View Full Version : push hands,needed?

05-21-2005, 06:48 AM
con permiso;i would like to start this topic w/a quote from soraya to the effect that chen xiaowang had told her that "you do not need push hands to be successful
(in taichi)"
how do you feel about that?
do you think that it's possible to become martially proficient or reap all of the health benefits of taichi without ANY of the two person drills? in other words through form practice alone? indeed that push hands may not be needed at all?
for those who have studied push hands what has been the effect on your martial proficiency? on your form?

05-21-2005, 07:56 AM

true. one does not need push hands training to play taijiquan. as long as the structural and mechanical elements of posture are present with the various 'kua' 'chanssujin' criteria, then that is good.

push hands is not martial taijiquan. push hands is a snesitivity /training mechanism on movement dynamics. Actial taijiquan martial elements employ na, shuai, etc. push. pull, hit, parry etc as in qi'na applicaion and shuaijiao.

one may become proficient without push hands as long as application was taught (qi'na, shuaijiao, san shou).
Shuaijiao has a curriculum similar to push hands so it is more reasonable applicable and easily learnt.

Form practice alone (slow, as presently tauht to the masses) has neve built martial training of any kind.

05-21-2005, 09:18 PM
Hi Shark:

I suppose it depends how success is defined. When i studied TC at the martial art school we practiced push hands on a regular basis. However, only as an instructor did you learn anything about the martial application, but then not much. The students practiced push hands for sensitivity training as well, with no emphasis on applications. It didn't prevent us from developing push hands champions in competitions--they accomplished this with no martial application experience whatsoever.

As far as helping our forms, i didn't feel push hands helped us very much to improve the performance of our forms either. We had also developed forms champions who didn't care for push hands at all. As a TCA and TCD instructor i know that many of my students report health benefits just from doing the forms. From my personal experience i don't think i could say that push hands is a necessity for form development, or health benefits, but do feel that it is an asset for martial applications utilizing TC techniques.

Take care and best wishes.


05-22-2005, 08:09 AM
I didn't say that the GM told me that I didn't need push hands to develop proper skills. On the contrary, from a certain level onwards, push hands is vital.

To be able to gain optimum benefit from push hands: posture, differentiation between insubstantial and substantial hence balance, rooting, focus needs to be cultivated through your form. When you are not able to distinguish or sink into the rear leg, your posture is poor, your focus shaky, too sensitive mentally, then you will be easily thrown off your balance through a shoulder strike. On the other hand, push hands may sometimes show your shortcomings, imperfections in posture or lack of focus and relaxation. HOwever, you can still do with form only but will never succeed with push hands only without practicing the form correctly. In the case of performing toysau without the form, the practitioner will use brute muscle force and once this bad habit is there, it will be hard to break.

When somebody never trains push hands, it may be possible that their form is strong during solo practice, but as soon as they experience pressure they will fall apart like a card house. Chen style toysau has different stages:stationary single-handed, stationary double handed, one-step, two-step, free sparring push hands(san shou toysau) which includes shoulder and hip strikes. This is one of the four pilars of TCC: form, push hands, dalu and free sparring. Toysau only has basic force peng, lu, ji, an and dalu the other 4 directions.

Yes, my form became more substantial after toysau and without this I could have never kicked the door open without damaging the surrounding around the keyhole

05-23-2005, 08:56 AM
i think if there is one thing push hands does in addition to sensitivity training is to help reenforce correct movement in sequences like grasp birds tale etc.which are the basis for the forms

05-25-2005, 10:51 PM
There is no doubt that Master Chen Xiaowang is the master of form corrections if you are looking at a Chen form frame by frame ( individual postures) He has a very keen eye and can correct an already good posture with very small refined corrections.

Chen Xiaowangs urges practice of reeling silk exercises to understand the principles of form work.

I agree with Soraya that even with the best teachers and best instructions there is an understanding of the form that somehow doesn't feel complete with out the chance to partner with someone in "listening skills" such as the game of friendly push hands provides. I often share the simplest version (single hand) with my students. I feel it is one of the quickest ways to understand Peng Jing.

Each one of us does find our own path in the exploration of tai chi, finding good teachers and good tai chi friends along the path is one of the pleasures of the journey. To find good tai chi players to test the integrity of your postures through very gentle push hands is a valuable way to ascertain that your postures indeed contain an element of Peng Jing (springy force).


05-26-2005, 12:27 AM
I agree with Troyce that GM Chenxiaowang also teaches single postures and principles to other forms and styles. E.g. Chen 36 or 56 contain roughly the same single posture like single whip and I mention this posture because even in Yang style there is no big difference. Another posture is cloud hands which in Sun style only differ in direction of the hand.

HOw it relates to push hands? The single-handed push hands Troyce talks about can be taught to beginners, people with special sensitivities or with utmost caution students with osteoporosis or other fall risk. It can be better called"stick wrist" which is not as agressive as the usual push hands, movements are circular and slightly spirally, performing it with eyes closed can add to the sensitivity to other forces.

GM Chen recommend silk reeling or chan si gong exercises, derived from the qi gong exercises of the laojia inbetween the individual postures. This is extremely useful for forms like Chen 32, 36, 56 and other styles and forms incl Sun style

05-26-2005, 02:27 AM
It is also said that at the highest level, one does not need push hands anymore and form only would be sufficient. I haven't reached that stage yet..........

05-26-2005, 07:46 AM
Yes, Soraya. Thank you.

When I was referring to single push hands to help find Peng Jing I am thinking of many TCA students who may want to stay cautious with their exploration of tai chi principles through the use of push hands. Thank you for that clarification.

If done correctly this simple form of push hands has helped me to share with my students a feeling of Peng Jing which includes the idea of loosening or allowing the joints to open.

I feel student who have a chance to feel what it is to be "too relaxed" ie colapsing, or too stiff ie, relying on muscular strength.
I often like to play a game like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Too hard, Too soft, just right.

Through this simple exercise I believe they can begin to understand "peng jing" and begin to incorporate that feeling or kinesthetic understanding into their form

For me this a whole different objective than that of applications or competitive push hands.


05-26-2005, 10:45 AM

After TAi Chi, do you feel your legs heavy like lead ?

YOu hit the nail on the head. This"stick wrist" very often can give the student the feeling of peng jing or springy force. Not too floppy like overcooked spaghetti and not too tough like an old piece of leather. My mother Soraya once brought 3 types of spaghetti to the class, one was overcooked, one al dente and the other raw. She said "al dente" was always right, the class had a good laugh and somehow it could make them understand what it was all about. All the spaghetti was eaten afterwards, except the raw one.

Another solution Chenxiaowang and YIng Jun showed us was corrections of individual postures or zhan zhuang(standing meditation). Zhan zhuang corrects posture only, emphasizing on back, open the hips(kua),preventing shoulders from falling backwards and make them more"song". It is important to remember this feeling and incorporate it into your later form practice , regardless which style and form.

The second GM Chen shows is static individual postures. E.g. he let you hold a posture like "single whip", the same principle in all styles. He let you hold it for 5 min. the way you are used to. He corrects me much more than Soraya. With her he only corrects a small muscle for about 1 cm to the right with the direction to maintain the rest of the body in the posture like before. After this he asked us how we feel and let us remember what he did to us and the feeling we got afterwards. With this memory we should continue our form practice at home. When he uses his hands to correct us, it is nearly the same feeling like the single push hand feeling.

I think understanding the right feel to allow the joints to loosen up, kinesthetic understanding of the form, too relaxed, stiff, the right relaxation, is most foundational to any application and push hands. Our teacher said that if you don't know how to relax the proper way or loosen up/extending your joints, it would be impossible for the qi to flow unimpededly and without this flow it would be impossible to build up the internal strength needed for application and push hands in Tai Chi. As to the movements only, push hands and application is easy to carry out with brute force.

05-30-2005, 09:20 PM
My experience over the last couple of years has convinced me that push hands is essential to understanding tai chi. I spent many years learning, practising, and teaching "tai chi for health" with no pushing at all. I also argued that pushing is NOT necessary. But then I started training with some people that practise the Cheng Man Ching "system", who understand applications and incorporate pushing in their training, and the things I've learnt from them convince me it's absolutely essential. Sure you can learn forms, and you can feel better for doing them, but you get a greater understanding of (yes) form, alignment, relaxation etc, if you also practise pushing. I should add that by "pushing hands" I don't mean push and shove, there's a real sensitivity involved that takes a long time go develop. I feel like a beginner again but I'm loving it!
I had tried a couple of short workshops in pushing a while ago, but since most of the people came out with bruises I was not convinced at all, in fact I think that experience actually added to my doubt. But I have to say that my recent ecperiences have changed my mind completely.

05-31-2005, 09:24 AM
i agree wholeheartedly john.
in fact i think ANY form of materiel you can get your hands on that will add to the understanding of your t'ai chi experience,including related history and spiritual philosophy of the practice will make you better;It will end up making you a more rounded practitioner.
i have come to believe that even the ideas of taoism,the i ching,lao tzu, the tao te ching etc. can influence your performance of the art of taichi in a physical way;of course push hands ta lu and san shou are also thrown into the mix,as well as knowledge of chi flow through the meridiens and accupoint.
(some even believe a bit of knowledge from primitive Chinese alchemic processes to be useful)

06-01-2005, 02:03 AM
Shark, I smiled when I read your post. My teacher now is fond of talking about philosophy, and taoism, and interestingly he has a way of weaving the philosophy into the practise! By small way of example - he often talks about the taoist/buddhist attitude of accepting things as they are. When most of us talk about learning to relax, we think of it as peculiar to the form, and hope that somehow it carries over into daily life. His attitude is that it's also important to learn to relax in our "normal" life, accept what we can't change, because that relaxation and acceptance also have a direct influence on our ability to relax during our tai chi. Just one interesting example of the way a philosophical outlook can influence our physical training.

Dr. Paul Lam
06-01-2005, 03:35 AM
totally agree, living your art is the best way to practice tai chi.

06-01-2005, 05:38 PM
Tai Chi is simply the physiological understanding of the I Ching.

The I Ching is the philosophical understanding of tai chi.

The two should not be seperated.

With the practice of tai chi your body (kinesthetic awareness) will begin to unravel the teachings of the I Ching. By study the I Ching you will naturally gain insight into the practice of Tai Chi

The I Ching is the ancient Book of Wisdom handed down through the ages of Chinese culture.

Tai Chi is the embodiment of Taoist Philosophy.

How can these things be seperated?

The earliest cultural hero of China is Fu Xi. He is said to have drawn a line in the sand. Once there is a line there is an above and a below. Or the beginning of Yin and Yang. Before the line exists there is only Wu Chi.

Is this not the same foundation of Tai Chi?

Is this not the symbol of the I Ching?

How then can they be seperated?


06-01-2005, 05:58 PM
Troyce, I have to confess I'm not much of a philosopher.

I always come back to something my present teacher said to me a long time ago, before I was actually training with him. He told me…..tai chi IS a martial art. And I read the stories of past masters who had reputations of being great fighters....they used to beat the crap out of each other! Nothing very philosophical about that….:-)

06-01-2005, 06:26 PM

The real beauty of tai chi is that it is based on taoist philosophy!

You say you are not much of a philosopher but rather I take it you like to see yourself more of a fighter.

That is fine.

Tai Chi can indeed accommodate you in that area. In fact as you may know it is know as the Grand Ultimate Fist. And I do believe that it is.

But Tai Chi doesn't need to limit itself to martial aspects alone.

Being based on taoist philosophy Tai Chi can embrace and respond to all interests. Much like the way of the tao.

The Tao is forever and undefined, abstract as it is it can embace everything.

All who come to it are satisfied, it asks nothing in return, thus it can continue forever.

Is this not a little similar to the art of tai chi.

Those who come to tai chi seeking health get health in return

Those who come to tai chi seeking an understanding of the universe are satisfied

Those who come to tai chi seeking a martial art will not be disappointed

All who come to earnestly enjoy this ancient art of tai chi will be satisfied

Is tai chi not then one of the greatest treasures on earth?


06-01-2005, 07:33 PM
Me, a fighter? Good lord no! The last time I got involved in fisticuffs was in a school playground about 40 years ago! Could even be longer but I'm not going to admit that. And by the way, I came out worse off....:-)

No, it's not that. Don't get offended by what I'm going to say Troyce, because it's said only in the interest of a healthy debate. Obviously you ARE a philosopher and I respect that. But, I sometimes think we go overboard trying to fit philosophical concepts into what, after all, is really a practical fighting art. I'm the first to admit it, in fact I've already said it, I'm just not much of a philosopher, but it sometimes seems to me that it's fairly easy to twist philosophical concepts to suit. I could for example say the same things about my meditations. Or even a simple walk around the block. Yet any study of the art of tai chi reveals that the real foundation of the art, no matter why we do it, (whether for health or martial art), lies in its martial function. Everything we do in tai chi has a martial basis and explanation. I would like to see more people understand and accept that instead of looking for the mystical and mysterious.

06-01-2005, 11:48 PM
I agree with you, the martial aspect should not be discounted or diminished from the study tai chi! I thoroughly enjoy this aspect of the art.

The study of tai chi with out an understanding of martial applications is like a carriage without a horse.

The martial applications are always very exciting and fasinating for me. I love to study with a good practitioner who can demonstrate many techniques and can play an interesting game of push hands.

Tai chi also appeals to me on the other levels as well. I suppose this is why I know tai chi will provide for me life long fasination and exploration.

Thank you for your sharing you views, I like it.


06-02-2005, 12:32 AM

Actually on further reflection, tai chi with out the martial aspect is more like marriage without love,

Just empty form or ritual

the basic form or ritual is there, but without the fundamental ingredient or substance that tranforms it into what it was ideally meant to be in the first place

A most beautiful union

Matial Understanding and Forms
Love and Marriage


06-02-2005, 12:59 AM
A very nice way to put it Troyce. Albeit a bit philosophical....:-)

06-02-2005, 03:25 AM
I am not a Chinese philosopher although my WEstern medical training is pretty much based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and SAmuel Hahnemann. However, even the most practical teachers like Chenxiaowang and his son teach very practically but all their ideas are based on the I Ching, teachings of Lao Tzu, Taotejing and most important Taoism. Jan Silberstorff, GM Chen's disciple has incorporated Taoist and Wu Dang meditation in all his workshops. Therefore his Tai Chi camp is called Taoist camp.

It is totally erroneous that martial arts consists of punching and kicking with brute force alone. Troyce, Tai Chi can be beautiful and painful at the same time. Very similar to all walks of life, there is sweetness, bitterness, joy, sadness, barriers and many other corners. Tai CHi means balance of YIn and Yang, when Tai CHi is truly only soft we may change it into YIn Chi or something similar.

I have read a few excerpts of the Tao Te JIng during my Chinese course and spent a long time reflecting all the ambiguity whereby translation often result in subtleties being lost. Relaxation of the body could also be interpreted as to let go of obsessions which mean not to force to per se understand a form or martial application. I just recall one of my early Western teachers trying to push me hard into cleansing my mind. Jeez....the harder he tried the more I developed a monkey mind, until one day I had an encounter with GM Yangzhenduo personally and then I began to understand..................
For me Tai Chi is an art of doing and reading too many books without finding any relation to practice is in my opinion only good for armchair philosophers. On the other hand, Taoist meditation and reading excerpts of the Tao Te JIng has helped me to understand the martial application from the internal side better.

We are so small and we simply can't force our environment to succumb to our needs immediately. Just an example, I hate bad and rainy weather, but what can I do to stop this bad weather. There is nothing I can do to change the weather. What I can change is my attitude to take and accept this, feel the incoming force and do something against the bad feeling I experience during a rainy day. Change clothes, doing tai Chi will give me warmth, going with the flow without brutally trying to oppose against it. Once you find a gap to strike as in push hands, in this case striking may also mean an opportunity to pursue your own goals. EAsier said than done but if we know where the problem is and how to solve it for the better, we may provide ourselves with some training how to master our situation better. Chen YIng JUn also said that sinking your qi as a result from relaxation is an important way to follow both the Tao and win the upper hand over an enemy.

Other martial aspects would be cultivation of the yi or will where Tai Chi forms is one of the 4 exercises beside push hands, da lu and free sparring. Cultivation of your will, focus and concentration without real fighting is a martial art aspect which will benefit your health in a way that no other exercise will do. RElaxing your body with a good posture so that your body can move in unison but at the same time each part of the body can move independently from each other is also an important martial trait and health-oriented as well

Last but not least, Chen style has different levels of push hands. The basic level is important to re-inforce correct movements as Shark so nicely put. However, some people are able to achieve a strong balanced form without these basic exercises. In this case, basic push hands are not necessary, these people do better refining their form to prepare them for the more agressive competitive push hands.

06-02-2005, 07:26 AM

Nicely said, I often think the way I write, but then I have enjoyed the Tao Te Jing and the I Ching since I was 17 years old (which is more than a couple of yearr ago) so it has had great influence on me and the way my mind works.

I understand what you mean about the different levels of Chen Push Hands there are I believe three different levels all three with different objectives. Maybe you could illucidate here?

Chen Bing, CXW's nephew was here recently and gave a marvelous push hands workshop! He demostrated how different levels of push hands were good for different objectives. I remember that he stated the first two games of push hands are for forms correction. I don't remember right now how he broke down the next two levels but I will try and find out.

I also agree that one doesn't necessarily need push hands for form correction, especially if you have a skilled teacher to help correct your postures (unless you are innately gifted!)

If I had CXW in my backyard to help me with my postures every morning I wouldn't need push hands to correct my form!

The game of push hands doesn't necessarily help with form correction unless you have the right people to practice with that can help you gain an understanding of correct structure to your posture. Then instead of assisting with form correction as it was intended it may become a game of competition and never meet the intended objective.

So I agree with you completely.

Whoever started this thread has certainly created a lively forum for discussion.

Thank you,


06-02-2005, 09:07 AM

It was Shark who started the thread, he often starts interesting topics but this subject has been discussed here more than once. Paul has given his view and I would like him to give his view again. Chen Bing is great and has a degree in physical education, so he can explain from the Western sports medicine viewpoint as well as from a TCM objective. I had the chance to work with him a few times in Chenjiagou.

The first 2 levels are single- and double-handed stationary and primarily interesting for form correction. As I said, even without CXW in your backyard but the right guided imagery and Pavlov classical conditioning you will be able to correct your form without these 2 levels. The next 2 levels are one- and 2-step push hands where you need to maintain a solid rooted stance and clearly distinguish substantial and insubstantial when you wouldn't like to be pushed to the ground. It requires sensitivity but the latter is at least or even more important. Play the game of your partner, adapt in a similar manner like ballroom dancing until he strikes into emptiness, use his force, add your own force to throw him off balance. Or find a gap to strike with shoulder or hip.View other videos on the clips provided by Melanie. The highest level is free sparring push hands where you can push the way you want.

I started learning Chen style with Jan Silberstorff, GM Chen's disciple, then with the GM himself in private lessons. NOw he travels all around the world and the times that I can catch up with him become more seldom. I train regularly with his son YIng JUn in his backyard, min. 1/week Yng JUn resembles his father not only physically, speaks very good English, understand the Western viewpoint very well, is realistic and has good knowledge of body mechanics and the basics of sports medicine.

He is not too proud to ask questions when he thinks that another expert like a medical professional knows more. YIng JUn told me that a teacher cannot give you his gong fu, he can only show you the path(dao) how to develop your own gong fu. So when I cannot catch up with him I need to practice and correct myself on my own. A good teacher will teach you how to correct yourself. He told me to remember what he did to me and the feeling I got afterwards(Pavlov conditioning). YIng JUn once gave me a feel of a shoulder strike, I am not the weakest person myself, and told me he would proceed as gentle as possible. I remember until now, it was like I had a concussion, I saw little stars and felt my qi totally shaked up and out of control

It is a real pleasure to discuss with you Troyce, your experience is rich and what impresses me most is your humility and your open-mindedness to learn from others and to continue expanding your great knowledge. Before I was prejudiced against Paul's MT, esp. since I had a few not very impressive experiences with a few of them.

06-02-2005, 07:47 PM
yep,deja vu;but with new participants the threads take on new and welcome perspectives;interesting,the names of the two sons huh soraya? ying jun (chen) and yang jun (yang;although he may be YZD's grandson i forget);have you noticed the similarity too?
you're in the enviable position to have studied with both ying jun and yang jun.are they close to the same age?
do they know of each other?

06-02-2005, 08:34 PM
Yes, it is great fun to discuss with all of you.

I too found Chen Bing most gracious, although I only studied with him a little, his style reflects that of his uncle.

I stayed at the same home he was staying in when he was in Phoenix because my good friend Yong Qing invited me to stay with them there. Yong Qing is also incredibly gracious and kind and quite a good tai chi player himself.

I was completely impressed with Chen Bing's warmth and easy manner.

I can highly recommend his push hands workshop for those interested in learning more of push hands.

I also agree that you do not need push hands to get good health from tai chi. The simple fluid movements provide many health giving benefits naturally.

Many of my students have arthritis or other compromising health conditions, they have only slight interest in the martial applications because it can make the class more fun, but they have no interest in pursuing tai chi as a martial art and to play anything but single push hands would be way too complicated.

They still always love to come to class, my Thursday morning class for seniors had 78 registered last term and most of them came every Thursday, so that let's me know they are getting what they want from tai chi.

As I mentioned before I believe tai chi can fill the need of all who come to play tai chi if they are earnest in their pursuit of it.

For those who enjoy it on many levels, well, all the better for us I say!

As to good imagery to help with form correction, this is true! As TT Liang once stated "Imagination becomes Reality" and I don't know how I would have began had it not been for good books like that and others!

Then the good teachers started coming along, like Dr. Lam and Kam and CXW and Chen Jun and Wang Li Jun and so many more,
I am grateful to them all.

However, if I may share with you one of the most memorable moments of my training came when I was at a workshop at the Taoist Sanctuary with CXW. I had asked him a question which he basically ignored, but instead came over to correct my posture, and as Melanie said in an ealier communication, it is a little touch here and a little touch there and then another tiny adjustment here, barely anything at all.

Then it happened, at the same moment he stepped back and smiled and said "Now Chi Happy" I felt like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound from any direction! Before me, behind me, to the side.....it didn't matter. I could spring anywhere.

I will never forget that moment. And all the push hands in the world and the best images I could come up with couldn't get me there.

I still use push hands to help me understand posture and I still use images to teach as well as for myself, they are helpful guides and tools.

But there is not doubt that a good teacher can definitely show you the way, you may not be able to find so well on your own.

I enjoy learning from all of you. Thank you so much for your sharing your experiences!


06-02-2005, 08:50 PM
I agree wholeheartedly about having to find the right people to push with. If you don't, the exercise seems pointless and does nothing to complement form at all. But once you DO find a teacher who understands sensitivity, it can make all the difference. I'm not sure I believe any more that you can adjust your form to the same extent without that experience of pushing. Unless you actually feel the effects on your body of poor alignment, of not having central equilibrium, of being easily uprooted, during pushing, I don't think you could properly translate the theory into form.

06-02-2005, 09:29 PM

and by the way thought I would mention that I think Chen Bing will soon be in a issue of Inside KungFu for those that might be interested in the article.

06-02-2005, 10:36 PM

Yang JUn is 35 years old and Chen YIng JUn just turned 30! They do know each other slightly, like every prominent teacher. Both have been teaching since they were 14. Me too have been teaching since I was a teenager, of course not at that high level.

I just would like to ask John and Troyce:"Do you need push hands for form correction or to put your martial experience incl. sensitivity into practice?" When you would like to use push hands competitively, you need a solid rooted stance and relaxation when you don't want to be pushed to the ground. Moreover, you need to be strong enough to receive a shoulder or hip strike strike, find a gap to strike back.

The Chen family never taught me push hands to correct my form, They only corrected it with manual adjustment and when the teachers are not there with guided imagery. Now I start learning stepping push hands and a little bit san shou toysau hence the shoulder strike. It was force I could barely resist, friendly but it shaked up my whole qi. YIng JUn also showed me the difference between just using arm movements and using the whole body from the waist(dantien leads, body follows). The latter cause an invisible force where I could only say "ouch" For effective push hands you need a clear whole body coordination Dont underestimate zhan zhuang when you would like your qi less uprooted, only people with arthritis need to be cautious whereby I can't say that they can't do it at all

Chen Bing's father Chenxiaoxing is the head of the school in Chenjiagou, a prominent teacher indeed. As I was there he was training in jeans, light spencer jacket and sandals and his Tai Chi was better than all of us together. Xiaoxing used to beat his sons what Xiaowang never did. Also Xiaowang has been beaten by his father.

06-03-2005, 07:30 AM
I realize I am late into the Forum discussions so there may be many things that have been disscussed before that I have missed. Please allow me to ask some questions here that may be redundant to many of you.

In pushing hands I have found that to test my posture for Peng Jing assuming a ward off stance and having someone lightly to moderately push on me helps me develop "ground strength" or as Mike Sigman calls it a "ground path". At this point there is no pushing back on my part simply learning to receive the incoming force and be able to neither collaspe nor stiffen to hold my ground but to maintain the springy force.

From there this progresses to a game of single push hands where the partners always try to maintain and feel each others peng jing and let the other one know when they feel ir disappear. Looking for the gaps. There is no competition at this point just developing awareness.

Same thing again moving on to double push hands. Still fixed step.

Now begins a little friendly competition to test ones skills and develop the ability to neutralize and redirect.

Same basic ideas can be carried over to moving steps.

You're right Soraya, I have seen Chen Bing and Bill Helm do the moving step together and it looks a lot like ballroom dancing. Very beautiful!

But here is the question I have. I have not seen much discussion on the Chin na apsect of push hands here. Mostly the discussion has focused on developing ground strength and peng jing. Which of course are absolutely indispenable in push hands.

But what about the chin na? When I pushed with Chen Jun in Zheng Zhou there was no chance to do anything. He joint locked me every inch of the way. It was incredible. I had no chance to do anything. He always just smiled and locked me again and again.

When I push with Wang Li Jun it is the same. It appears he has little interest in pushing me over when he can lock me up and render me useless instead.

Joiot locking is good you can truly "neutralize" your partner for as long as you wish. A lot like Aikido.

When I pushed a little with Chen Bing he was trying to teach me ways to avoid the joint lock by maintaing peng jing in all of my joints, and trying to avoid the situation where the chin na could be administered.

I like the joint locking of push hands, and I think this would be close to immpossible to do with out a partner.

Would anyone like to share their Chin na experience with pushing hands?


06-03-2005, 07:40 AM
if you look well and study in aikido
you will discover a lots of the taichi systen in it

circle and spiral and chin na

06-03-2005, 08:16 AM

Did you push with Chen YIng JUn? Chin nar is his favourite weapon. One of the methods is a shoulder strike which caused my qi to disperse and let me feel dizzy and nauseous. This is already a method you use against a stronger partner. Otherwise it would be enough to straighten the joints a bit and your qi is locked. Did you remember Paul Lam teaching what we shouldn't do? Having your arm and leg joints straight instead of slightly bent, even in Sun style high frame, in order to not lock up the qi. Bent and song joints allow your qi to flow, straight arm and leg joints lock it up. You can't bent it with force against his qin nar techniques, the only way is to use your mental imagery to deflect his strength and mentally separate your joints from each other. Therefore YJ said form practise should be our primary objective to be able for our body and joints to come apart.

There is a lot of qin nar in the form and when you do this, imagine you lock up somebody's joint. One example would be"punch underneath elbow" in both Sun and Chen style. Cloud hands in all styles could be interpreted as qin nar as well.

Pushing prior to push hands is called the qi flow test. Actually I asked Paul and he said that beginners do not do that. So thank God I never came to his workshop and what will be the case when somebody is not a beginner.

There is a passive qi flow test, you hold a posture and somebody pushes. The second one is an active test. when you hold a posture and gently resist the pushing of your partner.

06-03-2005, 08:20 AM
That is how I came to tai chi, through aikido. It's all there! Just the footwork is amazing different but the basic concepte have much in common. Especially the yeild, neutralize and redirect.


06-03-2005, 08:58 AM
Another simple technique is a Chen style small spiral. When your partner's hand is on your arm, turn your wrist until the tip of your fingers point over your partner's arm. HIs arm will be turned into a so-called unanatomical position and locked. Mental focus and relaxation is absolute key here and maintain peng jin in your joints.

The problem is, when somebody never practices push hands, his form may be strong and relaxed during solo practise but will collapse at any time when experiencing pressure

06-03-2005, 09:37 AM

I am very excited to discuss this new thread I see you have established. Thank you! I will make new posts to that thread regarding Chin na. Before leaving this thread though I would like to add one comment.

Paul may not use pushing hands or qi flow testing in some of his workshops because his focus is health. Many of those who attend his workshop may have specific health concerns and some may be of frail nature. He is always concerned with safety first.

If I were in his position I would not use Qi testing or Pushing hands either for his audience. Here is my experience with that.

I do have a large class of seniors that meet every Thursday morning. I teach them the TCA form designed by Dr. Lam

After a few weeks of instruction and after they have gotten to know the principles a little through instruction in solo form work I venture to have them deepen their understanding with a little simple push hands.

This is always a challenge! One because there are so many of them (over 50 each class and often closer to 70) and many of them are frail but some are very strong.

Sometimes they don't realize how frail or strong the other person is. When I say to gently give the other person energy (push) sometimes they don't. They are too forceful, this concerns me.

I have a good assistant and we both have to be very vigilant and make sure that they work together gently.

I do understand Paul's point of view and for the audience he addresses in most of his workshops I think it is appropiate.

I would do the same. I would worry about injury in even the simplest of push hands with people new to tai chi and how minds think when they hear the word push!

And I agree to teach students to develop a feeling for Peng Jing Push Hands is an invaluable tool!


06-03-2005, 09:54 AM
troyce,you may not need push hands to experience t'ai chi health benefit but what it can do is unlock the secret of proper taichi movement from which health benefits result;one absolutely must,with one's whole physical being, understand and reenforce the difference between substantial and insubstantial and push hands is one of the best ways to do this;otherwise the form will be just empty movement;
stationary push hands is the safest one;i would emphasize the yielding and following movement with wrist contact ONLY,rather than encouraging the students to throw each other off balance;especially at age 70! I usually emphasize a shoulder "sticking" excercise which is very safe and helps to mimick the feeling of push hands;
simply have students each place one hand on opposite shoulders and use the turning waist
to simulate yielding and adhering;i have found this to be very effective as it proved to be in my case when i was learning;if a student is learning taichi for health only,one could consider substituting this helpful two person excercise for push hands

06-03-2005, 11:15 AM

I am as concerned with safety as Paul is and certainly utmost cautious when I feel that there are frail students with compromising medical conditions. In this case I do refrain from the simplest push hands or qi flow test or teach them for some time and then gently incorporate partner tests. The first I introduce is playing the form from their center( I don't even use the word dantien) and try not to leave their center. My teacher and myself do agree that at beginner level it is important to learn the form according to principles, regardless whether they are frail or strong. In a workshop you spend less time with your students and the opportunity to get to know them better is less, so naturally I agree wholeheartedly with Paul re. safety

Paul has workshops, esp. the one-week-workshop where many participants are teachers leading their own school for decades. In this case I would assume that at this level he would introduce qi flow tests and push hands. Paul was so fair to say that his workshops would not suit my needs and recommend me studying with chenxiaowang & Co

It is quite funny that I hardly have any frail student. Most of my student are strong mentally despite their old age and medical condition. Maybe because I was mainly teaching in Germany and this reflects the GErman mentality

06-03-2005, 11:56 AM

When I have a suspicion that the audience is frail or even when they are sensitive and proficient, I use the word stick wrist, let the energy flow from your center into your wrist, then into his wrist down to his center. Feel his energy and merge with yours, travel mentally to his center and listen to his energy...............go with the flow..with his flow....The word push is inappropriate for toysau anyway because toy means touching and not pushing. The word force can also be misinterpreted, so I use the word energy all the time. After a while they get used to the word qi.

AS to the qi flow test I say touch with resistance but I must agree with you and therefore only take maximum 10 students. LIke you I also make sure that they don't do it too forcefully, touch and listen........like in everyday life.......The word inner movement is also something which I think is more appropriate than force.....

AS I said before, when a Chinese teacher says force he means peng jing, a Western person may confuse it with brute force

06-05-2005, 11:33 PM
Thank you Soraya and Shark for you idea.

Yes, energy is a good word to use instead of "push" or force. Much softer, works better.

Shark the exercise you descibe from the way I envision it provides an exrecise in yeilding on the part of the receiver of the energy and sticking or following on the part of the giver of the energy. This in itself is very helpful, but I don't quite understand where the peng jing comes from. I see a rotation of the waist to dissipate the energy but where is the springy force recirculated? I think I am missing something here?

Or maybe it is just an exercise in yeilding and adhereing as you mentioned. Maybe I am trying to make it into more than what you were trying to say?

Regarding Paul and push hands to acquire a feeling for peng jing. In the week long workshops he does dedicate an evening workshop to push hands for those that are interested which includes many but not all of the students.

I think Paul does as good as job as anyone can do by creating good imagery for Peng Jing. And as we know not everyone who practices tai chi has a chance to play push hands with a good partner who is really interested in acquiring peng jing through push hands, many people cannot let the competitive nature rest long enough to listen and learn.

In Paul's case he is most interested in helping people attain a better quality of life through the medium of tai chi for health with basically little or no interest in training fighters or even competitors in forms.

I think he can reach considerably more people who want to learn tai chi for health through guided imagery than through trying to teach all of them pushing hands.

As any of us know who have invested much time in the game of push hands, it is a game that takes a considerable amount of practice with good partners to make any progress at all.

For a beginner the wrong partner in push hands is not very helpful in assisting you to obtain the skills you need to develop a sense of Peng Jing.

Paul is doing a great job of bringing more and more people into the fold of tai chi by focusing on the health benefits that can be obtained through the practice of tai chi.

Pushing Hands is certainly helpful when wanting to take tai chi to deeper levels of understanding but for many new students just the form work alone is giving them such great health benefits, improving the quality of the every day living experience. And that in itself is huge!


06-06-2005, 03:40 AM
Sorry Troyce

I love Paul and respect you to the same degree but I think I have the same miscommunication with you as with Paul.

Totally agree that Paul does the ultimate job in teaching people the understanding of peng jing through guided imagery. Actually Chenxiaowang taught me the understanding of peng jing through guided imagery only, until I was strong enough to receive a harder push and prepared me for the rougher nature of san shou toysau.

In the Sydney workshop they had to cancel the workshop because of insurance issues. Apart from everything, peng jing is in my understanding not acquired through push hands. It is in the very unfortunate nature of many people to let the competitive nature come through instead of listening. I had a career of competitive figure skating and martial Tai Chi, but especially in my case I needed to overcome this nature and it took many, many years of practice to listen and yield.

Paradox enough that you can only win when you overcome your spontaneous competitive nature and suppport it with listening abilities. I think Paul didn't teach me much Tai Chi, what he taught me was empathy. Although as a perfectionist I see no similarity between myself and many frail and weak students, I am able to understand their viewpoint and tailor my lesson in such a way that it can benefit them. Without being arrogant, my teacher once told me that I have the natural gift of genetic innate qi and acquired much peng jing through surfing and figure skating. He also said that I should dedicate this gift to help other people who are less fortunate.

In a workshop you don't spend as much time as in regular lessons but for many people who don't live near good teachers this is the only opportunity next to good videos. I do understand Paul's view of not teaching beginners the game of push hands yet;it is fully supported by GM Chen. Myself do not teach beginners push hands, even not the single-handed one after a few weeks.

Me too is interested in teaching people Tai Chi to improve their health without becoming a skilled fighter or competitor and as a doctor I do know too well that I can reach a larger mass by doing this. But what will be the case when a person is patient, durable and willing to go through the hardships of Tai Chi to reach a higher skill? I don't even think of competition or fighting because martial ability(CXW means focus, relaxation,strength and health and not punching and kicking) will lead to a higher level of health.

I also do realize that the majority cannot reach this level and is reluctant to do this. In this case I fully agree with Paul to teach the form only with guided imagery alone.

My question to both Paul and Troyce is: "What will be the case when a person like myself or JOhn would like to learn more?" Paul answered my question that probably I would be better off with private lessons from Chenxiaowang. He is busy travelling now but his son YIng JUn is a worthy son of his father, so is Jan Silberstorff.

One of my former teachers told me that when you imagine Tai Chi as a cake with cream on top: You get the whole cake when you incorporate both Tai CHi for health and martial arts. But in case somebody has compromising medical conditions or other limitations and sensitivities the whole cake might be too rich and they will have difficulties to digest it.

With this population, it would be good to give them just part of your cake without the cream, in order to make it easier for them to digest. This is the reason why I attended Paul's workshop because as a doctor I would like to impart martial arts as part of an interdisciplinary program. I was interested in how to organize and conduct such a workshop, reaching people whom I don't necessarily identify myself with, but who might be the ones that benefit most from the teachings?