Postby Wushuer » Tue Aug 05, 2003 4:16 pm

Zhan is a push hands and combat skill that I have often found elusive. I can sometimes perform Zhan quite easily, other times I can't find it at all.
I would like to open a discussion here on the subject of Zhan and hopefully gain some greater insight into how to perform this skill more consistently.
First I will try to give a definition of Zhan as I understand it. Maybe if I can articulate my view on Zhan I will find the flaw in my technique is in my understanding of the theory.
It's worth a try.
I have only my memories of how Zhan was explained to me by my instructors at Wu's T'ai Chi Ch'uan Academies to go on, so it could very likely be that my understanding of Zhan will be different than others and may not be wholly accurate for Yang Cheng Fu style TCC. I invite and welcome all and sundry to post their views on Zhan and help me along in my search for this skill in any way they feel might be helpful.
Anyway, here goes:

I remember Zhan as meaning to get your opponent under your control and make him follow you as if stuck to your hand.
When I can do this, my opponent appears to follow my every move and I seem to be able to "read" his movements before he makes them.
I uproot my opponent or at least move his root in a direction he did not expect (I have heard this called "shaking his root" by some instructors) causing him to lose his balance. When he loses his balance he then tries to regain it by borrowing mine, if he loses contact with me he will either stumble away or fall so he borrows my balance to stay upright, sticking to me in the process, and I can then lead him.
When using Zhan I do not use force to move an opponent, I control my own balance (or maybe center would be a better word) but since he is borrowing my center for his balance he must follow me as I move, no matter where I go. I have heard this called "sticking" as opponents actually seem to be stuck to you as you move them around in this fashion.
As I learned this I began to understand the concept of using my opponents own force against him for the first time.
To do Zhan well, I was told, requires a great deal of sensitivity and at least a basic understanding of the underlying principals of TCC combat.
I was also lead to believe that you could judge your skill in TCC by how well this skill has been learned. If that is so, my skill level must go up and down like the tide because, as I've mentioned, my skill at this technique is extremely transient.
I first learned to "shake" my opponents root and then lead them up by lifting my arm and making them raise up to follow, keeping a slight downward pressure where we were joined at the same time so they would not suspect they were being lead (hope that makes sense, it's harder to describe than to do!) then you simply release them and they will almost appear to jump into the air.
That's a lot of fun when you can do it right.
Later I learned that you can "lead" them in any direction, I guess it's just easiest to learn to lead them up first then move on to others directions. Anyway, I have found that leading in the direction of an opponents force is actually easiest for me to do, and usually quite effective.
Later I learned to combine Zhan with other techniques and it became one of many in my repetoire. However as it is one of the four basic push hands and combat techniques that I had to learn to perform to the standard of "practicioner" (along with Nian, Lian and Sui) and I feel I need a great deal of improvement in this technique, I thought I might bring it up here and see what others had to say about it.
Any comments are encouraged and welcomed.
Thanks for any help you can give me in gaining a clearer understanding of this technique and it's theories, histories, relevancies to Yang Cheng Fu style, training techniques, that kind of thing.
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Postby Anderzander » Sun Aug 10, 2003 11:45 pm


I have read your post a few times, even printed it out to read in the garden Image.

I think you are describing a lot more than what I would term 'adhere'. It seems you have explained aspects of all of adhere, stick and connect - and a whole lot more?

In a simple manner I would say 'adhering' is being fixed to one point of an opponent and 'sticking' is revolving whilst adhering.

Sticking and adhering are standing like the scale.

'Connecting' is turning to receive the energy. 'Following' is perhaps allowing your self to be turned.

Connecting and Following is to turn like a wheel.

Adhering to one point I would say has further meaning in that 'the one point' is not the point of contact but the other person's centre of gravity or the origin of their force. (Following the persons back)

Sticking is revolving at the point of contact so that you can be moved by the other person’s force. That’s the mark of a scale - it is moved in order to weigh but remains upright.

Connecting is turning - it is not receiving straight, and enables you to weigh without being weighed.

Following is giving up your own intention in order to be moved by their movement.

It's difficult to separate them isn't it!.

The errors associated with adhere stick, connect and follow are listed as "butting, thinness/insufficiency, resistance and losing/separation"

butting is using strength to adhere - it has the effect of making you lean forward.

thinness is when your peng is insufficient and your position collapses - it has the effect of making you lean backwards.

resistance is when you don’t turn - it is the fault of receiving straight.

separation/losing is breaking contact - it's when you haven’t given up yourself and are moving under your own design. (though later on you can follow your own intention and the opponent.

The rest of the things you mention I would fit into other energies – so I needed to think a bit longer about them. Perhaps you are referring to adhere as in adhere / evade, which I believe then represents more than it does in the context of adhere, stick connect and follow?

Here’s part of my take on adhere and evade

I use binding energy (Chieh) to stop leaning backward - I open out from my centre increasing my chi kung. sort of making the drum fuller. The increase of peng repairs the position - I use peng to adhere tightly to his centre and also to support his pressure. (Possibly with press – ie supporting in two directions)

If I am feeling pretty potent I use this to stop the other persons energy emerging - sort of neutralising their whole body before their energy has completely come out. (I dont get to do that very often!)

This is the adhering half of adhering and evading. The hard, of the hard and soft.

The soft / evading contains draining energy (Tso) – I disconnect and then sink, then close in to my centre, the energy goes inwards and downwards. Their energy falls to my back foot and then I compress. Roll back is the change over from sinking to compression.

If I have connected to their chi kung I can pull them internally with no movement. Closing into my centre draws them in – or up or whatever. If I am feeling potent they can be made to fall without turning them off and without having to neutralise. (I can only do this on good days and only in a demo – not when being pushed)

That’s soft and hard, adhere and evade.

There is still food for thought for me in your post – thanks I’ll keep thinking. I hope mine provides some stimulation for others too.

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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Mon Aug 11, 2003 3:56 pm

Another quote from Wang Yongquan that touches on this topic:

Diffusing jin4 is manifest primarily in adhering, connecting, sticking, and following (zhan1, lian2, nian2, sui2) and loose, sinking jin4. If you want to get a handle on your partner's movements, you must first influence his center and induce him to emit zheng4 jin4 (jin4 emitted in a straight, head-on direction). Zheng4 jin4 is jin4 that the partner emits after his center has been influenced. If you want to get a handle on his center you have to send your loose, sinking jin4 into the partner so that it penetrates into his center, and then either attract him towards you or bounce him away. The method of employing attracting force is but one use of diffusing jin4. In the method of using attracting force you have to use all sorts of ways to dissipate your partner's incoming force by sending it outside your body via your elbows. In this way your partner will uncontrollably lose balance, i.e. he will be led forward and miss his target. The successful implementation of attracting force involves being good at changing one's hand techniques. The changing of hand techniques when using attracting force requires that one does not bend the wrists backward or down in a hook; the wrists should be naturally extended straight and rounded with fullness. So, through one's hands, take the partner's force and lead it down to your elbows, and then from the elbows lead it outside your body. Don't lead it into your body. At the same time you must accurately control the timing of the attraction; only when these changes are executed very precisely can you prevent the partner from being able to react and force him into a passive state.
(p. 230-231)

A bit of my own experience:

After learning how to "attract" I was frustrated for a long time precisely because I was leading it on to my body. After finally trying what I had been told countless times, I discovered that the method of taking it out the elbows is extremeley effective.

Gu Rou Chen
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Aug 12, 2003 8:27 pm

I guess I should have given a more definite definition of my understanding of Zhan. It is very easy to confuse Zhan with other things, especially Nian, as they mean very similar things.
Zhan, as I understand it, means to "stick (or adhere) and control", while Nian means "stick (I've also been told "follow" works here) and shake".
The way I understand this, and again it is only my opinion, is that Zhan is used to control your opponent, Nian is used simply to upset him.
Hopefully that makes sense?
I use Nian at all times when in contact with an opponent, everyone should. I give him what my Sifu used to call "a little trouble" and I escelate that trouble at every opportunity. I don't really have "control" of my opponent when I use Nian, I am merely shaking his root to upset him. I am "adhering" as I would at any time, but I am also making "trouble" so that my opponent is not comfortable when he is in contact with me, and I continually increase that trouble every chance I get. When I give him enough trouble that he loses his balance, then I can bring in Zhan and use that to control his movements.
I guess the difference, as I understand it, between Zhan and Nian is the word "control". If I don't have control of my opponents center but I am shaking it, this is Nian. If I have shaken my opponents center and he is now following me like he is stuck to me with glue and completely under my control, this is Zhan.
I'm fairly sure I have that right. It's been a long time, but this is how I always understood this when I was trying to learn it.
Nian I seem to have down pretty well, though I'm thouroughly out of practice. Zhan, however, escapes me a lot of times and I'm working diligently to try and at least get practicable with this skill again.

Thanks for your comments, I am going over them as carefully as I can. However, it appears to me (admittedly I'm not done reading both posts completely yet) that what we have discussed here so far has mostly been Nian, with some Zhan and even a little Lian and Sui thrown in to boot.
I would be happy to discuss these concepts in any amount of detail anyone would like, in fact I was planning on eventually trying to get a forum together for all four of these skills. I just want to be sure we're talking about the same skill at the same time!
I will be back as soon as I can. Right now, I am pressed for time (when am I not?).
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Aug 13, 2003 9:34 pm

I can now tell my son his push hands suffers from "thinness". As he's taller and much skinnier than I am he will, at first, think I'm yanking his chain. I will also have to explain that his peng is insufficient. I can't wait to see his face for that one!
Let's just say that should be a fun conversation until I explain that I'm talking about how he leans back during roll back when pushing hands.

Seriously though, he does lean back quite a bit when he pushes hands during roll back. Or did, anyway. He just spent two weeks with his grandmother, she's a Wu family disciple who told me that she would train that tendency out of him before she sent him back to me. We haven't had the chance to push hands since he's been back, so I don't know yet.
I have always felt he had one of Chen Xin's "36 push hands sicknesses", Specifically "gun", or "rolling away". I like "thinness" better though, makes better sense to me with my western thinking. Probably very much the same thing, anyway.
No matter how often I try to get him to not lean back this way he still does. He will stop for a while after I, or one of our push hands group, points this out, but he goes right back to it when he stops thinking about it.
Hopefully he has had that tendency trained out of him now, though.

Good post. A lot of stuff in there that I will have to go over carefully. I'll respond more later as I can.
I think that in your post you mostly covered what I know as "nian", adhering and shaking, instead of "Zhan", adhering and controlling. But still very, very good stuff.
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Aug 13, 2003 10:04 pm

I just re-read your post, with considerably more time to read it closely.
This is an excellent quote.
I will most definitely try this method of leading the force out through the elbows. I have heard similar things before, but have not really tried them.
I believe I do as you used, I take the force through my body, usually through my shoulders then down to the floor through my back foot, or I turn it and send it out through my elbows or, if I sink it, through my hips.
I'll give this a try and let you know how it works.
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Thu Aug 14, 2003 5:36 pm


I often feel that in trying to zhan1, I am exposing my center when probing for the partner's center. Taking the partner's strength out through the elbows seems to really open up the waist, help in hiding your center, in distinguishing left and right, and in taking his strength off your body. It feels like you can put it on the floor. This way you are free to move without worrying about him entering. My Wu style (northern) friends always talk about feeling as if you are "dragging the elbows on the ground." Does your school have similar expressions?

Gu Rou Chen
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Aug 15, 2003 8:49 pm

Not that I've heard. They may, but I haven't heard it. They are my former school now. I live 400 miles away and don't get by there very often, so I can't really call them "my school" anymore. My school is now the local YCF center.
I mistyped in my last post, by the way, I said "or I turn it and send it out through my elbows" when I meant to say "or I turn and send it out through my shoulders".
I had elbows on the brain.
Have not had the opportunity to try this yet, I haven't pushed hands with anyone in four weeks now.
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Postby gene » Tue Aug 26, 2003 6:45 pm

Hello everyone:

Here is an article from my teacher William Ting that touches a bit on this subject:

Q. Recently, after a push hands practice, I got to thinking about the push hands and yielding and leading and I thought I would check my ideas with you.

What led me to this was thinking about how most people learn push hands, which is by doing single hand pushing. I never felt comfortable with this, and I was wondering why. What occurred to me was that even though I yielded, and even if I expanded, there was still something missing. And, I came up with the thought that what was missing was the LEADING. Without the leading, it feels like I'm "running away".With leading, I'm yielding with intent, which gives me more control.

Another way of looking at it, is that "yielding only" is going in one direction; leading (while yielding) is the counterbalance to the yielding, thus keeping with the principle of ‚"if there is an up, there is a down".

Also, if when a person yields they must lead, then the opposite is also true; if you lead, you must yield otherwise it becomes force against force. Am I on the right track?

A: In push Hands we have a saying ‚"If you do not move then I do not move, but, if you move then I move ahead of you". The meaning of this phrase is very similar to what you are referring to as leading.

You are on the right track in the way you describe how you are feeling when you are pushing hands but your concepts are only partially correct. The idea of leading is an essential component but first, you have to realize that when you are leading you should not be thinking about it. Because, when you are thinking you have intention and in so doing you will be more likely to transmit information to your opponent. Instead, there should only be awareness, a sensitivity, a feeling, a knowing that places you ahead of your opponent based on their intention, conveyed by the action they initiated. Capture their own momentum to get at their center and cause them to become unbalanced. Use that momentum to control them, change the direction, allow them to either overextend themselves or yield too much. When they realize what is happening it will already be too late.

Yielding - Leading - you even mentioned Expanding; you have all the right pieces but I suspect that you are not consistently putting them all together. As I just mentioned in the previous paragraph, the notion of yielding with intent to create leading is not quite right. If you have intention you yourself are already out of balance.

I know you understand the concept of balance and counterbalance, the idea that giving must contain receiving, and likewise retreating (yielding) must have leading. This is the principle of Yin and Yang. Let's develop this idea a little bit further. All things contain both yin and yang. Yin and yang cannot be separated out. In other words, if you were to take an object and divide it and call one portion Yin and the other portion Yang, still within each half would be aspects of both yin and yang. Even if you were to divide again each of those portions, each segment would still possess aspects of both yin and yang. It would look something like this:

Yin - Yang
Yin - Yang Yin - Yang

Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin- Yang

Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin-Yang Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin - Yang Yin - Yang

Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang Yin-Yang

Can you see what is happening here?


In your play of push hands, no matter where someone touches you, there is yin and yang at that spot. From that point EXPAND all over, using the whole body. By expanding, in effect, you create the capacity to absorb your opponent, giving them the feeling that they are being surrounded by you. In the classics it says,"If the opponent raises up I seem taller; if he sinks down, then I seem lower; when he advances, the distance seems so long; when retreating, the distance seems too short". This is referring to the ability of making your opponent feel that as they move forward they not only cannot reach you but in the process are being led into a deep abyss. Conversely, when they try to escape they find it impossible to get away. This is the technique of sticking and following.

Expansion is one of the qualities that must be in all that you do. The other qualities that are equally as important are sinking and turning. Not only must you yield at the same time you are leading and lead at the same time you are yielding but both yielding and leading must contain all of these qualities at the same time; expanding, sinking, turning.

Yielding only ---> is to give away

Leading only ---> gives too much information

Yield + Lead ----> is better but lacks balance

Yield + Lead + Expanding + Sinking + Turning ---> is the best way.

You also questioned about feeling a difference between single hand or double hand play. No matter which you do there should be no difference the concept is the same. The problem is that most students that I observe playing single push hands usually move just one arm without moving the rest of the body. The whole body must be involved. Tai Chi Chuan is all about wholeness, unity and coordination. As with Tai chi so with push hands, the basic principles apply to both. If you don't have whole body unity then none of this will work.

Best regards,

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Postby psalchemist » Tue Aug 26, 2003 10:34 pm

Greetings Gene,

Very interesting and informative post. Nicely presented too. Image

I would like to highlight and delve deeper into a comment you made. You said, very eloquently,
<Capture their own momentum to get at their center and cause them to become unbalanced. Use that momentum to control them, change the direction, allow them to either overextend or yield too much. When they realize what is happening it will already be too late.> - Gene.

That is a great contribution to the subject of momentum for me.

In an earlier discussion, Audi was stressing the importance of eliminating the momentum from one's solo form practice.

Attempting to control the momentum assisted me in:
-gaining more control within each movement
-more clearly defining each posture
-overextending was greatly reduced
-threading was facilitated, which ultimately lead to a better upper-lower body unity.

Very useful indeed.

Your comment above exptrapolates upon the same idea,but applying the importance of momentum control to Pushing Hands, against an opponent.

As you said, allowing momentum in one's own movement would allow the opponent to easily control him and use his power against him(4 oz lifts 1000 lbs. )

Leading the opponent to use too much momentum seems to be a major tactic within Taijiquan Push Hands.

If one conquers one's own momentum, he will easily overcome any opponent lacking in this same skill.

What replaces this advantage when two opponents are equally matched in momentum skill and neither allows an ounce of power into the others hands? (A lengthy competition indeed). In other words,what is another 'tactic' not involving momentum?

Your combining of the ideas of yin and yang expansion with the 'rules' of momentum has lead me to question the formula of power more deeply.

My Sifu supplied the corner : Power= mass x accelleration, and I am still looking for the other three corners...

I am only beginning to understand the yin yang expansion process. Your formulaic description reminds me distinctly of the Xiantian square. However as there are different levels of understanding, I am seeking to transform these abstract ideas into more tangible manifestations.

So, if Power = Mass x Accelleration, then what is a Taijiquan practitioner using to propel his movements to generate power?

simultaneous acceleration momentum + accelleration control.(sounds paradoxical enough for Taiji) Would this be a correct interpretation of yin/yang in momentum/accelleration? If so which is yin and which is yang?

Also a couple of points I am contemplating...

What would the yin and yang of the Mass be?
What would the yin and yang of the power be?

Any ideas would be welcome,

Thanks for your help,
Best regards,
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Aug 27, 2003 9:36 pm

You're making my head hurt. Sounds too much like algebra to me.
I guess I'm from the hands on school of training that resides in WTCCA's worldwide. I had instructors there that said things like, "Here, do it this way, I'll show you" instead of "x times z equals y where x is force and z is momentum".
So the only way I could answer this would be to stand up with you and say, "Here, do it like this, I'll show you".
Momentum is an integral part of TCC movement. You use it, I use it, EVERYONE uses it. As all things in life this could be used against you if you let it.
I hate to say this, but there is no way possible to remove the momentum from your form. Can't be done. That would be like saying, "I removed movement from the form". Momentum exists no matter what you do as soon as you move any part of your body, or have it moved for you. You can train to control this momentum, as you mention, but you can't remove it.
The question then is if you can control it.
This is a YCF style website, so I will do my best to leave Wu style theory out of it. The only thing I will say is, the Wu family makes the answer to your question, "what doess a TCC practitioner use to propel his movements to generate power?", very clear.
He doesn't.
There's one corner for you, as cut and dried as I can make it. Can you find the others?
One hint: You won't need a single algebraic expression to find those corners.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 08-27-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Aug 27, 2003 11:03 pm


Firstly, sorry if my theories make your head hurt.

Secondly, I was not saying to eliminate the existance of momentum...I was trying to say there is a push and pull, a use of propelling momentum(as you said, we can never eliminate momentum completely)combined with the use of resisting momentum. Is this a wrong concept?

Lastly, as I said, I can really only guess at that question concerning propulsion... *Mind intent which guides the chi, which guides the body... *Eventually there is no more real mind intent... *Spirit maybe. *Maybe it is the opponent which motivates the sensitive reactions the practitioner will manifest in accordance with necessity and he will then be using his opponents energy.

I really don't know enough to make an educated guess on that point.

What were you thinking of as corners?
How would you answer that?

Best regards,

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-27-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Aug 28, 2003 2:43 pm

I was being metaphorical with the corners. A good instructor shows you one corner and lets you find the other three. Or so I was told.
What I was trying to get at was that a good practitioner of TCC doesn't use any of his own energy for anything other than walking and standing, he uses his opponents force when practicing TCC. So he doesn't need to do one single thing to generate force other than stand there and let an opponent take a crack at him. He then borrows the force given to him by his opponent and uses that force against his opponent.
So the answer to your question is, he does nothing.

The relationships of force, momentum, balance, skill, all come into play during push hands/sparring/combat. All of these things, and more, can and will be used against you if you aren't in control of them.
Control is the key. Control of your own body first, then your opponents.
Sort of like learning TCC. First you learn to control your own body, through the forms, then you learn to control an opponent, through push hands, then you take the skills learned during push hands and apply them back to the forms, then you take the new skills you learn from the forms and push hands skills and apply them back to push hands and then move on to sparring. You take what you learn in push hands and sparring and apply them back to the forms and that should teach you new skills that you hadn't seen in the forms before. You take those new skills and apply them to free style sparring...
It goes on and on this way.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:50 pm

Oh, and algebraic equations of any kind make my head hurt. It wasn't just your post.
As for pushing and pulling momentum, I don't recall it exactly, but on the front page of Yangfamilytaichi.com there is an essay section. One of the essays is an excerpt from one of YZD's books. It is on bow stance, I believe, hold on while I check...
OK, under Tai Chi Info, Essays, Bow steps: two important points.
You will find the information in there very helpful. YZD only describes the feeling of energy between your legs in a bow stance, but the same thing can be said about energies between two opponents doing push hands, sparring or in combat.
The bit about not overextending the knee is SO important it certainly bears repeat reading and has a direct impact on push hands and everything else you will ever do in TCC.
I would recommend reading this essay closely and then applying the dynamics of energy between two points to push hands with a partner.
It's certainly close enough to a push hands energy exchange to have a lot of merit in this discussion.
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