive movements when engaging an opponent. However, in solo practice of the form this still applies( the imagined opponent )

The concept of looking through and beyond your opponent in Taijiquan is rooted in the idea of extending your intent and energy beyond the surface level of the movement. This approach contributes to the delivery of more power in offensive moves through several interconnected principles

The eyes serve as a conduit for the flow of energy in Taijiquan. By looking beyond your opponent, you are mentally extending your energy through them, allowing for a smoother and more efficient transfer of power. The extended energy contributes to the force generated in the offensive technique, amplifying its impact on the target.

Looking through and beyond the opponent aids in maintaining accuracy in offensive movements. Your gaze becomes a guide for the alignment of your limbs and the direction of your force, ensuring that the technique reaches its intended destination with precision. This focused accuracy is particularly crucial in Taijiquan, where efficient technique and minimal effort are emphasized.

Staring directly at the point of impact can telegraph your movements, giving your opponent a visual cue about your intentions. By looking beyond, you avoid this telegraphing, making your offensive moves less predictable and more challenging for your opponent to counter.

Remember to keep the eyes soft when looking through your opponent.

What do we do with defensive movements?

Direct your gaze toward the opponent’s center of mass or chest, but keep the eyes soft. This allows you to observe the opponent’s overall movements and anticipate their intentions. Avoid staring at specific body parts, as this may lead to tunnel vision. Instead, maintain a dynamic focus on the opponent’s center while staying aware of their entire body.

Allow the eyes to move fluidly as the opponent changes positions or attacks. Adapt your gaze to track the opponent’s movements, maintaining a flexible and responsive visual focus. Avoid staring directly at the opponent’s eyes, as this may be a distraction. Instead, focus on their center while remaining aware of their limbs and overall posture.


For many students that are early on in their Taijiquan journey, getting the form right will be a major focus. For them, the takeaway is, keep the eyes soft and relaxed as this helps relax the body and improves coordination, balance and fluidity.

For those a little further along in their Taijiquan journey, you can practice looking through and beyond your opponent( or imagined opponent ) during offensive movements. During defensive movements direct your gaze toward the opponent’s center of mass or chest, but keep the eyes soft and maximize peripheral vision.

It takes some practice to do the above. The trick is to maintain the softness of the eyes when directing them to look through and beyond the opponent. Our natural urge is to sharpen our focus when consciously directing our eyes. Keeping a slightly out of focus gaze may help in this practice.

Next time you do some practice keep these concepts in mind. Play with maintaining a soft focus or soft eyes. Practice far and near gaze with offensive and defensive movements respectively.

I trust you have found this information useful and that it supports your Taijiquan practice.

Yours in Taujiquan and Qigong

Sifu Peter

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