Starting Push Hands Training

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby everything on Thu May 25, 2023 8:59 am

Appledog wrote: I have seen the light, and I want what I want.


"this is the way."

everything else in your stream-of-consciousness writing style - not sure if I follow.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby BruceP on Thu May 25, 2023 9:26 am

yeniseri wrote:
"Qi sensation" is not even a criteria for push hands/rolling hands/etc. It is a waste of time and only benefits those who can get extra money for showing parlour tricks.
It is useless! No vale la pena.......


Discard the Six Harmonies and push on...
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby robert on Thu May 25, 2023 11:25 am

Appledog wrote:Here's an interesting thought. If push hands was the way to increase one's skill, then who did Chen Fa-Ke push hands with?

His relatives? His father, Chen Yanxi, when he was in the village? Other people in the village? How many people did CFK train in Chen village? We know CZP trained with CFK. CFK trained in Chen village for 30 years or so. He was what, 43 or 44 years old when he left the village for Beijing? Do you socialize in Taiwan? Do you know anything about Chinese culture? You don't think CFK went back to Chen village for Chinese New Year? Or qingming?

Appledog wrote:Apparently, Chen Fa-Ke, for example, learned this skill solely from forms practice.

Huh? Do you think he was a leper or something? No one would train with him?
The method of practicing this boxing art is nothing more than opening and closing, passive and active. The subtlety of the art is based entirely upon their alternations. Chen Xin
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby yeniseri on Thu May 25, 2023 1:28 pm

It reminds me of the immigrant background and Jewish world of the great American Alexander Hamilton, though and rightly so, he is an American institution despite his early years grounded and hidden in history!
An excellent part of forensic examination is to check all sides despite them being dissimular or discordant. If anyone is interested, the Xiaojia of Chen style of X'ian gives a great expose of the other side
of Chen Family taijiquan and explain some of the missing history that is rarely sought out but fills in some of the missing pieces.

I mention now and then the pre 1950s and post 1950s (a guesstimate on my part and it serves a reference for me) taijiquan knowing that many things took place that few realie and since it is rarely mentioned,it is believed
a thing never happened. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence..taken from British Medical Journal (I believe from my weary mind as it may have benn said by earlier inividuals ;D

Sometimes, perspective from Xiaojia (Chen Small Style ) shows us how some branches develop while still being part of the greater Chenjiagou manner and strategy of training ???
Chen Fake learned from other members of the family before he went to Beijing. Keep in mind that Xiaojia still had adherents and they left later to go to X'ian!
When fascism comes to US America, It will be wrapped in the US flag and waving a cross. An astute patriot
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby everything on Thu May 25, 2023 3:52 pm

So then I am left wondering, what is this energy expression one can learn from the form?


seems like one of the most fundamental questions. :P


push hands applications come from the form


if we ignore questions of "internal", "energy" and so on for a moment (or quite a lot of them), there are lots of "basic outer movements" anyone can learn to do smoothly. as in all sports and arts, the most talented kids could probably learn them astonishingly quickly.

kind of getting into the "why there will never be another YLC" kind of topic, some kind of talented people could probably learn the "internal" bits as well. not even sure if the athletically gifted would be the ones who would be "internally" gifted. often, it seems like it's not the case. so the intersection of these two groups (if that could even exist) would be insanely small. assuming you were in that group (not a personal comment, but it's statistically incredibly unlikely), who would there be to teach, really?

for many, many reasons, you're left with working on the first kind of grouping for the most part b/c more people (nearly all people) can do it. forget about internal or external, if there's something useful there (there certainly is), then people can use it in larger MA contexts like judo or boxing or mma or whatever. in that case, as in all sports and arts, may as well start young. that is not to say, give up on "disney magic". the intersection is far, far more interesting imho. it's just that "the numbers" and "basic logic" kind of point to certain pathways. then maybe, out of the millions of kids who take karate or tkd at the mcdojo, somebody gets interested in "internal" and finds that more difficult road. probably everyone here did that.
Last edited by everything on Thu May 25, 2023 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby Appledog on Thu May 25, 2023 6:03 pm

robert wrote:
Appledog wrote:Here's an interesting thought. If push hands was the way to increase one's skill, then who did Chen Fa-Ke push hands with?

His relatives? His father, Chen Yanxi, when he was in the village?



Oh, I see you don't know the story. No, it wasn't with his father because he was away for a period of time, and it wasn't with his relatives or anyone else in the village. Weren't expecting that one were you? Here's an excerpt:

After training hard for three years, Chen Fake found that the lump in his belly had virtually disappeared and his fitness had improved. His health and strength had become normal for a boy of his age. Meanwhile, his martial skills had progressed unnoticed.
One day, in order to test how much progress he had made, he invited his cousin to practice push hands. [...] His cousin tried three times to advance and throw Chen Fake using fajin. On each occasion he was instead countered and thrown back by Chen Fake.

Not until the third time did his cousin suspect that Chen Fake's skill had surpassed his own, yet he wasn't fully convinced. He was upset at losing, and as he was leaving he grumbled, "Every generation in your lineage produces master hand practicioners, probably by passing down secret techniques. Even hopeless ones like you, who are not as good as me, can now defeat me. There is no point for any of my lineage to pracice this art for we don't know the secrets."

Chen Fake informed Hong Junsheng, "In fact, my father had not been home those previous three years, so he could not have taught me any secret family techniques. My skill was purely the result of three years of hard work."


So, point a) he developed a great amount of skill via forms practice, in the beginning which surprised his cousin. Now the story does relate he practiced "occasionally" with his uncles, but it seems to point towards forms as the primary vehicle.

Point b is that since his training was reported to be mainly forms, how did he become so good at push hands? Ultimately it could not have been from pushing with someone greater than he -- and we also know his training regimen consisted mainly of forms, and that even his senior students save perhaps two were somewhat afraid to push with him (i.e. all of his students were far below him in terms of skill). So then the question becomes if not from pushing with people of same or at least equal skill, then from where? Another great example of this mystery is how Hong Junsheng became so skillfull despite the fact he never learned any weapons forms. What is the kernel, or nugget, of taiji truth which is vital?

It seems the primary demarcation line is a well-done form, but, not necessarily any particular form -- Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, etc. I'm just speculating, of course.

everything wrote:
Appledog wrote: I have seen the light, and I want what I want.


"this is the way."

everything else in your stream-of-consciousness writing style - not sure if I follow.


Just trying to be kind :)
Last edited by Appledog on Thu May 25, 2023 6:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby everything on Thu May 25, 2023 8:26 pm

Who said the other day “internal bodybuilding”?

Daily “bodybuilding” and one day all the tiny changes add up a little.

It’s the same story with Guo Yunshen isn’t it?

There is a famous futbol player Son. His dad had him work only on his gongfu with the ball instead of letting him join a team. He did juggling sessions (kicking the ball up in the air repeatedly) for four hours at a time. He’s now the most two footed player at the top level.

All the mind/body and “energy” Improvements happen invisibly.
Last edited by everything on Thu May 25, 2023 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby Quigga on Fri May 26, 2023 6:26 am

Man I got to stop drinking. How embarrassing ::)
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby robert on Fri May 26, 2023 1:29 pm

Appledog wrote:Oh, I see you don't know the story. No, it wasn't with his father because he was away for a period of time, and it wasn't with his relatives or anyone else in the village. Weren't expecting that one were you? Here's an excerpt:

After training hard for three years, Chen Fake found that the lump in his belly had virtually disappeared and his fitness had improved. His health and strength had become normal for a boy of his age. Meanwhile, his martial skills had progressed unnoticed.
One day, in order to test how much progress he had made, he invited his cousin to practice push hands. [...] His cousin tried three times to advance and throw Chen Fake using fajin. On each occasion he was instead countered and thrown back by Chen Fake.

Not until the third time did his cousin suspect that Chen Fake's skill had surpassed his own, yet he wasn't fully convinced. He was upset at losing, and as he was leaving he grumbled, "Every generation in your lineage produces master hand practicioners, probably by passing down secret techniques. Even hopeless ones like you, who are not as good as me, can now defeat me. There is no point for any of my lineage to pracice this art for we don't know the secrets."

Chen Fake informed Hong Junsheng, "In fact, my father had not been home those previous three years, so he could not have taught me any secret family techniques. My skill was purely the result of three years of hard work."



But, HJS also wrote - I (Chen Fake) first asked my uncles about the methods of pushing hands and then asked my cousin to show me how to push hands. My cousin said, laughing, “Everybody in our family has tasted the 'flavor of my fist' .

So, he was consulting with family members. Also, that's a three year period. Do you think it's unusual for someone, when they decide to start training seriously, to focus on the form for three years? And the story continues - Master Chen said, “About that time, my father came home, and he saw the progress I had made with my form." So, after that three year period Chen Fake's father does return to the village. Based on what HJS writes CFK does train with his father and his family, except for a period of three years. It seems to me that Chen Fake and, in turn, HJS use that story to illustrate the importance of push hands to demonstrate one's skill. Am I wrong?


Appledog wrote:So, point a) he developed a great amount of skill via forms practice, in the beginning which surprised his cousin. Now the story does relate he practiced "occasionally" with his uncles, but it seems to point towards forms as the primary vehicle.

Your quote specifies a period of three years at the end of which CFK is 17, are you saying that was all of his training? What did CFK do the other 27 years in Chen village after that?


Appledog wrote:Point b is that since his training was reported to be mainly forms, how did he become so good at push hands? Ultimately it could not have been from pushing with someone greater than he -- and we also know his training regimen consisted mainly of forms, and that even his senior students save perhaps two were somewhat afraid to push with him (i.e. all of his students were far below him in terms of skill). So then the question becomes if not from pushing with people of same or at least equal skill, then from where? Another great example of this mystery is how Hong Junsheng became so skillfull despite the fact he never learned any weapons forms. What is the kernel, or nugget, of taiji truth which is vital?



Again, are you saying that a period of three years that HJS writes about represents all of CFK's training?

My understanding is that traditionally forms were the core of taiji training. Outside of taiji I remember reading an old xingyi manual that said partner work is 20% of training and solo work is 80% of training.

I think HJS writes some interesting things about push hands.

In summary, I believe that we should measure a form according to what Chen Fake repeatedly told me: “This set of Taijiquan does not have one technique which is useless. Everything was carefully designed for a purpose." The best way to test whether a certain technique is correct is to put it into practice in Taijiquan push hands.


In general, people think that one cannot understand the secrets of Taijiquan without learning push hands. My opinion is that push hands is only a procces of experimentation after learning the postures. Students can use this process of experimentation to test the validity of what they have learned. If errors are detected, they should be corrected in a timely manner according to the rules of Taijiquan. This way one can go from perfection to the comprehension of the energy of Taijiquan. If one only talks about the comprehension of energy without knowing the application, he will not have a chance to understand the energy. Chen Style Taijiquan contains minute variations within coordinated changes. If one does not understand the variations of the energy path, he will not achieve the result of “four ounces overcome one thousand pounds" and “I always flow with the force while my opponent always fights against the force.


When my master finished teaching the first routine, he would ask the students to practice for more than half a year and then teach them the second routine. He would not teach them push hands early in their training.
My master said, “Pushing hands is the first step towards power confrontation. Therefore, even at the early stages of learning the form, one must understand which move is peng, lu, ji, an and cai, lie, zhou and kao, and how these moves are applied and changed. When the student does not yet have enough of a foundation, it is of no use to focus on it. When students work on push hands with each other, they will develop the fear of losing and a desire for winning. Because of the fear of losing, they will not neutralize their opponent’s oncoming force. They will fight back. The opponent feels the resistance and knows that his opponent has not lost his center. He will power up even more with the desire to win. This is not the
correct way, but he wins. Because you use force and he also uses energy, both will develop the habit of fighting back. This is contrary to the Taiji principle of “not losing and not fighting back.” Thlis approach will mislead the learners. (Currently at Taiji Push Hands competitions, in almost all cases, the two competitors will both use strength and the stronger one wins. Where is the Taiji in this?) .


My master said that my form had no moves that were empty. Each day, he taught me push hand techniques. He went through all the moves, explaining their application and counter moves. My mind opened up as if the clouds in the sky were cleared. Everyday for four months we went on like this.


FWIW.
The method of practicing this boxing art is nothing more than opening and closing, passive and active. The subtlety of the art is based entirely upon their alternations. Chen Xin
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby twocircles13 on Fri May 26, 2023 3:02 pm

@Appledog, you do know how to bait the lines and set them. I wrote this when there were only two pages in this thread, but I have had a few distractions that kept me from posting it. Thanks for your patience if it is repetitious of what others posted and if it ignores more current discussions and questions.

I was getting a quote for another thread a few days ago and saw this in Hong Junsheng's 1986 Memoir. It seemed relevant to this discussion. But first, don't assume what you mean by push hands and what the persons quoted or discussed are talking about here is the same thing.


In Beijing at the time, most taiji teachers would teach pushing hands as soon as the students finish learning the first set. Supposedly, they claim, that pushing hands will help students hear and understand the strength. But my master [Chen Fa-ke] insisted that students had to practice the first set for six months upon completion before the second set was taught. It is only upon finishing the second set that he would teach pushing hands.

He [Chen Fa-ke] said, "Pushing hands is the foundation for sparring. It can only be taught if the students already know, from practicing the forms, what peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou and kao are. The functions of those eight basic techniques cannot be taught if the students don’t know them from the forms. When students try to push hands with one another too early, they don’t know how to neutralize the oncoming force, so they use strength in their attempts of counter-attack. Human tendency of fearing to lose causes this. When the opponent feels a resisting force, he will exert more force to counterattack it and, in the end, the one who is stronger wins the round. This is contrary to the Taiji principle of “not losing and not fighting back. This is dangerous because it reinforces what is wrong and students will never even begin to understand what Taijiquan is." [Hong added] At present, most Taijiquan pushing hands are done according to who has more strength. There is no Taijiquan in this kind of Taijiquan pushing hands!”


This is consistent with accounts of Chen Fake's training, where he famously used many extra repetitions of the form to strengthen himself and improve his skill level before he started pushing hands. Chen Fa-ke recorded,

"I asked my uncles how to push hands and then asked my cousins to push hands with me. My cousin smiled,"'All my brothers and cousins have been beaten by me. You are so far the only lucky one because you have been so sickly. Now that you are stronger, you have to taste the flavor of my fists!" We went at each other. He was trying to wrestle me, but three times I threw him down."


Chen Fa-ke earlier had indicated he practiced form with his "cousins" and received correction from his "uncles," so he was practicing form with instruction and feedback. Practice of the form on his own was extra "mindful" practice. Then, before he attempted push hands, he received hands-on, push hands instruction from his experienced “uncles."

While Chen Fa-ke justifiably credited his extra, hard work, pointing primarily at form practice for his improvement, he also had the advantage of never having habituated drawing on his strength to overpower his opponent. He only relied on his taijiquan skills from both the form and push hands while it is also implied that his nemesis, also known as "Bull," was defeated because he had resorted more to his strength than to taijiquan skills. (See Chen Fa-ke's push hands teaching policies above.)

This portrays a fairly narrow definition of pushing hands. Chen Fake practiced form with his cousins and on his own, but he was not allowed to push hands until he was 17 years old, because he had been considered too weak and sickly to participate. We might be able to make some reasonable assumptions from these accounts.

This moving-step push hands and the winner is determined when one partner throws the other to the ground. As rough and tumble training, participants could readily get injured, hence the prohibition of the weak and sickly. This does not seem to be fixed-step, limited-step nor other modern safety rules, where one simply imbalances the other. However, imbalancing was likely involved in the push hands instruction received from his "uncles.” Further, push hand seems to have been of limited duration and was a natural precursor to sparring. I think Bull’s exultation that Fa-ke would finally “taste the flavor of [his] fists” indicated that if basic sparring may have been started during pushing hands or that fajin was used while pushing hands or both.

Hong Junsheng sought to narrow the gap between the forms and push hands. During push hands training, he would yell, "Stop!" and each partner would have to identify what movement from the form he or she was using. He insisted that students use taijiquan and not random movements when pushing hands.

This is basically the premise of the modifications in the Practical Method form. The hand positions, timing, footwork and so on are all exactly as they would be for application with an emphasis on push hands applications. The connections and alignment of the positions and movement are sometimes tested or taught with push-hands applications. But, Hong also indicated that this was how he was taught applications to the form by Chen Fa-ke.

I have always used a broader definition of push hands training that starts with the physical testing of connections in the positions and movements in the form and continues with form application and push hands instruction. So, with this broad definition of push hands, I would say that push hands was taught from Day One, but I think using this broad definition that one might say that Masters Chen and Hong both started with push hands, if not from Day One, from very early in training.

A final takeaway for me is to make sure that I am using taijiquan skills rather than my strength when I push hands. If I resort to strength, I have lost, because I am no longer training taijiquan.
Last edited by twocircles13 on Fri May 26, 2023 3:37 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby Appledog on Fri May 26, 2023 7:36 pm

Thanks robert and twocircles13 for some excellent and informative posts, we are lucky to have you here. If those quotes are from CZH's translation of Hong's book I would feel silly because I have that book -- haven't read it in a while, but it is next on my list (I'm currently on Wang Fengming's book, which is what prompted the question).

I'll also say this, I checked out some CZH videos and was impressed, he seems to have a good wu de.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby robert on Sat May 27, 2023 9:20 am

Appledog wrote:If those quotes are from CZH's translation of Hong's book I would feel silly because I have that book -- haven't read it in a while, but it is next on my list (I'm currently on Wang Fengming's book, which is what prompted the question).

The quotes I provided are from CZH's translation. It seems like a pretty good book.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby Quigga on Sun May 28, 2023 12:33 pm

I apologize for my unhinged comment in this thread.
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby windwalker on Sun May 28, 2023 8:01 pm

Consciousness is Key, Not Mechanical, Not Thinking

Interesting approach to push hands one that echoes many of my own thoughts. :)

"you listen to yourself".

Nice way of putting it...Always mention to those I work with

" you can only feel your own resistance"
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Re: Starting Push Hands Training

Postby twocircles13 on Mon May 29, 2023 12:55 am

yeniseri wrote:An excellent part of forensic examination is to check all sides despite them being dissimular or discordant. If anyone is interested, the Xiaojia of Chen style of X'ian gives a great expose of the other side of Chen Family taijiquan and explain some of the missing history that is rarely sought out but fills in some of the missing pieces.

...

Sometimes, perspective from Xiaojia (Chen Small Style ) shows us how some branches develop while still being part of the greater Chenjiagou manner and strategy of training ??? Chen Fake learned from other members of the family before he went to Beijing. Keep in mind that Xiaojia still had adherents and they left later to go to X’ian!


Yes, absolutely. The history of the Chen Village is terribly incomplete without the accounts of those who stayed in the village and also those who fled to Xian during the Japanese occupation.

Without quoting specific sources, even the Four Tigers indicated that what we today call xiaojia was the main body of taijiquan practiced in the Chen Village. The branch that is most prevalent outside of China, we might call the Bodyguard Branch, a simple term for a complex and varied service that they provided. It eventually became the Beijing Branch and four Tiger’s Branch. While members of that branch have been quite skilled, we only get a partial picture of Chen Taijiquan if we do not look at the whole.
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