If we say that playing push hands is like playing chess what do we mean exactly?
How does pushing round and round like playing chess?
A lot of times doing push hands is not like playing chess. Instead, it is like reacting. You push, I react. Then you react to my reaction. And so on, but its all reacting without a plan except I need to push you off-balance.
If you want to play push hands in a more chess-like then why not play it more like chess with a chessboard and pieces with defined movements?
I guess at this point many readers would scratch their head and go Huh!
I like to think that playing push hands is like playing chess with a dose of game theory, you know the famous prisoner’s dilemma thing? Yeah, that one. This is how we approach playing push hands, by presenting a prisoner’s dilemma scenario cause you see, this simplifies decision making, presenting a more logical take on what-if scenarios.
I know, I know, being an internal arts practitioner means we must look down on such what-if scenarios learning. But truth be told, if you know the whote Chi thing but cannot use it in push hands then as far as being practical is concerned you’ve just lost the plot.
Working with engineers taught me a more sensible way of looking at push hands :-
a) It is not just push here and push there. It is why, why, why push like this and not like that, what’s the objective, what’s the point?
b) It is defined; thus pushing round and round may be fun and serves some purpose but after that if you still push round and round without an aim then you are not really playing chess
c) There are laid down requirements and objectives to fulfill otherwise how do you know if you have made progress?
So when we play push hands we have to address the questions of :-
a) What is the chessboard? Why is it important?
b) How does the chess pieces (our techniques) move, strengths and limitations?
c) What are the markers of success in implementation of technique and strategy; example check-mate the opponent by pushing him off balance or by ability to implement techniques of strike, lock or throw
With the above, we can then proceed to define what constitutes a chessboard and how the pieces’ movements should be like as well as associated strategies :-
a) What is the mental chessboard? How it is defined and mapped by intent
b) Key strategies and positions
c) Major techniques and associated changes
d) Process of implementation and execution
e) Application of power
If the above doesn’t make much sense don’t worry about it because the target audience is my students who are learning push hands. This is an overview of our approach to help them remember what the outline of the story is about. The rest of the details they can fill in when they are learning it.