To push or not to push hands?

Postby mrnaples » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:27 pm

<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.>

souds nice..but is treu!

theres more to tai chi, then just peng , Lu Ji an...
think about it

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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:47 pm

There is one huge, gaping problem with push hands - you have to actually have a partner to practice it. At different times in your life working, child care, and so forth make it tough to find the availability of partners and the time - beyond what you are already spending on form practice - to do much push hands. Luckily we are blessed with a very nice solo practice which we can depend upon even when time is tight and partners unavailable. Children grow up, work schedules change, partners turn up... don't let some of the bravado above about taiji is incomplete without... discourage you if push hands does not loom large in the picture at present. When the opportunity arises, definitely do it because it will only aid your training.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 11-25-2007).]
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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:59 pm

What adds to the practicality of pushing hands are Taijiquan's unique principles of softness and coordination instead of hardness and brute strength. This makes push hands a gateway for anyone, old, young, big, small, male, female, etc., to be able to acquire an efficient technique for self-defence.

As I mentioned above, it is also the most important "test" for a Taijiquan teacher. If the teacher doesn't know pushing hands, they have no business teaching. If your movement doesn't have the leverage to work in order to move another's centre, or to protect your own, how can a student know what you are showing them is correct? A teacher should be able to demonstrate consistently and conclusively that their execution of the techniques in the forms are accurate as advertised. A student should be able to directly see and feel what is being taught, otherwise how can they know they aren't being fed a line of smoke and mirrors?

Healing was mentioned by another poster above, without pushing hands, without knowing what realistically affects and doesn't affect joints and muscles, how can you realign them? There are other disciplines, sure, but a massage therapist can't hold a candle to a traditional Taijiquan teacher's tui na abilities.

I was fortunate to have spent time and to have had classes with Wu Daxin laoshi and his disciples (esp. Dr. Wu, no relation) on the theories and applications of Taijiquan related tui na, acupuncture, herbs, etc., as well as the positionings relative to others we in the west might call "psychology."

I know I'm downloading about this issue on the Yang family discussion board a lot, but the question is one that comes up frequently in my teaching career and I have a lot of answers ready. I hope it is interesting, at least.
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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:06 pm

(In reply to Jerry K.)

Yes. Pushing hands without form is equally unbalanced. My comments were aimed at the original poster's question about wanting to master the art.

That is why we are lucky to have so many Yang Chengfu Taijiquan centres all around the world. If such isn't available, then the push hands guidelines should help in finding another qualified teacher.

Also, another interesting thing I learned was that as tough as it may be to find one partner, it isn't enough. One should have access (over the years) to at least 8 different pushing hands partners in order to work with different combinations of body types.

A successful school is the best way to go. There is no substitute for it. If a person has the bug and wants to master the art, they have to go to where the art is.
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:15 pm

Right. To master taijiquan, push hands is required.

Let me add that 'mastery' in the case of taijiquan or any martial art has some baggage and so 'mastering' taiji is somewhat different from learning to ride a bicycle well. 'Mastery' of cycling, in the same sense we speak of 'mastery' of taijiquan, would be stuff like tour de france or trick cycling. And yet there is a much simpler level at which somebody knows how to ride even if he is not a world class player. And this is where I think Yang Zhenduo is brilliant in touting taijiquan as a 'multi-purpose art'. 'Mastery', in the sense of world-class practitioner, is not in fact what most are seeking.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 11-25-2007).]
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:01 pm

You make a good point. Without correct knowledge of pushing hands techniques, at least, a teacher most likely will not be able to help someone heal themselves very well. Someone with the proper knowledge of body alignment and movement will make a much better healer of others than someone without that knowledge.
However, I don't know if that really translates to students who work only with form under such a teacher. As long as the teacher has the requisite knowledge of body mechanics to help the student move with correct Tai Chi Chuan form, then that will probably be enough to help that student heal.
Certainly the healing would come more quickly if the student learns proper push hands techniques, but I could not make the argument for "necessary" or "required" to achieve healing.
For the martial side of the art, most certainly it will be necessary. It is the gateway to the "martial" aspects.

The subject of "mastery" of Tai Chi Chuan has lead me to what may be an interesting question...
Who decides when you get to be called a "Master of Tai Chi Chuan"?
I mean, can anyone just hang up a shingle and say, legitimately at least, "I am Master Soandso"? Or is there a process to go through?
Is there some sort of committee that meets once a year or something?
I honestly don't know and until now hadn't really thought about it.
I mean, I can pretty unequivocably say I'm not Master material, and likely never will be in this lifetime. But what about someone who truly does want to be a Tai Chi Chuan "Master"? How would they go about it? And by that I mean AFTER they have put in the requisite time and effort to acquire true skill.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:56 pm

Greetings Bob,

Re: “Or is there a process to go through?”

I prefer the gerund form, “mastering.” That is the process.

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Postby Bradeos Graphon » Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:35 pm

I know the master debate has probably been done over in the past, it is still interesting to this old dead horse beater.

The two or three teachers whom I've met over the years who would qualify as "masters" in my book (due to their ability to effortlessly reproduce the subtlest aspects of the art, and through whose generosity those aspects were displayed for their students' edification), professed to be still learning, studying in their particular fields of interest. And they all seemed to be acutely interested in the process still. They hadn't stopped working on themselves or the art, even if the rest of us were awestruck!

While in agreement with the above, there is no end of learning in this plane (or hopefully any other), I use mastery as a term of convenience, denoting people in whom the art is strong enough to be transmitted intact to the next generation.

Going on Youtube and looking up videos of people like the Yang brothers (Zhenji and Zhenduo), Fu Zhongwen, Hao Shaoru, Sun Jianyun, Wu Yinghua, Chen Shitong, etc., will illustrate people at the level I find the most inspiring.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Nov 28, 2007 7:10 pm

OK. Now we've established that even the "Masters" have room for improvement. Though that was not the issue...

I understand clearly that the only way to achieve Mastery is the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.
What I am wondering about is the point at which your first name gets to be "Master".
Who decides this?
Does your Master say to you one day, "You're there. Hello Master Soandso" or is there a committee of some kind that you have to go in front of...?
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:37 pm

The terms used in Chinese really don't match up well to our 'master' terminology. Most are just variations on 'teacher'.

My only point is that while push hands is necessary to get the full taiji curriculum, there is nothing wrong or even 'lacking' in just doing the solo form as a type of qigong. Even without any push hands or weapons, the traditional form is a very healthful thing to do. Probably more than half of the people who learn taiji never go beyond solo form - and they are able to get good benefits just from that (as long as they learn from a good teacher and practice diligently). So I am a little concerned that the message might come across as don't bother with taiji unless you are prepared to go the whole way with push hands, etc... which is incorrect.
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Postby Audi » Sat Feb 02, 2008 1:34 am

Hi everyone,

Something I wanted to add to the discussion of what you can learn through Push Hands are seven (or more) specific control skills that are hard or impossible to develop only through the solo form. Here is how I would describe them at present.

Ting: The ability to sense the opponent's intention through touch or the intention to touch.

Dong: The ability to understand the opponent's intention and know his or her empty and full through touch or the intention to touch.

Hua: The ability to dissolve, transform, or neutralize the opponent's intention and affect his or her empty and full through touch or the intention to touch.

Zhan: The ability to draw out the opponent's energy from his or her root and make that energy adhere to your energy through touch or the intention to touch.

Nian: The ability through touch or the intention to touch to make the opponent feel as if he or she is moving through a sticky, viscous, or heavy liquid that does not block any movement, but yet makes every movement difficult to complete.

Lian: The ability through touch or the intention to touch to make the opponent feel as if he or she cannot get free of your dynamic control.

Sui: The ability through touch or the intention to touch to get "behind" the opponent's energy, giving him or her the feeling there is something to be obtained, but which he or she cannot obtain.

Together these skills give you a subtle way to control the opponent's movement and intention in an indirect way.

Take care,
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Postby Simon Batten » Sat Feb 02, 2008 2:23 am

Well I've read all these postings now on the pros and cons of push hands and I don't really have a view on it either way, but I suspect the emphasis on push hands is exaggerated and I agree with one poster who said that it doesn't really train you in practical fighting as such but might contribute some skills or relevance to it. I read somewhere recently that one of Yang Cheng Fu's sons (I think Yang Zhenduo's next eldest brother) neither taught nor practised Push Hands himself for a decade, as he didn't really consider it that important, which I would have thought represents high authority for the proposotion that Push Hands is not necessarily essential for the development of health and/or martial power through Ta Chi. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby roh mih » Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:35 am

Thank you for all these postings, and I would be very glad to hear more. :-)

If I had opportunity to do Push Hands, which is very rare here in the Philippines, I would think of learning that. But since there isn't that much opportunity here, I'll content myself doing Tai Chi, and not despair that I'm missing something. :-)
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Postby Audi » Sat Feb 09, 2008 2:56 pm

Greetings all,

I am somewhat surprised by the comments that say that Push Hands has only a little relevance to fighting. Perhaps such comments are directed at the type of Push Hands that emphasizes only health aspects or sport competition. I think how much it relates to "fighting" depends on your knowledge and understanding of the energy involved.

Take Zhou (elbow energy) for example. Just about all martial arts competitions limit or forbid elbow techniques, even if such techniques are applied to the body. They do this partly because some elbow techniques can be especially dangerous. Elbow techniques are, however, a basic component of Push Hands. Control of the opponent's elbow is even introduced at almost the most basic level. If you look at most Push Hands sessions, you will, of course, not see many overt elbow strikes; but this is for reasons of interest and safety, not because the foundational training is not there.

In my opinion, all the other energies are the same. We mostly practice them in "nice" safe ways, because of our interest and because of safety. They can, however, be practiced very differently. It is only a matter of emphasis, knowledge, understanding, and ability.

If Push Hands were not important, why do a good number of the Tai Chi Classics mention Push Hands, or at least the skills we practice through push hands?

Also, I think it is misleading to think of Push Hands as completely separate from free sparring. I think it is better to think of it as a continuum. At its most basic, it is probably easier and safer than doing the form, although hardly anyone practices it as much as the form is practiced. From the basics, you can proceed from fixed movements to free movements, from larger circles to smaller circles, and from longer energy to shorter energy. At the end, the practice is going to be fairly close to free sparring and include many elements that require the participants to hold back and emphasize safety.

Take care,
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