I'd actually like to go to the form sessions but unfortunately the only time i can make it is for the monday sabre form because i only get mondays off. If something else comes up where the form stuff or push hands is on a monday I'd like to attend. It would be good to hear Yang Jun's opinion on the form that i know and get a chance to question him on the shao hou side of the family.
In response to the push hands question, i am not used to the phrase eight gates, you'll have to explain that to me for me to answer that.
However, push hands in our system is used as a percursor to close quarter combat. The way we do it is "in your face" rather than the long/wide stance stuff you're probably used to seeing. it is used a bit like wing chun uses chi-Sao. It teaches you to feel the opponents intent/movement allowing you to deflect, redirect and attack.
It is done at several different levels in our system, starting with what I would call beginner/basic level which would resemble what I commonly see as push hands with wide stances etc. Developing structure and weight shifting. Moving on to short combat stances with more emphasis on waist movement and rolling around the attack. It's quite difficult to explain without showing you. The stuff you see in most of erles videos is pretty basic stuff. However we do not restrict ourselves to peng, li, ji, an. We will strike when openings appear (I've been led to believe that you guys do not/are not allowed to strike during push hands). We do not have fixed step or moving step, it is all combat orientated.
We do single push hands, then double, then into chi sao (not sure if you guys do this). Each stage puts you closer to combat. Eventually the mechanics, techniques and attacking angles that you gain from doing your form should flow into the chisao with whatever movement fitting a given situation being used i.e. free fighting.
It should be noted that I do not think that push hands is combat, rather a tool that gives me an understanding of real combat and teaches me how to feel the opponents intent and gets me closer to what real combat is.
How does what i have described compare to your way of push hands? All i have seen of push hands outside of our system is competition push hands (which i get why people do it but i don't agree with. don't agree with competition martial arts on the whole) which in my opinion looks a lot like sumo wrestling( lots of pushing and shoving but no strikes trying to get opponent off balance) and demo push hands which i feel looks quite pretty but doesn't look like there could be any practical application for, in particular the really long low stances (i get that its for flexibility and stability).
I have had some experience in push hands with a li style practitioner but found that she didn't feel for any attack from me rather just rolled/deflected without me in contact i.e. she just went through the motions. She said tht it is normal to move three times and then begin to attack/defend. This is someone who I understand is a wold champion in tai chi forms and push hands (don't ask me which association i have just seen some photos of her with loads of medals and cups that say world champion). Is that common in association taiji? In my opinion if the opponents hand is withdrawn i.e. Contact is broken, then I should strike them. You should not yield unless there is something to yield to. It is like moving and just expecting your opponent to not try and hit you.
My background is in wing chun and i learned the same principle then. They have a saying "When it arrives, detain. When it pulls away, release. If the hand drops, charge forwards."
What is your opinion on this principle? Or am i reading too much into the whole sport thing? (Which, again, i don't agree with)
The training methods that Erle used are all there to teach the body mechanics needed for fighting. Many were for fajing, but all isolated individual mechanics from the form such as silk reeling so that you can practice a particular aspect of the form seperately, whilst trying to generate power. I happen to be going through the silk reeling drills at the moment.
Thought you might be interested. Most recent copy of combat and healing. Our associations magazine. Commemorative issue. Free to download. I think you have to register with the site.http://issuu.com/nasserbutt/docs/combatandhealing
Actually has pics of Erle receiving his masters degree in china with one of Fu Zhong Wens disciples Wang Xing-wu.
Also, not that i encourage illegal file sharing, i have been told that there are a couple of Erle's dvd's floating around on demonoid if you wanted to see some of what Erle taught. I think part of the taiji to the max series.