Contact Training 6

In this clip after we got into the groove we let our body moved a little more, gyrating and bouncing gently to an inner rhythm, akin to a dance.

But not for long because as soon as my student couldn’t keep up with the rhythm he started opening up his spaces unknowingly to attack.

In the following clip we change focus to small, tight circles before letting it morph into freer circles. This inevitably led back to the pattern of movements in the clips shown in the earlier posts in this series.

Many times how your opponent responds to your movements is how your technique will turn out. You can dictate how the movements can be but it takes less effort if you just enjoy the moment and go with the flow. Then your body will respond automatically with the pattern of movements that you have etched into your body from the form training.

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Contact Training 5

We can create an opening to attack or we can wait until an opening presents itself.

In the clip below my student presented a good flow with strong, sticky movements so unless I purposely created an opening there was no getting through his defence.

But as we flowed and flowed, a slight deviation in his movement flow was detected and I seized the opportunity to attack. This is why when we play hands we put 110% awareness into it.

The clip below presents a different take on how to attack. This time instead of letting the flow of movements open up the space to attack, I used pressure to crowd in, wedge and attack.

Thereafter, I used the same attack over and over again. I didn’t need to change the technique because my student could not solve the technique.

Contact Training 4

Circle, spiral, twist, turn, come in, escort out, snare, trap, lock. A round of push hands can provide us training in these various movements of the arm.

When you can movement seemingly free, yet adhering to a fuzzy pattern of movements you can begin to use it to find and create an opening for your attack.

In the second part of the clip I go through a few patterns of movements using them to probe until I found the opening.

Though we are playing movement patterns we should be careful not to become fixated with only one set of movements. Let the movements flow freely, yet find the pattern in the movements.

Then you can change at will in response to a stimulus. So if in the midst of movement my student tried coming too close and pressuring my arm against my body, I kept my awareness and moved from inside to outside while neutralizing his attack and returning a counter.

Contact Training 3

Why we do form training so much?

This is because this is one way to train ourselves to be familiar with our own movements.

In the beginning of the clip my student is attempting to apply a technique but his movement is not filled with confidence hence the uncertain feel I was getting.

When you know the movement really well you can move so much better. It is not unusual for a student to think that a lacklustre technique is acceptable. It might be when he is training with another student but it will not be if he is doing it with someone at a higher level.

When you know your movement it is like a highly tuned and sensitive instrument, so much so that a slight deviation will set off an instant response.

Otherwise, you can run round and round in circles and still cannot find the opening for your attack.

Contact Training 2

During push hands training we train the automation of our responses by learning about patterns of movements.

In form training we learn movement patterns. Through push hands training we learn how to reconcile what we learned in the form and the application of those movement patterns in push hands.

In the earlier part of this clip I highlighted a movement pattern to my student. This is a frequently used pattern in our push hands. Because he has not assimilated the lessons of the form in his mind he is not able to recognize the patterns amidst the chaos of free movement.

In the last part of the clip I showed an extension of the same movement pattern. This came about because his response triggered my counter to his movement.

Contact Training

The fun about push hands training is that there are so many ways to work it.

One aspect that we work on is how to keep flowing amidst pressure. However, we don’t just flow for the sake of it. We flow like water seeking an opening.

When we find the opening we then go through it. But not before ensuring that there is healthy compliance to the principles like don’t let the elbows fly in the air, don’t use excessive strength, don’t expose yourself to strikes and so on.

An example is working on keeping the centre, and not just the centreline. This aspect of training calls for us to protect an imaginary sphere in front of our body, making the opponent run around it.

Another aspect is how to recover the centre the moment the opponent’s hand comes through. The solution is easy enough, let it come, harmonize and guide it back out.

And if the opponent’s arms were to crumble, quickly change to push and pull to uproot and send off.

Push Hands Roadmap

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.