Does one need push hands?

Postby bamboo leaf » Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:42 am

None of the present yang s can do any of this that I know of? why?

(Let's face it, people want to believe in mysterious and magical things)

no a better take is that some have felt things that can not be explained except but by what is said according to TCM or the classics there may come a time when our understanding of physics is able to include this, then people will believe something that has been said, felt and used by some, all along and it will still be outside of them. Kind of funny when you think of it.

[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 10-25-2005).]
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:24 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kalamondin:
<B>Anyone have a bird I can borrow? Image

In the Scientific Basis of Energy Medicine, Oschmann writes, "Pulses of electric and magnetic energy being in the brain before any movement occurs." (p.226)


Hi Kal,

I have read something similar to this elsewhere, and it brought to mind the concept of a superior practitioner sensing another's Yi before any movement occurred - 'My opponent moves, I arrive first.'

If that is a valid reading of what is meant in the Classics, then just imagine the sensitivity needed to feel electric pulses in the brain before physical (or rather, overtly physical) movement occurred - a bird taking off would seem like a jetplane in comparison.
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Postby DPasek » Tue Oct 25, 2005 4:32 pm

As to the story of the bird, I also feel that it is possible, and probably illustrates physical principles. As I understand it, birds do need to push with their feet to begin flight, although different species may be different. For example, most water birds in the water need to run along the water surface while flapping their wings prior to achieving flight since they can not sufficiently push off of the water (even with webbed feet) like they could on land, although on land they can achieve flight directly by pushing off of the ground without having to run first.

As to being able to influence another person's movement with the mind intent or qi alone (even possibly to the point of pushing them violently), I feel that it is also possible. While I have never found demonstrations of this ability to be very convincing, I have had consistent personal experiences that demonstrate at least some influence is possible, even on someone that is not consciously aware of my presence.

I tend to walk fairly quietly and rapidly (at least compared to many people) and it is not too uncommon for me to startle people while passing them on a sidewalk. But as I am approaching many (though certainly not all), and think (mind intent) about passing them, they often drift to that side, and if I change my intent to passing on the other side, they then will drift to that side. I'm confident that this is not just them being rude and intentionally cutting me off since I am pretty certain that they are not consciously aware that I am even approaching them [and I live in the polite southern small town United States, where people still smile and say "hi" to strangers that they pass]. Is this the same concept happening (but to a much smaller degree) as with individuals who "push" others from a distance without contact? I think it probably is, although I have not had any training for this effect and don't know anyone with enough knowledge or training to confirm or dispute this.

It would surprise me if other people on this forum have not experienced this phenomenon (or could experience it if they tried to do it) since I have had no special training other than what other practitioners probably get, and, although I have been a dedicated practitioner since 1979, I only practice as a hobbyist (only averaging perhaps about 1 hour per day). On the other hand, this phenomenon may be less common that I expect (it might just be me) since, even prior to studying Taijiquan I had a similar experience. It occurred in a college art class where I was undecided about walking around another person because walking in front of them (where there was room because they had stepped back from their work) would put me between them and their easel/artwork (which I thought would be somewhat rude) or behind them which would have been difficult because they were close to another student's easel (and I risked bumping that other easel). The individual that was the object of my indecision said that she felt like I walked straight through her (my intent was to get to the other side of her, but without yet having an intent to pass by on either side).

I think this may be related to the awareness (that seems more commonplace) for people to sense when someone is focused intently on them (the "I'm being watched" awareness). It seems like there is some mental or energetic connection between individuals (and even animals seem to often sense when they are being watched intently). In this case, however, it is just an awareness rather than a physical effect (although it could be accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling/sensation).

Even though I have never experienced receiving the physical sensations that Bamboo Leaf (David) has, my own experiences tend to indicate that someone more skilled than I am may be capable of producing this phenomenon. Has anybody else experienced something similar to what I have described above?

That I don't effect everyone that I intend to pass on the sidewalk the same way could indicate a receptivity cause (or else just that I don't have identical mind intent each time). Also, I am unable to produce a significant enough effect during push-hands to be able to differentiate it from physical things that I am doing, so I can not verify that it works for Taijiquan. All I am saying is that my personal experiences indicate that it is possible.

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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Oct 25, 2005 4:49 pm

From my standpoint, having spent a lot of time watching the behavior of small birds, the trick of preventing the bird from flying off one's hand is not all that big a deal and anyone could do it with plenty of practice. Just like someone doing push hands, these little creatures give innumerable indications of their intent. When they are about to fly they look around carefully, moving both eyes and head. They frequently lift both wings to stretch them, either together or separately, just before flight. You can feel them fidgeting and slight pulses come from their feet as they make up their mind to fly. This is pretty much the same sort of stuff you can detect in a push hands opponent: he draws a quick breath, his shoulders go up, a slight pulse is felt, etc etc. Nothing magical and no 'sensing of qi' required here, just garden variety practice and observation and listening. The point I am trying to make here is that the Yangs and other fine teachers I have had never mention any of this esoteric qi sensation or any of that. It simply is not necessary for traditional Yang style taiji and in my view it is mainly a waste of time to speculate about this sort of thing.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:22 pm


I’m very much in agreement with Jerry in his assessment of the bird anecdote. I sense some folks are trying to read too much into the story. If, however, you go back to the original story, it is very clearly explained in simple physical terms. Moreover, I think that the story is less about a trick with a bird than it is about taijiquan skills, applicable in push hands and other scenarios. Yang Luchan explicitly states that it is not a case of supernatural ability, but a result of “practicing TAIJIQUAN for a long period of time,” which develops the sensitivity of the entire body, “that’s all.” (I note here that the body includes “yi”—mental powers of discernment are, after all, rooted in neurons.) Yang also stated that the bird was tame and used to humans, so he had probably had plenty of opportunities to test his sensitivity in this fashion.

I also think Bob makes an important point in his example of a tightrope walker. It’s an extraordinary thing, but it’s a skill developed by an ordinary human. I saw an interview with Michael Jordan the other night. Ed Bradley marveled at Jordan’s gravity-defying jumps. Jordan said, “Well, I mean we all fly. Once you leave the ground, you fly. Some people fly longer than others.”

That’s all.

Take care,
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Postby chris » Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:01 pm

I appreciate the "show me and I will believe it" point of view, but is it a realistic expectation?

When was the last time you saw a millionaire stroll through the ghetto, loudly offering anyone the chance to look in his pockets? Image

Hypothetically speaking:

Would someone who has made the sacrifices of time and effort necessary to achieve this, really give a whit about your evaluation or approval?

When a Chinese speaker tells a non-Chinese "don't worry about qi," is it merely a polite way of saying "I don't want to spend my time refuting conmen and crackpots"? And you are left to answer your own question, based on your own experience or lack thereof?
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:50 pm

I'm not talking about someone who could possibly do such a thing and doesn't brag about it and make huge claims that they can do it. If those people are out there you're proably right, they wouldn't give a whit about my approval.
However, there are plenty of people out there who loudly proclaim they can do these types of things. Since they are the ones making all the noise about it...
Well, then it's up the them to "prove it to me". Since they can't prove it to me or anyone else, then you'll just have to forgive me for being so skeptical about the whole thing.
I cannot answer your question about what a Chinese person might mean by such a statement. I'm not a Chinese man.
However, I don't spend a whole lot of time "worrying" about chi. Like money, I sincerely doubt chi spends a whole lot of time worrying about me.
Besides, I am comfortable with my chi, so why worry about it?
Wish I was so comfortable with my money, but hey, you can't have everything.

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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:48 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by chris:

When a Chinese speaker tells a non-Chinese "don't worry about qi," is it merely a polite way of saying "I don't want to spend my time refuting conmen and crackpots"? And you are left to answer your own question, based on your own experience or lack thereof?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

On these matters the approach of the Yang family in books written for Chinese and seminars conversations with non-Chinese is very consistent. Qi is not something they attempt to consciously manipulate.
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Postby shugdenla » Wed Oct 26, 2005 12:25 am


Your asessment per your experience is accurate but my own teacher said one should not think about such things. It get you nowhere. Practice, apply what you were taught
and you will gain your own definition of qi.

None of my teachers reflected what you mentioned. They did say that a lot of practitioners (regardless of location or place) prefer to talk and not experience taijiquan. In that context, they have always been right.
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Postby Fred Hao » Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:37 am

Greetings All,
When we intent to play Taichi by the ways to loose and sink, slow, steady, etc. to make our bodies become more pliable. This is the effect of intention and natural flowing qi in every part of our body. This good Taichi-intention makes each part of our body, originally separated with some block, recover its function and coordinate and unite. Wiht this coordination and union of each energized part, those with highly pliable backbone are able to conqure the hard and strong opponent easily. Whether we can overcome our opponents or not depends on whether we can conquer our inner stubborness and block or not. The intention to conquer oneself in Taichi is a good one. It pays to practice.
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:58 am

Nice post, Fred!
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:20 pm

It's so interesting to me that many of the tai chi threads seem to pick up on the same discussion topics at roughly the same time.

On the Empty Flower board right now there's a discussion topic: "Awareness of Intent" that's paralleling parts of this one. Find it here:;action=display;num=1130164912

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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Oct 28, 2005 7:09 pm

I think it’s time for your friendly local crackpot to say a word or two about my qi experiences. Actually, this a long and rambling post. I apologize in advance.

I will first agree with Jerry that Yang Jun does not talk about qi in any esoteric way—but of course he does talk about it. It’s part and parcel of the tai chi package.

Jerry you wrote: “Qi is not something they attempt to consciously manipulate. “ I agree that YJ advises against guiding the qi along specific meridians, and certainly advises against following your qi around (b/c then the qi is guiding the mind, not the mind guiding the qi). And I do think that guiding the qi is somewhat not-conscious in the sense not micro-managing every little current or connection. But here’s where I disagree: there is a lot of stuff about guiding the qi with the mind, the yi, the intention. I think that ideally, one comes to the stage of “regulating without regulating” where intention (yi) becomes habit and the qi is maintained naturally. Some of the corrections I receive are about how I run my energy (what I’m doing with my qi). They aren’t necessarily phrased as such, for example: “Extend more—no, not externally: inside.” But when I then (in my words) expand my qi from my center to fill the hollow space, my teacher will nod once and move on.

Thanks Bamboo Leaf, for saying, “no a better take is that some have felt things that can not be explained except but by what is said according to TCM or the classics there may come a time when our understanding of physics is able to include this, then people will believe something that has been said, felt and used by some, all along and it will still be outside of them. “

Qi isn’t something intangible or invisible to me. I feel it; I see it. Not with my skin, not with my eyes, but in ways that are most easily expressed in terms of the senses touch and sight. I feel my energy like a field that surrounds me—the standard aura description.

I think our understanding of physics is already including this (some physicists anyway, not all, but some highly regarded ones: see the book “Holographic Universe”, or Brennan’s intro. overview of physics paradigms in “Hands of Light”).

When I walk around, my energy field is quite large and diffuse. I often have trouble keeping my aura from getting too large and spreading too thin. I typically track everyone within a 50-100 foot radius by “feel” if they’re not in my immediate line of sight (and then it’s a combination of seeing them and feeling where they are).

It’s kind of neat, but the disadvantage is that I’m not always entirely inside my body. YJ said to me once during class, “Where are you? Is your mind wandering?” Then he mimicked my eyes being unfocused and “far away.” Actually, I was concentrating on doing the form and paying close attention to the movements (mind not wandering) but I realized later I wasn’t entirely inside my body. So I’m working on staying grounded and staying inside my body.

My sense of what goes on for many other people is that they hold their body’s energy field close to their body like a wall and thus have trouble perceiving the surface of it or what’s outside. This is, IMO a large part of what’s meant by “soften,” “loosen,” and “extend.”

As for DP’s take on walking around: I distinctly feel other people’s energetic “edges.” People have a series of boundaries that you can feel if you are paying attention. Generally I find them at about 25 ft, 12 ft, 4 ft, 2 ft, and of course, the surface of their skin. (This is just an estimate; everybody’s different.)

When I walk around, I generally feel where people are and flow around their edges, being a generally yielding sort of person. But since I’ve been working on holding my ground, when I set my boundary out a little bit and maintain it and my ground, people will naturally step aside.

However, some days I particularly have trouble grounding and not projecting my energy out there. At work, people at the far end of long hallways walking with their backs turned to me will feel me tracking them. They startle and look over their shoulder and around their immediate vicinity (in the standard 25-30 foot radius) to see who was looking at them. They generally don’t find me because I’m not trying to be so far out there, so I retract as soon as I feel them startle.

Bob, I’m quite certain that I am “receptive” (whatever that means) and could be knocked over by someone with the skill send out their qi. YJ did a demonstration last month where he demonstrated split energy. I was nearby--about 12 feet away with my back turned (not by choice!). He was talking about inch energy and how you can’t really show split in demonstration because it’s too dangerous, and then he demonstrated in the empty air and I got hit with the shockwave like an explosion and was reeling (root up, still standing, but not quite balanced). I said to my push hands partner “Did you feel that?” and she said yes.

Another time, at a sword seminar, I was front and center when he demonstrated a typical thrusting movement where the qi is sent out the tip of the sword. He was about 20 feet away, but I felt a sudden sharp pain in my chest that I’ve never felt before nor since. I noticed him notice my difficulty, and he stepped to one side of me for the rest of the lesson and I don’t sit front and center anymore during weapons classes.

I don’t know what qi is. I do find that it has practical uses, whatever it is. The question for me isn’t “Does it exist?” because Qi is something that exists for me the way solid objects exist—because I can see it, because I can feel it. I can sometimes see qi in various ways: areas of shadow and light (stagnancy and flow), the bright paths of my meridians and shadowy areas where there are blockages, the microcosmic orbit, my spine in 3D: blue and composed of light. I can see the hemispheres of my brain like electromagnetic poles with current sparking like lightning back and forth (migraine, not good), or a diffuse glowing fog (better). I see the central core from Hui yin to Bai hui as a cylindrical core of light, extending above and below the body, more light woven about it in an overlapping double helical pattern like the weave on a fire-hose composed of glowing multicolored strands.

For me, qi IS something mysterious and magical. Older Cartesian views of Western science have trained us to want to break things down to understand them, line them up in ordered rows, and measure them. Systems theory, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, holographic universe theory—these new theories with their emphasis on interaction seem closer to approaching a way of understanding qi and closer to magic as well. All readily accepted scientific models were once “magic” before they became “theories” that were then tested made into more solidified “models.” (The evolution model has had many theories, some of which were thrown out because they didn’t match later evidence.) Magic is another name for something we don’t understand. There are many scientific theories about qi out there now. There are scientists who are diligently working on developing models for understanding how it works. But it’s a mistake to equate the model or the theory with the thing itself. Just because we can make a model or a theory doesn’t mean we understand the whole of it.

For example, what is energy? Everyone from physicists, to electricians, to biophysicists, to mothers of toddlers, to jet pilots, to tai chi practitioners has something to say about it and can say something of how it works. But what IS it? I don’t know. But I can use it.

My experience with qi is ever changing, the way the sky is ever changing and yet remains the same. There are always new and miraculous insights waiting for me if I can calm my mind enough to be still and centered. It’s always an exploration, an adventure. It may seem like magic to me because I cannot explain it scientifically but it’s a practical magic that can be practiced, honed, and explored.

I think that science is gradually coming to understand more and more about qi, but for now, I expect that the finest instruments for sensing the energies generated by organic systems are not inorganic machines made of metal and stone (silica, silicone) but our own bodies. Yang Jun responded to a question once by saying, “It’s not magic.” I’m sure he’s right. But it’s not science either—at our CURRENT understanding of science. Qi itself cannot be parsed or simplified—although one can measure correlative qi phenomena effects like conductivity and resistance, heat and light emitted, decibels emitted by qi gong practitioners, etc.—but the experience of the larger whole (or whatever portion we have access to in the moment) remains vast and ineffable, ever-changing, and beyond the limits of science and reason.

Qi’s not magic, it’s not supernatural—but I do think that the point is that the body can be trained to enormous sensitivity and at some point there is a perceptive shift that seems uncanny or supernatural. I didn’t used to be able to perceive or understand what I talked about above. And it feels like I’m only scraping the surface.

Before I improved my root, I would lose my balance if my teacher walked near me in class, even if I was in a bow stance and not moving. This is because the energy field he generates is so strong that it felt like standing at the edge of the ocean and being hit by a large wave. Other people don’t have this problem at all. I think it is the difference between being a large stone at the edge of the sea (solid, heavy, rooted) and being a piece of kelp tumbling this way and that in the water. I feel the currents all around me. I am studying tai chi to learn to keep my center and not get buffeted about. This is my world.

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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:00 pm

Greeting Kal,

I appreciate you posting these thoughtful remarks.

Traditionally, qi has been such a pervasive aspect of Chinese society that it is not viewed as something extraordinary. In an old thread on the board, I compared qi to metabolism, which we don’t ordinarily see or pay much attention to, but it goes on transforming our lives just the same.

Your remark about “not get buffeted about” reminded me of something.

There’s a passage in the first chapter of the Zhuangzi, speaking about the gigantic mythical bird, Peng: “He beats the whirlwind and rises ninety thousand li, setting off on the sixth month gale. Wavering heat*, bits of dust, living things blowing each other about—the sky looks very blue. Is that its real color, or is it because it is so far away and has no end? When the bird looks down, all he sees is blue too."
—Watson, trans., Zhuangzi, ch. 1

Some years back, I was curious about some of the original Chinese in this passage, and looked it up. The phrase Watson renders “wavering heat” is rendered by some as “heat hazes,” or some such. I discovered that the phrase for “wavering heat” was “yema” (‘wild horses’, familiar to taiji folks in the form name Wild Horse Parts Mane). Some Chinese glosses on Zhuangzi’s yema say that it’s talking about “rising qi,” or the like. What would that be? I suppose the dust kicked up by wild horses, viewed from a great distance, appears as little puffs of cloud, or what we might call dust devils. For me, the Zhuangzi passage is always a poignant reminder of how perception and phenomena interplay.

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 10-28-2005).]
Louis Swaim
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Oct 28, 2005 11:07 pm

Kal, if this sort of belief structure works for you, far be it from me to disparage it. However, I would like to point out that the theories you have elaborated above belong to the realm of personal beliefs and perceptions, and are not readily susceptible to verification or even confirmation by anyone else. Unless you are working within the framework of an established tradition and with a teacher who understands it, this sort of thing has a strong tendency to fade off into personal fantasy and superstition. I wonder if it isn't possible that such unsupported suppositions could turn out to limit your growth as much as they help it?
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