Don’t Put Hand in Rotating Shaft

In factories a guard is typically placed over an exposed rotating shaft. This is because if you accidentally let your hand or worse, your long hair to get caught when a shaft is spinning at say 10,000 rpm your will scalped before you can even blink.

Understanding about the danger of getting your hand caught in a spinning shaft has given me an insight into how we can apply locks in push hands. In essence, we as the spinning sphere allow the opponent to put his hand into our turning body in order to get it entangled inside.

Below is a simple example of how to use a scoop and rotate action to capture the opponent’s arm :-

When trying to put a lock on a person you can expect resistance. After all, who in their right mind would allow you to lock their arm. This is where a feigned strike helps you to overcome resistance.

This looks similar to the first video above but the difference is that you capture the opponent’s arm deeper into your space. In this way he will have a harder time to get away.

Many times a common reaction to getting locked is to pull the arm away or twist the hand the other way. When you encounter this you should go with the flow and morph into another lock.

To learn how to change from one lock to another you can practice looking for or creating opportunities to lock even as you are moving from one position to the next.

Opportunities to lock can suddenly appear. So knowing the principles of locking can help you to recognize an opportunity when you see it. A cross lock is not something I was looking to use but it just came up and we ended up working on it too.

You can watch the longer clips of my student learning to do locks in my Youtube channel here.



Quote of the Week

Quote of the week goes to my student PL who said “I feel so stupid” after I explained something about Tai Chi fajing principles to him.

He said what he said because he finally understood some of the things I have been saying to him this week are basically things I have been saying for 3 years in one way or another. He felt stupid for taking so long to catch on.

Actually, PL is not stupid. If anything, he is way smarter than I am. But his past habits and exposure can hamper his understanding and prevent him from getting the point way earlier. Its nothing surprising since it happens to all of us in one way or another this seeing but not seeing thing. This is the point of the Zen story of the master continuing to pour tea into the cup of a visitor even after it is full and overflowing.

However, PL has made progress. It is not something you can see but a feel of his hand-wrist-forearm confirmed it. I can remember how his forearm muscles being stiff but now it has loosened by at least 50%. More interesting is despite doing straight sword solo drills his arm muscles has not become harder.

When the basics are slowly but surely grasped the teaching can be picked up faster. In the early part of the lesson I made a point and we did this exercise which PL didn’t get it right all the way :-

I explained it again in this video :-

PL tried it again and he got it :-

It didn’t take PL more than 10 5 minutes to get it. So yes, he can say he felt so stupid but he is not stupid. Anyway, I think its better to be stupid than too smart because being over-intelligent can also hamper learning but that’s another story. At least, if you do not know you will try harder to get it whereas a too smart person will think he knows it and won’t try harder.


Coordinate Hip-Fist

The stack of yellow chairs left in the void deck is proving to be useful again, this time to help me explain how to coordinate the hip movement to that of the fist.

The logic is simple – power comes from getting the body to move as one and also from being able to accelerate the joints internally using the 5-Count principle.

Here’s how not to do it :-

Okay, maybe my student is too tall for the chairs. That could affect his performance. Anyway, if the stack can’t get taller then one must go lower. Its just a coordination thing, not a combat exercise.

The right way to do it is by :-

a) Establish a base from which to tap the energy from the ground

b) Coordinate the movement of the joints

c) Pay attention to how the hip drives the fist

Video illustration :-

Finally, putting it together for a demo on how the power from hip-fist coordination looks like in a static demo :-

So that’s it – the key to coordinating the hip to the fist to generate power.




This is the fate that waits a living art. This is why I started taping some lessons to allow students to see better where they are lacking.

Some things you can see and some things you can’t. A video gives you a third party perspective of what you are doing.

I taped this fajing demo as part of a lesson. Even with explanation I noticed that some movements can’t be captured on video.

And even with explanation certain things are best felt rather than heard. This is why to learn Tai Chi you need to see it, hear it and feel it.

What can’t be seen clearly in how to neutralize the pressure by grounding it. You can only see the issuing movement. That’s like reading half the story.

Perhaps one day VR can be used to enhance distance learning. Until then treat our art as impermanent and pass it on to as many as possible to ensure its continuing existence.


Locks Training

When we do push hands training we do not just shove each other around. Instead, we strive for a semblance of techniques which can range from strikes to locks.

Below is an example of how we can apply a lock in push hands :-

We try not to learn too many locks at the same time. The preference is on working with one lock and examining its various facets. For example, in the clip below we flow into the lock under study after failing to apply an elbow lock :-

Another part involves studying how to overcome the opponent’s resistance through the use of breathing method. I normally do not have to use breathing method but it can be useful under some circumstances so why not?

The study of locks can help you to understand how to ramp up your power by relaxing. Sometimes you find that you are unable to exert power and you try to move more to get power, except you can’t move much without losing control of your opponent. So what do you do?

The video below shows you how you can increase power by letting go of your own muscular resistance :-

Other ways of getting power includes using a rotary motion similar to turning a wheel as shown below :-

It goes without saying that this rotary motion will only work if you apply the principles of leverage properly. This means you have to fix the fulcrum which in this case if your left hand and use the right arm to apply the lever.

Finally, an essential key to being able to apply a lock is familiarity with grabbing as shown below :-

How to grab can be a study by itself. You can focus on the following areas :-

a) How to place your hand in the position to get a firm grip

b) Where to position the fingers

c) How to bend and twist the hand into a locked position

d) Where to position the captured hand

e) How to apply pain and amplify it

There are a few other things you can focus on but the above are the areas we normally examine.


Facebook Learning Playlists

I’ve been organizing the learning videos on Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore” into playlists by Topic and Date.

This will serve three purposes :-

a) Ease of reference for my students to track their own progress and learning

b) They can also check out what other students are learning

c) It will allow me to evaluate their performance and learning

Together we will make progress in passing the art from one generation to the next. This will ensure that the art is passed on as a living art and not an art based on claims of history, lineage and style.


The Secret

When Sun Lutang was lying on his deathbed his daughter asked him the secret to master his style and was told “Practice”.

Life is unpredictable and I will use today’s technology to leave videos for my students to help accelerate their learning. They should not have to ask me one day what the secret is when I am waiting for the Grim Reaper. If my students still have to ask me then I would have been a selfish teacher and unworthy to be their guide.

A living art involves 1-to-1 transmission. This means not just telling you what to do but guide you by teaching and providing the feeling.

Some parts of what we do will not be on video for various reasons. These are the parts the student must remember in his mind.

For example, at the end of today’s 9 videos on learning how to apply Wild Horse Parts Mane we have an additional teaching to amplify and broaden what was learned in the videos.

What I teach in these parts of the lesson is unique to the student. Of course, I hope that everyone will get exactly the same information but this is not possible since no one is exactly the same.

However, everyone learns the same principles and most of the techniques. When students view the videos they will know this is the truth. This is the least I can do in terms of transmitting the art if we are fated to have a relationship.