Combat value of push-hand

Postby Kalamondin » Tue May 17, 2005 12:46 am

Thanks Bamboo Leaf and CFTC for your excellent responses. I hope to have time for a longer response later in the week. For, now I am catching up at work.

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Postby bamboo leaf » Tue May 17, 2005 2:00 am

(In most fighting encounters, your opponent will punch or kick at you, often a barrage of punches and kicks. For example, if the guy is trained in kickboxing or thai kickboxing. Isn't it unlikely to have opportunity to apply push-hand techniques?)

recently I got a chance to push with some people from another school here in the bay area it was a very nice experience also brought home some points I would like to post here.

The premise of the question seems to be wrong in my view and experience. Invariable all that I have ever met in push hands who viewed it as either a competition or some kind of intro into combat had errors in their approach. (meaning that they could not do to much when meeting some one who really had empty awarness)

Push hands trains a skill and understanding that makes the physical movements of taiji understandable while training the inner nature of the art. At some point the inner nature will be reflected in your outer movements. This will be a millstone in your training and will mark the true practice of the art.

Push hands when approached as some do with competition in mind or combat their minds and bodies are full wanting, waiting to apply or try something. There is no chance to really develop the feeling or use of the inner aspects.

We are talking about some very subtly things, any overt trying or expectation tends to cerate a lot of noise in our own systems. Noise and quietness don¡¯t mix to well. With out the quite inside there is no awareness. With out awareness that is empty of intent there is no ting jin the practice becomes dead, a contest of strength and speed verses, balance and timing among other more important things.

As to the org question, the skill of push hands is to develop the feeling of another¡¯s intent, as the touch becomes lighter and lighter the other is controlled by you using his own actions and intent. with continued practice your own intent becomes quite strong. You will start to realize on this. This is the beginning of the inner usage of taiji.

A single movement or a barrage of movement it¡¯s the same if the correct feeling and touch is mastered first. There is no point on the body that cannot send the opponent¡¯s power back or borrow his force.

[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 05-16-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu May 26, 2005 6:57 pm

Hi Bamboo Leaf,

Thanks for your insights about fear and unease. I agree that smiling and generally conveying warmth, openness, and an interest in sharing is a good way to put people at ease and show a good spirit for practice.

There is one instance in which it has the opposite effect, however. I think people who have been humiliated a lot or who are drunk or high can mistake a friendly smile for being laughed at. And baring the teeth is a primate sign of aggression. I tried to de-escalate a situation a couple months ago by smiling and being calm. A few of us were standing around my brother’s car in the International District after a Chinese banquet when a crack addict walked passed and threw a chicken bone to the ground. I noticed the motion and dismissed it, but she noticed me noticing and somehow mistook her action for something I had done. She yelled me for throwing chicken bones at her for a bit, I dropped my chi and smiled and said soothing things but refused to fight or be intimidated, so eventually she left and went across the street…then she threw a rock at me (good aim too). I ducked and she ran away.

So, smiling and being friendly didn’t work. Usually it works. It’s actually my standard way of diffusing tension and de-escalating conflict, but she wasn’t able to read what I was doing as such…of course it probably wasn’t just me making her feel threatened. My husband is a large man, and my brother was being particularly fierce. I could feel him ready to attack if she assaulted me physically. So, I’m not really sure what provoked the attack, but it seemed like things were mostly under control until I smiled and she thought I was laughing at her and humiliating her. I realized my mistake just a little too late. I think in that situation being calm and giving her the respect of taking her seriously might have worked better.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
Fear or unease in some cases its because one might have some idea of themselves and have met someone who can show that this idea is not really true. As in when meeting someone who seems to be a lot softer then you are, sensing this and trying to be softer actually can make you more tense. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

True. When I push with my teacher I am sometimes “worse” than usual on account of extra tension. It’s just so uncanny to have the sense that he knows exactly what I’m doing all the time

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Or you sense a threat in which case its better not to practice with some like this. </font>

This has been a little more difficult for me to figure out. There are gradations of threat. Some people are quite nice until they are unbalanced and then there is a momentary sense of threat when they try to save themselves from a perceived attack. I don’t hurt my practice partners or shove them very hard, but I do occasionally surprise them and then sense a momentary threat where I have to defend quickly. In this instance, I think it’s OK to practice with people like this but just try to stay relaxed and be ready to move very quickly if they change suddenly from a slower practice speed to a lightning attack.

Others are more threatening, but constrained from injuring others by not wanting to be forced to leave the school or relinquish their martial virtue. So I am trying to take the attitude of practicing grace under fire while limiting myself to single-arm circles without pushing. I use this time to practice confronting my fears so I can learn more about myself and how to be less afraid. I am trying to use this situation as a training opportunity—because let’s face it, if someone feels compelled to attack me, they’re probably going to have the same dangerous vibe, and I’d better be able to handle myself.

And the really threatening people—well you’re right; I avoid them.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In any case it should be a time to help each other, if not why push? The mistake that many make that I have met and read on many forums is that they view the push hands as some kind of contest instead of a tool to aid one in developing taiji understanding. </font>

Luckily it’s not like that here and I’m not being trained that way. It probably wouldn’t work for me anyway.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Always remember in taiji we use the others force and intent the more they have to give the more we can use, smile and accept it as a gift. </font>

Thanks for that and the rest—it’s very good advice.

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Postby bamboo leaf » Fri May 27, 2005 2:25 am

Or you sense a threat in which case its better not to practice with some like this.)

an example, in pushing with someone it was apparent that anger and ego started to enter into the practice (this with some one I had just met)

rather then continue pushing I suggested we take a brake. Many don¡¯t seem to understand that people can and do get hurt in pushing its quite easy to do if ones skill is real but its not the point. Rather then let it happen its better to take a break.

there are others whos main point is to prove something, again if ones skill is real they can be hurt by there own actions no point in this also.

being unbalanced, and the inner fear of not being relaxed are honest emotions that all people have. I feel this is okay as long as it is recognized for what it is and let go.

Use it, explore it, then let it go, don¡¯t dwell on it. The examples I gave are gen, and real things that happened to me. I would rather have some one think what I do is useless then injure them proving otherwise, my practice is for me no one else, nothing to prove. Image

[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 05-26-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:41 am


<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Li (rollback) and Lieh (split). </font>

Oh! Of course…I’d forgotten Lu could be spelled Li, and usually hear the word “split” instead of “Lieh” and when it is used, my ear has difficulty deciphering that one. Thanks for your explanation of Li—I hadn’t consciously been thinking about accumulating jin during rollback, but I think this is what my teaching has been guiding us to work on recently: Yielding just enough to deflect the opponent, but reserving enough to turn the energy right back into an offensive movement. Just from inexperience, I might have guessed that Lu was 70% defensive and 30% offensive. But I think this is an inexperienced perspective and I will revise it.

I enjoyed your explanation of Li and Lieh, and now I’m going to have fun in push hands practice exploring the subtleties of how to use them to lead and draw the opponent out. One of my push hands friends enjoyed your recent article in Tai Chi magazine and has been changing the way he pushes to think more about leading and using 4 oz. Makes a nice challenge for me—thanks!

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> There are 3 points of attack which you should be careful. 1st is the opponent's fist and palm, 2nd his elbow and 3rd, shoulder. ). In high level push hands, once you noticed your palm push has been neutralized even by less than an inch, abandon it and use elbow instead, when elbow too fell out of attacking line, shift to shoulder and if it too is somewhat neutralized, do not attack. </font>

I notice you say abandon palm and use elbow, then abandon elbow and use shoulder if your attack is diverted. I’m not sure how to ask this question exactly, but are you saying to use palm, elbow, and shoulder because these are stronger parts of the body for attacking, or was that a kind of short hand for changing your sticking point according to where the opponent’s center is?

I can see at least two types of scenarios:
1) My palm strike is diverted slightly so I maintain sticking at the palm so the opponent doesn’t realize right away that I’ve changed my energy point to the elbow, which I then use to attack. He counters, so I transfer my intent to shoulder energy. It’s kind of a one-two-three attack.

2) My palm is diverted slightly, so I roll my arm over into press (single arm) and then maintain my attack on his center by “rolling” up my arm from wrist to forearm to elbow (generally that’s all it takes, but if one doesn’t overextend, it could be continued up the arm to the shoulder).

There’s a different feeling to 1. vs. 2.

1) I think the first scenario is more unexpected? I had a toy snake when I was a child, made of different segments of bamboo that were wired together. If you held its tail, it would swing about. Some joints were looser than others and the snake would unexpectedly “attack” and it was hard to predict which segment would fold to what degree.

2) In the second scenario, the pressure is pretty even, the center is covered, and the energy rolls like a basketball player rolling the ball across his arms from shoulder to shoulder, or maybe a little like a steamroller that flattens the road.

Are these just different methods? Are they really the same? Why use hand, elbow, and shoulder? Why not use everything in between?

I think there are probably different ways to do things and you’ve described one that’s different from what I’ve done so far, so I’d like to understand more about why those three points are emphasized. Polaris, on another thread, mentioned that the elbow is stronger than a kick because the whole body can really be behind it. Is that part of why? Or is it that hand, elbow, and shoulder have bony projections that can hurt others more/hurt ourselves less?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> What I meant by neutralized is not your strike missing the target but at intent level. When you intent to push at one point and that point has been sealed or shifted even by an inch, do not pursue it anymore. Foremost in push hands and taiji is do not over extend yourself and loss peng jin. The first you learn about two hand push hands is to maintain your frame and do not loss contact. Sounds simple but these are truly the skills one need to master to reach the highest level. </font>

Thanks for the excellent advice! I will do my best to follow it.

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Postby bng101 » Thu Jun 02, 2005 6:32 pm

I am not a master or anything like that, I haven only been practicing tai chi for only little over four years. But, I practice Kung Fu, Chin Na, ground fighting, and Tai Chi. For me, personally, I believe that push hand by itself have very little combat value. But… in combine with chin na, punching, kicking, holds, locks, takedowns, etc. push hand help the effectiveness of those techniques in folds. In our school, push hands are taught as “fighting by feel” also know as understanding your opponent energy when you have bridged.

In practicing push hand, you practice listening, understanding of energy, adhering, sticking, connection, and neutralizing. And then, comes the understanding of the body structure and source of power; yours and your opponents. In achieving that, locks, holds, takedowns, punching, and kicking are executed with ease.
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Postby cheefatt taichi » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:51 am

Hi Kal,

What I am referring to the palm, elbow & shoulder is as per you describe in 1) is the focusing of intent and energy. Always maintain "enermy don't know me" strategy which means, we hide our strategy internally rather that external techniques. There is a saying in taiji that goes "seek the straight in the round", we move mostly in circular motion but our intention to strike must always be a straight line. What is a straight line? It is the point from your energy issuing foot (bubbling well)to the contact point between you and your opponent at his center. Any part that passes this energy line must be abandoned both at energy level and yi.
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Postby Francesco » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:25 pm

Originally posted by Cheefat taichi:

The fight btwn Wu stylist and white crane was lousy to any fight standards. I think any Karate/Tae Kwon Do blackbelt can kick both of their a...anytime.

I have seen that particular video. And to be honest I was shocked. As the Wu Stylist was no other than the "Gatekeeper" of the Wu Family system: Wu Kung Yi (son of Wu Chien Chuan). Witness where top masters such as Yip Man (Wing Chun), Tung Ying Jie and Yang Shen Duo.

The actual fight was pityful. Whatever you all may write about sticking energy, Fa jing, chin na etc, etc, this was not at all demonstrated by Wu. If this was a top master, how will his student look like?

Reading the stories about that fight, narrated by the Wu-family, it seems that they are even proud of it. The Grand Master against a youngster (white crane style, not even a top disciple of his own teacher!): from all the legendary stories about the martial abilities of the old masters, I really had expected something better!

Reading the stories about greats as Sun Lu Tang, Chen Fa Ke, Chang Ching Ling and of course Yang Cheng Fu, who, by touching his cotton hand would have an opponent fly five meters through the sky, I can only conclude three things:

1) Either these stories are simply untrue (or in best case highly exaggerated).
2) Either Wu Kung Yi was a fraud.
3) Either I am really stupid and have no understanding of what a tai chi chuan genius looks like.

Wherever I look on the internet, no where a negative comment on the match can be found. How would the public have reacted (2000 witnesses)? What would the witnessing top masters have thought?

What do you all think?
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Postby TaiChi_Student » Sat Jun 04, 2005 8:25 am

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Because while playing you are having a `normality mind', your taiji tech become effective the same will happen if you handle a real attack under the same mindset. Cheng Man Ching once said, in real fight if you cannot be soft (mentally and physically), your taiji skills will be lost. Try comprehend on this different mentality in combat and hopefully you will realise soemthing.</font>

In the Song of Secrets for Training it says "Every technique must be guided by will, combat efficiency will be achieved with ease". This seems to reflect what you are saying. Since the mind and energy are important, a clear mind in combat will be better.

[This message has been edited by TaiChi_Student (edited 06-04-2005).]
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Postby Anderzander » Sat Jun 04, 2005 3:39 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Francesco:
1) Either these stories are simply untrue (or in best case highly exaggerated).
2) Either Wu Kung Yi was a fraud.
3) Either I am really stupid and have no understanding of what a tai chi chuan genius looks like.

What do you all think?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I don’t really know anything about the level Wu Kun Yi was supposed to have achieved. I do know I have met and trained with people of exceptional ability (able to demonstrate many of the things in the stories and others).
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Postby bamboo leaf » Sat Jun 04, 2005 4:44 pm

so have i Image
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Postby CheeFattTaichi » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:32 am

Greeting everyone,

Last weekend I have a chance to push hands with many veteran taiji & Yiquan masters and players alike at a park. Last Saturday was a public holiday so there is a rare opportunity where everyone can meet-up to exchange experience and practise push hands. I am truly greatful to many masters I met who are very willing to share their invalueable experience to stranger like me. I pushed with a nice guy who is a master of Yiquan, Wu Taiji and Yang Taiji. His push hands has very strong peng jin and very good footwork. I got trapped twice by him tackling my feet. I learned some valuable lessons here. One of it is, never assume opponent will push hands according to our expectation of courtesy. However, there is no hard feeling and I enjoyed it very much because of the lesson learned with him.

The second guy I pushed with is a 4 Dan Judo master and taiji master. He is also national push hand champion for 4 consequence years. Very good and smooth hand and body movements. He shared with me one very good advise which I cherished. He said " don't bother to counter what opponent throws at you, instead be focus on what you can do to him". His point is this, one must always maintain ones stability and good posture and don't be bother if opponent's hands have breached into one's defence and is trying to push. As long as your balance is intact you are safe so why bother, instead take this opportunity to close-in to the opponent and apply your tech on him. Of course he is refering to how to win in competition push hands.

I also pushed with a Chen stylist and another Cheng stylist (Cheng Man Ching Taiji)too. Both are very soft but the Cheng stylist has a more refined body movements. Another experience I have with these kind masters are most of them concentrate too much on pushing to win in competition, hence neglected combative nature of taichi chuan or yiquan...I cannot blame them becoz most of them are competition seasoned veteran. They are very good at forcing their entire body weight on opponent but not so much of fajin.

These encouters gave me a very good opportunity to test my concept of not allowing opponent to land more than 4 ounces on me (4 ounces to deflect thousand pounds theory)against many different styles range from Yang, Wu, Chan, Cheng , yiquan,Judo to mixed tech of competition push hands. My conclusion (purely my personal view) is it works if it is a combat situation. They are unable to assert their peng jin on me (neither do I able to get them overextended becoz most of them knew the dilemma of it as most of them are experienced taiji masters) and I am free to move whereever and however I want and can fajin (strike)at them anytime. However, in competition I will loss because if I kept on being soft and refused to collide and use considerable amount of strength to overpower their constant juggernaughting-in, I will have little change to push them out of the competition ring. Most of them engaged in forward stance (weight distribution of 70% front 30% back) to give them strength advantage over the opponent and they will be difficult to push away. I guess competition push hands and combative push hands do have many differences.
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:19 am


Ah, I see what you mean about the straight being the line from the bubbling well to the opponent's center. In this case, both scenarios work so long as any point that is "out of alignment" is abandonned.

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Postby bamboo leaf » Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:28 am

(will loss because if I kept on being soft and refused to collide and use considerable amount of strength to overpower their constant juggernaughting-in, I will have little change to push them out of the competition ring.)

this is because you have no idea of return, and they are not skilled enough to exploit your emptiness. FWIW I also noticed the same thing about the chen taiji people I have met. Regardless of teacher they all feel the same. Not refined a good way of saying it.

4oz refers to the mindfulness not an absolute pressure. It could be ten lbs or anything else as long as the mindfulness is there. With it out no matter how light the idea and ability to change is lost.

Think of big, medium and small. This refers to change big meaning the whole body is involved and small meaning that only that area has to change. A master or someone quite good can make such small changes that it seems as if one is using force when in actuality it is the others force being reflected back.

What we are talking about now is only outer change, there is a component inner change that must also happen. With inner change one can be still and still change inside. This is the really the start of inner understanding of taiji.
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Postby bamboo leaf » Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:35 am

(instead be focus on what you can do to him".)

forget this advice its very wrong, the idea is to give up thoughts of oneself and follow the other. From this comes correct positioning and timing.

What you want is your mind not to be focused on either yourself or him, like a hawk circling a rabbit. Assuming your body is capable of change and you can feel and understand force. You allow your body and mind to react in natural way, which will be reviled by the others use of force.
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