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.


Stop a Crack!

How do you “stop a crack by rounding it off”?

This is a question raised in this tweet :-

What is its implications for push hands?

a) To answer the first question – a crack can increase if the tip of the crack is sharp.

To slow down the crack, a hole can be drilled into the material to make the crack less sharp.

This distributes the stresses over a larger area and over more directions, hence slowing the original crack from lengthening.

b) To answer the second question :-

i) Push hands attack strategy – find a way to create a crack in the opponent’s defense. Once you managed to create that crack do not allow your opponent to round his defense.

If you can achieve this then you will be able to increase the crack and break his defense wide open.

ii) Push hands defense strategy – when under attack keep your defense rounded and your opponent will not be able to wedge open your guard.

If he manages to insert the tip of his attack then instantly respond by moving in a spherical manner to a different direction and his attacking wedge will be deprived of a crack to widen.

Now you know why Tai Chi principles call for our structure and response to be rounded.

I realized all this sounds theoretical but they have practical applications. Its one of those things that you should keep applying after learning it and it will become second nature.

At that point and from thereon all will make sense.


Three New Problems

The worth of the style you learn lies in the usefulness of the form and attendant techniques to enable you to solve problems.

So three new questions from my student :-

Problem A – How does he solve the problem of not being able to overcome his training partner’s control of the centerline

Problem B – How can be attack his training partner after controlling his arm?

Problem C – How to stop his training partner from using his elbow to collapse his (my student) arm, go over it and hit him in the face?

Let’s see……

Firstly, its not just about the technique. We should also consider the principle. So here’s what I said to solve the problems :-

Problem A – stop trying to go around your training partner’s arm. He is controlling the centerline and running around it means you are taking a longer way. So ergo, you won’t get anywhere.

The trick is to borrow our method of holding the straight sword to grasp and cuff his wrist, open up his door and voila! you are in.

My student tried it but initially had some difficulty. OK, one key is missing – go with the flow, turn back, reach in and grasp his wrist. Problem solved.

Problem B – this is a strange problem. My student got the control but he can’t let go of his training partner’s hand so he cannot attack.

Clearly, my student is not thinking straight because he has learned the solution before. It is a common problem – the way he grips is the main culprit. Basically, he has locked himself down. Bad. He needs to be able to let go without losing control. This is the first part of the solution.

The second part of the solution is what I would call the hold the door open and enter principle. This comes from Brush Knee, Twist Step. As shown to my student when applied properly he could not react fast enough to get hit.

Problem C – this is a problem of what to do when your training partner uses a bong-sau like response to your attack. Not a new problem. Its something I have taught before but it seems my student has forgotten.

It is quite straightforward. You attack, your opponent deflects and tries to apply a gwai jang on your arm. The answer is to flow with his bong-sau and stick lightly to a jumping point. Whether he wants to apply a gwai jang or not is not important.

The key is that you are in a good position. Whatever response he tries you are now in a position to react proactively. So the moment he tries to go over the top you apply the principle of he goes high, you go higher. When you do so he cannot go over your arm and ends up losing his balance.