Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

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

Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby oragami_itto on Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:25 am

So when it comes to push hands there are three kinds of people.

1. People that are much better than me
2. People who are pretty much around the same level as me
3. People that are much worse than me

For a well rounded practice, I think it's important to spend time working with people from each of the three groups.

The question I have for the assembled genius of the Rum Soaked Fist is this: How do you most effectively work with each group? Do you push the same with #1 as you do with #3 and damn the torpedoes, or do you find yourself changing your approach and emphasis based on your partner's skill level?
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby everything on Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:34 am

for 1 and 3, in general, in various MA drills and in individual and team sports drills, it seems useful to have the better player(s) have some kind of "restriction" to go a little easier, e.g., only defend, or work only on one specific thing, or only attack lightly - just enough so the person doing more learning can climb the learning curve. find ways to remove ego.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby Giles on Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:12 am

Useful question. When training with people who are clearly less good than me and/or with significantly less muscle or body mass, I often image to myself that they are 6.6 feet tall, packed with muscle and potentially dangerous. I remain calm but treat every moment/movement with them very 'seriously'. That way I remain alert, have fun and avoid the trap of becoming sloppy in technique and mind or using my own strength to overpower the partner. I recommend my larger (male) students to do the same sometimes when practicing with beginners and/or smaller females.

Another option is to keep my eyes closed. Although I sometimes also do this with a same-skill-level partner as long as I'm pretty sure, if I happen to lose contact, he won't then break my nose by accident or design,

Everything's ideas are good.

When working with people who are better than me, I try to relax, keep breathing normally and feel/observe as much as I can. Especially to understand the moment when I was already getting "behind the curve", which is often earlier than the moment of actually being pushed, locked up, struck etc. This can help me to respond/change earlier next time around.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby everything on Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:34 am

This is something that is nicely formalized in judo - "for mutual welfare and benefit" principle - that is really mentioned quite a lot (vs. I've rarely if ever heard this kind of educational and philosophical ideal/principle mentioned in other arts and if so, it's a one off by an individual, not part of the educational system). So instructors will give you these exact kinds of tips.

Otherwise in every endeavor, naturally we want to play with and against better players because the benefits are obvious. But of course that's not always possible.

In some competitions like chess, there are elo ratings that kind of encourage the #2 situation - you play against people of similar (objectively calculated level). That obviously requires a much higher volume of participants and games. It could theoretically work in judo and jiu-jitsu because there is enough volume. PH wouldn't really be able to have it.

A side rant: In chess, you get a title like Master or Grandmaster by getting a certain rating through objective competition over a long period. Aside from some limited gaming of the system, this is 100 billion times more objective than the bullshit in MA. But that would be only for martial sports, not the non-sport arts.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby Bao on Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:41 am

Skill level isn't important IMO. There are people who want to play and learn, people who want to compete and win, and there are people who don't know what the heck they are doing. ;D

I remember when I was 17 years old, one of the times I studied briefly for my first teacher's teacher. I asked him about how to become good in push hands. He just push me far away and didn't teach me anything except showing me changjin (long jin/ long energy). I told my (first) teacher this story many years later. He was angry, furious when he heard this, and said that it was a bully approach, that you should never treat a person like this, someone who is enthusiastic, curious and just want to learn. (This attitude of the older teacher was very much the reason why I stayed with me first teacher). So I guess, regardless level of the person you meet, always treat him or her with kindness and respect and in the way you yourself want to be treated. :)
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby wayne hansen on Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:15 pm

If you push with someone more skilled you should attack (most students do the opposite)
If you push with someone worse work on your yield
Same level requires both
Last edited by wayne hansen on Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby everything on Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:19 pm

what wayne said!

tangents.
I find it's much better/easier to learn push hands with/against people who have no idea you're using push hands techniques. For example:

1. one of my kids and I would play "king of the half wall" when he was little. of course he had no idea I was using roll back. I'd use rollback a little and then let him win for the most part.
2. in judo randori, almost noone has any clue push hands exists. they seem to think you need grips to do "grip fighting" which of course you don't. many, many opportunities to bring in push hands skills. way more "honest" and not passive-aggressive of a partner exercise.
3. in football(soccer), there is often a one armed push hands or body checking thing going on incidentally. always "honest", not passive aggressive. super easy to work on the ph aspect without the bullshit of "you used force" or some other naive or fake master bullshit. nobody even knows you're using extra skills. of course this is all incidental.
4. various people have said bjj rolling has various similarities. I've found this is really true only the sensitivity and rollback is using legs/guard, etc.
5. put on those sumo suits and do that.
6. that awesome game where each of you has a giant foam padded dumbbell shaped staff and push each other off some padded platform with gym mats below.

basically push hands is great, but doing push hands in taijiquan context of push hands is the worst way to do it. ;D :-[ :-\
Last edited by everything on Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby Giles on Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:54 pm

everything wrote:basically push hands is great, but doing push hands in taijiquan context of push hands is the worst way to do it. ;D :-[ :-\


Under some circumstances this is true, unfortunately, but it all depends on whether you - consciously or unconsciously - see tuishou as an end in itself or as a vital element in feedback loops with solo practice and with self-defence and/or sparring. Some people approach tuishou with the extreme idea of "softness, sensitivity, harmony, universal love, dance of the cosmos, don't push me, cuddle me". Funnily enough, there's often a lot of passive aggression going on under the surface. Others automatically see it as a pissing contest, "ain't no son of a b**** gonna push me. And if he does, I'll get him back even worse." This usually results in clenched muscles and teeth to match. You just have to know why you're doing push hands and on this basis keep changing the parameters in a productive way. Let's make push hands great again!!
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby Walk the Torque on Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:40 pm

Giles wrote:
everything wrote:basically push hands is great, but doing push hands in taijiquan context of push hands is the worst way to do it. ;D :-[ :-\


Under some circumstances this is true, unfortunately, but it all depends on whether you - consciously or unconsciously - see tuishou as an end in itself or as a vital element in feedback loops with solo practice and with self-defence and/or sparring. Some people approach tuishou with the extreme idea of "softness, sensitivity, harmony, universal love, dance of the cosmos, don't push me, cuddle me". Funnily enough, there's often a lot of passive aggression going on under the surface. Others automatically see it as a pissing contest, "ain't no son of a b**** gonna push me. And if he does, I'll get him back even worse." This usually results in clenched muscles and teeth to match. You just have to know why you're doing push hands and on this basis keep changing the parameters in a productive way. Let's make push hands great again!!



That is the thing with PH; you can pretty much take any aspect of the game and work on it to a greater or lesser degree.

What gets me is the people who, once having realized their approach to winning is not working, decide that what I am doing is somehow sub-standard, warranting their critical analysis.

My first teacher on answering a fellow student's complaint that their partner was not soft, replied, "if you feel hardness, its coming from you".

This has stuck with me not only in terms of hard/soft, but in general, if I cant handle someones force I must be deficient somehow. My tai chi should be good enough to handle anything; if it isn't then best to work on my tai chi.

So when asking the question how to improve your PH against different partners, I'd say maintain your integrity. If you are working to a set of principles, stick with them. If you lose, lose maintaining your principles; if you win, win maintaining your principles. Dont give up the near for the far ;D
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby oragami_itto on Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:06 pm

Walk the Torque wrote:What gets me is the people who, once having realized their approach to winning is not working, decide that what I am doing is somehow sub-standard, warranting their critical analysis.

As a bouncer, it was always the guy I just dumped on his ass on the sidewalk that was calling me a pussy.

My first teacher on answering a fellow student's complaint that their partner was not soft, replied, "if you feel hardness, its coming from you".

I've heard and said this myself. I think it's definitely true, but then only to a certain point? After that, you can weigh the force without resisting it. Knowing them without being known. At least to my understanding.

This has stuck with me not only in terms of hard/soft, but in general, if I cant handle someones force I must be deficient somehow. My tai chi should be good enough to handle anything; if it isn't then best to work on my tai chi.

This I agree with 100%. I used to get frustrated when people would spontaneously change up the terms of engagement when they got bored or tired of "losing". I still do, but I used to, to. My taijiquan SHOULD be able to handle whatever they want to bring, however, at least of that sort of stuff.

There's a story in "Lessons with Liang" where some other teacher in Minneapolis went to test Liang, and came away saying that he got pushed out but only because Liang used external force. Liang's reported reply was "and he couldn't even handle THAT."

So when asking the question how to improve your PH against different partners, I'd say maintain your integrity. If you are working to a set of principles, stick with them. If you lose, lose maintaining your principles; if you win, win maintaining your principles. Dont give up the near for the far ;D

I really like that answer. Probably most likely because that's pretty much what I'm doing now, so I don't have to change much to follow the advice.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby TrainingDummy on Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:55 pm

My take-away after doing a lot of push-hands with Walk the Torque. WTT still shuts me down the majority of the time, but I'm not completely terrible when pushing other people.

If I'm pushing with someone worse than me I like to show them their gaps and typically will feed them them things to work on.

If I'm with someone better than me I'm trying to attack them in such a way that I do not expose my centre or place myself into a vulnerable position. Their response will often show me where my gaps lie, whether or not they want to explicitly coach me on them.
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Re: Push Hands: Bridging the Skill gap

Postby Giles on Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:40 pm

Walk the Torque wrote:So when asking the question how to improve your PH against different partners, I'd say maintain your integrity. If you are working to a set of principles, stick with them. If you lose, lose maintaining your principles; if you win, win maintaining your principles. Dont give up the near for the far ;D


This :)
Just to rephrase: Check whether your physical performance is in line with, or at least close to, your principles.
And if you're still having major problems, reassess your principles. Maybe they are formulated too abstractly to be a good guide, or maybe you need to change them.
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