Page 1 of 2

Applications vs. Push Hands?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 2:04 am
by Kalamondin
What is the difference between applications and push hands for you?

I thought I'd open a thread because there are a variety of opinions out there about what defines or constitutes applications vs. push hands. I'd like to see what people are thinking.

The way I am being taught, push hands is an indespensable part of learning applications, that it allows people to practice otherwise dangerous applications with some degree of safety because if both you and your training partner know how to stick, listen, and follow, then it's safer all around. As those skills improve, the training can get progressively faster and more forceful.

Best Regards,

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 3:41 am
by shugdenla

As far as I know, most do not go beyond push hands meaning the application of chi'na and throwing are rarely shown so therfore no further than touching hands is taught! I had asked in this thread but it is said the present Yang disciples do train other than touching hands! implying applications are thrown.

Perhaps the same person who answered my question can shed some more light on the training!

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 4:44 am
by JerryKarin
Applications in taiji are not like the formulaic, canned moves that you find in many of the external martial arts. We are not throwing a punch and pulling back, which could just be practiced over and over in isolation without a partner. In order to use applications with taiji principles you need lots of partner practice to learn to sense the other and integrate what you've learned in form practice about structure into a four-hand practice where sticking, following, not letting go, circularity, the 13 energies etc can be worked on. So this push hands is a prerequisite to free sparring, and form a prerequisite to meaningful push hands.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 08-17-2006).]

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 2:21 pm
by Bob Ashmore
Anynoe who wishes to learn beyond touching hands, that training is available. There is no secret password, handshake or hidden agenda that I've seen, all you need do is just find a Yang Cheng Fu Center, learn the form correctly, learn the weapons forms correctly, learn the push hands correctly and you will then have the other trainings made available to you as you are ready.
It is a progression of learning to get to these skills, not a giveaway. You will have to learn the foundation work correctly before you begin training more advanced techniques. There really isn't any other way to do it.
After all, you can't learn to walk until you learn to crawl, you can't learn to run until you learn to walk.

There are no secrets to TCC. All that is required is hard work, diligent study and continuous practice.
Would you want it any other way?


PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 2:45 pm
by Audi
Greetings all,

I would support what Kal and Jerry have said, but would like to add to their comments.

Within the practice of Push Hands, there are variations of training. First, you use pre-arranged patterns of circles. Then you learn to switch spontaneously from one pattern to another. Ultimately, you will be switching among all combinations of horizontal, diagonal, vertical, open, closed, wrist, elbow, and shoulder circles. The open circles can be done with the arms in mirror image (like in Cross Hands) or with the arms offset in time and alternating (like in Cloud Hands). At some point, you will even explore doing one circle with one arm and a different circle with the other, to the extent the various combinations are physically and mentally possible.

Mixed in with all this circling is a study of the Eight Gates. While the circling itself can teach the energies to some extent, in general you must begin to use applications to get a real sense of them.

Within this basic study of Push Hands applications, you are generally prohibited from striking, kicking, or contacting the body below the waist. I think this is partly for theoretical training reasons and partly for safety. I also suspect that there is some variation in the "rules" within Yang Style and definitely between Tai Chi styles.

Within the Eight energies, Ward Off, Rollback, Press, and Push generally employee long energy and can be done relatively safely between relatively untrained partners. Pluck has aspects that can begin to be dangerous, and Elbow, Shouder Strike, and Split have definitely increased risk associated with them. That is because these are generally associated with short energy. You only start to work extensively with these when both partners have more experience and are less likely to injure each other.

Within the Push Hands applications, you work on doing two things: neutralizing and issuing. You do this by using sticking, adhering, connecting and following and by applying the Ten Essentials. Some of the Ten Essentials have a somewhat different range of application to Push Hands than they do to solo form practice (e.g., Distinguish Full and Empty, Seek Stillnes in Movement).

In executing "applications," you have a range of outcomes to train, going from simply neutralizing an opponent's technique, making an opponent unable to apply power to a technique, making an opponent unable to apply power to any technique, making an opponent unable to move, making an opponent have to signal surrender, making an opponent confused, making an opponent unsteady, offsetting an opponent, making an opponent take two steps, making both feet leave the ground, and taking an opponent to the floor.

An essential component of this training is safety; however, this is not because all of the above is inherently safe. This depends on the practitioner. In fact, many applicatons of the Eight Energies can be much more dangerous than a simple punch or kick usually is.

Striking and kicking are not trained in this setting, not only for increased safety, but also for theoretical training reasons. Push Hands is primarily about developing adhering, sticking, connecting, and following. Strikes inevitably involve a degree of disconnection that pushes training in a different direction.

There is, in fact, a rule in some versions of Push Hands training that prohibits striking, but only as long as your partner remains "connected." This is to give a powerful incentive Image to train sticking and adhering, and not to train other things. It also helps teach why "not losing" the opponent (Bu4 Diu1) is an important self-defense skill. By the way, by "disconnecting," I am talking about what you do with even one hand, since this can signal either that you are vulnerable to a strike or that you yourself are preparing to strike.

As for Qin Na (Grabbing and Controlling), I would say that this is definitely trained to some extent within Yang Style Push Hands, but there is no suspension of general Tai Chi principles or the orientation of the training regimen. "Controlling" runs the gamut between physically locking joints (usually indirectly) to psychologically making your opponent "Double Weighted."

Some techniques actually require grabbing or joint manipulation. For instance, a one-handed Rollback may well require you to grab the opponent's forearm. To take your opponent to the ground with "Needle at Sea Bottom" will require you to hold the opponent's fingers in place to prevent disconnection.

While grabbing is permitted and occasionally even required, over-reliance on grabbing runs contrary to the goal of learning to stick and adhere merely through contact. You must still "Give up yourself and follow the other" and cannot simply manhandle your opponent at will.

Once you become comfortable with all of the above, including all the basic stepping variations, it begins to make sense to broaden the range of techniques into striking and kicking during free sparring. At this point, one can really talk in depth about Understanding Energy" and using energy naturally. To my understanding, it is not a question of going from "play fighting" to "real fighting" but rather of broadening the range and freedom of techniques.

I should also clarify that you can always explore individual movements (e.g., from the form) outside of Push Hands or sparring, but this is most profitable only when you have sufficient training to use and understand the Tai Chi principles behind them. You can, of course, train "applications" without such an understanding, but then we are talking about training fighting in general, and not about training Taijiquan techniques.

Lastly, I should hasten to say that training Push Hands does not have to be about fight training. Taijiquan has come to be a well that you can drink from at any depth. Image I have done Push Hands profitably and safely with elderly women in minimal physical shape and with no experience in contact sports, let alone any martial arts training or inclination. From such sessions, we have both been able to understand Taijiquan a little more deeply. Push Hands can be about learning how to fight or defend yourself, but it can also be about helping each other to deepen understanding of the form, enjoy it more, and get more out of it. Image

Happy training,

PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:37 pm
by Kalamondin
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Applications in taiji are not like the formulaic, canned moves that you find in many of the external martial arts. </font>

Good point Jerry, one of the reasons I enjoy push hands so much is for the spontenaity of it. It's fun to get myself out of being trapped or gain the advantage with moves that surprise both me and my practice partner...just through using what I can of the principles of push hands practice.

I think that another part of the point of training push hands is to move from form (patterns, circles, relatively rote applications) to formlessness (using the energies that underpin the applications such that the application used may not outwardly resemble any move in the form).


PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:45 pm
by Kalamondin
Great overview Audi, thanks for writing that.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 8:51 pm
by Pamela
Hi All,

Interesting thread, interesting posts...great idea for starting this up Kalamondin. And I enjoyed your detailed possibilities of approaching the subject Audi.

I can also appreciate the caveats you have both mention concerning safety.

I played around with push hands a few months ago with two people who did not practice taichi...we tried lots of little techniques and ideas which I had been eager to attempt, gently, carefully, for about an hour...the next day my shoulder was sore...and a a couple weeks later I was in almost immobile agony. I had dislocated my shoulder very badly and suffered tremendously for a month before I was lucky enough, very lucky indeed to find someone who could realign all my ten shoulder tendons for me and place my shoulder back how it is supposed to be.

Quite frankly...after tat little experience, I am afraid, probably rightly so, to attempt push hands play on my own without a qualified instructor to lay out step by step groth in the art of application.

I write this for any other eager players Image
Take care~


PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:10 pm
by JerryKarin
Yep. I have a small scar near my eyebrow from a similar incident of 'pushing hands' many years ago before I knew any taiji. For people who must learn applications right off the bat, taiji is not the right place. They would be better off with external martial arts like Shaolin, Karate, Taekwando, etc. The thing that some don't understand is fighting with taiji is not something that can be taught directly. First you need to learn the principles through form (understanding your own body and structure) push hands (understanding another's movements and structure). Only then does learning applications make sense in taiji. Trying to do push hands too quickly is also a mistake and at best unproductive and at worst causes bad habits or even injury. Westerners, and Americans in particular, are often obsessed with instant gratification. Whenever I read web comments (you can find them every day on emptyflower) of people complaining about MA teachers not showing applications quick enough, or supposedly putting too much emphasis on taiji 'for health', I find myself groaning at their lack of understanding of the whole enterprise, and wondering what kind of person is so intent on kicking butt all the time. What's the hurry?

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 08-20-2006).]

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:41 pm
by JerryKarin
To give an example, somebody was telling me that Eddie Wu, who is a formidable martial artist and can certainly apply it, was forbidden to push anyone for a few years. He was only allowed to neutralize.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:59 pm
by Pamela
"Westerners, and Americans in particular, are often obsessed with instant gratification."

Perhaps Jerry, but I thought mine was a reasonable decision. After 2 years of external martial arts and almost 4 years of TaiChi form practice I felt ready to give it a bit of a go. I was away from my school and so had no other option at that time but to explore on my own, I felt. I had been feeling exceptionally "sunk", "song" perpetually, for many body felt very ready for the experience. After that amount of learning, work and dedicated practice I felt ready. I do not feel that instant gratification was a factor. What I took away from the experience was that there must be a process to learning push shouldn't just try to use all energies as Audi points out...some things are better to try first, others are a more delicate issue and more dangerous.

Best regards,

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 10:09 pm
by JerryKarin
Sorry, I wasn't referring to you, Pamela, but more to that fellow who keeps coming here with different ID's to carp about how the Yangs supposedly don't teach applications.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 10:35 pm
by Pamela
Ah, thanks Jerry...Just thought I'd re~enforce the fact that even with much form practice it is still a good idea to learn push hands through a qualified teacher, rather than experiment on ones own with it.

Like that Classics line that has been discussed must cultivate oneself, but first one must be taught orally the proper path or procedure.

It's easy to believe that push hands is a harmless practice due to the gentleness, softness that it exhibits, is executed with...however, I learned the hard way, that that is quite deceptive.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 10:47 pm
by Pamela
Hello Kalamondin,

"What is the difference between applications and push hands for you?"
"I thought I'd open a thread because there are a variety of opinions out there about what defines or constitutes applications vs. push hands. I'd like to see what people are thinking."

Hmmm...In my mind...Push Hands is the venue for the applications represented by TaiChi form postures.

To me, applications are the umph possibilities with which we can use single energies or combinations of energies within the exchange of Push Hands...

That's just what I am thought on the subjects at the moment. Image

PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:21 am
by Kalamondin
When Yang Jun started his push hands training (I think at age 14) he was also forbidden from using applications and restricted to neutralizing for three years. In telling the story his face conveyed how frustrating this had been. Then he said, in his understated way, that afterwards he understood the thirteen energies well.

I think there's a lot of value in training that way. When I started out, I was just as excited as the next student about the next new application, and it wasn't until later that I developed an appreciation for slower circles and more subtle exercises. Maybe that was after my own shoulder was dislocated on account of not having spent enough time learning to yield with my shoulder joint!