Serious Push-Hands Question

Postby tai1chi » Sun Jul 18, 2004 3:39 pm

Hi Wushunut,

I think all martial arts have their legends. Mas Oyama knocked out/killed/knocked the horn off a charging bull with one strike. But, I don't think you could go to a karate school and expect that many of his students could/would do the same. In a way, that'd be like going to Michael Jordan's basketball camp and expecting to come away being able to 360 slam dunk from the foul line. Most of the legends, about anything, pertain to special people with significant talent. No matter who one learns from, or how much one pratices, there are some things that one won't be able to do.

In tcc, there are stories about a master who could prevent a bird from taking off out of his hand --without holding it. Then there's one about someone who leaped to a rooftop. And, there are the ones that you referred to.

Imo, rather than looking for someone to teach you one of those skills, take a look at the ads for a school or go there and see what the instructor is teaching. I'm not saying that that will be all you will or can get from the practice. I can say, with certainty, that you can get no less than what you see.

I would not ask anyone to show me something that I'd only read about. I wouldn't use anything that anyone said about a master (living or dead) to base my expectations for myself from the practice.

If you've read somewhere that there are tcc masters who have (or had) the ability to do something that you consider fantastic, don't bother to ask for a demonstration from anyone in particular. He or she might not have that specific skill, but have another one. I don't htink you can expect that every or any teacher that you meet will be able to live up to legends. However, there are those who'll have more to teach you than you may be able to learn. You'll have to find that out through your own experience.
fwiw.

cheers,
Steve James
Steve
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Jul 19, 2004 3:11 pm

The tale about the bird seemingly stuck in the hand, I've heard that one attributed to everyone from Yang (Lu Chan) Fu Kui to Sun Lu Tang to Yang (Cheng Fu) Zhao Qing.
Legendary tales of prowess were not what drew me to TCC at all. I have to admit to finding TCC like most folks did, I heard about this weird and wonderful style of martial art from other martial artists I had trained with in Tae Kwon Do and Aikido. They spoke of this TCC like it was the bees knees of all martial arts.
So when I saw an ad from someone who said they teach that style, I answered it to see what it was about.
At first, I was simply not impressed. How could I have been? I had been studying these hard styles with thier ritualistic katas and training routines, blocks and strikes, kicks and leaps, hard hitting and fast moving.
TCC was being presented as this slow, namby pamby form training, it took years to even understand, much less do correctly.
Even after I had trained in TCC for some years I was doubtful of it's usefullness as a method of self defense.
Then I met a guy who could actually do some of the things that I had heard of. He could easily toss me about like a rag doll, despite my best efforts to keep him from doing so. In fact, the more I tried to get the upper hand on him, the more he had the upper hand on me.
That's what I had been looking for. That's when I realized that this is, indeed, a superb martial art.
The trick was to learn how to do it.
I'm still working on that. I haven't, yet, overcome my desire to resist completely. I still try to push back a little, sometimes I let my shoulder get into the action and lose the connection to my waist.
I'm still a bit arrogant and still sometimes forget that resistance is futile, and counterproductive.
But I'm getting much better at this art, every day I feel some progress.
I made a great leap forward just this past Saturday morning, when I asked a simple question about Wave Hands Like Clouds at my class.
Such a simple question, it was, "what direction my downward moving hand should be facing as it goes in front of my body?"
I got a reply that was long, complicated, rife with misunderstanding on my part due to my still having a tendency to meld parts of the Wu forms into some of my Yang forms.
It also lead to one of the single most interesting conversations our Saturday morning practice group has EVER had.
We all demo'd what we thought were applications for WHLC, I even demo'd the Wu form and showed the apps I had learned from it (I'm to the point where I have to mentally force myself to lean now when I do Wu forms).
I learned more about Yang style WHLC from that fifteen minute conversation than I had learned in the last two and a half years.
We went on to actually practice a few applications from that form, and we all learned quite a lot from that as well.
Like what works, and what doesn't work. What are the REAL applications, and which were conjecture that never paid off in reality.
What a great step forward that was, for all of us.

Anyway...
Absolutely correct assesment.
If you want genuine TCC, prepare for a long, long trip before you get to it.
I've been taking that trip for eighteen years, and I'm not completely there yet.
I might have been, if I'd have nothing else to do in the world but TCC. But like most folks, I've had to work for a living, I have kids and a wife I have to spend some time with.
But I work on my TCC every single day.
One brush stroke at a time.
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Postby Greyphantom » Tue Jul 20, 2004 7:39 am

That is a great post Wushuer.... sometimes I feel a little frustrated by my progress... I think I am not learning fast enough or that I should be picking up more... but then I remember that taiji is not learnt overnight and that, as you say, each brushstroke I make will eventually turn out a master piece... cheers...
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Jul 20, 2004 2:23 pm

Grey,
The frustration factor is one I can relate to. I feel it, all the time.
This, too, is counterproductive, though.
Remember this, not too darned many of us are professional TCC practicioners. Are we?
We hear of these legends of the past, the Great Masters who could perform vastly unbelievable feats of martial prowess seemingly with no effort.
We hear of the living legends of today, the Yang Zhenji's, the Yang Zhen Duo's, the Yang Jun's, the Wu Tai Sin's, the Wu Kwong You's, these people have such great knowledge and we reverence them, rightly.
We wonder, all the time, why WE can't do these things. We can't we throw opponents for a dozen yards without seeming to move? Why can't we put a spear into a cinder block six inches deep with one seemingly effortless thrust?
Well, the answer is really very simple.
WE don't spend eight to ten hours a day for fifteen or twenty years doing NOTHING but practicing TCC.
WE are not professional TCC martial artists with no other thing to concentrate on all day other than our TCC.
WE have to go to work, mow the lawn, do the dishes, go to school, do our homework, do the housework, fix the car, take the kids to soccer, take our wives or husbands out for our anniversary...
It goes on.
How much time do we get to practice in between all this? How can we truly relax and be in the moment when we're still thinking about that dam*ed transmission that is starting to slip, or balancing the chlorine and Ph level in our swimming pool that is starting to turn green (OK, I have a pool so I worry about that, others may not)?
See where I'm going here?
We must put in ten days to get as much out of our practice of this art as these Great Masters of past and present do from one.
That's what takes so long for us.
Life happens while we wish we were pushing hands.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 07-20-2004).]
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Postby Michael » Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:32 am

Wushuer,

You have it exactly right.
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Jul 21, 2004 11:16 am

Greetings All,

Hi Steve,

I found one of the comments you made very interesting...And am seeking confirmation and identification of the basic skill name used therein.

You wrote:
<<In tcc, there are stories about a master who could prevent a bird from taking off out of his hand --without holding it. >>Steve James

I realize the degree of proficiency in this legend is of an optimal and unusual level, but am wagering that this is drawn from a basic skill used in Taijiquan...

Recently, wandering the streets of my local Chinatown area, I came across a group of Chigong practitoners. They were practicing a form of static positioned, seated meditation.

Of course my curiosity drove me to attempt some of these postures on my own, later that evening, and I was quite surprised at the efficiency of the system. One result in particular provoked my interest and also possibly coincides with your statement.

After practicing, I observed a sort of powerful magnetic attraction between the two palms, when placed facing each other, so strong in fact, that there were moments(quickly waning moments) that I could not even separate the palms with substantial effort.

Is this what is referred to as "Sticky Hands" ?

What is the formal association for this function...Is there, in fact, a specific label for it?

Thank you for your time and assistance,

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:29 pm

Psalm,

Sticky Hands, as practised in Wing Chun, is actually a form of training not too disimilar to Push Hands - although my experiences in SH were very much hard (or external, if you prefer).

And I completely agree with Polaris's last post - as a newbie all this talk of internal energy was really just talk to me (with perhaps a few glimmerings of feeling when doing chi gung or form work, although whether these are real or imagined I guess I'll discover over time) until my last class.

As all our class have now learnt the form we were starting to go back through it again from the beginning to refine it, going over Ying/Yang aspects and posture testing.

Anyway, whilst practicing and discussing postures and so on, my teacher asked me to grab his hands to demonstrate just how relaxed power could work...as soon as I grabbed hold of him I just bounced backward - not particularly strongly or firmly, but I had the distinct sensation of energy going down and then rising up again to try to lift me up. It felt unlike anything I have ever experienced before...from an onlooker's point of view it would have appeared that my teacher simply pushed me backwards a little way, but the feeling was something entirely different and has given me much to think about.

I came out of that class understanding, I think, why many teachers insist that Tai Chi's power cannot effectively be shown, only felt.
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Postby Polaris » Wed Jul 21, 2004 2:00 pm

Greetings,

That sounds like the same demonstration of the first motion of the form that I like to make for new students, very interesting.

I have them grab my wrists, I listen to where their centre is and then send some p'eng through my wrists using their heels as the centre of a circle to launch them backwards a bit. There is no apparent motion on my part, perhaps a slight flexing in my wrists or forearms, but usually the circle I use is so small that it is undetectable from the outside (it really depends on the size or weight of the student). Then I show them how it works as simple physics.

Later, at intermediate level, it is one of the drills we use during push hands practise to identify and train p'eng with a partner, over and over again for many hours. There a several other p'eng drills, too.

Sticking is intimately connected to the ability to "listen" and is something that shows up reliably only after years of pushing hands. It is "giving up oneself to follow another" and is quite fascinating. It is a primary ingredient of "suddenly appearing and suddenly disappearing." Once you can stick to someone, they will literally throw themselves every time that they attack you. To do the p'eng demonstration that I mention above, there has to be listening and familiarity with stickiness in order to immediately feel the relationship between the contact point(s), centres of gravity and the opponent's contact with the ground all at once, globally, in order to introduce the correct forces to sever their centre from the ground neatly.

Cheers,
P.

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 07-21-2004).]
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Wed Jul 21, 2004 3:40 pm

>>>Then I show them how it works as simple physics.

Polaris, would it be possible to explain this here - if so, I would love to hear it if you would be willing to tell.

Cheers,

Brit
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Jul 21, 2004 10:04 pm

Polaris,
I love that exercise. Thanks for reminding me of it.
I've got a few people I want to show that to, and haven't for some reason.

WB,
I really don't think it could be explained in words any better than it allready was, at least I can't, but maybe Polaris can.
If so, I'd love to see it myself.
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Postby Polaris » Thu Jul 22, 2004 5:54 pm

It involves identifying the extreme backward point of the opponent's heel as the centre of a circle. P'eng describes by moving along, either forward or backward, the top part of the circumference of the circle that is centred on the tip of the opponent's heel in this case. You may assign the centre of the circle wherever you'd like for other applications of this sort of leverage. When the other person grips or pushes on your arm, move the wrist contact point along the circumference of that circle in a smooth, relaxed manner and the other person will lose their balance over that point on their heel if they have any tension in their arms (which they will if they haven't trained internal martial arts). If they do, by some fluke, neutralize by loosening their elbows (it happens sometimes), you can always pull in the other direction quickly, offset them using their grip and say, "Aha!"

So it isn't magic, it is simple physics of leverage. Where the energy work comes in is that you have to be very well conditioned and sensitive to get it to work, however. It is a matter of cultivating and being so aware of your own internal energy, being able to trust in your stability and freedom in that relaxed state, that you can get your "soft style" technique to work every time. It takes many years to retrain your self to that point.

Cheers,
P.

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 07-22-2004).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jul 22, 2004 6:22 pm

Greetings Polaris,

Well done! I especially like your remark, ‘If they do, by some fluke, neutralize by loosening their elbows (it happens sometimes), you can always pull in the other direction quickly, offset them using their grip and say, "Aha!"’

This dynamic is what Yang Chengfu called “to and fro” (wangfu). One of the form sequences he used to illustrate this dynamic is Needle at Sea Bottom.

"Aha!"
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 07-22-2004).]

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 07-22-2004).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jul 22, 2004 7:47 pm

P,
Well, that cleared it up for me.
I've never heard it put quite that succinctly before. Of course, I've rarely heard anyone give a verbal explanation of it before.
Once again I bow to your ability to express these things so clearly.
Wish my full time, regular instructor had been as verbal as you seem to be, and I always marveled that Eddie was, at seminars. I learned everything from him by being shown how, then practicing. He rarely verbalized the lesson beyond things like, "step, lean, open, close, push", etc., etc. If he did explain these things to others, I never heard it. I was probably off practicing and not paying as much attention as I should have.
Like I said, in my mis-spent youth I wanted to do it, not talk about it. I'm sure it's my fault for not paying as much attention as I should have.
Anyway...
While I can do this, and have many times for beginner classes, my wrist and arm movements are quite a bit larger than others that I have seen. My brother is superb at this demonstration and he's the one who showed me how to do it for when I began to train beginners. I was and still am constantly amazed at how little motion he uses when he does it, because it never looks like he moves at all.
I clearly move when I do this. It's still pretty impressive to beginners, though, because I don't really move very much, in their eyes.
I move a lot compared to others I've seen, though, so I know my skill is lower than it could be. I haven't practiced this in years, so I'd bet I'm not as good at it as I even used to be.
I have never had anyone I tried this on neutralize it. Of course I never did this with anyone other than my brother, who was letting me do it so I could practice, and beginners, who were stiff enough that it worked easily, so had never progressed to the point where I would need to know what to do about that situation.
No. To be truthfull, on relection, my brother did show me how to neutralize this by relaxing my elbows and shoulders when he first taught me how and what to do about it, but we only practiced that maybe once or twice and that was it.
Glad that you reminded me! Because I was planning on doing this to my push hands partner and he has good neutralization skills. Now I can practice on my daughter for a while, then show her how to neutralize it, and practice pulling back and saying "Aha!" when I do, BEFORE I try it on him and get offset myself!
Thanks, again.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 07-22-2004).]
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Postby Polaris » Fri Jul 23, 2004 1:59 am

"To and fro" is a good way to demonstrate the plasticity of yin and yang for new students, too.

The demonstration that I talk about above is very commonly demonstrated to newbies in Wu family schools, as it is from the very first "Raise Hands Step Up" motion in the form, sometimes called the "T'ai Chi Commencement" or "Beginning of T'ai Chi" posture by some teachers in my system. We also spend a lot of time working on p'eng in general. It has always fascinated me that different teachers even from the same family enumerate their forms differently, different start and end points, etc. I guess that if that weren't the case, we'd all still be doing Ch'en style!

Cheers,
P.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Jul 23, 2004 3:24 pm

Greetings Brit,

Thank you for your reply to my query.

You wrote:
<<Sticky Hands, as practised in Wing Chun, is actually a form of training not too disimilar to Push Hands - although my experiences in SH were very much hard (or external, if you prefer).>>WB

The notion that Sticky Hands is a shared element of both soft and hard martial arts leaves ME with much to think about. I find the comparing of the internal and external arts quite fascinating and worthy of pursual for development of my understanding of the art of Taijiquan.

<<As all our class have now learnt the form we were starting to go back through it again from the beginning to refine it, going over Ying/Yang aspects and posture testing.>>WB

I do believe you have just identified, for me, the answer I was seeking...Ying/Yang theories...Yes,,,I think that's it...There must be many aspects of this theory to be explored and balanced...Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

<<Anyway, whilst practicing and discussing postures and so on, my teacher asked me to grab his hands to demonstrate just how relaxed power could work...as soon as I grabbed hold of him I just bounced backward - not particularly strongly or firmly, but I had the distinct sensation of energy going down and then rising up again to try to lift me up. It felt unlike anything I have ever experienced before...from an onlooker's point of view it would have appeared that my teacher simply pushed me backwards a little way, but the feeling was something entirely different and has given me much to think about.>>WB

Thanks for sharing that experience,story.

The idea that I am fixated upon presently is one of electrical power...Have you ever received a shock which thew you backward...I would imagine this must be a similar force, energy...or have I perhaps taken the wrong boat completely? Image

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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