OPEN-HAND PUSH HANDS

Postby JerryKarin » Mon Apr 18, 2005 2:23 am

It's best to publish only a link to copyrighted material.
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Mon Apr 18, 2005 10:07 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, I know that dynamic push hands is practised and is something we will come on to in the fullness of time, But I have not done it or seen it done yet...I am still very inexperienced and have not done any moving push hands at all, just cross hands and open hand with no footwork.

We also do an exercise very much like the one Chee describes in his last post, for the receiver to practice centering, rooting and absorbing force.
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:06 pm

WB,
Ah. When I visited Dimitri Mougdis down in Florida he was working on it with one of his students. It looked very much like what Chee describes, but I only saw it I never participated so I'm not sure if it's the same thing or not.
When you get to the point of working on the dynamic push hands exercises, I'd like to know what that's about, if you don't mind.

Bob
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:09 pm

Chee,
That sounds very similar to an exercise I've done in the past, for which I don't recall the name.
Right now, I'm working on sensitivity, following, sticking, these things also require peng jin to be applied at all times, correct body mechanics also, but we haven't worked so much on "pushing" as we have on following.

Bob
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Postby CheeFattTaichi » Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:39 pm

Hi guys, nice to know that many of us are on the same track. I think Taiji secrets are no more secrets anymore, today masters are more willing to share and it will be up to us to learn them. I always wonder if those who claimed they are the only guardian of secrets are actually sales hype. Noticed most of these people happened to run training centers as well? I think as long as we practise rightly, the skills will come. Dynamic push hands or whatever we called it is no more a secret as before. It is more a matter of if we want to endure this kind of training in taiji which often associated to be soft and relax. This is where taiji jin is developed. In the old days according to what was been told by Tung Yin Chieh, Yang family members trained using a long iron pole to develop jin. Who says taiji is only soft practise.
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:47 pm

Chee,
I dunno. I've been under the impression that Yang style is a combination of both soft and hard, Fang Sung seems to cover that pretty well: Soft but not limp, solid but not stiff.
Hearing the tales of Yang family members and students practicing in deep, deep, deep stances under bread kneading tables kind of brings to mind the idea that you might want good, strong leg muscles all by itself.

I have gotten my grubby little paws on Master Yang Juns new DVD. I have had the in-laws in the house all weekend and have not been able to do more than glance at it over the weekend when The Kentucky Tai Chi Chuan Center/Louisville Yang Cheng Fu Center had a booth and did demos at the Georgetown Kite Festival.
Bill and Carl had a DVD player set up and were playing the Masters DVD. I was glued to it as often as circumstances allowed.
Which was just enough to tease me but not enough to let me get too much out of it.
Tonight I actually get to sit and watch some of it. Or rather....
Stand and follow some of it.
It looks truly awesome. Most of what I saw was extremely reminiscent of the Masters seminar I attended last year.
Not to mention how much fun it was to see the Master toss Marco around...
I mean demonstrate on Marco!!!

Bob
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Tue Apr 19, 2005 3:04 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bamenwubu:
<B>WB,
Ah. When I visited Dimitri Mougdis down in Florida he was working on it with one of his students. It looked very much like what Chee describes, but I only saw it I never participated so I'm not sure if it's the same thing or not.
When you get to the point of working on the dynamic push hands exercises, I'd like to know what that's about, if you don't mind.

Bob</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Sure, provided I ever get there and then gain enough understanding to have anything worthwhile passing on!

(Sorry, had one of those classes last night where I feel like I just managed to regress six months in one day...I guess I'd better get used to it?)
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Apr 19, 2005 4:51 pm

Greetings Chee Fatt,

I’ve been enjoying your posts. I also just read your article in the current T’ai Chi magazine. Very nice!

You mention lao niu jin (old ox strength) above. I’ve only seen brief reference to this in Chen Weiming’s “Answers to Questions” book, but I’ve heard other teachers refer to it. Can you shed any light on the origin of this ‘old ox strength,’ and explain a bit more what it means?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:28 pm

Chee,
I didn't get to the first part of your post in my last one, I just remembered what you said about "secrets".
I think Yang Cheng Fu let the "secret" cat out of the bag when he published his "Ten Essentials". Not exactly maybe, but it certainly was a good beginning.
Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo seems to have eliminated a lot of so called "secrets" with his book, also. His "Important Points" let a lot of the mystery out of the form work, at least.
I have a feeling the Masters DVD will take even more of the mystery of TCC "secrets" for me, as well.
So, I think you're right. The things that have been previously considered "secret" are slowly being revealed and they are ending up to be not really "secrets" in the first place, just good sense posture work and keen isight into how the human body can be made to function at its best.
Which is a pretty amazing thing, but hopefully not too "secret" anymore.

Just my two cents on that idea.

Bob
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:31 pm

WB,
What? You mean you guys aren't past all that push hands stuff and up to levitation yet?
Sheesh. We were past that ages ago. Image

That's what I meant, when you get there. All it will take is time and effort, you'll get there.

Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Apr 19, 2005 7:06 pm

Hi Everyone,

Audi—thanks for your response—you can thank YJ for the bit about points of contact! I had some more general ideas about push hands that I’ve written out below.

Audi wrote: <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
Another thing I wanted to mention for those who may not train in this way is that the exercises themselves require a high degree of external detail that is comparable to what is done for postures in the form. … At the same time, the object of this "circle training" is not to pay attention to oneself, but rather to one's partner…. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Very true—it’s easier for beginners to learn the external detail by training with someone more advanced who knows the shape, feel, and rhythm of the circles’ requirements. And yet, without learning to listen at the same time, it’s difficult to “hear” what happened well enough to replicate the intricacies of the circling motions. Someone who knows the circles can guide someone who does not, often “carrying” or otherwise physically moving their arms or hands into position as the two partners circle so that the inexperienced player can get the feel for it.

Later when the beginner knows the pattern but hasn’t yet standardized it, the more experienced player can still train their listening energy and practice fine points like making sure the amount of pressure at each point of contact remains the same even if it means the circle has to be non-standard.

Some other thoughts about paying attention to one’s partner: push hands practice is a two way street. When there are tensions, discrepancies, sliding, separations, or resistance it’s easy to get frustrated and come to the conclusion that everything the other person is doing is wrong (or vice versa—you’re the one who can’t do it right). But it takes two to tango, right? If your opponent is doing something “wrong” then as a training exercise try and see if there is something you can change about what you are doing to correct it. Don’t correct them first. First correct yourself. Give up the ego part that externalizes the situation and see which part you can be personally responsible for.

Grammar tangent: my head gets tangled with the grammatical construction “one could…” etc., so I’m using “you” instead of “one.” I’m not talking about anyone in particular in my various posts. But I do think it’s useful to personalize ideas. For example, if someone writes to me and says, “If one makes such and such a mistake…,” I tend to externalize it and think, “Yes, that person needs to change their training habits.” But if someone writes to me and says, “If you make such and such a mistake…” I am more likely to examine my own training habits. So that’s why I write “you” instead of “one” (even though I was raised to know better).

Back to the point: errors in attention and not listening enough seem to fall into two categories: pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough.

For an example of pushing too hard: if your opponent is increasingly stiff and resistant, it may be that you are pushing them too hard or too fast for their capabilities and if you were to back off and slow down, decrease the pressure on their arms, they might relax enough that the circle could be more fluid. Some who push too hard have difficulty understanding why slowing down, being more gentle, or reducing pressure can be useful. In the short term, it can be frustrating to not push at full capacity, but in the long term it trains giving up the self to follow the opponent. Also, if you continue pushing hard at the person who’s gone all stiff, then their learning process will be slower than if you give them a little time (in tai chi terms: a few weeks, months, a year, maybe more) to relax and improve. If you bide your time this way, you’ll help train a worthy opponent who can challenge you to learn new things down the road.

Slowing down is also a useful tack for when your opponent seems “not all there.” Some people tend to “check out” or dissociate during push hands training—suddenly a solid connection becomes tenuous, or they separate, or they simply relinquish control. Depending on the person and the situation, these are the “openings” we look for when fighting. There’s another consideration, however—the wellbeing of your practice partner and their development as well as your own. People who seem to check out during the process often can be encouraged to come back to themselves if you back off a little internally (without separating!) and then you can have a more interesting push hands session with a real person instead of a rag doll or stiff automaton. This is a case for making haste slowly. While some people will develop skills quickly when pushed to their limits, others will simply seize up and learn stiffness instead of responsiveness.

There are other people with whom every practice seems like a pitched battle—although the one who seems to be “fighting” isn’t always aware of it. That level of conflict may feel normal to them and won’t necessarily register as “fighting” at all. If you train yourself to back off and give your scrappier practice partners space in the present—instead of engaging with them and “fighting back”, you may be able to avoid a real fight by listening closely enough to someone with a hair trigger to avoid triggering their impulse to fight in the first place.

I’m not talking about physically backing down, or separating (though it’s fine to take a break if you need breathing room to regain your center). I’m talking about staying present with your opponent, but gauging the amount of contact to just the right degree that your partner feels like you’re sticking with them, but doesn’t feel pushed around—even if you are physically leading them into emptiness over and over again.

In the category of not pushing hard enough there are people who seem hard to find because they don’t push hard enough or make good contact at the point of sticking. They feel hesitant, or too gentle, and its hard to know where they are b/c there’s not enough pung energy for you to get a read. If you push on them, they often collapse and it’s too easy to push them out. Sometimes their hands fall away if you change directions suddenly because they’re barely sticking at all. These are the ones who could benefit by showing their presence more clearly.

If people complain that you are not pushing hard enough, but pushing harder makes you feel stiff then you might try this exercise: imagine that your hand is a lead blanket. A lead blanket isn’t stiff and doesn’t resist, but it’s heavy and hard to move. If you are too light, you will feel like a feather blanket covering your opponent and won’t give them enough information to feel like you are there or know where to find you. They may end up pushing you harder as a consequence. Nor will you receive enough information from the contact to understand energy well. It may feel safer to have a light touch and stay farther away (as though inside yourself or outside of the situation) but if you don’t stick well, if you aren’t present and conscious at the edges of your body, you can’t control your opponent. Paying attention to sticking can help, but it may also help to think about come out from your center a little bit more, like a turtle coming out of its shell. This is another place where going really, really slowly can help, and also just circling without actually pushing each other over or even pushing too hard in your part of the circle.

It’s fascinating to learn to listen to a person this closely—to pay attention to the subtle nuances of mood, pressure, internal sticking, presence, etc.

A note about sources: I have been on both sides of “pushing too hard” and “not pushing hard enough” and have received corrections from my teacher about sticking more, listening more, not fighting, not resisting, not separating, etc. But all the stuff about separating it into categories, presence, absence, things to try (except the lead blanket exercise), are things I’ve either extrapolated from observation or worked out elsewhere and have never heard Yang Jun articulate in this way. Of course, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. I’ve been fortunate enough to observe my teacher’s sensitivity in these things—from the early days of push hands where he pushed with me like holding fine china to the present where I’ve relaxed enough to occasionally be his demonstration dummy in class: being tossed around, whapped audibly, and subjected to joint locks, etc. But it took a long time and if he’d tossed me around from the get-go, I probably would have quit.

Soft training is just an early phase of learning to combine hard with soft. As the Yang family maintains, we have to dissolve the stiff, clumsy strength in order to attain the softness that can become hard instantly—the way a whip is soft until it strikes. I believe the endless rounds of circles and learning to yield, follow, connect, stick, etc. are just the first phase of training where we learn to dissolve stiff strength in softness in order to transmute our physical understanding of soft and hard to later combine them. Not all students stay with their teachers long enough or practice enough to transform soft into hard, much less dissolve stiff strength into softness. Many of us are still working on it, myself included. Yang Jun himself spent his first three years of push hands training practicing only circles and learning to yield without being permitted to return the opponent’s force. I’m guessing that there are many teachers who have achieved a degree of softness, but far fewer who have attained the ability to combine hard and soft to manifest pin-point hardness, the kind that suddenly appears and suddenly disappears. This may be why there are teachers out there who focus on softness only. It’s easy to mistake the first phase of training for the whole curriculum if a student and teacher are separated too early, or if the student is unable to make sufficient progress to understand the later points.

I don’t believe there are secrets either. Or if there are, they are hidden in plain sight—in the classics, in the form, and can be uncovered through diligent practice, personal research, and the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher. Good teachers love to teach what they know—but good teachers also gauge the level of their student provide the appropriate lesson at the appropriate time. The better the teacher, the less they seem to be concerned with “protecting” secrets from outsiders or foreigners. It’s a student’s willingness to learn, diligence, and moral character that count.

Best wishes,
Kal

[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 04-19-2005).]
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:03 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bamenwubu:
<B>WB,
What? You mean you guys aren't past all that push hands stuff and up to levitation yet?
Sheesh. We were past that ages ago. Image

That's what I meant, when you get there. All it will take is time and effort, you'll get there.

Bob</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

We did levitation on week 3..doesn't everyone?

On a separate note - and apologies if this should be a new thread (I guess if a mod splits it I'll know for next time...) but can someone please help me out a bit on a query regarding rooting and centering? Are they the same thing? If you 'have your centre' are you therefore rooted? To uproot someone do you by necessity have to find and displace their centre?

Thanks.



[This message has been edited by The Wandering Brit (edited 04-20-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Apr 20, 2005 5:34 pm

Hi WB,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If you 'have your centre' are you therefore rooted? </font>


IMO they’re not the same thing. One can have a center without being rooted, the way a ball has a center and is always balanced over it, but is not rooted. One can still have a center, even if one has been uprooted and is flying through the air. This is how people land well—balanced and stable. People who can root well will then root as soon as they hit the ground.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> To uproot someone do you by necessity have to find and displace their centre? </font>


As for your second question, I’m not sure. Generally, I think the answer is yes. There might be a couple different kinds of uprooting though—there’s the kind where you find and displace the center enough that they come up, like a carrot that’s been pulled out of the ground, but I think it may also be possible to cut the root, energy-wise, and then move them off their center—like trying to pull up a dandelion and coming away with the leaves, but the root is still in the ground. Course, I don’t know anyone who can be cut off from their root and still be rooted like a dandelion, I think once it’s severed, it’s up and has to be reestablished elsewhere. Not really sure though.

Kal
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Postby CheeFattTaichi » Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:39 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>Greetings Chee Fatt,

I’ve been enjoying your posts. I also just read your article in the current T’ai Chi magazine. Very nice!

You mention lao niu jin (old ox strength) above. I’ve only seen brief reference to this in Chen Weiming’s “Answers to Questions” book, but I’ve heard other teachers refer to it. Can you shed any light on the origin of this ‘old ox strength,’ and explain a bit more what it means?

Take care,
Louis</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Louis,

I don't know about the origin of this `old ox strength' but my guess would be probably from similar source from where Shaolin concepts of `Pek Jin' and other forms of training external jin common in Chinese kungfu. The motion is same as push hands but the emphasis is different. In oush hands, primary objective is to train sensitivity and listening. While in `old ox strength' the primary objective is to develop whole body strength (peng Jin). Instead of yielding to oncoming force and neutralizing it so as to minimize the amount of force landed on your structure, old ox training purposely allow the body structure to absorb the oncoming force as much as possible and channel it to the ground and back. The pusher will use the whole body strength to `ann' and the receiver will yield as normal push hand would. However, the receiver allows as much force as his body can absorb to land on his posture. But not to the extend of the force is overwhelming until his posture collapses, corporation between partners is needed.

This way both will be able to learn to push with whole body strength and absord strong force. Overtime every inch of the movement will be very strong and filled with peng jin. The training is the same with performing the form to get proper alignment only that now outside force is added. The advantage is one will be able to train proper structure in every inch of the movement because of the need to handle to real outside force. Disadvantage is if one is not careful and soft, there is alway strong tendency to use force to resist instead of absorb. Old ox develop strong long jin which is the foundation of fajing (short jin)

The notion is if one has very strong peng jin, neutralization will become much easier and one will be soft as water when yielding but powerful as mountain when attacking. It was mentioned by Cheng man ching that when Yang Cheng Fu `ann', one will feel like a mountain is collapsing on him...the force is too overwhelming.
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Postby CheeFattTaichi » Thu Apr 21, 2005 7:07 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by The Wandering Brit:
<B> We did levitation on week 3..doesn't everyone?

On a separate note - and apologies if this should be a new thread (I guess if a mod splits it I'll know for next time...) but can someone please help me out a bit on a query regarding rooting and centering? Are they the same thing? If you 'have your centre' are you therefore rooted? To uproot someone do you by necessity have to find and displace their centre?

Thanks.

[This message has been edited by The Wandering Brit (edited 04-20-2005).]</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi WB,

Center and rooting are different. Center is not only refers to center of gravity, more importantly the center must be supported by Chong Ding Jin (center equilibrium force) which is one of the force in the 13 forces mentioned in the Classics of Tai Chi Chuan. Chong Ding Jin is developed by physically straightening the spine and mentally be conscious of `hanging the head top' and `pulling the spine tail' as mentioned in Yang Cheng Fu 10 training essentials. Chong Ding Jin is the foundation of one's stability and backbone of other jin or forces. When someone mentioned guard your center, the secret meaning is ensure your Chong Din Jin is maintained. Chong Din Jin doesn't means only the spine, it is a vertical force that starts from root to the top of the head.

Root refers to the ability to `sink'. Sink here means the ability to sink weigth and chi to the feet and into the ground. Two most important areas are the point called bubbling well in the feet and kua (hip). Kua is the connection point between softness (pliability) of the body above and firmness of the feet (root) below. One must train to be able to drop the entire upper body weight into the kua. Then you are able to `soften-up' the body to neautralize outside forces. Because the kua (hip) is a big bone mass unlike upper body with many joints that carries different weight (chest, hand, skull etc) it is easier to be stabilized in terms of weight distribution if all weights are centralized here. Sinking all weights into the kua unable the lower body to handle stability more efficiently. Then this cumulative weight is channeled through leg joints to the feet. One must then train to drop weight through the BW point of the feet into the ground. You will feel as though this point is stepping into the ground hence, the name `rooting'. Therefore, external styles understand rooting as firm stance, Taiji intepret rooting as unmoveable stance with internal strength.
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