Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

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Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Walk the Torque on Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:45 pm

With the bridging the gap thread I started thinking about the validity of push hands especially in its formal four cardinal directions format (large circle push hands).

A lot of people don't even do this type of pushing hands these days, they just join opposite hands with the opponent and go at it like a couple of bulls.

I guess my question is, what good is the classical large and small circle push hands with its crossing of the arms and pushing each other out of range, if you rarely if ever do this in sparring?

There are plenty of sensitivity exercises that don't ask you to tie your arms up or tell you not to grab, or rely on strength. So what is the point of doing the old ritual of going around in formal pushing hands, crossing the arms or trying to stay rooted to the spot, if your just going to let those things go in the end?

I have plenty more to say on the subject but will just put this up for discussion.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby johnwang on Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:46 pm

Walk the Torque wrote:what good is the classical large and small circle push hands with its crossing of the arms and pushing each other out of range, if you rarely if ever do this in sparring?

If you can use your

- Right arm to deflect your opponent's jab,
- Left arm to deflect his cross,
- You can punch on his chest between his arms (or take him down).

This is the Baji way of doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOfFKq8 ... e=youtu.be

This is the preying mantis way of doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdPK6eF ... e=youtu.be

What's the Taiji way of doing it?

It's should be very easy to achieve this situation in Taiji PH.
Last edited by johnwang on Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby GrahamB on Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:59 pm

Now that's a good question!

I think the answer is multifaceted.

Here are a few thoughts off the top of my head, not necessarily in any, or the right, order, or comprehensive:

1) Range:

People tend to do push hands at the wrong range. I think the 'combat' benefits of training push hands disappear almost entirely when you are too far out. I notice when I train it with people they keep wanting to edge back - you need to be comfortable closer in.

I would say this was too far away, meaning you can posturally get away with a lot of stuff:

Image

I would say this is almost too deep requiring much larger stances than you would use in fighting (although that's a great way to train your legs -so it's not 'wrong' in that sense).

Image

My preference is our toes match the opponent's heels. Fist width apart to allow for 'shin biting'. (lots of people do this distance, but go shoulder width apart - leaving the groin too open to be practical/no knee fighting - again, that's my opinion).

2) Delusion:

Chinese martial art people in general I think spend too long in these double or single 'arm contacted' type positions - in more sparring sessions these moments happen in split seconds. People don't stay like that. If you end up putting your arms out looking for that position you get punched on the nose. I think too much of it breeds bad habits. You're doing that 'safe' training to learn skills that are hard to acquire, which then get used in freer environments, rather than try to mimic the 'safe' environment in freer training.


3) You don't need push hands to fight

Worth saying, even though its kind of obvious. Combat sports turn out accomplished fighters quickly without these 'in contact' methods.

4) Jin

One of the 'points' of push hands (i.e. to answer the OP) - what it's 'good' for is to learn to use Jin not Li. For a short answer of what that means, I mean using the ground strength in your movement (jin), not local strength (li). It's easy to fool yourself that you're 'doing it' when you perform a Tai Chi form, because there's nobody else there. Can you 'do it' when somebody is providing some light resistance? Or trying to 'do it' back to you? Push hands enables you to find out. I wish people would view push hands as a tool for learning that, not as a competitive sport of limited wrestling. It's like people have been given a knife, but they insist on using it like a spoon.

5) Applications

You can practice all the applications in a Tai Chi form in push hands - it's one step up from doing them as stand alone techniques because it requires more timing, flow and 'listening'.

6) Range II - the check hook.

If you look at MMA (sorry to use that if it rubs people up the wrong way, but it's here, and provides brilliant examples and feedback of the dynamics of two people in a violent encounter) one of the big, high percentage, often fight ending, techniques is the counter left (or right) hook. The check hook. This is after the fighter throws a jab you move back (or slip) and throw your hook over the top - that's the range push hands is working in, and a good practical example of what skill at that range can mean.

7) Strategy

Tai Chi as a martial art has an objective and a strategy. Through push hands (the tactics) we can understand the strategy.

Read Jocko Wilnick: Every mission has objectives, strategy and tactics.

8) 5 keywords of push hands (strategy):

Listen, stick, yield, neautralise, attack.
Last edited by GrahamB on Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:32 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Giles on Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:57 pm

I think Graham make some valid points here.

I'll just put in one thought/exercise. One useful way of doing fixed-step pushing hands to make it useful for the 'realz' is a method I call "haiku tuishou'. Both (experienced) partners remain soft and calm, respect the principles they want to train, but also have a clear attacking mindset. (Which is not the same as "Bull at the Gate"). The very first moment of contact between hands/arms is the most important. Or even the 1 or 2 seconds before contact. As the hands come together, motion is of course already happening and this continues without interruption through the connected exchange. Which lasts a maximum of, say, 5 seconds or maximally 10 seconds. By this point, one of the two players has already gained a clear advantage, either positionally or by compromising/unbalancing the partner's structure, creating a clear opening, or already landing a significant 'strike' (but not injurious) or lock or throw/takedown. Or neither has gained an advantage, also OK. The two partners then separate, then approach each other again, possibly each taking a single step forwards to come into range, and the game begins again. On a fresh sheet of paper, so to speak.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby charles on Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:38 am

Walk the Torque wrote:A lot of people ... just join opposite hands with the opponent and go at it like a couple of bulls.


Then they've missed what push hands has traditionally been about. I'd suggest they aren't doing traditional push hands: they are "going at it like a couple of bulls", which has nothing to do with traditional push hands practice.
Last edited by charles on Wed Jun 05, 2019 6:19 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby oragami_itto on Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:18 am

You get out of it what you put in to it. You want to win a stupid game, then work on winning the game. You want to learn stick adhere join follow, then do that.

It's about training with integrity, and having something TO train. With a lot of people, even myself sometimes I have to admit, they touch hands and the chi rises and the arms start getting too involved and the actual taijiquan just flies out the window. It winds up being shitty judo. What are we training? Shitty judo.

But with integrity, letting myself get pushed, not being seduced by the "near enemy" of force when I can just muscle through something, then sometimes really cool moments occur. I move a fraction of an inch and my partner flies back a yard. I breathe out and their feet leave the ground. They bring a metric fuckton of force straight at the middle of my chest and bounce right off like I'm a volleyball. Whatever.

I think of the push hands activities as my pick up basketball matches that a guy my age might partake in. Fun and healthy. Nothing serious. The cool moments are like throwing up a clean swish shot or making a no look hook. The rest of the time is good, don't get me wrong, but those moments are what you're really there for.

In many ways the moments, and the practice itself, is its own reward. No need to taint it with lust for result.

Different people I meet may take different approaches, but as long as I maintain integrity in what I'm doing, it's immaterial.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Bao on Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:18 am

"I guess my question is, what good is the classical large and small circle push hands with its crossing of the arms and pushing each other out of range, if you rarely if ever do this in sparring? "

"What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41cJUliIuH0



;D

Personally I am not a big fan of PH drills. If you play with drills, IMO, they should be done at a close distance using centreline and waist to turn around and no rocking back and forth. And also, you should try to push through the opponent, not just at surface. Quite difficult to do this way, timing and movement must be precise. But if you can do it, there's no point in repeating it. Now if you have learned it, you can throw it away and spend your time better.

Free PH play is interesting and mostly pretty rewarding, but drills are too one-dimensional. Drills consists of "now I do this, then you do that." One and two are clearly separated and you do only one time at the same time. When you play free PH you should always do two or three things at the same time. Following and evading without considering filling in or adding a complimentary force is not recommended. There should be no gap between defensive and offensive action. Even the most important principles of strategy and tactics in free play are non-existent in the drills.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby everything on Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:47 am

like graham said - you don't actually need it. so if don't need it, what is it actually good for? by this definition, nothing. why is that? it's because we only look at the outer form and movement. like john always says, why not add a leg trip here, there, etc. why not just do shuai jiao, judo, mma, etc.? this seems like a really valid answer.

otoh, if we want to do an "internal" art, then it's a way to see if we can start to do our "internal" "energy" work interacting with someone else and not just some kind of qigong on our own which doesn't have to do with any "ima". a lot of people (most people) have zero interest here, and that's ok.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:56 am

I think there are two primary issues: What is push hands and what is it for? The answers to then determine "how" it should be done. The problem is that there is no "one" such thing as "push hands" because there are an enormous number of variations and patterns. Wu style phs is not like Yang "family" (i.e., Chen Fu) style, and neither are like Chen style (which itself seems to have a "practice" style and a "competition" style that are not alike). Of course, that is because the practice style is used for one thing and the competition style is used for competition.

That's not bad. In fact, the competition style seems far more useful against other styles, especially stand up grappling styles. Of course, there are Yang stylists (quite a few who are CMC practitioners) who have "competition" style push hands, and are quite good at it. Otoh, there are practitioners who are more striking oriented. With both, the criticism is usually that they aren't doing tcc. Thus, the paradox, whatever can be used practically isn't considered taichi. However, the fact is that even among tcc practitioners, there is no agreement on what the correct push hands pattern should be. They all think they're doing it right.

Afa the other type of push hands, it's "non-competitive." the idea is that each is trying to help the other: i.e., both partners are supposed to be getting something out of the exchange. The particular pattern (or lack of same) is irrelevant. If you can beat up your partner all day, think about what you're getting out of it. And, just getting beat up is only better because you can actually learn something.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby everything on Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:58 am

if it's a rorschach test like the rest of the art, then there are
unfortunately more answers than there are practitioners, it seems at times.

but of course that isn't actually true.

the writings by supposedly the top people already said it's my second answer above.
if they thought it was shuai jiao without leg trips wouldn't that be clearer? or were they just idiots?
or bad writers?

but then how do you know if you did that correctly? by someone looking and saying "you forgot the leg trip" or you didn't rotate your arm? of course not.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby johnwang on Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:35 pm

Besides leg skill, there are other thing that are missing in Taiji PH as well such as:

- You want to take over your opponent's space.
- You should not just attack 1 point, you should attack 1 line, or even the entire space. This means not only your hand has to go through your opponent's body, your elbow, shoulder, even your entire body all have to go through your opponent's body.

Both require aggressive forward footwork and body method. Unfortunately, the static PH may develop bad habit for people. Many Taiji guys may stay in the static PH level for the rest of their life.

Here is an excellent clip for "push". In the following clip, after he has pushed his opponent back, his entire body has taken over his opponent's original space (or even pass it).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY-aHqD ... e=youtu.be
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Walk the Torque on Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:35 pm

johnwang wrote:
Walk the Torque wrote:what good is the classical large and small circle push hands with its crossing of the arms and pushing each other out of range, if you rarely if ever do this in sparring?

If you can use your

- Right arm to deflect your opponent's jab,
- Left arm to deflect his cross,
- You can punch on his chest between his arms (or take him down).

This is the Baji way of doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOfFKq8 ... e=youtu.be

This is the preying mantis way of doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdPK6eF ... e=youtu.be

What's the Taiji way of doing it?

It's should be very easy to achieve this situation in Taiji PH.



Hi John,

Thanks for your reply.

The praying Mantis way is also the Bagua way of doing it! Also found in Tai Chi's Ta Lu (four Corners) as plucking; and yes it is a good technique.

However, Tai Chi's large circle push hands are not really corner techniques. In fact by crossing our hands in the manner done in Tai Chi PH we lay ourselves open to this sort of attack.

The idea of 'roundness' is very appealing in terms of defense and this can be cultivated well from doing push hands the formal way, but for something that takes so long to get good at, it appears time could be better spent on other things.

GrahamB wrote:
You're doing that 'safe' training to learn skills that are hard to acquire, which then get used in freer environments, rather than try to mimic the 'safe' environment in freer training.







7) Strategy
[
[b]8) 5 keywords of push hands (strategy):

Listen, stick, yield, neautralise, attack.


Great Answers Graham. Thanks.

Giles wrote:I think Graham make some valid points here.

I'll just put in one thought/exercise. One useful way of doing fixed-step pushing hands to make it useful for the 'realz' is a method I call "haiku tuishou'. Both (experienced) partners remain soft and calm, respect the principles they want to train, but also have a clear attacking mindset. (Which is not the same as "Bull at the Gate"). The very first moment of contact between hands/arms is the most important. Or even the 1 or 2 seconds before contact. As the hands come together, motion is of course already happening and this continues without interruption through the connected exchange. Which lasts a maximum of, say, 5 seconds or maximally 10 seconds. By this point, one of the two players has already gained a clear advantage, either positionally or by compromising/unbalancing the partner's structure, creating a clear opening, or already landing a significant 'strike' (but not injurious) or lock or throw/takedown. Or neither has gained an advantage, also OK. The two partners then separate, then approach each other again, possibly each taking a single step forwards to come into range, and the game begins again. On a fresh sheet of paper, so to speak.


This is the reason I mix Pushing hands with Hubud Hubud from Kali. Apart from providing an excellent drill for first contact/entry, it also allows us to apply skills gained in pushing hands to a more free and fleeting contact period.

Bao wrote:" There should be no gap between defensive and offensive action. .

True dat.

Steve James wrote:I think there are two primary issues: What is push hands and what is it for? The answers to then determine "how" it should be done.


Yeah this is kind of my point Steve. I am certainly aware that, if you have chi na in mind you can practice push hands in one way, if you have striking in mind your practice will change. the thing is though, what does bringing your arms to a less than 90 degree bend at the elbow and in front of your face/chest do for you? What are you learning here?

johnwang wrote:Besides leg skill, there are other thing that are missing in Taiji PH as well such as:

- You want to take over your opponent's space.

Both require aggressive forward footwork and body method. Unfortunately, the static PH may develop bad habit for people.



Agreed John.

================================================================================================================================

Don't get me wrong, I think PH is a very good exercise for gaining stability, Jin, foot work and any number of Strikes, throws or Chin Na. I just wish there was another name for it so it wasn't taken as a shoving match.

Apart from all that though, and the main reason for starting this thread was to try and define whether push hands was just an auxiliary exercise or if it has a more direct applicability to combat.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby johnwang on Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:52 pm

What's the most important CMA skill that we all need? IMO, do not let our opponent's fist to land on our head should be the most important skill. Can Taiji PH help us to develop that skill? I don't think so.
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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby Walk the Torque on Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:47 pm

johnwang wrote:What's the most important CMA skill that we all need? IMO, do not let our opponent's fist to land on our head should be the most important skill. Can Taiji PH help us to develop that skill? I don't think so.


Ha Ha,

I totally disagree John.

Having done Tai Chi for 35 years I can truly say that the training I've done in Tai Chi has been invaluable for that purpose. Otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.

Its not Tai Chi that is the problem John; it is the lack of proper training. There is no lack of excellent martial content and practical training in Tai Chi, just lack luster practitioners.

I used to get upset about it but now I don't try to convince anyone. I am comfortable knowing that my art is good.

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Re: Push Hands Hohrr!! What Is It Good For?

Postby johnwang on Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:55 pm

Walk the Torque wrote:Its not Tai Chi that is the problem John; it is the lack of proper training.

If the training method defines the style then we are talking about the same thing.
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