My Watermelon or Your Watermelon

We use push hands as a platform for training control. For this purpose we learn how to flow and use it to control our position.

In this respect, we can think of it as a game of your watermelon or mine where your opponent tries to take away your watermelon but you do not allow him to do so. You accomplish this by learning how to prevent your opponent from controlling your front gate by circling and flowing as per example shown below :-

Once you have the basic hang of it you can try implementing a principle made famous in Judo namely pull when pushed, push when pulled. Below is an example of how you can do it :-

Further along you can also test your ability to fajing quickly without going through elaborate set up and breathing patterns typically exemplified in fajing demos.

Our logic is simple – your opponent will not stand there and accept being fajing. He will fight back, he will turn, shift, resist and you have but a split second to fajing. Thus, you have to learn to do it on the fly or your fajing is not practical.

You should also test your defences by not fighting back but just holding your control. In the example below I allowed my student to see if he can get through. He tried to do so by moving faster but I adhered and rode along with his movement and was able to stop him from breaking through to grab my watermelon.

Another test we can do is to check the resiliency of our body structure. In the video below my student tried to move forward but was repelled.

There are a few reasons why this happened :-

a) His moving mass was not properly integrated

b) I have a structure that is resilient enough to absorb and bounce him without having to do anything other than to let him apply power and push himself off

c) He did not apply the principles of entering hence he ran into my defence

Finally, we should always keep in mind that how we move, where we put our limbs can be exploited by an astute opponent.

In the example above my student tried to enter but did not pay careful attention to where he placed his hand.

As a result, he got his hand caught in my arm and ended up locking himself. This is why keeping vigilance and awareness is important when doing push hands.



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.


Begin to Learn Push Hands 4

This is the final video :-

Going a bit deeper into the nature of change depending on what the opponent gives you.

Below is a video I took years ago. This gives a demonstration of the various changes from the use of a basic push hands position.

This was taken on the fly in that we didn’t do any rehearsal or agreed on a fixed response. I just went with what was given to me by my student and thanks to him this came off well for a demo clip.


Begin to Learn Push Hands 3

This is the third video :-

Some explanation on how to use the horizontal circle for application of techniques using Grasp Sparrow’s Tail as example.

In our push hands the understanding of change is important because we never know how the opponent will react. So it is important to us to really understand the various positions we find ourselves in when playing push hands.


Begin to Learn Push Hands 2

This is the second video :-

Here we continue working on the use of 5-Count in the neutralizing and issuing process.

We also learn how to use the horizontal circle to control our space whether for neutralizing or eating into the other person’s space to attack him.

Finally, keeping awareness of our space is important to prevent opponent from opening our door and entering it to attack us.


Begin to Learn Push Hands

I took 4 videos for my student to study. The videos are taken by putting a smartphone on a stack of chairs hence it is not framed properly.

This is not the first time I touched hands with him but it is the first time I explained the process of how to learn push hands from scratch.

The videos were taken after the explanation of theory was over. In the first video we are just working on a simple idea – how to control space using a horizontal circle – hence the slower pace in moving to allow him to feel and maintain proper pressure.

The other thing we worked on here is the use of the 5-Count in application. A more detailed explanation can be found in TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form.


Energy Management, What?

Commonsense seems to be missing nowadays. There is a paradox at work here. The more popular a system is the more commonsense flies out the window.

I said to a student that push hands is for learning combat and he said that he thought it was for energy management. I wouldn’t say that he is totally wrong.

Energy management could be a sub-objective of doing push hands. However, I would not say that push hands is entirely about energy management. Consider the following train of thought :-

What is Tai Chi CHUAN? A health exercise? Fitness exercise? Combat art?

What is the purpose of learning Tai Chi CHUAN? Exercise? Fitness? Combat?

If the answer to both questions above is either exercise or fitness then you can stop reading at this point.

If the answer is combat then you can read on.

If we want to train Tai Chi CHUAN as a combat art then how do we do it?

Consider the first question – what exactly is Tai Chi as an art of combat? Is it a wrestling art? Hand striking art? Kicking art? Locking art? Bit of everything?

How do we train the combat part of Tai Chi? By pushing each other around? What is the purpose? Oh, OK, energy management.

So how does managing the energy help us to survive an attack? By pushing the opponent back? By pushing him so hard that he does not want to be pushed any more?

Unless you managed to push an opponent to hit a wall so hard that it knocks him out I don’t quite see the point. More so, if you happen to be fighting in a big space where the nearest wall is 50 feet away.

So all that pushing up and down doesn’t really make much sense. Not unless you are training to put your opponent off balance by using a pushing motion to control him. If so, then why do we need to push opponent so hard when a lesser push is what we need to put him in a disadvantaged position momentarily for us to set up our technique?

To me push hands is a method for training the various factors that are relevant to combat. What are they?

For starters you can train proper distancing. I realized that even students who have learned for over 10 years have poor distance management. If you go too close you may not be able to apply your power, not to mention technique properly. There is a distance at which a technique will work, one at which it will work ineffectively and one in which the technique will not work.

The form trains us to maintain the proper distance in our mind. However, due to our over-excited nature we still need to use push hands to train ourselves to rein in our instinct to rush in as close as we can.

Another thing that push hands trains us is to keep calm. You don’t have to over-react to every movement and if you do react you should learn to react with a good response rather than just push back with a knee jerk reaction that can be used against you.

Learning to be calm can help you to counter fast strikes. If you only ever play with other Tai Chi players who only push you back then this is not a useful skill. But if you do touch hands with styles that may hit you and throw you fast missiles then this will come in handy.

There are so many more areas I could touch on but this should give you an idea why push hands is not just a single objective method of training. It is so much more than that. So don’t restrict yourself. Be critical in your thinking of answers you are given. Otherwise, you will be the one who miss out.