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Why We Do Push Hands

Why We Do Push Hands

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Published by mattkanis

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Published by: mattkanis on Nov 21, 2010
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10/30/2012

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Why Push Hands is Important in Developing a Good Tai ChiPracticeBy Hal MosherTai Chi uses the postures of the form to createweakness in ones’ opponent by making them fall on nothing. The postures use proper alignment to turn your opponentsforce against them. Through relaxing and yielding to youropponent he feels as if you disappear, and as result he willfall forward. This type of martial application of Tai Chi iswidely misunderstood and misrepresented. Tai chi is uniquein that it tries to find a balance between martial and civil, oryin and yang. In Tai Chi philosophy you try to use martialarts to protect yourself and the ones you love, which doesn’tnecessarily mean killing your opponent. It is a bit like takingfire away from the kettle to keep it from boiling, or a knifeaway from a child. Tai chi only uses the amount of energynecessary to dissuade an attacker, one doesn’t continue theattack unless necessary. The principles of non violence saythat conflicts only escalate into more conflict. A good Tai Chiplayer uses words to diffuse a hostile situation before aconflict starts. Push hands practice is learning how to diffusean attack in this way. Ultimately, push hands trains you todiffuse your ego when you are confronted with an attack. Itis our egos that can push us into fights that usually hurtoneself and perhaps another. In Martial Arts, our real enemyshould be our ego, and the arrogant self inflation thatdominates our thinking. Good push hands practice is amethod for conquering this arrogance by investing in loss. The more you give up to invest in loss, the more you will getout of push hands. In push hands, you begin with the mostdangerous position first, that is, only a few inches away fromyour partner, and later on farther away as you progress fromfixed step to moving step practice. This type of close infighting serves two functions. One is to train the waist toturn, the other is to train sensitivity of touch so you can readyour partners feints or real attacks.
 
The basics of push hands are based on the four words:stick, adhere, join, and follow. These four words seemsynonymous but they are not. However, all of them can besubsumed by the word follow. The best way to startunderstanding these words is to push and get pushed. Aftera while you will start to notice you won’t need as muchstrength as you thought in order to push someone. Thisrealization will come as your form improves as well. The ideain push hands is to avoid using your hands and try to pushusing your waist. In order for this to happen, all of yourprevious knowledge about pushing has to be transformedinto moving from shifting your weight and turning yourwaist. Until this happens the stronger and larger person willalways win. If you keep getting pushed repeatedly, you willstart to notice what happens to your body before the pushhappens. Eventually the push wont bother you anymore, andinstead you will come to welcome it. When this happens thenyou will start to feel your opponent and invest in loss. This isthe first stage in learning to stick and follow. As thisbecomes more attuned as you start to relax more you willbegin to apply the principle of no resistance no letting go.When you push, you should allow no more than four ouncesto be put on you and you should put no more than fourounces on them. This develops strong listening andsensitivity. This sensitivity is the used to detect full or emptyin the hands. If both hands are equally hard this is calleddouble weightedness, which has the antidote of making onehand light and the other heavy. The hand that is heavy is theopposite of the leg that is full. This sensitivity to yin andyang in your opponent will become very refined intodifferent ways of dealing with the angle of attack. At thebeginning of your practice, make sure one hand is full andthe other is empty. There are four ways to deal with an attack in Tai Chi, orfour directions to yield in. The first way is using the square. This is when someone pushes on one side you use the otherside to push. The points of the square are your shouldersand hips. This is the most basic way of yielding by turning off 
 
the center line, you will also find this turning in most othermartial arts systems. The second way is using the circle. Thisis using the arms as a shield that can turn horizontally toprotect your center line. When the attack comes in then yourotate horizontally on the circle of the attack. The circle willalways defeat the square. The third way is the sphere. Thesphere now uses the circle in three dimensions. Whensomeone attacks on the surface of the sphere then theattack is brought back to them. This way is unique to Tai Chiand is equated with the down up turn and left right turntogether. The sphere can defeat both circle and the square. The fourth is the point. The point combines all three in oneindistinct posture. The yielding and attacking happensimultaneous and effortless. The point can overcome any of the first three attacks and is very unique to Tai Chi and is atits highest levels. These four ways of yielding are developedby learning to do the three turnings and three shiftings (seeprevious article). Shifting and turning allow more responsetime and direction ability in your yielding. In this way theform helps the push hands and the push hands helps theform. In the Tai Chi classics it says, “if there is a problem inresponding to an attack, look for antidote in the waist andlegs”.When you start understanding how to yield in these waysyou will soon be able to redirect their energy. Thisredirection is possible when you have a strong root to theground. The best way to develop this root is to bend your hip joint and drop your tailbone towards your foot. The roothelps you sink and absorb their energy which then getsprojected back at them. It is like a wave. When the watergoes under the wave it pushes it up higher, so the more yougo in your root, the easier it is to transfer their energy backonto them. You will then draw them forward and once theylose their root they will be easy to move or project.Eventually, you will feel their weight shift very precisely andbe able to predict their movements by feeling their breathand blood rise to the occasion. There are many exercises tohelp with this process as I have described in my article onReeling Silk. The important point is to push with someone

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