push hands with non-tai chi players

push hands with non-tai chi players

Postby Andrew » Thu Nov 18, 2004 6:06 pm

Due to the shortage of partners to practice push hands with, I have often asked non-tai chi friends of mine to push with me, so I give them a quick course in basic two-hand push hands and off we go. This experience has opened my eyes. I find it very difficult to use the principle of slight-force to push my friends off balence. They often have an innate ability to be solid, and despite their excessive stiffness (relative to my own body) they often beat me. I fair better with other tai chi practicioners. Partly because many tai chi players, due to a certain interpretation of the idea of following and relaxation, don't push very hard, or offer a clear plan of attack during their push-cycle of push hands.

But I think this is a misinterpretaion because someone has to be the attacker and someone the defender in order for us to train and test our skills. If the attacker (the push cycle) doesnt offer some sort of attack, then how can the other person train defense? But this happens so often, in the name of relaxation. I think its important for us to practice reducing pure force since this is what we would face from anyone who doesnt practice tai chi.

The crude unawareness that non tai chi people have of there body actaully does them well in push hands: I can rarely find a weak spot, or lock on to their centre.

I just wanted to post this expereince to see what others think.
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Postby Kalamondin » Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:50 am

Hi Andrew,

If you don’t mind a little advice from someone who’s had a similar experience:

It’s true that soft can beat hard, as we train in tai chi, but it’s also true that hard can beat soft. One of the most frustrating aspects of push hands training is that it takes much longer to be soft enough to overcome someone (trained or untrained) who is hard, which is why you’re running into difficulty. Don’t give up! Going slow is worth it…but you may have to put in some time “investing in loss” and “eating bitter.”

You said: “If the attacker (the push cycle) doesnt offer some sort of attack, then how can the other person train defense? But this happens so often, in the name of relaxation.”

Relaxation isn’t a bad thing for training gong fu (in the skill sense) in martial practice. I think it’s important to remember that push hands is a way of training how to listen to the opponent. Relaxation is key to listening because if we aren’t relaxed, our own tension, intention, and expectations get in the way of being able to hear and respond to an attack faster than the attack can be executed. I understand your frustration at people who push at you very slowly, but those slow pushes really give us the opportunity to slow down and listen.

The slow element of push hands will help you to be really fast later. If push hands players start training fast defenses too early, there’s a danger that they will become hard in their responses, since it’s more difficult to stay relaxed when an attack is coming in fast.

But then, I’ve found that push hands speed goes in cycles: slow and careful, then fast and aggressive, then slow and restrained, then fun-fast and oop, too dangerous, then back to being slow and careful, then whee! Gotcha! Fast!, then back to glacial slowness, only this time we can hear so much more and what used to be dull is now vastly interesting.

Good luck!

Kal
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Postby bamboo leaf » Sat Nov 20, 2004 2:34 am

(The crude unawareness that non tai chi people have of there body actaully does them well in push hands: I can rarely find a weak spot, or lock on to their centre.)

in a word no. no it does not.
Occasionally I also push with non taiji people. They are quite easy to handle provided that you are really relaxed sung, and also have ting jing listening skills. Stop dealing with their body and work with their mind, you find all the answers to your questions. Slow or fast it¡¯s the same, actually slow is harder to deal with if a person understands change well.
What your looking for is the reaction to the intent of a movement, what you should follow is also the intent of the movement. In this way leading is following, following is leading. If the body stops the mind continues.

Pushing with non taiji people can be dangerous, dangerous to them if you have true taiji skills to borrow and use their force. Above all do not adopt ways to try and move them using force. This will only lead to bad habits. If there is nothing that you can do against them at this point just use the practice to feel what it is that they are doing to you.

good luck

david
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:34 am

Greetings All,

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by bamboo leaf:
Stop dealing with their body and work with their mind... </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think this is a quite advanced level. To comprehend you the practitioner must attain certain level of understanding in his/her individual form practice and must grasp certain principles. The criterion of this level is that movements became light and lively (but rooted). Otherwise people just may not understand that recommendation.

But in general I share your advice.

Take care,

Yuri
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Postby Andrew » Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:54 pm

Hi Kalamondin, The problem I constantly face with being soft is that the incoming force from my partner will track into the core of my body (usually my chest area) and then once they are on my chest, I am stuck, and its only a matter of time before their force builds up and I am pushed off balence.

Even If I am able to turn my waist to one side, then my partner sticks and turns with my waist and then pushes me from the new angle caused by my waist being turned, and I am again pushed off balence.

This particular scenerio happens a lot. What do we do when we turn our waist to reduce but then our partner is still there after the turn to push from a new angle?
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Nov 20, 2004 9:47 pm

Andrew, I think you have asked a very good and fundamental question and I am sure you will get a lot of interesting replies. As you have discovered, when someone pushes straight in toward my center if I oppose him directly it turns into a contest of strength or advantage in angles etc. I don't think that is really what taiji is about. Here is a suggestion. Start out by not caring if you get pushed back or 'lose'. This is important because otherwise reflexive resistance will tend to drive what you do. So this is simply a game you are playing with a partner and there are no winners or losers, only exploration of the possibilities. Next, as the person pushes in toward your center, stick well to his arm or hand and follow it rather than resist. Now with very little force on your part, you can add in a circling direction to what the other person is doing: he won't be bounced directly back like a ball but rather circled back. Try it!
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Nov 20, 2004 10:00 pm

If the circle is very large it may not lead back toward your opponent but off to one side and in back of you. Remember that there are an infinite number of planes in which to circle.
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Postby bamboo leaf » Sat Nov 20, 2004 11:30 pm

(Even If I am able to turn my waist to one side, then my partner sticks and turns with my waist and then pushes me from the new angle caused by my waist being turned, and I am again pushed off balence.)

it means a couple of things, the most important is that you are not following, you are leading and your partner is following. The other thing is that you are double weighted. This means that if you think of a ball, at some point as it rolls a force is simple directed off to one side by the force itself. It falls on emptiness. Being double weighted is like having a very flat ball, the force never falls out because the base is not developed enough,

Think of something like an oval shape.
Its not truly round, there are flat spots in it. Practice being a elastic balloon for a while, absolutely using no force. relax sung as much as possible, you will find it.

david
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Postby Bamenwubu » Mon Nov 22, 2004 4:08 pm

Andrew,
You are receiving some very good advice and most of it makes some sense for your scenario, however I have a slightly different theory for what is ailing you.
I honestly believe the problem is in your footwork, as was mine.
Your stance sounds weak, almost like your back hip, the one furthest from your opponent, is not in proper alignment to allow you to root properly.
I think this because this sounds very nearly like the same issue I was corrected on recently by my instructor in Yang style TCC and since that day I have found more stability in my stance no matter what direction I am pushed from.
If you don't root properly, you will easily be offset by anyone if they find the proper angle to push against your body. This is why we root firmly and solidly, so that we cannot be offset no matter what angle the energy comes in from.
Once you are able to stand firmly with a solid root that connects your energy to the center of the earth and the top of the heavens, then you will be able to stand confidently against any opponent, no matter what martial style they espouse, and exchange full and empty with them for as long as you'd like.

I'm not sure, but I believe it was Yang Cheng Fu who said that if you have a defect in your form, look to your legs. It was one of the Yangs, anywho.

That's the best advice I can give you. After having done pushing hands of a different sort for quite some time, and thinking I was really doing something, it was brought to my attention, rather dramatically, by my instructor that my stance was only really good for bracing against forward and backward incoming energy, but as soon as energy came in from the side I was easily dispatched.
Does this sound familiar to you? It is what it sounds like is happening to you during your encounters. As long as you accept the energy directly, head on, you are fine, but once you offset the energy out to the side your opponent simply redirects it back towards you and you collapse.
This would be due to an incorrect placement of your back hip, as I said.
Your Certified Coach or Center Director would be the best person to get the details from, certainly, but in a nutshell it sounds as if you are not properly tucking in your hips (as in preperatory position, roll them forward, that stays true throughout the entire form and in any stance practice) and almost certainly it sounds as if you are not opening the kua properly. Also, the correct alignment of your knee with your toes in both legs is crucial, they must be aligned in the same direction in order for you to have a firm stance, along with the kua open and the hips properly rolled.
My Yang Cheng Fu Center Director proved this to me very easily, by tossing me about like a rag doll when I did this wrong, and has since worked long and diligently with me and my fellow students at our Center to correct this flaw in our stances, and now I have begun the long, long journey towards real push hands along with my fellow students.
We have also been told to "invest in loss" and expect to keep doing so for a long, long time until we get this concept, and many others, correct.
I consider us extremely fortunate to have such a good instructor.

Footwork, that's the key here. If you can't stand solidly, you cannot do anything else correctly in tai chi, or anything else for that matter.
Look to your legs, I believe that is where you will find the fault you are feeling, as did I.

Good luck, and let me know if this works for you. Or, if I'm completely wrong, not a far fetched scenario, please let us know what you did that worked for you to correct the situation.

[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 11-22-2004).]
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Postby Marc Heyvaert » Mon Nov 22, 2004 7:37 pm

Hello,

On of the keys of not being double weighted and being able to absorb a force coming straight in, is the ability to really 'sit' into the back leg in an empty stance. Zheng Manqing was very much for an exercise where you would adopt the 'play the pipa' and/or the 'lift hands' posture on both sides and keep the posture for x minutes at a time. After practicing this for some time it will feel as if you have a spring in your leg, in fact it sometimes feels as if your entire leg is like one of those springs that you find under childrens toy-seats in parks. If you master this you will have solid rooting + ability to move and redirect even when your oponent extends his body. In fact if you can entice him to extend his push very far, he will become very weak and easily pushed.

Another thin is that you have to find a way to lead the oponents force past you. This can be achieved by turning while retreating (if fixed step, moving your bodyweight to the back leg), or by turning and moving your bodyweight forward or by advancing in free step. Then you are in a prime position to apply zhou oar kao. But take care because these movements can have a greater effect than expected and hurt your opponent.

Marc
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Tue Nov 23, 2004 6:40 am

Greetings All.

Kalamondin,
Jerry, BL
Bamenwubu, Marc,

I found your comments very interesting and useful. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

I would like to add that IMO there are two basic kinds of tuishou (pushing hands) strategies. The one is conventionally "CMC type" – the legs are positioned quite wide (to left and right) and the accent is made on the shifting the weight to the side with turning of the upper body in order to escape from opponent's attack to the either side. The other is conventionally "a more traditional variant" – the legs are positioned not so wide but quite spread from front to back. The accent is on moving the weight forward and backward with partial turning in order to brush opponent's attack aside or to "swallow" it.

I think the second strategy is more difficult for the beginners but more effective for the defense in the cases that Andrew described.

Take care,

Yuri


[This message has been edited by Yury Snisarenko (edited 11-23-2004).]
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Postby Anderzander » Tue Nov 23, 2004 8:07 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Andrew:
Even If I am able to turn my waist to one side, then my partner sticks and turns with my waist and then pushes me from the new angle caused by my waist being turned, and I am again pushed off balence.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hiya

It sound like you have two components missing:

Sinking - as in the ability to take force down into the ground. It sounds like your only method to neutralise is to use a horizontal circle and not a vertical one.

A central axis - a wheel with an axle (where the wheel turns but the axle does not). It sounds like your body is one unit and locked together.

Let me try and briefly desribe neutralisation by a horizontal circle and more thoroughly describe half of the vertical circle...

For the Vertical Circle:

If we remember the basics - that all movement starts in the feet is magnified in the legs and ripples through to the whole body, and that this applies to both upward and downward movements. So we have the base, mainly through the substantial leg, creating movement in the rest of the body.

So try this:

Keep your intent below the substantial foot whilst continually releasing and relaxing from there upwards - do it more and more.

The substantial leg, whilst the releasing process is occuring, will channel more and more of your opponents force/body weight into the ground.

It is very important to suspend the crown whilst doing this or you will merely be creating compression - ie the force will not be passing through you but compacting you like a spring.


For the Horizontal Circle:

You can either do this where you keep the opponents force outside your body or bring it in and down.

Sink and release the interior of your body whilst cultivating a sense of having an axis that runs from your pirenium upto your crown.

Rotate around this axis and either cultivate a feeling of the persons force slipping off you or being emptied into one of your feet.


It's a long but not exhaustive post. Taking force and your own weight down is half of openeing and closing - all postures are comprised of opening and closing - so I have describe that in more detail.

I hope it helps though.

Stephen



[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 11-23-2004).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:52 pm

Hi Andrew,

You’re getting a lot of good advice from people, but some of it can be hard to incorporate if you are pushing with people who always push fast and hard. You may have to train your non-push hands partners to go more slowly and not as hard. When you train very, very, very slowly your body will learn to listen to your opponents in-coming force, understand the trajectory, and circle away and back accordingly.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>The problem I constantly face with being soft is that the incoming force from my partner will track into the core of my body (usually my chest area) and then once they are on my chest, I am stuck, and its only a matter of time before their force builds up and I am pushed off balence.

Even If I am able to turn my waist to one side, then my partner sticks and turns with my waist and then pushes me from the new angle caused by my waist being turned, and I am again pushed off balence.

This particular scenerio happens a lot. What do we do when we turn our waist to reduce but then our partner is still there after the turn to push from a new angle? </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

In this scenario, you are successfully moving out of the way of the original, linear, incoming force. But when you partner follows you and pushes from a new angle, he has made either a curve to change the trajectory (part of a circle) or he has changed the angle (this will feel sudden and not smooth).

In order to stay balanced when our push hands partners change course there are several things that need to happen. Others mentioned staying rooted, distinguishing between empty and full. But how do you learn these things? The simple (but aggravating) answer is to slow down and listen and then you will figure it out.

But here are some ideas to consider when you are listening: when your opponent pushes you off balance, you can think of it as being “pushed into a corner” or having a wall at your back. You simply have nowhere to go. Try to think about leaving some “room” or “space” for yourself. For example, when you turn to the side, try not to turn so far that you get twisted up or can’t go any further. Leave a little space to turn in a different direction. This means you will have to train your listening skills to know what your limits are and where the “wall” is. This is something useful you can learn from being repeatedly pushed off balance.

Maybe you’re thinking: but where can I go? Going back doesn’t work and going to the side doesn’t work…. Well, one idea that helped me was to start thinking about other directions—you can sink down, you can make another little twist and go back the way you came from (only just ahead of your opponent’s understanding of where you are), you can go on a diagonal—there are more options than the horizontal plane. (I don’t know if that’s a problem for you, but it used to be for me.)

It can certainly be difficult to move the chest out of the way. I think there is a part in the middle of the chest that might be called “dead space” or something like that b/c it’s hard to avoid a strike to the center if your opponent has you there, and maybe for more literal reasons too. If your attention is on your chest area where your opponent has contact, try thinking about the waist area and the Dantien instead. “The waist leads the body,” and it’s easier to move than the chest anyway. Sometimes I think of my Dantien as the first car of a roller coaster. The track curves and loops, but to stay on it, you must be rooted by your structural elements. Your opponents will eventually learn to change directions quickly, but if you can circle effectively—by training slow single arm circles—you’ll be able to stay one step ahead.

Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:13 pm

Greetings All.

Stephen,

You said about the horizontal and vertical circles. This is close to what I tried to express in my last post.

I don't doubt that the vertical circle is an effective way to deal with the opponent's attack but it may turn up quite uneasy thing for the beginner. The cause is that it's harder to use the waist in such a movement since the body makes only partial narrow turning. Therefore the beginner may forget about some principles in that circling of the arms and try to add muscular force to them. But despite this difficulty it's surely one of the most wondrous techniques.

Take care,

Yuri
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Postby Andrew » Mon Jan 17, 2005 2:02 pm

THank you for all the replys. I took a look at my stance and realized that it was too narrow, and so I had to correct my form too. I hadn't realized I got accustomed to a narrow stance. I aslo really like the idea of leaving extra room for waist rotation when I turn, so as not to use up all the potential on the first push.
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