PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:39 pm

Isaac,
Welcome to the forum. You'll find most of us have a bit of joviality in our replies.

"Front or back? Does it matter?"
My response is an unequivocal "yes".
Now you will ask why.
It's not a matter of "chicken or egg, which came first?" It's a question of the best method of progression in an art.
We're not creating an art de novo, so we already have chickens and eggs, though we'll never know which came first in this art either. In the long run, just as in the original question, it really does not matter.
We're working on a traditional martial art that has been around for quite some time so there have been nany teachers, Masters and Grand Masters that have gone before us and they have done quite a bit of experimenting with what the best method is for teaching the art. Those methods are what we call "tradition" now. We follow them because they work.

I have trained at a few schools of martial art in my day, all of the have had "traditional methods". A progression of teaching that has been passed down to them through generations.
These methods are tried and true. They have been proven over and over again to take a student down a path that has been shown to help them reach their goal.
Not all of these schools have been "internal" martial art schools. I have studied several hard styles of martial art and those schools all had their traditional methods of teaching as well.
Funny how no one ever questions those methods...

Now, I'm not a proponent of "we've always done it this way, so it's the only way we can do it". Not at all.
I'm all for trying out new ways of doing things, and that's exactly what I have done.
However, every time I have left the "traditional" path of training in any martial arts system, I have expended a lot of energy and gotten very little, if any, result.
Details are boring and not too important to the discussion. Let's just say I've grown a wild hair from time to time and had to scratch it. Doing so is usually quite fun, for a time.
Then you find that you're not really progressing at all, really all you're doing is flailing around in a vacuum of ignorance because you have no path to follow to move forward.
Any skills I learned while walking these paths have been superficial, at best.
When I come to my senses and get back onto the "traditional" path, then I begin to move forward.
Slowly.
One day of practice gives me one day of improved skill.
That's all I can ever hope for. All anyone can ever hope for.
There are no short cuts.
Jumping ahead to learn push hands may give you some skill at the techniques of push hands. I have no problem with that but I do not see it as desirable in and of itself.
What that will not give you however is the understanding of your own body that is required to really learn how to perform Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi Chuan is not an art comprised of simple to learn local "techniques", it is an art comprised of using your entire body all at the same time in a coordinated fashion.
If only I could get my students to understand this!!!
Everyone wants to learn "techniques", sadly I have no techniques to teach them. I teach Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi Chuan comes from your core, from your center. Not from your limbs.
When you understand that you cannot move only your arm to do something, that moving your core moves your arm and puts your entire body behind the movement which lends it all the power of your entire body, then you begin to understand Tai Chi Chuan.
This can only be learned through diligent and correct practice of any of the long forms of Tai Chi Chuan. The movements are rooted in your feet, released by your legs, directed by your waist and expressed in your fingers.
This is not a flippant phrase, this is a detailed explanation of the method.
It takes time and effort to understand how this works.
You have to put in the time and invest in the sweat equity of Tai Chi Chuan in order to learn it.
There are no shortcuts. Oh, I said that.

Time to go. I have to get to Michigan to learn more about the method from Yang Jun.

Bob
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby DPasek » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:50 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:Jumping ahead to learn push hands may give you some skill at the techniques of push hands. I have no problem with that but I do not see it as desirable in and of itself.
What that will not give you however is the understanding of your own body that is required to really learn how to perform Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi Chuan is not an art comprised of simple to learn local "techniques", it is an art comprised of using your entire body all at the same time in a coordinated fashion.
If only I could get my students to understand this!!!
Everyone wants to learn "techniques", sadly I have no techniques to teach them. I teach Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi Chuan comes from your core, from your center. Not from your limbs.
When you understand that you cannot move only your arm to do something, that moving your core moves your arm and puts your entire body behind the movement which lends it all the power of your entire body, then you begin to understand Tai Chi Chuan.
This can only be learned through diligent and correct practice of any of the long forms of Tai Chi Chuan. The movements are rooted in your feet, released by your legs, directed by your waist and expressed in your fingers.
This is not a flippant phrase, this is a detailed explanation of the method.
It takes time and effort to understand how this works.
You have to put in the time and invest in the sweat equity of Tai Chi Chuan in order to learn it.
There are no shortcuts. Oh, I said that.

Bob,

While I can agree with much of what you say, I do not entirely agree, especially when you state things in absolute terms (“will not give you”; “can only be learned”). I do not consider learning Taijiquan body and energy principles through push-hands to be taking a shortcut, lacking ‘sweat equity’, lacking of ‘time and effort’, etc.

While solo forms can greatly benefit a practitioner’s ability to understand and practice Taijiquan principles, I do not agree that these cannot also be developed through push-hands practice. I think that solo forms and partner practices are teaching the same principles, so how could only forms practice be the only way to learn these principles?

For example, when I am teaching Taijiquan push-hands class I start with one person receiving energy, without using their arms, from two partners feeding them energy. This begins with an emphasis on sensing energy, what happens in the receiver’s body as well as what is happening in the issuer’s bodies; feeling the angles, changeability, speed, force, tensions, breaks in body principles, etc, etc, etc. The first variation of this push-hands practice is where the issuers try not to push the receiver off balance so that the receiver can focus on sensing without tensing due to trying to not be unbalanced. (Note: The two issuers vs. one receiver also helps to reduce the competitiveness of one-on-one interactions. It also helps the receiver keep in mind that their energy and structure should be appropriate in the ‘six directions’ since the issuers would be on two different sides of the receiver, rather than the receiver only focusing on one direction as often happens in one-on-one interactions.)

The next variation would also have the receiver not using their arms, but with the issuers trying to sense vulnerabilities and to use these to unbalance the receiver. This addresses your concern about moving from the core, and not the arms, as I agree that the arms should only express the energy being generated by the integrated body. Here the receiver needs to learn to embody the Taijiquan principles that help stabilize the body’s energy (e.g., Yang Cheng Fu’s 10 essentials) in order to not be unbalanced, without resisting or fighting against the issuers energies (not using the arms also helps reduce the likelihood of the receiver resisting or fighting against the energies from the issuers, as does the two-against-one format). These are the same principles practitioners are trying to learn and integrate into their bodies through forms practice, so why cannot they also learn these principles through structured push-hands classes? With push-hands, you have direct feedback as to your abilities and progress, whereas forms allow you to focus on these principles without pressures of receiving energy simultaneously with trying to improve your body and energy principles. But both are developing the same thing, so how would this be a ‘shortcut’...

A third variation would be for the receiver to expand their sphere outward from their body by expanding their arms outward to form a defensive sphere more distant from their torso. This should be an extension of the sensing sphere and is not yet used to attack the issuers. Here, depending on what level the receiver is working on, the arms can be used either just to sense the issuers’ energies, or can also start to be used to deflect or control the energies being received (note that the earlier variations can have the torso deflecting and controlling the incoming energies rather than just sensing the incoming energies and moving with them, depending on the participant’s level of ability and what they are working on).

A fourth variation would be for the receiver to start to sense when the issuers are vulnerable due to either improper body mechanics or due to vulnerabilities caused by their efforts to issue energy, and the receiver can then attempt to issue energy back to either issuer in order to take advantage of the vulnerabilities detected.

There are additional variations where stepping can be added, where all three participants are equally able to issue energy, etc.

From this start, my push-hands class works on specific exercises or drills that help to address principles that participants are having difficulty with when interacting in the above exercises. These usually incorporate partners issuing energy to test structural, movement, or energetic principles, so that they can get direct feedback on their practice.

It is only at the end of class that there is some time for free play push-hands. But even here, participants should be trying to incorporate the principles that are learned from previous structured instruction.

But perhaps you were thinking more of free play when you were talking about push-hands rather than structured classes intended to practice the same Taijiquan principles that are practiced in solo forms?

While extensive solo forms practice will likely greatly help a participant’s push-hands abilities, I do not agree that it is a necessity. I do not agree that participants cannot learn Taijiquan principles from push-hands practice (at least structured practice) without having had solo forms experience.

DP
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:38 pm

Dpasek,
My use of absolutes on this issue was used to highlight my beliefs about the importance of following a traditional path to learn Tai Chi Chuan instead of throwing away the wisdom of generations of Masters who have gone before.
Obviously you have different beliefs on this subject.
Rather than have this discussion devolve into an "I believe/you believe" comparison of teaching methods or paths to reach Tai Chi Chuan, let's simply agree to disagree.

Bob
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby DPasek » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:13 pm

Hi Bob,

Don’t get me wrong, I think that, if not all, then most, Taijiquan practitioners would benefit from serious solo forms work prior to beginning the study of push-hands. But in reality, even the way that forms are taught today is no longer likely to be ‘traditional’. There is much more emphasis on health than martial ability, there is much more written information, like on this forum, than was traditionally available, and teachers today include much more explanations and theory than the traditional methods of instruction (not to mention differences in modern life issues in contrast to life in the 1800s or earlier).

I do not know how instruction was ‘traditionally’, but because of the emphasis on personal physical safety (it is a martial art) it is likely that only family would be entrusted with the skills, or, if outsiders were taught, there would be a period of time needed to assess the character of the practitioner. I have no idea of how long it traditionally was before trusted family members were introduced to push-hands training. Of course this would depend on the individual practitioner’s skill, dedication, fitness, age, and other life situations, but I suspect it would have been much earlier than is typical for modern Taijiquan instruction.

I think that, since push-hands is a part of the same art as is practiced in solo forms, much of the same skill set can be taught by both methods of training. While studying push-hands first may not be desirable, I do think that it is possible, and with properly structured instruction, I do think that it would be possible to learn Taijiquan well this way. But, students who have had serious practice of solo forms do seem to make corrections quicker, and progress faster, than those with less forms experience.

On the other hand, I also think that many Taijiquan schools wait too long before teaching their students push-hands, even if those students are primarily interested in Taijiquan’s health benefits. I think that solo forms and push-hands complement each other, and both should be given serious study and practice.

As I said in my previous post, there is much of what you said that I agree with; perhaps it was your use of absolutes than made me feel like you were becoming too dogmatic. Anyway, I doubt that we need to ‘agree to disagree’ as I think we are not really that far apart in our beliefs (perhaps just a matter of degree).

Cheers,
DP
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:15 am

Hi DP and Bob,

DP, thanks for your interesting post. I think I lean more towards Bob's understanding, but I also think that you two may be talking past each other somewhat. Your approach seems intriguing, but it is quite different from what I think Bob and I are use to and seems to be focused on a different set of skills. You also use your terms in a different way and proceed from slightly different assumptions. Let me try to illustrate.

On the other hand, I also think that many Taijiquan schools wait too long before teaching their students push-hands, even if those students are primarily interested in Taijiquan’s health benefits. I think that solo forms and push-hands complement each other, and both should be given serious study and practice.

I am not sure what other schools do; but according to my understanding, we are currently encouraging people to do push hands precisely for health benefits, even if they have no interest in martial skill.

When I have a new student, I now try to ask why they are interested in trying out push hands. I explain that push hands can be oriented toward health, fighting skill, self-defense, competition, or greater insight into the form and Tai Chi theory. I do not feel qualified to teach push hands for all these purposes, but I can slant my teaching method and the information I give to different purposes. I would say that I, and most students, are most interested in what push hands can teach about Tai Chi theory. Our view, I think, is that the form and push hands are a Yin-Yang pair and that you cannot really know Tai Chi without studying both. This does not mean that doing the form alone is not without benefit. On the contrary, doing the form alone can give great benefit. It just won't give a full picture of what Tai Chi is or what it can be.

I cannot recall exactly when the Association is advising that students begin the study of push hands; but where I am now, we usually try to insist that students at least finish the long form first. In terms of our ranking system, we are now trying to require some knowledge of push hands for entry into the intermediate ranks and for the basic teaching certification. What we call push hands involves circling and application, rather than simple partner exercises.

The overall idea is that practice of the form gives knowledge of your own capacity to produce energy. Once you have some foundation in that you can use this knowledge to gain understanding of the opponent's capacity to produce energy. Once you know the Yin and Yang of this, the two areas of knowledge can support each other. In other words, you will begin to put your knowledge of push hands into the form, and you can use the form to develop your push hands. If you do not know your own energy yet, you have no means of judging your opponent's energy.

I think of push hands as having at least five different stages that have some overlap:
1) learning a movement pattern,
2) learning to make the pattern work after a fashion,
3) learning to put known Tai Chi principles into the pattern,
4) learning how to make the pattern work through (new) Tai Chi principles,
5) developing skill in applying the new principles

I find that stages 3-5 are nearly impossible for those who do not have a good grounding in the form. On the surface, our patterns are fairly simple, put they have have every bit of the complexity that most of the form postures have. I have often had the experience of pushing with folks who have studied for many years, sometimes even for more than ten years, and showing some aspect of a circle that they have never considered or did not realize existed. As a teacher, I must be careful not to overwhelm students, because there is so much to learn even with "simple" patterns.

In talking about the form, I generally talk about the Ten Essentials and five to ten other maxims that come from the classics. In talking about push hands, I try to concentrate more on sticking-adhering-connecting-following and listening-understanding-neutralizing-issuing. With the possible exception of issuing, these are concepts that are very difficult to approach without a firm grounding in the Ten Essentials. There is simply too much to think about. Also, in push hands, you must give the initiative to the opponent, and so have limited control of what transpires. Most students have great difficulty with this approach and can only manage it if the rest of the principles can be put mostly on automatic pilot.

As you go through our approach, you absolutely do get a new understanding of basic Tai Chi principles. I felt I only began to understand the Ten Essentials when I began to study push hands and had to make them actually work. Nevertheless, this is not the ultimate focus, the Ten Essentials are mere tools to something else and it is this something else that is the true study of push hands.

When you talk about push hands, you seem to be focusing on things that we do not talk much about. For instance,

This begins with an emphasis on sensing energy, what happens in the receiver’s body as well as what is happening in the issuer’s bodies; feeling the angles, changeability, speed, force, tensions, breaks in body principles, etc, etc, etc. The first variation of this push-hands practice is where the issuers try not to push the receiver off balance so that the receiver can focus on sensing without tensing due to trying to not be unbalanced

As I said this sounds quite intriguing and I recognize it as similar to what I do and understand; however, it does not translate easily into our push hands system as I understand it. I talk little about about "unbalancing" or "tensing" even though I think I understand what you are talking about and can imagine how it could teach good principles and good habits.

My teaching involves constant references to the form to give students a frame of reference and also some hints as to how to practice outside of class. For instance, we have wrist and elbow circles that require elbow rotations in harmony with "sink the shoulders and droop the elbows." I usually refer to and demonstrate five or six postures from the form that demonstrate the principle and the techniques to give students a way of practicing and understanding the technique. Once they can do it on their own, they then can begin doing it in response to a partner's energy. Without the reference to the form, I find that students have too much difficulty with producing the technique to use it correctly. Even if I demonstrate a solo version of it, they often understand it in a way that is too limited.

This is all I have time for today.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby DPasek » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:07 pm

Thanks for the reply Audi,

I am not an Association member, have experienced numerous teachers’ methods of instruction, and have likely developed an approach that is probably rather unique to my background. Of the posters on this forum, your writings probably come closest to being in sync with my understandings, and I am always happy to read your thoughts. Although we usually approach topics from differing angles, to me the principles expressed are compatible. From the content of your writing, I suspect that you have a very high level of understanding and skill, and I commend the Association’s approach as it appears to have successfully imparted this level to you.

I do not really teach push-hands for fighting, although the skills developed through push-hands training can be applied to fighting; and I agree that there are numerous health benefits from practicing push-hands. You are probably correct that I use terminology differently than many practitioners might, or may approach the topics from different perspectives (e.g. you can reference our forum discussions from years ago concerning the 8 jin).

Note that I practice multiple styles, primarily Chen and Yang, and thus tend to emphasize common principles rather than form specific postures (or style specific drills); I also have students from multiple schools and so their solo forms are not identical, even for those that practice the same style. This means that my teaching must be able to accommodate the variety found among the students. I cannot really point to a specific form movement for the students to practice since, for example, Wu/Hao, Chen, Wudang, and Yang forms are often significantly different in how analogous form postures are performed. If I had students who all studied the identical solo form, then my approach may more closely resemble what you do. While I hope that students take what they learn in the push-hands class back into their individual solo form practices, I usually do not have the format to be able to frequently reference specifics of individual solo forms practices.

To me the awareness of and sensitivity to what is occurring in an interaction is perhaps a primary emphasis for me. For example, I think that a practitioner could apply high level Taijiquan push-hands skills when assisting a person who, through age or damage to the inner ears, has difficulty standing or moving unassisted. Here someone could assist by carrying the person who has poor balance (one extreme), or not assist the person’s walking but be there to help them up after they fall (the other extreme). To practice Taijiquan, a practitioner could instead touch the person in order to sense what is happening with their body and energy (posture, momentum, speed, balance, etc. etc. etc) and gently nudge the person, with minimal applied force, with the correct timing, angle of force, etc. in order to maintain the balance of the person being assisted. Not too little (or they may stumble or fall in the original direction) and not too much (or they may stumble or fall in a different direction). To me this would be an example of using high level – non style specific – push-hands skills, and it is these skills that I am trying to develop.

Of course this same level of awareness and sensitivity should also apply to the practitioner’s own body. Then one can learn how to balance Yin and Yang energies (energy in the six directions, spherical energy, etc.) so that excesses and deficiencies are reduced. Thus in a push-hands context, I would agree that the better one is able to produce the correct principles in their own body, the more that the mind can extend its awareness into the partner’s body and understand what is happening in the interactions between the practitioners.

DP
Last edited by DPasek on Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby DPasek » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:16 pm

Audi wrote:The overall idea is that practice of the form gives knowledge of your own capacity to produce energy. Once you have some foundation in that you can use this knowledge to gain understanding of the opponent's capacity to produce energy. Once you know the Yin and Yang of this, the two areas of knowledge can support each other. In other words, you will begin to put your knowledge of push hands into the form, and you can use the form to develop your push hands. If you do not know your own energy yet, you have no means of judging your opponent's energy.

Audi,

I agree with this, and see where your approach is coming from, but I also use interactive training to practice this aspect of Taijiquan. By having a partner cooperatively feed you energy, you can feel how this affects your body and you can work on the principles that allow you to correct your own posture and energy. By working cooperatively with a partner, you can test to see if you are properly generating energy and power, as well as determining how to properly receive energy from your partner.

I began to provide a specific example, but it was far too complex to adequately convey in a brief post. Hopefully you can have a good enough idea of the possibilities to understand what I may be doing without me providing a specific example.

So I would say that you can use your push-hands partner (in cooperative and structured exercises) in order to better “know your own energy” as well as for “judging your opponent’s energy.”

[Note: You could probably translate my use of terms like ‘sensing energy’ and ‘awareness and sensitivity’ as being similar to Taijiquan’s ‘listening and understanding’; but since listening and understanding are typically applied more to listening to and understanding the partner (rather than to both yourself and your partner), I thought that my terms may be open to a broader context than is typical for the more commonly used Taijiquan terms.]

DP
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby Isaac888 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:45 am

Hi Bob and Audi,

Thank you for the waving clouds. Read through the "chicken and Egg" of pushing hands and weather we should do it first or last and ended up with more confusion.It really is a confusing subject (tai Chi) and all the time I believe in the mystical properties of this exercise. Mystical in the true sense that most of the time , unlike other hard and engaging form , we tend to work on a regimented "shadow play" movement, solely and without a damn clue what we are doing.
We lead the tiger back to the mountain, we portray ourselves as the lady who holds the shuttle" and we sometimes act like a fish who jumps over the dragon gate.

As Bob says, everything seems right when we do it tradionally. However, is it right? Those days when we question our sifu, master, teacher, we will be segrigated, repulsed, and sent down the mountain. (chinese proverb). Its only when you have met confucious and learnt the ethics (chinese ethics) of life will you be accepted again into the society. (up in the mountain again)

Been reading here and there on the tradition of push hand and came across one which said that it was invented by a student of the Yang Style tai chi and not the Yang family tai chi family. Be it Yang Cheng Fu , or Yang Kwai Fei.
Thus, recognition has to be given to this creator who seems to work above traditions. I wonder if he did it before the form?
I have been searching high and low on this simple subject of "front or Back" , "now or Later", "Chicken or Egg" on the need to do push hands practice in a certain time frame during class or lessons. In my opinion, it is not done in the middle of the lesson, i.e not in between the forms. 16 form now, then push hands, then 103, then sword, etc.

One day practice give only habits if we do not get the right advice. Its like playing golf, if you go to the driving range 100 times and hit 200 balls each time, you will hit approx. 20,000 balls (not counting those misses). This exercise will definitely built certain momentum in your swing, your stance, your arm and leg muscle, your waist reflexes and many other which joins to be a whole. Without a coach in the begining, those muscles and mindset are bound to adhere to your golf swing and further correction by a guru will be difficult.

I don't think it is logical to think that one need to do or practice the form for some time before one is allowed to do the pushing hand technique or exercise. You don't find teachers or sifus saying... look, you should turn your waist like "bao Hu Hui Shan" or apply 8 ounce of pressure when your opponent is on the offence and you are retreating into a "ti shou shang shi" position. Apply it with your leading hand. Open up you chi gate and release , 11 Kv of energy through this 8 ounce of pressure.(again at the leading hand) Mystical isn't it.
There is no such thing as moving your core. The act of moving your core is considered very rough even though it has KN or kilo newton on it, it does not have the mystical power, which is the 11KV (kilovolts jolt)
I have not found a book on this kind of teaching and I am putting my mind set to this kind of achievement. With this kind of mystical power, I believe I can heal the sick , the weak, and the injured. I believe "Tai Chi" means Humongous Energy.

It was said that the late Chen man Ching has enormous power and I had witness a sifu who sent someone flying backwards without moving his core.
I sometimes only wish that my sifu, master or teacher has this gift and part it with his students. It like you telling your student, (first by asking) what do you understand about tai chi? Then you show them,.... and say it can do this (apply the 11KV), I bet you will have membership retention without drop out for life.Of course, it is only for the believers.
People with open mind, people who believe that there are more to it than tradition. (hidden facts)

In class, my sifu will show the form and the applications or techniques as you called them. Shoving, side stepping, kicking, chopping and what not. I find them to be very crude, very conventional, (as conventional as hard form) and wonder if it works in real life combat or duel.
These has to be a short cut. Instead of 20 years, it could be achieved in 5 years if the master has it in him or her and is willing to part.
It's not about the art of mystical healing, its not about preparing one self to be the sepure ultimate in fighting, its not about break legs and bones... it's about enhancing self conciousness through meditation and strategic movement. Its about creating something like a third "eye" . Forgive me Lobsang Rampa.

Its like dodging bullets, sensing danger, (a dagger thrown at you from your back) .. its about feeeeeeeling.

So damn the tradition, do more research, get more answers from the Master. Be humble.

I have missed class last week and am looking forward to class tomorrow. Was away in a casino (no meeting with Yang Jun) last week practicing my finger power. Probably pushed the slot buttons a million times. So beware of my iron fingers.

Cheers. No offence meant and no offence taken. All in the exploration of something stupid.

Regards.

Isaac888
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby DPasek » Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:40 pm

Hi Isaac,

Chicken or egg?

I don’t really know, but I suspect that the art of Taijiquan started as an analysis of what worked for fighting (martial art) and that forms were developed later to help in training the aspects that were found to work in application, including incorporating any insights that were gained from theoretical analysis and development.

I doubt that Taijiquan started as a theoretical construct divorced from fighting, had solo forms developed to put theory into practice, and finally had interactive work (push-hands, fighting) added at the end in order to finalize the transformation of theory into application. While it is possible that some ancestor had an enlightened revelation about this art from a theoretical viewpoint and only developed fighting applications based on this insight at a later stage, I think that it would have been more likely to have developed in the reverse order – from fighting application to theoretical construct, with the theory then modifying the practice.

If the above is accurate, then I see no reason that the skills studied in Taijiquan solo practice could not also be developed through interactive work (e.g. push-hands), especially when we have the insights developed by ancestors to transmit the theory and principles of a successful martial art. While it is important to ‘understand yourself’ before you can ‘understand your opponent’, I think that this understanding of oneself can be achieved through interactive work when guided by the theory and principles of the art of Taijiquan (with coaching from a knowledgeable instructor).

On the other hand, the ancestors of this art have developed solo practices in order to improve ones incorporation of the principles into ones own body without the need to have interactive practice partners. And as I stated previously, I think that solo work would benefit all, or at least most, practitioners prior to beginning interactive work; but I seriously doubt that that is the only possible approach. I think that those who seriously study solo practices will usually progress quicker in their push-hands training than those who do not, but I personally do not consider it to be a requirement.

I don’t think of it as a chicken or egg dilemma. Form before push-hands may allow a practitioner to progress quicker, but today, when practice of Taijiquan is more for health and recreation than for fighting and self-defense, does it really matter to anyone but the individual practitioner how quickly the student progresses? I think that both approaches can help a practitioner make progress, and thus that both have value. I think that both approaches can teach Taijiquan; it is another debate if one wishes to debate which approach would be quicker, or better, or more thorough, or more practical, more appropriate for a specific student or teacher....

Cheers,
DP
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Re: PUSH HANDS BEFORE FORM??????

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 18, 2012 2:42 am

Greetings all,

I don’t think of it as a chicken or egg dilemma. Form before push-hands may allow a practitioner to progress quicker, but today, when practice of Taijiquan is more for health and recreation than for fighting and self-defense, does it really matter to anyone but the individual practitioner how quickly the student progresses? I think that both approaches can help a practitioner make progress, and thus that both have value. I think that both approaches can teach Taijiquan; it is another debate if one wishes to debate which approach would be quicker, or better, or more thorough, or more practical, more appropriate for a specific student or teacher....

DP, I can agree with this statement. I believe that either interactive work or solo form can be a wonderful way to explore what Taijiquan has to offer and to improve skills. How far or how fast you would progress using only one or the other is another matter. As I stated before, I see the two as a Yin-Yang pair. Depending on what you want to study, a different mix may be called for.

Been reading here and there on the tradition of push hand and came across one which said that it was invented by a student of the Yang Style tai chi and not the Yang family tai chi family. Be it Yang Cheng Fu , or Yang Kwai Fei.
Thus, recognition has to be given to this creator who seems to work above traditions. I wonder if he did it before the form?

Isaac888, as far as I am aware, the origin of push hands is lost in the mists of time with all other aspects surrounding the origin of Tai Chi. What you are probably referring to as the invention of a student of the Yang family is the so-called San Shou set of 88 forms with an A and a B side. Some Yang Stylists practice this set, others do not. As far as I am aware, the Yang family itself does not.

I don't think it is logical to think that one need to do or practice the form for some time before one is allowed to do the pushing hand technique or exercise.

I do not think our way is the only way; however, as I understand it, we practice formless things through form and internal things through external expression. I see our push hands as a blend of the self and the other. If you do not yet have much control over the self and do not know much yet of internal energy, there is little use talking about the blend. Often I want my students to project energy into their partners in a certain way; however, if they cannot yet thread the energy through their own bodies, I cannot talk much about how to extend it further into the opponent.

here is no such thing as moving your core. The act of moving your core is considered very rough even though it has KN or kilo newton on it, it does not have the mystical power, which is the 11KV (kilovolts jolt)
I have not found a book on this kind of teaching and I am putting my mind set to this kind of achievement. With this kind of mystical power, I believe I can heal the sick , the weak, and the injured. I believe "Tai Chi" means Humongous Energy.

I agree that Tai Chi is not about "moving the core." However, to describe what Tai Chi is really about either takes many, many words or the subtlety of expression present in many of the Tai Chi classics. If you don't have time for many words or lack the knowledge to plumb the depths of the Tai Chi classics, I think it is okay to use approximations like "move the core."

Since many or most of the people I practice work have not read the Tai Chi classics or studied ancient Chinese philosophy, I often pair references to the classics with what I understand to by a reasonably close equivalent from our common culture. For instance, I often talk about using larger and stronger muscles to control movement before smaller and weaker muscles. If I ask them to push, I ask them to push not with the attention on the palms, but on the elbows. If they can do that, then I ask them to put the attention on the shoulders. If they can push with the shoulders, then I ask them to push with the back, or the waist, or the legs. Sometimes even inaccurate descriptions can still be helpful guides to learn.

It was said that the late Chen man Ching has enormous power and I had witness a sifu who sent someone flying backwards without moving his core.

I think it depends what people mean by this. I would say that I have both been sent flying and have sent people flying without much outward movement of the core. Yet, I would say that what I experienced was in accord with the classics as I have been taught them. I claim no great skill; however, sometimes when I demonstrate counters, onlooking students have said: "How did you do that?" If the counter is done to you, you can often feel what is going on, even if you cannot reproduce it yourself. Someone looking from outside, however, may not understand what is done. For me, this is the magic of the Tai Chi I study. And yet, it is the magic of the magician, not the magic of the sorcerer.

So damn the tradition, do more research, get more answers from the Master. Be humble.

I think this can be a worthy approach; however, some who value the tradition might see this as "giving up the near for the far." I personally feel I already have enough answers from those who have dedicated their lives to the tradition, but I often lack the practice, skill, and dedication to use them effectively.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
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