To push or not to push hands?

To push or not to push hands?

Postby roh mih » Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:34 am

I'm relatively new in Tai Chi, with barely two years of experience. I do tai chi more for health rather than-- in fact, never for-- its martial applications. Now, I heard about this push hands. Is it really necessary or a requirement that I should learn and do this to be able to really learn and master tai chi?
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Postby Linda Heenan » Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:43 am

Taichi was orriginally created and taught as a martial art. The writings of it's founders clearly state that in order to gain the civil benefits of improved health, clarity of mind, etc, practitioners must have a clear understanding of the martial. This is because in order to practise this art as an internal art, one has to practise it mindfully and all the movements of the forms have direct martial applications. Since one must understand something in order to practise it mindfully, it is necessary to comprehend the martial applications if one is to properly practise Tai Chi.
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Postby shugdenla » Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:01 pm

Taijiquan was initially martial but one does not need to know the martial application for benefit. But again, this depends on the age of the students and use of taijiquan.

Some pointers that I teach for understanding:
a. Form does not build martial practice.

b. One must transcend form but studying and forgetting it.

c. Build gong and you will get alot further along with taijiquan.

d. Gong is the entry point of all benefit whetehr you call it wuji zhuang, taiji zhuang, ding shi practice, etc.

e. Taiji as daoyin utilizing bending, stretching, left/right cordination with chanssujin/chansigong!

f. Add (e) to all taiji and you will gett superior benefit.

g. If even you are not aware of (e), one will still get benefit as evidenced by the many studies showing benefit with taiji.

h. Taiji is not the end all of anything. One size does not fit all so explore all avenues.
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Postby Steveg219 » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:55 pm

Push Hands complements the form and reveals principles and meanings of the form that you otherwise would not be exposed to. Push hands should not be equated directly to the martial aspect of Tai Chi, is is mostly the place in which you learn sensitivity, listening and what is really means to root when "push comes to shove" (pun intended).

Martial applications of Tai Chi actually occur beyond the level of push hands which is primarily a developmental set of exercises revealing principles and meanings that the form alone does not reveal easily.

It is highly recommended and will complement your practise greatly
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Nov 16, 2007 4:33 am

Push hands sheds light on how the form uses circles, tests your stances, provides opportunities to tune your structure, helps develop fang song (extend and lengthen) and the eight energies (peng, lu, ji etc), all of which in turn enhances the health benefits. It introduces a safe and controlled way to interact with an 'opponent' and leads to psychological growth.
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Postby fol » Fri Nov 16, 2007 4:45 am

The form is practice in optimal, resilient response to the downward force of gravity. Push hands is practice in optimal, resilient response to other forces, from all sides.
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Postby Steveg219 » Fri Nov 16, 2007 5:31 am

Nice descriptions in your posts!!
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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:37 pm

I agree and encourage people to learn pushing hands if they have the opportunity. It is a powerful training system for conditioning; as well as advanced elements of timing, coordination, positioning and sensititvity. These advanced principles in turn will help inform, explain and improve your hand form. So we say that the hand form cannot improve without hundreds and eventually thousands of hours of pushing hands.

The full health benefits of taijiquan cannot be realised without push hands. Push hands challenges the body more than the form does. You'll have not just your weight, but you'll carry at least some (if not all) of the partner's weight on your stance framework as you go through the technically required motions of the routines, specifically designed for increased conditioning benefit over that of form training.

There are health (and meditative) benefits to doing forms without push hands, but there is also a slight risk of an energy inbalance if just form is trained intensely without push hands. Good pushing hands (as well as fa jin, for another famous example, and some other trainings) are "dispersals" that can break up and discharge any built up stagnant energies from the body.

The "team building" civil value that Jerry Karin mentions is another benefit. Just be careful not to be too social! Push hands also has meditative value if approached in the right spirit. Chatting idly while pushing leads to a loss of sensitivity. Without sensitivity you can't follow and stick to the incoming pushes completely and the benefits of pushing hands start to go out of the window.

[This message has been edited by Bradeos Graphon (edited 11-16-2007).]
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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:44 pm

Bradeos Graphon
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:13 pm

Roh Mih,
Since my confreres have made such good sense on the why, how and what-for of push hands, I'll just put in my two cents on a more personal level.
In my group of Tai Chi brothers and sisters we have the penultimate pacifist sister. She is training TCC not for its martial context but strictly for its health side, period.
This fine lady resisted doing push hands for quite a while, because she felt it was a bit too "martial" for her tastes.
Well, one day she showed up a bit early for the form class and observed the rest of us having the time of our lives doing push hands.
After watching how entirely innocuous push hands is she has since begun training and is now one of the most avid practicioners of the art we have in our group.

Push hands is quite simply a lot of fun. It can also be frustrating when you're having a "not in the zone" day, but for the most part it's almost more fun than human beings should be allowed to have.
Rather than thinking of it as a "path to the martial art", think of it as a path to learning more about yourself and the art of TCC than any amount of form training can give you.

Believe me when I tell you, my Tai Chi sister would not touch the practice of push hands if she felt she was in any way being "martial" when she did so.
You learn about circling, weight distributions, moving energy and chi from push hands. You learn about yourself, you learn about others. You learn what works well for your body, you learn what doesn't work at all.
What you won't learn is how to be the next Bruce Lee. By itself pushing hands will not teach you the "martial art". That comes later, during sparring.
Push hands alone is not a "fight". It is a contest in which both players do nothing but win.
I tell people that don't want to train the "martial art" aspects of TCC that push hands is no more martial than a game of basketball or twister. You use your body to play those games, right? Same thing.
Well, actually since in push hands both players always win, it's even less competitive than that.

Further, this same wonderful lady now trains sword form with us as well.
We simply talk of the forms in terms of "energy and body movement" instead of "martial applications" when she is at class.
She enjoys learning the different ways you have to move your body in weapons training, because it carries directly back over into her tennis playing. For that reason, she is learning how to handle an object, move her energy into it and use it along with her body seamlessly to achieve a goal.
She says her tennis game has improved immensly.
Of course, the running joke now is that we're going to have to pick her up a "Stone Cold Killer" T-shirt to wear to class!
But that's just because we love to tease her. In reality, we all think it's wonderful that she's opening her horizons and learning more about this wonderful art.
That she is able to take the skills she is learning by doing so back into other "non martial" aspects of her life is a testament to how all encompassing the art of TCC can be.
Not everyone wants to become the next Yang Lu Chan. TCC embraces the health and kenesiology of life just as well as it embraces the martial arts.
One aspect is not more "legitimate" than another. All are perfectly acceptable reasons to train.
There are as many reasons to train TCC as there are students training it. Yours does not have to be the same as anyone elses.
Take what you want from it, leave the rest, but don't mistake the entire art as a martial art.
It is a life art.
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Postby yslim » Fri Nov 16, 2007 8:33 pm

Hi Bob
"IT IS A LIFE ART." you wrote....
Thank you for a beautiful post of 'Thou art' experience from your 'liberated' taiji class room instead of a 'Forbidden Taiji city.
Love to hear from you for more of such 'Taiji-beautiful' life experience.

Have a nice Taiji day.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Nov 19, 2007 9:52 pm

I like how you said that. "'liberated' taiji class room instead of a 'Forbidden Taiji city".
That's really quite cool. I'd never thought of it that way before. I've attended a school that could be called "A Forbidden Tai Chi City" so I've been in both worlds. I like this one better.
Yes, our classroom is quite liberated. We have a very good teacher to teach such a diverse group and he not only got us all moving he got us all moving in the same direction.
We are more like a Tai Chi family, rather than just individual students all doing their own thing.
I've not attended a school like it before and it has been simply the best experience I've had.
We're a fun group here in Kentucky. If you're ever in the neighborhood drop me a line and I'll introduce you to the gang. I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much.
We have quite a few Tai Chi stories in our group, everything from the above mentioned young lady learning better tennis skills to another who can now walk without the assistance of her walker or even a cane, all from her practice of the art.
I know it's a line from a movie someplace, but our teacher teaches the philosophy that "hurting people is easy, healing them is hard". We're looking for as much hard work around here as we can get.

Bob Ashmore
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Postby mrnaples » Wed Nov 21, 2007 3:02 am

I'm relatively new in Tai Chi, with barely two years of experience. I do tai chi more for health rather than-- in fact, never for-- its martial applications. Now, I heard about this push hands. Is it really necessary or a requirement that I should learn and do this to be able to really learn and master tai chi?

just do push hands, with your health idea in mind.
and don't bother urself in thinking that you should do push hands, as a form of fighting or self defence thing..
push hands, goes hand in hand, with the form, to better serve you, in your health quest!

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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:03 pm

Hi Roh Mih,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I heard about this push hands. Is it really necessary or a requirement that I should learn and do this to really learn and master tai chi?</font>

To really learn and master Tai Chi, push hands are necessary; however, you can definitely enjoy and benefit from Tai Chi without doing push hands. The question, then, is do you really want to learn and master Tai Chi?

One of the things that I find most interesting about Tai Chi is that it appears to demonstrate philosophy in concrete action. "Soft overcoming hard," "exchanging empty and full," "Taiji non-dualism," the cycling of the five phases/elements, "using stillness to overcome action" and "leaving later, but arriving first" are all things a skilled person can physically show you in push hands. I find that one of the greatest health benefits is to begin to see and practice these principles in your daily life.

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 11-25-2007).]
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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:20 pm

Another thing about pushing hands that hasn't been mentioned is its practical utility.

I've had the experience that when people say "martial" they are talking about thugs or bandits. For the purposes of traditional Chinese martial arts schools, though, it was well known that one didn't have to carry a sword to be killed by one. the technique of pushing hands taught first is defensive. Eddie Wu sifu told me once: "When I was a kid they didn't let me hit anyone, it was purely defensive; neutralise, neutralise. Without knowing how to defend yourself, the offensive isn't worth a penny."

Yang Luchan, Yang Banhou, Yang Jianhou, Wu Jianquan, Wu Gongyi and Wu Gongzao taught military officers. The martial art of Taijiquan is the ultimate test. When you want to "master" the art, without pushing hands it is completely impossible. In the classics, the "Yang 40 chapters" that Doug Wile translated, it says forms without martial content are "facile gesturing."

When you are good at pushing hands, you are no longer a pushover. You have no reason to be in fear of other people, and all the myriads of tricks they use to intimidate each other fall away. You stand on your own feet. People who aren't good at pushing hands are the ones who tend to dismiss it.
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