First off, I agree with what you and everyone else said about the importance of actual training partners and forms practice. That said, though, I do think thereÕs some value in solo push hands practice practice (that is, practicing for the practice of push hands).
I like the idea of using a weighted medicine ball for testing structure. A refinement might be to eventually move off the wall with itÑmore like a Harlem GlobetrotterÕs type exercise. This would train how to distinguish between empty and full to a fine degree without someone moving consciously in opposition (or agreement) with you. I find itÕs easier to read people than inanimate objects. People often give a slight warning that theyÕre going to move. But an object thatÕs rollingÑwell youÕd better be Òin the nowÓ with it or itÕs going to fall on the ground.
I once saw Yang Jun do a similar thing with a teacup. At a restaurant, his small son dropped an empty teacup. Yang Jun caught it on the back of his hand, rolled it over the top, and presented it to his son like a magician flourishing a flower.
My favorite form of solo push hands practice isnÕt quite solo: I practice with my cat. Her favorite game is Foot. I stand on one leg and wave my foot around in the air. She attacks. If she bites me, she wins. If she draws blood with her claws, she wins. If I scare her away, she wins. I win if she launches a continuous and unsuccessful attack with both forepaws wrapped around my foot.
This game trains balance, root, listening energy (etc.), speed, sensitivity, agility (or whatever dexterity for the feet is), staying calm, and hiding intention. If I get rattled or excited and throw energy at her, she will panic and bolt in classic scaredy cat style. If I get mad, she bolts. If I get distracted, she bolts. If I send energy into her, she bolts.
After all, weÕre supposed to walk like catsÑwhy not play push hands games with them? (IF they consent to play with you! IÕm not advocating torturing animals!)
A variation of this game works nicely with puppies in the Òchew toyÓ phase. HereÕs the game: stick your hand in the puppyÕs mouth. DonÕt get hurt. This means, donÕt let them gain purchase enough to really bite. Of course, their owner will probably get angry with you for training their dog to bite people. Or their cat to bite people for that matter.
This has been Kal, taking push hands practice to a new level of insanity.
[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 02-22-2006).]