Analyzing a Push Hands Video

Many students of Tai Chi learn the art blindly particularly push hands. I must confess that I was once an obedient learner too. I did things without asking why even when subsequent try-outs proved that there were shortcomings here, there and somewhere else.

I have read some views that push hands is not for learning combat. I don’t agree with this. If push hands is just for learning how to wrestle wouldn’t it be easier to just go learn wrestling or shuai chiao? Similarly, if push hands is to learn how to fajing then why waste time learning how to do circling. I feel that proponents of such arguments are myopic and fail to think issues through. Or perhaps I am wrong and they were just mouthing the party line.

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled Violin & Tai Chi which you can read here. The accompanying video is in the Clips folder. I discovered that the group in the video has also put up an interesting video which can help us to understand better the whys of push hands. Before you read further please jump to the Clips folder here and view Video 2.1 first.

Watched the video? OK, let’s see what the video can teach us :-

i) 0:02 – freeze the video at this point. Notice the relative position of X’s (person in white) right forearm versus that of Y (person in black)?

Now quickly hop over to Video 2.2 and look through it. Did you notice that from 0:00 till 0:44 the person on the left whom I say call A has not managed to get a position  on B (person on the right) similar that to that at 0:02 in Video 2.1?

Why should the Tai Chi student learn from this? The lesson is that if you are doing push hands for playing around then what you see at 0:02 does not matter. But if you are practicing for combat where an opening can result in a knuckle sandwich then perhaps you would want to consider giving your opponent a free ticket to hit you. Go back to Video 2.2 – did you notice that at 0:44 A nearly got a position on B that is similar to that of Y on X at 0:02? Did you notice how B quickly rolled A’s right forearm off his left forearm, thus regaining a protective position?

ii) 0:03 – 0:04 – take a look at how Y’s left hand is aimed at X. Notice that X did not respond and instead moved into a position that is more favorable to Y. Again, if striking is not important then this position has no significance.

However, if striking is brought into play then not being aware of this type of position would result in B striking A with his right fist at 0:49 or with his left fist at 0:53 in Video 2.3.

iii) 0:12 – I am curious as to why X allowed Y to move his left hand up to this position. However, I am more curious as to why Y did not follow up by sliding his left foot in and follow up with a left underhook to initiate a throw and instead led to him moving backwards and at 0:14 the left side of his face was opened to X to strike except X never did so perhaps striking was not included in the way they approached push hands.

iv) 0:14 to 0:15 – X had control of Y’s right elbow and pushed Y back. But then X dropped his left hand when he was stepping forward. If we are training for combat we should be wary of this type of habit because at that moment Y could have thrown a right strike.

As a contrast take a look at Video 2.3 at 0:14. Noticed how B used his left hand to push A’s right elbow and continued sticking to it. So when A tried to turn back to counter B could still maintain control.

v) 0:17 – Y did a very good outflanking move which allowed him to get his left hand all the way up to X’s neck. Its too bad that he did not follow up by hooking and pulling X off balance.

Video 2.4 at 0:08 shows an example of how B handled A’s right hand when it went towards his neck. At 0:35 when A failed to control B’s right hand which has strayed into his space the result was that B was able to unleash a strike at A.

vi) 0:27 – for those who know how to do short range power issuance then X’s position here would have left him exposed to a sudden, short strike. Again, Y did not take advantage of this possibly because he does not know about short range striking?

You can also see X dropping his left arm down and then bringing it up again to intercept Y’s right elbow. This is something I would advise students to avoid doing because at that range no matter how fast you think you are chances are you will not be able to stop a real power strike. So avoid this habit.

vii) 0:29 – I can see Y doing a nice hooking motion with his right wrist but his movement was too large and for all intent and purpose was to no avail. As contrast take a look at 0:29 Video 2.4 – observe how B used a wrist hooking motion to open up A’s right arm and quickly followed up with a left palm strike. This is a technique from the transition between Hit Body with Fist and Step Up, Parry & Punch in the Yang style 108 form.

OK, I am going to stop the analysis here as I have something else to do. This post should preoccupy you for a while. Have fun. Study the analysis here and it might help you to Master Tai Chi Today.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

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