In the book on the 22-form there is a chapter entitled 拆架拆手 (Dismantle Frame, Dismantle Hand). This chapter offers examples on how to apply the strokes (招中术) and force methods of the 22-form.
The 21 examples can be considered as step-by-step studies on the use of intention force against an opponent who provides resisting pressure but not necessarily actively resisting.
The 21 studies of the strokes of the techniques are useful to spark off your journey to learn the use of intent in your push hands. As you make progress you will need to practice against opponents who resist more actively, who will vary the amount of resisting pressure and who will try to counter your fajing attempts with their techniques.
In other words, not a dummy partner who will allow you to get away with anything. You certainly do not need to have a compliant training partner who at your slightest touch (or perhaps a non-contact dismissive wave of your hand) jump like a grasshopper.
Your progress is only as good as the way you train. When you have more realistic resistance from your training partner you will understand why the use of techniques and power go hand-in-hand. This information is captured in the way a good form is organized.
Sometimes the information is obvious but many times it is not. We can only speculate why this should be so. If you ask me it is to prevent someone, perhaps an interloper who is peeking through a hole in the wall, who managed to see the form being played from figuring out how to use the techniques easily. In other words, you can steal the movements but you cannot steal the applications.
The movements of the form are not cast in stone. They have obvious, hidden, derived and situational applications. Many times a demonstration of fajing can be good but totally suck at being a proper combat application. When you play push hands against a less cooperative training partner, someone who will push you back or strike you, then you will understand this point better.
Though the form does not always tell you the strategy being employed explicitly it does not mean it is not present. As long as your opponent is not a dummy he will not allow your attacks to go through so easily. You will have to intelligently use your wits, techniques and power to make your technique work.
In the beginning you will find that even though you can visualize the workings of the force models in the various strokes, however, you are unable to use them freely. In fact, most of the time during push hands the timing to apply a technique is very short making it next to impossible to get your strokes together.
Until and unless you can do the various requirements in a split second you will never be able to use the force models. This is why you need to internalize the requirements by constantly working on your 22-form. There is no shortcut to mastery here.
Keep to your daily practice. The goal of using the force models within the strokes of the form is not impossible. It just takes persistence and intelligence to master them.
So what are the games of strategies you can learn from the 22-form? Let us take a brief look at one example. You might have seen this drawing at the beginning of this site :-
This fajing model is the last model presented in the chapter 内功勁法 (Internal Power Strength Method). The full name of this model is 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method). I like the use of this model because it is simple yet comprehensive. Since the topic here is about strategy rather than force models I won’t discuss how it works in the context of power. Instead, I will just write about its use as a strategy in a broad context.
I have heard Tai Chi practitioners describe how their body needs to be rounded so that they can be like a fully inflated ball that can rebound an opponent. This is a nice analogy though it is rare to see a practitioner or master actually use it. Master Cheng Man Ching’s Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Chuan has a chapter entitled Strength and Physics that discusses how a sphere can be used for attack and defense.
I have read it a long time ago and always wondered how to actually apply the information. I tried out ways to make the sphere work for me but I could never truly make it work in a manner that is consistent to what is written in the Tai Chi Classics, at least not until I have learned and practiced the method of 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) for some years.
I won’t describe in detail how to cultivate the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) as it is outside the scope of topic here. What I would like to say is that you need to use the fundamentals to build the necessary intent to bring forth the Big Sphere until it is for all intent and purpose, feels real to your opponent.
When you arrive at this stage your can use the Big Sphere to carry out the ways of neutralizing and attack that Cheng Man Ching describe in his book. However, this is still only the basic stage of usage. From my experience there are at least two more stages that you can go through, that can expand and refine your ability to use the Big Sphere.
To put it in a nutshell, the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) allows us to use the following games of strategies in a game of push hands :-
a) Go with the flow, harmony and outflank
b) Rotate and re-channel
c) Load and release like shooting an arrow
The above is also an example of the strategic use of strength guided by intent that is built on the six fundamental energies of Ward-off, Push, Press, Pluck, Split, Rollback (掤按擠采列捋) which is augmented by the two more powerful energies of Elbow and Shoulder (肘靠).
This is a different approach from that taken by other Tai Chi styles which normally group the eight energies of Ward-off, Rollback, Press, Push, Pluck, Split, Elbow, Shoulder (掤捋擠按采列肘靠) together.
The reason for grouping the energies as six plus two is that in doing so we can use opt to the energies in a singular or plural manner depending on the application scenario. This is known as Mixed Together Energy Method (混合勁法).
Examples of energies grouping :-
1) Push style containing Ward-off inner strength (按式含掤內勁)
2) Rollback style containing Pluck inner strength (捋式含采內勁)
3) Stamping Push mixed together inner strength (踏按混合內勁)
When energies are used in this manner for attacking it makes it more difficult for the opponent to defend against. This is because the human body has an innate problem responding to forces coming from more than one direction at the same time.
Below is an example of using energies within the application of Needle at Sea Bottom Dismantle Hand (海底针拆手) :-
Picture 1 – Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s hands are detained by his “opponent”.
Picture 2 – from the preceeding movement, Grandmaster Wei initiates the technique of Needle at Sea Bottom. This required for him to step forward with his left leg and ended with the tip of the forefoot touching the ground (heel off the ground).
As Grandmaster Wei stepped forward both his arms performed Pluck with the right arm moving to the front of his right Kua. At the same time as the left arm moved downwards it exerted Peng energy to raise the opponent’s right arm.
Picture 3 – to generate power Grandmaster Wei placed his left foot fully on the ground as he inclined his body downwards while allowing the force to be issued out from his arms via the Strength Source (勁源). Grandmaster Wei’s left arm generated Stamping Push (踏按) internal force whilst his right arm faced forward to bounce opponent off his posture.
Conclusion – in Tai Chi the use of techniques is not just a matter of moving the arms, legs and body; it is also about the use of intent. When both are used together you get to expand your application possibilities. This is the interesting and wonderful part about the use of Tai Chi principles in combat.